Tuesday, January 8, 2019

Resolute

Perhaps you can relate to this: a scenario in which there is much to say but no earthly way to say it in a blog post (or a memoir, frankly). I've hesitated to write because there's no sassy vignette to relay, just the deeply chaotic part of transformation. It's dull on paper. It's brutal to live through. What I can say is that, if you are (un)fortunate enough to meet your limit, chances are your identity is swimming in the dark realm of Hades.

BTW, no one has accused me of being light-hearted these last few months. To give a brief overview of the situation, I've been on medical leave since mid-October for a variety of reasons, the prominent ones being arrhythmia and horrendous pain. The arrhythmia is now under control, though it took a good month (fwiw, I barely leave the house, so loath am I to encounter stimulus). The pain has thrown me for a loop (not that I have that degree of flexibility lately).

You will rarely find a person having chronic pain that doesn't also have a very high pain tolerance because the pain is untethered. Centralized, chronic pain is a different beast than the standard-issue (also potentially intense) acute variety. I think we can all agree, what with science confirming it in recent years, all pain comes from neural interpretation. And when your brain decides to turn everything into a platform for pain, well, it can be torment. The very instrument that defines me, that creates and justifies my identity, seems intent on driving me to near madness. Actually, I don't think it cares if I come near the madness or surpass it. It has a mind of its own which I am handcuffed to. That mind is called fear. Don't kid yourselves, fear is to pain what munchies are to the stereotypical pothead.

What I've learned this time around - and it's taken me almost 3 months to get to this stage (three months of navigating the health system when I could barely function), is that there is no way beat central sensitization without becoming someone new. And it's very hard to become someone new at the best of times, much less when you can't think straight - literally. My very way of being predisposes me to live with something untenable. My style has always been to power through - to be bigger than the discomfort - because, frankly, that's how I define used to define capacity. But that response is as culpable for pain's entrenchment as my genetic make-up or the chance-y spin of the wheel that makes me all of the things I am.

Not to dwell on my symptomology because it's both boring and quite enough to fucking live it, but I manage a variety of co-morbid conditions, which is proving to be a serious pain-provoker in concert with my ruminative brain. On any given day something is bound to hurt - that's just how it goes. But nothing has ever hurt like the pain I started to experience about 6 weeks ago. (Not even broken bones or traumatic childbirth with no meds.) Mercifully, while doing everything non-medical to move out of this phase, I'm on a cocktail of drugs that's masking the pain* but every once in a while it breaks through, even as I sense the inflammatory cycle is running its course. What is left in its wake is fear. Fear of pain that I will not be able to manage, though ironically it's likely the inability to manage fear that's amplifying pain.

This bout has been partly neuropathic, partly muscle-based. Bizarre muscular contraction sensitized nerves which then gave ballast to additional muscular contraction. While in spasm, my left upper leg feels as if it's being stabbed with a knife, routinely. I'm not being dramatic. Note to all: I am also using every non-drug methodology at my access - which is really where I excel in pain management, but Lord, this run briefly brought me to my knees. Fear is the ego of the autonomic body. It will be heard at unspeakable volume, if that's what it takes. And till you dig through the debris of fear, the pain has free-reign. FWIW, this moment is likely being "caused" (inasmuch as chronic pain has known cause) by those delightful osteophytes that line my spine - those unattractive little bone sprus that, statistically, half of you have too, to some degree, by the age of 50, and that you don't even know about because you've never experienced pain as a result.

I recently read the comment of a chronic pain-haver, on describing her unending conditions, symptoms and reasons for said misery, as giving her "pain street cred", a term with which I can relate all too well. I'm kind of an expert so I recommend that you listen to me when I say this: There is no exit until you can identify in what way your bodily pain is the biophysical interpretation of everything, including perceived** (if not actual) non-physical trauma - because your body's perception is all that you require to put you in this dubious club.

By its own estimation, my body has been running daily marathons for years - hypersensitized in just about every way because my inbred response to any fucking stimulus (for example: someone walking quietly into a room where I am sitting) is over-activation of my central nervous system. And just about nothing in my life (which I have created - it's on me) is "stress-lite". You can't hope to eradicate perceived trauma until you can observe it consciously and physical pain is a worthy distraction, in addition to being a learned, ruminative, biochemical response. It's my job to find some way to make it clear to my body-mind that perceived trauma transmuted into pain is no longer a necessary, nor is it a desirable response. I really don't like to admit this. I don't want to believe that my physical pain has any psychoemotional subtext because I'm fucking strong. My brain is powerful. I accomplish.

