Thursday, May 21, 2015

Grrrr...

So I had my penultimate radiation treatment this morning, and everything was sailing along as usual; I was on the table, My web mask had my head latched down, the machine was all up in my grill, and the technicians left the room and I waited for the beam to start up. I've mentioned before that when the beam comes on, it's as though my eye fills with blue light, even with the eyelid closed and a cotton pad over it. Well, it hiccuped this time. The light stopped, then came back on and resumed radiating.

When the assistant came in to set me free, I said, "So what was that?" and she stared at me blankly. "That pause in the light?" "There was no break in the light," she said, and I tried to explain that there had been a pause where "the light went away" and then resumed. She didn't understand, and said there had been nothing at all different. But there was a blip in the treatment! I protested, and she condescendingly explained about the superficial red lights that were over my face to help the machine position itself correctly. "No, not that light; I know that's different." "The radiation beam doesn't have a light; you can't see one."

This went back and forth for a while, where she was dismissing my description, saying none of the equipment registered any blip or glitch, and I was put on the defensive, saying that yes, there WAS something different, and I was just letting her know in case there was something wrong in the machinery that needed to be checked, which she also dismissed. An amazing combination of low-grade passive aggression, condescension, and defensiveness.

I gave up, and was walking out when I saw the other tech, and asked her. "Oh, that was just the Whatsis resetting; it does that every time."
"No, this was different; there's a blue light that..."
"There's no light."
"I understand there's no visible light. But when the beam comes on, there a blue light that fills my eyeball. It came on and then went off. That has never happened before."

More back and forth that implied I was being nit-picking for mentioning it, and still not comprehending why I was bringing it up. I simply wanted to let them know there was a blip, and I was interested in why and wanted to let them know in case something needed checking... but they were alternating between claiming that I was wrong, that there was no harm to me (which I knew!) and implying that I was being unnecessarily cautious. It was utterly infuriating.

So here's what I wished I had said back:

"Have you ever had external beam radiation in your eye? I THOUGHT NOT. So when I tell you that a blue light fills your eye, you should believe that I know what I'm talking about! I have had 24 of these treatments, and not one of them has ever had a skip in that light until this morning. I'm not complaining, I'm just letting you know in case something needs to be checked. We good? That's all."

This is not the first time that I have encountered this strange, low-grade defensive impatience. I don't know if it is just the fields of radiation and oncology, but when I bring up concerns or questions, I can get a strange, almost subconscious level of it. Almost an air of "Don't question me," or "You're being high-maintenance." Everyone is SUPER nice and friendly in general, when everything is going along ordinarily. But when I bring up a personal concern, like the fact that my right eye is even more problematic because of the clogged tear duct, and so the skin around that eye is particularly inflamed and painful because I have to continually wipe tears away, I am somehow being whiny. It's like they are inwardly sighing with frustration at me.

WHY WON'T ANYONE GIVE ME A RECOMMENDATION OF A FACIAL SKIN CARE PRODUCT FOR THIS PROBLEM I CANNOT BE THE FIRST PERSON WITH A QUESTION LIKE THAT IN THE HISTORY OF RADIATION THERAPY?!?! is what I'm beginning to feel like shouting. (By the way, they finally did give me a product recommendation and a sample; it was ordinary Curel Daily Moisture lotion. After asking three times, and being passed off from the radiation oncologist to the oncologist to the eye doctor back to the radiation oncologist. But again, quite passive-defensively. Barely detectable.)

Sunday, May 03, 2015

The Uncertainty of Freedom

One Long Confession Posting

When I closed my computer side-business, I did so because I was tired of it and had finally realized that after nine years, I was basically doing nothing much beside working. So many projects contemplated but not begun, so many books unread, cleaning and tidying and organizing simply never even started. The most I ever managed was knitting and crocheting and embroidery in the evenings in front of the TV, and dinners with friends. All of them perfectly pleasant, but not enough to make life worthwhile in themselves.

Now I have free time, and am so unaccustomed to beginning anything ("I just don't have time...") that I cannot seem to move forward. I feel like I am waking to a different existence where the possibilities are endless, but that my mind and ambition have atrophied. I'm not depressed, but I feel that anxiety I have felt in seasons of depression long ago, of knowing that I should be doing something worthwhile, but either I'm not interested enough in it, or too lazy, to actually begin.

