Vision and Contact Lenses

I have a condition called keratoconus and even with glasses, the vision in my right eye is really bad. With both eyes I can see pretty well, but the moment I close my left, even with the glasses, light bounces all around and the world gets very very fuzzy. Soft contacts can’t deal with this, but rigid gas permeable ones can, in part because they can actually sculpt them to the shape of my cornea.

I decided to give them a try since I have good health care and because they are covered under my medical insurance because keratoconus is considered a medical condition. I am on my third pair since there was a period of adjustment and alteration as we went through the first two prescriptions. Unfortunately, I’m struggling to get used to them because of how uncomfortable they are and, more problematic, the fact that when I take them out, my eyes need several hours to adjust to wearing glasses again and everything, especially text, is blurry. There really isn’t any time when I can afford to not be able to read or work at a computer, so that readjustment period is definitely a problem.

Additionally, trying to concentrate on dense, theoretical texts while I feel like I have two rocks stuck in my eyes is not an easy thing to do. From the moment I put them in my attention tends to focus on the fact that my vision is still adjusting to the new way of dealing with light AND that they are just damned uncomfortable.

I like the idea of contacts, but I’m not sure I’m going to be able to make them work. Still, I’m going to try to wear them for at least 4-5 hours every day between now and 8/31 when I have an appointment with my cornea specialist.

So that’s my bitching for the day. Mostly I’m writing this because it doesn’t require a lot of concentration and makes me feel like I’m doing something when all I want to do is take these damn things out of my eyes when I’ve only had them in for a little over an hour.

The Shape of Summer Days

The shape of my summer days shall be:

morning

  • get up by 7 am (shift over time to 6:30 am)
  • do NOT check email, Facebook, Twitter, etc. as the very first thing I do
  • some kind of movement – at the very least stretching and a few yoga poses, but more often alternate between my pushup and situp routines and the Couch 2 5K program
  • write something
  • write anything
  • it doesn’t matter if it is a blog post, a letter, part of a script or a short story or a poem or lyrics for a song and for now, there is no word/lenght minimum, no matter how small I will put words to paper or computer screen
  • breakfast – where I am allowed, if I choose, to check email, Facebook, Twitter, etc.
  • go to the library
  • write 250 – 300 words of my Zombie/Butoh article that is due July 16
  • edit my Into the Woods paper that is due May 27
  • research/read for comprehensive exams

afternoon

  • lunch
  • read for comprehensive exams
  • go to gym
  • read for comprehensive exams
  • practice guitar/ukelele

evening

  • dinner
  • watch a movie or read for pleasure or compose music or spend time with friends
  • go to bed by 10:30

That’s the plan. There will be some hiccoughs, there always are. And my trip to RI and Maine will be focused on mostly socializing, though I will try to keep my morning routine intact (sans most of my comprehensive exam work). These will be my weekdays and I hope to use my weekends for music making and exploring Pittsburgh a bit more and hopefully doing some camping or hiking or kayaking or other activities that get me out of the city when I can, spending quality time with people I like when I can, and generally enjoying some of what life here can offer beyond the ivory tower.

Broken – But in a Different Way

So, no, this isn’t another in a series of Ltl’s mental and emotional inventories. This is just a quick update that I fractured my distal fibula when I tripped and fell as I stepped off a curb and into a slight pothole. I spend the next three days hoping I’d just twisted it and it would get better, but the nature of the pain the the swelling finally brought me to see a doctor on yesterday. A quick x-ray and it was off to the Orthopedics department to be seen and fitted with a boot that I need to wear for the next 3 weeks (fortunately I can take it off to sleep and shower).

This has diverted much of my attention away from the first week of school, as well as being frustrating because I’d lost 5 lbs from the last time I was at the doctor’s and now I’m worried about gaining it all back since I’ll be doing considerably less exercise. But it could be much worse and I’ll just need to be more careful with my diet (which I should probably do anyway – not that I eat poorly, I just have problems with portion control).

