The Terrible No-Good Day for Public Interactions

Was Mercury in retrograde in the third house (House of Communication) yesterday? I’m not much into that astrology junk. But when difficulties arise multiple times on the same day for the same day, I start wondering.

Sunday morning, we took my mother to our favorite diner in New Hyde Park for a belated Mother’s Day morning breakfast. This diner serves delicious banana nut pancakes that keep us coming back, despite the fact that they serve us “breakfast syrup” in containers instead of a bottle we can pour. The pancakes do not disappoint.

After getting our meals, the waitress left us alone until we were done. Not once did she come by to ask us if everything was ok, if we needed anything else, or if we wanted more coffee. I had to flag down one of the men who bus the tables in order to get more coffee. We’ve had this waitress before, and I do not like her. She never smiles or seems to be happy to be there, and she only gives us bare minimum service so I gave her bare minimum tip: 15%. Maybe that’s all she cares to make, but it upsets me. I like friendly service, and I am willing to tip handily. My standard is 20% and, if someone makes me happy in the least, I’m likely to tip 25%. I don’t have a problem rewarding those who serve me good food and good service. It ruins my meal because I’m thinking of their poor attitude instead of being happy that I’m there.

Later, my husband and I went to Long Beach for the first beach day of 2015. We parked and then went to booth to pay. Just as we arrived, a group of kids arrived. Since we didn’t have our money out, I let them go while we searched for cash. I asked the booth girl if they had multiple day passes and she told me they only sold day passes. After I got the two tickets, we had to arrange things. Someone else approached the booth girl and asked a question that seemed like the same question I asked. I heard booth girl tell beachgoer to walk 4 blocks and get it there.

After a break in the line appeared, I asked booth girl what she had told the girl to go buy. Using slightly different terms, she told me the answer – that I could buy a 10 visit pass. I felt annoyed. I tried to explain that that is what I had been asking and that when someone asks if you have multi-visit passes, you tell them where to buy them, not that you just don’t sell them at your location.

Booth girl looks at me like I have two heads. I realize I am starting to raise my voice and other beachgoers are looking at me. Booth girl does not apologize. She just looks at me like I have two heads. I asked my husband, “Am I an alien speaking a foreign language?” I debated asking for a refund and going to buy the pass. Hubby deferred to me. Feeling unsure of what to do, I decided to just go ahead, and have them stamp the two passes I bought so we can get to the beach.

The day is hot and, surprisingly, the ocean water isn’t too cold. The weather isn’t hot enough for me to want to spend a lot of time in the ocean, but it’s just nice to be sitting around. We read and eat watermelon while people frolic in the water as waves crash on the shore. When we leave, booth girl is still there. I purposely don’t look at her, as I just want to go go home and get us to our favorite watering hole. I feel emotional, and I just want to go where I can depend on the people.

We drop our beach stuff at the house, feed kitties, and walk to our bar. I am excited to eat their signature nachos that contain roasted corn, roasted brussel sprouts, and chicken, all covered in yummy cheese. We also ordered the raw tuna tacos that also have sliced avocado drizzled with a light, spicy sauce.

The nachos come, but with significantly less food on them than we normally get. One section of the chips is dry with nothing on it. The raw tuna and avocado are thick cut. I eat one of the three, but it’s not like what I’ve had there. Our waitress takes a picture and sends it to the owner who comps the tacos. We decide to try the lobster deviled eggs. We’ve had these before. They are delicious.

When our barkeep brings the eggs out, she tells us that the chef in the kitchen is from their recently-closed restaurant. Although he was trained, the food is just not coming out right. She had to stop him from putting mayo on the lobster and trying to serve it. Instead, we got egg white with huge lumps of lobster on top covered in some kind of sauce. The deviled part of the egg is nowhere to be seen. After one bite, I give up. I let hubby eat the rest. The drinks made by the barkeep more than make up for the food disappointment.

Even though I had people and food challenges, the pancakes, the ocean, and great drinks more than made up for it.

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5 Writing Prompts on Writing

This week, I begin a six-week course for women writers led by a woman writer I know, Alexis Daria, called WIP Squared: Women in Process with Works in Progress – A community for women writers. The goal of this new group is to create a community for women writers so that they can share their experiences and to get and give support.