Pain makes me weak because it scares the fucking shit out of me. It's the final unknown, like death - but probably worse because death is a moment in time. Pain is the encroachment of death in the form of fear. I say this not to clinically depress us all, but to remind my potent sensitivity of its culpability in this cycle. I'm not casting blame, though I definitely judge myself and, yeah, I know that's counterproductive. I'm reminding my sensitive self that its biggest obstacle is also its greatest strength.

I've said before on this blog, generally when referring to New Year's resolutions, that I'd be wise to cultivate some compassion. It's like I didn't get that chip when they constructed my emotional motherboard. Instead, I got a triple of the critical eye. My ability to criticize, specifically analytically, is pivotal to the work I do professionally. It's also pivotal to the way I conduct myself everywhere cuz girl likes her groove.

I am working constantly, on this leave of absence, aka the least fun I've ever had in my life, to become neurochemically and behaviourally different (thanks meditation and CBT and 'script cannabis and traction yoga and pharmaceuticals and supplements and acupuncture/cupping and cold-pressed juice shots and my GP and the specialists I've been seeing and my husband and my mom and my friends and lots of books on the topic and bad Netflix which is sometimes the only thing that keeps anyone going, let's get real). I have no manual for this - engaging with myself under new parameters, working all the angles to find compassion for myself - my original victim - so that I can let go of the relentless grip. I'm hovering in the stratosphere of fear, where the air is paper thin. But I'm also at a moment of great transition, an opportunity for nervous reconstruction - an overhaul. I'm to be reassembled without instruction but according to a noble plan. And as always, my money's on me. I'm a worthy project.

*Alas, these are not drugs that one can take indefinitely. My work these last 6 weeks has been to find a way to decrease the pain (via non-drug formats) while tapering the medication. Note also that I have never before inferred that pharmaceuticals may be a desirable long term solution - which is evidence of the degree of pain I have found myself in of late.

** There are many who have experienced actual physical trauma or who have been harmed by internalized psychological trauma but I use the term "perceived" deliberately. There are some who have lived through war and abuse who do not have chronic pain, perhaps because they haven't somatized it - probably because that's not how they're wired. Or perhaps, credit where it's due, because they've done some hard fucking work.
 

Friday, November 9, 2018

Trigger Warning

No one is ever going to accuse me of being hardy. (Note: I routinely spell this word hearty, which is a delightful pun as I grapple with the existential meaning of arrhythmia.) If I were an artist, I'd be a consumptive poet (long have I felt this deep within). If I were a bug, I'd be of the potato variety, stuck on the rigid shell of my back, flailing my legs. If I were a flower I'd be night-blooming jasmine, fragrant but consigned to the time when everything sleeps.

I've spent my whole life grappling with my differentness - how I think, how I feel things, how I struggle, how I excel. And yet, I pass. I mean, in every way. I'm a person of Puerto Rican and Italian heritage who's as WASPy-looking as they come. (Actually, ask anyone and they'll tell you that, if I were a cultural sterotype, I would be a WASP.) I'm an introvert who somehow manages to present (as if without effort) like Auntie Mame. I'm a person who feels physically bereft at the sight of clouds, living in a place that (admittedly due to climate change) comes off like a cross between Ireland and Vancouver but with ice storms and bitter, damp cold - and without any of the charm or good geography. I love, love, love people and community and I am all too often limited in enjoying these things up close and personal - though as infrequently as possible - because the constant stimulus can start to feel like the singe-ing of hair on the back of my neck. Weird sidebar: I used to have the worst time having my hair cut because I could feel the energy of the scissors (and the holder of the scissors) tickling me and poking at me, even while each was still a foot away (and even if I didn't even know they were behind me).

But my most masterful play, dare I say it, is in my very normal affect given that I am often in excessively irritating to utterly extreme physical pain which (mercifully) cycles from place to place. Let's not dwell on diagnostics here. They don't matter.

Make no mistake - stuck with pain and given the choice, I would much rather appear entirely unphased, totally healthy, robust, energetic and carefree. But I imagine it's challenging for people to understand how, given that I always finish the job on time and generally with a smile, I'm nonetheless on one specific plane falling apart. Lord knows I've been wondering this for as long as I can remember. And the bitch about planes is that they all end up intersecting at some point.

