Pandora Sheeps Up! Film at 11!

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It is said that when the curious human warrior Pandora unleashed all the evils of the world, she found Hope remaining in the corner of the box. Nice souvenir; a good thing to bring back to the wife and kids, as they hastily pack and leave town to escape the waves of encroaching war, pestilence, and famine, not mention public opinion: No medals for Pandora.

I have to wonder what the hell Hope had done to be so entrapped—as Sesame Street has it, “One of these things is not like the other ones.” Perhaps the ancient storyteller had a vision of the modern trope of the innocent convicted?

But instead of the meek little Hope teaching her unsavory neighbors how to better plead their cases and helping them Google, I suspect she was there under entirely different circumstances: She was emplaced to be their prison guard, one single warden keeping all the evils of the world from fiddling with the latch. It’s not too hard to imagine that the evils want revenge after those countless millennia of golden humanity untouched, and thus the average morning newspaper, in which they crush and mangle the shreds of Hope remaining.

But she must have been very powerful indeed for the Universal Is to have given her that job, and thus we should similarly treasure her and invite her back into our hearts, fanning a welcoming flame with our leaden and diffident hands. She has the power to give us armor against her former internees, and help us forge weapons for the Good Fight.

“I’m sorry,” whispered Pandora. “I’m so, so sorry.”

Hope sniffed, brushing a slowly-moving shred of Guilt away from the close-cropped hair. “Nonsense. Let’s not waste any time mucking about here. We have a world to save, hero.”

And save it, they did.

(Oh, did you want the details of the story? Nope, you have to write them yourselves. We all do.)

Salad Forks and Knitting Needles

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Today I was a very little dismayed when a guy I’ll call Troy came in to the place I work. (I’m a certified peer specialist, and I help run a small group of recovery learning centers, where people who’ve experienced mental health diagnoses come to hang out. We peers also have lived experience, and we’re trained . . . differently than your average Mental Health Professional.)

Troy has something called word salad, in which his language gets garbled. People with this are in a way sort of like having killer mega ADD, in which they distract themselves second by second: Sentences merge into other sentences, words interweave with their cousins and their sisters and their aunts, and the result is that the simplest attempt at conversation is about as linear as a plate of spaghetti. It’s Ulysses in a blender.  

I have a really beautiful verbal processor for my native tongue, and so I find talking with Troy to be fascinating. But I just realized that the dismay came from old memories of what talking to Troy felt like. See, it makes my processor work very hard, and it’s not used to that as a rule! Not since grad school, in fact. I’m a weekend jogger who just ran a half-marathon. So the net result is that I’m exhausted now and my brain feels sorry for itself, unsure of any logical connection and unwilling to make decisions.

(“Ooh, I know! Let’s attempt to write something now and put it up on the Interwebs!”)

Troy hadn’t seen me for several years, and approved of my weight loss in the most straightforward fashion, approaching me with hopeful hands outstretched and asking if he could embrace my thigh so as to appreciate how much was just loose flesh. I told him that wasn’t happening, and he then offered me the same privilege, so I could tell him what the difference was. No dice there, either, but it did occur to me that it was just as well my co-workers were just a holler down the hall—just in case.

But Troy was just testing boundaries, which I’m used to from our community members, and we went out with his coffee and my knitting. (I don’t go anywhere without my knitting if I think I’ll have to sit still for more than five minutes.) So Troy talked to me, and I tried to follow along, with him having me repeat back verbatim what had come out of his mouth, and both of us laughing: Whatever I had heard had not been the impulse of Troy’s brain; it’s unsurprising that sometimes he talks of himself as only borrowing Troy’s body.

Luckily, I had my knitting, in which I make things out of sheep fur, imposing order onto the chaotic universe. It calms me down and centers me—some people smoke, but I knit. No great shakes—we’re talking an average of a sock a month—but it anchors me, and lets me focus on things like talking to Troy, and sometimes the much harder task of talking to myself.

