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Thursday, 7 November 2013

Cohabitation Conundrums and Pet Peeves

Okay, so you've been seeing someone for a while, presumably happily. Then one of you gets a bright idea. Possibly you both think it's one of those lightbulb moments, and that it's brilliant in its simplicity. Perhaps it doesn't even pop up as an idea per se, but rather a talking point in a conversation, and somehow you wander off the beaten path into "Destination: Insanity," where no one in the relationship has ventured before. Maybe one of you thinks the other needs a frontal lobotomy, and vows to run away at the first opportunity.

For the sake of argument, however, let's assume both parties in a relationship are happy enough together that they actually want to share living space, and that when the idea floats into the nearby airspace no one is swatting at it like a pesky mosquito. That being established, now what? Do you scout the apartment listings and hire a moving company?



Well, first things first. Determining whether or not it actually is a good idea is probably an idea destined for induction into the Brainiac Hall of Fame. There are a few question that need to be asked here:
  • How well do you know each other? It isn't necessarily about how long you've known one another, but how well. Some people can be dating for a year and barely know one another - for three reasons. One, they hardly spend any time talking, or in each other's company. Two, they don't talk about anything in-depth that will allow any mutual knowledge. Three, they've never had to face any difficulties as a couple and have no idea how their partner processes those situations. Screaming fits might not be desired.
In other words, do you have any idea what it's going to be like to be around this person all the time, and are you absolutely certain you're not going to end up in jail for killing them at some point down the road?
  • Are your goals for the future compatible? Let's face it. Many people romanticize relationships and picture a moment of church bells and stale cake to be smooshed into one another's respective faces. There's nothing wrong with that, if that's what you both want. If only one of you is cherishing those dreams, you're more likely to be smooshing dog crap into the upholstery of their cherished La-Z-Boy.
You need to talk about every single deal-breaking dream you've got, whether those dreams involve an infestation of rugrats, ball-and-chain ceremonies, or trips around the world to look at that exact spot where Ghandi went on a hunger strike. When I say deal-breaking, I really mean that. We all have them. We each have many dreams, but not all of them are things that we absolutely must have in our lives before we die. Sometimes there are compromises, but quite often there aren't.
  • Are you spiritually compatible? Spirituality is often only an issue if you're planning on having the aforementioned ankle-biter invasion. If one of you is a Catholic and the other is Hindu, or even if one of you is an atheist, you could experience a few "Holy crap!" moments once the short humans with the overly large heads arrive on the scene.
Discussing how you intend to raise your children, and what portions of your faith you wish those children to adhere to, could save you major arguments in the future - not to mention a divorce and court hearings. If you're not willing to compromise on the faith of your children, you absolutely must choose someone who is either of the same faith, or who honestly does not care what faith is chosen for their offspring. Do not assume because someone is an atheist that they don't care if your kids practice Judaism. They may be dead-set against it.
  • Are your daily habits compatible? If you're even considering cohabitation, you're probably not against pre-marital sex, so let's assume for now that you've managed to get some nooky during the whirlwind that is known as courtship. Leaving aside sexual compatibility for the moment, which is a book in and of itself (but I'm willing to tackle it in a paragraph a little further down anyway), we need to figure out if Person A puts the cap on Exhibit T, and Person B puts the seat down on Exhibit L. If you're doing the hunka-chunka, and are considering sharing a residence so that you can presumably do the hunka-chunka on a more regular basis, you've probably spent a night or two together. If one of you is running off ten minutes after knocking boots, it does not bode well for the success of your future cohabitation.
Toothpaste tubes and lavatory lids aside, maybe your schedules conflict in such a way that would make regular bed-sharing difficult, or one of you is a neat-freak who gags at the site of slovenly socks. Is your partner a sports nut that screams so loudly at the television that the neighbour's rugrats have gone deaf? Maybe you bring your work home with you all the time, and your partner acts more like a frat boy who has to smoke a bowl with his bros.
  • If you already have your own children, do they get along with your partner and any children they have? Do you get along with your partner's kids? This one is a biggie. You can't take your potential future step-child to the pound if there are incompatibilities here, much as you might think it would do them a world of good. Plus, they may go so far as to bite you if you try.
Kids really make things complicated when they aren't shared offspring. You have to deal with every one of the above-mentioned issues with your partner's kids, on top of dealing with whether or not you actually like the spoilt little buggers. You can ooh and aah all you want over your partner's kid, and put up a good fake front, but you need to be completely honest with yourself about how likely it is that you'll be able to stand being around them for longer than ten minutes.
  • Do you have compatible pets? Pets usually aren't as bad as kids. Having said that, they do come with their own set of issues. Some animals are grumpy. Some are predatory and/or jealous. If one of you has a pet snake, and the other a pet mouse, well...you get the idea. Cats and birds are known adversaries, and it's not always the cat that comes out the winner there - just ask any parrot owner.
Introducing pets is a very delicate process, assuming your pets can't be kept separate or in cages at all times. If it's done right you can still have problems if you don't continue to keep an eye on the situation. However, if it's done wrong the damage can be permanent. The introduction has to be done cautiously, and only two pets at a time. Both animals need to be fully controlled by their owners, and the experience needs to be a relatively pleasant memory for both creatures. In other words, don't allow one animal to chomp down on the other and try to shake the life out of it. Have treats handy to distract the animals. Both animals need to feel secure, and know that there's no threat. Sometimes it's best if you just allow animals to get used to one another's scents first, without physically introducing them, if there's a real danger of one animal attacking the other. Swap their blankets back and forth for a few days.
  • Are you financially compatible? Money is a major bell-ringer for some. If one of you is frugal and the other spends more money than they earn, it's a big bone of contention when you're pooling your resources. That, of course, is something else that needs to be determined before shacking up with your new love slave. Are you sharing funds, keeping things separate, or a combination of the two? This is not the time to be making ass-you-me type decisions. If you do you can find that ass handed to you in court if you neglect to pay your portion of the rent because you thought it was 'our' money and not 'yours' and 'mine'. Yet another issue with money has to do with large purchases, no matter how you choose to handle your funds. A sofa or bed is a joint purchase, generally, but they're nothing compared to a house. For that matter, are you willing to even consider the purchase of a house? In this day and age, that's more of a commitment than most marriages.
In the vast majority of polls conducted, sex and money are two of the biggest reasons people fight. I can't help you with your sex life - mostly because I don't want to know what weird things you might be getting up to. I have my own weird things to contend with. Money is one area where advance communication can make a world of difference, though. If a compromise is reached before a decision ever has to be made, and both parties follow through on their agreements, all's well that ends well. If not, expect your own bell to be rung a few time - or even your ears from all the shouting that's going to go down.
  • And finally, are you sexually compatible? No, you're not supposed to actually answer me. You're supposed to carry on that conversation with yourself and your partner, and leave us innocent folk out of your bedroom Battle Royale. Have you been truly honest with your partner about what you like and don't like? Have you shared the secrets that you intended one day to foist upon them? Are you happy with the ways things are going there - and if you're not happy, are you and your partner working toward a solution?
Now this is just my opinion, but then it's my blog and I'll have a potty mouth if I want to, but I do not think it's a good idea to move in with someone (or especially to engage in the matrimonial legal tangle) when you have never had sex with them. Sex being one of those really big issues that people fight about, it makes perfect sense to me to figure out whether or not it's something you're likely to fight about. We all have those times when we'll argue about almost anything in a relationship, but a complete lack of sexual compatibility will result in mind-blowing fights rather than other mind-blowing activities, and quite possibly some nasty insults that your ego might never recover from. Getting your freak on is necessary if you intend to be anything more than friends. I'm sorry, but it's the truth. If there's no sexual chemistry or activity, you're nothing but friends. That's fine if you've spent forty or fifty glorious years together and things have petered out (no pun intended - okay maybe it was), but if you're just getting started and there's nothing there you've got serious problems and you're not actually involved in a romantic relationship.
 If, after all this insanely boring self-reflection, you still think it's a good idea to share living space, there remains the possibility a frontal lobotomy is in order. Maybe not, though. Maybe it'll be the best thing to happen to you. Nobody can answer these questions for you, but if you're not asking them of yourself you're probably going to end up wishing for that frontal.

Tuesday, 5 November 2013

Screaming Memes and Thriving After Rape

There are some things in my life that make me proud - no I don't care about deadly sins. If I've done, or have been a part of, something that is truly important and worthwhile, I'm proud of myself for standing up when others have not. One of those things is my involvement with various advertising campaigns - either in support of victims, or for educating people to prevent more people being victimized. Such was the case yesterday when a new meme was created from my contribution to the RAINN Day campaign and Unite Against Rape. This particular campaign is geared toward stopping rape on college and university campuses. They asked for suggestions on how campus rape could be prevented, so I sent in an e-mail.

Well, they apparently liked what I sent them, because they decided they would create several memes quoting my suggestions. This is the first of the series with my quotes:


I'm very grateful to them for including my blog URL, but even if they hadn't I would still have sent in my suggestions. Being a part of something like this is a huge deal for me. RAINN is a very big organization, the largest anti-sexual assault organization in the United States, and I've gone to their website in the past to research rape statistics for various articles I've written.