In preparation for our first weekly call-in this Wednesday, the registered attendees received a welcome email with a list of questions for us to think about. The questions are excellent ones. Regardless of your gender, these questions are good for all writers to take the time to think about and express. Here are the questions and my answers to them.

#1 – Where does your time, attention, and energy go?

Well, I waste a lot of time on Facebook and reading web articles. Once I get started, I have great difficulty stopping and/or setting it aside for the rest of the day. Today, for example, I managed not to read my email and check Facebook first thing in the morning, but I did briefly look at Instagram. In the afternoon, I read online while I ate lunch. And it seems, like sugar, I can never seem to get enough. It spilled over into me reading in between driving on the way home, and then while I was eating dinner. I put off writing until after dinner.

Another attention getting/distraction is my cats, of course. My living room is also half office. One of the doorways does not have a door. So the cats come in an out looking for me all day long. More often than not, though, it is I who go looking for them. If Norman isn’t upstairs, then I go hunting for him downstairs. When I’m sitting down to work, that’s when they usually want petting, too.

Food is also a great distraction. Because I work intermittently from home, I try to eat home as much as possible. We do not have a dishwasher. Between food prep, eating, and cleaning, I spend a good chunk of my day dealing with food. I also like to eat junk food and snack, so that can be a source of energy distraction. I hear ice cream calling me right now.

Since I live upstairs from my mother, I can, at times, spend a lot of time helping her with medical or house related stuff. Repairs need to be done, doctors called, and appointments made. Now that it’s spring again, the amount of house related stuff I help her with goes up because she likes to garden. I also take her to appointments and shopping, especially when the weather is bad.

#2 – What is your writing process like?

I keep an accountability calendar to check off that I’m writing something every day. The minimum is one page in my letter-sized spiral notebook. On Mondays and Thursday, I blog. Other than that, I usually have an open schedule where I decide each morning how and when writing is going to fit into my day.

In April, I participated in Camp NaNo, set a goal of 30K words, and reached 22K. Because I need time in the morning to meditate, stretch, eat, clean up, shower, and get ready, I often don’t starting writing until late morning, at the earliest. Often, though, I write in the afternoons at Starbucks, if I can make it out of the house, and in the evenings, like tonight.

#3 – What tools are you using to help yourself feel more motivated, productive, and supported?

  • The accountability calendar;
  • Setting small, reachable goals, such as the 1-page per day writing in my spiral notebook or the 30K word goal for Camp NaNo in April;
  • Participating in writing events, such as Camp NaNo, for the commitment, goal setting, and camaraderie with my fellow writers;
  • Participating in a new, six-week community group for women writers;
  • Participating in a bi-monthly writer’s critique group; and
  • Keeping a daily writing journal.

#4 – Include how you feel about all of these things.

As I wrote out my answers above, especially in #3, I noticed that I felt better about all the ways in which I am currently working on my writing goals. I am making progress whereas I had been feeling discouraged. I find that I am often down on myself, telling myself that I am not doing enough. Instead, I should focus on what more I would like to do, e.g. turn a negative, rut-inducing statement into a positive, actionable one.

#5 – What’s your why? Why do you write in the first place?

Because I often think about wanting to write down my thoughts, ideas, and feelings, and as an avenue of exploration for each of these things. I blog to share what I’m doing, thinking, feeling, and learning, whether personally or professionally. To connect with others. To do something creative, artistic, and self-directed. As a means of working through procrastination and the ways in which I hold myself back, and my attempts, successes, and failures at trying to change them both.

Because I like it. To tell a story. To express myself. To challenge myself. To have a hobby. To hone a craft. To make money. To publish.

What are your answers to these questions?

3 Lessons on A Writing Life

Today I celebrate two accomplishments: the seven year anniversary of my blog and 30 continual days of writing! Woo-hoo! I am beyond thrilled, especially at the 30 days. Along the way I have learned three lessons on how to make the writing life work for me.

