Monday, October 30, 2006

Selling Out

The main drawback to being a so-called starving artist is, well... The starving bit. Nobody makes a lot of money quickly by writing (especially when just starting out) and being perpetually short of cash is starting to get on my nerves. So I’m considering alternative ways of generating revenue. I've rather quickly come up against the wall of my disability, which prevents me from the traditional methods - cleaning houses, bartending, dog walking, selling my body for medical experiments (besides, it’s already the product of medical experiments) and have yet to find a way to charge for organizing people’s lives. Instead, I have my words and my voice. So I started thinking of ways to generate extra income. Some options on the list of considerations include:

Winning the lottery. Yeah, right. Next!

Marrying an elderly, frail billionaire. All things considered, this seems a decent option and should his children decide to contest the will, I'll let myself be bought off with a paltry sum (like, say, $5 million). However, locating a pool of eligible billionaires is stumping me a bit. Prowling through local nursing homes seems not the smartest idea, as billionaires would likely receive private care. Also, I just don't move in the right circles for any casual encounters at benefits held in posh places. We'll call that Plan B.

Exploring the exciting career of phone sex operator. All right, so I can talk (a lot). I have a telephone. I have a good imagination. So far, so good. On the other hand, I'm shy and I laugh a little too easily. This leads me to suspect that I’d be the world's worst phone sex operator. I'd probably start giggling hysterically within five minutes and then feel awful for not doing my job well and insist on giving my customers their money back. Perhaps this idea should be put on the back burner.

Becoming A Master Criminal. Bank robbing is out – I am too recognizeable and although the chair’s warp speed keeps me going at a fair clip, it still isn't fast enough to outrun anyone but a frail, elderly billionaire. Being a hired assassin comes up against the fact that I give right of way to pigeons walking on the sidewalk and veer around bugs, so I doubt I have the intestinal fortitude for the job. Let's face it: I can't lie to save my life and the only criminal act I've ever performed was accidentally shoplifting 100 grams of peppercorn salami when it fell down the side of my chair and I didn't notice until I got home. This is clearly a last resort type of career move.

Every little bit helps. Right then. So there’s no one thing that’ll solve the problem. It seems like the only way of increasing the cash flow is by finding a little bit here and a little bit there, which brings me to why I'm breaching all etiquette and talking about money. I've vascillated about this for some time, but there's nothing for it. One of the 'little bits' will be, as soon as I figure out how (and return from the latest flight from the fumes – which should hopefully be next week), to put ads on this blog. Subtle ads that can be ignored, if required. I thought I'd never do that - I had some sort of high-falutin’ idea of preserving the 'purity of the medium', but when the going gets tough, your ethics gets pliable. Not enough to look into the “hired killer” career option, but enough to shill for The Man. My apologies.

Wednesday, October 25, 2006

Ch-ch-changes

I got a taste for it now. A taste for living with no obligations and responsibilities. No work, no phone calls, e-mail, no news (except for Jon Stewart), no plans to make, no dinner to cook or shop for, no arranging my life to fit within scheduled visits of attendants every 3-4 hours. No committees, no meetings, no planning 17 steps ahead, considering all permutations and scenarios possible. No constant thinking, no always being available, no being 'on’ all day.

Six days of sleeping, eating yummy food, reading, watching excellent TV/movies, with only the responsibility of managing my pain (not bad, as I was no longer doing much), providing input regarding dinner choices and being a relatively amusing guest had managed to slow me down from multitasking madly at 120 km/hr to doing one thing at the time, thinking about one thing at a time and, to be honest, not really thinking all that much. I gained some weight (yay!), stopped twitching, stopped worrying. It was wonderful.

That is, until a few hours after I returned home when the stress wrapped itself around me, cloying and oppressive, making me pace, speeding up the thought processes and in general making me feel as if I hadn't left at all. Clearly, something has to change.

