Friday, October 20, 2017

My Kind of Crazy


I read two novels this week. Both have female characters who deal with mental illness, as do I. Naturally I've been thinking how these characters experiences are similar to and different from mine.

The book I enjoyed most was Turtles All the Way Down by John Green. I'd stopped reading RA novels as a rebellion against my profession, but my husband turned me on to his Vlog Brothers Youtube channel. Liking the author as a person led me to buy and read the book.

The character, Aza, is a seventeen-year-old girl in high school. She has the typical challenges of friends and homework, but she is also coping with the death of her father and with navigating "normal" life with OCD. Her illness takes the form of obsessive thoughts about her microbiome. Aza is terrified that the wrong germs will prevail and kill her. She reads and rereads articles about deadly bacteria.

Knowing that so much of our bodies are made up of bacteria makes her uncertain of her self-ness. Also, therapy has taught Aza that she is not her thoughts, but then, who is she? Medication is also an issue because if those chemicals change her, is she still herself?

The medication issue was a big one for me. I resisted antidepressants for a long time because I was afraid they would change who I am. Fiercely anti-perky, I really didn't want any form of "happy pill." I only started medication for the sake of my children. After more than 20 years, I can testify that my medications did not take away any of my natural German snarliness. They do keep me from crying all the time.

Aza's obsessions helped draw me into the book. I'm also fascinated by bacteria and parasites. I watched every episode of Monsters Inside Me. But my interest doesn't come with the same fear or the same sense of disconnection from myself. Aza struggles to find and hold on to herself, I struggle to value a self I sometimes feel stuck with.

My struggles more closely resemble those of Emily in Emily Dickinson: Beyond the Myth by Patricia Sierra, yet I had a hard time getting into the book.

I was looking for a biography. This is a novel from Emily's point of view. I don't think Emily, as portrayed in this book, would approve.

I do approve of the author downplaying whatever mental illness Emily may have suffered from. Diagnosis of the long-dead is a dicey science. In the book, Dickinson's withdrawal from society is a conscious choice she makes to focus on her art. At least that's what she tells herself. But we still see Emily unable to descend the stairs to meet a friend, unable to leave her house to sit at a loved one's death bed. 
I understand. social interaction is a lot of work and sometimes I just can't. Sometimes, even if my body is working, my mind revolts and I really need to stay curled up in a quiet corner.

Fortunately, I have a sense of adventure that gets me up and out of the house. It also gets me in trouble sometimes. Tonight is one of those times. Months ago, I was gutsy enough to ask a kind woman with a beautiful home to host a boutique of my knitting. Now it's here, the neighborhood is invited and I'm terrified. This is happening Thursday night. I publish Friday, so it will all be over when you read this. How it went is the topic of next week's blog. 

THE KNITTING--is all packed up for the show or for a trip we may take afterwards if technical difficulties with the new car are taken care of. I'll get back to you on that topic as well.
The fall crocus are in bloom--hope for spring as the leaves start to fall.

Friday, October 13, 2017

My Week as a Sidekick

I'm trying to learn how to take good pictures with my phone.

Last weekend was a wonderful adventure--Road trip!

Husband was eager to get out of the house and away from his computer. I'm always up for a drive. So we hopped into his sexy red car and started out, choosing our destination as we went. Eventually we settled on Flaming Gorge, a reservoir and hydroelectric dam in Eastern Utah.

My husband takes really good pictures.
It's no fun to go the same way twice, so we circled around the back side and arrived via scenic byway.

We saw antelope, deer, bison, and a herd of either wild or very unsupervised horses. Fall colors were fantastic and pretty small towns tempted us to move away from the traffic and strip malls at home.

We ended up driving all day, coming over a mountain and down a winding road towards home as the last light faded from the sky. It was a glorious day, definitely a wonderful prelude to an otherwise tiring (though productive) week.

I am slowly getting better at this.
I feel like I spent the rest of the week at a car dealership. The insurance money came in from our deer-totaled car and Oldest was ready to leap into adulthood and buy a car of his own. He did the research, picked a likely car, and set up an appointment to see it at our nearest Carmax.

Oldest didn't need my help, except it was apparently my responsibility to add the new car to our insurance.

So I went along, listened and nodded, but let my son do the talking and deciding. The presentation there was low-pressure and informative, my kid is really a grown-up, so it was as good as buying cars gets.

Which means it only took two or three hours. That's a long time to sit to make one phone call.

But oldest has a car now and doesn't need mine. Mission accomplished.

We sidekicks are always happy to help.
But two days later, I was back at the dealership. Husband's sexy red car is impractical in snow and aging into increasingly expensive repairs.  So he has been talking for several years about replacing the dream car with something more practical. It turns out that our road trip was a way of saying goodbye to the Mustang.

Oldest's positive experience led my husband to the Carmax website and to two possible replacement vehicles.

And led me to another couple hours at the dealership. More input was expected from me this time. Technically this is "our" vehicle, but my husband is the one who will be driving it every day. This is replacing a car from wall posters and action movies. My husband was the one who had to choose.

We are now the proud owners of a luxurious silver SUV.