UniteWomen.org isn't exactly a poor relation in the activism arena, either. According to Wikipedia it has 21,000 members. I have become friends with a number of the members, including those that run it, and I have to say they're a wonderful bunch of women. In some cases I was Facebook friends with them long before I realized they were even a part of it. They did a meme of me a few months ago, with their Stand Against Rape campaign, where we were all standing for the Steubenville rape victim to let her know she wasn't alone and it wasn't her fault. It turned out I was friends online with the woman who actually created my meme, and I had no idea until a few days ago.

So, yes, I'm quite proud to be a part of this campaign, and to be associated with such a great group of people. +RAINN helps so many victims with their hotline. +Karen Teegarden of UniteWomen.org, as well as +Renee Davis, +Shannon Fisher, and +Sarah W. Chamberlin, do outstanding work with these campaigns, and I have nothing but respect for the care and effort they put into helping women. They don't just get involved in rape-prevention and awareness campaigns, either. They get involved in the political arena as well, fighting legislation that is detrimental to women, and there's been plenty of that going around in 2013.

Obviously, considering my childhood experiences, rape prevention is a topic that is very dear to my heart. I  know very well that you can not only survive the experience, but thrive and have a normal life eventually. That doesn't negate the damage that's done in the meantime, however. Being raped means that you get a portion of your life stolen from you and you lose the person you were. You never get that person back - the person that you would/should have been, had you not been raped. That life is completely stolen from you. Most people who have been raped, and I include men in this because I've known some that it has happened to, lose many years of happiness and productivity to misery, anger, fear, depression, self-hate, shame and guilt. Those are years that they can never get back.

My own experiences happened during childhood - starting around seven or eight, and right through thirteen. I've only been truly okay for approximately the last ten years. No more flashes of things that happened, no sick feelings coming over me at odd times, and no bad dreams related to it. Basically it took me about twenty years to move beyond being raped to the point where I could really be a happy and whole person. Life is too short to allow people to steal twenty years from anyone. Penalties for rapists should match the damage that they've done, yet most rapists do not spend anywhere near twenty years in prison. The largest percent of them are never brought to justice at all.

Then there are the people who never really do get over being raped. It's worse when it's a family member you're supposed to be able to trust, such as my own situation where it was my grandfather first, and then my half-brother. The ones who are forced to endure the company of those family members, by way of family  gatherings, have a much harder time dealing with it. I was lucky because I never saw my grandfather after the age of fourteen, and then he died. Many years passed between occasions where I saw my brother, I haven't seen him in years, and I will probably never see him again. I don't have to worry that I will be cornered somewhere and something unwelcome might happen. All of that is over and done with for me, and knowing that has helped me make peace with the past.

I don't use the term 'survivor' for myself. I've never liked it. It implies that I'm just getting by in life, doesn't it? I feel like I'm thriving, not surviving. Spending almost six years as a single woman, up until very recently, I kept myself company and enjoyed the silence. I'm comfortable and at peace with the past. It can be done. People who have been raped can come back from it to live an amazing life. What I went through strengthened me to the point where there is very little I worry, or stress out, about. What I went through didn't damage my attitudes toward sex, thankfully. I never became overly sexual, and I never became fearful of it so that I didn't want it in my life. I'm open-minded and have no problem talking about it. It's a natural and enjoyable part of life, and what was done to me did not take that away from me.

If there is anything I would share with the world when it comes to being subjected to rape, it would be to tell those who are victimized that there will come a day when you can be happy again. You really can. I know I am...after a lot of hard work. It was totally worthy everything I went through, however, to end up exactly where I am today

Monday, 4 November 2013

Beyond My Wildest Dreams, By Any Name

As mentioned in other blog posts, I'm 42 years old. I've been through three marriages, spectacularly failing at them all. At my age I had serious doubts that I would even find a relationship that would work for me. However, a good friend of mine gave me a kick in the ass a number of weeks ago and told me I shouldn't give up on relationships and love, or blame myself for the fact that I hadn't done so well on the marriage front. Since he knows a lot about my personal history, including a really rough childhood, he told me with some knowledge and authority that I was just doing what I needed to do at the time, in order to find what I needed in my life. I took those words to heart, and despite a hiccup or two I ended up finding success with online dating.

I say success (though there are no guarantees) because I found something I think is pretty incredible. Almost miraculous, in fact. Not just something, but someone, with whom I seem to have everything I ever wanted or needed. My only problem is that I can't get enough of being around him.

When people talk about love and relationships everyone has their own ideas of what would be the best for them, and what they value most in a potential partner. Some want companionship more than they want anything else. Some want lots of sexual chemistry. Some want a potential spouse and/or someone to have children with. None of these things are necessarily right or wrong - they're simply what we feel we need.

I'm not sure I really knew what I was looking for in a partner; I just knew there were a lot of things about me that a man would need to accept. I have a strange lifestyle, much akin to that of a vampire from what I've been told, and it's not something I can change - nor would I want to.

There are so many things I didn't know I needed, though, and so many more things I didn't realize were even possible. For example, I had no idea that I could be truly calm just lying in someone's arms, despite having chemistry that brings me to my knees (I mean figuratively at the moment, just in case there are perverts other than myself who are reading this). I've never been able to turn off my brain and just relax while being held, but now I don't even have to make an effort at it. I didn't know I could talk to someone for 8 or 9 hours in a day, or spend 12 hours in their company and the two of us would still be talking. I didn't know I could be held and know without a doubt that I was really wanted there.

I guess what I didn't know was that I could really focus on someone, to the point where I'm not thinking about the million other things I need (or want) to be doing. I began living in the moment, because the moment became vital.

Something else slammed into my consciousness within the last 24 hours. It was a confidence I didn't know I could achieve. Like so many people I see the physical flaws in myself far more vividly than others see them. I found myself able to make jokes about them, knowing they just didn't matter. Suddenly years of self-consciousness about certain things evaporated and I said to hell with it - I wasn't going to let those things be anything other than a punchline. It wasn't a conscious effort, though. It just came from hearing the right words at the right time, from the one person I needed to hear them from. Not that real confidence comes from someone else - it's more that the words made me think, and then something shifted inside of me.

When you can be with someone and really feel that the 'worst' things about you are not the glaring issues you thought they were, it's an unbelievable gift that can never be taken away - no matter what the future holds.

I had no idea how important it was to me to find someone capable of comforting me, either. Having lived so long without that, it never occurred to me that I should expect it, so I guess I didn't allowed myself to want that from a partner. I actually got some bad news a couple of weeks ago, when I discovered that I might have been responsible for the death of my ferret. I had no idea how seriously my actions would impact him, and it devastated me. Nearly 7 months after his death I still grieve for Stimpy every single day, and to learn that I might have killed him with my ignorance was a devastating blow. Instead of being shrugged off when I needed a shoulder, though, somehow I was given exactly the words I needed to hear, again from the one person I needed to hear them from. He took away so much pain with a single sentence. I doubt he even knows the impact he had on me at that moment.

Love isn't a declaration given to you in three words. Love is what is breathed into a relationship at every significant moment. It's there when it is needed. Love is when you can't keep your hands off of someone even when sex isn't the intention - you just need to touch them. Actions are love. Love is the way you live within a relationship. It's just there. Being cherished, respected and accepted is something you can feel. Three words can't express or contain what love is meant to be. People say it all the time, without living it.

Finding someone who makes you feel like this begs the question, "Why couldn't I have found you years ago?" In my case I know the answer to that question. Some things have to happen just the way they happen. Life prepares us for these moments so that we can see them when they come to us. Some of us learn the lessons early, and some don't. Until we learn the lessons, though, we don't recognize what may be right before us. Twenty years ago I looked for completely different things. The choices I made twenty years ago were the wrong ones, but nothing would have derailed those choices without me experiencing the results. I made the same choices over and over, getting the same result. Finally I changed what I was doing. What I looked for was completely different, and lo and behold I found it.

Even five years ago I would never have been wise enough, or experienced enough in my own life, to value what's important to me now - the things that I've found that make me so happy. At that time (for the first time in my life) I wasn't running from one relationship to the next. For once I took time away from all that to live and be quiet within myself. I didn't need company, because I enjoyed my own. I was as surprised as anyone else when I signed up for a dating site a while ago. I knew I was ready to be involved with someone again, but whether or not I was ready for the dating world was another issue altogether. I can only be grateful I didn't have to endure that many first dates before I found the man I had learned to look for. Everything I get from our relationship beyond that can not be trivialized as icing on the proverbial cake, though. They aren't mere fluff to decorate the surface of our relationship; they're vitally important even if I didn't know I needed them.

It's a beautiful thing to feel utterly safe with someone; safe in the way that you can share details of your soul and know those secrets will be respected. Being safe with someone can open up the floodgates of our emotions. We can bring things to the light of day that we never dared express before, and shining a light on them can be a huge relief when we see they aren't as dark as we thought they were. Fear of judgment is no longer an issue. You know your secrets will not be used against you at a later date.

No matter what happens, my world has been rocked. Just knowing that these things are possible has made a permanent change in how I look at relationships. Life is like that, though - if you allow it to be. It teaches you new and wonderful things all the time. You just have to be open to the possibilities.

Friday, 25 October 2013

To Thine Own Self Be a True Bitch

It's a little bit astonishing how self-destructive an assertive woman can be. I don't let anyone else tear me down, but I'm really good at doing it myself. The truly amazing thing about our minds is that we are what we think. There's no escaping self-hatred when it's all that you spew at yourself.

