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This Is Your Brain On ... / Week 5

It's almost my turn. Choose A, I can talk amongst peers. Choose B, I retain my sense of identity, through silence.

* * *


There was a time when life was steeped in alcohol and oddity. There was a time when life was unpredictable and exciting. There was a time when bed was anywhere I fell asleep the night before and waking up was just another adventure. There was a time when there were heaps of vivid images and isolated memories, but no narrative thread to string them all together.

* * *


“Hi. I'm Destiny.” They wait for me to finish. There are no more words.

“Hi Destiny; you're welcome here.”

* * *

At 1:00am a baker's dozen parades through downtown. I am one of them. We sing sea shanties that resound off the library facade and echo through Monument Square. We stumble and giggle. We hold hands and swing our arms joyously. At 1:00am I belong. This is my tribe, crossing from West End to East End on the promise of more beer.

* * *


This circle accepts me. They share stories of struggles and heartache, of inspiration and shenanigans. Sometimes it's hard to listen. The tales are too painful or they are too rambling and unfocused. I don't belong here. Still, I try to listen. They need someone to listen.

* * *


The restaurant has closed and I'm standing in a parking lot, engaged in the ritual passing of the joint. There are a half dozen conversations volleying across the circle—all of them important, all of them frivolous. I join in, speaking to everyone and no one. Above us the stars sparkle in a seemingly infinite expanse. This city, this night, this experience is magical. Soon we'll scatter to the wind, but for now we live the moment. We all smile.

* * *


They talk about how difficult it is to let go. They talk about turning things over to a higher power. They talk about high rates of failure. After 24 years clean, they still identify as addicts. Not me. I just decided I was done one day.

* * *


Friday night and I've got two bottles worth of wine tucked in my cleavage and strapped to my thighs. We can't afford the prices at the concession stand, so I volunteer as pack mule. By the time we're sitting in the balcony, passing Sigg bottles while Toto trots down dusty Kansas roads, I'm feeling giddy.

After the movie we run into friends ordering pizza. When I relate the legendary achievement for the night, Karl asks “Do you always need alcohol to have fun?”

* * *


Left to my own devices, I probably never would have gotten drunk or high. Sure the risk profiles were there—substance abuse in the family, mental illness, poverty, growing up in a pseudo-single parent home, being a teenager in Maine. I just wasn't all that interested. But I didn't want to leave my friends behind. So when the time came, I jumped off the sobriety wagon and waved goodbye.

* * *


I have skipped classes in order to drink. I have missed work because of hangovers. I have blacked out in situations where my safety could have been compromised. I have drank by myself. I have vomited in more places than I'd like to admit. I have kissed people I did not know without acquiring their permission. I have lost personal effects. I have peed in neighbor's bushes. I have laid down in the middle of the street. I have been hospitalized.

I'm not an addict. I thought I might be. I don't have a problem with addiction, though. I have a problem with belonging.

* * *


“I've decided to stop drinking for a while.”

“Why?”

“I don't know. It's a test.”

I still want to run around town wearing life jackets and silly hats. I still want to have impromptu jam sessions where I sing and twirl. I still want to discover secret stairs in hidden gardens that lead to grand adventures. I still want to lounge around with three others in a hammock inventing constellations. I still want to belong.

One by one they stop inviting me to hang out.

I don't tell them they've failed the test.

In the Beginning / Week 4

In the beginning was the word.

And the word was forgotten.

It was lost, but we like to imagine we've found it: God, Bang, print (“space”)

In the beginning was a who, what, when, where, why, how that we cannot ever possibly know, and yet we still postulate. We postulate and speculate because it feels better to attempt to understand than to admit to our own limitations. I won't feign superiority on this front; I'm just as guilty as the rest. Because, I want to know; I need to know.

How can I just keep spinning ellipses on this third rock from the sun without some reason?

February is cold in Maine. It's cold enough that I am stretched out on a frozen pond staring at the dome of the heavens. The rest of my companions are close, sitting 'round the crackling fire.

I have chosen to be separate.

It is so remote here that I swear I can see the curvature of earth's atmosphere. My body shudders. I try to calculate how much body heat I'm losing to the sheet of ice below me. The physics of heat transfer is beyond my knowledge. I give up.

I give up.