And I got to call the insurance company.


THE KNITTING

I've completed the second of five or six planned mermaid tail blankets. This is as many as I have to have ready by Christmas and I've got a good start on next Christmas.                                                          

This is a very long, mostly wool scarf I will call Odd Ends. I would wear it if I wore coats. In the meantime, I will put it up for sale.

Next week a friend is hosting a trunk sale, which I hope will greatly reduce the inventory in my shop. After that I'll spruce things up and add more new items.

This week I will be desperately tucking in loose ends and getting things accurately tagged and organized.

The last item I am listing is my only attempt so far at the "messy bun hat" which has at least been popular on Twitter knitting feeds.

Basically I had a limited amount of lovely yarn and ran out. I think it works.

                    

Friday, October 6, 2017

Planting Pretty Poison


Two weeks ago today, my oldest son was on his way to work, then a deer jumped in front of his car.


Oldest is fine. The car is not, nor was the deer. (Cops put the large doe down after arguing for an hour over who had to do it.)

But it was one of those horrible reminders of the fragility of our little universe. And life isn't designed to give us time to hold our loved ones close until we stop shaking.

No, once the police were done, I had to drive Oldest to work, and pick him up, and sort through insurance decisions with my husband. In a few days, I dropped Oldest off at the airport for a work reward trip. I'm not usually nervous putting people on planes, but we had already used up a lot of luck, karma, blessings, so I was very relieved to pick him up a couple days later.

Scottish, not Serbian, and best played loud

Still unable to curl up and cry, I channelled fear into aggression. Instead of poetry CDs of Dickinson and Whitman, I crank up nihilistic Franz Ferdinand, to volumes my young adult children turn down.

Oldest has understandably been  avoiding the wandering country road where he hit the deer. I have sought it out, driving it whenever possible to break any curses there may be.

And I bought and planted bags and bags of daffodil bulbs.

Deer-proofing for flowers
You see, our usual contact with deer is in the garden. Deer eat everything we want to grow: vegetables, fruit trees, roses, pansies, and tulips. They are pretty cheeky too, walking between the cars and our house to eat the roses, picking pansies out of pots on the porch.  Each spring, I enjoy my tulips while they last,  knowing that they will inevitably disappear in the night.

 Serious gardeners in our neighborhood build serious fences, and sometimes find deer trapped inside, tangled within, or impaled upon them. Landscaping becomes an act of war.

Deer-proofing barbed-wire for vegetables--10 feet high
And plants are weapons. I've long since given up on pansies. New plantings are all made with deer in mind. Plants for my pots must be fuzzy or aromatic--traits deer don't find terribly appetizing. Or they can be poisonous, like the daffodils I've been planting.

I hurt myself planting daffodils. I dug in the garden and pulled out weeds as if I were a healthy person accustomed to physical work. I exorcised some fear, but created a lot of pain. I had to crash for most of the last week.

This Tuesday I sat in the car and cried, unable to face the effort of walking into the gym to swim. But I was able to walk the aquarium on Wednesday and limped into the pool on Thursday.  I'll hike, gingerly, today. I'm on the mend.

Also, despite my rage, I'm really not planning a cervidae slaughter in my spring flower garden. Deer somehow sense that daffodils are poison, so they leave them alone. Deer are smarter than I am that way.

Because I've been poisoning myself for about a month now--with health food.

As I cleaned out my cupboards so Youngest could sand and stain them, I found several boxes of herb tea which I started to consume in large amounts. I would microwave mason jars full, then refrigerate them, so I had something cold, but not sweet to drink.

I enjoyed gallons of smooth iced tea before unbearable itching reminded me I am allergic to chamomile.
I found out about the allergy decades ago when I planted the dainty herb in my garden. Young and ambitious, I had romantic ideas of a kitchen filled with herbs hung upside-down to dry. When I handled the dry herb, my eyes watered and I thought I would sneeze myself to death.

I haven't grown it intentionally since, but chamomile has become an odd invasive weed, growing only two inches high up and down our driveway. It hasn't hurt me in that form, but some of it's cousins have. I'm allergic to the whole sunflower family. I can no longer grow the tall garden sunflowers that rain pollen on unsuspecting passers-by. A gift of sunflower-based soap from Kansas gave me reactions through a plastic wrapper. The wild cousins that beautify roadsides here in the fall are okay-- as long as I don't get too close.

I didn't think I was allergic to drinking chamomile. But it is the most likely cause of an unbearable itching that has covered my entire body and made sleep impossible. Even as the worst has eased, I feel the sensation of trying to pass thistles through my pores.

 I've stayed away from all herbal tea for over a week now, and urges to pull my skin off have calmed. I'm down to my standard constant itchiness instead. I talked to my rheumatologist about the ongoing feeling of having bugs crawling on me. He likes the term "formication" with its tidy Latin ant root, but doesn't offer solutions because it's not his specialty.

 I have an appointment with my family doctor on Tuesday. Maybe it will give us something more interesting to talk about than my cholesterol for a change.

Maybe she will even have some suggestions. Right now all small comforts are appreciated.