“It’s OK,” I said fairly early on. But he transfixed me with a sharp-nailed fingershake.

“It’s not OK,” he declared. And I felt like an ass: How would I feel if my brain pulled that sheep on me? Not OK, that’s how. But Troy carries it with an abundant sense of humor, and what I must call grace, meaning both a rough sort of etiquette and what some would call a gift from God.

Troy called my attention to the embarrassing fact that I say, “It’s OK” a lot. I hadn’t ever thought about it before, but I seem to have a pattern of needing to reassure people, possibly because my trauma survivor brain sees the world as a dark and scary place.

Hmm. That’s not OK.

Bending the Elbow

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Well, gosh. Something new has gone amiss with my body, and I don’t quite know what to do about it. But my neurologist does, and that’s something. And they caught it early enough, I gather, and that’s something else.

Several months ago, I noticed that the last two fingers on my right hand (ring and pinky) were ever-so-slightly numb and tingly. As in always. Permanently. No matter what I was doing. “Hmm,” I thought. “There are Things that start by eating away at the outside, like a kid with a giant cookie. I should look into this.” So eventually I did, and eventually they saw me, and this morning I went in and had my doc use me as a pincushion and zap me with a teeny little cattle prod. (Remember that dead frog in Biology? Yep. You’re there.) The zapping ranges from interesting (skinny areas) to somewhat painful (fatter areas which require more juice to reach their target), but the test doesn’t take long, so I survived. The general hmm and I suspected as much thing added to my main hypothesis, which was that I was imagining it. The numbness is very slight, after all.

However, I learned to my dismay that I have a rather nasty case of something called ulnar nerve compression, or cubital tunnel syndrome. (Neither of these is catchy enough to warrant a $60 elbow brace. Just sayin’.) Between computer usage and art, I keep my elbow bent most of the day, and it is mushing down on the nerve. Eventually this will lead to (seriously here for a moment) my losing motor control of the hand. So yeah, something’s got to give.

There’s the brace, and there’s ulnar nerve transposition surgery, which I’m being referred to for a consultation at this point. From the medicos’ POV this sounds and looks (thank you, Interwebs) scarier than it really is, so I’m not fretting about that, especially as the neuro is on the fence about whether I’m a candidate yet.

(I looked at standing desks, and none of them look like they’d fit my sprawling two monitor lifestyle, to say nothing of their devouring my bank account. [Besides, I’m on Zoom for twelve hours a week.] Nix on that, then.)

Rather, I will have to try to change my behaviors, and as we all know from dieting and jogging, this is the rub. I’m typing this at arms’ length, with the offending elbow on the cushy thing, instead of my usual posture of being choked up on the desk with the edge cutting into that very spot. The brace is arriving today and will be my faithful little friend for the foreseeable future, so I get to see life left-handed. But not forever—and I am oh-so-grateful that this was caught in time.

It’s Not Over Yet

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Friday afternoon: That’s the most important piece of info. Vaccines are all very well, but the biggest tool in humanity’s cupboard has always been cooperation, which we’re running low on, it seems. That said, I got Shot #2 (Moderna) this morning.

And . . . I feel weird. Not physically (yet), but it’s in that bailiwick: I am dreading the vaunted occasional side-effects. Not because I’m a wuss about discomfort (I had food poisoning yesterday morning, as a matter of fact) but because I hate the unknown and having something hanging over my head. This shot has been hanging over my head for a solid month now, and I’m glad at least that part is done and over with.

But part of the weird is that I feel like a small part of History now: I have joined the Herd.

For those who are wondering: No, the injection itself doesn’t hurt, but then my nurse mentioned she more usually works with neonatals, so YMMV. And I got vaccinated a stage “ahead” of my particular class because I work in health care. And, no, nobody gets to pick Pfizer vs. Moderna.

Saturday morning: I feel a little more tired than usual, but if I hadn’t had the shot yesterday, I’d put it down to the fibro. Tempest in a teapot. Not even sleepy, but then I don’t do sleepy unless it’s past my bedtime.