The ice doesn't crack. The pond won't accept me into its wintry abyss. Life ticks on one second at a time. Seven years old in church, I would ask for a sign. It never came. I don't ask anymore. Stubborn. Hardened.

A meteor smears the inky night with an impermanent blaze as it burns in the mesosphere. I wipe my nose on my mitten, leaving a streak of snot that will harden to a greyish crust, less obvious on wool than the velor of my childhood. The fire dies down. We all rise.

I return to school. I return to school. I return to school.

One day Professor H says “You don't want to believe.” The impulse to laugh gags me. I insist that I do.
One day Professor H shows me how a light cone does not tilt. For a moment I understand.
One day Professor H tells me that light does not experience time. In theology class they said that God is timeless.

My trade paperback discussing topology is dog-eared. The universe exists in more than three dimensions. Maybe as many as twenty-six. Which one holds heaven? I get frustrated. We can take a photograph of light from thirteen billion years ago, but we still can't test for D-branes.

Professor H says that guy is an idiot anyway.

Two black holes of equal magnitude prepare to collide. As their event horizons begin to intersect, the fabric of space-time is ineffable. While pondering this, two become one.

The soul could be an energy signature, a complement to our body's matter. It's blank to start. Only as we begin to accumulate life experience, to develop a personality, does it become something special. Energy can come into being on its own, which means that Humanists can enjoy all the comfort of a soul, without necessitating any of the baggage of a creator.

I want to believe.

Faithless. There are too many unknowns. My legs weren't built for leaping.

Where did God come from? Where does energy come from? What happened in that first yoctosecond after the Big Bang? What was there before God, before the Big Bang? And before that? And before that? And before that?

In the beginning was the word.

And the word was forgotten.

It was lost, but I might be able to find it.
It was 1999 and I was a 19 year old expat living in Prague, capital of Bohemia. I was the envy of many, living the dream, riding the high of my adventurous life before the reality of untreated clinical depression caught up to me. When I wasn't instigating craziness or pissed on absinthe, I spent a lot of time marveling at how many stories I was adding to my collection. This is one of those stories.

I first met Scott at the welcome dinner for the fresh crop of ITC students. Having just completed the TEFL certificate myself, I was encouraged to attend and befriend the incoming class.

Me: a ginger sporting bangs and a shaved head; known to wear an evening gown and hiking boots; young hedonist academic with a thing for “characters”; timid, fey, looking for trouble.

Scott: an impish man with a Cheshire Cat smile; owned leopard-print pants and twelve pairs of tie-dyed socks; young hedonist with a mile high pile of stories.


It didn't take long to figure out we were going to get on just fine. We became proverbial partners in crime—spending as many nights crawling the seemingly endless pubs of Prague as we did curled up with a bottle of Merlot apiece, rhapsodizing about wine, women and song (or was it sex, drugs and rock n' roll). The only thing we excelled at more than engaging in our own debauchery was playing devil-on-the-shoulder to our friends and colleagues.

So it happened one November night when we were at a club with a group of alumni, students and faculty from the school on a typical weekend outing. There was a lot of drinking and dancing and even a few rounds of absinthe. Needless to say, we were having one hell of a night. Our 50-something year old stereotypically British student coordinator, David, was even behaving in a decidedly uncharacteristic manner—taking off his necktie and shimmying along with the rest of us. In the midst of all of the chaos, we were approached by a lovely couple from Norway on holiday. Always willing to embrace new friends, we answered their questions and chattered away until the bartender announced last call.

Last call signaled a choice:

1. You could wander up to Vaclavske Namesti to one of the late night food kiosks, order some smazeny syr and a cup of grog, and go figure out how to navigate the night trams, because the subway was already closed.

2. You could find a herna bar, often in the red light district, park yourself at a table and keep drinking beer until the subway re-opened for the morning.


As this was a typical weekend outing, my comrades and I chose door number two, as would any self-respecting expat recently relocated to a country that has a whole class of bars that remain open after the regular bars had closed. And thus we made our way to the red light district and chose a herna bar (no different from the others).

I can't remember who picked up the brochure. That's one of the details from this period of my life that is firmly lost behind the veil of binge drinking. But someone picked it up from amongst the tourist fliers—a glossy, full color, tri-fold brochure advertising the Atlas Cabaret Night Club.

“You should go.” Scott declared enthusiastically.

