August was a rough one, friends.
Yes, I realize that it’s already almost mid-September and I’m just getting round to telling you about August. That should be a pretty good clue as to how my August went.
My mom had a stroke at the tail end of July. We were very lucky as it could have been far worse, but it still left her with no use of her left hand, heavily slurred speech and trouble swallowing due to weakness along the left side of her mouth and throat. We were also very lucky that it happened one evening while she and my dad were sitting up visiting with my aunt and uncle. Had it happened while my mom was home alone, or even worse, driving…yeah. It’s not fodder for pleasant contemplation.
Anyway – there was a lot of driving back and forth between home and hospital, then home and rehab facility, for about a week and a half. I was also trying to keep an eye on my dad, as he has a habit of running himself pretty ragged when my mom is unwell (which we know from experience the last few years with her being in and out of hospital so much). It was busy, full of stress and worry, and just all around not a great time.
And then things really took a nose dive into the deep end of the shit whirlpool.
Our beloved Maltese, Junior, had been having some problems keeping his balance for a couple weeks prior to all this. It started out as just a little bit of wavering when he’d cock his leg to pee, and the occasional stumble while going up the stairs. When it got so that he was almost tipping over when he squatted to poop, was losing his back legs out from under him while just walking across the floor, and when he stopped even trying to go up the stairs at all, I knew something was wrong.
Two days after my mom’s stroke, I took Junie to the vet to be checked out. The vet hemmed and hawed and decided it was probably arthritis in his trick knee. She sent us home with a bag of joint supplement chews and orders to not jump up on stuff or tear around crazily for a while. We dutifully administered the chews and kept things to a dull roar for a week but things kept getting worse. Junie would get up on the couch next to me and basically not move for hours, which was very unlike him. I kept trying to convince myself that it would just take some time for the joint supplements to kick in and then he’s start feeling better, but I couldn’t shake the feeling that there was more going on.
Instinct finally won and I made him another vet appointment. We saw a different doctor than our normal vet that day. He had me put Junior down on the floor so he could observe Junior walking around…or skittering and face-planting, as it turned out. He watched him quietly for a couple minutes, then shook his head and told me that he was pretty sure it wasn’t his legs but rather his spine that was causing the problem. Tight-lipped, the vet referred us to a doggie neurologist and told us to get there as soon as possible.
The next day, the neurologist looked him all over, did some x-rays, and determined that it was either granulomatous meningoencephalitis (GME for short), or lymphoma. The treatment would be the same either way: steroids and chemo. In order to confirm it was one of these things and not a brain tumor, Junior needed an MRI. In order to have the MRI, he needed to be put under anesthesia. In order to have the anesthesia, he needed to have an ultrasound to make sure it was safe, because he has a congenital heart defect that has been getting progressively worse. Junior just turned eight at the end of August, by the way. He’s not an old dog by any means.
We brought him back to the specialist the next day for the ultrasound. They cleared him for the MRI, with the caveat that we sign a waiver saying we understood that there was up to a 20% chance that the anesthesia may kill him. We signed the waiver and sent him off with the doctors to be prepped for the MRI. Mark and I then proceeded to spend the rest of the day floating in our own private banks of fog. We went to get food, we went for a scenic drive, we went to see Wonder Woman…all so that we could try and distract ourselves from the very real chance that we might get a call saying our dog had died. Not our most enjoyable day ever.
We were at McDonalds forcing ourselves to eat when Mark’s phone finally rang. He stood up and walked away from the table to answer it, and I had to sit on my hands to keep them from shaking while I strained to hear any words at all from the other end of the call. I distinctly remember thinking, “well he hasn’t burst into tears yet, so hopefully things aren’t TOO bad”.
And they weren’t, at least not entirely. Junior had survived the MRI and there was no brain tumor, but there was a lesion or tumor on his spinal cord. Now he needed a spinal tap to try and determine whether it was GME or lymphoma we were dealing with. The spinal tap ended up being inconclusive, but the doctor was leaning toward lymphoma over GME. We got sent home with a whole bunch of meds and a boatload of anxiety.
