Summer solstice with a side of water.

According to people who study the sky, today’s the longest day of the year. In my world, it was yesterday.

I’ve hit the two-month mark on my new (autoimmune disease) treatment plan. If I had to draw a diagram of the side effects and their weekly patterns, it would look like the “The Big Zipper” constellation, which hasn’t been discovered yet because it’s too snaggy to be plotted out. It gets caught on loose threads and puffy linings. You never know what or when. There are no reliable conditions, so it can’t be predicted.

There used to be a sort of pattern, but now it’s all over the map.

I almost got away with no severe side effects this week, and then a series of them hit yesterday out of nowhere: intense nausea, confusion/disorientation, headache, stomach pain, and thirst off the charts.

Everyone is different. No one has the same side effects, or the same configuration of them. Some people can’t take this medication even at its lowest dose, because they can’t tolerate it.

Daily folic acid tablets have kept my side effects to a minimum. You’re supposed to drink a lot of water, which I’m doing… even more than before, if that could be possible. I was already long into the habit of drinking water from the minute I wake up to the minute before I go to bed, and now I’m drinking even more water.

“Excess thirst” doesn’t seem to be a documented side effect, but there has to be a connection between this medication and my increased thirst! The first effect I noticed was the weird sensation of being thirsty while drinking water. It’s weird when water stops being quenching.

 

Water all day.

 

Things are going well, overall. I’ve only had one pain attack since starting the medication, so that is wonderful. My first round of liver and kidney labs came back fine, so we know that the medication’s not damaging them.

I check back in with my doctor in a few weeks… we’ll see what we see from there!

The End.

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File this under “Things no one tells you about aging.” (Mortuary letter WTF.)

Have you ever received a survey asking whether you’ve made your final arrangements? If you’re 50+, you probably have, because evidently you’re ripe for the picking.

I’m turning 50 this year, and I’m now being solicited by mortuaries (in a letter sent by an umbrella mortuary corporation) whose promotional mailing wants to know all kinds of intimate details about my death plans.

My jaw dropped in disbelief and amusement last week when I opened the mail addressed to me (not to Callaghan, who’s 14 months younger) and read this letter and survey asking the following questions:

  • Have you already arranged for a funeral in advance? If no, would you like more information?
  • Are you aware that you can lock in your costs at today’s prices by arranging for a funeral in advance, no matter how many years it is between commitment and use?
  • In the event of your death, who is responsible for making your final arrangements?
  • Are your loved ones aware of your preference in funeral arrangements? If yes, have you provided detailed written instructions to them about your arrangements?
  • Have you already purchased a cemetery plot? If no, would you like more information?

I have a question for them: Really?

First of all, if you’re struggling with depression, it is – at the least – darkly hilarious to receive a mortuary corporation’s sales pitch. It’s not every day Callaghan walks into the kitchen and finds me laughing over a random piece of junk mail. 

At the worst, this sort of mail could be awful should it reach a person at the wrong time, during the wrong circumstances, depression or otherwise.

Secondly? Everything.

But it gets better. Beneath the survey, the letter says, “Please share your name and address to receive your complimentary gift and any information you requested.”

I’m tempted to send in the survey just for that, because I would LOVE to see what a “complimentary gift” from a mortuary would be. In fact, I think I will. Seriously.

We’re all on their list, my friends. THEY are waiting for us to reach their target demographic. They’ve decided that 50 (49.5!) puts you in the shadow of death’s door. These mortuary corporations have your birth dates, names, and addresses, and they’re waiting.  

So here we are with my minor gripe: AARP forgot all about me, but the mortuary people did not… and they’ve wasted no time in attempting to sell me their wares.

I want DISCOUNTS, not a cemetery plot.

Pay attention: It’s Hereditary. (Non-review movie review!)

My partner-in-crime Caroline and I anticipated Hereditary for months, so you can believe that we were in that theater on the morning of opening day. I do have something to say about this film, but it constitutes even less of a “non-review movie review” than usual. This is not a review of the movie. It’s a mere commentary on my reaction to it.