I've always liked being busy. When I was little, my uncle Poul gave me a nickname - he called me Krudtirøv, which essentially means 'gunpowder-in-arse'. Apparently, I moved a lot and that's only gotten worse in the last several years, when I discovered that one of the best ways of coping with fibromyalgia pain, is to never sit still for long. Essentially, I'm a nightmare to be around, what with the pacing when I'm on the phone, leaving the livingroom in every single commercial (or every 20-30 minutes when there are no ads), always making tea or getting water or snacks, checking email, googling things and in general buzzing around. However, being away from it for the first time in over a decade has made me realize that although I get a lot done (which in and of itself is a wonderfully satisfying, although I keep it at a lower level than Delores Herbig from Dead Like Me – rent it, you won’t regret it), it’s really hard to achieve peace and clarity of mind if you're always doing three things at the same time, while thinking of another two.

The solution, I think, is to stop - or at least reduce - multitasking. Incorporating balance and mindfulness in my daily routine, focusing on one thing at a time. This seemed like a really good idea until I realized that if I stop multitasking, less things get done. I already spend much of my life running really fast in an (often futile) attempt to catch up with everything. An alarming amount of time is taken up with disability/pain management, which doesn't leave nearly enough hours for the rest of life. Or so I tell myself. I'm pretty sure that I'm right, but if I'm committed to reducing the stress (and the pain resulting from doing a lot), perhaps it is time to take a very close look at how I spend my days, deciding what is necessary and what isn't and being pretty ruthless about the latter. I can imagine that on the first go-around I'll be convinced that everything is absolutely essential, in which case Plan B involves chipping away at individual things, reducing my involvement rather than eliminating it.

Sounds like a great idea, doesn't it? The practice of said idea, however, might be another kettle of fish entirely...

Sunday, October 22, 2006

What I Did on My Autumn Vacation

Last Monday, it all started with a very unhappy Mojo trapped in a teeny little box (and boy, does she hate to be confined) on her way to the vet.


She's doing well - still at the vet's, as I will have to leave again, but hopefully not until later this week. I've taken to calling the wee beastie Madame Mojo of the Sore Butt, as she's had her anal glands removed in an attempt to salve my finances and her physical and emotional wellbeing.

I then invaded my mother's place, as she had kindly permitted me to stay there for the duration (the poor woman thought it was only for 3 days). We spent the first three nights sleeping in the condo's guestroom (then I moved to the pull-out couch, or Hammock, as I started calling it)


which was quite nice. I especially liked the rain hitting the AC unit - it felt like sleeping in the Norah Jones song, somewhere tropical, under a tinroof. We spent the days in my mother's apartment, having a blast. I haven't had a vacation in 12 years and re-discovered how wonderful it is to get away from phones, email, responsibility and the daily routine. Thanks for giving me a perfect time, mor!

There was yummy food, such as one of my favourite meals - fyldt moerbrad. Essentially pork tenderloin, stuffed with little pockets of fresh parsley, braised (?) and with the best gravy in the world (my father's brother used to call it Brown Soup - he'd quite happily eat it from a bowl with a spoon)


We watched great television and for the first time, we watched Dancing with the Stars in the same room. Not having to wait until the commercials to make comments made everything much more fun.


And wonderful movies. On my mother's TV. Which is almost 4 times the size of mine. Heaven.

From my mother's window, the world goes on forever


And to cap off a perfect week, my lovies came to visit to celebrate the sale of their house. After an arduous journey best described as "everything that could go wrong, did", the world finally decided to be nice and now the kidlings and their parents can move into their new, beautiful house.

Both have discovered standing. Here's Liam showing off


And charming everyone within sight


The two moods of Morgan. Beautiful even when upset


and happily reaching for something (this is still how she spends about 90% of her waking hours)


Just in case I have to skedaddle, chased out by fumes tomorrow morning, I'm hitting post. It's nice to be back. A bit weird, but nice.

Monday, October 16, 2006

And Now for Something Completely Different

I am going to be away for this week. Ish. Maybe less, maybe more. The interior of my building is being painted and as paint fumes cause my lungs to shut down (love that asthma), I have to leave. I should be back towards the end of the week, I fervently hope. Posting will be light - ok, non-existent - while I’m gone, as there will be no internet access (and I'm already twitching at the thought). Please keep your fingers crossed for quick dissipation of fumes and for Mojo, who’s having a spot of surgery this week.