The problem, you see, is that it doesn’t actually matter if it’s GME or lymphoma, because neither one is curable. If it was lymphoma in some of his actual lymph nodes, it may have been possible to do an operation to remove them or radiation to shrink them. But the lymphoma is in / on his spinal cord…it’s called CNS (central nervous system) lymphoma. We can’t even do a biopsy of the lesion because it would probably kill him or paralyze him. Also, while the steroids have helped him to be able to walk again, they’re very hard on his already faulty heart. And the chemo that we have to give him every 3 weeks to try and shrink the lesion? Very hard on the heart. As if this all wasn’t enough, we also found out from some tests last week that it’s very possible Junior also has a liver shunt. Quick physiology lesson: your liver cleans your blood, and metabolizes many of the medications you may take. A liver shunt is where some or all of the arteries that are supposed to feed your blood into your liver for cleaning aren’t actually in the right place and are instead diverting some or all of your blood around your liver rather than through it. When stuff doesn’t get cleaned out of your blood by your liver, it just keeps recirculating through your body and eventually build up to toxic levels. So it’s possible (and currently looking probable) that all the heavy duty steroids and chemo Junior has been getting are building up in his system rather than getting cleaned out of his blood. This even further limits our treatment options. Best case scenario, the remission we hope for is being measured in weeks at this point, not months or years.
Rather than dwell on feeling sad and angry and guilty and who knows what else, I’m trying like hell to find ways to learn from this experience. I’m getting a crash course in sitting with my own discomfort, for one. My M.O. is to fix things but there is no fix to this thing, and that makes me very uncomfortable. I don’t know how to accept helplessness as a valid state of being. I’m also getting a refresher on the fundamental impermanence of life. Just because you’re not old and frail doesn’t mean you’re guaranteed a lot more time. To paraphrase Xzibit: yo dawg, I heard you like feeling helpless so I put some more helpless in your pile of helplessness. And lastly, I’m finding a whole new motivation for trying to be more present, for acknowledging and appreciating what each moment holds, rather than dwelling on the inevitable.
My mom’s doing well now, by the way. She’s got quite a lot of use of her hand back, her speech is much better and she’s having a much easier time swallowing. She still has a lot of serious health issues but if I let myself start to worry about those on top of everything else going on, I’m pretty much guaranteed to go the way of Artax and get sucked down into the Swamp of Sorrows…and that doesn’t do me or anyone I love a bit of good.
I keep writing blog posts and then not posting them because they’re not good enough. In reality they’re fine, but in my head they’re not funny enough, they don’t make sense, they’re boring, they make me sound dickish (which isn’t untrue, but still)…and who the fuck knows what else.
This is the brain weasels talking. That stuff about not being good enough, I mean. Not this right now. This is me. The weasels haven’t completely taken over. At least, I don’t THINK they have. Maybe they’ve gone all dark ops and actually HAVE taken over and I just don’t realize it. Shit, that’s terrifying. Let’s back away from that one.
Point being…I’m still here and doing the thing. I’m just kind of lacking in my follow-through lately. And that’s ok. It’s not ideal…but it’s ok. It could be worse.
Music has always been important to me. Neither of my parents played instruments, at least not in my lifetime, but they both liked listening to music so it was a common feature in my early life. My mom liked contemporary rock – Bryan Adams, Tina Turner, John Cougar Mellencamp. Saturday mornings were for cleaning the house, and dancing around to ‘What’s Love Got To Do With It’ got us through many a post-cartoon bout of dusting and putting away laundry. My dad was into older, harder stuff – Z.Z. Top, Blue Oyster Cult, Cream, Pink Floyd, old Aerosmith, Led Zeppelin. He also liked country though, so I was just as likely to be singing along to ‘Mama, He’s Crazy’ by the Judds rather than Led Zeppelin’s ‘Immigrant Song’ when I was with him.
