I confess: I’ve been neglecting my blog for cloth bound composition books with college-ruled paper and bright, cardboard covers in red, blue, purple, green, and something Mead likes to call “teal.”
I’ve been neglecting my blog in favor of hand-written pages, three of them, that allow me to just spew out ideas without any real goal, structure, or spell checking. Writing these pages this way lets me see the ideas unformed and without the censorship that happens between my brain and the keyboard. But, no more. And since every major news organization is doing a so-called year in review (NPR‘s “Memorable moments 2007” (which was oddly prefaced when I looked at it this morning with a picture of John Lennon and Yoko Ono circa 1980 (wtf?), Entertainment Weekly‘s “The Top 25 Entertainers Of The Year“, and CNN‘s “Year In Review 2007” (prosaically named and dwelling on the big news stories in the U.S.) I thought, why not do one of my own? It’s a good exercise and lets me look back and my triumphs and missteps with a certain degree of objectivity.
2007: By Quarters
Q1: January, February, March
It shouldn’t be red and itchy and oozing like that, should it?
After spending the last two weeks of December in 2006 ramping up to the full dose, I start taking 300mg of Wellbutrin daily. Despite the blurred vision, the dizziness, and the tingling in my hands – all “normal” side effects – I’m willing to give the meds a chance for the simple reason that they seemed to be working. I’m more focused, have more energy, am sleeping better, and suddenly not breathing doesn’t seem like such an attractive life choice. I take the full dose for a week or so and then I call my doctor to ask him about this itchy rash that’s all over my head and starting to creep down the back of my neck, and the fact that from the eyebrows up I suddenly have the skin of a fifteen year-old with better things to do than wash her face. My doctor tells me with a small measure of panic in his voice, enough for me to hear any way, that I should stop taking the pills immediately. Being who I am, I hit the internet as soon I as hang up the phone.
Stevens-Johnson syndrome, which starts as an itchy rash, has been associated with use of Wellbutrin, which is also marketed in lower doses as the smoking cessation medication Zyban, and according to one reputable site is fatal in 15% of the people who contract it (which, admittedly, is an incredibly small percentage of those taking the medication…but still).
My rash goes away in about a week (the acne took much, much longer and was oh such a boon to my self-image). When I ask the doctor why he didn’t tell me that this was a possible side effect he pulls out a hand-held electronic whiz-bang, looks the drug up on his portable version of the PDR, and starts reading me all the possible side effects.
Net Result: I fire my shrink and go back to reminding myself that I haven’t always felt like this, I won’t always feel like this,and that spring is coming soon.
Why yes, I do need to be hit in the head with a 2×4. Thank you.
After getting more involved than I should have in the life of someone I thought was a friend suddenly the friendship is no more. Yes, I was dumped by unreturned text message in February.
No “I need space because of catastrophic life events” (of which there were a few on both sides) or “I don’t have time to be your friend any more because this wonderful thing has happened” (of which there was one, hers) nor any “Hey, get away from me. I don’t want you in my life any more” (that would have been so nice). Just dead. fucking. silence.
Rather ironically, my unreturned text message was an expression of my own insecurity and a request to make sure our friendship was stable.
I spend the next 10 months dissecting what happened and, mostly, wondering what the hell I did wrong only to realize that mistakes were made on both sides (yes, it does take two to tango, or merengue, or any other damn thing).
Sober reflection tells me that two months of explanations about unreturned or tardily returned messages (“Work is just really busy right now”) should have been a clue for me that something was amiss. It also tells me that if she is to be forgiven her lack of courage and her inability to come right out and say she didn’t want me as a friend any longer that I am to be equally forgiven my inability to read subtle clues in human relationships.
Net Result: When after repeated, but spaced out, attempts by me to reestablish contact not even an e-card shows up for my birthday I finally conclude I’m never going to get closure, and, really, I deserve better than that. So, I just stop caring.
Along the way I discover 43things.com where I find a community of people committed to amorphous goals like “find at least one thing each day that makes me happy and record it everyday for a year,” and “let go of people who are bad for me.” I blame Jim for introducing me to 43T.
Wallis Simpson was full of shit: you can so be too thin
I keep eating and the number on the scale keeps going down. I know, not the usual problem that most people have in the first part of the year but despite our culture’s emphasis on thinness, the idea that I’m not getting enough nutrition to hold my weight scares the living hell out of me.The nutritionist I end up seeing has me write down everything – what goes in, what comes out, and how I feel about it – and gradually I learn that while part of the problem is in my stomach, some of it is also in my head: having antibiotics totally clean out all of your digestive flora will fuck you right up when it comes to trusting that lunch is going to stay down. And it makes the entire eating experience more than a little fraught with anxiety.