It's never been an easy time to be a sensitive person, but I do think today presents its own array of terrible obstacles - particularly if you live amongst millions. I'm not here to define sensitivity. It's everywhere - dust in the corners. It's as you see it, as you feel it. Some people - we might call them lucky - can push it away at will. In my anecdotal experience, those peeps seem very hardy. They're the ones who can, unhindered, run marathons, lift heavy boxes, work 20 hours straight. The stimulus bounces from them (likely ricocheting to me!) Some even thrive in the fray. Of course, in my anecdotal experience, I don't know how many of these people are also passing, but I've done my "research" (via a casual little conversational questionnaire I've devised) and most of the ones I see as hardy actually are. Or they're lying. These people can push themselves to the physical limits without pain, not that they necessarily do. When a noise goes off without warning, they're not the ones who jump a foot and then spend the next minute doing self-devised, vagus nerve stimulation exercises.

I've been given the opportunity (and I'm not being entirely glib) of pain for years, in all kinds of places, pain that comes and goes like the cycles of weather - but less predictably. Why? Because it has revealed to me that sensitive people of a certain sort have limited filter separating sensation between body and mind (that's a hardy person thing) and you can't begin to manage things if you don't see them. Spoiler alert: Most likely, management doesn't involve powering through which is rather unfortunate since, to date, that's been my primary MO.

I love to compare things. Everything. It's the basis of whatever envy I have, my natural curiosity, my pattern-seeking way. But I'm not here to compare the hardy to the sensitive. We look the same but we might as well be dogs and cats. The world doesn't show itself to us equivalently. We live harmoniously in the same domain but we are not in the same place.

I am not inferior because I am physically weak. I am physically weak because I'm intercepting every fucking feather-brush of stimulus in my proximity. My brain gives me something that others don't have. Sure, most wouldn't take it, but it's still a grand experience - the beauty and depth of which they may never be able to appreciate. By my nature, IMO, I'm also expressing generational epigenetics - and probably actual crap genes. This is neither science nor magic - it's the convergence of the two.

In the way we are physically changed by music when we hear (or better yet play) it, by the patterns of numbers in code, by the stitches of fabric being formed, I am changed by the slightest flutter. I'm your canary in the coal mine. I have something big to give. I just don't know how to do it.

Sunday, September 30, 2018

Retail Therapy is a Thing

If you follow me on Instagram, you know that I had a bad day yesterday. It was bad on a number of fronts: my BELOVED sewing machine's stitch length lever broke (I thought we were supposed to buy the vintage mechanical machines cuz this doesn't happen!?).

Then Scott, who wasn't in the mood to fix it, expressed his ambivalence by breaking off one of the knobs that doesn't come off (this is very unusual for him - he's excellent at fixing everything).

Then, the utter shock and horror brought on my period, which has suddenly decided to happen whenever it feels like it (though sometimes not for 2 months). It came with hideous cramps, something I don't have routinely, which still have me close to throwing up at any moment, 24 hours later.

Then the kid came home for 1 night, on a furlough between Calgary and QC (don't ask how on earth it makes any sense to stop in Toronto on the way) and proceeded to lose her wallet, on the train, which contained her health card and 300 dollars, among other things - just as she goes out of province for another 3 months (and one's health card is necessary to obtain medical treatment). You know, I'm on a 6-month vacation from parenting which is every bit as pleasant as you might imagine (actually, way more pleasant) and the anger and anxiety I feel towards her right now (and on her behalf) is intense enough to make me want to throw up independent of cramps. It finally dawned on me that the only difference between an 18-year old and a 6-year old is that the 18-year old can cause infinitely more chaos with the same degree of selfish nonchalance.

All of this is to say that I was extremely grateful for a) Cava b) cookies and c) knitting and continue to be so - but not the cookies since I'm pretty sure they've amped up the cramps big-time.

One of the things I love about my current crafting space is that I get to keep my knitting swift and winder up all the time, attached to my makeshift shelving unit (from IKEA, 20 years ago). Man, that furniture is practical. Sure, I could have kept them up in my last craft space but things would have been so visually cramped. There's so much to be said for ceilings that extend indefinitely. Also, note, I sense a really gorgeous wooden ball-winder may be in my near future (though not if I have to spend hundreds of dollars replacing my sewing machine. UGH. Seriously, it's the destruction that overwhelms me - that it was broken again on top of being broken...)

Anyway, I started by winding a bunch of yarn...