When I was old enough to have my own little boombox as a kid, the first things I went for were pop – Michael Jackson (‘Bad’ was the very first tape I ever got) and Paula Abdul featured heavily – but I also started exploring a lot of my parents’ cassettes too. Albums like Aerosmith’s ‘Toys In The Attic’, The Grateful Dead’s ‘Shakedown Street’, and Billy Joel’s ‘An Innocent Man’, along with greatest hits compilations from Steppenwolf and The Beatles, all made it into my regular rotation. We didn’t have a lot of money so I couldn’t go out and buy new music very often, but it didn’t take me long to discover that time-honored 80’s tradition of taping music off the radio. I recorded the local rock station most often, as that’s what my little boom-box picked up with the best reception. This introduced me to such wonders as The Scorpions, Def Leppard, Van Halen, Bon Jovi, Guns ‘n Roses, and Metallica. By middle school I had a part-time job and a little pocket money, almost all of which was usually spent on music. Hip-hop was just starting to show up in the music stores up here around that time, and I embraced acts like MC Hammer, C+C Music Factory, and Digital Underground with the fervor only a newly minted teenager looking to set herself apart from the tastes of her parents’ generation can muster. High school ushered in my (predictable, in retrospect) transition to harder rock and goth music. I was obsessed with The Crow (again, predictable), and the soundtrack to that movie introduced me to groups like Nine Inch Nails, Stone Temple Pilots and Rage Against The Machine – all groups I still adore more than two decades on. When ADHD first reared its head and I started having trouble concentrating as a teenager, music helped considerably. Counting Crows’ ‘August and Everything After’ got me through many hours of homework, and the first short story I ever wrote was to an endless loop of Fleetwood Mac’s ‘Rhiannon’.
Today, I’m a grumpy middle-aged woman with a very boring day job. Alas, all those fantasies of becoming a musician didn’t pan out (not that I tried to make them, admittedly), but music is still a deeply important part of my day-to-day life. It has become my main coping strategy, not just in terms of dealing with my ADHD symptoms, but also my depression and anxiety. When I’m having a particularly anxious day, I’ll listen to a lot of Bow Thayer and Patrick Ross, wonderful local bluegrass / folk artists whose shows I’ve attended many times and who serve as anchors to the here-and-now for me. When I’m angry, I go for the catharsis of Rage Against The Machine, Incubus or Audioslave (I hope you found peace,Chris. You will be missed so much more than you could ever have imagined). If I need to power through piles of particularly boring data entry, I like the flow of older hip-hop and rap like A Tribe Called Quest, WuTang Clan, and The Beastie Boys, or the driving, trance-like beats of EDM.
If you have any favorite artists or playlists that help get you through the day, I’d love to hear about them. I use Spotify at work and enjoy exploring new music. I’ll listen to anything once! My main playlist, which is a super mixed up mess of everything from funk to metal to rap to comedy tracks, can be found here if you want to do some exploring of your own, or just want to listen along with me at work.
The other day I had to pick up a prescription. When I got to the pharmacy, I opted for the drive-through prescription pick-up window, because why the hell would you get out of the car if you don’t have to, am I right? MURICA!
I pulled around the corner of the building toward the pick-up window and chortled with glee because there was no one waiting in line. What luck! I reached into my bag to grab my wallet while I waited for the friendly face of the drug-dispensing angel to appear in the big plate-glass window. Something felt a little off about the car as I was rooting through my bag, so I glanced up and realized that the ‘off’ feeling was, in fact, the car continuing to move after I had come to a stop.
“OH SHIT. I guess I’m not in Park”, I yelped as I hit the brakes. I put the car in reverse and backed up until I was even with the window again, just in time to see the tech behind the window losing her shit laughing at me. Apparently I had been loud enough to hear over the little speaker that lets them talk to the outside world.
With a cheerful smile, I commenced to explain to her how I had pulled up and forgotten to put the car in park while I was looking for my wallet. You know, despite the fact that she clearly saw the entire performance, heard me yell, etc.
