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. 🙂

Panic and Anxiety

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I’m on Xanax. Been on Xanax for a while now. It helps me sleep, so I take one at night with the rest of the handful in my cocktail. Every so often I have a random panic attack, and I take one then. Soldiering on, so it goes, etc. But yesterday was different.

See, my generalized anxiety disorder tends to not get triggered at work, because I’m too busy to live in my head. But yesterday felt like a movie. You know what I mean, I betcha, because you’re starring in one too. It’s the Doomsday movie with the mysterious virus which decimates the human population.

Because talking about our feelings is not only OK but encouraged at staff meeting (I’m a peer specialist), I admitted to feeling just plain scared–of what, I don’t know. And others agreed. As the day wore on, and we poured ourselves out upon the two or three people who made it in, it was hard not to notice the deserted halls. Panic hung in the air like an impending thunderstorm, with the same sense of pressure on the soul.

The coup de grace came when our director came in and announced that as of Monday, we would be closed until further notice. The phone support line folks can come in, but not those of us who do face time. Instead, my boss and I will spend some quality time doing some overdue things like writing an employee manual. Hi-ho. I’m trying to look at this as a weird Lenten vacation, sort of like Spring Break, only without the cheerfulness.

This is not the first pandemic H. sapiens has endured, and it won’t be the last. 9/11 showed us how cohesive our society is, and so far the 1918 Spanish flu makes this viral reaper look like a pitiful tryhard. So have some faith, beloveds. My hope is that the survivors take some lessons to heart, primarily that once expressed by the old saw “Man proposes; God disposes.” I expect to be one of the survivors, but I’m high risk, so time will tell. We are now all on an adventure; I am hoping the treasure at the end is an increased mutual trust and compassion.

Which is all very well, but my anxiety level is through the roof. (It didn’t help the bing-bing-bing that I was out of my ADHD meds yesterday.) So I have messaged my shrink like a good girl, and I am about to start applying all the non-allopathic tools I’ve assembled: Meditation, art, writing, breathing (I was probably on the edge of hyperventilating yesterday from all that deep oxygen intake), listening to music, and *sigh* processing my feelings.

Which sucks as a general thing, but fear is an old, old friend.

On Authorial Perspective

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I just realized how much I love the little boy I’m writing about in 1928. I feel like his mom or something. But there’s an unbearable poignancy to it. I’ve known this person for years, and some while ago I wrote about his death in the early 90s, when he was of a ripe old age and needed to be shuffled out of my master plot in favor of his successor.

I am holding his entire life between my hands. It’s an uneasy feeling.

I remember the first time I ever killed anybody. All I gave the reader–all Angie gave me–was a walk carrying groceries for a few blocks in Brooklyn. And yet her death–vital to the plot–hit me like a ton of bricks, and the majority of my beta readers got misdirected by my arty phrasing and didn’t realize the wench was DEAD, dead as a doornail not returning dead, because they didn’t want her to be.

But Angie is dead, except when I go back and re-read the first few pages of her story. Little Yin is dead now in 2020, and has been for a while. It just bothers me that when I killed him I didn’t even know his name.

Because Trade-Ins Aren’t Yet

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This is what happened this morning: My Inner Critic has always been my worst enemy, only I didn’t know it; and then last fall I started chanting and meditating, and my karma changed or something. A capsule broke open inside of me and I began producing more energized work, and started owning my skills. Et cetera. Your basic epiphany, size medium. Moving on.

So drawing has been a big issue for me. I draw fairly well, when the winds are right and the gods are satiated, but I have a whole insecurity bouquet about it. One of them has been working with oil pastel, which I tended to turn into an overworked, insipid mess of visual porridge.

Thing is, I hadn’t really noticed that my technique had changed! I know that I got up one day with this drawing bursting out of my seams and just threw it down on the paper. And it worked, in that Material A went to Location B and stayed there despite Challenges C–QQ of making the piece happen around that particular stroke of greasepaint. I drove it, it didn’t drive me. Woot! It was like that night when the clutch went up and the gas went down without my sweating blood over it.

Well, maybe not entirely like that night, because that next morning I had to drive 1100 miles, following the moving van while wrangling a child passenger. If the pastel technique came in the mail, the standard transmission technique was delivered by a divine first-baseman kneesliding towards home, wings curved against his landing.

Why is it that we tend to dismiss the skills we’ve committed to muscle memory and don’t pat ourselves on the back for them? Let’s give it up for walking, knitting, oh GOD driving, using chopsticks and (you just did it) typing! I bet you can add to that list. But we all go yeah, whatever, everybody can do that and some people make my mad skills look really lame, mumble.

I think this is part of the bad Western habit we have of discounting, mistreating, and ignoring our bodies. Childbirth isn’t the only time amnesia kicks in; stop for a moment and remember when you couldn’t do the things on our list–hunting and pecking, ending up with a twisted, grubby third of a potholder, and trying to merge onto the Beltline. Your body has learned a lot of tricks, and since trade-ins aren’t available yet, it’s time we made these tricks socially equivalent to long division, reading, and remembering the names of the people you go to services with. Now there’s a toughie, but that thing you did when you cut up your tofu chop yesterday–woot!

This essay is dedicated in love to Al, the guy who taught me how to tie my shoes.

Roll Them Bones

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I have always loathed the New Age theory which mumbles something fuzzy about how we have chosen everything which happens to us. This particular bilge is offensive to every raped child on the planet, but even discounting that for a moment, it’s the shoddy logic which gets me: It implies that human souls are like children who like repetition in their stories. Why on the literal earth would you go through the inordinate trouble which is having a life when you already know what it’s going to be like?

I suspect the people holding this belief to be significantly entitled (at least more so than I am, and that’s saying a lot) and unfamiliar with other people’s suffering. If we’re going to seriously entertain the notion that we spend our pre-game warmup time in such a way, shouldn’t it be more like putting together a roleplaying character?

I do think it’s reasonable, in this posited green room outside of Time, that we are instead given a certain number of points to be spent on a wide variety of probably vague categories. For example, I spent more points on being right-brained than left, and seem to have taken every single left-brained bit I have in linguistic intelligence: I’m a helluva wordsmith, but I count on my fingers, and ask anyone present at the Great Gingerbread Fail of 2018 what my recipe skills are.

It’s worthwhile taking a stab at what your character sheet might look like in this system. I’m pretty sure I traded in some stamina for extra wisdom (nobody ever asks how you get wisdom, which is why all those Zen sages spend so much time whacking people over the head). I also made the apparently pointless choice of IQ over Health (both Physical–I’m looking at you, fibromyalgia–and Mental: ooh, somebody rolled a 1 on Family of Origin over here, although I feel like if I bitch too much about this, the natural 20 I got on One’s Own Children might somehow evaporate on me), but maybe in the last round I was like, rilly stupid, y’know?

At any rate, I’d rather see the Supreme Deity as DM instead of child-abuse instigator, wouldn’t ya think?