So, that’s an update on the physical. Here, you want to see some pics? Click through. I’m not a big fan of pictures of feet so I’m not going to put them up on the main page. Continue reading

More Thoughts Related to Just Ok

The greyness of ok. Of getting up in the morning because I have to, because I have set goals for myself and I am striving to fulfill them. I don’t seem to take much pleasure in the things I do, even the things I ought to . . . no, things I do enjoy . . . everything just feels muted. Soft pastels. Grey shades.

Moments occur, moments of laughter. Moments of joy. When Hope came downstairs when Jay was reading her a bedtime story, came downstairs just to hug me good night. Yeah, that was a lovely moment. Times spent with friends and family, moments of grace. Laughter. Safety. Love.

And I feel . . . sometimes deeply. I get weepy while watching TED talks sometimes, or seeing moments of beauty and grace in this world. I find myself wanting to cry at moments of honesty and connection. So it’s not like I’m shut down, not by a long shot. I feel . . . I just don’t seem to feel entirely connected to my own life, to my own possibilities. Everything is ok. But ok isn’t enough, is it? I mean, it’s so much better than bad, so much better than pain, so much better than complete emptiness or depression. It’s so much better than so many people’s lives. But . . . no, I can have more. I deserve more. I don’t know why or who, but the ok-ness seems connected to a lack of faith in myself . . . not that’s not quite right . . . or maybe it is. The thing is . . . the thing is that I stopped believing, not in myself, but in the potential for me to be someone greater than myself, in the potential to take the me of now and go meet the me that is even better.

I’d forgotten that I am invited, by anyone, to do anything:

So here I am, wondering, what next, how to take the grey of ok and paint my life in brighter colors, splashes of vibrant blue and orange and crimson and yellow; how to embrace potential, change, growth, challenge, and creativity with excitement and energy; how to stop being tired, stop being in physical pain (mostly the muscles in my upper back and neck, and on a very regular basis), stop settling for bad skin and the 20-30 pounds of too heavy; how to stop settling, period.

Look, yeah, the alienation bit, the loneliness, kinda sucks at times. Sometimes worse than others. There’s this quote which I absolutely, one-hundred percent grok:

”Loneliness isn’t a need for company, but a longing for kindred souls.” Marylin French

Yeah, I see other people who have found their groups of kindred souls, especially creative kindred souls and I feel jealous of what they have because, for whatever reason, I haven’t really found my creative kin and god how I yearn for that: to have other artists to create with, to inspire, to challenge, to make me come alive with ideas and problems and anxieties and solutions and beauty and art and to collaborate and make things that mean things and that mark this world in some real and important, even if small, way. Partners-in-crime. Compadres.

I’ve been waiting in the grey for them to come along. To spark the sky with either sunrise or sunset instead of this dreary, fine, ok fog. But that’s not working. And time is ticking. Ticking. Ticking.

Away.

“Ticking away the moments that make up a dull day”

No more waiting. It’s time to start painting in the colors of my life, going outside the lines if I want to. I know I need some help to do this and that it won’t happen overnight and that, as Jen texted last night ODAAT (which, if you are like me and had no frakin’ clue what that meant, it’s “one day at a time”).

If I had the hair to comb, this would be the song I would leave you with:

But I don’t. And can’t really comb my hair in any style (which, I’ll be honest, is the worst thing about the whole bald thing: you can’t fuck around with your look). So instead, I’ll leave you with song I’ll hopefully feel, deeply and intensely, sometime sooner rather than . . . well, never.

Broken, Part 1

I’ve been putting off writing this essay all day because I am rather frightened of putting these thoughts into words and putting those words out to the world. But I have done nearly all my other work for the day and I need to maintain my current goal of writing 500 words every day. So, here goes.

I think I’m broken.

Stop. Hold on. Let me back up to how I was originally going to start this essay as if formed in my head this morning at 7 am while I was struggling to get motivated to get up . . .

The thing about Hawaii is that each and every morning I was there, I was eager to get up, to see the sunrise, to feel the wind, to smell the air. Each and every day I was up early and excited for the day. I’m sure that the time change had something to do with it, even Joya, who is decidedly not a morning person was getting up early. I’m also sure it was the newness and excitement of being on vacation. Still, days when I’m genuinely excited and looking forward to the day are . . . well, let’s just say very, very rare.