My first thought was that I didn't want to spend money on admission that I could be spending on booze instead. But I held my tongue, gauging the responses from the rest—the Norwegian couple, the two guys with whom I'd moved to Prague, David. They seemed equally skeptical.

Scott persisted. I took his side. Though I had no great desire to check out Slavic strippers at 2 or 3 in the morning, I could recognize the potential for a good story when I saw it. How long it took us to convince them, I can't recall—but considering our collective level of intoxication, probably not very. It helped that the place was only a few blocks away.

We all marched (or stumbled, your choice) over to Vaclavske Namesti, where we had passed the club countless times. David and my two friends were the first to enter, dutifully digging the crowns out of their pockets for the cover. Meanwhile, Scott and I were inviting the Norwegian couple to a birthday party on the outskirts of the city the following night. We exchanged numbers with them and wrote down some details on a scrap of paper.

“Alright, see you then.” Scott's feet remained firmly planted on the cobblestones of the square. My mouth curled into a mischievous grin.

“Are you not coming in?” the Norwegian guy asked.

“No. We're gonna head home. Have fun.”

And with that, Scott turned heel, grabbed me, and began the trek up the hill to my fourth floor walk up in Vinohrady.

The next day we discovered that my two friends had had to stop David from going home with a prostitute, because as he so slurringly put it “I've never done that before.” They'd convinced his middle-aged British ass that maybe that was a decision he should make when he was only two sheets to the wind, rather than three. And the Norwegians never made it to the party the following night, they called to apologize, saying they were too hung over. (Whether that was true or they weren't prepared to spend another evening with us, I cannot say.) I have to admit that I was a little disappointed that I didn't get to be a part of those stories—until I realized I had created those stories. Then I set to plotting with Scott for the next big adventure.
Felix stood in front of the mirror and winced. He'd spent the last week eating little more than water and cabbage, but his body appeared to be stubbornly unaffected. Even the special compression body stocking his mother had purchased did little to mask the sheer mass of his body. Now he not only resembled some grotesque mutant sausage, but he felt as though all of his organs were going to be squeezed out his orifices.

His mother's laments could be heard before her petite figure reappeared in the doorway. She had been on continuous loop all morning, alternating between berating him for his gluttony and sloth and asking the heavens what she had ever done to deserve this fate. Every day she worshiped at the temple, offering the sweat of her body to quench their thirst. She made sure to always leave food on her plate as a token to please the gods. Still, she'd been cursed with this embarrassment of a son. It must have been his father. She never should have fallen for a stranger without a pedigree—but he had been so beautiful and muscular. Surely such a fine specimen had the favor of the gods. Then he died so suddenly and it was too late. She was already with child, a child that she prayed would not be defective as his father clearly was. But no matter how hard she tried Felix just wouldn't stop growing. Even if by some miracle he managed to pass today, just look at him. He'd be dead by twenty. So many years invested in rearing this son, all wasted.

As he wrapped the binding tape around himself, Felix tried to tune her out. That only made things worse, though. His mind filled with the voices of his classmates. There was Helen's nasal sneer informing him that his mere existence was a curse upon the town. Then David chiming in to express relief that they'd soon be rid of him. The others had nodded in agreement before starting in on the discussion of what exactly happened to the chosen ones. Rosalind tossed her curls, looked straight into his eyes and with glee declared, “They're going to eat you!” It wasn't the first time that he'd heard the stories, but this year Felix felt nauseous.

“Hold still,” Felix's mother barked, as she aggressively dabbed caramel colored concealer on his forehead. He had to pull himself together to focus on the challenge before him. For a moment, as he gazed into the mirror, he thought he might succeed. He saw large brown eyes fringed with thick lashes, a finely chiseled nose, his father's lips. But the illusion was shattered once he noticed the extra chin, the thick neck, the excess flesh that squeezed out the edges of body stocking and binding tape. It was folly to imagine that the gods would protect a monstrosity such as himself, and yet he clung to a morsel of hope. It was possible they wouldn't take anyone this year. It had happened once, when he was only four years old. They came, inspected the young, and left empty-handed. It could happen again.