Now that all my co-workers are vaccinated, we’re hoping we can open up our RLC as soon as Baker gives the OK. (We are in a building run by the Department of Mental Health.)

Bottom line: Go get the damned shots, as soon as you can. I’m tired of not schmoozing in restaurants, not going to the movies, and other such human-animal filled niceties. We can beat this, Homo sapiens. We just have to work together from a distance.

That Place You Hate to Hurt

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Yeah, that one.

I have injured a small piece of my body, and I am very unhappy about it. It seems to have thrown everything off, and the punishment does not fit the crime.

Think about them for a moment, the small lumpy bits. They stick out and get caught on things. Or else they’re a passageway from Point A to Point B. Maybe they get ambitions of grandeur, like when your earlobes get those tiny cysts that feel like lentils of pure pain. Whatever. We’ve all got them, we all stub, overexert, and endanger them on a weekly, if not daily, basis. It’s their job. Somebody had to be the toe on the end; them’s the breaks.

But how then, I ask you, do they then turn into such divas? I’m always reminded of those useful homunculi illustrating the relative intensity of the nerves, although right now I’d say they’re wrong, because my small body part is carrying the rest of me along in a wagon.

So I sit here, alternately trying to ignore the discomfort or to acknowledge and embrace it, occasionally flexing my owie in experimentation, and in general letting it harsh my mellow. I find that the “acknowledge and embrace” school has some pointers: When I concentrate on the actual pain, it seems to pull in its snaky tendrils of domination and once more become just one of the little guys.  An abused, underappreciated little guy, now in rebellion.

However, I have meditating to do and a ferret to exercise. (When you are mindful, the two are not exclusive.) Come along, wee wound, dry your eyes. Human consciousness 1, somatic distraction 0! Woohoo for the home team!

Or maybe my fibro meds are starting to hit. Whatever; I’ll take it. Wouldn’t you?

Greetings from Gaia

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To save you from having to read the preceding post (although feel free): I opted to use part of my stimulus $$ to replace my old computer Merlin with new baby Gaia, and had to clone his hard drive in preparation. And cue diabolical laughter . . . now!

Merlin died. As in before Gaia arrived. As in the day after I did the clone. Those of us who don’t believe in coincidence are all nodding our heads.

It took Gaia a week to traverse 45 minutes worth of Colorado, which I spent trying really hard not to curse at Amazon and the USPS. Meanwhile, I was propped up in my tiny studio on my tablet, which has 2/3 the memory of my phone. (Literally. 2GB. I don’t know how the little darlin’ crosses the street by itself.) Had to Zoom through my phone for audio. It was . . . stressful, and I credit Insight Timer with teaching me that I could meditate on my own terms, because this week, already in quarantine, could have been Really Bad.

But she came! At last! Made in Germany, according to the sticker–am I alone in thinking this a bit odd? I must be; Lord knows das Deutsch have mastered engineering from cars to pencil sharpeners. She wasn’t *quite* the computer I thought I bought–lots of space for an additional couple of drives. If I’d known this, I wouldn’t have bothered with the cloning or the hasty cloud backup I’d also done . . . right before Merlin dropped deader than Jacob Marley. Let’s hear it for paranoia and ignorance!

Her HDMI port isn’t connected to anything (what the sheep??) so the monitor is on VGA, but these are first-world problems. Gaia is fast and silent, a veritable ninja compared to the lumbering Merlin. Of course, all my cookies are gone, but seeing as I also had my debit card expire last month, I have to re-enter a lot of data everywhere as it is. Moving on.

So I plugged in the external drive and . . . nothing. Downloaded the software. Nothing. My son tried, and discovered that a-a-a-all the data was gone. Poof. We still don’t know what happened. If I hadn’t been a canny old person with no trust in technology, having known technology when it was still teething, and thus backed up my essential data onto Google Drive, all my writing would be GONE. I would probably be in the hospital if that had happened, because I’ve been loosey-goosey about backups.