 

 

First, I found the ending to be disappointing, which affected my immediate opinion of the whole movie. I don’t know what I was expecting the ending to involve. I guess I wasn’t expecting it to involve what it did. It wasn’t the ending that I wanted.

Well, that was my problem, because the movie turned out to be an overwhelming success for me as a person who loves to get scared by horror movies, and who very rarely gets scared by them. Hereditary got to me. I just didn’t realize it until later that day. And that night. And the next day. And that was the beauty of it: the delayed reaction.

[Sidenote: It made no sense that I left the theater with such a dominant feeling of dislike for the ending, because while I was complaining about the ending, I was also marveling at the excellence of the production as a whole… not to mention Toni Collette’s stunning performance.]

I didn’t think that Hereditary had any effect on me, but then the day drew to a close, the sun went down, and I started to look around the house apprehensively. Hours later, I got ready for bed feeling more than a little creeped out. I thought back to the movie and couldn’t pinpoint a single scene or instance to blame.

Hereditary wound itself into the back of my mind, and then its creep-factor unraveled forward and stayed with me for a good two days.

That night, I couldn’t bring myself to turn off the dim lamp in the dining room when departing with my glass of water. For the first time, I was so spooked by a movie that I didn’t want to turn out the light. I’m not afraid of the dark.

I went to bed with my heart thumping in my chest.

Tired as I was, I stayed awake. Then I had to pee, but I was loathe to get out of bed, so I held it. How old was I the last time that happened, if ever? Five?

A shuffling sound moved quietly across the space by the closet. I couldn’t breathe. Callaghan didn’t move. When it happened a second time, Callaghan murmured that it was the fan blowing his cup off the nightstand, which didn’t make sense because the small fan was sitting on the floor, and the cup was up above and full of water. He reached down to turn off the fan. I didn’t hear the sound again.

The next day, I went around with many questions in mind. I couldn’t stop thinking about the movie. Caroline and I discussed it in a flurry of messages. She said that when she woke up at 2:44am to get a drink of water, she was “kind of freaked out and heard noises” as she walked around in the dark.

“I felt like there was something on the ceiling… following me as I walked to the kitchen,” she said. “And I heard a bump… and the hairs on my neck stood up and I gingerly looked up… but there was nothing there. ghghhghg.”

I would say that this sums up our joint reaction in terms of scariness on a scale of 1-10: ghghhghg.

I’ll be going to see Hereditary again… with Callaghan. This time, it’s his reaction that I’m anticipating.

 

Conquering the day. (On chronic depression.)

My next shrink appointment is in August, and I have a feeling it’s going to be a long two months.

There’s no cure for clinical depression. Coping mechanisms are the currency we need to survive. We look within and gather what we can, learning from ourselves. We learn from others, too… mental health professionals, counselors, clergy, friends, family. We look to individuals we admire, gaining inspiration from them. And, of course, there’s the internet, always ready with advice and “life hacks.”

Certainly, coping mechanisms and strategies and inspiration can be found online. That stuff abounds in books and videos, too. We have popular culture contributors, historians, philosophers, teachers, poets and writers, celebrities of all sorts, and spiritual sages and practitioners and self-help gurus whose words of wisdom are posted as adages meant to uplift or even save us.

I’ve written about a few adages I find to be helpful. I haven’t mentioned those that I find to be detrimental, though. There are a few out there that I think are really just not good. Some adages or tidbits of “wisdom” (often displayed as memes) only serve to show you that you are to blame for your own depression. I saw one on Instagram recently – the one that spawned this post:

“If you are depressed, you are living in the past. If you are anxious, you are living in the future. If you are at peace, you are living in the present.” (attributed to Lao Tzu)

We’re constantly looking for those coping mechanisms, for ways to survive depression. When we see these kinds of adages, we think, well… maybe that person isn’t aware that they’re trivializing the struggle by placing pithy quotes before our eyes, suggesting that if we wanted to, we could change our outlook or perspective and just “get over it.”

We’re happy for those who are well, and we know that many of them mean well, but those who are well aren’t helping when they (inadvertently or otherwise) wellsplain our lives to us. The last thing we need to be told is that we’re doing life wrong.

