Life in the Time of Isolation

In the Discworld series by Terry Pratchett there’s a novel called Interesting Times and in it is a curse that goes something like, “May you live in interesting times.”

Pretty safe to say that we’ve all been cursed.

Covid-19 is no joke. It’s turned the world upside down and inside out. Or should that be outside in given how many of us are in quarantine, in isolation, sheltering-in-place, safe-at-home, social distancing, or whatever other euphemism they come up with that basically means we’ve all drastically altered our lives in an attempt to flatten the curve and minimize the damage of this awful virus.

My descent into interesting times happened back in March.

Monday, March 9th it was business as usual at the library. By Wednesday, we were sanitizing the public spaces more often. By Thursday, we’d gone to a touchless checkout to minimize personal contact. Friday, the public computers were spaced out, homebound deliveries had been suspended, and we were sanitizing every book that came into the library. Saturday, all events at the library were canceled, chairs were removed to discourage patrons from hanging around, and the meeting rooms were closed. That next Monday, we were washing everything that came in with soap and water and allowing patrons to stay in the building for no more than an hour.

March 17th, St. Patrick’s Day, we were closed to the public and the building has been closed ever since.

A week before it had been business as usual and then…

Interesting times happen fast.

Interesting times are stressful.

The first week, week and a half after the library closed I found myself stress eating quite a bit. I think a lot of people did. But I’m not normally a stress eater, so it was a little disconcerting. By the time I got that under control, shelter-in-place had been extended and I was told I wouldn’t be back to work until May 1st at the earliest. At least, not back to work in the building. The library staff have been doing our best to do some work from home, doing projects to keep our online patrons (and some of our offline ones as well) engaged. I think we’ve been doing a swell job, given the circumstances.

Other than not leaving the house to go to the day job, a big chunk of my daily routine has remained unchanged. Actually, in some ways it’s improved. The time off work has let my knees heal, which in turn has allowed me to get my fitness schedule back on track. The end of March was rough because of the stress of everything, but here we are in the beginning of April and I feel on track, productive even. The excessive anxiety that had been plaguing me since the beginning of March has finally lessened and I think I’ve gotten my sleep straightened out. At the very least, I’m sleeping through the night more often. My dreams are still pretty stressed out most of the time, though.

That’s not to say that everything is fine. The world still feels like it’s on a massive tilt in a lot of ways. I dread going grocery shopping even more than I did before all of this started. Running errands used to be a chore; now it’s a gauntlet.

As an introvert with a dash of social anxiety, staying at home hasn’t been that much of a challenge. Sitting out in the backyard, reading a book, feeding the squirrels, life feels almost normal.

But it’s not.

April Writing Projects

March was one hell of a year, huh? Yeah, it felt like it. I was already struggling with some mental health issues when the Rona came in full force and I found myself sanitizing every book that came into the library before we ended up having to close to the public due to shelter-in-place. That happened on March 17th and I’ve been at home since (with pay because our board loves us and looks after us), but perhaps unsurprisingly I haven’t been as productive as I’d like to have been. The stress right before we closed and right after the shelter-in-place used up most of my energy. It was a push for me to get episode 11 of Book ’em, Danno out on time and I really doubted that I’d get it done.

So, revisions on The Support Group Meets on Wednesday will continue. I have about one hundred pages of the manuscript left. Unfortunately, it’s also the section that will probably take the most re-writing. Ideally, I’d like to get the revisions done this month, but the way things have been going…

I’ll also be doing episode 12 of Book ’em, Danno. Back to the usual grind of covering two episodes, so it should be easier for me to get it done this month providing I don’t procrastinate. Stop laughing. Only one more episode and season 1 will be done. Wild, huh?

I know April is poetry month and I usually write a poem a day for it, but I think I’m going to take a break from it this year. You may all breathe a sigh of relief.

And while you’re relieved, why don’t you check out episode 4 of Murderville: The Coldest Case, which will go live on the 14th? $1 an episode lets you read, $2 an episode gets you a sweet bonus every other month. Like this month on the 28th. So become a patron and get your jollies.

Don’t forget to check out episode 11 of Book ’em, Danno. It covers three episodes, a regular episode and a two-parter. A longer episode, but since we’re all safe inside, you’ve got time to indulge. Feel free to like, heart, favorite, subscribe, share, and otherwise show a little love to my little show. I do appreciate it.

