Passing thought

Some thoughts on body comfort & dealing with aging and generally coping with the reality of being a lump of replicating cells that creep daily toward death.  Inspired by all the “oh, body, how you betray me as I age,” posts all over the social sphere on the one day a week I’m allowed to surf.

The bleak humorous posts come mainly from people in their 20’s and 30’s. I can sympathize with their shock and unhappiness, oh, yes. It’s aggravating to discover you can’t do something as easily as you once could.

There’s often a sense of resentment about it, though, and I can’t fathom the bitterness.

First, I don’t remember ever having an expectation of navigating daily life without pain or risk of injury. Maybe as a toddler? No, there was the top bunk incident and the 16 stitches in my chin (blood swirling down the drain, my parents talking over my head with the doctor about possible facial scarring… I was 3, I think?) I knew life was a contact sport wherein any action could bench me with injuries before puberty hit. Tying my shoes and “sitting wrong” have always been hazardous. No biggie. Deal & heal.  I honestly never realized it wasn’t like that for everyone until college. (There are reasons I was teased for being The Oblivious Child)

Second, resentment springs from a sense of betrayal, and that relies on an adversarial relationship with physicality I can’t grok. My body isn’t an enemy or even a frenemy. It’s a housecat.

No, really. It cannot care for itself without my help, it wants lots of things that will do it harm, it’s always finding new and creative ways to break things, and there’s no ignoring it when it needs attention. It’s my responsibility to monitor its behavior and keep it from hurting itself, and we are both happiest when I give it extra pampering. It’s totally a cat.

And yeah, sometimes I’m displeased with my body. (I REALLY didn’t like that phase in my teens when my neck and spine grew first and my legs took time to catch up so I felt like a teeny, clunky giraffe, but hey. I did even out. eventually.)  I’m sometimes displeased with my cat, too. Like when he decides my bedside is just the place to vomit up hairballs.

But I digress. My body is mine, and sometimes it purrs, and it tries to be good, and so I can’t imagine resenting it for things it can’t help.

I’m not saying there’s anything wrong with resenting your body. I’m an all-out supporter of doing whatever works to keep yourself going. No such thing as a One True Way etc. I can’t see that it would ever work for me, that’s all I’m saying.

Anyway. Gonna go give myself a treat and a brushing now.

Is it a staycation if you’re only staying home because someone is ill?

This is Night 2 of “Spending the weekend as a couch potato because Spouseman has the stomach flu.” I’d planned to get some work done, but I am not great at splitting my concentration between creativity & caregiving.

So instead of writing fiction, we’re both hanging out in the living room with Scooter McNursecat, listening to the epic rainstorms outside, and watching TV. Spouseman has Vitamin Waters and saltines. I have plenty of Unhealthy Snax I picked up while getting his meds and Vitamin Waters. Life is pretty good, when it comes right down to it.

Yesterday I watched most of the series Into the Badlands. Spouseman was there, but he was feeling so ill I doubt it made much of an impression on him.  We wrapped up season 2 today. I have feelings about it,  mixed and murky ones that are very much tied up in my twtichy dislike of messy post-apocalyptic futures.  I don’t mean the gritty aspect of violence. I mean the part where the creators give no thought to systems needed to support the societies they design.  And this show, like SO MANY others, just doesn’t add up. And the dialogue was often so clunky it made me wince.

ANYway. End rantlet.

Brain-free TV for tonight and tomorrow: Lost in Space 2018. 40 minutes into episode 1, I’d already seen more character development & better science (not perfect, but TRYING) than in the whole 1990’s movie. It’s more serious than the original but still very family-friendly. And the family tensions feel authentic, not the Typical Space Show batch of walking tropes at all.

Fab worldbuilding & reveals, fine acting, plus relationships and dialogue that all ring true. My favorites so far: teen girls who talk like teens, and the chicken.

There. Is. A. Chicken.

This show is a keeper.

It was an eventful week, so I’m not going to beat myself up over a couple of extra rest days. Nope. Going to enjoy TV.

What events? I’m so glad you asked.

First, it was National Library Week, and since I’m on the NLW planning committee at work (at a library, for those just now joining the show) I spent most of one shift being a perky greeter and letting kids & adults spin the library wheel for prizes (like fines-forgiveness, mini-slinkies, and ice cream coupons. Also pencils and other loot) and another shift helping pass out popcorn at the trivia contest night.

The contest was the culmination of many meetings’ worth of discussion over questions, potential problems, presentation, snacks, prizes and coordination with other committees.

It was over in an hour. Worth all the planning. Everyone had a grand time.

I ate too much popcorn and have a page of notes to make next year’s event even better.  It was fun but still exhausting. Wednesday I made progress on various work things and also got to take a walk in short sleeves & sandals & lie in the sun.

That recharged me enough to face The Big Adventure Day. Thursday I went downtown by train and El, and thereby learned a whole new section of Chicago By Transit. I can navigate to & from Lincoln Park now, adding that to the short list of Loop, Museum campus & McCormick Place.

The point of the exercise was getting to the Galway Arms to meet Tina Jens for dinner and later attending my first Gumbo Fiction Salon. It’s a monthy reading series I hope to make a regular part of my schedule because it’s a great group and tremendous fun.