I should play more with my cats
I should re-organize my kitchen
I should read my books
I should scrub and dust and thoroughly clean my apartment
I should get hardwood floors installed
I should get rid of unnecessary possessions
I should volunteer and help people
I should exercise more frequently

And as usual, I am shoulding all over myself. But once I've come to that awareness, and rejected it... I cannot shake the uncertainty of what I could be doing with my life and gifts. I know what I long for, but have either dismissed it as something I have no power to achieve, or I am too lazy to make the effort.

Anais Nin once said that "life shinks or expands in proportion to one's courage." Well, I am fairly cowardly, and sometimes when I try and step back and gain perspective of my life, I can barely take a step back at all, it's such a small, pitiful space. For example... my fridge and pantry are full of nothing much. Crackers, baking ingredients, beverages, spices, yogurt, hummus, condiments, cereal. That's about it. I stopped buying practically anything that was perishable (I switched to skim milk because it will last AGES) because I was either too lazy or self-indulgent to cook. And so as a result, that area of my life has atrophied, and I never think about cooking anything unless it's something I'm baking for an event. I'm really ashamed of this. Part of it was because I only want to eat things I am in the mood for, and I don't like leftovers. So food went to waste, until I finally decided to stop trying. And when you're cooking for one, there's no-one else to feed. SO many wasted, rotting vegetables!

I have my hobbies, I have my choir and church and friendships and shared meals and my beloved Sunday naps. But I could be SO much more useful to my world. And my #1 dream is a little house in the country on a hidden back road with a garden and a beehive and a shed... none of which I can afford without moving somewhere alien or ridiculously far away. (See how quickly I claimed it was too hard to accomplish?!)

On top of this, I worry that I have become too insular, too unwilling to be heartbroken, and that I am turning away from people and situations to avoid heartbreak or boredom or weariness... all of which are pretty much a given in relationships. I'd like to go back into therapy, but Lordy, it is EXPENSIVE! And now that my extra income from the computer business is gone, it's even more difficult.

I would like to be a much better and more worthwhile person, is what I'm saying...

Thursday, January 22, 2015

Grrrr... Ralph Lauren!

Sooooo... a rather silly little request, but... does anyone know what the hell this pattern is called? I can find neither hide nor hair of it anywhere! Plenty of people selling it on eBay, and I bought it just a week ago at Marshalls... but no trace of it on Ralph Lauren's website or anywhere else!


I really just want one Queen or King-sized flat sheet, so I can make a duvet cover for my bed! It seems wasteful to buy a whole set (which is the only way they seem to sell it) because I only use full-sized sheets (which I have just bought), and so a too-big fitted sheet plus two pillowcases is wasted.

But it has become a bigger obsession for me, because although I can find PLENTY of named patterns on ralphlauren.com and throughout the web, this one is unnamed. Nothing on the packaging or tags, and on eBay (where several of them are listed) they can only describe it by appearance, even though there are plenty of other RL sheets being sold with the pattern name included. It just doesn't make sense! It's like a red-headed stepchild that RL dumped on the world and can barely bring himself to acknowledge (although it is packaged with his name).

Anyone who can help me?

Monday, January 12, 2015

Dear Elizabeth Warren

Please don't run for President... in 2016. You can run in 2020 or later, but not this time. We've seen what happened when a bright and engaging up-and-comer took advantage of the buzz and jumped in the race too early with Barack Obama. I think he wasn't ready. Another term or two in Congress would have given him more savvy, more experience and more equipment to do the job, and he has badly needed it.

You have the wit and the intelligence and the drive to fix problems that we desperately need, but I want you to not have a half-baked presidency; I want you to go in with the skills and preparation to fight a four or eight year battle against Big Money and not fall short. We need someone like you in the worst way... but a fully matured politician (as much as I hate that term) and not a beginner. I want you to survive and thrive in the office.

Thursday, December 18, 2014

Christmas Letter 2014

Christmas 2014

Dear Family and Friends,

Christmas Letter, as per the usual. Let's see, news...
A Biscuit in a basket
Added a Cat. I acquired a gorgeous white-and-biscuit-colored kitten in late Summer named, appropriately, Biscuit. He is exceedingly floofy (his tail looks like a vast pouf of cotton candy), and bids fair to be bigger than either Bunny or Squeaky George. He is already large and in charge, and indifferent to things like other kitties' Personal Space. Very much an Alpha kitty, and he chases both his older siblings up and down the hall, especially George. George is still rather hissy about this addition to the household, and yet his affinity for licking cannot keep him from occasionally giving Biscuit a bath. It usually goes like this:
1) *hiss*
2) *lick-lick-lick-lick*
3) George remembers he doesn't like Biscuit
4) *hiss*
5) George runs away