Prioritizing My Writing

If you want to be a writer, then you have to make time to write. The time of day doesn’t really matter. I’m not even sure it matters how much writing that you do. However, if you put off the writing until evening, then you run the risk of getting squeezed into crunch time. Unexpected crises could mean that you don’t write until very late, your writing is not up to par, or you lose on sleep. I can write under stress if needed, but I can’t do that on a regular basis. The earlier you write, the better you’ll be. Why? Becausee you might end up writing more than you had anticipated and that’s better that not having the time to write at all.

Creating Accountability

I printed out an accountability calendar. What is an accountability calendar? It’s a calendar for the sole purpose of marking off the completion of a task that I wish to complete every day. For my writing to improve, I need to write every day, even if it’s just a little bit. This is what creates the habit of writing. Take advantage of all the different kinds of writing you can do on any topic that interests you.

Another important piece to the accountability calendar is that it is adjacent to my desk. I can’t sit down without noticing it. I like seeing the uninterrupted days of writing where I can’t miss it. If it weren’t there, I would forget how many days I would be at it. The calendar is like my drill seargent. I’m not going to get away with excuses or lack of performance with the searg staring at me, insisting I meet my commitments.

Setting Attainable Goals

The last time I tried to write daily, I had a list of writing goals that I wanted to meet every day. First, I would do my minimum three pages of morning writing. Then, I would do practice writing. If it was Monday or Thursday, I would write in my blog. Finally, I would work on my stories. Before long, I was feeling overwhelmed and gave it up.

This time, I gave myself a smaller goal set: Write every day, even if it’s only one page of morning writing. Mondays and Thursdays I write in my blog. The rest of the days I try to work on my memoir or whatever story I am writing. I have discovered that the minimum of 1 page of morning writing is easily attainable. As a result, I feel like I have achieved an accomplishment and that alone gives me the encouragement and enthusiasm to keep on writing.

The next time I want to begin any new habit, I’m going to ensure that I prioritize, make myself accountable, and set achievable goals to bolster my confidence and enthusiasm. I highly recommend it!

Illness, Alienation, and PTSD – Part 6

Read Part I, Part 2, Part 3, Part 4, and Part 5

The surgery in 1992 that I had for an intestinal blockage was the last of my surgeries for intestinal blockages, but not the last of my intestine and stomach related issues. Since then, I seem to have experienced periods where my stomach seemed to be having intense gas pains that worsened in intensity. When that happens, I follow this protocol:

  1. Take GasX. If it’s actually gas, GasX works like a dream. Tums don’t cut it.
  2. Take Pepto Bismol. This helps with any stomach cramping. If one dose is not enough, repeat one hour later.
  3. In the meantime, get my heating pad out and lay it over my stomach.

Almost every time in the intervening 23 years, this has worked. Mark and I vaguely remember me going to the ER once, possibly in my late 20’s, for stomach pain that would not go away. But nothing serious was discovered because I did not have any further intubations with an NG tube nor any blockages discovered.

So it was with surprise when, on March 1st, I followed my protocol to find that it did not work at all. By the time 9pm came around, an intense pain gripped the right side of my abdomen. It seemed to start near my appendectomy surgical scar and go up to right under my rib cage. When it continued unabated for 30 minutes and I was crying out in pain, I asked Mark to call an ambulance.

I had tried to go to the bedroom, but the pain caused me to curl up in a ball. Any attempts to move my right leg away from my abdomen caused more pain. I was unable to sit straight up, to walk, or to do anything except lay there. I asked Mark to go let my mother know that I was having stomach pains and that we were going to call an ambulance. I was sweating because the only other time I ever felt pain like that was when I had intestinal blockages. I prepared myself for the worst.

I felt terrible for my mother to have be in the same room with me while I was crying out in pain. The pain was at a 10 level, and I could not keep it inside, even if I wanted to (and I wanted to). I knew it was just hitting her in the gut with helplessness and shared empathetic pains, so I told her to go downstairs so that she wouldn’t have to listen to me. She refused to leave until the EMTs were taking me to the hospital.

The one thing about my town that rocks is the speed of the EMTs, police, and fire department when someone is in need of an ambulance. We waited only a few minutes before someone was knocking on our door. I needed help just to get up off the floor and sit on the ottoman. To get me out of the apartment, they put me into a chair and then slid me onto a gurney to take me to Winthrop.