Just think for a minute about all the messages you give yourself every day. If you can't think of any off-hand, let me fill you in on a few of mine:

  1. I trip because my prescription medications make me a little dizzy sometimes. My self-talk? "God, you're such a klutz."
  2. I miss my boyfriend when he's not around. My self-talk? "You're so pathetic. Stop being so desperate and needy."
  3. My jeans get too tight. My self-talk? "Disgusting. You're fat and hideous. You better lose the weight right now."
  4. My body isn't perfect. My self-talk? "Why the hell would anyone want you?"
  5. Everything I do is on my computer. My self-talk? "You're such an anti-social loser. You're lazy and boring. You have no life."
Now, as a feminist I look at that self-talk in sheer horror. If a person actually spoke to me that way outside of my own head, they'd be out of my life so fast his or her head would spin. However, all is not lost, because I have managed to re-train my thought patterns to auto-correct the negatives. It's not a perfect system, and it's taken me years to get to that point, but it's better than allowing the negatives to remain. For example:
  1. It's because you're medicated, and besides it's kind of funny and unique. It gives you something interesting to talk about that has livened up your day a bit. As long as you don't kill yourself, it's all good.
  2. The whole point to being in a relationship is to open yourself up to someone. There's nothing pathetic about it, and it requires a great deal of courage to open your heart after everything you've been through.
  3. Concentrate on whether or not your diet is healthy. You just spent a month having to eat every two hours because of a low blood sugar issue, and exercising isn't an option right now with your injuries. The weight will come off. Besides, anyone who loves me for myself will still love me however I look - otherwise they're the jerk.
  4.  There isn't a single person in the world who has a perfect body. Anyone who expects perfection is an asshole. Love what your body has done for you and what you've accomplished because of it. You earned all of those marks and scars, and it shows that you're stronger than everything life has thrown at you.
  5. There's nothing wrong with being yourself and doing the things you truly enjoy. Never mind the fact that your work is all online. What difference does it make that you play computer games in your off time? It's a hell of a lot better than zoning out in front of a TV. At least you're still using your mind.
Where does the bitchy self-talk come from, though? Is it everyone that's doing it deep inside, or is it women who are sexualized and conditioned by the media? Well, I know it's not just women who do it. I've known a lot of men who were just as self-conscious about their appearance, or various other aspects of themselves. I present a pretty sympathetic ear to a lot of people, and people tell me things I know they're not comfortable revealing to most people. It's one of the reasons I'm able to contradict myself when I get rolling on a self-directed mean streak. Through the confessions of others I've learned a valuable lesson, which is that not one of us is perfect.

Nobody will ever be truly self-confident about every single thing. We all have our vulnerabilities. Whether we're concerned about physical characteristics, mental disorders, habits, or personality traits, there will always be something. Most people who do anything creative will feel vulnerable about their work. As many times as a writer, artist or musician is told how wonderful they are, however many accolades they might achieve, there will always be that little voice that wonders if we really deserve the praise. Whenever something new is created, there's the fear that people will hate it.

This lack of confidence comes from somewhere, though. Whether we were told by our parents that we were lazy, or got teased for our weight in school, there's a beginning to the voices in our heads. There it lies, dormant sometimes, until something triggers it. We might already be in a bad mood and feeling down, so we revel in making ourselves feel worse. Of course, the more we hear something the more embedded it becomes, and the more likely we are to believe it. A broken record. The initial voice can be lost to history and we hear nothing but our own, or maybe we hear that other person instead.

It can be very hard to buck the voices that tell us nasty things about ourselves. The truly scary part is that a lot of the messages we absorb are flat-out lies. So many of them are things that have been flung at us by someone else in an immature rage. They go to great lengths to say the most wounding thing possible, and they succeed beyond their wildest dreams. I learned a very long time ago not to do that to someone. Once the words are spoken there's no taking them back. It doesn't matter if what you said wasn't true - they will never really believe that you didn't mean it. They will absorb it into their subconscious and then they will taunt themselves with it whenever the situation seems appropriate.

All of it becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy, even if it's only within our own minds. If we see ourselves as physically inadequate, it bleeds into every aspect of our physical relationships. If we see ourselves as incompetent at our jobs, suddenly we're not performing as well as we could be. We worry to point where our fears might as well be true. The only solution is to break the pattern in any way that we can. That starts with acceptance of our own reality. Sure there are things that are real flaws, and we get down on ourselves for them, but the solution there is to fix what we can. There are some that can't be fixed, and if that's the case they're not really flaws but the reality of a living, breathing human being that's unique.

I'm not much for praying, since I'm more spiritual than specifically religious, but the serenity prayer comes to mind. Accept what you can't change. Change what you can. Understand the difference. Most important, however, is to know the difference between reality and self-hatred. Step outside yourself for the moment and be honest about whether or not you would criticize someone else for the things you're beating yourself up over. If you can't think of anything nice to say to yourself, try just asking yourself if you'd say something like that to anyone else. Not saying anything at all only works if you haven't already been mean to yourself.

We become our thoughts. Everything we are is what we think. Or, cogito ergo sum,"I think, therefore I am." René Descartes was a wise soul. He may have been talking about existence, but it applies to who we become as a person, too.

As for me, well, I occasionally feel like my subconscious has taken on the role of school bully, grabbing my arm and forcing me to continuously slap myself in the face whilst saying, "Stop hitting yourself! Stop hitting yourself!" Now that's a provocation I can't resist, and I'm forced to fight back in any way that I can, because that bully is just not going to get away with it.

Wednesday, 16 October 2013

The Love Stops Here...No Here! Now Where the Hell am I?

When we talk about love in a new relationship we often use the term 'falling in love' and it's a bit of a misnomer. Falling implies a drastic ending to the process, possibly resulting in a gruesome death or grotesque injury. To be fair that's occasionally true, but we'll try not to dwell on that.

As I was out walking today, grinning like an idiot because my head is kind of in the clouds these days, it occurred to me that the implication of falling in love is that (somewhere along the line) we know exactly when it becomes love, and that it doesn't go past that line. Is there a switch? What's the defining moment where you say, "Eureka - I've found it," and happily begin plotting a nefarious future with your partner in crime?

The reality of love is more that you continue falling for a really long time. I'd have to say that the day you stop falling into love is the day you start falling out of it. The longer we go on with a partner, the more we learn about them. We're not always going to like everything we learn, and it would be beyond tedious if we did, but we can only hope that the things we learn keep turning us on, rather than off.

The one recognizable point might be when we realize we can't imagine a life without the other person in it. We can feel this way about friends, too, but certain differences are obvious...like sex. Still, that point of true friendship is a bit of a key, I think. I've had relationships where I wasn't friends with the person I was in love with, though, and that's probably the reason the relationship didn't work. To be honest, I'm not sure I ever had a partner where they were my best friend at the time the relationship was going on - there was too much competition and combativeness, with a power struggle thrown in to really make things entertaining. I've had friends turn into lovers where the friendship disappeared, and I've had lovers turn into friends when the romance disappeared.

Well, I want the whole package now. I might actually get it, too, considering the whole 'head in the clouds' thing, but that's neither here nor there when it comes to this post. We're not really talking specifically about my love life, but rather an idea and understanding about the true nature of loving someone. A question has arisen in my mind, and as always it must be explored and answered. I'm kind of like a terrier that way - I just can't leave things alone once I sink my teeth into them. Throw in the corpses of relationships-past and we're stuck with a pretty gross image, but I still want my answers.

I'd say we don't really fall in love, but maybe drift into it and sometimes through it. The further we go toward the middle, the denser it gets, but if we're just passing through a portion of it we never really get the whole effect. It would be nice if we could always travel the longest distance through it, because it would be enough to keep a relationship going for a lifetime. Then there are the relationships that aren't on a linear projection at all, and veer sharply in one direction or another - like when a person cheats on a partner. They might have been swimming along nicely when suddenly one of them needs an ego boost that collides with a pretty, flirtatious face, or a handsomely formed bicep.

Let's go back to the part with the infatuation stuff. When we're young, and sometimes we never rid ourselves of this behaviour, we often cherish our rose-coloured glasses to the point of idiocy. The person you're mad about slammed their car into another one because the other driver ticked them off? Hey, no problem! They were just having an off day. Your crush is someone you met at the bar and they're considered a regular there? Oh, that's okay. Once they settle down all that will change. [Please note that I am holding up a very large sarcasm sign with flashing neon and a strobe light.] Apparently we all look pretty through pink lenses.

Often that infatuation stage is what we call 'falling in love' and it does imply that we haven't reach the love part yet. How true that is! You don't actually know the other person beyond your own perception of them. You haven't been slapped out of your delusions yet. It's very easy to pretend everything is perfect, because that's how we really want it to be. On the other hand some of us prefer a cold shower of reality as soon as humanly possible. It's a lot less painful in the end. We don't necessarily decide to end a relationship because of the reality, but at least we know what we're getting into.

Maybe you're wondering why this is important to me, which is a fair question. It's not simply that I'm facing these things at the moment, but also that I'd really like to make sure I don't screw things up in the future. I've made plenty of mistakes, and certainly have no trouble owning up to that, but if I don't look for my own answers as to why that happened...well...like history I am doomed to repeat it.

Monday, 14 October 2013

Sexual Choices and the Numbers Game

I finally got a little bit more serious about dating recently. It only took me nearly six years, but I got around to it in the end. I know I've talked about dating, expressing my personal take on a whole list of shenanigans, but it's only been within the last week or so that I really put any kind of effort into it. When you stop to consider that I went on a total of 5 dates in just over 5 years, none of which resulted in a second date, I wasn't exactly tearing through them at the speed of light. I guess it's no surprise then, that I'm not the type to date more than one guy at the same time. In fact, I won't even talk to other potential dates if I'm already talking to someone in that capacity. I'm just not built that way.