Let me take a moment to praise the virtues of a lovely little workhorse yarn: Cascade Heritage Sock. I've been making socks with this superwash/nylon combo for years and I have to say, it's pretty well the only yarn of its sort: thinner than most other sock yarn (it's a fine fingering), in no way superwashy in feel or wear. I HATE superwash yarn. I will not use it other than on socks which I will NOT hand wash under any circumstances. You want to be a pair of socks I wear? You're going in the freakin' dryer.

This stuff fits the bill and it lasts and it's freakin' budget priced and it comes in hanks of 425 yards (that's great yardage) in every colour in the land. I have nothing bad to say about it except that I wish it could do all of this and not be superwash (given that I'm really opposed to the chemical process involved).

I've not used it on shawls or sweaters but it's just a matter of time. This yarn retracts, unlike most superwash yarn (maybe it's the nylon?) so I feel it would work just fine on either of those project types.

But this post is not to praise the merits of the yarn I've already bought. This is to tell you about how my love of that Classic Elite Adelaide is so fast and furious that I am basically traumatized by the closure of the brand. Look, I've used CE yarns on occasion and I loved them, but this is in its own category of perfect.

It's squishy in a worsted-spun way, beautifully plied (two strands), the colours are stunning. It's springy. It glides through the hand in a gorgeous way. Knitters, you know what I'm talking about. This craft is kinesthetic first. For those who struggle with tension (admittedly, not one of my challenges), this yarn will be your spirit guide. It's also totally affordable if you buy it on close out at WEBS.

I haven't been able to stop thinking about it and about how its departure leaves the world just a little bit bereft. (Yes, I'm dramatic.) And this yarn ain't even my gauge jam. It's light worsted and I tend to look away once I get to the robustness of DK.

So here's the thing. In lieu of killing Scott - which would have been short-sighted - I decided to buy some closeout yarn. But not till I bought pretty well all of the rest of this yarn at EweKnit (my LYS, where I purchased the original batch on Thursday - the batch that started this all...). Alas, while EweKnit told me online that it had 7 balls in the oatmeal colourway, the SA could only find 5 of those. What can I accomplish with 5 balls / 625ish yards?! (Don't answer that.) The other colourways, still in stock, are in limited numbers or shades I'm not into.

So natch, I decided to check out WEBS, an awesome resource for getting large volumes of yarn at very good prices (unless customs gets ahold of your yarn, in which case all bets are off). I managed to score 5 skeins in the camel colourway for 50 bucks CDN all in (inc shipping). That's a FUCKING steal. Note: I spent 65 bucks on this yarn at EweKnit and it was on sale and I had to walk up the block to get it. Effectively, the shipping cost was the exact same as the tax and the balls of yarn at WEBS are $5.70 (no tax) vs $11.15 (then add 13% tax) at EweKnit. (In full disclosure, I could have had this shipped for free because EweKnit ships orders over 75 bucks without charge. But that would be so wasteful of human energy that I couldn't allow it even if I don't want to leave the house. And I don't.)

Look - I get it. I buy at my LYS because I want it to be there (literally up the block). I mean, my yarn store moved to me. Take a moment to consider this ridiculous luck. Also, it's a beautifully curated space that anyone would love (really, go visit!). But even with the exchange rate (and prob even with customs), buying from the US costs less buying locally. I feel that's wrong.

But, let's not devolve into a convo about domestic manufacturing and international trade...

You know I have the yarn box. That's my stash box into which every last bit of my yarn must fit so that I don't become a crazy yarn hoarder*. Recently, I upgraded to a larger box. (It's really adorable and fabric and it fits the IKEA furniture in the sewga room perfectly.) It also allows for some lee-way but, really, there's only so much lee-way before it too is full to the rafters.

I actually have to cast on 3 projects now so that I will have enough space to house my new yarn when I pick it up / it gets delivered. I'm okay with that. Because the Adelaide is going to be nowhere to be found in about 10 minutes and I will savour every minute knitting with it and/or wearing. Sometimes one has to take the long view.

Now off to wind some yarn. After all, it's not like I'm going to be sewing anytime soon.

* Please note that I take this seriously. In all of my years of knitting, I have adhered to this rule and it's made me a more focused knitter who has learned the necessary skills to utilize every last yard, theoretically. Sure, the fact that I keep needing to buy more yarn to use up stash yarn is both questionable and entirely the way it goes. Trust me. It's a kind of "spend to save" paradox. It makes no sense but it's true!

Thursday, September 27, 2018

The Great Divide

So this post will be about knitting - which may intrigue you or bore you to tears. Here's my level best to up the excitement-factor for those of you who understand the lure of shopping more naturally than the lure of shopping for yarn.