From the town hall the great bell resounded through the streets. It was time. While Felix struggled to compose himself, his mother smoothed her hair and applied a fresh coat of lipstick. They obediently filed out of their house like everyone else. Streams of people—perfectly uniform in size and shape--merged to form a river that flowed directly to the town square. Felix cast about, hoping to spy Monifa in the masses, but there were too many faces. His mother grabbed him by the hand and dutifully led him into the throng. When they reached the square she gave him an obligatory peck on the cheek, recited a hollow “I love you,” and left him to join the rest of the thirteen year olds from the six town consortium.

Despite being surrounded by his peers, Felix felt utterly alone. The rest of the young teens were adjusting girdles, tucking stray hairs, applying a last daub of rouge—as though they had anything to fear. With their chiseled features and lean bodies, surely they would never be forsaken by the gods. Not like him.

“Felix!” A voice like warm honey broke through his cloud of despair. He looked up to see the one friend he had ever known. Her eyes sparkled above her round apple cheeks. A smile played on her mouth making her already full lips appear to be even wider. Felix couldn't help but reciprocate that infectious grin.

“Monifa!” They embraced for a moment, before Felix pulled back in surprise. “Your arm... it's working.”

“My father splurged on a new prosthetic.” Monifa laughed, causing her rows of perfectly plaited hair to dance across her head. “I tried to talk him out of it, convince him to save his money, but he'd have none of it. Imagine. Thinking a silly little thing like this would make a difference.”

But Felix wasn't so sure. From a distance, the new arm looked nearly identical to her good one. Someone would have to study Monifa for a while to discern that it didn't have quite the same mobility and dexterity. With so many youths to observe, maybe she could pass. She was certainly attractive enough otherwise.

“You never know.”

“Don't be daft. Besides, maybe I want them to take me.”

“You... you can't be serious.”

“Yes I can. Felix, I don't want to stay here. Even if the rumors are true, I'd rather go with them. There's nothing for me in the consortium. There never will be.”

He knew that she was right. There was nothing here for him, either. He was an outcast, cursed by the gods. Still, that seemed better than the unknown of The Saviors. He was trying to think of the words to convince Monifa to keep hope alive when the first strains of the anthem sounded through the bustle.

A hush settled across the crowd. The assembled children stood with their best posture. Each face was plastered with the most pleasantly neutral expression that could be mustered. As the trumpets sounded all eyes turned to the massive platform where The Savior emerged. Felix had never seen this one before. She was the largest woman he had ever seen in both stature and width. Her creamy skin was so pale that it was almost blinding in the sunlight. Mousy brown hair framed her face—which was completely void of makeup. Even though he knew he should be disgusted, he couldn't help but think she was beautiful.

Felix reached out with one hand to clasp Monifa's as the music died down. His other gently fingered the small clear orb that hung around his neck on a delicate gold chain. The young were told not to do such a thing, that it would only draw unwanted attention, but he couldn't help it. Monifa gave his hand an encouraging squeeze. He tried to listen to the opening remarks, but he couldn't focus. His head was fuzzy. His stomach was full of lead. He tried to imagine himself somewhere else, anywhere but standing here awaiting his fate.

It was no surprise to the crowd when the orb around Felix's neck was the first to glow. They politely averted their eyes, all except Monifa and The Savior. The former offered him an encouraging smile, while the latter studied him intently. Felix could feel his whole body shaking, but he willed himself to answer the call with what little dignity he possessed. He shuffled toward the platform, moving slowly to minimize the jiggle of his body.

As he ascended the platform, Felix looked out to see what other orbs were now illuminated. First, there was a boy from one of the other towns—tall and slender with blond hair and bronze skin. That was a bit of a surprise, until Felix noticed he was wearing a bit more makeup than was customary for a boy. Next was a short girl with full breasts, wide hips, and so many freckles that even the priciest foundation couldn't conceal them. Then, he noticed Monifa, who was smiling radiantly and bouncing to the stage with a spring in her step. He thought he caught a glimpse of the blond boy's mother, struggling to free herself from the grip of a handsome man—perhaps a brother or husband. Monifa's father was trying to remain stone-faced, but Felix could see that the man was devastated. But his own mother had already melted into the crowd. She would never make a scene, certainly not over him.

