Saturday, December 26, 2009

SAD accomplishment, in baby steps

It’s time for another update on my experience with the SAD (Seasonal Affective Disorder) light therapy, and if I think it’s helping me stay positive this winter. To sum it up: I’m not quite sure.

I sit with the lamp at least one half-hour each morning. (“Morning” can range from 7:00 on work days to 9:30 on Sundays and other lazy days.) I don’t feel any more joyful while I’m using the lamp—although I’m happy that I can read the small numbers in the crossword puzzle clues a whole lot better.

There’s no dramatic uplift to my mood, and I don’t go around smiling more often (at least I don’t think so; I’m certainly not smiling every time I look in the mirror—especially the magnified mirror). But I noticed one important change. In the days leading up to December 21, I heard myself say, with a cheery tone: “After December 21, the days start getting longer!” This is one the most positive statements I’ve made in the early part of this season.

I have also found myself thinking that, since all time seems to have sped up since I turned 60, winter will pass quickly too. So even though the snow keeps piling up today, with cold temperatures and windy conditions predicted, in a wink, it’ll be spring! There’s a down side to that kind of thinking: In less than a wink, I’ll celebrate another birthday and be a year closer to old age. The old BSADL me (before SAD lamp), would have been taken down in the dumps by that thought. Now, I’m focusing on the coming end of winter and not the coming…well…end.

As I write this, I’m leaning toward cautiously stating that the lamp therapy may be working after all. I still fear driving in snow, I dislike being cold, I’m miserable when my eyes and nose run at the same time, and I’m afraid I’ll fall and break a bone on the ice. Otherwise, I’m pretty upbeat.

Thursday, December 24, 2009

The good knife—and other unquestioned "truths"

In earlier posts, I’ve mentioned how I had scorned some of my mother’s opinions, only to find myself thinking her way decades later. Here's another example.

Whenever I’m hand-washing my kitchen knives, I reminisce about conversations with my mother in the late 90s, when she was selecting a set of knives for us for our anniversary. She named two common brands she considered inferior—her disdain was so strong, she might as well have uttered “ptooey!” after each one. Then she announced, “Wusthof!” And that’s what we received—and appreciated.

This morning, as I wiped the sponge over my Wusthof paring knife, I found myself thinking, decisively, “These really are the best knives…” But would I have thought this way with no earlier maternal prompting? Maybe not. Or maybe so. They are fine knives.

Now I’m wondering what other, more significant biases—good and not so good—I hold without question, ones that didn’t come from my own research. There are probably hundreds (thousands?). I promise to notice them for what they are as they come up. But will I be able to see them objectively and then form my own opinions?

I was past 60 when my mother passed away, so I lived through many years of her strong opinions. (More often than not, these opinions were informed and good ones; this was hard for me to admit.) It’s challenging to re-examine such long-held beliefs and come to different conclusions—without feeling a little guilty. But I’m going to give it a shot.

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

A personal guilty verdict. 50s-era byproduct?

I’ve been at home with a cold today—a very timely cold since it’s also snowing with a promise of one to three more inches later. I have my laptop at home, and I have wireless Internet access and a way to get into the company network (when it’s cooperating), so I decided to work from here.

But why is it that I felt guilty that I wasn’t in the office? It’s the three-day week of Christmas (our offices will be closed on Christmas Eve too), so hardly anyone was around, including my boss, who’s on vacation. And I was working! But I feel that I’m somehow letting everyone down if I’m not sitting behind my desk doing the same thing.

I’ve concluded that this may be a generational quirk. Do those in the younger generation and the younger than younger generation feel the same way when they’re out sick or otherwise not in the office? I doubt it, but I have not asked around or studied the topic. I think our generation still reveres and sometimes fears authority figures, be they bosses, teachers, or group leaders.

Leaders (and doctors) are now almost always younger than us now—even the President has been younger than me, since Bill Clinton. Still, relative age doesn’t seem to matter when it comes to wanting to please those in command and have them look favorably on me. Otherwise, why would I quickly put a serious look on my face when the boss comes by and I’ve been gossiping with my colleagues? There’s always that “Jiggers! He’s here” dialogue in my head on those occasions.

I work hard, get my projects done, and meet deadlines, so I’m entitled to a little coffee klatch at times. But I can’t seem to slough off that pang of conscience. Is this pretty common among those in our sixties? If so, it may be attributed to the 1950s mentality. This was the era of my coming of age, and attitudes about life—and what you could or could not (not ever!) do—were formed and cast in concrete then.

I haven’t discounted the fact that this may be my own personal quirk. But I’m still wondering if it’s also the attitude of others, of many ages. Remind me to bring this up next time I’m standing in the hallway talking with a group of my coworkers (that is, until you-know-who walks by).