For those of us who knit... There's a special kind of joy in using up one's stash to make something new. Like knitting for free! And if you add to this equation, some masochistic inclination to unwind a sweater that already exists (see below), then you are very rich indeed!


Note to reader: Had I known that this sweater's unwinding process / rewinding process was going to take 5 hours (I weave in ends with satanic precision), I might have just put this thing on the lawn. Especially since this colourway is so challenging. It's not grey and it's not blue and it's not clear and it's not warm. Such are the outcomes, on occasion, of buying yarn online. But it's Quince and I have 1040 yards of it and that yarn costs money, and takes energy to create and I'm not ready to chuck it because Chickadee is a lovely yarn to work with, and super-affordable, even if this colour doesn't really thrill*. And I want to find its worthy project. Also, stash-busting.

But the unwinding didn't leave me with quite enough yarn to make this sweater. And now I really want to make it - having already made an Emily Greene design that was SO enjoyable to knit. And, natch, I have to bust the stash. You can see where this is going.

No worries, I thought to my (naive) self: I'm sure I have enough of another stash yarn to do the hem bands in a contrast colour. Um, no. Quince in the Storm colourway apparently goes with nothing else I've ever bought in the history of my lifetime.

Add to the conundrum - the sweater is knit bottom up so I have got to commit to a contrast colour from the get-go. Sure, I could reverse the pattern instructions but, ahem, see the para below.

Sidebar: OMG, people. This pattern is 39 pages long. It's a 5/5 on the skill scale, something I rarely consider when I'm buying patterns (until after all is said and done). But my impulsive self rarely goes above a 4/5, just on instinct. I don't know what it says about me that it didn't even occur to me that this pattern - designed by an architect who works with the Brooklyn Tweed group - wouldn't perhaps be on the sassy side. Perhaps it says of me: I just built a fucking house and that's a 100/5 on the skill scale. And I didn't even have any fucking skills. So I think the stakes are relatively low. But here's the thing, between two yarns of two different gauges (I'm getting there, read on pls) and the most challenging pattern in the land (theoretically), I'm not freakin' reversing the order of operations. (Nor, for what it's worth, do I intend to modify the sizing. That would be insanity. The proportions of this sweater in the second size seem more or less aligned with mine. If it doesn't work out, oh well.)

Did I mention that of those 39 pages, 10 of them are charted cables (even though this sweater looks deceptively like rib). You don't like charts, you don't knit this thing. Oh, and also, there's a whole technique section that tells one how to cable without using a cable needle (something I've tried on occasion without a lot of success). I think I'm about to nail it because, apparently, the alternative is untenably slow. I've said it before and I'll say it again - don't bother to spend your money on Brooklyn Tweed yarn but never resist their patterns. BT patterns are amongst the best you will ever find, in just about every way - particularly in terms of clarity of instruction.

But back to the hem band yarn.

It would appear that even the knitting store, full to the rafters with all the kinds of yarn, had but one yarn that met my hem band colour-scheme needs, Classic Elite Adelaide:

(How adorably meta that the Insta caption references this post!)

I don't know how there was only one option. I looked at everything. Three times. But the kismet of this choice, aside from the fact that the yarn is utterly gorgeous and Quince-complementary in colour, hand and drape, is that the yarn was on sale for 25% off?!?! It cost about 50 bucks, all in, for 4 skeins  (~500 yards) but the skeins were heavy and I scored an additional 25 extra yards, truly for free. Is this yarn straight-up budget? No. Is it very reasonably priced given the quality? In my opinion, definitely. And I'm in it for an enjoyable knitting experience. If I don't love the yarn, what's the point?

Alas, it was on sale because the entirety of the Classic Elite brand is being shuttered. This is not because its yarns aren't incredibly popular, cuz they are. I think the designer is looking for a new challenge. File under: Why didn't I find this yarn years ago?

But all of the problems of the world have yet to be resolved. These 2 yarns - Quince Chickadee and Classic Elite Adelaide - are of differing weights, which is, theoretically, sub-optimal. I still can't predict how much yarn the hem bands will utilize. I can't imagine that it could be more than 300 yards. But if there's one thing I've learned, it's that many of the small-looking things take up the most yarn. In practice, I have faith. And I'm not rushing this. Do I need a new sweater next week? Nuh-huh. Can I let this sit quietly at any moment, in lieu of expressing compulsive behaviour? I believe I can and that I will.