There were more words, but Felix couldn't concentrate. The village had been saved once more, but what was to become of the four? Like the others, they'd never be seen again. Maybe The Saviors wouldn't eat them, though. Maybe they'd just be sent to a labor camp. This new Savior, she didn't look like someone who ate teenagers. Maybe. He barely noticed when the ceremony had been completed, nor when he was vacantly shuffling with the others toward the transport. He was too numb even to notice that Monifa had been holding his hand the entire time.

It wasn't until The Savior spoke that Felix realized they had left the crowds behind.

“Welcome. Do not be afraid. You do not have to come with us if it is not your wish. But we came here to save you, and I do hope you'll hear us out before making up your mind.”
When I was five years old, my life changed forever. It all happened while my brother and I sat at the kitchen table, stirring our ice cream into “milkshakes”. He dropped the proverbial bomb on me. I was adopted. The news was devastating, as one might imagine. But, in either an unusual act of bravery or a typical act of curiosity, I requested the full story. The specifics were a bit fuzzy in his nine year old mind, but he was able to tell me quite a lot: the part where I was born in a toilet; how Santa found me and later abandoned me in a chimney; how my mother took me in because she felt sorry for me. Sure, some of the details were perplexing to my young mind—why didn't I drown in the toilet? How did my mom find me when our trailer didn't have a chimney? Still, Dusty was older and far more worldly; I couldn't doubt the veracity of his claims. Everything I had come to believe about my life was a lie.

* * *


When I was six years old, I made a startling discovery. One night, bleary-eyed and confused I shuffled down the stairs to the basement only to discover that a strange cult had built a temple down there. I ducked down and peered over the edge of the bannister in an attempt to see while remaining unseen. There was a giant fire blazing in the center of the activity, casting the entire space in an eerie reddish glow. Men and women garbed in naught but loin cloths and golden necklaces danced a circle around the flames. Enormous pillars carved with strange faces sneered menacingly upon the cavern. Heart pounding in my chest, I waited, watched, and listened.

At the mention of human sacrifice I flinched. At six years old it's pretty hard to control your reactions, after all. In that instant all eyes turned upon me and I bolted. I never ran so far in my life. I ran from Temple clear to Farmington. It had to have been twelve miles or more and the whole way the pounding footfalls of the cult behind me. Just when I was beginning to despair that there was nowhere I could run, I saw the church ahead of me and darted inside. Sanctuary. They were set up for a 'Bean Suppah' later that evening, so I scrambled under one of the tables and flattened myself behind the linens. I wondered if I'd have to stay there forever.

* * *


When I was nine years old a barrel of bio-hazardous waste fell from a transport that was passing through our small town. No one else recognized it for what it was, but I did. And that knowledge filled me with terror. Carrying such a burden can weigh on a kid. I knew that no one would believe me, no one would listen, not until it was too late. So, I stared slack-jawed with horror as the waste oozed and wafted from the cracked barrel.

That night I sat in bed with my mother, keeping vigil at the window. They would be here soon. My anxious mind pondered the rifles and shotguns in the living room. Though I'd never been hunting or shot at a target on the woodpile, I'd played cowboys (not Indians) and robbers (never cops). Maybe. Maybe. Any moment now the dead would be rising from their graves. And everyone knows that the living dead have a prodigious sense of smell. Which meant that I, being the smartest girl in Temple, and residing less than a mile from the cemetery, was prime target on the zombies' most wanted list.

My only real hope was that my brother or brother-in-law would hear the ruckus and reach me in time. I nuzzled in closer to my mother and prayed.

* * *


When I was thirteen years old, I started seeing the faces behind peoples' faces. Cat thought I was seeing past lives. I didn't care what it was; I just wanted people to don one face and stick with it. It was getting disconcerting never knowing who would be sitting across from me the next time I blinked.

* * *


When I was eighteen years old, one chill autumn night I followed the sound of drums until I was utterly lost in the woods. I sated my hunger with teaberries. My hooves danced through a labyrinth of roots and trunks. The world vibrated with the thrum of crickets and bullfrogs, dampened by the carpet of pine needles. Out there, under a canopy of stars, a slender white birch bent to form a perfect arch. I paused to admire my curving purple ram's horns, my furry goat's legs, my beautiful gossamer wings. Then I stepped through that doorway out of one world and into another.

That night my life changed forever. That night I discovered that everything I had come to believe about my life was the truth.

