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Sunday, 28 June 2015

Giving Myself a New Gift (or Three) Every Year

Change and movement are a part of life. Every year around my birthday I start to look at how things are at that moment, what I managed to accomplish in the last year, and what I'd like to accomplish by my next birthday. There's been a lot of changes this last year, moving being one of the best ones. We're in a place we really like now, and that makes a huge difference in how much I want people in my personal space. I'm no longer ashamed of where I live. I'm thrilled to be able to make plans about what furniture and other decor to buy, and where to put everything. I have an interest in having nice things again, where before I just looked around and shrugged, saying, "What the hell difference would it make? It'll still look like a $#!thole."

It was a psychological 'giving up' caused by depressing surroundings, and it really is amazing how much better I feel as a human being these days. I realize I haven't been writing, but I don't have a comfortable writing space set up with a chair and desk. At the moment I'm sitting on the edge of a mattress that's sitting on the floor. My laptop is propped up with a large stack of reference books. I'm hunched over in an amazingly uncomfortable position just so I can bang out a few words to my regular readers. Well, that and I'm sort of organizing my thoughts for the year to come.

That being said, I need to get back on topic. Last year I became even more politically involved, particularly in my own country. I actually became an official member of a political party. I donated $25 I think, and I have a 3-year membership with the Green Party. I could have gone with the NDP, actually, but there are things that are annoying me about them. Still, either party is better than the Progressive Conservatives (or PC party) or the Liberal party. Both of those are in the pockets of big oil and all that jazz, and they both voted for Keystone XL. The only ones to vote against it were NDP and an Independent. I'm really hoping we can get rid of Harper in the next federal election, because he's destroyed a lot of Canada - physically destroyed it, I mean.

The third gift I gave myself last year, though it wasn't really under my control so much, was finally getting in to see the right orthopedic surgeon. Nothing has been done as yet, except to book me for a group of doctors that will be giving me a whole bunch of ultrasound-guided injections of long-acting local anesthesia. That won't happen until after my birthday, so I can't count pain relief for last year, but I can count the progress toward healing.

This coming year I'm looking at my last year before I hit 45. That's kind of a milestone birthday, I think. So this next year I'm going to give myself some really important gifts for that birthday. The first is related to the last one I mentioned for last year. I'm going ahead with the treatment that will discover the extent of my injuries, and exactly where the worst of the pain is coming from. I want to be able to jump out of bed in the morning, rather than rolling cautiously, straightening each part of my body slowly so that I can finally stand up. The first couple of steps I take are pretty painful. I want that way of life gone this year. Maybe the doctors won't be able to schedule my repairs fast enough for my next birthday, because it sounds like there's a lot to be done. However, there's something else I can do to help that along.

This leads me to my next gift to myself, and that simply physical fitness. Knowing that the vast majority of my pain will be treated, despite it being only a mask of the real problems, I'm confident I can start to move around a lot more. I'll have to start out cautiously, because I've basically been in a chair or a bed for the last few years. It's hard to exercise when it's excruciating, but even more so when you're told you're not supposed to because it will cause more damage. In fact, I've been told a lot of crap from doctors that never told me there were ways around my various issues. I have a problem with my knees that could have been fixed with simple exercises, and I only found that out a couple of weeks ago. It turns out that my disc problems in my back can be healed, but I was told by another orthopedic surgeon that my back was permanently screwed.

In other words, I'm taking what the doctors tell me with a grain of salt, I'm doing my own research, and I'm going to start moving my body more and more throughout the year. Yoga, resistance/weight-training, and aerobic activity. I'm going to start recording my results, and maybe I'll share them here, too. It depends on how I feel about it once I get going. I'm not sharing half-naked before & after pictures, don't worry. I'll spare everyone that much. I might do some fully-dressed, though. We'll see. Whatever the case may be, I'll be in a lot better shape by my next birthday, and I'm doing it the right way - as a lifestyle change, not a binge program. The last thing I need is more injuries, or to stop doing it because it's just too drastic. I need to have fun with it. Thankfully I like the activities I've chosen, and they're well-rounded with regard to a fitness program. Flexibility, strength and endurance, which are all things we need to live a full life.

I'm also setting up my home so that I have a nice working and living environment, so I can get back to serious and consistent writing again, in addition to my other work. I want to be able to put in the time on everything and feel productive again. In my head I'm almost always working, because I do love the things I do. However, translating that to actually getting the work done is a different story. Not being in so much pain will help a great deal there, too. Not only because pain is distracting and exhausting and makes me want to curl up in the fetal position, but because I take so many pills to counteract the pain that my brain just can't stick with things long enough to accomplish anything. You wouldn't believe how many blog posts and articles I've started and stalled out on halfway through. Once I stop working on a piece it ends up being deleted. I never go back to finish it off. I either rewrite the whole thing or just dump it entirely.