So many people treat dating as a numbers game, and it's incredibly easy to do that when you go the route of online dating. After all, you set up a profile that's relatively anonymous, and you aren't forced to date people that live close to you where you might run into someone else you happen to be dating. Plus, you're able to carry on multiple conversations at once and then set up a dating schedule accordingly. Many people do it this way, which is fine for them I suppose but it's just too much work for me. Partly that's an honesty thing. You see, it's not really tactful to tell someone you're meeting three other potential partners that same night (or that week), and that you'll get back to them if there's 'still an opening' (tongue in cheek) when you've picked everyone over.

The alternative is to not say anything at all. While there really isn't an obligation to tell all your secrets to a person you've only had one date with, however, it still feels dishonest to me. It's just far less complicated to my way of thinking, to not have three other dates lined up. Maybe it sounds arrogant, but I'm considered fairly good dating material, so setting up three dates at a time falls under the heading of easy-peasy. To be fair, most women find dates pretty easily. The difficulty has more to do with the quality of dates.

Dating the way I do means that it can take a lot longer to find someone that's okay with waiting more than 24 hours before knocking boots. Whenever I've run into the less than patient ones I've gotten rather discouraged at the state of dating these days and thumbed my nose at it - for a while anyway. I don't consider myself a coward, or a person that gives up easily. Ergo, the dating horse gets ridden again - no, I'm not seeing a horse, though I do have them on my mind these days. You'll have to wait for an explanation on that one, as I do like to keep a few cards close to the vest.

Along with not wanting to treat dating as a numbers game, I have other conflicts. Call me complicated. To start with I'm a feminist who believes in sexual freedom. I feel everyone should have the choice to have sex at whatever point they want to, without being labeled for it. After all, if you want to wait you get labeled a prude usually. If you want to bang on the first date, woah...the word 'slut' rears its ugly head. Now, I'm not all that concerned with the opinions of others when it comes to any of my choices, sexual or otherwise, and if a man doesn't like the choice I make they're not the man for me anyway.

It's interesting to me that I might be labeled a prude because I like to get to know someone first, when I'm rather open-minded when it comes to actually doing the deed. I'm a feisty one. I just don't burn up the sheets with anyone and everyone who gives me an hour of their time. Admittedly there are reasons for that beyond shyness and simply learning to be comfortable with a person. I've got a past that has built certain kinds of walls around me, and those of you who have been reading my blog for some time already know about that past so I won't bore you with a new iteration.

So, if I were to be labeled a prude for waiting to have sex, what do we call a person who jumps into bed with someone and doesn't put any effort or interest into it? Doesn't sound like a hot tamale to me, so I'm not sure why that would be a sought-after prize. Sure, if someone is merely looking to gouge another notch in the bed post that might be adequate. Instant gratification for our desires, however, tends to fall flat. Sometimes anticipation is a far greater aphrodisiac than people can imagine. Not to mention the fact that the anticipation can be heightened by conversations about sex beforehand. If you're at all liberated you can discuss some of the things you enjoy and take out a bit of the awkwardness when you finally do get down to it.

Luckily my own version of the numbers game, wherein I talk to and see one person at a time, seems to have worked out for me. No guarantees, of course, but many hours of phone conversations combined with spending a bit of time together, has so far resulted in a fair bit of intrigue on my part. Guess we're off to the races.

Wednesday, 2 October 2013

Canadian Plot Thickens - U.S. Takeover Imminent

It has recently been discovered that there is a new game afoot within the Canadian population. Jealous and malcontent, the almost 35 million citizens of Canada have been scheming for the last five years to make a few changes to North America. Canadians are tired of their free healthcare and personal freedoms, and they want what the Americans enjoy on a daily basis. The constant refrain of, "Who are you to tell me I deserve basic medical care," echoes loudly in the streets, Canadians being the militant people that they are.

What exactly have they done to ensure this takeover? Well, they started with demanding Ted Cruz fulfill his patriotic duty to the country where he was born, and they gave him a list of things he needed to accomplish. The results of these tasks were readily seen as of October 1st, 2013, when the United States government was shut down. The delay of Obamacare was just a bonus. Affordable healthcare rather defeats a lot of the purpose in taking over America, after all.

When questioned (with a great deal of incredulity on the part of the interviewer) why on earth Canadian Prime Minister, Stephen Harper, would instigate these measures, he calmly responded by saying, "Well, we messed up, and quite frankly they have what we want." The reporter went on the ask if perhaps oil might be an issue, he replied, "No, no. We have plenty of our own."

"What about forestry or mining?" Harper shook his head in exasperation at her naivete, "Nope. We keep stripping the trees and the damn things just keep growing back - what would we want with more of them? As for mining, have you seen our diamonds? I mean, they're ranked as the best in the world. Cruelty-free don'tcha know. What it all comes down to is this; no Canadian citizen wants to be taken care of by their government. It's makes us feel like babies. We're a tough lot. We'd rather be left to fend for ourselves. Not one citizen wants health care or the freedom to marry whomever they choose. They certainly don't want the freedom to make personal decisions about their bodies. Imagine! Women actually wanting access to birth control? Puh-lease. Religious freedom is a thing of the past, too.

"No, the whole thing has to come down, and the only way to do that is to take control of the American government. We'll oust every one of them damn liberals trying to help out the other 98%. That nonsense has got to stop. They can have the sex, they can make the babies, and then the babies can go to work, too. Then we can bring back the manufacturing plants from overseas. We'll have all the cheap labour we want - no more outsourcing, and better for the economy all around."

By this point in the interview the reporter was starting to understand, her head nodding in unconscious agreement.

"So, basically, now that the government is shut down you're just going to waltz in there and take over, I guess. What about the queen, though? Won't she have something to say about all this?" Harper chuckled.

"Have you seen the mess they've got over there with their National Health Service?"


Tuesday, 24 September 2013

Time Wounds All Heels

I've said it before and I'll say it again - time is life. Every second that ticks by is a piece of life. "I'll do it tomorrow," can become a mantra that causes your life to drip slowly away. Now stop for just a few seconds of that life and let that thought sink in. It's water down the drain. Water that never comes back to you. We all take our lives for granted, probably far more often than not. Then there are the other excuses we give to ourselves. We'll say it's not the right time, but we rarely define what the right time is going to be. When we do actually define it, we push it back with another excuse. Obviously it's not something we want to do if we keep finding excuses to get out of doing it.

Quite often there are legitimate obstacles to the things we want. We can respond to those in a few ways. First, we can throw up our hands in defeat. Second, we can flounder and whimper about how we don't know what to do to fix things. Third, we can put off dealing with the obstacle even if we know what to do to get rid of it because we view the task on a level akin to swallowing live bait. Fourth, we can clamp down on our rampant idiocy in the face of resistance and actually do what needs to be done.

I've been meandering back and forth between all of those things in the last few days. Now that I'm finally feeling well enough to write and get some other work done, I've got a lot to catch up on and a life I'd like to get back to. It's not that I'm not getting anything done, but there are some onerous tasks ahead of me that have me cringing like I'm getting feedback at 5,000 dB.

First, I have to clean my apartment, top to bottom. For a non-domestic type like me, that's definitely cringe-worthy. Like many people I like my place to be clean, despite not actually wanting to do any of the cleaning, but my medicated state has induced a distinct lack of repulsion to any messes. Pet food scattered all over the floor because my ferret likes to dig in the food dishes? Check. Dust and hair on the bathroom sink? Check. Cat yak that has dried on the floor? Check. Then I look at the mess and want to cry, or sleep or something 'cuz I don't usually cry over spilled, well, anything.

If it were just those three things it wouldn't be a big deal, but I have boxes I never unpacked from moving in here a year ago. Books that have never been put on shelves, paperwork that was never filed, burned discs that need sorting, dishes to be washed, laundry to do...ah, hell. I'm getting tired just making a damn list. I don't get a lift out of cleaning, unless I'm feeling really hyper from way too much caffeine and mp3s blasting in my ears. It's hard to find the balance with caffeine, though, because just the smallest amount too much and I'm nauseated from it. Back to looking at the mess and wanting to sleep. Instead I turn right back to my computer.

I can think of a million reasons not to clean without even trying. I'll even try to blame it on my ferret who likes to get in the way. He takes serious issue with me removing his dirty potty pads, for one thing. I get the, "I worked on that all week," look. It never fails that he wakes up the instant I start cleaning, too, and suddenly it's the perfect time to play and jump on whatever I'm doing. He's almost a legitimate excuse, really. However, my apartment does actually have doors, and I can either shut him up in my bedroom where he's usually sleeping anyway, or I can shut him out of the bedroom if I happen to be cleaning that. It's more an emotional thing, I think. I hate being separated from him, especially when he starts pawing at the door to get to me and my heart breaks.