Unfortunately, there’s no “how to” when it comes to being happy. There’s only a how to cope. How to get by. Clinical depression presents like any other chronic illness: we go through spans of time that feel “normal” and fine. We can feel good and at peace. Then there are the dark spells. The dark spells are tough to work through. I lean on gratitude and love, purpose and intent, anticipation and music, working out, reading and writing, “little things” and those adages that do help. But general happiness is a unicorn in the forest of the depressed.

Each trial through mental illness is individual, because the people living with those illnesses are individuals. There is no panacea for mental illness, and if there is, it’s just not going to arrive in a meme. I know it’s easy to misunderstand depression and think that the depressed can just “get over it.” I wish that it worked that way. It just doesn’t.

Depression can be managed, though. I’m doing a pretty good job at managing it, a fact that I can recognize even though I’m in a dark spell.

 

Conquering the day.

 

Speaking of life hack memes, is there one for how to not eat a whole box of Medjool dates in one sitting?

 

Best break for my brain: working out. (“My Morning Routine” – !)

Every once in a while, I go to My Morning Routine to peruse the site and gain some life inspiration. I went there today, and it actually inspired this blog post. I know I’ve shared a daily routine (or two) here before, but I don’t think I’ve filled in a morning routine questionnaire from this site. These questions are pretty much the same across the interviewees, but I’ll see different, additional questions thrown in here and there. I included as many of them as I could find in the few interviews that I read today.

 

1). What is your morning routine?

These days, I wake up anywhere from 5:00 to 6:30am, though most often at 5:30am. I take my morning meds/supplements, pour some coffee, open my laptop, and get into my writing.

 

2). How long have you stuck with this routine so far?

I started dedicating my early-morning brain cells to my writing sometime in the last 12 months. The rest of my routine hasn’t varied in years.

 

3). How has your morning routine changed over recent years?

My “dedicating my early-morning brain cells to my writing” discipline means focusing on my project before filling my mind with anything else of substance. Before, I would multi-task my brain between writing, email, social media, news, and so on. I’ll still scroll through instagram and twitter on my phone while drinking my first cup of coffee, though. I don’t click to read articles on twitter… early in the morning, I’m only there to check for major news headlines and traffic/weather alerts.

 

4). What time do you go to sleep?

Between 11:00 and midnight, usually.

 

5). Do you do anything before going to bed to make your morning easier?

No.

 

6). Do you use an alarm to wake you up in the morning, and if so do you ever hit the snooze button?

I do use an alarm, though my internal clock (aka my bladder) will sometimes wake me up before it goes off. I never use a snooze button.

 

7). How soon after waking up do you have breakfast, and what do you typically have?

If I’m working out that morning, I’ll have breakfast between two and three hours after I wake up. If it’s not a gym morning, I’ll eat four to five hours after waking up. I have the same breakfast every day. Since a month or two ago, it’s been a bowl of plain organic oatmeal (made with water) with light agave syrup and cinnamon. I also have a handful of raw mixed nuts.

 

8). Do you have a morning workout routine?

My morning gym routine is Les Mills Body Pump at the gym. I go three mornings a week.

 

9). Do you have a morning meditation routine, and if so what kind of meditation do you practice?

Working out is my meditation. The 50 or so minutes of continuous physical activity provide the best break for my brain. For the duration of the class, there are no thoughts in my head. There’s music and there’s someone telling me what to do, and I listen and I do it and that’s it. There’s no room for anything else. I try to stay in the workout, where there’s no thinking involved! If distractions enter my mind, I force them out. This is key to any sort of meditation practice.

 

10). Do you answer email first thing in the morning or leave it until later in the day?

I’m bad at checking email. Let’s just leave it at that.

 

11). Do you use any apps or products to enhance your sleep or morning routine?

Other than taking my anti-anxiety med and putting on my Fitbit to track the quality and duration of my sleep, no.

 

12). How soon do you check your phone in the morning?

As I’d mentioned above, I usually check instagram and twitter while drinking my first cup of coffee. That’s about 30 minutes after I wake up.

 

13). What are your most important tasks in the morning?

