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Posts Tagged ‘depression’

She’s not at all what you would expect.

No shroud of murky darkness. No raving anger. No muttering excuses. No whorls of swirling depression blasting everything else to bits.

Just a sympathetic smile.

She sits on my desk sipping from a delicate teacup, as if her appearance in the middle of the night – and the middle of my writing – is a perfectly normal occurrence.

Okay, maybe it is a little more normal than it should be. But it’s not any less annoying.

Looking for all the world like Granny from the Beverly Hillbillies, I half anticipate her guzzling from a jug of “rheumatism medicine” instead of that dainty china doll accessory. But then, I’m not entirely sure of the contents, and she’s the type that hides that kind of stuff in plain sight.

“It’s all right, dear,” she coos. “It’s for the best.”

I just glare at her. I know what she means, and what the rest of her litany will entail. I’ve heard it my whole life. Every time there’s a bump in the road. With every obstacle, every challenge, every rejection. Even with the successes, too. Always that little whisper just off my shoulder.

A raging monster would be easy to ignore, by comparison.

“It’s just the way of the world now.” She takes another sip, pinky out, and rests her cool blue gaze on me. “And it’s ALWAYS been the way of the entertainment industry. You’re battling terrible odds on the best of days.”

She’s right about that. I’m no spring chicken and ageism is rampant, even for novelists. It should be about the product – it should ALWAYS be about the product. But people are what they are. Prejudice dies hard, if at all. And being a good writer isn’t always good enough.

“You can’t help support the household with rejection slips.” Her gnarled hand rests gently on my arm, with a little pat for emphasis. “Maybe you should just stick with what makes money. There’s no shame in that.”

No shame.

No shame in settling. No shame in giving up. No shame being good, but not quite good enough. That’s the story of my life.

All my glory days were long ago. All the genius, all the talent, doesn’t mean anything in a world that favors the loudmouth, the provocateur, the bombastic. Give the masses a sequined three-ring circus and blow up the MC as the finale, and you might get some attention. Social Media is god and goddess. Repeat the inane enough times and it turns into a catchy phrase. Watch that catchy phrase all tarted up for Sunday dinner at the whorehouse win the presidency.

“No one wants smart anymore.” Granny pulls out her big brown jug and chugs a few. I’m not sure what happened to the teacup – there’s no sign of it amidst the clutter of my desk. “It’s all about fake news and alternate facts and screwing everybody but the rich in the name of Jesus H. Christ-on-a-cracker. That’s just not for you, dear.”

Ain’t that the truth. But someone has to be the light keeper. Someone has to be the repository of reason and common sense and fact-based intelligence. Who better than a science fiction writer?

“There’s already so many good ones out there.” She winks at me and swigs another gulp off the jug.

I hate that she’s in my head. I’m never really free of her. And I hate that she’s so often right. There are a ton of good writers out there, already. The David Gerrolds, the John Scalzis, the Chuck Wendigs, the Jim Wrights. All fabulous writers with scathing wit and near-prescient powers of observation. They’ll not only keep the light burning, they’ll weaponize it and napalm the hell out of the stupids. I live barely in their shadows – a cockroach hoping a crumb will fall my way so I can feel like the gods have blessed me.

The jug is proffered in my general direction. “It’ll take the edge off.”

Like that’s a good idea. Just hide in your poison of choice. Hide in that world someone else created because you can’t handle the world you live in. Or the world you should be creating. Real writers write. Fake writers dream of publishing deals while killing orcs.

Too bad I’m old and have tits. I’d probably be a damn good game writer.

“Of course you would, dear.” The jug is tipped over and drizzling its contents down the side of my desk. “Everybody loved having you run games in college. Thirty-five years ago.”

She may look like an innocent little old lady, but her delivery would rival Dame Maggie Smith’s best Downton Abbey snark.

On the downhill side of middle age, and nothing to show for my efforts. So much of my life spent dreaming instead of doing. Because of that little bitch perched in the middle of my soul.

“It’s too hard for you, dear.”

“It doesn’t matter how good you are – you don’t know the right people.”

“You’re good. But not good enough.”

“You don’t really want success, do you? Just think of all the crowds you’d have to deal with.”