Considering my million arguments against cleaning, I'm sure it's easy to consider the possibility that I might not have quite so many reasons to clean. Sure, I need to organize my paperwork so I can do my back taxes, but that's yet another cringe-worthy task I'm not looking forward to, so it's not the greatest impetus in the world. There is a very good reason to get through those levels of resistance, of course. Revenue Canada owes me a whole lot of money. I just have to file the paperwork to get it. It might sound easy, but if you've never done business or corporate taxes you can keep your opinion to yourself. It's not just my income taxes either. I have GST returns to do. Considering we no longer even have GST (Goods and Services Tax), I should probably get those done. Not that the government was actually kind enough to get rid of the tax completely. Instead they mashed it with the provincial tax. It's no lower than it was - it just has a different name. Over the years they did reduce it from 7% to 5%, so it's better than nothing, but then it wasn't that long ago that they introduced the GST in the first place, and it was only supposed to be temporary. Now that our prime minister, Harper, has sunk the country into debt again (and this happened before the global economy tanked), I don't see them getting rid of it any time soon.

Cleaning my apartment and getting organized is going to take a few days, and of course I always push it off until the next day. I'm not being lazy. It's annoyance avoidance. I just don't do the things I hate doing. I do a lot in a day. When I feel like crap because I'm in too much pain or whatever, I'll play computer games or read a lot. When I feel like a normal human being I work almost all the time. Writing, producing, website work, business development tasks and conversations. They're all things that need to be done, but they're not as urgently necessary as the other things.

You see, I could really use the money I've got sitting in government coffers. It's mine, and I want it. I need a new car and a new computer with a really good webcam, along with a passport, and I need traveling funds. Come hell or high water, I'm going on a road trip. I haven't been on vacation in about 6 years, I think. that was my honeymoon with my ex, and it was four days. Before that I hadn't gone on vacation in about ten years. Sixteen years with a 4-day vacation. The computer has become a vital necessity. This 5-year-old laptop has been to hell and back. It's eaten many of the meals I have, as I can often be a bit careless that way. I wouldn't be like that with someone else's stuff, but when it comes to my own things I'm not too worried. They are just things, after all. It's got a lemon for a video processor, though, and I can't do any decent recording with it - something I have to be able to do in order to move ahead on a show project I'm working on for myself. Editing is the extent of its abilities right now.

I tell myself these things, and then that little voice creeps in to say, "One more day won't make a difference." I'm so full of crap when I talk to myself sometimes. Today is another day that I've made no dent in anything around the house, unless of course I did so by running into a wall and didn't notice the damage. Making dents in my computer is not optional. Well, it's been a productive few days, cleaning and taxes notwithstanding. So I'm not going to flagellate myself for one more day. In fact, I actually started a new blog about my experiences with disability, and how I've had to deal with family doctors and specialist. Not to mention all the weird tests I've been subjected to.

Then there are the drugs. I know a lot about pharmaceuticals, and actually have a copy of the Physician's Desk Reference for both drugs and symptoms of conditions. My new blog is called Rain on Pain - I thought it was rather fitting. Don't forget to bookmark it or subscribe to it if you're experiencing any kind of long-term medical condition. This blog you're reading now is as the name suggests - a torrential rain of my thoughts and whatever is going through that pretty little head of mine. Rain on Pain is focused entirely on coping with physical limitations, and helping people to get past them.

Speaking of physical limitations, however - I've reached the end of my tether and need to be dragged off into the arms  of Morpheus. A nice guy to snuggle with, I suppose. After said snuggling is over, I will return once again to the schedule I keep switching on my BlackBerry's calendar.

Friday, 20 September 2013

Oh Healthy Day! Crap, No More Excuses!!

Doing great people, doing great! I am now back to working it with the best of them. Well, okay, I'm not exactly perfect, but so darn close I'm doing a happy-dance (mentally so far, but give me another hour or two). No, I'm not as manic as I might sound, just so very happy to feel like I'm alive again. I have so many reasons to feel good right now. No narcotics, no anti-nauseants, very limited pain, no more acetaminophen impairing my liver function (which in turn was lowering my blood sugar to dangerous levels - I actually considered going to the hospital one day). My brain works for the first time in a while, and I'm no longer stuck in a bed because it hurt too much to sit up in a chair. I have a bunch of reasons to be happy, actually, some of which I can't really talk about right now - some business, some personal.

What caused this fabulous change in my life? Well, I'm on the proper medication for pain. Gabapentin, the neuropathic pain reliever. Originally developed for epilepsy, but for some people it really does the trick for pain, and I happen to be one of them. The doctor tripled my dose the other day, and it's still a bit too low, but I can live with it for the time being. They also use is to reduce the need for post-operative narcotics, and in my case the elimination of them. I do not want to be on codeine and oxycodone. I don't actually get addicted to anything, so I'm not worried about that, but there is still a physical withdrawal period I can do without, on top of the fact that I'm sensitive to them and they make me throw up far too often.

Here's the thing about pain. Most people have no idea what it's like to live in constant agony. The fact that I maintained hope and the tiniest sense of humour is rather a miracle. I know people who will run off to bed with a little headache pain. Living 24/7 with pain beyond that which I dealt with during childbirth, is an entirely different story - and I gave birth without pain killers of any kind. It's not easy to smile and be happy. It's not easy to crawl out of bed and face the world. There's no question that it causes severe situational depression in most people.

The fact is, I'm a damn tough woman. I know that about myself. I've got a very high pain tolerance, and I've lived with pain for most of my life. Generally I shrug it off, but this was different. Nobody can understand what it's like to have this kind of pain, and then suddenly have it mostly lifted, unless they've lived it. It's beyond exhilarating. A good friend of mine keeps wondering why it's taken so long to deal with these issues, and though I've answered him rather obliquely, I haven't given him the full story. I've got nothing to hide - it's just a pretty long and detailed voyage I've been on. My medical file is gigantic. I lost track of the number of tests I had while they were trying to diagnose me. I've been to three orthopedic surgeons, and two or three other specialists that I can't remember what their specialty was. I've had too many x-rays to count.

I had an EMG (electromyography) where they literally jab a bunch of needles into you in various locations, and then proceed to electrocute you - that was fun - it's like having muscle spasms and then you have to actually push and flex against the spasm making it even worse. One friend of mine told me it was the worst thing she had ever felt in her life, and she's had a kid, too. The test determines nerve damage, and it's how I found out I had L5 nerve damage that had nothing to do with what was happening with my hip joints. They were also checking me for sciatica, which I knew it wasn't. I get the occasional pinch of my sciatic nerve, and I know exactly what it feels like.

EMG Needle Electrode - Inserted in each nerve and muscle area of the leg, and then you get electrocuted with it. FUN!

Then I had some weird joint mobility test where the specialist basically took my legs and/or feet and twisted my legs all over the place. I just had to lie there, looking like a spasmodic frog, and it was no more painful than usual, but I'd never even heard of a test like that before. Very strange, but it became very obvious that my leg wasn't rotating the way it was supposed to. It kept locking up like it hit a barricade or something. That was the doctor that actually pointed me in the right direction for researching what was wrong with me, telling me I needed an MRI and what the issue could potentially be. It was around that time I saw my second orthopedic surgeon who started talking about tendon issues in the front of my hip joint, but I hadn't had any MRIs on my hip joints yet, so there was little he could tell me. He was pretty sure it was my tendons, however, and discussed physiotherapy with me. I told him it was painful to walk, and here's where I discovered I was supposed to minimize walking around. I couldn't stop walking completely, but every joint movement was only going to make things worse. Apparently the physiotherapy for that tendon problem involves something that doesn't move the hip joint. However, I had my MRI after that and there was no longer anyone suggesting a problem with my tendons.

Making all of this a hell of a lot more difficult to diagnose was the fact that I had two issues going on. I had something called a dynamic coccyx (tailbone), so I could literally tell everyone I had a dynamic ass. Nobody said it had to look dynamic! With all of my pain and difficulties being located in the same general area of my body (my pelvis), it wasn't being treated as two separate issues at first. They thought everything was caused by the same thing. I knew it wasn't. I could feel the difference. Doctors will be doctors, though, and they tend to ignore everything a patient is telling them, thinking they can't possibly know their own bodies or what they're talking about. I soon had to get really firm with every one of my doctors. They needed to know I was intelligent enough, and aware of my body enough, that I could tell them a thing or two about what was going on. Maybe a lot of people don't bother to learn anything about their own anatomy, or pay attention to the signals their bodies give them, but it's disastrous to think that way.

If I hadn't been proactive in my own care, my doctors might still be trying to figure out what was going on with my injuries. It pisses me off, quite frankly, that I understood it better than they did, but that's becoming the case more and more often these days. The ability to do research is vital for anyone who has a medical issue. Doctors are so bogged down with bullshit paperwork and insurance issues that they no longer have time for professional development. They know very little about the drugs they're prescribing, they're not keeping up with the latest surgical techniques or treatments, and they know next to nothing about newly discovered illnesses or conditions. For example, my old family doctor had never heard of a dynamic or unstable coccyx. It's real, but has to be dealt with by a specialist. Still, you'd think a severe curvature of the tailbone and extraneous movement causing pain, would be something a doctor would consider as a possibility if he or she bothered to spend two minutes considering the problem. If a tailbone hurts, there are very few issues that can cause that pain. Probably only two, actually. The other being a broken tailbone.

Stand-to-sit Coccyx Positioning

Dynamic Coccyx - See the difference?