Cautiously I say, too, that this year I want to finish and publish at least one book. Even if it's an anthology I edit where I've only written one or two short stories, and there are stories from other writers in it. It's past time for me to get my fiction work out there. I'm also considering writing a small book on rape recovery. Never mind the fact that I've got the makings of more than one series of books. There's my demon series and the serial killer one. I've got lots of notes, and the basic outlines for story arcs throughout, so I think they'll be great if I ever have a comfortable place to sit and get some real writing done. I know...excuses, excuses...

I look forward to every single year of my life. I don't celebrate birthdays with any brouhaha, because it's just not the way I roll. I'd rather sit at home doing exactly the same things I'd be doing on any other day. The exception is that we usually have a special meal, with cake or pie after, and then my daughter and I watch a bunch of movies. That won't be possible this year. My daughter is working 12-hours shifts on weird rotations, so she has to sleep the entire time she's home. Not to mention the fact that she wasn't getting any shifts at all for a while there. We barely have the rent money now, so we won't be buying steaks & cakes. That's okay, too. I don't mind being broke so long as we have the essentials and we're not short on the rent. We won't starve and the landlord is getting paid.

Maybe I'll watch some movies on my own, but more likely I'll play games on my computer or work toward this year's goals.I still have to finish my starting routine for working out, and determine my level of progression, but I have fun planning that kind of thing. I can get bogged down in the details and find myself distracted, but as long as I cover the first few weeks I can always plan the next steps when I get to them.

Of course, I also continued my education last year, and that's ongoing. I went through the MIT course on programming with Python, and I'm enrolled in Linux and calculus courses at the moment. I think there's a chemistry course in there somewhere, too, but it hasn't started yet. I plan to delve into CSS and Java, among other things. For me, I think the best part of living life is learning whatever I can latch my brain onto. We become so much more by educating ourselves, opening our horizons. Every course I take brings in new perspectives on life, no matter what the topic. I see just a slightly different slant, and that's such a huge benefit - not only to me, but to my readers as well. I can offer so much more to everyone around me if I keep becoming more than what I am now.

I remember many years ago reading in a book about a married couple whose philosophy was that we are not human beings, but rather we're human becomings, and for me that was a crystallizing moment. I understood right then that that was the person I need to be (or become, if you will). So, every year I get just a little bit closer to the person I'm supposed to grow into. Maybe I'll make it there, and maybe I won't, but it would be a real shame if I didn't even try. Alas, no matter how many years are between this one and the one on my birth certificate, I don't think I'll ever really grow up, which makes me smile just thinking about it.

Friday, 12 June 2015

Powerful While Powerless, and a Refreshing Start

Let me get right down to the nitty-gritty. We finally got ourselves moved out of our old apartment. We also had some interesting times without electricity for the last 10 days we were there. It's not the first time I've done without power, and I'm stubborn when it comes to paying a bill where I think I'm getting ripped off. Living in an apartment it's very easy for people to patch into other people's power lines. All you need is a little detector for electrical lines and a drill. For some reason, despite the fact that we weren't using space heaters for those months, our usage was twice as high as it had been the previous year when we were using space heaters. I told the woman at the utility company this, and she simply didn't care. Told us we had to pay well over $300 if we wanted to retain our service for the last ten days we'd be there. I told them to stuff it. Stealing utilities of any kind in this country is actually a very big offense, so you would think they'd be a little more interested, but they weren't. Too much bother for them when they could simply demand their money from us.

We actually had the money to pay the bill. That wasn't the point. The point was that someone was stealing from us and I wasn't going to pay for it. Instead we bought some batteries for our LED lantern, and got a couple more LED lights. It being close to summer, we had a fair bit of daylight anyway, and at night we played board games or UNO. We had a lot of fun, and bought a bunch of ravioli to eat cold. We could have had other stuff, but we happen to like cold ravioli.

Right before our power was shut off our microwave blew, so this weekend we're getting a new one. My daughter was cleaning it and may have sprayed the vinegar-water through the vent holes. Normally we put a cup of vinegar-water in it and turn it on to clean it, and it works miracles, but this time it started smoking and sparking and I told her to stick it in the pile going into the garbage.

We got rid of a lot of our stuff. There were various pests in that building and we had no interest in bringing any of them with us. Besides, my dresser and bed were already destroyed by water damage when the roof of the building leaked. Mildew had destroyed half my clothes in my closet, too. And this is the landlord that had the nerve to try to get $2,600 from us for damage to the floor. That didn't work out so well for them. Thankfully they were nice enough to allow us to stay on a couple extra months when I injured my knee so badly I couldn't get down the stairs.