So that’s where I was going to start. A safe place, a positive memory. So why start with “I think I’m broken”? Because, I think it’s true and I think I need to work on fixing it before I go back to Hawaii because if I don’t, if I go to Hawaii and find that, after the newness wears off, I go back to dragging myself out of bed each and every morning instead of embracing the day and feeling excited . . . well, I just don’t know what I’d do.

Now, what do I mean by “broken.” I honestly don’t quite know exactly. I know that I’m not clinically depressed: I can laugh when I’m with people I care about and trust, I can deeply enjoy books and movies. I am able, despite the fact that I am never actually excited by the day, to get up and to work and to create and to get some regular—if not enough—exercise. I have started playing my guitar again and am thinking of even attempting an open mic night before the summer ends. I am very happy with my new apartment and feel so much more positive about my surroundings on a daily basis because of it. Although, while I say “very happy”, I’ll be honest: I don’t know what that means. I certainly appreciate my new apartment and even love it in some ways, but happiness . . . happiness seems like it’s something other people do. I have moments of joy, moments of laughter, and moments of great contentment. Most of those moments have to do with being around people I feel safe with and who I genuinely like/love. But they remain moments. Happiness . . . happiness . . . I don’t think I know what that means. At least not in any kind of real, sustained way.

“Are you happy,” Emily asked me when we met for lunch while I was in RI.
“I’m working on it,” I replied.

We talked more, though she was asking most of the questions. At one point, she asked if I’d considered getting help. The word “drugs” was mentioned. She wasn’t the first to have mentioned getting help. Joya had suggested, several times, that I might benefit from either talk therapy or, possibly (and she would broach the subject carefully), some combination of drugs might be in order. I wouldn’t hear of it. I mean, it’s all my fault: I don’t get enough sleep, I don’t exercise enough, I don’t maintain a decent creative output, I don’t meditate, I don’t do yoga, I don’t seem able to find the right group friends who will spark me in the right way.1 If I just did all the things I ought to do, I’d be happy. Right?

Right?

“Are you happy?”

I’m reminded of the scene in Woody Allen’s Annie Hall when, after breaking up with Annie, his character approaches a beautiful looking couple and says that they look like a happy couple, very much in love, what is their secret? The woman responds, “Uh, I’m very shallow and empty and I have no ideas and nothing interesting to say,” and her partner follows her with, “And I’m exactly the same way.” But, as much as I might find that scene amusing, it’s cheap and cynical, and exactly the kind of defensive maneuver that . . .

wait.

No. Wait up. Hold on. I’m avoiding the issue.

The issue is I’m lonely. The issue is I can’t remember the last time I woke up genuinely excited and looking forward to the day. The issue is that I am constantly struggling to do the things I love to do and to be the person I know I want to be. The issue is that I prefer staying in my apartment, alone, because the feeling of being alone in a crowd when I’m surrounded by others is getting to be so heart-breakingly difficult that I sometimes want to cry while walking down the street and watching all these people, this whole other species of beings that seem to have figured out (or at least that’s how I am perceiving them), how to do this life thing.

The underlying issue is this: I’m lost. Lost in a mind that hasn’t let me be fully me in a long, long time. And I’ve gotten used to living on a level that denies me full access to my love of self and of others; to my love of my work and my thoughts; to my courage and desire to be a force in this world instead of running away from it.

As I write these words, with the plan of posting them in public view on my website, I feel sick with worry about my mother’s response, about my father’s thoughts—not that they will judge me or think ill of me, but I don’t know how to face their concern and love in this matter without reading it as pity—no, that’s not quite right either. It’s their sorrow I am terrified of.

I’m also worried about the fact that my colleagues in the department may very well read these words, colleagues who I respect as students, historians, academics, and scholars but who are not, for the most part, close friends. I don’t want people to know, especially people I’m not close to, that I don’t have my own shit together and that I’m not fully and completely capable of being as completely self-sufficient as possible.

Also, this means that I am making a commitment to try to change things. That I am, in public, committing myself to get better and to make an effort, no matter how uncomfortable that effort might be, to regain the me I distantly remember from a long time ago.