Because I am THAT woman. The one that is not only impossibly awkward to begin with, but that also then feels she needs to explain the awkwardness (awkwardly, no doubt) to the observing parties. Then, to marinate a little longer in the extra awkward sauce, I write about these experiences on the Internet. Awkwardly. And I’m OK with that nowadays. Well, more OK with it than I was as a kid, at least. Being awkward used to feel like the worst, most unbearable, most embarrassing thing ever. Now it’s a lot easier to take it in stride, to tell myself: “you could be a LOT worse things than weird. Like, you could be a serial killer. Or a puppy kicker. Or, OMG, a flat-Earth-er. An evolution denier! OK, stop, you’re getting yourself all wound up. Think of otters…”.
In the eternal words of Maurice Moss:
Most days at work I’ll have a cup of tea, or more rarely, coffee. Around mid-morning the perpetual cold in my office will start to seep into my bones and I’ll need to enact self-warming measures or risk going into torpor (I’m half pterodactyl, you know), so I’ll grab my coffee cup and head for the kitchen. I return a few minutes later with a nice, hot beverage to go along with my renewed dislike of mankind in general. I sit down. I return to the tasks at hand. I slurp the hot beverage and feel the threat of torpor lessen. When I finish my drink, I set the cup off to the side of my desk and promptly forget it exists until the next time I want a hot drink. Washing the cup out while I wait for the water to heat up is just part of the ritual.
Except on Mondays.
On Mondays, my cup is pristine. There’s no ring of dried tea. There’s no quarter-inch deep puddle of coffee that I’ve abandoned because it has become so thick with grounds that it’s undrinkable. The inside of my coffee cup gleams white like new-fallen snow, and it never fails to make me smile.
Now don’t be fooled into thinking that this small miracle of tidiness is in any way due to foresight on my part on Friday afternoon. Oh, no. That kind of planning ahead isn’t how my brain works. If it were solely up to me, the coffee cup would sit all weekend and the Monday hot drink ritual would be just like every other day.
No, the Monday Morning Clean Cup is a gift the cleaning ladies bestow upon me. On Saturdays they come in and whisk around changing bin liners and wiping down bathrooms. They vacuum the carpets, they dust behind our monitors, they haul out the trash. They have plenty to to keep them busy on Saturday mornings. And yet, one of them always takes a couple minutes to pick up my cup, carry it out to the bathroom on the landing outside my office, give it a wash and a dry, and set it back on my desk.
You could argue that it’s just part of her job. Or that she’s getting paid by the hour, so the time it takes her to collect, wash, dry, and return coffee cups is more money in her pocket at the end of the day. Those points are fair enough. But do they take any of the shine off my clean coffee cup? Do they cheapen the tiny joy I feel when I go to make my hot drink of a Monday morning?
The clean cup is a gift because I decide to see it as such.
I’m by no means immune to cynicism, to assuming everyone has ulterior motives. I mentioned at the beginning of this post that I have a dislike for mankind in general, and that’s not something I just throw out there for LOLs (the pterodactyl part is still up for debate until someone pays for me to have DNA testing done, though). I’m not refusing to believe that the cleaning lady is personally benefiting in some way from washing my coffee cup every Saturday. I choose to be thankful for it anyway. It’s not like my mug would be any cleaner if it had a final rinse of pure altruism. My tea wouldn’t taste any better if I knew that the person who cleaned my cup was doing so of their own volition with no monetary motivation or sense of duty. The gesture is no less meaningful because someone else is benefiting from it.
This unconditional thankfulness isn’t something I’m good at, but it’s something I think is worth trying to practice. I am reminded of this every Monday morning when I go to make my hot drink and find my cup sparkling clean.
So really, the cleaning lady has given me TWO gifts, one far deeper and more consequential than the other.
As a child, I’d often get overwhelmed by emotions and I’d cry. I couldn’t adequately explain to anyone why I was crying, so I was told to toughen up. For the record, my parents were both brought up in pretty emotionally repressive families themselves and they didn’t really know any other way to be. I get that and I don’t hold it against them. They did the best they knew how.