As luck would have it, though, that delay from my injury was a blessing. Not that I enjoyed the pain or anything, but the delay is how we ended up finding a really great apartment. We went to look at two that day, and we figured from the address that the first one would be a dump and the second would be decent enough. It turned out that the first one was amazing. We were really surprised by it. We still went to see the other place, but I called the guy from the first place right after our second viewing and told him we wanted the place. The rent was higher, but all utilities are included and we also have central air. We no longer have to throw in a window unit. Yippee. In fact, we gave that window unit away by sticking a sign on it and putting it in the hallway of the old building. It was gone in less than 24 hours.

We're still really thrilled with the new place. Every floor is tile. My bedroom has a ten-foot ceiling, which echoes like mad right now, but once I get a painting or two on the wall, and buy the area rug I want, it should be awesome. I'm going back to having a queen-size bed again in a couple of weeks. The room is huge, in addition to the high ceiling, so I now need furniture to fill it up. Thankfully the landlords left a wardrobe, a couple of bookshelves, a nice table and chairs, curtains on all the windows except one, and a couple of area rugs. The urgent stuff is no longer an issue.

We haven't unpacked fully, yet, but we've unpacked more here than we did at the old place in nearly 3 years. Hopefully we'll get everything done this weekend, as we'll have been here two weeks by Sunday. We're actually going to hire a friend of my daughter to come in and clean at least once a month. My daughter's back at work with hours that are a crazy mix of continental days and nights, so she needs her time off to adjust between shifts, and I'm just not capable of cleaning a whole house anymore. We've been keeping up with the animals rather religiously, however. The ferrets are doing well with their puppy pads, and the cat was never a problem with her litter box. Apparently the people who lived here before wouldn't change their cat's litter, and so the landlord warned us ahead of time that we needed to keep everything really clean, especially since they'd never seen a ferret before. They haven't had any complaints thus far, so hopefully we're doing okay with that.

For the first time in about four years, we have a decent place to live. Actually, it's closer to seven years. The place was clean when we moved in. It smells and feels clean, and it's done up pretty nicely. I'll be pleased to have people come over and visit, instead of being ashamed of it. It's a huge change in mindset for me, and a great step toward regaining happiness in my life.

Another positive is that I finally got in to the orthopedic surgeon. He's sending me to a group of doctors that will administer long-acting anesthetic injections, guided by ultrasound. I've got about four different problems with my hip joints, apparently, and so they want to deal with the pain first. Once the pain is eased, I can fix one of the problems myself - lack of exercise. It won't matter anymore that I may be causing further damage by walking around, because it won't hurt and they're going to fix it at some point. My muscles have been atrophying for some time now, including the stabilizer muscles, so I'm looking forward to being able to exercise again. I miss it.

I still won't be able to do my belly dancing until they fix the issue with my joints locking up, because my legs simply won't do what the need to do right now, but maybe I can do a limited amount. Dancing is something I miss more than anything. I've been dancing in one form or another since I was a small child, and to have that taken from me is painful. I can wiggle my hips on the dance floor at a club or something, but I can't do anything that requires real skill.

I go for the shots on July 3rd, so we'll see how that goes. In the meantime I'm catching up on my reading and getting comfortable in our new home. We have office space now, which is awesome. I just can't really use it yet. I need a proper desk and office chair. I bought an office chair from Staples a while back, but it doesn't tilt back far enough so it's uncomfortable for me. I do have a table I can use, but no chairs that will really work with it. Then I have to set up something for sound-proofing, or at least noise-reduction. I'm doing the intros for all the shows now, and I do other voiceover stuff, so I want to be able to record quality audio. I've done the last two in my bedroom, and the echo was pretty bad. I can get rid of some of it, but it's better to not have it in the first place.

So I finally have peace in my life again. The stress of hearing people yelling in the hallway, swearing, coming in drunk in the middle of the night and carrying on loud conversations with other neighbours, people smoking in the hall so it surges into our apartment, and who-has-the-loudest-stereo competitions late at night - those are all things I do not need in my life. I despised living there, and the tension built up so much that I'm still letting go of it now. Situational depression, even when the situation is gone, doesn't just magically disappear. Your behaviour becomes habitual in response, so those habits have to be broken. I cringe when I hear noises, still. Our only neighbours in the building are our landlords, and they live upstairs so we hear their dog barking and their voices when they talk loudly, so it trips the switch a little, but once I realized that was their natural speech pattern I was fine with it. I just hate people fighting. Drama is not something I seek out in life.

Now that a large number of problems have either been solved, or are about to be, I'm looking forward to seeing what I can make of my life once again. Giddyup!