But really, the resistance and the pain and the tears of writing this, of posting this for all to see is that I am, here and now, admitting to something that is the hardest fucking thing in the world for me to admit:

I need help.2

  1. I console myself with the thought that at least I’m not blaming the universe for just being a harsh an unfair place like I spent most of my twenties doing. At least there’s that. []
  2. I’m staring at this damn blinking cursor trying to work up the courage to post this and my mind is already thinking of ways to back away from some of what I’ve just written, to pass it off as nothing but too much wine and a lonely Friday night; that I’m being self-pitying and self-indulgent and that my problem is that I’m just lazy and think too much and I just need to work harder, exercise more, get more sleep, and it’ll all be better, I can fix this all on my own, really I can. Really. There’s nothing really wrong with me at all, forget what I just said. Of course, I need to post this for back-pedaling and disclaimers to mean anything. Still staring. I guess if you’ve read this, I have, at some point, hit Control+Command+P. []

My Summer Job

I had originally hoped to spend about 6 weeks of the summer traveling to various parts of the country: SF, New Orleans, New York, Maryland, Rhode Island, Maine, Boston, and Vermont. Then I took a good long look at my finances and realized this probably was not going to happen. Then I got word of a research fellowship offered by the department and realized that since I have valid research interests in NY, DC, and at UC Davis, that if got the fellowship I could, indeed, do the majority of my travels as planned.

Alas, I did not receive the fellowship.

So it looks like I will be taking a quick jaunt to MD for a long weekend, as well as spending about 10 days in the New England area and that’ll have to do me for for the summer and so I won’t be seeing an exceedingly lovely group of women who all happen to live the in SF area and that, above all, makes me sad.

Still, lemons from lemonade, right?

Which brings me to my job for the summer: me.

I have enough saved to eke out a frugal summer without getting an actual job. I have my producing gig for PodCastle which will bring in a small amount each month (about 2 weeks worth of grocery shopping), and I’ll be looking to pick up some public speaking tutoring gigs, and I may keep an eye out for short term gigs here and there, but my actual job is going to be becoming more of the me I’d like to be. I have three main areas of responsibility: health, writing, and programming.

Health (6:30am – 8:00am)

I want to lose 10 pounds by the end of September (that’s 2.5 lbs per month, which is reasonable). But more than that, I want to accustom myself to exercising regularly to the point where it’s simply something I do, not something I force myself to do. My current exercise plan includes the 100 pushups program, the 200 sit-ups program (though I’m technically doing crunches, not sit-ups), on Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays. Also on those days I am doing at least 30 minutes of cardio split between my step machine and my rower. However I plan to increase that time to 50 minutes over the next 6 weeks.

On Tuesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays, I’m pursuing the Couch to 5K program if it’s not raining. If the weather doesn’t permit a run, then I will substitute the stepper/rower combination on those mornings.

In addition, Monday – Saturday I will be taking a walk for at least 30 minutes (again, if it’s constantly raining, then I can substitute with the stepper/rower combination). That can happen any time in the afternoon or evening.

(There is a diet component to this project: eating way more fruits and vegetables, as well as being much more conscious of portion sizes at dinner time and when eating out, but that will be ongoing and constant, and deserves its own post about the specific challenges and goals involved. Also, in order for me to guarantee that I’ll be getting up in the morning for this first part of my job, I need to get enough sleep, so I’ll be striving to get to bed, with lights off, by 11 pm at the latest on Sundays through Fridays.)

Writing (9:00am – 1:00pm)

Monday through Friday, following my exercise routine, I will shower and have breakfast, then write. My daily word goal is going to be 1000 words (for fiction) or 6 pages (for scripts). When I have reached those goals, I will then turn to other writing work: revisions to previously written drafts, submitting short stories, writing blog posts, writing/editing academic work, etc.