I should mention that George is a big old coward. Bunny is beautifully dignified, as always, although she has been annoyed into reminding Biscuit of his place with an occasional *whap* of her paw. Her regular response is to simply go away when he gets all up in her grill. When he is full grown, I suspect he will prove to be either be a Maine Coon or part Ragdoll, and MUCH bigger than either of them. Hopefully he won't be a bully. But he is far more affectionate and cuddly with me than either of them, so in the "Who does Mommy love best?" contest, he's pretty much already won. But I make sure the others get equal time. Although Biscuit's determined attempts to drape himself over my keyboard while napping in my lap is a nuisance. As is the curtain-climbing.

Discovered my Specific Allergies. I had pinkeye twice this Fall, and the second bout was so bad that my eye doctor got a little freaked out. The attending doctor insisted I go get my allergies checked (it was allergy-based conjunctivitis) and it turns out that I am allergic to dust mites, cockroaches, and dog hair. Thank God, not my cats! But I am starting to take steps to reduce the dust mites in particular, with special bedding, more aggressive cleaning, and eventually putting in hardwood floors.

Resumed Choir. I went back to singing alto with the Chamber Singers and Parish Choir at St. Bartholomew. I took a choral sabbatical in the Fall of 2013, and so when it started up again this year I jumped back in, and was relieved that the burnout I was feeling 12 months earlier was completely gone. I do seem to spend a lot of time singing... more in the last 5-10 years than in all the years prior to that! I genuinely prefer singing backup or harmonizing with other singers -- I have very little wish to be a soloist.

Pining for a Farm. This year I really began to long for a property out in the country, or at least remote enough that I could keep some livestock without bothering my neighbors. My dream situation is a few acres (conveniently located near interstate exits so I can be on the road to clients frequently) south of Nashville, a smallish house, and space for beehives, and eventually maybe even chicken and goats. I want to garden and putter about and have a project shed. I want to have barn cats. I am technically "looking," but with full knowledge that it will be an Act of God if such a property were to come available in my limited price range and location.

Acquired Furniture. I finally got the last two pieces I have wanted to get for some time; a china cupboard and a good dining room table and chairs. Both were bought secondhand from dear friends, and I cannot express the satisfaction I get every time I look across the room at them. It makes me feel like I’m FINALLY a grownup! However, the floor around them is usually covered in cat toys, so it is rarely as tidy as I would like.

Ran Out of Updates. Seriously, I am sitting here racking my brain for anything new to tell about events of the past year, and I am drawing a blank! Things happened; I worked, I had appointments with computer clients, I spent time with friends and family... but nothing particularly notable! So I shall leave it there. 2014: A quiet year for me; not necessarily for the rest of the world.

God bless you and your family in 2015.
Let there be peace on earth, and let it begin with me.

Love,

Susan

Monday, November 10, 2014

Character Flaw or Characteristic?

Read this article on Introverts first: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2014/11/07/physical-behavior-of-introverts_n_6069438.html

I felt relieved reading this... some of the points made are about things I've always felt somewhat guilty about; I feared I was selfish and a navel-gazer. I don't like trivial small talk. If I ask you how you are, I actually want to know, and if you ask me, it never occurs to me that you don't actually want to know!

I hate answering the phone unless I am actively waiting for a call. The majority of calls I get make me pick up the phone to see who it is, and sigh and mutter "please just leave me alone!" unless it is friends or family. This is why I have come to prefer texting and email; it gives me time to consider my response, which apparently is what I need. In addition, I don't like in-depth phone calls, because I am missing a lot of visual cues that I need to gauge my response. They're fine for a brief exchange of information without all the "How are you?" preludes.

I don't tend to think of myself as being overstimulated when I get stressed out; but the distractions of people in conversation nearby makes me want to tear my hair out sometimes at work. I can't tune them out, and so I feel fragmented, and I can feel my energy draining out of me.

I have no problem being on stage. It's never frightened me, even when I was doing improv. I was mediocre at best, but it never made me nervous. I can stand in front of a group of people and talk to them at any time about anything.

When in a large group setting, like choral singing, or a classroom, I move to the periphery if at all possible. So for me it's not the aisle seat, which is worthless once you're in the air since you can't leave; I pick the window seat. If it's choir practice, I sit on the far right on the outer seat of the altos if I can. I have a rather low-grade claustrophobia, but I can manage it fairly well. I can sit in the middle... but it will take energy.