So, once my coccyx was culled from the problem, accomplished through surgical removal, we were able to concentrate on what was going on with my hip joints. Once we finally ended up ordering the MRI for my hip, this was basically the result:

And I enjoy this condition in both hip joints! W00t! (Don't make me hold up the sarcasm sign.)
As I said, it was a very long road of confusion, and it would have been even longer had I not decided to take control and do my own research. I found the site coccyx.org, and learned all about tailbone pain. I took my laptop in to my doctor to show him a bunch of the pages. He told me himself that he'd never heard of a dynamic coccyx. To his credit he sat down and looked at the whole thing. He listened to me when I told him what specialist I needed to see. The only delay there was when I discovered that the orthopedic surgeon he sent me to didn't do tailbone work. It's such a rare condition, and not very glamorous, so there are almost no orthopedic surgeons that perform the procedure I needed - a complete coccygectomy.

In an odd coincidence, the only doctor I'm aware of that performs the procedure in my province was actually in Burlington, Ontario, the city I happened to be living in at the time. He had patients from literally thousands of miles away (all the way from Alberta - Edmonton is about 3250 kilometers from Toronto - yes, Canada is a very large country), in no small part because he's a very gifted surgeon. He was up on all the latest techniques. He injected a pre-emptive, long-acting local anesthetic around the surgical site to prevent pain signals being initiated (once pain signals are received by the brain they're very hard to shut off). He also explained that he kept an extra length of bone membrane (a thin skin that covers our bones) and stitched it over the raw bone he sawed through (the raw bone being a part of my spine). It speeds healing of both the bone and membrane, because the membrane doesn't have to regrow and then heal - it's just the incision part that has to heal.

I was really impressed, because this surgeon had to be closing in on 90 years old. I'm not a great judge of age, but I kept wondering why the hell he hadn't retired 20 years ago to enjoy his remaining years. Instead of retiring or becoming a relic, though, he totally kept up with all the new information - things I had researched and planned to ask him about (like the local anesthetic that cut several days off my recovery time), he was well aware of and used the techniques with every one of his surgeries. The guy is an amazing doctor and surgeon. A little gruff in his bedside manner, but I didn't give a crap if he knew his stuff, and he really did. I found out on one of my visits to him that he hadn't retired because there was no one else doing that surgery. In other words, he was worried about his patients. Good man.

I only had to see him two or three times before my surgery. I can't really remember. He had to send me for a lumbar MRI, however, to be sure my pain wasn't coming from my back. Of course, it turned out that wasn't the cause at all, but I had disk scarring I was unaware of. Go figure. I mentioned the L5 nerve damage, and he said it was possible they were related because it was in the same general area. The funny thing is, he knew the second he looked at my x-ray that he was going to be removing my tailbone. My family doctor looked at it and saw nothing wrong. Generally they have to do a sitting/standing series to determine the severity of the curvature. In my case, lying on the x-rays table with no pressure on my tailbone, the curvature was already huge. When I looked at the x-rays on my laptop, even I could see there was something seriously wrong there. I began to wonder about my family doctor's eyesight.

After my surgery I had to recover. I couldn't really walk around too much, and wasn't allowed to sit for a month. Full recovery took about 6 months, I think, but I could be remembering that wrong. One of my friends asked me what I sit on if I don't have a tailbone, and the truth is I sit on the base of my spine. My position doesn't look any different, but if I put my hand over it, it feels really strange - there's no gradual tapering to the bone there anymore. ("Did she just grab her ass?" Why yes, I just might have.)

So, that was a huge delay to dealing with my hip joint issues, to say the least. I finally had MRI confirmation just over a year ago regarding the tearing. I was booked to see the orthopedic surgeon who did my tailbone, but had to cancel because I moved to a new city. I couldn't continue the process with him, which was more than a little frustrating. Especially since it meant I was looking for a new family doctor, and they're in rather short supply up here. There were only 5 of them accepting new patients in Hamilton (a city with about half a million people). I couldn't afford to travel back and forth to Burlington on the bus, and certainly not in a cab, and I no longer have a car. I had no choice but to change doctors. There's a ridiculous application process for a lot of family doctors here, too. One more obstacle for people who have a hard time getting to a doctor's office in the first place.

Now, of course, I can't even take the bus to my family doctor. The routes are funky, and I have to take two separate buses for a relatively short trip. Thus making me feel like a lazy idiot for getting on just to go a few stops - twice. Instead I walk, something that causes me further damage every time. Not to mention a lot of pain. So, with every visit to my doctor being more than a little inconvenient, I will often put off going for a week or two. I know it delays the day I'll have my next surgery, but there's a limit to my endurance and pain tolerance. I can only move as fast as I'm going, basically. Being temporarily hindered means it takes longer to become unhindered. Just one of those painful lessons we learn in life. I think I moved three times, too, so that certainly caused some delays.However, just being able to live a semi-normal life definitely has its benefits.

Well, I've managed to gradate to doing a happy-dance in my chair this morning, so I think I'll commence my own intimate little party. As one of my friends says when she's happy, "Squeeeeeeeee!!"

Sunday, 15 September 2013

Hypoglycemia and Hepatotoxicity, or Excuses Excuses

I'm afraid that, despite how long it's been since my last post, this will probably be a short one. I've been going through some health issues that have prevented me from writing. To start I have been in a lot of pain, so I've been spending a lot of time lying down which is much less painful on my hip joints than sitting up. Anyone who has been following my blog knows that I am awaiting surgery for labral hip tear injuries, as well as joints that have become misshapen and need to be re-shaped surgically.

In addition to this I started experiencing near-constant low blood sugar issues, which can be very debilitating. Now, for those who don't know, hypoglycemia (literally translated as low blood sugar) is not a disease in and of itself. It's always caused by something, and there are numerous things that can cause it. Many diabetics experience it because insulin levels are very difficult to control, and too much insulin causes low blood sugar. I'm not diabetic, however, so the reasons I'm experiencing low blood sugar have been unknown. Through my own research, and after discussing it with a nurse at my doctor's office, the current determination is that my liver function is impaired because I'm ingesting too much Tylenol (acetaminophen). The dosage of gabapentin (a neuropathic pain reliever, rather than a narcotic) prescribed by my doctor at my last visit was too low, so I had to continue with my Tylenol Ones.

I have not been experiencing symptoms of hepatotoxicity per se, but generally a fair bit of damage is done before the symptoms become clear. Generally the liver swells up and there will be tenderness to the touch that can be completely missed. I know because I've been through it before. I was sent to the hospital a few years ago, very suddenly I might add, having had no symptoms of liver impairment. My family doctor discovered the swelling of my liver upon examination when we discussed my Tylenol intake. Of course, considering my general level of pain even on a good day, I'd never notice a tender liver even if I got slapped in the face with it. Thankfully no one chose my liver to do that with, however. A couple of pokes from my doctor was enough to tell me there was an issue.

The joyful note to this is that the liver is the one organ that can regenerate itself quite nicely. Once you've stopped poisoning it, it's content to get on with rebuilding itself. In fact, partial liver transplants have become the thing nowadays. They can put a piece of a liver into someone and it will grow into a full liver. The donor who loses a piece of theirs, will actually grow it back. Wonderful organ. It has to do with stem cells, and the identical mechanism that is used by salamanders when they grow back a tail or limb. Science is currently looking into ways for us to regenerate our other organs, which will be a step in the right direction rather than having to do transplants. Unless you have a faulty liver to begin with, there's quite a bit of damage you can do to your own before you hit a point of no return. Since no one has any idea where that point is, however, it's not advisable to push it. Believe me, the feelings of having your liver not working properly, and the symptoms of low blood sugar, are nothing that anyone wants to experience on a daily basis.

So, what are those feelings and symptoms? Well, with low blood sugar there's blurred vision, full-body tremors, sweating, headaches, etc. Those are the mild and moderate symptoms. Severe ones include seizures, coma and death. Not a state I recommend to anyone. Impaired liver function, before you get to the jaundice and swelling and bloated abdomen, are things like nausea and exhaustion. You can imagine that I don't spend my days in a state of comfort right now.

All's well that ends well, however, as I've got my follow-up appointment on Tuesday at 10 AM. I'll get the increased dose of gabapentin and have acetaminophen out of my life for good. I still have to take some of it until then, but I've cut it back drastically. Taking it makes me feel pretty sick now, so it's a toss-up with juggling the pain issues. I can't take NSAIDs at all, so aspirin and its ilk are out of the question for me. The even better news is that I will likely have my first surgery scheduled pretty soon, and that means I'm on the road to no longer needing pain relief at all, which is exactly where I dream of being. My life awaits!!

Tuesday, 13 August 2013

Keeping An Open Heart with a Flipped Switch

Everyone seems, myself included, to focus on an open mind being the most important thing in life. It occurred to me today, when I woke up from a particularly painful dream, that my mind is never the problem. It's my heart. I think this is true of everyone. In fact, I'm almost certain of it.

There are very few things we hate as toddlers. As Denis Leary says about the subject, "Racism isn't born, folks, it's taught. I have a two-year-old son. You know what he hates? Naps! End of list." The same can be said for gender and sexuality. Does a two-year-old care that uncle Frank has a boyfriend? Hardly.

As we get older, not only are we taught to hate anything that might be different than we are, we also lose empathy through our own life experiences. Basically we get our hearts broken. I don't mean the romantic version, either, although that also applies. No, we get hurt by people all around us, over and over. For that matter, it isn't just people that hurt us. We lose things in life along the way. Those things can build up a little more scar tissue each time, until there's just no way through the damage.