Because I believed that I wasn’t supposed to cry without a ‘good reason’, I instead developed a habit of hitting, scratching or pinching myself, or sometimes biting the insides of my cheeks. when I started feeling like I was about to cry. It was a way of distracting myself and hopefully heading off the imminent crying jag. It didn’t always work, but it worked often enough that it became habit. Self-harm isn’t something I would have understood had someone explained it to me at six or seven years of age, of course. Hell, it’s something I still don’t always understand 30 years later. But that’s what I was doing. I was purposefully hurting myself in an attempt to cope with emotions.
The first time I started to realize I probably wasn’t OK in the head was around age 15. That was when I started having trouble in school (due in large part to ADHD that I didn’t know I had), and I was sad a lot. I had always been a very smart kid that could keep up despite my focus problems, but as the workload intensified in high school, that all came crashing down and my identity as a smart kid was something I began to seriously question.
By senior year, I was in real danger of failing a required English class and thus not graduating. I had gotten pretty good at playing a character – a funny, flippant music nerd who simply didn’t care about academics. But inside, I was a stew of insecurity and self-loathing. I felt like a failure and a disappointment to my family. My brain started convincing me that I wasn’t actually smart at all, that all my teachers had lied in order to spare me from realizing what a no-good loser I was. I believed that the few friends I had were hanging out with me because they felt sorry for me. Things eventually came to a head when I was no longer able to intercept the mail the school was sending home about my being in danger of flunking out. The look on my mom’s face when I had to tell her I might not graduate still makes me feel bad almost 20 years later. It was like watching something I loved being crumpled up and stomped on. This was the toughest woman I knew and I had managed to break her with my inability to be normal, to just do what needed to be done like everyone else did. That certainly didn’t improve the tenor of my already negative inner dialog any. I did end up graduating, though I was FAR from prepared for post-secondary education. Going to college that fall had mistake written all over it…but off I went, undiagnosed mental issues and all, because that was where smart kids were expected to go after high school.
College was pretty bad. I’ll spare you the gritty details but the gist is that I was there for two largely unpleasant semesters before I was told I didn’t need to bother coming back. Anxiety was my constant companion through the first semester and by halfway through the second semester I was experiencing my first full-blown depressive episode – not that I knew what it was at the time. I didn’t tell anyone what was going on and I didn’t get any help. Instead I floundered, flunked out, and went home to find a job. I didn’t know how to deal with the resultant feelings of guilt and failure, so I just…didn’t. I stuffed them down and distracted myself with experiencing the fun parts of a college experience via my best friend, whose school I visited almost every weekend.
When best friend moved away after graduating college, things started to fall apart again in a big way. The brain weasels were soon running rampant, telling me that I was the only one of my group of high school friends left in town because I was a failure, a fuck-up and a disgrace. I self-medicated with booze – a LOT of booze. The chorus of self-loathing that I’d been living with for the past ten years was now getting louder by the day. It told me that I didn’t deserve my job or the things that I had, that I wasn’t worthy of the love of my family or my long-distance boyfriend. It told me that nothing I did would ever be good enough, that I had no friends because I was terrible to be around. It told me not to bother trying to do any of the things I used to love – making music, writing stories, painting and drawing – because I was never going to be any good at any of them. It wanted me to believe that there was no point in even living anymore, and for a little while there, it had me pretty well convinced.
Shortly after my 25th birthday I experienced a bout of costochondritis, which is an inflammation of the cartilage between the ribs where they connect to the sternum. Imagine someone sliding a knife between your ribs right up near your breast bone and then slowly trying to turn the blade vertical, prying your ribs apart a millimeter at a time. Super funtimes! It also caused a lot of referred pain into my left shoulder, neck and breast. Being a life-long fatty and having a history of heart disease in my family, it really wasn’t much of a stretch to imagine that particular combination of pains being symptoms of a heart attack. The doctor in the emergency room and my primary care doctor both told me that my heart was fine, but I couldn’t stop thinking that there was something very wrong, that I was on the verge of dropping dead. I felt constantly sick to my stomach, I would have spells of not being able to breathe, of feeling cold and clammy…all secondary symptoms of a heart attack, coincidentally. It got to the point where I would end each day at work by writing a series of notes with directions for what to do in my absence because I was absolutely convinced that I wasn’t going to be there the next day. What I know now, of course, was that I was living in a constant state of panic attack…but that was never even mentioned as a possibility at the time.