While I’m gone, here’s my take on the new season’s dramas.

Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip. I was a West Wing fanatic until after its creator left, so naturally I had to watch this show. I'm still a little on the fence, but it’s a token resistance - it's already one of the shows I look forward to. Matthew Perry is great (not a bit of Chandler in sight), Amanda Peet is wonderful and the cast of Studio 60 is charming me every week. Josh Lyman - excuse me, Bradley Whitford - well, it's like a more tanned version of Josh Lyman, isn't it?

Bones. Emily Deschanel is one of the most beautiful women on TV. I love her character of Temperance Brennan. I love her awkwardness, her deadpan delivery, her intimidating intelligence, her strength and the fact that she looks like a real women instead of a stick figure (although she could gain back some of last season’s weight, thank you). I love everything about her. David Boreanaz is wonderful - their interplay is fantastic. The cases are interesting, but really, this is a show about Tempe’s team and the interaction between them is brilliantly written. A complete joy to watch.

Grey’s Anatomy. It’s strange – I thoroughly enjoy how real the show is, which is a funny thing to say about a show in which the medicine and the hospital culture are so blatantly wrong. However, the relationships, the people are very real. Meredith Grey is confused, fucked up and at times unlikable. I like that they make mistakes and that there are consequences. I like that they have to clean up the messes. And I love how the show was cast based on ability, not looks (aside from the standard requirement to be reasonably attractive). I love how racially balanced it is, I love how with the exception of Meredith, the other women don't look anorexic. It frees me to see the action, instead of obsessing about wanting to feed them.

ER. I can't leave. I keep thinking about it, then keep coming back. By now, it’s like family. Besides, Abby and Luka are a delight and Archie is turning out to be wonderfully funny. I could do without Sam, though.

Men in Trees. A mix between Sex and the City and Northern Exposure, it has a certain charm. Ideal for Friday night, when you don't really want to think too much.

Brothers and Sisters. Fascinating. Great actors, the writing is good, so far, I like. I also like that as far as I can tell, the Botox is kept to a minimum – I’m pretty sure only Calista Flockhart has a paralysed forehead (as with the skinny, I find an immobile face incredibly distracting in an actor). Rachel Griffith is wonderful. It's a definite keeper, although I have taken to taping it, as Global, the Canadian station carrying the show, spaces the commercials in a really annoying way. Instead of having 4-5 longer commercial breaks, with a decent amount of show in between, they do numerous short commercial breaks, leaving short stretches of show (as little as less than two minutes), which makes it impossible to get into the atmosphere of the story. I'd watch it on the American channel, but when its carried on a Canadian channel at the same time as the originating U.S. network, we can only watch the Canadian one. Note to Global: It's called an attention span! Cater to it!

On Probation:
Criminal Minds. I really liked the show last year, but am having some problems this year. It's gotten a little strident and doesn't seem to have the same zip that it did in the first season (what happened to that wonderful flirtation between Garcia and Morgan?). I'll hang in for another episode or two, but unless it's smartens up, I may be letting this one go.

CSI. I’ve watched this from the first episode and am a huge fan. However, I am not sure how I feel about adding all the personal detail - I understand that after several years of the procedural, it can get really boring for an actor, but it turns out that I don't really want this to turn into a soap – its charm was always the subtlety. Grissom (be still my beating heart), please grow your beard back. Writers, please kill the Grissom and Sarah romance and get him back with Sophia, who was much more of a match for him. And stop messing with a proven format (don't you love how I seem to seriously believe they might do as I tell them?).

Thursday, October 12, 2006

Consider My Mind Blown

Earlier this week, when I was writing Tuesday's post, something really strange happened. I'm sitting at the computer, headset on, dictating to Dragon (and correcting Dragon, as it was having a particularly persnickety day), writing a new variation of an old post. Let's be honest here – this thing about looking at what I have, instead of what I don’t have is not a new lesson for me. It happens every time I get lost in the woods. At some point, something pushes past the fog of pain, heavy meds and resentment and I realize yet again that I've rolled over and played dead, given control of my life to something that can't be trusted with that control and finally, I give myself that kick in the arse and get back on the horse that threw me. Part of that is remembering gratitude. Writing down what makes me grateful, saying it out loud.

