Wednesday, May 29, 2019

"My" Standard Time

You’ve heard of “Jewish” Standard Time. When people come fashionably late. You need to accustom yourself to the duration that recovery will take. Doing so will help you to see how well you adapt or have adapted to the lengths of time your “activities of daily living” take you. That is “your standard time,” and you can call it, “My” Standard Time.

Make a chart of how long you have been able to be patient for tasks that you have managed. It may take, you have found, a half-hour to beat eight large egg whites stiff. It may take, you have found, two hours--this time may vary significantly--for the effects of a certain medication to “kick in.” Just note with a timer’s stopwatch function the beginning of the event. It will then be easy to determine the elapsed time.

You will be developing a tool to see that you have succeeded in waiting for small victories. They are the launchpad for seeing improvements in your mood or accomplishments, in general those things that you care about more than the items you have clocked and placed in your chart.. “Slowly, slowly, wins the race!”

Tuesday, May 21, 2019

It’s Your Improvement That Counts

Happiness does not come from having things or from having money. It doesn’t even come from being in a relationship or having children. Happiness comes from being able to be satisfied when you are alone. (This is actually my own take on the Rabbinical injunction to be satisfied with your lot. “Who is rich? He who is happy with his lot,” Pirkei Avot 4:1.) This is because I have found that to live a good life as a person with psychiatric disability, my social life has to be relatively limited. I have many friends, but I have to work in solitude as I have difficulties interacting with other people—and I know it!

And such satisfaction can occur only once you can see that you have improved your character since the last time you thought about the issue. Perhaps only at the new year, perhaps weekly, perhaps daily.

The Jewish word for prayer translates to “examining yourself.” Of course, you may not observe Judaism or indeed any religion at all, but philosophically-minded people throughout the ages have made it their practice, perhaps following the Jewish tradition, to make an account to themselves of where they have improved and how far they think they yet have to progress.

Benjamin Franklin was the most famous American to recommend this practice. But it originated long ago among Jewish rabbis and scholars. It is in Judaism called, “accounting for the soul/chesbon hanefesh.” Perhaps the clearest early-modern version is in Rabbi Bachya Ibn Pakuda’s canonical Duties of the Heart. In essence, a person following chesbon hanefesh keeps a dedicated daily recording of desirable character traits—written on the vertical axis of a chart (or lines in a notebook.) The days of the month are written on the horizontal axis (or across the top of a page. Daily, the adherent checks those traits upon which he or she assesses that it was a successful day. At the end of the month or the quarter, the person tallies the results and competes with past accomplishment to see progress. (There is always some progress because a person using this system is thinking so hard about character development.)

Monday, May 13, 2019

Find a Regular Weekday Destination

If you are not working or in a program of vocational rehabilitation, you can always go to the library or to your place of worship without spending any money. (As a special treat, you can go infrequently to a cafe. Mr Trent Hamm of blog, who lives in a small town in Iowa, finds it possible to go to the deli in his supermarket and simply nurse a bottle of water—costing 49 cents! for several hours. City dwellers are probably not able to reach such a bargain!)

A man who studies in a synagogue will always be available to complete the quorum of ten known as a minyan. He can feel good about his contribution and mitzvah.

Volunteering as a person with a psychiatric disability can be turned down if your disability is known. Volunteer or tzedakah/charity work that you can do off the premises of the agency—such as remote work on your computer—is a more likely prospect for most such people if they were hospitalized relatively recently.
 Are you under retirement age? Your US State’s department of vocational rehabilitation can provide you with counseling and financial assistance to set up your own business or go back to school. Your local Hebrew Free Loan Association or some gemachs (specialized free-loans, generally offering material goods such as wedding gowns) can provide the financial assistance, but you will lack the counseling, such as help with writing a business plan. There are Jewish Vocational Services in some localities that can provide the counseling and some training, but generally not the financial assistance. Any of these activities would provide a regular weekday destination for you.

Supported employment often leaves the participant worse off than when he or she began the program, in terms of self-image and the degree of disability. I do not recommend these programs—and anyhow the wages are by US Internal Revenue Service regulation permitted to be well below minimum wage in many settings.

Monday, May 6, 2019

Choosing a Better Sort of Friend

The sort of friend whom you should not encourage is a person you met on the psychiatric hospital ward, or during the experiences that had led up to the police having been called out to bring you to that ward. Such a person would only underscore your sense of yourself as being tainted with stigma.