Programming (2pm – 4pm)

I have, for a while now, wanted to learn how to program in Cocoa so that I could write some programs for the Mac and the iOS platforms. With department chair suggesting I look at using computer programming as a possible second language, I have even more incentive. I know at least 2 simply but potentially interesting programs I’d like to write, but if I’m going to be serious about learning this, I need to devote at least 2 hours a day to really working through various training materials (books, websites, etc.) and working on samples and examples of code. This will be hard to do on my own, but it is possible, at least to get some of the basics down.But the only way to do this is to be diligent. Thus, Monday through Friday, I will be learning the basics of how to program.

Now, there may be times when I need to out for appointments of one sort or another, but I will be trying to make those for late afternoons. If they disrupt my programming sessions, then I will make up the time in the evening. However, starting tomorrow, to the best of my ability, nothing will disrupt my morning routines of exercise and writing.

Other Areas of Responsibility

Those are my primary responsibilities in the job of me, but I have others. During the week, late afternoons and evenings will be a combination of reading, practicing guitar and composing music. I will also be doing slow but constant studying for my qualifying exams. I may also try to get into a more regular habit of analog mail correspondence with my far flung friends (not promising on that front just yet).

Weekends

Other than morning exercise and an additional walk on Saturday, I haven’t scheduled much for the weekends and am going to try to use those to get out of the house a bit: maybe go to museums, meet people for brunch, possibly take a weekend trip or two if I can afford to, watch some movies, work on podcasts, read, and clean house.

Interruptions

I will be in New England for 10ish days at the end of June into early July and that will change my schedule quite drastically. I will keep the pushups and sit-ups going as I can do that no matter where I am, and I’ll do my damnedest to keep up with the Couch to 5K program. However, I probably will let the rest of it go since I’ll be visiting people and socializing and it’d be a drag to try and maintain a strict schedule on this “vacation.” I’ll be moving in early July – so that’ll be another day I don’t observe my regular schedule, Other than that, however, this is going to be my job schedule from tomorrow until the start of school in late August. At that point I’ll have to come up with a new schedule for myself that takes teaching and taking classes, as well as doing my 12 hours/week in the marketing office, into account. Mostly likely, I will have to cut back on my word count and some of my programming time, but I hope to have established exercise and writing and studying programming as habits that will remain as part of my life even during the semester.

So that’s my summer job. While I’m not responsible to anyone but myself to make this all happen, I hope that by framing these practices as my job will give me some motivation during those times I want to delay or skip something. Or when I have to make a choice between going out drinking on a Wednesday versus taking a rain-check and letting people know that I can only really socialize on weekends. (Challenge to myself: make sure that I do socialize on the weekends instead of holing up in my apartment.)

Couch to 5k

Today marks my first day of doing the Couch-to-5k program that will, by the end of nine weeks (as long as I am good and diligent and, you know, actually follow through with it), get me to the point where I can run 5km. I’ve never been much of a jogger. However, my increasing weight, the fact that I have, somehow, arrived at middle age, and my desire to not have a heart attack like my father did in his early 50s, and, most importantly, the inspiration of my friend Jay who has been doing this for several weeks now, have all led me to the point that I a) want to exercise regularly and b) need to make sure I don’t depend on various exercise machines to do said exercise. Thus, the walking/jogging route (although I did buy new sneakers since my other ones were close to 3 years old). That’s not to say I won’t use my step machine and rower, but those need to both be additional workouts and not my primary ones. Especially since I’m going to be traveling quite a bit this summer I need to be completely portable with my workouts.

Ok, so, I’m a bit geeky and did download C25K to help me with the program. I have to say, I kind of dig having to not worry about the time and that I can just let the program tell me when to walk and when to run.Overall, it was a good first day and it challenged me some but not in a wipe-me-out-oh-my-god sort of way. I’m kind of looking forward to my second day on Wednesday.

Some New Rules

A few new rules in place for this semester:

  1. On Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays I get up as close to 6am as I can and continue with my 100 pushups program (this is week 2 of the 6 week program.

  2. I follow the pushups with increasing time on my step machine and my rowing machine.

  3. I follow that exercise with creative writing for at least 300 words.

  4. Throughout this, I do not check email, Twitter, Facebook, or my RSS feeds until AFTER I have completed my writing and I listen to either birdsong radio or instrumental music until after writing.