By the time I was being processed in the ER, my stomach started to feel a little better. They gave me some fluids while they had me drink contrast for a CT scan. The results came back showing that no blockages, but that there seemed to be a change in caliber to the intestinal in the mid transverse colon and constipation throughout the sigmoid, ascending colon, and cecum.

I found this odd, but I chalked it up to the smaller opening that they saw in the colon. Even though I had already passed soft stools that day, I felt a kind of straining that I can only chalk up to not having enough room for the intestines to breathe. It certainly wasn’t traditional constipation, and, after the enema, the attending nurse told me that it was odd that there were no hard pieces. I didn’t think it was odd if things could not move through easily enough on their own. I was relieved not to be in pain anymore and to be able to go home.

I was released with instructions to follow up with my primary care, take Miralax for the constipation, and go for a colonoscopy. I met with primary care and her GI specialist that week, but I did not care for his bedside manner. I also did not want to go to a Queens endoscopy center. I wanted to go to a hospital that I trusted.

That weekend, I talked it over with my sister M. She helped me research GI specialists and even came over to the house to visit and to work with me. The next day, I made the appointment with the GI for the following Monday. Once that was done, my sister M then helped me research for a new Winthrop-affiliated primary care doctor. I made an appointment with the new primary care the following Friday. She spent so much time with me, helping me research and select two new doctors, that I bought her a gift that will soon be delivered.

After my release from the ER, I continued to feel uncomfortable. I could feel and hear stool moving through my midtranverse colon. It sounded like things were being squeezed through a smaller opening. I ate small meals and stuck to a low residue diet, but even doing that made my stomach feel hard and uncomfortable. My stomach felt full all day long. I had periodic bouts of pain right under my ribcage. I decided to start taking the Miralax every day and eat a low residue diet. Things went on in this manner for almost two weeks until suddently I could eat normally with no discomfort or full stomach.

I’m still taking Miralax every day, but went down to half a dose a day because stools too loose are a problem in their own right. I’m also having weird twinges and bouts of pain in the area under my ribcage. But now I have to wait. After the appointment with the GI doc, I went to check out and make an appointment for the colonoscopy.

The scheduler first offered me the date of May 12th. May! I said to her, “I have to wait two months to get a colonoscopy? That’s insane!” She then looked again and offered me an April 29th date, which I took. Afterwards, I said to my sister M, “Well, now I know that no one ever has an emergency colonoscopy. You have to wait for that sucker!”

One positive that thing has occurred is that, for whatever reason, going to the ER motivated me a bit to move forward on my writing goals. It felt like a great stone had been moved from a closed entrance, allowing light to enter for the first time. Usually, an ER trip with significant pain like this would have me refusing to move forward on things that are anxiety-producing for me. Work is one of those things that causes a lot of hand-wringing on my part, but that’s a topic for a different series of posts. However, I was able to make a few changes.

I printed out an accountability calendar created by Carrie Brummer, creator and owner of ArtistThink.com. Carrie is an art educator and tries, through her site, articles, and free online classes, to encourage people to explore their creativity in different ways. I printed the calendar out, hung it up on my wall, picked and start date and began writing.and decided that I would start using it mark off the writing that I did. Every day. Across the top I wrote, “Don’t break the chain.” Jerry Seinfeld once told an aspiring comic to write every day and to not “break the chain.” Nothing feels better than checking off that little box and knowing that I am fulfilling my commitment to myself and my writing goals every day, even if it’s just a little bit.

Today is day 13 of that unbroken chain. As a result of recommitting myself to daily writing, I restarted the morning writing exercise that I learned from Julia Cameron’s book The Artist’s Way. She recommends writing three, 8.5″x11″ pages of freehand writing every morning. I found the three page minimum difficult when I tried it last year, so I decided to make it easy on myself and make it a one-page minimum. Yesterday, after spending a working day’s worth of time researching rheumatology docs for my mom, taking her to the appointment, helping her get xrays, bringing her home, filling her RX, getting milk, eating dinner, and coming home, I was exhausted. I could only manage that one page. I was surprised at the depth of what I wrote because, if you had asked me, I would have told you that any thinking at all would be out of the question.