If she were an ugly monster, beating her would be easy. Heroic, even. But Granny is a sweet little thing, always looking out for my best interests, of course. Protecting me from the hurt. I won’t get rejected if I don’t put myself out there in the first place. I’m okay right where I am. I have a nice house and a great husband and there’s no need for me to get myself all beat up over something that’s really a pipe dream. Let’s face it – everybody wants to be a writer. And they’re a dime a dozen. So many of them will write for free. And so many of them will write badly. The world is littered with terrible copy under noisy videos claiming to be news, and no one seems to care.

“That’s right, dear.” The teacup has returned, held between finger and thumb like it is a dirty diaper and there’s no pail in sight. “No one cares about quality anymore. So you shouldn’t waste your time.”

I lean back in my chair and scowl. “Fuck you, Granny.”

 

 

Worst thing you write

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This year has been an egg-sucking space monster, as we all know. In the midst of all the prominent people who have died, a raging goat-fuck of an election, and rising prices combined with stagnant paychecks, the little every day things that help us get through took on greater importance. For me it’s being able to play with my cats, and holding hands with the best partner a woman could have. I figured I could survive anything as long as I could have those two. But no, this year was going to shit on those, as well…

hellno-kitty

My sentiments exactly…

So I’ve already told you about my husband’s summer adventure here. As if dealing with that wasn’t enough, the gods saw fit to hand me another flaming bag of poo in the guise of a sick kitty. Roan, the neighborhood stray I adopted (and talked about here), started having some intestinal issues at the end of May. It didn’t appear to be serious, and he was still doing all the other normal cat stuff like playing and eating, so I thought it was just a temporary thing because cats do that sometimes.

Preoccupied with helping my husband’s recovery, it’s over a week later before I realized Roan was still having problems. In fact, he made a point of walking me into the bathroom and having me watch him use the litter box to bring the issue home. He was straining a lot, and producing very little. My first thought was that he’d eaten something that had bound him up. While I try to be careful with all the different kinds of string I have around here, cats are notorious for getting into things they aren’t supposed to, and string is top of the list for delectable devouring. After consulting my pet medical manual, I started dosing him with hairball gel. It’s supposed to help things move more smoothly, as it were, and would theoretically allow him to pass whatever it was stopping him up.

 

Mommy, I haz a tummy ache.

Mommy, I haz a tummy ache.

But a few days later, things hadn’t improved. Roan was still eating, but not as much as before, and he wasn’t as interested in playing. I decided it was time to head to the vet. How to pay for it was hardly a thought, because, well, you just don’t worry about that with your children. The local clinic attached to the shelter was booked solid the whole week. Since he was still eating and drinking, they didn’t consider it an emergency situation, but would put me on the waiting list for a cancelled appointment. I agreed but it nagged me for the next few hours until I broke down and called the vet I’d used for my last batch of animals. I hadn’t been to them in nearly two years because they were more expensive and farther away than the clinic. But they remembered me, and could get me in that afternoon.

I went by myself because riding in the car was so painful for my broken husband. And Roan was young and healthy otherwise, so I just didn’t think it was going to be a big deal. But an hour and a set of x-rays later, and my optimism was shattered. Roan had three large masses in his abdomen. One the size of a baseball had squished his intestines into near uselessness.

Cancer. Fucking cancer.

 

Yup.

Yup.

I just stared at the pictures as the vet explained the situation as gently as he could. The prognosis was terrible. Even if I’d had thousands of dollars to throw at it. A few weeks, at best, and Roan would only suffer more and more each day. I made the only reasonable decision that could be made in that situation – I released Roan across the Rainbow Bridge and to the Summerlands. He purred in my arms to the very end.

I barely remember the drive home. I cried the whole way. My husband had pulled himself out of his recovery chair and was waiting for me when I came through the door. I cried on him. I cried on my pillow. Devastated, I sank back into that old familiar friend, depression. I wallowed in my tears and hid in my bed. If it weren’t for the need to help my husband, I might have disappeared entirely. It was days before I realized I wasn’t the only one grieving.

Pip, my other rescue (I introduced her here), was looking for her wrestling buddy. She would race up the cat tree and then stop and look to see if Roan was following, like she had always done, but he wasn’t there. Doing her funny little tribble trill, she would dart up the stairs, then stop at the top and look around. Nothing. Perplexed, she started sitting by the back door as if asking out to go search for him. Soon she developed a circuit of the house: living room window, kitchen door, office door, bedroom window, sewing room window. Around and around again, restless and confused. I gave her as much attention as I could. I got the toys out and played with her. She accepted my efforts, but the truth is I’m lousy at racing around the house at 3:00AM, and without a protective coat of fur, I don’t stand up well to her version of wrestling.