We get so hardened by life that we lose our ability to keep opening up our hearts. Once the heart becomes closed, the mind doesn't stand a chance. We no longer risk getting hurt, because there's just no feeling there anymore. The problem, of course, is that it's the loneliest, coldest existence imaginable. Believe me, I know. I've been there. It's not loneliness based on whether or not you have people around you. It's a loneliness that nothing can penetrate, and that there's no help for. At its core, it's emptiness of the purest form. Every once in a while I go back to that place, and it's a giant struggle to pull free of it.

I have to wonder if many therapists would mistake that place for depression. The clinical symptoms are similar. I very strongly believe they're entirely different things, however. Just like there's a difference between chemical and situational depression, so too is there a difference between depression and real life damage. The difference in my mind is that real life damage is like a learned behaviour, rather than emotions that are simply too painful to bear so we repress them. It's conditioning similar to that of Pavlov's dogs. The dinner bell rings and we react by drooling. Depression would be more like we just stop eating.

Compare that to human life. Let's say you have a friend that has a tendency to betray you - not much of a friend, obviously, but sometimes people have difficulty letting go of the negative people in their lives. Now, every time something goes wrong in your life and you're looking for a friend to talk to, you go to this friend. Every single time you try to confide in them, they turn around and tell everyone else in your circle of friends. Now, I'd bet it doesn't take long for you to catch on that they're doing this, and realize that you no longer wish to confide in them. Unless you're a sucker for punishment, you stop confiding in them. Or at least you sit down and have a chat with them about it, and then give them some time to grow up before you try it again. That would be the conditioned response.

The depressive response would be more along the lines of feeling betrayed, but the pain from the betrayal is too much to bear so you repress those feelings and pretend everything is okay. Not only do you stop confiding painful secrets to that friend, but you stop talking to anyone at all about your vulnerabilities.

This is why there's hope with conditioned responses, whereas depressive responses tend to be more along the lines of people just giving up. Dogs can be re-trained to drool at a different sound, or not drool at all to the sound of a bell, if they hear it often enough where it's not associated with food, particularly if they start associating it with painful stimulus. We can re-learn our associations in life, and that includes keeping an open heart.

Luckily, I don't think I've ever had a 'friend' like the fictional person mentioned above. I've had friends that have hurt me, sure. Relationships can be painful. I've given people second and third chances, too, which is a huge struggle for me, and brings me back to the main point of trying to keep an open heart. This is a very, very difficult thing for me. I have switches or circuit breakers inside me somewhere, that get tripped when I get hurt. I won't go into a lot of examples or anything, but suffice it to say that once someone has hurt me I have a very difficult time resetting that switch. I have to force it. Occasionally I lose the ability to do so with an individual. The one example I will give is my mother and father. By abandoning me as a child, not only did they flip the switch, but they blew the damn thing up. I was never able to love or trust them again. I can't even bring myself to care if they're alive or dead. It's not anger that does that, it's a lesson learned. It's not repressed emotions, either. I just have no feelings for them.

When it comes to the world in general, it becomes increasingly difficult to remain openhearted. We get stepped on, dirt kicked in our faces, and disrespected every single day. Many of us get to the point where we might as well have FTW tattooed on our bodies (meaning, "F**k the world," in case you've never hung out with that sort of crowd). We simply can't bring ourselves to give a crap about anything but our self-centric world, because life has taught us through conditioning that there is just no point. However, that's where it slides into the depression part if you let it. Once you throw up your hands, giving up on everything rather than concentrating on the things you can still change or control, you are now officially in the land of depression.

If, however, you keep struggling to hold onto the things that give you hope, opening up your heart just one more time, seeing the possibilities that are there for you just one more time, that's not depression. Sure, you're hurting and lonely, but you're not depressed. If you can feel pain, allowing yourself those emotions, you're not depressed. Depression isn't what the vast majority of people think it is, anyway. Most people equate it with being sad. It's not. Depression literally means your feelings are depressed (or repressed). They are shoved down so you don't feel them, making sadness irrelevant. Sadness is not synonymous with depression. They are two completely different things.

The dream I mentioned I woke up from had to do with my ferret, Stimpy. Dreaming about him is the only place where I can have him back again, so even though it's painful and I wake up crying, I would gladly take on that pain to be able to spend that time with him. He may not be there in the dream with me, but it makes be feel better to know I've spent the time thinking about him, and that I haven't just forgotten him. In his case, because his death was so devastating to me, I could have allowed depression to take hold. It would have meant letting him go in a way that was unacceptable to me, though. I need him to be a part of the life I've had, both the joy and the pain. I could also have chosen to close my heart to that kind of hurt in the future, but I have another ferret who needs me to love him, and there are others out there in shelters that need to be loved, too, so when the time is right I will adopt another ferret, possible a couple more.

When it comes to the romantic end of things, throughout my life I have certainly fallen in love with people I knew better than to fall in love with. Not necessarily because they were bad people, or even wrong for me, but in some cases I simply knew they didn't feel the same towards me. When I do love someone, I don't usually stop loving them entirely, either, but I am quite capable of distancing myself from them emotionally. The thing is, I know what it's like to not be able to feel the hope of loving someone. The empty loneliness I spoke of earlier is a very cold place to be.

In a lot of ways I've had to learn to embrace this place as I've damn near taken up residence here these last few years. There have been temporary relocations, kind of like staying in a foreign country overnight, but for the most part this is where I live. I came to the conclusion a while ago that I didn't really want to live here, but you know what they say about tangos. Instead I'm doing a Billy Idol impersonation and dancing with myself. Emotions are such tricky things, too. Nobody can be forced to feel them, myself included, and it's pretty damn difficult to force yourself not to feel them, either.

Aside from my personal life, or lack thereof, there's my life out in the world, too. I would really like to be able to say I've given more to this world than I've taken from it. To that end I'm always trying to resolve issues that I see. An open heart is very much required, and the more hurt I see people causing in the world, the more difficult it is to retain that open heart and not simply give up on people altogether. There are days when I just have to leave it alone. I have to walk away from everything I'm doing or I know there will come a point where I simply break. If I can't continue at least trying to make this world a better place, then something very fundamental to my personality will be lost. I have been speaking out for human rights and animal rights since I was about thirteen - twenty-nine years ago. That's almost three-quarters of my life. It's an intrinsic part of my personality at this point, and to lose it would be devastating to who I am at a core level.

No, the only way I can subsist in this world is if I keep opening myself up, over and over again. If I don't, I'm no longer "me," I'm a shadow of my former self. I'm the "me" that's given up on life. That's not a way I'm willing to live. Whether that means falling in love with people who will hurt me, or fighting a losing battle for the rights of humans or animals, in the words of Popeye, I am what I am. With an open heart, the open mind will automatically follow. It takes courage to love. It takes courage to open your heart in any way, because it leaves us vulnerable to pain. I honestly can't imagine living with a closed heart, though. To me there just wouldn't be any point in drawing my next breath.

Friday, 9 August 2013

Procreation - Right, Duty or Privilege

There's an ongoing debate in the world about who should or should not have children. Quite often those debates are directed at women, simply because women happen to be the physical bearers of offspring - for better or worse. The abortion debate focuses on women rather than men, and the outcome of any such debate will probably always be felt more strongly by women. Religious extremists keep spouting rhetoric about it being a woman's duty to procreate and populate the world, and that no child should ever be aborted, regardless of the risks to the mother or any other factors. Far left-wing liberals are of the opinion that anyone should be allowed to have abortions for any reason, at any time.

Another area of the debate comes from the opposite end of the spectrum. Recently (July 2013) it was revealed that California prisons were illegally sterilizing female inmates. However, it hasn't always been illegally done, either. I remember in the late nineties when a Canadian woman sued the Alberta provincial government for enforced sterilization. Anyone with an IQ of less than 70 was subject to the Sexual Sterilization Act of Alberta. As we should all realize, however, the law was applied rather indiscriminately.

"Specifically, the Act was disproportionately applied to those in socially vulnerable positions, including: females, children, unemployed persons, domestics, rural citizens, unmarried, institutionalized persons, Roman and Greek Catholics, persons of Ukrainian, Native and Métis ethnicity." Wikipedia entry.

There is a constant Dr. Dolittle Pushmi-Pullyu thing happening with women here. It boils down to constantly being told what to do, whatever the mood swing happens to be at that moment, and then being expected to do it in that moment, but then being castigated later for making the choice that was lauded initially. Case in point - when women are expected to give birth no matter what their financial ability, and then are forced to seek assistance, they're called welfare queens.

It's not just about women and their choices, though. Or even men for that matter.

I would imagine that most people don't ever really stop to think about it, but our planet has something called a carrying capacity. Basically what it means is that there is a maximum population that the earth can sustain. Even for those who do stop to think about it, it's unlikely they know what that capacity is. Well, I'll happily answer that question to the best of my ability, by telling you that it's approximately 9 to 10 billion. Surprised? I bet you didn't realize how close we were to hitting that maximum. What's more shocking is that there is evidence to support the possibility we've already exceeded our carrying capacity.
'Lester Brown of the Earth Policy Institute, has said: "It would take 1.5 Earths to sustain our present level of consumption. Environmentally, the world is in an overshoot mode."' Wikipedia entry.
Our carrying capacity is determined by consumption levels in multiple areas. It's not just our food supply, but that's a place to start. If we all became vegetarians our food supply could support ten million people. Feeding livestock to, in turn, feed ourselves, is a much less efficient way of doing things. By remaining omnivores we're able to feed fewer people. Other issues affecting our planetary capacity are clean water and something called the nitrogen cycle. Our planet can only filter so much water, and create so much breathable nitrogen. Of course, the nitrogen cycle is also affected by human-created issues, such as fossil fuel consumption and agricultural inputs. (In case you failed science class, nitrogen comprises approximately 78% of the air that we breathe, so it's more than a little necessary to our existence.)