Net result: I spend the first six months of the year relearning how to eat.
One of the things that I learn is that I can no longer eat even vaguely close to what the average American eats (e.g.: the lunch of chips and a sandwich and a soda) without feeling clogged with fat and chemicals; I need my cup of vegetables at lunch and my fruit a bit later. The other thing I (re)learn is that food can be a source of enjoyment and fuel but you have to treat your body right.
I gain six and half pounds over eight months – up from 138.5 (which at my height was emaciated) to 145 and hold there, with some minor setbacks, for the rest of the year.
Q2: April, May, June
Fish are friends not food…except when they’re medicine
My depression is chronic, sometimes low-level, sometimes so blinding it’s all I can do to get up in the morning. Living like this isn’t really living, it’s existing, and who the hell wants to do that for any length of time. So, I find another shrink, this one a little more crunchy and a little more willing to listen than the last one who, NewShrink agrees, was a weird, weird little man.And after listening to my “18 months from hell” story, much of which was, I admit, my own doing, he asks me what I want and the answer just pops out: I’m tired of feeling uncomfortable.
We try some alternative therapy: 3 grams of DHA & EPA (i.e: fish oil; always molecularly distilled) per day plus 600mg of calcium. Apparently this combination worked wonders in clinical trials of nurses and nursing students in New Zealand.
Net Result: It takes about a month before my system adjusts to the fish oil (it repeats if you mix it with dairy at first) but there’s no rash, no blurred vision, no hand tremors, it doesn’t make me gain weight and it doesn’t screw with my libido, and life gradually starts not to suck so hard. I can adjust my dosage up to 5 grams per day if I need to but I really haven’t needed to all year. I’m sure the clerks at Trader Joe’s think I’m reselling the stuff on the underground economy but the nearest store to me is such a pain to get to that it’s easier to buy four or five months’ worth in advance.
Strategic silences can be an ally
During a trip to the beach I run into an acquaintance, one who initiated a seriously embarrassing situation several years ago in which I was the totally innocent, albeit slightly drunk and oblivious to what was going on, party. The incident has faded into a source of amusement at my house, something to be dragged out teasingly for fun, yet it’s clear when I encounter this woman that she is still utterly mortified, more so now that she is newly sober. I’m simply thanking whatever gods exist that I wasn’t wearing the sundress I bought that day (what? it was the beach, it was hot, and the dress was on sale for 50% off).The banter is awkward and I resist the urge to fill, as I so often do, the conversational pauses with whatever pops to the front of my brain which is usually something embarrassing and way too personal. I smile a lot.
Net Result: I learn the value of silence. Finally.
Q3: July, August, September
Well, it was the closest thing we have to institutionalized torture
I skipped my 20 year high school reunion in July. I wouldn’t have had to travel but 30 minutes by car to get to it but it was three days of drinking, reminiscing about events I barely remember, and of the 743 people in my graduating class I only wanted to speak to about a dozen and none of them registered on any of the alumni boards. My friend Danny wasn’t in my class, he was a year behind me, and, well, he’s already dead. So that made paying over $150 for event tickets kind of pointless.
Net Result: No faux-nostalgia for me and no regrets about it either.
Because getting older is better than the alternative
So far my thirties have kind of sucked. I’m hoping my forties will be better. I’ll see in a few years. But this year I managed to actually enjoy my birthday for the first time in a long time.
Net Result: Birthday lemon meringue pie is so much better than birthday cake when your birthday is in the hottest month of the year where you live.
No payments until the next offer comes in the mail
I like to think that I’m fairly skeptical about the mass media and how they portray news. Based on that and all the bleating the media are doing about the “credit crunch,” I decide on a little experiment: in September instead of shredding those credit card offers I’ll keep track of how many I get and of what type they are just to see of “credit crunch,” and the implied lack of availability of credit, is accurate.
Net Result: It’s not.
During the 30 calendar days in September I received 18 offers for new credit cards (8 by e-mail, 9 by postal mail, and one on the tail end of a receipt from Target), three balance transfer offers, one offer for a “flex line of credit” which I could use to pay off all my other cards, an two pre-approved loan offers one for a home equity loan and one for a car loan both, oddly, from the bank at which I already hold a car loan that I’m paying off so fast that as of December 29, 2007 my next minimum payment due date is sometime in April 2009.