Introduction / Week 0

In the morning, I stumble into the room, guided by the dim outline of light around the edges of the pocket shutters. Perhaps once they were able to completely darken the room, but two hundred years later the wood is warped and covered with too many layers of paint. Still, they keep the room dark enough and provide insulation against the winter chill. As I slide them them open a voice booms in the darkness to the accompaniment of the skittering scrape, “MAMA!”

Knit two into three, slip, slip, slip, knit, knit three, knit three together...

1st April 1940 and they're not where they should be. Streets are combed block by block. Family and neighbors located. Yet, Dorothy and her twin sons are nowhere to be found. Questions are asked. All potential leads are followed. Finally, one afternoon, after months of searching, she turns up. Dorothy B---, age 20, inmate. But the infant twins, it's like they never existed at all.

Knit three, yarn over, knit three, yarn over, knit three...

They came in early autumn. First it was just one, inspecting an echinacea blossom in the garden. Next day we saw half dozen in front of a picturesque two story federal in Dock Square. Soon, they were everywhere. You couldn't walk to the beach without counting dozens. I'd never seen so many. Was it an omen? An invasion? A sign from God? Then one Sunday afternoon, while out pushing the carriage, it happened. Just as I was rounding the corner by the stone church on the ocean cliffs they soundlessly rose as one. There must have been hundreds of them, maybe a thousand or more. It was unfathomable. And then, as mysteriously as they had arrived, they were gone. Weeks later, I still felt a longing in my heart.

Knit one, slip one, knit two together, pass slipped stitch over...

In the middle of the woods there is a cemetery. No path leads there. Usually it is lost, until some adventurous soul wanders from the trail to push through scraggly branches and trip over gnarled roots. Then, maybe, if the course of trajectory is just right, it appears. First the granite posts and rusting bars that encircle the residents in their eternal rest. Then the twisted underbrush that threatens to consume everything. Some empty beer cans and soda bottles give testament to the fact that others have come this way. Just as the fine craftsmanship of cut and chiseled stone comes into view there's a loud snap.

Knit five, slip two, knit one, pass slipped stitches over, knit four...

A friend of mine once mused that we're all characters in a book. If that's the case, then call me Ishmael, for my stories often as not are about other people more than me. You know when you meet a main character. They're the compelling captains with an obsession. And I'm not one of them. I'm the person who goes through life seeking out main characters; surrounding myself with them; collecting them, if you will. I'm the one who remembers them and transmits that memory into the world.

My Friend on the HMS Bounty

The news about the HMS Bounty sinking has made its way around the internet by this point. This post is to say that my very dear friend and former roommate had just signed on as the crew's chef before they headed out from Connecticut. She started working on boats about a year and a half ago or thereabouts and had to take a safety course before being able to do so. Today I'm thankful for that, because she was among those rescued. She lost all of her possessions when the boat sank, save the pajamas she was wearing and her cell phone.

I'm glad that I hadn't known that she was on board when I heard the news... it would have been too overwhelming. Because even finding out after the fact has made me feel anxiety.

The past couple of days have been full of heartbreaking imagery. The city I called home for seven years is a disaster zone. The city that my father and grandfather helped build has been ripped apart. But my family and friends have come through . I am so immensely thankful for that.
Baby

Henrietta's first birthday is 11 days away. It's kind of mind-blowing: a whole year? Sharing this year with her has been an amazing experience. It's not been without its stress and frustration, but the other side is magic and wonder and watching this little learning machine go go go. Once she really mastered the whole mobility/walking thing, she turned her attention to language acquisition. Once we got back from the New Jersey trip, she started demanding to be read to, almost non-stop. She'd bring book after book to whoever was caring for her at the moment and say "Buh!". Then she'd crawl onto our lap for a snuggle and read. She's still doing it quite a lot. Her vocabulary is expanding pretty quickly. She uses hi, bye, eye, key, did-ddy (pretty), dada/daddy, papa and moo. She also uses buh to mean "I want that", "I want you to play with this", or "read this to me" depending on intonation.

Fitness and Wellness

Cut for discussion of weight and suchCollapse )

Pop Culture
I've been watching Supernatural on Netflix. I watched a couple seasons of it live back when I lived in NYC. It's my current popcorn television, sort of like Buffy was about 10 months ago.