Frankly, I love to knit. I love everything about it - even the bad things (which are barely bad). If I start and don't finish, who freakin' cares? It won't be the first time. And if I do find my way through this well-written maze, then I will have learned so much. And I'll have a super-cool sweater.

Thoughts?

* I note with interest that this is my second time in a row knitting with a Quince colour that I don't love - and once again I'm applying it to a complicated sweater pattern designed by Emily Greene. Admittedly, if I could find this yarn in store, I wouldn't have an issue. But, to date, its affordability (and the great adventure of online purchase) have superseded my disappointment. Having said this, in future I'm sticking to the colourways I know unless I can see the skeins in real life and touch them.

Saturday, September 15, 2018

Thoughts or Feelings?

I don't know what epitaph they'll inscribe on my headstone (or if I'll be cremated, more to the point), but I really hope it's not: Nothing was ever good enough or If you want something done right, do it yourself. But honestly, I'm either stuck in a strange astrological vortex wherein everyone is seriously phoning in quality or I'm pathologically fussy. And, btw, I've ruminated on this for a couple of years now so I'm going throw my take into the ring: I'm in the vortex.

Now, you might not agree - which is actually why I'm writing this post. Sometimes, when one is so fixed in one's on place, one can be misguided (I suppose). So, in full disclosure, I am compulsive about order. What this means, for my brain, is that everything needs to be positioned in a certain way (no need to explain the specifics, it's boring enough to live through) and smudges, scuffs and schmutz are the very bane of my existence. Sometimes, when I notice disorder as I define it, and other people are around, I cannot stop myself from starting to clean or reorganize, while simultaneously apologizing for the hideousness we've all been forced to look at. I've spent many a dinner party pruning the back yard.

I'm semi-regularly advised that I must relax, that no one else notices these things, that I'm distracting in my distraction. The reason I didn't invite people over for the 5 years before we did the reno is because there was so much imperfection, like everywhere, that I couldn't subject people to it.

I realize that, while my reno has re-established a sort of glory that this house may never have seen previously, that doesn't fix my compulsiveness. One of the hardest elements of my particular psycho-profile is that I am magically drawn to all evidence of disorder and non-negotiably compelled to assuage it. This is not a tendency I have developed. I was born this way. As mentioned, my long-term memory is not my strong-suit, but memories I have all share disorder as a sub-theme.

My post so far is somewhat prejudicial, I realize. Of course, I imagine, you must believe that I'm the issue here. But I truly don't think I am, not that my nature is helping anything.

My (custom, which is to say, not cheap) kitchen was largely remade because it was shoddily put together the first time. The cupboard door edges weren't beveled (?), the clasp openers (I don't like handles) were inferior and constantly disconnecting so they had to be replaced. The drawer rollers were like something out of IKEA circa 1978. In a misguided effort to fix cupboards onsite, an uncareful kitchen guy broke one of my absurdly expensive quartz countertops, which then had to be replaced (and not on my dime).

We spent 2 hours cleaning a wall of windows today because, though we've had professional window cleaners in - and our house cleaners have taken a run at them every time they been - said windows have been so ineptly destreaked, they continued to be a blight to behold. I know, post-renovation, one's windows continue to accumulate dust. But that's not what I'm referring to here. Part of window-cleaning involves recognizing that casings are part of the freakin' windows, no?

I could go on for pages but every time I look at something I'm distracted by the need to fix it. To wit: When readjusting the doors and improving the slightly asymmetric structure of my fireplace built-in, the peeps left silicone crap all over the quartz at the hearth. How can I read a book while that's going on?? Also, I'm not going to apologize for expecting perfect symmetry in that built-in. If it was good enough for the medieval Italians, it's good enough for me.

But enough complaining. I know - it's unattractive.

Though I'm conflating issues (work done by others and desire for "things done right" according to me) I'm curious to know how you manage your need for order. For starters, do you have one? If not, please tell me your secret - and I really hope it's not "my brain just works this way"! :-) Do you find it difficult to enjoy your space because you're compelled to improve it, rather than just to be with it? Do you have any "be here now exercises" which you apply so that you can just sit there on occasion and not feel like everything is falling into decay? How do you have people into your home to do things / clean things / fix things and not feel like, in lieu of paying them for their service, you should actually be lecturing them on the inferiority of their work.

Please know, when someone does something well, on the one hand I'm amazed and thrilled - and incredibly complimentary/grateful. On the other hand, it's as it should be. I would never provide you with less than I expect for and of myself. Isn't that the way the world should work?

Thanks so much in advance for any insights you can provide.