I need a wrasslin' buddy!

I need a wrasslin’ buddy!

It became pretty obvious that we needed to get her another companion. Normally I wouldn’t get another animal so soon after losing one, but circumstances dictated otherwise. Within days of making that decision, the friend of a friend on Facebook sent out a notice they were looking for a home for kittens they had hand-raised after being abandoned by their feral mother. Specifically, two long-haired ginger kittens, a boy and a girl, the latter of which was polydactyl. My husband gave his grudging approval, and a few days later we were bringing home a couple of darling furballs.

Pip watched us intently as we brought them into the house. I kept them in the back bathroom the first night, and she sat by the door sniffing for information on the newcomers. Within a couple days, the kittens were exploring all over the place under the watchful gaze of a black shadow. A couple weeks later, Pip was grooming the orange fuzzballs.

It’s been over three months now, and the three of them seem to be doing just fine. The “kittens” are nearly eight months old and big enough to wrestle with, which seems to be a favorite past time for all of them. Plus Pip has grown more affectionate with me, actually asking to sit in my lap on a regular basis when she didn’t used to be interested at all. I can’t go anywhere in the house, including the bathroom, without an escort. And who needs blankets when you have cats? For all the pain this year has wrought, it’s amazing how a purring feline can make everything seem just fine.

 

Pip, Regan, and Westley suffering through their hard life.

Pip, Regan, and Westley suffering through their hard life.

 

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It is Tuesday afternoon. The sinus headache searing behind my left eye has been with me since Sunday afternoon. Molten-lava-hot needles of pain swirl from one side of my head to the other with the slightest movement. Lights are too bright, sounds are too loud, smells are too strong, stupid is as stupid does. Thinking is a chore. Motivation is totally gone. Not surprising, given how little I had to start with.

Annoyance is high.

Annoyance threat level a

Sunday was a day spent in hiding, hoping to get rid of the damn headache. I accomplished nothing. Didn’t even get out of the pajamas. Not that I do that much anymore, either.

Monday was a busy day. More issues with the truck. That meant getting up at the butt-crack of dawn to drive the husband to work. Hit the grocery store on the way back. 7:30 on a Monday morning is a nice time to do shopping. No crowds, no screaming kids, no villages and their idiots blocking aisles trying to figure out the difference between the fifty-eight cent house brand and the exact same stuff packaged under the Name Brand for twice that. And everything all nicely stocked and neat, not looking like it had just been looted like it usually does on the weekends.

Got home and put the groceries away. Had a nice breakfast with the pain pills and watched the latest episode of Once. Set up the crock-pot for dinner with a nice roast and potatoes and carrots. All done just in time to take the truck to its appointment at the repair shop. Another code with the transmission. We’d just spent our tax refund rebuilding it less than two months ago. But the warranty from that visit will take care of this one. All I have to do is wait in the lobby for about an hour while they do the work. Thankfully I brought stuff to read, and the lobby is clean and brightly lit. Not-so-thankfully, the chairs are tiny plastic things that I suspect have been stolen from the nearest elementary school. My butt goes numb after about fifteen minutes.

And, of course, the job takes four times longer than initially estimated. By then I’d given up reading because of the headache. I also can’t find my feet. Could have sworn they were attached when I got up this morning. It takes me ten minutes to bring them back online, and only after I unwedged myself from that damned tiny chair. I leave the shop just in time to fetch the husband from work.

Traffic is more terrible than usual. It’s overcast and there are scattered rain showers around the area. I like rain. But not when I have to drive in SoCal. These people have no idea how to drive in anything but full daylight – yeah, okay, maybe not even then. I learned their ways when I lived in L.A. And I have a BAT (big-ass truck). A little assertiveness and 9,000lbs of steel gives me the right-of-way. We still don’t get home until after 7:00pm.

Oh, and who had opened the windows for the first time in months because it was actually cool and nice out? Yeah, this idiot. The weather app didn’t say anything about rain. So of course the skies opened up just as we were getting off the freeway. The master bedroom was a little damp by the time I got the window closed. Thankfully not the bed, though by that point I likely wouldn’t have cared.