March Writing Projects

I regret to inform you that my March writing projects are the same as February’s. I will continue to revise The Support Group Meets on Wednesday because my days of revising a novel-length manuscript in a month are pretty much over. I got addicted to the self-care practice of not driving myself crazy and stressing myself out over trying to finish something that I could take my time with. I can take my time with this. It’ll be okay.

I do admit that it’s starting to weigh on me that I haven’t published something, traditionally or self, in quite a while. There’s this growing niggle about it in the back of my brain. There was a time when I was putting out at least one new title a year. Now, I think the last time I published anything was back in 2018 when Come to the Rocks came out (edit: I totally forgot that Take a Bite came out after that…dumbass me). Sure, Murderville continues, but does that count? Not really.

I think part of my trouble is that I’m still struggling to find an ideal writing/day job/podcasting balance, so my output of anything hasn’t been nearly what I would like. I haven’t mastered the shifting priority status required to get it all done efficiently.

I imagine that I will eventually fall to the pressure to produce once again. But until I succumb, I’ll enjoy being able to work without that self-imposed stress.

Speaking of Murderville, which isn’t at all stressful, episode three of The Coldest Case goes live on March 10. Don’t miss out! Become a patron! $1 an episode let’s you read and $2 an episode gets you a sweet, sweet bonus every other month.

Also, the latest episode of Book ’em, Danno went live just a couple of days ago. Be sure to give that a listen and give some love to not only me and the show, but also my super awesome guest, Dan Budnik. After all, there wouldn’t be a podcast dedicated to me rambling on about a fifty year old show without him. Which reminds me, episode 11 should be out before the end of the month. So, stay tuned.

Bad (Sleeping) Habits

Every year I get a new planner because I like to feel like I have my life together. Yes, it’s an illusion, but I get to personalize the planner anyway I want to, so it’s all good.

In this year’s planner, I put a habit tracker. There are a few goals that I have for the year and I thought the habit tracker would be useful for them. One is one of my half-assed resolutions. I want to read at least 5 days a week. I color those days with light blue.

I also want to increase the duration of my workouts. I try to exercise at least 10 minutes most days. Those days are purple. Fifteen minute days are pink. Twenty minute days are red.

And I also want to be more consistent with my sleep schedule. The days I’m in bed, lights off, TV off, phone off before 12:30 AM are dark blue.

Now the thing is I track my sleep and my workouts in my phone. But the habit tracker gives me a different kind of visual record. I can see everything all at once, color coded and easy to interpret.

In January, I read every day except for two. I worked out every day except for four and most of those workouts were at least fifteen minutes. Filling in those squares really motivated me to keep filling them out.

The same could not be said for my sleep goal.

I didn’t make it to bed before 12:30 AM nearly half of the month. I couldn’t get a streak going longer than four days. And there are too many times that I stayed up too late two nights in a row.

Sleep has always been a challenge for me. It’s gotten worse in the last few years. And my bad habits are surprisingly resistant to the slightly self-competitive nature of the habit tracker. I like besting myself. I like creating long streaks and then trying to break them. Hell, I’m well on my way to hitting 1,000 straight days on Duolingo for the second time.

But when it comes to my sleep habits, I just can’t seem to find the groove.

Of course I’m not giving up on the habit tracker just yet. I think that in this case, with this goal, it just needs a little more time.

Rest assured, I’ll put my bad sleep habits to bed.

 

No, I’m not apologizing for that.

Turning 40

Is turning 40 still a big deal? I guess for some people it is. I know I’m excited about it, which is kind of the wrong reaction. There’s still that stigma of 40 being old. It’s an age that women especially deny. I never quite understood that. I’ve earned every year.

It’s possible that because I never thought I’d live this long I am so chill with it. I figured that I’d do myself in at some point, either as the result of my depression or a fiery explosion of my own creation, most likely some sort of car accident because I’ve had far too many close calls. Or I insisted on petting something that I shouldn’t. That’ll probably be the way I go. Anyway. Getting to 40 seemed like an impossibility. I figured I’d biff it long before then.

But I didn’t and now I’m here. Granted, I’m not in the place I probably should be, not the one I want to be. I have failed at so much shit and have achieved none of the milestones I should have. And yet…I feel okay. I’m not depressed (and I’m usually clawing out of a winter depression during my birthday). I’m not down on what I haven’t done. I’m not bummed with getting older (honestly, I still feel 25…that’s probably part of my problem). I’m just kind of enjoying the moment.

A moment that I probably should have planned something super cool for to celebrate, but my long-term planning skills suck, so never mind.

