Monday On Wednesday

•April 24, 2019 • 2 Comments

It feels like a Monday. I mean, I know it’s actually Wednesday, but since I was out of the office yesterday, today now feels like the start of the week.

In true Monday form, my brain is still a million miles away from my work- specifically my writing work. I pecked away at my novel on the morning bus ride, but I’m not sure I could say what I actually wrote or if I made any progress. Whatever frequency that I need to be on in order to resonate with my own work seems to be eluding me and I’m not sure why. Some days I can tell it’s because I’m distracted by a mood. Somedays I can tell I’m distracted by my subconscious grinding away at some problem on a nonverbal level that is requiring a lot of bandwidth. Sometimes I’m just distracted. This feels… Different. Woolly-headed. Far away. Like trying to read through thick glass. It’s all there, I just can’t touch it.

So I’m frustrated. I really want to work on the story. I want to dig in and make some new discoveries about the characters and the world. I want to feel the pen putting down a line or my fingers tapping out a rhythm on a keyboard. But mostly all I see is the blinking cursor, taunting me.

So I’m consoling myself by writing letters to friends. I’m reassuring myself that as long as I make contact with the project every day I’m moving it forward even if the progress is slow. I’m rebuf reminding myself to feed the muses by putting words on paper whether or not they’re the right words or well written or useful story points. And I’m settling in to wait for things to fall into place.

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Easter Weekend

•April 22, 2019 • Leave a Comment

Easter weekend went by in a blur of social activity. Friday was a short day at work and I drove home to spend the afternoon with the Curmudgeonly Lion before he went out for the evening with some old co-workers. I enjoyed having the house to myself, but utterly failed to do anything useful with my time.

On Saturday, I spent the morning puttering around the house and running errands around town: picking up dry cleaning, dropping off library books, baking brownies, doing laundry: generally going about the business of life until noon when I went to have lunch with a friend that ended up lasting all afternoon. We sat around the table talking about books and birthdays and telling one another’s fortunes with dice. It was gray and cold outside and it was easy to ignore the passage of time until I looked at my phone and realized I’d missed a text and three voicemails from the Curmudgeonly Lion who was stranded in Pasadena with a broken down car.

The electronic gods have not been favoring us lately: first my phone goes off the deep end, then the washing machine keeps turning itself on and off, an old computer burned out losing an entire hard drive of material that naturally was not backed up anywhere. Le sigh. Oh, and our backup NAS (Network Attached Storage, for the uninitiated) drive suddenly died. The hard drives were still ok, but all the filenames are gone so now there’s a cool sixty thousand files in no particular order that need to be sorted.

And now the car. Something to do with the computer that tells the car when to switch from battery to gas. On a holiday weekend, of course.

I drove out to pick the Curmudgeonly Lion up and we stopped for dinner at Souplantation on the way home as a low key date night before going out to a friend’s birthday party that went until I’m-No-Longer-Twenty-Three in the morning and we dragged ourselves home to go to bed.

I dragged myself out of bed with dry lipsand mossy teeth and wild hair that still smellrd like smoke from the bonfire and chlorine from the pool. I realized, belatedly, that Easter brunch with Bean & Co was scheduled for noon, not noon thirty, and apologetically messaged that we’d be late before plunging myself into the shower.

Brunch was as elegant and calm as one might expect with a high-energy, over-sugared, over-tired two year old, and a group of undercaffeinated adults. It was a blessed relief when the menfolk of all ages went down for a nap leaving Bean and me alone to chat for a pleasant hour or two.

Afterwards we headed home and I forced myself to do the reading for my writers group before lying down for a nap.

“How long do you want to sleep?” The Curmudgeonly Lion asked. I said about half an hour and he set an alarm, but when the half hour was up I continued to lie in bed- both unwilling a and unable to force myself to move. I lay there in a kind of twilight half-sleep for another thirty minutes before dragging myself upright to get out the door for a run.