So there I am, listing The Gratitudes and at the very end, I find myself writing that I am grateful for the pain, because it teaches me what's important. And then I sat for a while, gaping at my monitor, not quite believing what I had written. I ran the internal doublecheck, assessing whether or not this was a real sentiment or just something that I felt I should aspire to, because then maybe it would get easier.

Turns out, I meant it.

And if you'll pardon me for a moment, I need to sit and gape for a while again. I haven't been able to truly feel the feeling since, as I am too busy being intellectually stunned at the concept. Grateful to the pain? The pain that regularly stalls me out for weeks on end? The pain that prevents me from sleeping and thinking, laughing, living and loving? The pain that makes me hate my body, despair and lose faith in the future? That pain?

Well, yes. That pain. Because it is also that pain that has taught me that you can adapt to almost anything, that has giving me coping skills I never would have had without it. It is that pain that has taught me that there is very little in this world that can't be made better by a good laugh. It is that pain that has motivated me to go deeper, to keep peeling off layer after layer of the shields of protection that have guarded me, to seek the truth without and within. By its relentless presence, that pain has taught me that you can't run away, that turning around and facing the problem, the demon is the only way to freedom. Realizing how much I owe to the pain is an overwhelmingly humbling feeling.

And here I am again, staring at that last sentence above, utterly gobsmacked. This one's going to take some time to wrap my head around.

(p.s. Note to the pain: me being grateful doesn’t mean you shouldn’t tone it down a smidge)

Tuesday, October 10, 2006

Making Good Things Happen

Writing it down, putting it out there always helps. It’s like some sort of psychic kick in the arse. Thanks for reading, making nice comments and all the cyberhugs.

I remembered something this Saturday. Something that I'd forgotten. I remembered that happiness is hard work, that it takes daily effort and practice to be positive. I realized that for some time now, I have skimmed across the surface of being positive and for a while, I was pretty successful. Then my neck got hurt and then it got hurt again and yet again and at some point, I stopped actively healing and started sitting still and whimpering. Much like Seligman's dogs, I had learned that I had no control and couldn't stop the pain.

Except, I do and to some extent, I can. I have to adapt to needing big drugs - instead of being angry and resisting having to use codeine again for the first time in two years, seeing it as a failure, I need to be grateful that it is there to help me heal. Instead of focusing on the anger, the sadness and the fear, I have to remember that the universe gives you more of what you pay attention to. That good things happen, but you have to go get them. To look at what I have, instead of what I don't have (yes, that lesson again). Which is not to say that I grok these things right now, but I have remembered that becoming healthy and happy requires active participation. It means practicing relentless optimism, nurturing faith in myself and believing that anything is possible.

To start things off, I decided to spend the Thanksgiving long weekend practicing gratitude. These are some of the things for which I've been thankful in the past three days:

My parents teaching me that giving up is not an option.

Living in a neighbourhood where when walking down the street, passing from snippet of conversation to overhearing another sentence and a half, I pass from language to language, only understanding English, but loving the brief trip around the world.

These two little people (photo by a TinkParent)


Good painkillers.


Family and friends, old and new. Who sustain me in the dark times and make me laugh when I need it the most.

Spending time with Dawn, my friend who lives in Vancouver, who is in town to visit her new nephew (welcome to the world, Cole!). We have known each other for 23 years now and still run out of voice before we run out of things to talk about.

This wee beastie, who is with me 24 hours a day, takes me out of my head, makes me feel the good and has made me laugh at least once a day for almost 10 years.

Sitting in the park, drinking in a beautiful sunny day. The smell of sunshine on my skin, a mix of the heat of summer and the crispness of fall. All around me, yellow leaves are detaching from their perch and drifting on the wind, spiralling downwards like little suns.

Views like this
The technology that keeps me connected and enables me to do what I love.

The pain. For helping me learn what’s important.