When it is night and time for bed, even in my own home I always feel relieved that I can go in my bedroom and shut the door; moreso if I am in company. Heck, I'm even relieved to shut the kitties out! They are distracting and wakeful. So you can imagine when I am at my yearly work convention with 12,000 attendees, and I'm running the General Information booth! So many times co-workers or friends want to go out and do something in the evenings... I just want to go home and recharge.

Conversely, once I've recharged, I need to expend some of that energy. I do need to be around people on an almost daily basis, but for much less time than everyone else, it seems. This is one reason I suspect I'm meant to stay single. I simply can't imagine what it would be like to have a husband who was always around!

Friday, May 09, 2014

Singleness vs. Long-Term Projects

Homesteaders: Pie Town, New Mexico 1940 October
Photo by Russell Lee
 
So... of late I have been newly aware of the limitations in being Single. For years, 95% of the time I have enjoyed my freedom and independence... leaving parties when I liked, only hanging out with people I like, doing nothing much when I come home from work except sit down and watch TV, eating food straight from the container, scheduling whatever I wish whenever I wish. Come and go as I bloody well please. When you live alone, there's no-one to annoy you, to compromise with, to take into consideration of when you make noise late at night or fart or don't feel like sharing food.

But there's also no-one to do Big Things with. My friendships tend to be primarily social, and don't generally extend into the nitty-gritty parts of daily life. If I have something in the car that is too heavy for me to bring up the stairs safely, too bad. If there is a spider to be killed, I have to do it. If the car is on the fritz, I have to find my own ride to and from the shop. If Squeaky George throws up his dinner in various places around the condo, I have to clean it up. If I want to go on vacation, there's no-one guaranteed available to go with me. There's no-one to feed the cats if I'm working late. If I have an accident, I have to drive myself to the hospital if I'm not incapacitated, or ride alone in the ambulance. This is part of the 5% of dissatisfaction I have with Single Life; fortunately it usually takes the shape of minor inconveniences. And I do have friends and family I can call for emergencies; they just aren't on-call, exactly!

However, lately I have been wishing for someone to team up with on projects. I need help doing those things I am too lazy to do, or need accountability to help follow through with worthwhile things. For example:
  • I wish I had someone to exercise with regularly, to go on walks with or to go to the gym with several times a week. I'd like someone who'd help me, as I would help him. A teammate.
  • I wish I had a partner to buy a piece of property and build a house together; like one of those Not-Too-Big Houses that is cosy and charming and well-designed.
  • I wish I had someone who wanted to plan & carry out home improvements; the kind of things I think would be nice in my house, but then I consider what it will entail, and that I will have to do it all on my own, and I sigh and forget about it.
  • I wish I had someone to do yard work with, in our own yard. I want to garden, to keep bees, and maybe someday even chickens and goats.
  • I wish I had someone to travel with. I really don't like the discomforts of travel, but if I can settle into a place for a week or more, I'd love to go back to England or Japan or Europe... but not on my own again. I need help.
  • I wish I had someone whose strengths complemented my weaknesses, and vice-versa.
And no, these are not tasks for a Friend, to my way of thinking. I have had dozens of friends leave town over the years, or marry and have children, or have other occupations that, because they aren't bound to me, they will want to do instead. Please don't make recommendations of That Nice Girl You Met That Time Who Is Single Too or That Guy at Our Church Who Is Always Available. I have plenty of folks like that around me already. I'm not lonely; I just need someone who isn't going anywhere, who is bound to me for a lifetime. And I'm spoiled enough by 40+ years of freedom to not just want SOMEONE; I'd like a husband who I'd enjoy the process with.

I'm afraid I have lost my romantic streak. I discovered recently that I found myself unexpectedly annoyed when watching Franco Zeffirelli's Romeo & Juliet. It doesn't feel romantic, it feels stupidly unnecessary. Romance fiction, rom-coms, etc. - no more enjoyment. Romantic love seems inconceivable. I've seen too many failed love affairs and too many horrific divorces. Since we all know that the spark of romantic love dies out eventually, and the best you can hope for is affection and mutual respect and friendship, I don't think this is necessarily a bad state of thought for me to arrive at... Although I kind of miss it; it's a nice world to visit and fantasize about being in love myself. But now I feel like someone living on a homestead in the wilderness who just needs someone to help bring in the crops.