Being a holiday, the writer’s group attendance dropped off throughout the day until it was too small of a group to be worth the meeting so I postponed the whole meeting to next weekend and finally got back to puttering around the house until dinner time; calling in for jury duty, calling home to talk to my folks, finishing the laundry, etc.

I realized afterwards, that I didn’t have any coffee all day, which probably explains why I crashed so hard at bedtime. And now it’s back to the regularly scheduled programming, although my brain still feels like it’s a million miles away from my work and my writing. I’m doing my best to muddle through, and hopefully tomorrow will be a better day.

Good Friday

•April 19, 2019 • Leave a Comment

This is me doing absolutely nothing useful all day.

It was a short day at work due to the holiday weekend so I elected to drive in order to get home quickly in the afternoon rather than leaving my free time to the mercy of public transit. Somehow in my preparations to leave the house in the morning I twinged my neck just enough to have to be very delicate about turning my head for the rest of the day, so by the time I got home all I wanted to do was take a nap. The cat and the Curmudgeonly Lion joined me. The cat dreamed, mewling in her sleep for comfort. The Curmudgeonly Lion kept waking up to the sound of the washing machine turning itselfon in the other room. This is the house’s newest trick: a washing machine that turns itself on and off.

Later we decided to catch a movie and settled on “Shazam!” Which was a fun, easy-pleasing movie going experience. I will say, however, that going to the movies while fasting is a special kind of self abnegation. I’ve never wanted popcorn more.

Afterwards the Curmudgeonly Lion went out to get together with some work friends. I went for a leisurely run, took a shower, ate some dinner, then settled in to try to get some work done and instead spent the time gazing at my navel and doing nothing useful. So I thought I’d at least write a post for the day. Ta-dah!

All in all a good Friday.

Ha. Puns.

Ups and Downs

•April 18, 2019 • Leave a Comment

I was feeling calm, and reasonably stable, so I decided to give the mental health phone line another try. This time I had my insurance card and medical number at the ready. A call center agent answered right away- no more wading through a recorded menu- and she seemed like she might actually experience human emotions like compassion. She handed me off to the appropriate administrator who actually asked pertinent questions: Was I calling for therapy or medication?

Therapy.

What was I struggling with?

Depression.

Was this location the most convenient?

Yes.

She said I’d receive an authorization letter in the mail with the name of a therapist I could call to make an appointment, and I hung up the phone feeling relieved that the process was underway. I’d taken the first step.

At lunch, I stepped out of the office to donate blood. The towers where I work hold routine blood drives and I make an effort to sign up whenever I see the announcement. I like donating blood. I don’t know why: maybe because it’s easy and makes me feel useful. I’m young and healthy and not squeamish about needles; and there are snacks. And you can’t beat the convenience of having the Red Cross come right to your workplace to make a donation. For me, though, donating blood means a few weeks of loading up on iron supplements to get my blood iron levels high enough to donate.

I arrived at the appointed time- the only donor there. I’d already filled out the pertinent questionnaire and read the relevant readings. The phlebotomist took my temperature, pulse, blood pressure, and contact info, then set about the pin prick test for the blood iron.

Sorry, too low.

Can you test again? Sometimes a second test gets a higher reading.

A second phlebotomist performed a second test.

Higher, and in the healthy range, but still too low to donate. Sorry. Have a Game of Thrones poster.

So I didn’t get to donate. I picked up a poster, guiltily promising myself I’d arrange to donate at the center near my house to make up for it.

The afternoon was going fine until I glanced at my phone and discovered an email from USC.

Join us in celebrating the life and legacy of Norm Hollyn. It said.

That’s funny. I thought. They should check their wording- it makes him sound like he’s dead.

I opened the email. The message consisted of an image showing the familiar smiling face of the editing professor who had interviewed me for admission to the graduate production program back in 2013. My eye caught on the word “Memorial” wait, what? and I read it over several times struggling to make sense of what I was looking at.

I googled “Norm Hollyn”.