By bedtime, my head is screaming, my hips are on fire, and my mind can barely focus on brushing my teeth. For once maybe I’ll get a decent night’s rest.

I must have cussed the husband out when his alarm went off, because he came back to bed long enough to apologize for waking me. The next thing I know I’m packing a mesh bag with essentials, which for some reason include embroidery supplies and cassette tapes (but no player) and bells, as I decide not to wear the rainbow-striped hippie-hoody because it’s too noticeable, and leave a collage of clothes, shells, string, paper, and whatever as a clue to those who might be wondering where I’m going since I can’t wait because the aliens are about to find me and all I have to defend myself with is an old stick and my cats. And that’s when my alarm went off.

Yes, I’m trying to be a responsible adult. No, it’s not working out that well. It took me two-and-a-half hours to get downstairs, and all I’d managed to do in that time was take my morning meds. I have a crap-ton of stuff I should be doing, but instead I’m hiding in video games and streaming media. Every night I chastise myself for my lack of effort and make a list of what I’m going to accomplish the next day, and every morning I’m hiding in bed trying to convince myself I really should at least get up. Every morning dread. Every evening frustration. Every day disappointed at myself.

I know somewhere inside I’m the one setting this trap. The self-doubts and lack of self worth are a constant contrast to the dreams and desires, an endless Mobius loop of internal turmoil that ends up in a stalemate. And I’m the only one that can get rid of the trap. Reprogramming the internal monologue of depression is one of the hardest things anyone can do. You’re probably wondering how hard is it to just think positive thoughts? Immensely hard. Amazingly, astoundingly, excruciatingly hard. Because the depressive’s brain is hard-wired for the black hole that is depression. It is automatic and unbidden and pervasive. It is at the instinctual level of the lizard brain, where everything hides and is so deeply imbedded even metaphorical dynamite won’t dislodge it.

So you pick just one thing to work on, and go after it with a dentist’s pick and the patience of an archeologist on a dig. It will be slow going. Some days won’t see any progress at all. That’s normal. Other days will be a veritable flurry of activity. That’s normal, too. Piece by piece, grain by grain, eventually, that one thing will be rooted out. There will be a crack of light in the darkness.

Pick the next one thing to work on. Repeat as necessary. Don’t give up. Let people/medication/pets help. Celebrate your victories. Ignore everything else.

Did I get everything done today that I wanted to? No. And I’m making myself not care. Because today I got out of bed. Today I played with my cats. Today I wrote a blog.

TODAY I WROTE A FUCKING 1,000+ WORD BLOG!!!

Yeah, one more crack in the dark. It’s a long, hard fight, but it is SOOOooo worth it.

 

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Does there come a point in your life when you have to realize your dreams are really delusions?

As children we all had grand ideas of what we would be when we grew up. Cowboys. Ballerinas. Darth Vader. Astronauts. Firemen. Spiderman. Rock star. Most of those childhood dreams fade over time. A lucky few actually do grow up to be ballerinas or astronauts, but the rest of us have to settle for more mundane lives as administrative assistants or plumbers. In the grand scheme of things, almost nobody gets to realize their life-long secret dreams.

Chris Hadfield as Aladdin Sane

Retired astronaut/rock star Chris Hadfield goes full Aladdin Sane.

http://io9.gizmodo.com/you-cannot-handle-chris-hadfield-as-david-bowie-1440353662

And those that do manage to grab a piece of their desired pie find it comes with a definite shelf life. Professional sports participants often find their age betraying them. Gymnasts peak in their late teens. NFL guys still playing in their thirties are considered ancient. The human body can only take so much. You end up working longer and harder, and dealing with slower recovery, just to maintain what you’ve always had. The growing complaints will eventually make even the strongest among us surrender.

Those of us in the arts would like to think we don’t have age working against us, but, alas, it’s probably the most brutal when it comes to favoring the young over the old. Everybody’s looking for the “fresh perspective” or the “new voice,” and if you can buy liquor without being carded you need not apply. Actors undoubtedly have it the hardest (especially females) because nobody (read: people in charge) wants to look at a grizzled grey-hair. That’s what real life looks like and we’re selling fantasy, dammit, so bring in that big-boobed blonde and we’ll call her Mom.