Finally being diagnosed with ADHD and being properly medicated for that has made a huge difference in my anxiety levels, but I still struggle with depression regularly. I’ve finally started learning ways to help myself, though. Talking with people who’ve had similar experiences reminds me that I’m not alone no matter what the brain weasels want me to believe. Meditation helps me to just be where I am in this moment and not worry so much about the future or feel so bad about the past. Yoga helps me move my focus out of my head and into my body, giving my brainmeat a little much-needed rest. All of these things compound over time and help me to realize that the way my brain works is not all there is to me…but it’s part of who I am, and that’s something I’m learning to be OK with.
If you’re struggling, know that you’re NOT alone, and that people truly do want to help you feel better. The world needs you in it, so please stay! If you need immediate help, start here (you don’t even have to call, you can chat with them online! Isn’t that handy?!)
1. Pretty much the only way to get me to consistently exercise is to make me pay for a set number of classes up front
I’ve been doing yoga for six or seven years now. As with most things in my life, the degree to which I am consistent with my yoga practice varies wildly depending on things like my mental state, my bank balance, which direction the wind is blowing, what I had for breakfast, whether Mercury is in retrograde…you get the picture. Classes that I have to shell out actual money for seem to be the only way I’ve found to stay really committed to the practice. It’s like my frugal Puritan ancestors are scowling down the generations at me whenever I think about skipping a class I’ve already paid for. Being a disappointment, even to completely imagined ancestors, is not something I handle well, so off to class I go!
2. I’m capable of more than I think
Watching the yoga teacher demonstrate the positions she wants us to get into often involves me snorting sarcastically in my head about how there’s no way my fat ass is going to be able to do that. But then, she sends us to our mats and starts walking us through the pose, and what do you know? I CAN actually do that! It’s not always easy and it’s NEVER pretty…but I can usually do it.
3. I’m not as capable of as much as I thought I’d be
The last time I took a real yoga class, I was about 50lbs lighter and quite a lot more regularly active. I had spent the previous seven winters stacking, carrying and re-stacking many tons of cord wood and 40lb bags of wood pellets to heat the little converted barn that I lived in. I was fat, yes…but also pretty strong. Nowadays, thanks to moving to more civilized living conditions (which I do NOT regret, just so we’re clear – I really like not having to get up and feed the woodstove at 2am just so the pipes don’t freeze), I haven’t had to haul more than the very occasional bag of pellets in about six years. I work a desk job where I often sit for six to eight hours straight without taking more than a two or three minute break to walk to the copier and back. The sum total of all these factors is that I’m still fat, but now I’m also a) nowhere near as strong as I once was and b) really fucking stiff and tight, especially through my lower body. There are dead simple things in yoga that I find INCREDIBLY hard to actually do. And that’s ok, honestly. I’m mostly at peace with it. Which leads me to #4…
4. I don’t have to keep up with anyone
Sally might have done six leg lifts to my three but it doesn’t. Fucking. Matter. We’re all doing what we CAN, and that’s enough. Have you ever tried to give yourself genuine, non-sarcastic, non-second-guessing credit for having done enough? It’s a lot fucking harder than it sounds, believe me…but it’s also very liberating.