Friday, October 06, 2006

Displays of Affection

I’ve been actively not writing something for a while, but am starting to feel like it’s showing. Or maybe it’s not. Maybe it’s just me who can see the elephant in the room (it’s pink with orange polkadots, by the way – hard to miss from where I’m sitting). So I’m going to get it out of the way in the hope that it’ll unblock things.

I've had to give up hugging. The neck thing doesn't like it and when the neck thing ain't happy, ain't nobody happy. Especially me. So I've given it up. At first, I was surprised at how little it bothered me and came to the conclusion that it was entirely understandable, as when something is likely to cause you pain, not doing it can be a relief. Then I had a wee meltdown not too long ago and realized somewhat belatedly - as you know, some days I'm blonde than others - that I've been up to my old tricks of repressing things. And let me tell you, I'm highly skilled at repression.

Isn't that a nice paragraph? All calm and distant. Unruffled, even. Accepting, moving on-ish, in perspective. It's all a façade. Were I Pinocchio, my nose would be hitting the monitor right now. In reality, it's killing me.

For a really long time I’ve felt as if I'm being pared down to the essentials. There was the flare before I started Enbrel, then as I slowly build up my stamina again, the rest of me changed, as well. I am learning to let go, focusing on what's important, stopping trying to control the uncontrollable. Much of this lesson has been wrapped up in learning that saying goodbye to what I used to think was essential for my happiness is the best thing I can do to become happy. As well as learning that very few things are essential.

Except, before you can let go, you have to grieve the loss. And I keep skipping over that part, which then bites me in the arse later. You can't skip over feelings like that, no matter how much you want to.

I'm trying to put a positive spin on it. I'm trying to tell myself that giving up hugging is going to be temporary, that when I heal, I can do it again. But in the back of my mind the fear lurks. The fear that it won't be temporary, that permanent damage has been done. And winter is coming - I know, I sound like a Stark - with its biting cold, wild fluctuations in the weather and the constant draft that makes my neck and shoulders seize up and stay that way until May arrives again. I am reminding myself to believe that anything is possible and to remember that choosing to be positive does wonders for my pain levels. But there, blocking it, is the grief.

This bloody thing – by which I mean the arthritis/pain/damage/injuries – has taken dancing, travelling to other countries, using my manual wheelchair, travelling in a regular car, typing, going to the movies, knitting, writing by hand, taking long walks, etc., etc., ad nauseam, and now the blasted son of a flea-ridden camel has taking hugging?? How did this become my life?

Nobody ever promised me that life would be fair, but it’s getting to be a bit much.

Wednesday, October 04, 2006

Flight


Somewhat blurry, but I've been chasing this shot all summer (click for larger version). It's time to let go of the quest for perfection and move on - I'm hoping the obsession will pass if I post it.

p.s. Thanks to all who were in high dudgeon on my behalf in the last post. To clarify... Mr. Syphilis didn't seem creepy. More lost and clueless in terms of social boundaries. And harmless.

Monday, October 02, 2006

TMI

This weekend, I was on the street, minding my own business and waiting for the light to change. It was a bit of a long weight, but the weather was quite nice, so it didn't really matter. Someone approaches the corner from behind me and the following exchange takes place:

Stranger: Enjoying the view, dear? (For the moment, I will refrain from entering into a rant about the propensity of complete strangers to call me 'dear'. I don't know you! Why are you calling me dear? Doubly weird, this man was in his 30s - normally, the dearing comes from older people)

Me: Absolutely.

Stranger: Are you behaving yourself? (Again, what's with perfect strangers asking me if I'm behaving myself or calling me ‘trouble’? Is it the cripple thing? Would you say these things to an ambulatory adult stranger?)

Me: Never! And you? (For once, I had the presence of mind to throw the question right back at the person, in a tortured attempt to reverse the condescension)

Stranger: Oh, yes.

Me: What's the fun in that? (Now committed to showing the guy what inane question it is in hoping that by pushing the issue, he'll stop asking perfect strangers whether they're behaving themselves)

Stranger: Well, I had syphilis. Second stage, so...

Me: Right… um… oh, look! The light’s changed!


And calling “have a nice day” over my shoulder (as I am, after all, Canadian) I slam the chair into warp speed and spend the rest of the day regretting the impulse to educate a random stranger.