“Norm Hollyn death” populated automatically. March seventeenth. Yokahama Japan.

I had to step out of the office. I called the Curmudgeonly Lion: the relative calm I’d been feeling all day now folded in on itself and I felt like I was in freefall. Another mentor suddenly gone. Another major piece of news arriving to me late what did I think I could have done? thanks to my self-imposed social media blackout. Another friend gone while I wasn’t looking.

I struggled to take deep cleansing breaths. I struggled to breathe at all. I felt the urge to reach out to everybody I knew just to make sure they were all still alive, not sure I found really stand to find out if they weren’t. I ate chocolate. I had something warm to drink. I tried not to think too much.

So it’s been a hell of a day. I’m muddling through.

Mental

•April 17, 2019 • Leave a Comment

The only way to access the mental health services through my care provider is by phone. For someone like me who: a. hates making phone calls, b. hates asking for help, c. already has a slightly irrational distrust of therapy, and d. hates crying in front of strangers; this presents an obstacle of significant proportions.

My mood has been low enough for long enough that I finally deemed it time to explore my options for getting help. Being off social media for the past four weeks has been very isolating, and I’ve struggled with an internal echo chamber of frustration, self doubt, paranoia, and hopelessness. If you think the Facebook echo chamber is bad, try sitting alone with the persecuting voices in your head telling you that nobody likes you, you’re not good enough, you’ll never amount to anything, and everybody is laughing at you behind your back for four weeks. Even the Russians aren’t that cruel.

So I was seeking help. Having to do this by way of phone call meant that I had to strike a very delicate balance between my mood being just-bad-enough-for-help-to-be-necessary and not-so-bad-that-I’d-break-down-in-tears-on-the-phone. Which for me is a very narrow margin indeed, but I thought I’d struck it on Monday after walking to the bus after work. I looked up the number, took a deep breath, and dialed.

“Thank you for calling the Behavioral Health Services Department. Our offices are now closed. Please call back during business hours. If this is an emergency, please hang up and go to the nearest emergency room.”

I waited to hear if there was more. The message repeated itself in Spanish, but failed to tell me the hours during which it would be convenient for me to have issues with my mental health.

I hung up.

The next day, I waited until a slow moment at work to try again, shutting myself in the conference room to avoid being overheard.

I took a deep breath. I dialed.

“Thank you for calling the Behavioral Health Services Department. To continue in English press one.”

I pressed one.

“For directions and hours, press one. To refill a prescription, press two. To speak with a call center agent, press three.” There was a pause and the menu began to repeat itself: that was it. Those were my only three options. Did I want a call center agent? I didn’t know. It sounded like tech support. I pressed three expecting to be told to try shutting down my brain and turning it back on again.

“ThankyouforcallingbehavioralservicescanIhaveyourmedicalnumber.”

The woman who answered sounded harried and annoyed and spoke in a rapid monotone over a bad connection. She didn’t give a name or ask for mine.

“Um, sorry? Say again?” I asked.

“Can I have your medical number?”

It was technically a question but her tone made it clear she gave exactly zero shits whether I gave it to her or not. I didn’t have my wallet with me, and it wasn’t a number I knew off the top of my head. I wasn’t even sure if I’d called the right line.

“Um.” I said again. “Is this the right number for mental health?” I asked, my voice already wavering.

“Yes.”

“How do I, um, get help.” I said.

“I need your medical number.” She said again. She was on the downhill slope from zero shits to zero fucks and was gaining momentum the longer I kept her on the line.

“I’ll have to look it up.” I managed around a cracking voice. “I’ll call back.”

I hung up.

What had I expected? I asked myself, back at my desk and trying to keep the tears from eroding my makeup. Someone nice? Someone to hold your hand and tell you it’s all going to be ok? A kind voice explaining your options in sympathetic tones, maybe?

Well, yes actually.