This means we're left with a huge moral dilemma. Every choice we make with regard to procreation leads to unwanted consequences and massive doubt and debate.

If we tell people they should have children we can overload the planet in a very short period of time. Never mind the economic strain of people having children they cannot afford, and the fact that we're demanding that people do what some don't want to do. Not everyone wants kids. Forcing people who don't want them to have them will always be a recipe for disaster, and those children will suffer greatly for it. Children born in poverty already suffer for it. Anyone raised in poverty can tell you that financial strain increases stress factors in the home. Increased stress levels result in proportionately higher percentages of abuse and neglect. In other words, if we're happy people, we're much more likely to be happy parents and treat our children better.

On the flip-side, if we tell people they shouldn't have children, we're taking away their natural-given rights and/or abilities to do so. Yet, a big part of me understands why certain things aren't necessarily welcome in the gene pool. I've certainly looked at people and wished they would stop procreating because I felt there was no way they should be allowed to be parents. At the very least, anyone who has been convicted of violence toward children should be barred from producing them. I have stronger opinions there, but they're only semi-related to the topic at hand, so I'll leave them alone for now.

Maybe there should be a test or application process. The problem is, humanity as a whole is far too lacking in intelligence to make up a test to properly determine who should be parents and who should not. Possibly we should all undergo a type of temporary sterilization until such time as we're able to afford to have it reversed and we've gone through parenting training of some kind. It would guarantee we're at a financially stable point in our life and can afford to bear children, and it would help to prepare us for doing so. Of course, under those restrictions my daughter would never have been born, so maybe I should just stop talking now.

Wherein the Twain Shall Meet - 'Thar Be Souls Matey!

What the hell is a soul? Damned if I know. Like most people I try to answer that question for myself, but the fact is, nobody has a clue and despite the fact that we're all struggling to find the answer, none of us has. After all, if one person could truly show everyone what a soul was, there would no longer be a debate about its composition and/or existence. Sure, there are those who believe in the religious aspects of a soul - most of the world's population, in fact - but even they would be hard-pressed to tell you exactly what it is, and when exactly it becomes a part of our physical beings. Nobody can tell you what it consists of, or where it sits while waiting for a body to embed itself in.

Not everyone believes in a soul, of course. It's rather an ephemeral thing having more to do with a belief that there's something beyond our corporeal existence. I can't imagine atheists believing in a soul of any kind, as it goes against all the basic principles of atheism. I'm not saying that makes them immoral. Morality is based on our actions, not our beliefs - a stance too few people seem to take while they spout religious doctrine in loud voices at the nearest passersby.

Many believe that life begins at conception, and it seems logical to them that the soul would be there from that moment. Well, wait a minute. Let's take a look at the logistics of that. For what it's worth, I'll share my opinion on the topic. This particular blog posting springs rather naturally from my previous one on the pro-choice/anti-choice debates on abortion and reproductive rights. A friend made a comment on it that I felt I had to address, but it turned into such a long response I've chosen to put it here instead.

Personally, I don't think we're viable as human beings until we are capable of thought. It's not so much the pain issue for me, although that's a concern, too. In my opinion, once we are sentient, we're a valid life form. I mean, most people have that outlook if they look closely at their beliefs. If you have a relative who is on life support, and you know they're brain-dead, eventually almost everyone chooses to remove life support. Granted, that's with the belief that they will never again become sentient creatures and there's no hope. Still, (for me anyway,) until something is capable of its own thought processes, I have a hard time regarding it as a living creature. No more so than I would bacteria, I suppose. There are far too many living, sentient, suffering creatures out there already - human or otherwise - and they have my sympathies and my empathy far more readily than what amounts to nothing more than a cell cluster that isn't suffering in the least. (This all coming from a woman who has a hard time killing a fly - literally - and will do so as quickly and humanely as possible.)

I find that most people who feel life begins at conception have a religious/spiritual slant to the belief - a belief in a soul basically. I believe in a soul, but probably not in the same way a lot of people do. I'm not conflicted by it, as I think they need a brain to latch onto. The reason I feel that way might be because of what I think about paranormal stuff in general. I believe it's all scientific, involving a great many electrical impulses. Those are already present in the human body in spades, and I can see our spiritual energy being physically attracted (similar to how magnetic attraction works) to our physical nervous system once it's developed enough to start sending out the electrical impulses that force our hearts to beat, and our lungs to expand.

Now, assuming I'm wrong (and that happens *gasp*) and our soul is there right from the moment sperm meets egg, if you believe in past lives/multiple lives, then the soul will simply find another clump of cells to inhabit if a pregnancy doesn't continue. If you believe in an afterlife, it goes there to be forever happy. I don't see a problem with any of that. With the sperm-meets-egg concept, though, I find it confusing. I mean, sperm and ova are life forms, too. Short-lived ones, of course, but therein lies the problem with the whole "personhood" debate. If we define life as anything that isn't organically dead, sperm and egg are life. So my question there is, do they have a soul? If they do, what happens when they merge into a single being? They each have their own chromosomes. Each contributes half of the chromosomes required in order to grow a human being.

This naturally leads into the definition of what a human being is really comprised of. Are we nothing more than a group of cells, or is there something else there? Obviously we're capable of sentient thought, whether we all choose to take advantage of the capability or not, but then so are all animals. Dogs gets excited when their human companion comes home from work. Cats get pissed off and take a crap in your shoe if you go on vacation. (Yes, it really is that deliberate.) Ferrets will climb all over you if you've been gone for a while. All of these things I know from personal experience with the animals I've shared my life with. They obviously have feelings, as they notice a loss when we're not there. These emotions show us there's an intelligence there. So, I would go so far as to say, if we have a soul, then so do the animals of this world. This isn't even something we have to teach animals, as it happens in wildlife in pack animals as well. They already have, and use, the capacity to feel emotion.

Some of you may feel as though I'm missing the point when I avoid biblical references, but the fact is I do not believe in the bible. I believe it's a collection of stories, possibly loosely based on real events, but when even the Vatican admits that the stories about Jesus were written fifty years after his death, by someone who wasn't there at the time, it amounts to nothing more than hearsay. If you've ever played the sociology gossip game, or even heard about it, you can see why I put little faith in hearsay. Basically you tell someone a 'secret' and then wait to see what it turns into by the time it gets back to you. I've heard of (yes, that's hearsay) it being used as a sociology experiment/project in universities and colleges, but have no real-life experience with it other than regular gossip. I've heard some pretty interesting stories about myself, for that matter, that made me wish I'd done half the things I was purported to have done. The threesome one (with two guys no less) was iffy on my bucket list.

The point is simply that any rumour that goes around usually comes back as something completely unrecognizable. So, how is it that the stories of Jesus or Moses would be any different? Humans certainly weren't any more truthful back then, than they are now - not if the bible is to be believed. God supposedly destroyed everything except Noah and his family at one time, and then smote Gomorrah at another, and all for the various "sins" inherent in human beings. Nothing has changed there apparently, except that we're destroying ourselves without any help from a higher being, and that was probably what happened back then, too. There was a great flood according to scientists, and quite frankly it looks like there will be again. This time created by humans and global warming. That's another article altogether, however.

So, what is a soul? When do we become real human beings? Is it from the moment we're conceived in amongst all the lustful grappling? I don't know about you, but that's kind of an "ick" factor for me. I'm not sure why, but it is. I have my quirks. So be it. Are we something like the beings that Plato describes, where we spend eternity looking for our other half, but in reality the other half is either a sperm or an egg? That would certainly throw people for a curve. I mean, so many people talk about romance and their other half, when really, we were in two halves. We started out that way as sperm and ova. We became whole at the moment of conception. This is assuming that our souls are present within the sperm and egg, however.

Of course, I don't believe in the romantic aspects of having an 'other half' of myself. When I was young and far more neurotic than I am today, with no confidence and belief in myself, sure I ate up that whole idea with a spoon. I grew up.

(That spoon thing may not be the best analogy when talking about sperm and eggs, I'm thinking. "I do not like my eggs and sperm. I do not like them, Sam I Am. I would not, could not in a boat. I would not, could not on a goat." Okay, that brings up some very disturbing imagery for me, however it might amuse me. I wonder what Dr. Seuss would think. After all, I'm pretty sure he had to be fairly disturbed to write some of that stuff. Kind of like me, I suppose.)

Maybe the debate is more about what truly gives us the right to a life. I don't mean the term 'right to life' as it necessarily applies to abortion debates, but as a question regarding what makes us worthy of being allowed to exist in the first place. Are human being so sacrosanct that every little blob is sacred? Are we so fantastic that the universe guarantees us an unquestioned right to live? I have to say, based on some of the crap I've seen us do, I'm pretty sure the universe could do quite well without us. We're certainly not doing anything to improve it. We're an infinitesimal piece of a ginormous quilt, and we have a tendency to rip out the stitches holding our little piece in place.

That being said, as a whole I think there's hope for us. I just think we need to get our priorities straight. We need to protect what we have already. Whether that's our planet, the people living on it, or the other living creatures that inhabit it. Until we're assured that those things are taken care of, and that we're responsible and well-behaved as a species, continuing the infestation of our planet should really be further down on the list. If we truly do have a soul, that's probably our best way of saving it.