Cleaning Nenette’s litter box and doing my skin-care routine. I water my plants in the morning once a week.

 

14). What and when is your first drink in the morning?

Water, immediately.

 

15). How does your partner fit into your morning routine?

He usually wakes up at the same time as I do, and we have coffee together in the living room. He makes the bed as a part of his getting ready for work routine, and I make his lunch while he’s doing that. We’re a good team.

 

16). Do you also follow this routine on weekends, or do you change some steps?

Saturday is the day I’ll wake up at 6:30am, as I usually don’t write before going to the gym that morning. Sundays, I’ll try to sleep in until 7:00-7:30am. I write at different times over the weekend. The routine relaxes.

 

17). On days you’re not settled in your home, are you able to adapt your routine to fit in with a different environment?

No. If I’m not in my home, I don’t write first thing in the morning.

 

18). What do you do if you fail to follow your morning routine, and how does this influence the rest of your day?

If I fail to follow my routine, there’s a good reason for it, so it doesn’t impact the rest of my day. Whatever changes occur, my daily task list is always there to guide me through. The important thing is that by the end of the day, I’ve checked off as much of that list as possible.

 

Post-gym, seventh of June, two thousand eighteen.

 

Sorry this pic is so dark! Bad lighting and brownish walls aren’t the best for selfies, or anything else, for that matter.

 

The End.

 

May Favorites!

I’m not sure how to sum up the month of May. Mental health real talk: May was the white serial killer van creeping slowly down the street in front of your office window; you’re mesmerized by a combination of horror and morbid fascination as you wonder when it’s going to stop, and what you’ll see when it does. The van doesn’t stop, though. It keeps going, slowly, and when it disappears from view, you’re relieved, but you wish you’d seen more. Then June rolls around in the form of another serial killer van, and now you’re wondering whether you should ask for an adjustment to your depression medication cocktail.

In other words, ugh. This is what “Little Things” are for, right? Here are some of the Little Things that I enjoyed in May:

 

1). Ali Wong: Hard Knock Wife (Netflix)

 

 

Some hilarity was in order. We got it by watching this. BEWARE if you have delicate sensibilities. Ali does not hold back!

 

2). A Quiet Place (film)

 

 

We finally made it out to a movie, and we picked a good one. It’s immensely gratifying when a horror film turns out to be good and not cheesy at all, like this one, though I love cheesy horror flicks, too.

 

3). The Handmaid’s Tale (Hulu, S2)

 

 

I probably noted the first time around that the phenomenal The Handmaid’s Tale is visually stunning, and that you could hit “pause” anywhere and it’s like you’re looking at a Vermeer painting. Season 2 follows suit.

 

4). Evil Genius: The True Story of America’s Most Diabolical Bank Heist (Netflix)

 

 

Netflix’ real-life crime drama docuseries game is strong.

 

5). Cobra Kai (YouTube Red)

 

 

Cobra Kai is a current day “where are they now” blast that puts you back in the 80’s because the main character is stuck there.

 

6). The Americans (FX) Series Finale (S6)

 

 

The Americans series finale couldn’t have been better, in our opinion. We’re sad that it’s over, but it had to end at some point, I suppose.

 

 

Philip and Elizabeth in the final scene of the very last episode of The Americans.

 

7). Sumo/Natsu Basho (May 2018 Grand Sumo Tournament) and Tochinoshin’s promotion to Ozeki.

 

Tochinoshin (actual name: Levan Gorgadze)

 

We’re big Tochinoshin fans, as you may recall if you’ve been here for a while, so we were thrilled to witness Tochinoshin’s historic promotion to Ozeki (Sumo’s 2nd-highest rank) at the end of his spectacular May tournament.

 

 

The wonderful tribute video above doesn’t include Tochinoshin’s most notable victory of the May Basho (for reasons of respect, I would guess), so I’m posting another video showing that match. This is his win over the formidable Yokozuna Hakuho. Yokozuna is Sumo’s highest rank. A Yokozuna is basically like a god in Japan.

 

 

8). Cherry season.