Currently I am still moving into Gaia, and enjoying such fluff as being able to greenscreen in Zoom at last. Merlin’s hard drive is plugged into my son’s machine because we want to troubleshoot a bit, but it’s not talking to anybody right now. We’re waiting for the geek to advise us as to the next step.

Oh yeah, the casual games: Had to re-download and restart them. Not so bad; I guess the journey is worth more than I had credited.

Data Footprints

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My foot stumbled against the faceplate of my desktop for the forty-leventh time, knocking it akilter. (Merlin sits on the floor beside my desk, because I don’t have the desk space for him.) I winced as always at the clatter. “Last day, fella.” According to all sources, his replacement, to be named “Gaia,” because it’s Earth Day, will arrive sometime today. I’m excited, scared, and a little sad.

Excited is easy: New toy! More memory! Zippier graphics! Sad stems from my tendency to anthropomorphize the world–Merlin is a person to me, sorta. Or at least a kind of critter. I feel bad that he’s down on the floor, sitting there like an obedient pet. Sometimes I wonder if that (and all the inadvertent kicking) is why he’s cranky, but inside I must admit: It’s old age, which these days means five or six. Little things, like him refusing a soft restart. (That means I have to push his power switch to reboot, which takes longer. The next step from this would be having to pull his power cord, sigh. And then will come the day where he won’t immediately restart. Been here, done this.)

All that said, I’m building Gaia a little platform, to be composed of part of our stash of a local library’s discarded Encyclopedia Britannica. Moving on:

A good bit of the Essential Me lives on Merlin for much of the day, which is why I was dismayed to learn that Gaia has no slot for his hard drive, which brings us to scared. “Get creative,” our local geek advised.

According to the interwebs, this often involves that structural component known as doublesided tape. I opted for Plan B: Cloning Merlin’s hard drive onto an external. (For the curious: These days you can get 1T for fifty bucks. Sweet!)

Well, my patient daughter fetched me the external drive, Micro Center being an essential business right now. Holding it in my hand, I experienced a whole terabyte of space weighing less than a cheeseburger. (I spent my salad days sharing bunk space with my husband’s pet PDP-8, fittingly named “Goliath.”) I downloaded a free program that people seemed to think well of, and hit “backup” from C: to E:. Et voila, I awoke to the deed being done, having taken at least three hours.

This will be the version I will plug into Gaia upon her setup, and if all goes according to plan, my apps, etc., will still be available. Being an Old Person (see “PDP-8,” above) I am taking this on the best assurances of my kids and the interwebs. So let’s assume that this is all well and good and will work the way I want it to. (I am convinced that it won’t, because Old People who grew up in the Hollerith card era know the Nature of the Beast.)

This means that from now on, any data I put onto Merlin today has either got to be backed up on the cloud (easy enough for writing, etc.–I’m backing a bunch of stuff up onto the cloud anyway because of that canny Old Person thing) or it will VANISH like footprints in heavy snow: Tomorrow I will open a window and they will be gone.

I spend far too much of my quarantine time playing my collection of casual games, and today that won’t be an attractive option, because those levels, that time–however poorly spent–that experience, won’t be available tomorrow. So that leaves me with writing (hi!) and things that happen online (hi again!).

And then there’s the real world, which has these great redundancies called Time and Space and whatnot. Too bad right now it’s mostly confined to a three-bedroom apartment in Cambridge, #firstworldproblems, heh.

My personal takeaway here is the assignment to figure out why it matters so much to me that my game-playing (and other) efforts count. Why isn’t the journey itself worth the trip? Why must my data footprints all be tracked across wet cement?

 

 

 

 

That Time When the Weeks Disappeared

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“One day here is just like the others,” I wrote to my daughter, whom I was trying to invite for dinner. And truly, I feel as if I have fallen into an early agricultural sort of rhythm here: I have a task list, for which I am grateful, and a good bit of almost entirely unstructured time, for which I’m trying to be grateful. The temporal pillars of my life have crumbled, and I admit to sometimes feeling as if I am now drowning in the unchecked sands of Time.