Or maybe a menu of options: if you’re experiencing depression, press one. If you’re experiencing OCD, press seven thirteen times. If you’re hearing voices this one is coming from a phone. Etc. Frankly I would have been a BILLION times happier doing all of this online.

And what if I truly hadn’t been in my right mind? I was depressed but not delusional: but what if I’d needed more than just a little mood help? This was the state of my options for mental health care? I could tell my deepest vulnerabilities to Thelma-of-the-DMV and hope for the best, I could go to the Emergency Room to the tune of ten grand, or I could white-knuckle it until I broke with reality and decided to pack it all in and go live under an overpass. I wasn’t seeing a lot of gray area.

I haven’t called back yet. I will, but I’m still too angry about yesterday to strike that mental balance needed to function on the phone.

Reward

•April 16, 2019 • Leave a Comment

In other news, I found the statuette from a cheerleading trophy today, for whatever that’s worth.

There’s no two ways about it: as a writer I put my characters through hell. Partly this is to dramatic effect: conflict creates story, and partly it is to comedic effect: struggle creates comedy, but one thing is for sure: as the omniscient creator of these characters and their world I’m not a terribly benevolent overlord.

It’s not going to be easy, I try to console them when they curse my name, but it’s going to be worth it. Please trust me.

And it’s true: I just finished writing a chapter in which the main character’s struggles pay off handsomely. It costs him everything, and doesn’t get everything he wants, but he is completely remade into a stronger person with a future ahead of him that want there before.

I can only hope the teller of my own story will be so generous.

Beach Run

•April 15, 2019 • Leave a Comment

I didn’t take this photo on purpose but my phone made sure to catch a few candids.

I can’t rightly say where the impulse came from; all I know for sure was that I became suddenly and profoundly obsessed with the idea of going for a run on the beach. Maybe it was last week’s outing to Santa Monica Pier. Maybe it was the result of my recent preoccupation with getting a change of scenery. Maybe it was the call of the wild gray ocean. Whatever the reason, the bottom line was the same: I was going to the beach.

My plan was to go on Saturday: get up early with the Curmudgeonly Lion and then head out while the sun was still low and traffic still light. This plan was thoroughly shattered by the arrival of a team of roofers at seven thirty to reshingle the house. So instead of running, I spent the morning huddled in the house listening to elephant footsteps from back and forth overhead, punctuated by a pneumatic nailgun and perfumed with the smell of hot tar.

Sunday, then. Sunday I would go fora run on the beach, I promised myself, and I was as good as my word. I drove out the canyon until the road met the ocean and found a place to park along the shoulder. The valley was sunny and warm, but here by the shore it was overcast and gray and I caught myself shivering as I schlepped along the Pacific Coast Highway in search of a place to get down to the beach.

I’m not much of a beach goer: the amount of sunscreen I need to avoid weeks of painful peeling skin takes all the fun and freedom out of beach going. So I don’t know the beaches in the area very well. I’d hoped to find a long stretch of sand- maybe a mile or two, where I could run along the waterline without worrying about getting lost. But the stretch of shoreline I chose turned out to be narrow and, in places, rocky, so I could only run a quarter mile or so at a time before I had to scramble back up to the road to navigate around a breakwater or a dining club or a luxury beach house.

Still, much to my astonishment, I made it as far as the terminal end of Sunset Boulevard before deciding I’d gone far enough. In spite of the scrambling and the traffic and the periodic encounters with the human drifters who inhabit the coast, I’d found the run quite pleasant. But after I passed Sunset I found myself asking what am I doing here? What was I hoping to find? Why had I come? Why was this so important?

The more I searched, the less answer I seemed to get, and I turned back feeling increasingly frustrated and lost (philosophically speaking, that is- I didn’t have any trouble finding my way back to the car). I drove home still looking for some sign to tell me why I’d been so drawn to the waterfront.

Just give me something to believe,” sang The Bravery from the radio. “I need something more, to keep on breathing for, so give me something to believe…

“Very funny.” I said to the universe at large.

 
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