Q4: October, November, December
It was a gift from 312 of my closest friends
Sometime in October I miss an episode of Bionic Woman which would normally be OK since watching Michelle Ryan try to act is as interesting as watching paint dry, but with less hallucinogenic off-gassing. This missed episode featured Katee Sackhoff chewing the scenery to bits as Sara Corvus and since I enjoy watching Katee Sackhoff chew the scenery whether she’s doing it as an inconsistently written psychotic cyborg or she’s doing it as a depressive, alcoholic fighter pilot I did what any red-blooded geek would do: I hit the torrents to find the missing installment of the show.And what I discovered is that I have no problems with downloading a missed episode of a show: TV is free, it should be free, and anyone who thinks otherwise is an idiot. If NBC wants me to watch ads then they should build them in to the downloadable, burnable version of the show that they make available from their corporately authorized site. Wait, you say they don’t make any such thing available? That’s what I thought.
I also discovered that there are a lot of interesting things floating around out there, things that looked good enough to sample…until I started feeling like a thief. But I also discovered something else, of all the music I “acquired” this year, whether it came from 312 of my closest friends in 25mb pieces or it came in a hard plastic jewel case retrieved from the depths of the Borders at 19th and L Streets downtown, not much of it was actually worth paying for even if the RIAA has decided that ripping copies of CDs you legally purchased is a copyright violation.
Net Result: I decide that I will be doing a lot of sample listening to music on iTunes and other sites before I make any CD purchases in 2008. I also wonder what, exactly, they hope we’ll get out of a :30 sample? Why not a minute at extremely low quality (mono at 24kbps for example)? Oh, wait, that would require the folks who design digital music formats to give a shit about audio fidelity. Never mind.
Official count: 50,229
Thirty days of doing nothing but eat, sleep, go to work, grunt at my loved ones, and write: we call this experience National Novel Writing Month. It’s masochistic and it’s torturous but it’s productive.
Net Result: I end up with a (shitty) first draft of the second book of a trilogy started in 2005 and a firm commitment to the idea that 2008 is the year I will at least attempt to get published. My 2004 NaNoWriMo novel is nearly ready to pitch.
Now if I could only think of the rest of the plot for book three.
1.8% is not an ‘excellent rating’ quality raise. Try again.
I pass the one-year mark my current job. I still like the place, despite its foibles (no direct deposit and shitty holidays), and, based on my rating of “excellent” on my annual review they still like me.I discuss with my two official bosses and my one unofficial boss how my job will be changing over the next year: more responsibilities, possible staff supervision (stab me now), and perhaps even strategic communications planning for the entire organization. That’s a lot of responsibility.
But when my raise comes through it’s 1.8% of my salary, not enough to cover cost of living. After I calm down enough to make my hands stop shaking, and I check in with one of my coworkers who confirms that yes, our mutual boss is the stingiest person in the organization (see what happens when you work in the fundraising department), I write a nice, logical, supported by facts e-mail stating that the proffered raise is totally inadequate and giving them the opportunity to come up with something better.
Net Result: They come back with 4%, which is still only 0.5% for merit increase (I firmly believe that any baseline raise should match the cost of living) but in an organization that “has no structure for raises based on merit” it’s enough.
When I bring up how stupid this pay structure is and how it simply rewards mediocre performance my boss’ reply is “well, some of us work for more than the money” to which I don’t have the heart to retort “yes, but my mortgage company won’t accept a warm, fuzzy feeling of do-gooding as payment next month.” I’m totally unsurprised, though, given that this is the same management structure that decided to “unfire” someone who had been fired for not showing up and not calling in for a whole month.
I feel all full of myself until they release the new employee handbook in the middle of December, a week after I accept my increase, which states that effective October 1, 2007 the baseline raise for jobs in my grade is 3.5% of my then current salary.
I make a note to self to take a long lunch at least once per week.
The rest of 2007 was pretty mundane: walks, decluttering my house, work, trips to the comic book store where I rediscovered the fact that I have breasts (it’s the only reason I can think of why the geeks blush and won’t look me in the eye; I always check to make sure I don’t have spinach stuck in my teeth after I leave and it’s not like I’m actually reading Battlestar Galactica fill-in floppies).
So here is to hoping that the world regains some balance in 2008, that the U.S. can finally get its collective head out of its collective orifice, that we stop paying so much attention to the antics of celebutants and try to concentrate on solving some of the problems that plague both us and our fellow neighbors on this lovely water planet we call Earth.