5. I’m never going to magically become an extrovert
The class I take is a restorative class, which involves slow movements and poses held for a longer time. There’s a lot of focus on breath, even more-so than with standard yoga, and at the end of class the teacher takes us through a guided relaxation meditation. At the end of the meditation, we slowly sit up, settle back into ourselves, chant “om” a few times (which, honestly, I wasn’t down with it the first couple times but it has grown on me), and then the teacher invites everyone to “extend your greeting to others if you wish”. The first class I went to, I thought this meant saying a general “Namaste” to the room and then peacing the fuck out, BUT NO. What she means is saying “Namaste” to each. person. in. the. room. Like, one at a time, making deliberate eye contact with each person, bowing your head and saying “Namaste”. I’ll freely admit that I’m straight-up uncomfortable with this. It makes me anxious and completely harshes the mellow I just worked hard on developing over the last 90 minutes of class. After that first class I felt really bad about it, like I was a failure or really immature or something because I couldn’t do two seconds of mild bonding with a bunch of randos. But then that point #4 about doing enough started to kick in and I realized, you know what? Fuck it. She’s saying “extend your greeting IF YOU WISH”. If I don’t wish to extend my greeting, that’s my fucking business. Sitting there with my head bowed and eyes closed while everyone whispers “Namaste” around me is enough. I don’t have to feel bad about being an introvert, just like they don’t have to feel bad about being extroverts. I’ll do me, they can do them, and we’ll all leave class with mellows still intact.
6. I hate practicing. Like, I REALLY hate it
If my mom is reading this, she’s saying something like “no shit, Sherlock” at the computer screen right now, because I’ve ALWAYS been this way. Basketball, multiplication tables, guitar, lines for plays…the list of things she fought with me for refusing to practice as a kid is almost as long as the list she could make you of things that I just straight-up quit on because, if I couldn’t master something within a few tries, I basically wanted no part of it. I don’t know if it was a product of my ADHD or just a character flaw, but I never entirely grew out of it. It’s better than it used to be but it’s something I still struggle with, and yoga class has definitely been stirring it up for me lately. Logically I know that I’ll get better at things if I keep doing them, but the actual having to repeat things over and over that I KNOW I’m doing incorrectly bugs the shit out of me. Most of the time it’s not even a matter of comparing myself to others, like “oh, Sally can do downward dog without bending her knees and she’s like 70, I should be able to do that”. It’s simply, “the correct way to do downward dog is to not have to bend your knees. I physically can’t do it the correct way, so why bother doing it at all”.
The answer to which is that I paid money to be there so I better damn well do SOME kind of downward dog or those frugal Puritan fucks from #1 are going to come back to haunt the shit out of me, obviously.
There are big blocks of time that it feels like I don’t remember.
I say “feels like” because I know that in reality, you can’t ever remember everything that’s happened to you because that’s not how the brain works. Long-term memory kind of acts like a card catalog in a library. You go to the catalog with a subject in mind – ie: “summer camp”, and that’s like giving your brain-meats the Dewey Decimal Number for what you’re trying to remember. Your brain-meat then acts as librarian, taking that card and running up and down its stacks at lightening speed (or slightly slower for some of us…heh), pulling memories of that thing from the shelves for you to inspect.
In other words, long-term memory isn’t a constant loop of all the moments of your life being played over and over again, just waiting for you to hit “pause” on the one you want to access at that particular moment.
Think what life would be like if that WAS how it worked, by the way. I imagine it would be like the worst possible case of ADHD ever. You’d never be able to get anything done because your brain would constantly be like “Hey remember that one time, at band camp? And Aunt Mildred’s dog? And Easter morning, 1978? And the day you were born, and the 47th time you skinned your knee falling off your bike, and the drive to the cemetery when Grandpa died, and the smell of the lake at night and how your first kiss felt and smoking weed behind the gym between classes and the words to that song from 3rd grade music class and and and…”, but multiplied by literally all the moments of your entire life.
That sounds kind of horrible. I’m pretty glad it doesn’t work that way, now that I think about it.
I should probably take this opportunity to point out that I’m an accountant, by the way, NOT a neurologist. This may actually not be AT ALL how memory works. I didn’t even finish college and I’m also prone to making shit up, so…probably don’t use me as an academic citation on your fancy brain science term paper or whatever. Show-off.
So, it feels like there are these chunks of time that I can’t remember, and sometimes it bothers me. When it bothers me, I start actively trying to recall things from my childhood in order to prove to myself that no, I was NOT in fact just beamed down from the Mothership. Except, then I start worrying about how maybe aliens have the technology to basically pre-populate our brains with just enough memories to make us think that yes, we DID in fact have childhoods and that the idea of being beamed down from the Mothership is preposterous, now be a good drone, keep incubating those trillions of bacteria and stop questioning reality. And really, THAT’S a can of worms I can’t even really handle on a GOOD day, so that’s when I usually start just looking up pictures of baby otters online instead. Two or three good baby otter video clips will put me right back on track.