Other artists can have life-long careers because they don’t depend as much on their faces and bodies as the thespians and dancers do. But you’d better be making your mark in your twenties, or you’ll be left in the dust. It’s hard enough to get noticed in that crowd of wanna-bes when you’re young and beautiful. It’s a rare fossil indeed that breaks through the noise later in life. It does happen, as Susan Boyle can attest, but it almost shocks the world into tears.

I’d like to shock a few people myself. I’d like to be on that list of late bloomers along with Ms. Boyle, Grandma Moses and Harriet Doerr. Circumstances derail some people from their desired paths, while others just keep on keepin’ on until finally something breaks and there they are, published/recorded/acknowledged. I’ve been wondering what keeps people going despite the odds, and especially despite the years of rejection. My scientific side was trying to root out a quantifiable equation that I could plug into my own internal system and then – Voilà – I would be my own success story.

Of course, it doesn’t work like that in real life. There are three factors that most people seem to agree are part of becoming a success in the artistic fields. I examined those to try and figure out how each of them worked in the grand picture:

  • Talent: Some people believe that talent is all you need, but there certainly are examples out there where talent has nothing to do with the equation. The Kardashians fit into the latter category, unless you include figuring out how to be famous for no reason a talent. But if you want to sing or dance or write, you’d better have a smidge of innate ability or you’ll just be another one of the crowd of like-minded also-rans.
  • Skill: You’d think that would be important, being skilled (i.e., well-trained) in your chosen field, but there’s lots of examples of successful people out there who aren’t particularly skilled, and tons of very skilled people who aren’t successful. But even a bad piano player is better than a non-piano player, so some skill in the chosen field is necessary.
  • Luck: Seneca reportedly said, “Luck is a matter of preparation meeting opportunity.” And actor Eric Bana believes that, “…luck gets you on to the stage. But it has nothing to do with keeping you there.” It seems to be that one intangible you can’t predict or force, but you’d better be ready for it if it happens.

If you look at any “success story” you’ll find a combination of all three of the above in that story, in various relative degrees. But that still didn’t explain to me why there are so many examples of artists out there who toiled away in obscurity for years – and even decades – before they made a break through. It took me a long time to figure out. A lot of articles were read and psychology studied, only to find the answer was under my nose the whole time (as the true answers are want to be).

“… If you don’t believe in yourself, no one else will.” Laurell K. Hamilton

Believe in yourself. Behind every success story is someone who believed they would be a success. They believed regardless of what others said. Often they believed IN SPITE of what others said, because sometimes that kind of anger is the best motivator. But believing in myself has never been my strong suit. Depression doesn’t allow you to believe in yourself. It’s imposter syndrome on steroids. Every day I battle to convince myself it’s worth getting out of bed. Then it’s another battle to do the house chores, or weave a new belt, or write this blog. A constant battle just to do the things so many take for granted, to drown out the “You suck – what’s the point?” The more I thought about it, the more depressed I got. Every day – every minute – a battle. It wears you down. It tears at your soul. It tries to drown you in darkness.

Then I realized that – most days – I win. I get out of bed. I do the chores. I do the weaving or needlework or sewing. I do the writing. I play with cats and wash the dishes and muse over story lines in my head. I keep working. I keep trying. That means somewhere – in some distant abyss of my cold, black heart – I actually do believe. I wouldn’t keep fighting the depression if there weren’t something fueling the desire to keep going. Do I get things done as fast or in the manner others think I should? No. Screw them. I believe. Sometimes that’s all that matters.

believe-in-yourself-be-you

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We will all be remembered.

Each of us, in our own unique way. Most of us only by our closest family and friends, and then for maybe two or three generations. Some of us may barely touch another soul or two, for mere moments. A few of us may leave something behind that saves our names for the centuries. Or our name gets lost in time while our mark lives on, mysterious and poignant. The most rare of us become transcendent, touching millions, and leaving a legacy impossible to miss or forget.