How fun? OMG OMG OMG fun. Yet also phenomenally scary. (I talked to a whole lot of strangers in a conversational setting AND SURVIVED)  DInner with Tina was fantastic because I love getting to know friends better. Later I read from Rough Passages and people laughed in the right places and clapped at the end. I listened to a lot of great fiction, some genre, some poetry, some memoir, and I even made it out in time to catch the 11:30 Metra straight home instead of needing a pickup at the Rosemont Blue line.

I am energized to really dig into some writing projects. Friday was to be a chores & shopping day, then  write on into the weekend.

Yeah. Well. Best laid plans.

Hanging out is good, tho. Snax all day & chili for supper (I made a huge batch. It freezes well, and it’s a good hot meal when the weather is cold & yucky like today)  cuddles with cat and snuggles with sleepy, sleepy healing Spouseman.  Words are patient. I will get to them. Maybe even tomorrow.

Why the cat picture? Because “cozy kitty” is how I feel night now. Ta!

 

 

 

What I don’t talk about.

I don’t talk much about hurting myself by “walking too fast” or “picking up a pencil the wrong way”  because that’s my baseline, just as it’s my normal for unstructured social interaction to be a risky gamble. I might pay for attending a party  with hours to days of shaky mental exhaustion or emotional swan dives, I might sprain my wrists stirring a pot of soup, but there’s nothing unusual about either event. I don’t think twice about them. I don’t talk much about breathing or digesting either. Such things are not noteworthy.

The work I put into life  doesn’t feel remarkable either.  I like being active. I like people. I like to push myself. Those traits plus a damfine big box of coping mechanisms obscure how unusual my routines are. Lots of people are introverted, so  I don’t dwell on the enjoyments I ration because I don’t have emotional resilience to spare. Athletes equip themselves to avoid injuries, and daily life is a contact sport for me, so what’s the difference? Exercise is healthy. No big deal that I must do strength exercises and walk minimum 3 miles daily or pay for the deficit in cramps and impinged nerves.

So there are positive reasons I don’t talk about my assorted issues. I seriously don’t notice them unless someone compares my life to norms. (One particularly memorable adolescent conversation involved my disbelief in days without pain. “Like, not any pain?” I asked, wondering if I was being pranked.)  The last reason I keep this stuff to myself isn’t so good. Shame and fear of judgment.  

I work hard to walk in the wide world of normal. That shouldn’t mean forfeiting my right to say I’m only faking normal, but somehow it does. I can look like a duck and quack like one, so I am left feeling like a cheater for not being duckish. I am functional, more or less, as long as I do certain things.  So if I’m not better I’m not working hard enough. right? It’s my own fault. If I had a better attitude and put in more effort, I would be fine.

I know that’s an insidious lie, but it’s the kind that slips past defenses and eats away confidence like acid on a wooden building foundation. And here’s the kicker: buying into the lie leads to guilt. Wimp. Whiner. Quit-exaggerating-you-lying-attention-whore is the internal whisper I hear when I admit to injury or weakness. Always.

It would help if I had an official seal of medical diagnosis, but I don’t. I have plenty of treatment documentation, but there’s a chasm between fitting a condition profile and the legitimizing stamp of a doctor’s note. I have never leaped that gap. My physical condition was diagnosed off-hand by a college health clinic resident in the era before electronic records, and the mental stuff? Well. Let’s just say the cause & effect patterns are obvious but have never been severe enough to make me seek treatment.

Why not? The affirmation would be nice, I admit.  It’s my lazy streak at work. The  official process for pinning causes to intermittent symptoms is frustrating and exhausting even with supportive doctors. And support is mighty hard to find.  So that’s two strikes against putting myself through the wringer. The third strike? There are no cures for what ails me. There are specific management therapies and behaviors, but I already employ them all. Medication? The very idea of testing brands and dosages is too daunting to contemplate. Things will have to get much worse before I’m willing to play that horrible  whack-a-mole game.

Someday I’ll be forced to it. Right now I manage well enough, but my body ages and my brain will always find ways to surprise me. (First time I faced a social situation unarmored by a job title? Oh, hey, that’s what a panic attack feels like! Fun times! Not.)

As it stands now,  with no pill bottles or certification to wield, I never truly believe anyone else believes me when I claim injury or weakness.  Why should they believe in the rotted core when the disguise is effective? Hell, I have trouble accepting it, and I live it.

The best I can do is lay out information up-front, then let it drop. Full disclosure doesn’t stamp out my internal critic, but it does cut down on vocal judgments like, “It must be so nice to be able to eat anything you want and stay skinny,” “Just go to the party for a little while, what can it hurt?” or “But you look perfectly fine.”  (That’s my favorite: when people tell me to my face that I’m not unhealthy enough to satisfy them.)

I know I’m being silently judged even when people don’t say thoughtless, vicious things. But when I lay the groundwork early I don’t have to hear it as often.

So when you notice I sprained my finger, and I say I did it tying my shoe? When I’m incapacitated by a headache before a big to-do? Go ahead and laugh. I do.  Sympathy is okay too. But please don’t say it’s unbelievable.

Because it’s my reality. I just don’t talk much about it.

This article by someone with much worse problems than mine expresses all these feels better than I ever could.  I’ll wrap with that.