Sincerely, That Girl Who'd Prefer Not To Feel This Way All the Time

PS: FWIW, my husband completely shares my ire re: the ineptitude of much work done, but he's less traumatized by disorder than I am. So some things actually bother him as much as, or more than me, while others irritate him in a way he can completely ignore.

Saturday, September 1, 2018

Flight Path

No doubt, Toronto's most knowable weekend for good weather is this one. I know this because I await it every summer, partly with ennui, partly with excitement. It's the air show weekend and I LOVE the air show. By and large, this city is wasted on me because I don't much like interacting with strangers for the pleasure of culture and entertainment. Call me excessively lazy (I am). Call me overburdened with lots of stuff that makes me excessively lazy on my off-hours (also true). The air show, however, that one comes to me.

I don't know if I will be able to impart the strange magic of this scenario but I'll give it a go.

Inevitably, the sky is blue (if sometimes hazy). On the Friday before the long weekend, the planes come to town and undertake their rumbling practice runs so that, for 3 hours per day, over each of the three long weekend days, I am treated to a spectacle of incomparable proportions. It's like God put my house in their flight path. All I have to do is go up to my third floor balcony, which is as high or higher than any house around me (though not commercial buildings, of course), and wander from side to side, taking in 180 degree views and an unobstructed sky. I truly cannot put a price on this.

The Blue Angels open the show in stunning formation, twisting in a triangle of 6, their wings glinting in the sun as they swerve by overhead. At first, it's impossible to tell the difference between the dragonflies and the planes because they come into one's frame of cognition at the same size and proportion. The vapor trails sometimes give it away, but not quickly in the haze. The afterburners always get the point across.

Unquestionably, the most amazing moment, the most affecting, is when the F18 flies by. It comes so close, so extremely low (like 500 feet above my balcony), and the impact is unparalleled. I don't know how it is that I'm ok with noise so loud it shakes the windows - with a scary-ass war plane in my own personal theatre. But it puts one in mind of another theatre, one wherein life and death hashed it out, and on any given day there was a winner and a loser.

When I work with food, I never fail to think the same thing (every single time, even if I don't follow my own edict on occasion): I cannot waste any of this. And at the next moment, a subtle, but deeply ingrained sensibility comes to me, the consciousness of people in death camps, in war time, struggling to survive with next to nothing. It is my function to treat my fleeting privilege with unyielding respect.

When I watch the air show, I'm put in mind of that privilege yet again - in the largest, reverberative, most palpable way. To observe the silver elegance of battle planes overwhelms me with the glory of human innovation, and to hear their deafening, rumble brings a momentary, visceral awareness of the chaos of violent, senseless death.

I don't mind telling you that I cry my way through the air show every year - all the more reason that it's perfect I don't have to travel to see it... I cry because I am transported to a time and place where that sound would have been pure joy and relief - or utter terror, the worst awareness imaginable.

The air show is the way we allow fortunate, peaceful first-world urbanites to tremble in fear momentarily, to be reminded of the perfection of good-fortune in the guise of entertainment.

As the F18 stint comes to a close, it is joined by a P-51 Mustang, a single-seat fighter, introduced in the deep days of WW2. They fly in formation, directly in front of my terrace, maybe 20 feet apart, their black underbellies sucking in the light, wispy smoke trails of different consistency behind them. They are beautiful symbols of victory and the prevalence of human intervention. I hope I never hear such planes in action, but I hope I always hear them on the last weekend of summer. Wishing you this kind of experience over the upcoming days... xo

Sunday, August 26, 2018

Brief Enlightenment

You may know that I just returned from a week in Quebec and I'm compelled to reiterate what I've pummeled home on Instagram: it was a magically restorative event. There are so many fascinating (to me) tales to relate, and I'm sure they'll come out in time, but one stands out this morning...

On Friday, we returned to Quebec City from Baie St Paul, on a train that goes so slowly that we like to joke that both cyclists and boats both beat it to town in an imaginary race. From there we took a navette from the Chutes Montmorency to the main train station and then we walked 10 minutes to the hotel. This is Scott's annual opportunity to bitch about the cobbled streets (he wheels the cases) while declining, 7 times, to take a cab because who wants to get into another vehicle when you can have some exercise.