You need instead someone more cheerful than you, a man or woman who reaches out because he or she recognizes the good within you. A person whom you have met while you were engaged in an activity that involved giving to others or praising the Good L-rd is that kind of man or woman. As an example, a person whom you meet while you are in your house of worship is ideal. He or she may be interested in helping you out with requests you might make, as an act of charity, and you have a common denominator to provide a subject for both initial and fall-bak conversations.

Monday, April 29, 2019

Holidays and Holy Days Alone

Go outside if you can, either accepting an invitation to someone’s home or volunteering at a charity function. But even if you cannot, make the day special. Change your normal activities for a set of different ones. Dress for the occasion. Decorate--or spend part of your day in beautifying your home for future enjoyment. It is a good idea to schedule a visitor or two. 

Follow the holiday’s customs to set the day apart--to a certain extent. There is a special elan in selectively observing. Something like serial monogamy. The Good L-rd will forgive you and you will have a more pleasant day. Don’t go further in this breach than your conscience will allow, but enjoy the freedom you desire. For example, if you want to eat only food that is Kosher for Pesach on Passover, and know that potato chips suitably labeled are permissible--but cannot find any in the store, purchase regular ones and enjoy eating them on the holiday. I’ve done this!

Tuesday, April 16, 2019

Creating Attractive Space to Live In

If I had to give you just one helpful hint, it’s to choose a color family for everything that you are likely to find an abundance of hues in. Myself, I like blues and greens the most, as they are the colors most abundant in the garden settings that I love. You may prefer warmer colors of the sun’s rising and setting. Up to you, but do be consistent as you choose--to develop a home that has a unified look and feel. Indeed, choose wood tones as well that are either light or dark to the extent practical. 

A variety of patterns within a color family adds interest. It’s best for some patterns to echo others--a large area reflected by accent pieces,

One easy way to “pattern” a table is to use colored masking tape to affix to it one or more plastic placemats that bear designs. That wide, colored masking tape can also be used to “draw” stripes or checks, or even to develop solid colors, on surfaces that have seen better days (this doesn’t work in high-traffic areas or those exposed to heat.) Much cheaper than decorative vinyl like Con-Tact brand!

Have an overriding theme for pictures and other decorative objects. I really like animals, so I have quite a variety depicted, in pairs where I can. A good source for photos? Try calendar pages from a prior year--even buying extra calendars that you like from this year will be cheaper than buying “prints” sold as such.

If you live in rented premises, you probably cannot affix much of photos or anything else to the walls, especially not with tape or screws. Try either masking tape--or lightweight bulletin boards. The latter generally will stay put with just one small nail as security.’s warehouse offered a group of ten for under $70, each large enough to hold four calendar photos.

Of course, buying furniture in thrift stores is less expensive than anywhere else, but if you can’t find all types that you need there, again Amazon--or other online stores--are good sources if you yourself can assemble the units or if you have a friend who can help you out with this. (Amazon offers assembly for a fee that is above market value for a handyman’s assistance, in rural California.)

Arranging your books relatively by their subject matter not only makes it easier for you to find to hand a given volume, but is decorative.

As many plants as your thumb can tend will--if you select carefully--clear the air of pollutants. In the extreme seasons, they lend Spring. Certain herbs, like thyme, are easy to grow and will save you big dollars in the produce section of the market as well as improving your cuisine. An indoor garden can also provide you, if you live alone, with a sense of purpose--see “A Singleton Who Tends to a Companion is Not Bereft.”

The one attribute that you can bring to your home above all that will please a visitor is to provide reasonable neatness. The second-most important is to lift the eye diagonally across large walls--it can do wonders to provide interest. And unifying that color scheme is a close third.

For your own and your family’s sense of security in your home, I do not recommend deadbolts or strongboxes, but rather an area with Judaica emphasized and a general scattering of objects that reflect your spiritual roots.

(Due to the Passover holiday, this blog will resume on April 29, 2019.)

Hang On Till Tomorrow--Your Attention Will Probably Have Deflected from the Present Despair

Hang on until tomorrow because it can’t be the same bad as it was today, even if you don’t achieve a decent day. Why? Your life is not ...