Honestly, I’m rather looking forward to seeing what my forties brings. Since I haven’t done all of the things that I’m supposed to do, I won’t be doing the next things that I’m supposed to do. There’s an unplanned feel to it that I’m rather enjoying.

Here’s to hoping that it’s a good time.

Cheers.

2020 Half-Assed Resolutions

My 2019 resolutions were mostly done successfully. As you can see, still not dead, and 2019 was a better time than 2018, so we’re calling that a win. Book ’em, Danno is happening. I cleaned out my craft drawer, but I have no memory of doing it. It was either me or clutter elves, but either way, it got done. As for my art…I hung up one piece. Okay, I didn’t do something with all of the pieces I created in 2018, but I did do something with one of them and since these are half-assed resolutions, that totally counts.

2020 is a big year for half-assed resolutions. New decade and I’ll be 40. Gotta make these good.

1. Don’t get dead.

2. Have a good time.

3. Clean out my sewing drawer. I have to come to accept that I’m not sewing very much right now and that I don’t need all of the fabric and scraps that I’ve accumulated. Other people could put that stuff to better use and in the now, not in the metaphorical future.

4. Read consistently. I do read, but I’m a sporadic reader. Meaning, I can go all week without reading and then read half a book on a Sunday. As nice as spending a Sunday that way is, I’d like to read more throughout the week as well. I’m going to aim for at least 5 days a week. And since this is half-assed, the bar of how much to read on those nights is set on the floor.

5. Self-care. I am crap at self-care. I tend to wait until I’m about to fall off the ledge before I take the step back and go, “Hey, self. We should probably take a breather.” I’d like to make it more of a regular thing. Even if I could just take one day a month to assess and ask myself the necessary questions that gauge my well-being that would be great. I can work on addressing the answers for my 2021 half-assed resolutions.

Okay. Let’s get this new decade started.

December Writing Projects

Ho ho ho. It’s the most stressful time of the year. At least for me. Because I haven’t even begun my Grinchmas making this year, have barely even thought about it, and this year I have a day job to work around.

As I always say…I’m not happy unless I’m driving myself crazy.

And since I will be busy doing just that, it’s only right that I go easy on the writing this month. The only project that I have lined up is finishing the latest round of revisions on (Vampires) Made in America. I know. I started that months ago, but between NaNo and squeezing in an episode of Book ’em, Danno last month, I only worked on the manuscript for a couple of days. Despite being pressed for time, I think I can get it done since I only have about 50 pages left to do.

I’m also going to try to squeeze in one more episode of Book ’em Danno before the end of the year. I’m getting quicker on the recording, but the editing still takes me hours. If you ever wanna feel self-conscious about your breathing and how often you pause while talking, start a podcast.

Speaking of, Episode 7 of Book ’em, Danno went live just a few days ago. Give that a listen and feel free to talk it up to your friends by liking, subscribing, favoriting, rating, reviewing, commenting, sharing, whatever. It’ll make my heart grow three sizes.

And if you’re wondering what’s happening with Murderville, well, the Season 4 promo goes live for everybody on December 3rd. It’s going to be a good one, so become a patron and don’t miss out. $1 an episode let’s you read; $2 an episode gets you a bonus every other month, like the one that will be happening on December 17th.

Have a Bad Day

I woke up from a dead sleep at 4am with an anxiety attack. It had something to do with the day job, an insignificant thing that my broke-ass brain decided was a much bigger issue and decided to flail about it despite my repeated attempts at logic and reason. It took almost two hours for me to get back to sleep and even then, I ended up having fitful anxiety dreams.

This set the tone for my day. It colored everything I did. How I interacted with other people and dealt with them, how I went about my writing and my day job shift. When I finished my exercises in the morning (because I made myself do them), I sat on the floor with my head in my hands for twenty minutes, inert. I knew that it was going to be a day. I was going to be out of sorts.

And you know what?

I let myself have a bad day.

There’s this idea that bad days should be avoided at all costs. Do whatever you can to not have one. Don’t let that one moment ruin your twenty-fours hours. Change your attitude, change your perspective, other people have it worse, don’t let it get you down.

Granted, no one wants to have a bad day, but I think so much of that is because people don’t like dealing with other people having a bad day. It makes them uncomfortable. It’s awkward. They don’t know what to say or what to do. So, they tell you not to have one so they don’t have to deal with it. Which perpetuates this idea that bad days are some kind of failing. To have one means you’re not fighting hard enough to be happy and therefore not burden the other people in your life with your unpleasant, unkempt shit.