Well, as on-track as I ever get, anyway.
Last weekend we were at a gaming event with some friends. Almost all of them had downloaded the Pokémon Go app and were happily spending their down-time between actual card games walking around hunting Pokémon. One friend especially, Geoff, was pretty obsessed. He clocked something like three miles of walking over the course of the day, all in the name of catching electronic critters. I had a couple conversations with people about how the game worked just out of general interest, and I MIGHT at one point have said “if my phone wasn’t such a piece of crap I’d download the game and try it”, but aside from that I didn’t think too much of it and had pretty much forgotten about it by the time we got home on Saturday evening.
Wednesday morning, Mark walked into the kitchen and held his phone out for me to look at. It showed a little picture of a guy on a bright green map with roads traced in grey and a cheerful blue sky full of puffy white clouds on the horizon.
“REALLY?” I asked, rolling my eyes. The map he was showing me was the main Pokémon Go screen. He had downloaded the game and installed it onto his phone.
“YES! Where’s your phone? I’ll download it on yours too!”
“It won’t work, I don’t have enough memory,” I hedged, and busied myself with making breakfast.
“Sure you do, I’ll clear your cache. See? TONS of memory freed up!” He held the phone out to show me, beaming. As I stuttered out protests about how I didn’t know what Pokémon even WAS or what the point of the game was aside from walking around picking things up, he was tapping away happily and downloading the app. Clearly this was going to happen no matter what I said. Knowing that my phone is a temperamental little shitbox, I figured that the app wouldn’t even open once it was downloaded or would crash catastrophically, thus giving me an out for deleting it and retaining what minuscule shreds of adult-ness I could desperately grasp at.
Not so much, it turns out.
The phone DID run the app, so after breakfast I set up my little character. Mark took off down the driveway to see if he could find any Pokémon but I stayed inside, drinking my tea and generally not paying that much attention to my phone at all.
Then the phone buzzed. I looked down and it said something about a wild Charmander appearing. After a few botched attempts, I managed to catch the Charmander, to much fanfare from my phone.
“Well, that’s nice,” I thought, and then shut the app off so that I could go get ready for work. Mark came back just about then, looking forlorn.
“I walked all the way to the corner and back and I didn’t find ANYTHING,” he said.
At that point I felt the beginnings of something start to unfurl in the dark recesses of my lizard brain.
“Oh, really? That’s funny because I didn’t even move from my chair but a Charmander popped up and I caught it,” I said smugly. He looked slightly affronted, but then HIS phone buzzed and he was distracted by catching some kind of critter of his own.
Since Wednesday morning I’ve developed a bit of an addiction problem. I can’t stop playing this stupid game.
On the drive to work yesterday and today, I pulled over at almost every single rest stop / turn-out / lay-by on the side of the road to see if there were any Pokémon hanging around.
I read something about certain types of Pokémon only showing up in their specific environments in the real world, so I went out of my way to drive to the beach this morning and sit there for five minutes hoping some kind of water Pokémon would appear.
Last night it was 85 degrees and about 90% humidity but Mark and I walked the dog over a mile out to the end of our road (where there is a conveniently located Poké Stop, it turns out) and back, just in the name of finding more Pokémon.
I have already caught myself several times today pre-planning my errand-running route tomorrow in order to maximize time that I can explore known Pokémon-laden territory.
I don’t even know what the fuck any of these animals are, what they do, which ones are rare, how to battle with them or ANYTHING, seriously…but it doesn’t matter because they’re out there and I WANT THEM. And not only do I want them, but I want more, bigger and better ones than my Husband has. I’m generally not that competitive of a person, but apparently when it comes to building menageries of imaginary animals, I MUST BE QUEEN.
It’s totally weird.
(And it’s basically all Geoff’s fault.)