Genealogy
I've been taking a break from my research to focus on health and daughter. It's probably good to take a pause anyway, and then return with fresh eyes. Once I decide to start researching again, I think I'll need to set daily time limits on myself, though. It's easy to get sucked in and spend the entire day pouring over records.

Craftiness
Going to have a table at a holiday craft fair this year! Excited and nervous. I should probably make some more stuff to sell... but I told myself I can wait until November. I've got a decent stash of jewelry, knitted goods, and block-print cards. Even if I don't make much, we'll have a nice table.

Some Things Going on in My Life

As raring as I was to write more and post more and be around here more, it seems that I've not been doing all that well at it. I still check on my friends list daily or thereabouts, but I've not been able to make myself write a post of my own. Such is life, sometimes. My interests ebb and flow.

Life has been good, though. My anxiety problems have been so much better, as has my depression. This might be the first time that I've felt like I was being effectively medicated. I still try to do relaxation things for myself. My finger nails are looking a lot better, my scalp is good, and my lips seem to have an appropriate amount of skin on them. It feels good to feel a little more in control of my own body.

The trip to New Jersey was great. Henrietta got to meet so much family--and they all seemed to love her. It was good to reconnect with people, meet some of the next generation, and see a couple of nieces who were babies the last time I was down. Although I never got a chance to venture out to Philadelphia, I did see nearly all of the people I wanted to see. Probably the best part was getting to talk to everyone as an adult. The last time I was down, I was 16 years old. This time, I was able to talk to my older siblings as siblings without that weird kid/adult dynamic.

Henrietta will be one year old in just 3 weeks. It's pretty mind-blowing. She already acts like a toddler, though. She's such a little person. She brings me her books to read, and she feeds me bites of her food, and she walks over and sits on my lap. ♥

Cut for health and fitness talkCollapse )

So, overall, my health is on the upswing--mental and physical!

Now it's time to go play with a very smiley baby.
Even before my father died in April, I had spent a lot of time thinking about how his total disregard for his health for so many years wasn't merely hurting him--it was a slap in the face to the people who loved him, my mother in particular. That's because we had to share in the burden. I spent 21 years watching him die a slow and rather unpleasant death, and just to add to the sting a bit more, he continued to smoke and drink. While his out-of-pocket medical expenses continued to climb, he added to the family's financial burden by blowing money on booze and cigarettes--which ate up a bunch of money in both their purchase and their added health drain. Meanwhile, my mother had to miss out on birthdays, family gatherings, even the birth of a granddaughter, because he couldn't be left alone for very long. The stress impacted her health as well with weight gain and climbing blood pressure. Nearly every day I still think about how much I miss my father now that he's gone--and I continue to feel hurt that he cared more about his vices than the love of his family.

After watching this cycle, I realized that I couldn't do the same thing to the people I love and who love me. No matter how much I may decide I dislike myself in a moment, my love for others is always greater--and that means that even if I don't care that much about myself I care about my mother and my daughter and my partner and the many many loving people in my life. Taking care of myself is about so much more than loving myself, it's about loving the people around me enough to do all I can to be there for them for as long as I can. And not just alive, but living and engaged.

It's not always easy, but I find it's getting easier. When I'm able to make positive health choices and connect those choices with that feeling of love, it reinforces them. Yesterday I was feeling a bit cruddy with a mild headache, but decided to go out for a walk instead. I ended up walking 5.2 miles at a brisk pace, while pushing baby in a stroller, and I felt great. Physically I felt a lot better, but I also felt pride in my accomplishment and a welling up of love. I've got to hold onto those feelings--because that's what is going to ensure that I continue on a path of self-care. When I'm feeling guilty for taking my 5-10 minutes of prescribed relaxation during the day, I have to remember that those 15-30 minutes a day of selfishness could potentially add years of time spent with the people I love.

And so I don't smoke. And I don't drink. And I'm learning to relax. And I'm cutting back on caffeine. And I'm remembering to drink water. And I'm exercising more. And I'm learning to choose more fruits and veg instead of cookies. And I am so so so far from living my ideals--but I hope that those around me can see that even my trying is an act of love.

Remember that the choices that you make in life leave ripples that impact the wider world. We do not live in isolation, we live in community with family, friends, co-workers, neighbors... even the cashier at the market. Even if you're having a hard time and can't love yourself, maybe you can find it in your heart to love one of them.