David Bowie was one of those so very rare. A visionary well beyond the boundaries of mere music, his death this past weekend leaves a void in the creative world that can never be filled. I can’t admit to being a rabid fan, but I always wanted to hear his work, even when I didn’t really understand it. His “Let’s Dance” album was a large part of my college playlist, while “Space Oddity” is required background music for any science fiction writer worth their words. As I browsed through his catalog on YouTube, I found myself relearning just how large a part he played in music, and how much his work contributes to the soundtrack of my life. His passing takes another irreplaceable piece of me.

david-bowie

It’s weird sometimes how people touch your lives and you don’t really understand the depth of that touch until they are gone. I’ve been very melancholy since I learned the news. I didn’t expect that. Yes, I’m always a little sad when someone passes, especially when it’s from something like cancer. I’ve watched several friends die because of cancer. It’s an insidious, hateful disease that wastes its victims to nothingness in so many ways besides just the physical. Fuck cancer. And the horse it rode in on.

But this is more than just being mad at losing yet another bright spot in our universe to that perversion of cell growth. It’s also another mark of time passing by. It’s another reminder that we are all mortal, doomed to take a final step eventually. Bowie’s steps will one day be the metaphorical equivalent of dinosaur prints – forever embedded for countless generations to experience. The rest of us – well, we’ll just have to make due with the few minutes we get before the waves wash our tracks off the beach.

Some – like Bowie – leave an indelible body of work. We still remember Plato and Mozart and Shakespeare, not because of the individual, but because of the tracks they left. For most of humanity, children are the tracks we leave. Our children are our legacy. It is with them that we pass on our wisdom, our experiences, our stories, our existence. For good or ill, it is the children that will remember. And maybe that’s why I’m feeling a little out of sorts about being reminded – yet again – that I’m not getting any younger. Not having had children, who will remember me? What is my legacy? I want to be more than just the eccentric aunt who collected cats and hid in her house, but time is no longer on my side.

When I was a kid, I fantasized about my awesome future. Once I (literally) grew out of wanting to be a jockey, my world became all about music and writing and movies. I was going to be an Academy Award winning writer/composer/director/producer/actress who played in a rock band on the side. Then it was just the writer/composer/producer part, because I wasn’t thin enough to be an actress and didn’t have the patience to deal with people on a daily basis to be a director, and simply didn’t have the chops to be in a decent band. As I became aware of the problems associated with fame, I decided I’d be okay working as a music teacher during the school year and writing award-winning novels over the summers. At least, until the novels brought me enough money that I didn’t have to teach anymore. Then I become an adult, and had to deal with bills and housing and car payments, and it became about doing anything just to get things paid. Somewhere the dreams derailed and were trampled beneath the minutia of real life, and my creative drive was smothered by my fears and insecurities.

It’s been nearly four years since my husband agreed to let me try my writing fantasy full time. Four years I feel I’ve squandered. I don’t write everyday. In fact, most of the last eighteen months – besieged by the blasted eye problems – all I’ve written is this blog. My submission/query list over that four years is woefully short. And I have nothing but rejections to show for them. I’ve hidden in the dark, watching videos and playing computer games, and letting the depression eat me alive.

Yet, despite that, I HAVE finished a novel and several short stories. And while my query/submission list is less than desirable, I at least have the rejections to show for the trying. I’ve also started a second novel and have half a dozen stories in various states of non-completion. In the grand scheme of things, I’ve actually accomplished more than most. Does it meet my standards? Of course not – and therein lies the problem. I am my own worst critic, crippling myself with bars set too high and goals set too large, and then damning myself when I fail.

And here’s where listening to some of Bowie’s works reminded me of what I need to do:

“I, I will be king

And you, you will be queen

Though nothing, will drive them away

We can beat them, just for one day

We can be heroes, just for one day”

Heroes

 Thanks for the reminder, David. Rest in peace.

 

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Nearly three weeks ago I had cataract surgery in my left eye. You know, the one that’s been a major butt-head for a couple years now. First the mondo-Cthulhu-floater-from-the-Underdark, and then the detached retina – the laser surgery repair of which greatly accelerated the cataract already growing there. Just part of the fun of us blue-eyed Northern European-types.

And while this type of surgery is pretty routine here in the Western Civilized World, it still meant someone was poking sharp things in my eye. Not something I think anyone can look forward to. Of course, my anxiety was greater than the sum of the procedures. I walked into the surgery center at 11:00am and was being driven home by 2:30pm. The actual time under the knife was about fifteen minutes, during which my doctor chatted with his staff about training for his latest triathlon. I got a nice shot of sedative, so pretty much just laid under the drape muttering “Duuudde…” while watching vague shadows moving in the bright light shining into my eye. Even being loopy from the sedative and dealing with an eye so dilated it looked like I had no iris anymore, I could see better that afternoon than I had in years. I so love our modern advancements…

I do have a bit of double vision when wearing my glasses now, because of the difference in prescriptions and their relative focal points. But I still had two sets of contact lenses from before all this eye BS started. Rigid gas permeable lenses that had been carefully sealed in storage containers. Yes, it had been years, but when I opened them up, they appeared to be in beautiful condition. A good cleaning, some fresh solution for an overnight soak, and then the test-drive.