In the past, I would have struggled to turn my frown upside down and that struggle would have made my bad day worse. I would have pushed and everything I touched would have gone to instant shit. Like the Midas touch, only crappy. Instead, I knew from the minute I woke up with that anxiety attack that I was going to have a bad day and I accepted it. I didn’t wallow in it. I didn’t take it out on anyone else. I just acknowledged that this was the day that I was having and it was okay. I was allowed.

The result?

My day wasn’t great, but it didn’t get worse. It was bearable. I was more productive than I thought I’d be because I didn’t push myself. I gave myself an out for everything on my schedule. I forced nothing. I took nothing personally and I ate comfort food for dinner. I let myself be, I had my bad day, and I didn’t make anyone else uncomfortable in the process. My day ended up being grey instead of black.

And it ended better than it started.

Two bowls of cereal have that power.

The Purge, But for My Stuff

Image by drewplaysdrums from pixbayAt the day job, sometimes we get projects. My first project involved going through the mess of empty DVD cases we have (they’re used for the collection of movies, TV shows, and games we have to loan out), weeding out the bad ones, and organizing the rest. It took a couple of weeks, but I got it done.

For an organizer like me, the project was great. For a pack rat like me, it was a challenge.

I’m the person that will hang onto the most random, useless things just in case. I will attempt to salvage things that can’t or shouldn’t be salvaged. It was tricky for me to get through that part of the project, but I eventually got the hang of it.

Then I brought it home.

I have a several To Do Lists. I have the writing To Do List of Doom. I have daily/weekly To Do Lists. And I have the To Do List of the Year. Stuff that needs to be done, but I don’t have a time limit on them. It covers things like getting new glasses (when I have the money), getting a tattoo cover-up (when I have the money), finishing sewing projects, transferring pictures from my phone to my computer. Stuff like that.

Many of the items currently sitting on that list involve getting rid of things. Cleaning out my writing drawer, cleaning out art drawer, cleaning out my make-up, cleaning out my nail polish, cleaning out my bookcases, cleaning out my email folders. Purging. Getting rid of that which no longer serves me.

This past week I brought my work home with me, so to speak. I’ve started going through my To Do List of the Year, accomplishing a couple of smaller tasks before setting my sights on the things that need to go. I’ve cleaned out all of my email folders. (Who the hell saves four year old coupon offers? Me. That’s who.) I’ve thrown out some nail polish. The make-up is next.

You see, not only do I have to seize these productive moods, but I also have to go with the pitch it flow. I’ve been throwing things out for two weeks now. I’m in the rhythm. I can carry that rhythm to moisturizer I’m never going to use and I know I’m never going to use. It’s okay for me to get rid of those things and create that much needed space.

I need to lighten my load, so to speak.

So if anyone needs any barely used eyeshadow, let me know. I might have your shade.

“I Have a Blood Pressure Situation.”

“If I ever let myself go…SPLAT!” -Frank Burns, M*A*S*H

Turns out that Frank Burns and I have that in common. A blood pressure situation, that is.

My blood pressure was fine in my twenties, back when I smoked and live on fast food and Hot Pockets. Then I quit smoking and started eating better, cooking actual meals, eating fast food only sometimes, and giving up Hot Pockets all together.

And my blood pressure started running a little high.

I will go to my grave pissed about that.

That grudge is probably one of the reasons why my blood pressure has recently gotten worse.

I would wager that my health problems over the past couple of years are probably a contributing factor as well. Stress can play hell with the blood pressure and even though I’m a year removed from that situation, it’s not hard to believe that some effects might still linger. I mean, it did take forever for my hair to start to grow back.

And frankly, my diet hasn’t been the greatest lately.

Though I haven’t gone back to Hot Pockets, and fast food is still an occasional thing, a little analysis of my diet has shown that sodium has still crept in and is probably the main culprit from my blood pressure situation getting worse.

Someone pointed out that age might also be a contributing factor and to them I say –That negativity is not helping.

So this month, I’m monitoring my sodium intake by logging all of my food (which I hate) and making some dietary changes in an attempt to reduce my saltiness. (In this case the literal. The figurative is just a personality quirk.) Maybe, possibly, perhaps a little less sodium will make a big difference.

I’m also going back to exercising first thing in the morning. Yes, I exercise most days of the week and exercise is good for the blood pressure, but I think going back to morning workouts will give this whole lifestyle tweak an extra boost. And I need a boost right now.

Hopefully, all of this will be enough to get my blood pressure back to reasonable levels.

I’d like to avoid a splat situation.