Cherry season is when Dad drives 1.5 hours to the cherry orchards in Brentwood (CA) and picks pounds and pounds of cherries and sends a big box of them to me, and then I know that we’re on the verge of summer, because I can taste it. Cherries are my favorite fruit. Callaghan doesn’t like them, so these were all for me.

 

Rainier cherries and another type whose name I can’t remember. The deep red-black Bing cherries come later in the season.

 

9). Popcorn with nuts.

 

popcorn and nuts

 

I started dumping roasted, salted mixed nuts on top of my popcorn, and it’s so very satisfying.

 

Alas, I could only come up with nine Things this time. They were outstanding. They were more than enough.

Blind data. (Minimalism, post 12.)

Prompted by the recent demise (my fault) of my laptop and the subsequent acquisition of a new one, I’ve turned my minimalism efforts toward my electronic files… a necessary undertaking I’d been putting off. Can you imagine a task more tedious than going through archived files on various flash drives? I mean, there’s a tedium level of minimalism high up on the scale, and the electronic stuff is definitely on that level, as far as I’m concerned.

I’ve been combing through these four flash drives for a week now, and I’m still doing it, a little each day, looking through and comparing files and deciding what to keep and what to merge… until my eyes bleed. Not only is it bad because it’s taking up space, but also because when I want to find something on the drives, I can’t, or it’s difficult because I have to sift through piles of crap.

I don’t remember what I named something. I don’t remember when I took it or put it there. I don’t remember what folder it’s in or what drive it’s on. I have flash drives bloated with redundant files, files within folders nested in folders nested in more folders. Every time I got a new laptop, I transferred files onto different drives without thinking about it, because I was always in a hurry, and general wisdom says keep all of your files. It’s wisdom that comes from the umbrella mentality of always back up your hard drive so you don’t lose anything. We’re taught to be obsessed with backing everything up, so we end up backing up stuff we don’t need.

If there’s one area in my life in dire need of minimalization, it’s this, because electronic clutter is still clutter, and it’s the worst. It’s the most. I have more clutter on flash drives than anywhere else.

I have duplicate files. I have different versions of the same document. I have files that have overlapped from hard drive to hard drive. Since I’ve also gone back and forth between flash drives over the years, it’s not clear what files came from what laptop, though I’ve tried to keep things findable and organized.

Not only is this minimalism task tedious, but it’s maybe the most difficult in terms of letting go, emotionally. It’s one thing to make a decision whether or not to keep an article of clothing with sentimental value attached, and it’s another to look at a scanned picture of, say, a family reunion and decide whether I want to keep it: Why would I want to keep this picture? Do I need it? Does it bring me joy? Does it still matter or really matter? Am I going to want it one day and regret that I don’t have it?

Hundreds of image files piled up all over the place. What makes me crazy is the idea that having come from a pre-digital era, I know that I wouldn’t have all these pics if the digital era hadn’t been invented. When we all used manual cameras and took our pictures to be manually developed, did we take a hundred pics a days? When our primary concern was Kodak or Fuji, did we collect receptacles in which to store all of our developed pictures? Unless we were photographers, most of us did not. We did not cart around boxes bursting with 15 years’ worth of albums and loose paper pictures.

Our technological advances have enabled us to hoard, and it goes unnoticed because you don’t have to a clear a path to walk through the house when what you’re hoarding is electronic files; authorities are not going to bust into your house and report you to the producers of Hoarders.

Living in the digital age doesn’t mean I have to sentence myself to a lifetime of carrying around every single image and document and version of my three resumes (one with administrative experience, one with writing and editing, and one with combined admin and writing/editing, many of which I’d organized differently for the application of different sorts of positions).

All of this to say, I’ve been sitting on a list of the minimalism tasks I want to begin in the near future, but I’m starting this one now. When I got this new laptop, I sat and looked at my flash drives and sighed. I did not wish to clog up yet another hard drive with unnecessary files, only to transfer all of them plus additional hundreds of accumulated files when I get my next laptop.

It’s been chugging along. I’ve trimmed things down considerably. I’m not done, but I will be soon. I’m not finished yet, but I’ve learned. I’m not allowing this to happen again!