Usually, at this point I am very out of sorts. I've been on a zillion forms of transport over 3 hours, my bizarre form of competitiveness has long since set in and I become freakishly determined to "win": I will be first in line (despite that I have assigned seats - cuz who hasn't seen oversold seats?!), I will find the navette's new waiting zone before the little old ladies from the back of the train, I will get the last "bottle" of wine in the cart (though there's a full fridge of them at the back, I suspect). It's tiring. Moreover, of recent years, I am generally also managing some sort of discomfort, if not flat-out pain.

Look, I know myself, which is why I book this vacation down to the very last detail. I know which rooms I will be sleeping in, the minutiae of their views, what the beds feel like. I know the restaurants I'll visit for dinner. I know the routes to all of the fun things, the best way to trespass in all of the places I like to trespass (cuz I am a badass that way). I know the freakin' servers by name at this point.

In case you think this is the most boring form of travel ever (and then you'd be in good company), you should be me for a few weeks. Not only do I loathe excessive stimulus of the type I feel I cannot control (and that's technically most of it), but my day-to-day life is like something out of a film set in insert big city here, all about the chaos of urban mid-life - endless meetings one really shouldn't fuck up, decisions one also shouldn't fuck up, constant activity, stealth parenting, expenditure of every sort, regularly shitty weather. It's like the inverse of a movie set in rural England where the peeps live in a bucolic home, with a trail of fireplace smoke coming from the chimney, looking at their sheep graze the well-tended grounds at sunset.

I'd like to clarify - things are getting much better (and I banked on it that they would - I'm nothing if not calculated about risk). They are changing. I am changing. My home - the backbone of this lifestyle - has changed and continues to do so. I know this is a moment in time, if one that feels never-ending. I also realize that I'm creating a framework that will sustain me, hopefully exceedingly competently, for the rest of my life. Carving out one's reality is a bitch sometimes. I get it. The reason so few people realize their potential, however they define it, is because it takes super-human effort and it's much more palatable to do less now and worry later. I don't want to worry later.

But I digress excessively...

We arrived at the hotel. The room was available. We freshened up, snacked at our local, and started the adventure.

Two things: Walking in a town where you know a lot of things, but not everything, is very adventurous. Everything that deviates from the norm is utterly exciting. Every subtly distinct view. Secondly, my lunch consisted of shucked oysters and good Cava, two things that seriously moderate how I feel like nothing else. When I eat oysters I feel the life of the creature descending within me. It's sacred. I say thank you to each oyster as I ingest because it gives its life to me palpably.

Here's where it gets good: The weather was actually perfect. I have been in the most mercifully low-pain moment over the last couple of weeks (ameliorated still more by my new fave thing, more to come in another post!). Honestly, I felt relaxed and at ease in my body - like I remembered it, before it became so clamorous for attention.

We started to walk up the cobble-stoned streets, up and up and up interminably (as it goes), and I just felt better and better and better. Lord. I felt like Jason Bourne mixed with a superhero whose fingers grow long and sticky to scale buildings. My reflexes became insanely sharp. I was able, as in days of yore, to slice my way through insane crowds without even trying. My spatial reasoning was amazing. I felt totally strong and secure in my body. At no moment was I out of breath and I was bounding up a freakin' hill in a crowd in full sun.

I turned around and Scott, with whom I'm paced well in general, was nowhere to be seen. He couldn't keep up. It was magic! What followed was an hour of walking amidst perfect beauty, qualifying every detail of the profound, almost hallucinogenic, experience I was having. FWIW, Scott did not resist. It was infinitely more enjoyable than listening to me dwell on the nature of pain and existence.

What's amazing about this is that it actually upended my récit de la décennie: that I'm exhausted beyond measure, stressed, over-worked, traumatized and rickety.

I know that, if I experienced this, I can experience it again. It is not beyond the realm of my current corporeal state. Sometimes, when one lives with a lot of pain, it's challenging to remember that one is not broken. It just feels that way.

I don't know who to thank for this amazing moment in time but my gratitude is excessive. I could dwell on the factors that produced the outcome: raw nutrients, a week of quiet, the end of two years of torment, elements of the heat spa, some complement of my 8000 methods for managing discrete styles of pain, 5 of which are always in some form of play. There's a universe (though I don't know how, given the number of potatoes I ate hourly) in which my walking high might have been an outcome of fat-adapted exercise. I've read numerous accounts of this phenomenon and it's always seemed like a suspect state of ecstasy to me but, hey, if that's what was happening, then fat-adaptedness for the win!

I don't really care right now. Cuz when I look back on this trip, I'm going to remember the joyful embodiment of my elegance and strength. And I'm probably going to eat more oysters, natch, cuz one must experiment!