I’m one of those people who is really lucky with contact lenses. I received my first pair when I was 14. My eyes were changing so rapidly and so drastically, it was costing us loads of money every six months just so I could sit in the front row at school and squint at the chalk board (yes, chalk board, not white board). The doctor was the one that suggested contacts, citing studies that had shown hard lenses actually slowed down – and in some cases could reverse – the changes in my eyes. Being that geeky teenager everyone at school loved to tease, I jumped at the chance to have one less piece of fuel for that fire. We did a test fitting with lenses that were close to my prescription, just to see if it would work. Some people just can’t do contact lenses of any type, while others can manage with soft lenses (which weren’t really that common at the time). I was one of those cases that jumped right in without much of a problem. Within 15 minutes in the test pair, I was able to look up at the doctor. Apparently that was a big deal, since most people can only look at their feet for the first few days. At least, that’s how it was forty years ago.

Grumpy Cat with Glasses

I saw clearly once. Hated it.

https://www.facebook.com/TheOfficialGrumpyCat

So, there I was a few days after cataract surgery putting a contact lens into the right eye and looking around at a newly clear world. I could read street signs again. There were no more rainbows around every friggin’ light at night. And I had depth perception, too. I could see well enough to feel comfortable driving at night, and in unfamiliar places – something I hadn’t felt good about for over a year. The song says you don’t know what you’ve got ‘til it’s gone. This is a case of not really comprehending how much was gone until you get it back. It was cool to just sit in the car and look out the window again, enjoying details I hadn’t seen in ages.

The left eye does still have some residual damage from the detachment, though. There’s no such thing as a straight line with it. Everything’s slightly distorted, sort of like a funhouse mirror, but much more subtle. The cool thing about the human brain is that it can compensate for such things, as long as the right eye has the contact lens in. Left eye (artificial lens) + right eye (contact lens) = hey, I can see!

Unfortunately, I’m losing my one superpower – microvision. Because of my nearsightedness, I could see details on miniatures and with my stitching that other people often couldn’t. That’s gone in the left eye as the artificial lens was meant for middle/far distances. In a few more years it’ll be gone in the right eye as it gets the same surgery. I’ll need to wear glasses for reading and figure out where to get the magnifying lenses I need for my close-up work. There will be some adjustments involved, and I’ll be annoyed for a while because it won’t work like I’m used to. But at least it’ll work, which is something millions in the developing world can’t say.[*]

It has also become pretty obvious that I don’t have my poor eyesight to blame anymore for my lack of production with words and wool. Here again is where my husband proves just how good he is for me. In another of our late-night-deep-conversations he revealed that the eyesight was never the problem – it was all my attitude. You might be saying “Well, duh!” but sometimes us depressive creative types are a little slow to pick up on stuff like that. When my writing and weaving and needlework went from being just something I did for fun to agent-hunting-publication-submitting-commission-building-next-sales-event-searching, the fun got lost in the shuffle. And we humans have a bad habit of pouting and refusing when someone tells us we HAVE to do something. The wise man I sleep with told me to just forget that shit and have fun again.

So that’s what I’m going to do: I’m going to have fun watching clouds, wrangling words, and playing with string, and not give a damn what happens afterwards. I’m going to enjoy seeing everything anew again. Including myself.

 

[*] Here are some charities and their facts on this global issue (among many – don’t just take my word on it. Do your own research, too.):

http://missioncataractusa.org/

http://www.sightsavers.org/

http://www.ascrs.org/

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Yesterday was my birthday so I decided to be an even bigger slug than usual. I did manage to do the dishes and clean the cat box, because some things just have to be done (especially the cat box – my, he is productive!). But the rest of the day I spent killing things on the computer and ignoring any possible semblance of responsibility. Yeah, I know, I’ve been doing a lot of that lately. The battle between my depression, my intellect, and my inherent laziness is a constant war. And like all wars, the people (i.e., me) – regardless of affiliation – are the losers.