I’m something of a worker bee, getting my strongest pieces of validation from job activities, and I can have little spasms of workaholism. My daughter has ordered me to take time off when I have it, but somehow things are different now.

I’m having the hardest time remembering the day of the week. I spent part of Tuesday morning prepping for a Zoom group I was facilitating–on Wednesday. Moreover, I have realized that the days of the week came with feelings, feelings I no longer have.

For example, I was supposed to be happy it’s Friday, because it’s my break from my challenging Wednesday–Thursday bloc. But Wednesday didn’t happen (no work, no daughter, no actual physical choir with all that deep breathing), so the only fallout from the resulting Thursday fatigue (still got to bed late, thanks to a Zoom meetup) was getting a sleep hygiene lecture from my therapist.

I made my own appointment calendar this year. I drew careful lines separating the days, and now all that ink is being erased in realtime, as one day fades into the next. I’m all about going with the flow, but something about that feels scary: What would happen if I just did what I felt like whenever I felt like it? For a lot of people, I daresay that would be a healthy and stress-free option, but I don’t work that way. It probably has something to do with being INTJ.

Something inside me says enough is enough, and I need to put myself on another schedule, one which embraces the home time and the weirdness and the whole schmeer that we’re floating in right now. (I have ADHD, and we do much better on a schedule, which helps fill in for our vacationing executive functions.) Right now I need to try to focus on intentionality, it being Lent, which is for me a time to do that anyway. A Lent with a very different sort of Easter at the end! I just hope I remember it’s Sunday when it gets here.

RTFM

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I just learned something. Small, but with implications. (Doncha hate those?) What with the weather and all, I’m starting a migraine, so went to take my meds like a smart girl. The med (sumatriptan, for the curious) comes in those blister packs where you peel off the back to get your pill.

As I sat down, I happened to notice that on the back it said, “Bend and Peel.” I’ve always taken this instruction to be for people too stupid to realize they had to peel the back off. I would then fiddle a small bit with the end in order to get a corner up to peel. In other words, I wasn’t bending. Why bend? What’s the point?

It’s a boring day; I gave it a shot.

Well, oh my children, if you bend, the two edges spring apart as if by magick, making peeling a breeze. No more fiddling and wishing one had fingernails: RTFM, stupid.

This made me wonder about my non-manual reading life, in which I have ignored advice ranging from Scripture in my own faith, to Scripture in other faiths, to the instructions of medical personnel. Not always, but often enough. I wonder what else I’ve been missing; perhaps I should give it a bend and find out.

Awaiting the Big Bad Wolf

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Of course I’m scared. Of course you’re scared. And by now, I’m willing to bet the rent that you know the basics re hand washing, interpersonal distance, and staying the sheep at home. What’s the point, I ask you, of obsessively watching statistics and endlessly surfing for more information? Do you think it will keep you well?

It won’t. In fact, by adding to your anxiety load, you’re stressing your immune system, silly. Stop doing that.

I am pretty peeved right now. My often useful neighborhood listserv just ran a scare blog by a local woman (married to a physician) who is losing her sheep. I feel bad for her, and am grateful my own Huge Hospital employer sent my folks home as non-essential personnel. But nothing on earth would persuade me to “forward this post to all of [my] networks.” Who does this sheeping sheep think she is, the Director of the WHO?

So–pause and check for helpfulness the next time you’re about to hit post. Remember that many of us already live in a dark and threatening world beset by the the brambles of trauma and misfortune. Then, maybe hit delete and go do something else. Something which will enhance your life without increasing the panic.

Unless it’s a squirrel video or something. Dark humor is also OK in small doses. But for heaven’s sake, take those cleansing breaths.

Just don’t breathe too close to me. 🙂