The lists of what I should be doing seem endless. And maybe that’s why I keep ignoring them. I look at the whole thing and get overwhelmed. So many projects, so little discipline. And it is a discipline problem, not a motivational one. If people – especially creative types – waited until they had proper motivation, nothing would ever be created. (Premier Penmonkey and newest Star Wars author Chuck Wendig has his latest rant on the topic here.)

I used to be disciplined. I was that student who always did her homework first, practiced my music diligently, kept my room tidy, and wrote every day. There was a time when I set my sights on a goal and nothing would stop me achieving it. Straight A’s? – Boom, no problem. All-State Band? In the bag. Get into the college I wanted? Never any doubt. Write a novel? Hah! – here’s a whole trilogy! (Not in the least bit good, but it’s written.) My life was organized and on track for what I wanted it to be.

Somewhere along the line, something happened. Nothing that can be pinpointed, no one event that sent things careening off track. Just a gradual slide down the hill of life until you hit the bottom of a rut and wonder how you ended up there. Choices made that weren’t necessarily the best. Allowing fear to control instead of hope. And any modicum of self-confidence that might be had, beaten into a bloody pulp by soul-sucking jobs and self-serving co-workers and oblivious bosses. Eventually that rut looks mighty comfy. It’s safe in there. Dark and cool and consistent. You keep your head down because peeking out will only get you run over. Just keep trudging, kid – there’s no end in sight, but at least you know what you’re dealing with.

And it doesn’t help me that the last few years have been spent almost entirely in crisis mode: hospital visits, car accidents, bankruptcy. Can’t think about next week, let alone the dreams and desires, because we have to take care of this BIG DEAL right NOW! You get numb pretty quick. You retreat even further into your little rut. You think about smoothing out the bottom a little, maybe putting up some curtains, because you sure as hell ain’t coming out anymore so might as well like what you’re wallowing in. Friends aren’t allowed because you don’t want them to see you “this way.” Family is told everything is fine because they’re at the other end of the state and can’t check you on your bullshit. And your spouse slowly collapses into the trap with you, and you both become automatons in your dark little ditch, trudging along like mules before the plow because there’s nothing else you know.

Yeah, cheery, ain’t it? It’s easy to make that determination when you’re on the outside looking in. But it’s so very difficult when you’re down there in the dark. Life is status quo. You have your routines. You pay your bills according to which cut-off notice is next. You live in your pajamas because what’s the point in changing when you never leave the house. Sleep, eat, lose yourself in the magic box on your desk. There’s no real expenditure of effort. The boundaries are known, the results predictable. You survive.

But that’s all you do.

It’s said that the first step to recovery is recognizing you have a problem. Most people never get even that far. And those that do often never get any further. It takes effort to make changes. It takes thinking outside the rut and putting forth energy not used in ages. It takes risks and unknowns and – most rare and difficult of all – faith in yourself. You look at how far it is to the top and are convinced you’ll never make it. How could you possibly do all that climbing when it takes everything you have just to put one foot in front of the other down there in your nice, deep, endless rut. Not to mention all the crazy, fear-mongering wackos that await anyone who sticks their head out, playing whack-a-mole with their zealous, bigoted, prejudicial rhetoric useful only for pounding us back into our hidey-holes and being afraid.

Let me tell you a little secret: don’t worry about any of that. All you need is one step, just one step to start. Focus on building one perfect, decorative, level, supportive step. Plan it, build it, admire it. You’ll soon come to realize it’s all alone and needs a friend. So you’ll build a second step. Then a third and a forth and a fifth, and on until you finally – Surprise! – breach the top. And you’ll be so strong by the time you get there, nothing will bother you. No war-mongering politicians. No apocalyptic doomsayers. No too-big-to-fail corporations.

It won’t be easy or quick, but it beats living forever in the dark.

My first step is to fix my attitude. Attitude is everything. If your attitude is crappy, so is your life. I have to stop looking at the whole picture and being overwhelmed, and focus on just one thing – finding something good in every day. Doesn’t have to be big or shiny or popular. It just has to bring a spark of positive to your energy. Today my good thing was a snoozing cat in my lap. And that’s enough to keep me going until tomorrow.

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