On all the other days, I’ve managed to write that one-page minimum plus more. Sometimes it’s writing for my blog post. Sometimes it’s writing for my stories. Sometimes it’s writing down ideas that I have. WHATEVER it is, I am committed to writing and keeping the writing thing going. When I did that last year, I was so much happier. One day this week, I realized that I laughed and smiled more than I had been lately. I chalk it up to the writing practice. I feel productive.

My trip to the ER could have been paralyzing. For the first time ever, it wasn’t.

Three Reasons I Blog

Approximately six months ago, I began writing in this blog for a few reasons. Those reasons have not changed much, but I thought it would be good six month post to remind myself exactly why it is I continue to do this. For those readers who have joined along the way, this will help you understand what you might find in this blog.

#1: To Experiment with a Variety of Writing Styles

A well-rounded writer is a better writer, and blogging is its own special kind of writing. I wanted to explore this medium and expand my repertoire. No more would I write only for technical or school-related reasons! Instead, I wrote and continue to write in order to become better at this craft called blogging, and, by extension, with writing itself.

#2: To Write on a Regular Basis

When I first began my blog, I was not doing any other kind of writing. Blogging daily would keep me writing on a regular basis. Writing in my blog would test my ability to write daily, as well as my ability to come up with different topics that both I and you would find interesting. I posted a little reminder in a frame at my desk, “Singers sing. Painters paint. Writers write.”

#3: To Share My Life as Authentically as Possible

I write about topics that personally interest me: cats and volunteering with animals, personal growth and development, meditation, family and relationships. Most importantly, I write to share and possibly connect with others.

Nothing is verboten from my blog. I do not keep secrets, nor do I believe in keeping any. I do not have any topic that I would consider off limits for discussion. Having grown up in a fear-, guilt-, and shame-based household, I have worked as hard as possible to let go of all those feelings in any form. I refuse to take on anyone else’s fear, shame, or guilt as my own. I am against censorship in all its forms, most of all, my own. When I fail, I try to forgive myself and move on.

When that fails, then I write. In my notebook. And in my blog.

Struggling

Lately, I have been struggling to maintain a positive disposition. I have gone into a deep funk. Today, I felt sad for no reason. I think the fear of getting two fillings redone tomorrow overwhelms me.

Since it was Sunday, I decided to clean my desk and pile the crap into my inbox in order to make the rest of my week more productive. That helped for a while. Editing my short story brought me hours of peace. This evening, I shared the story with my writing critique group for my 6/14 workshop. So I’m not exactly holing up in bed and pulling up the covers.

Morning writing is still on hold. Maybe I will try again on Tuesday. This makes the second post in a few days, also a positive sign.

I wish I knew how depressed artists manage to be productive. Maybe they aren’t. Maybe they drink and drug their way through it because it’s unbearable any other way.

I feel like an engine stuttering to come to life after a deep freeze. Writing here kind of keeps me accountable. I no longer feel the need to write every day here. I justified it by saying I was doing morning writing daily, but now that’s not happening, either.

On Friday, I went to see a new therapist trained in EMDR (eye movement densensitization and reprocessing). I am hoping that we can work towards excavating the remaining negative experiences and traumas that are embedded in my psyche. I want to move forward and meet my dreams as they arise, hand in hand on the road ahead.

Harder Than Week 1? Week 2

A writer is someone for whom writing is more difficult than it is for other people.

Thomas Mann — German novelist, short story writer, social critic, philanthropist,
essayist and 1929 Nobel laureate.


Last week, I made multiple posts about following author Chuck Wendig‘s Zero-Fuckery 350 Word a Day Writing Plan. I even went so far as to write over 1,000 words on Saturday before a writing critique, even though Wendig’s plan includes weekends of no writing.

In week 1, I just sat at my computer and wrote. Or I read a writing-related magazine. I eschewed morning Facebook over breakfast. By Saturday, I had written over 4,500 words, a new record for this fledgling and aspiring writer. That’s some feat (for me).

Week 2? Way harder than week 1! I read Facebook and news over writing rags. I procrastinated until day’s end to write. I felt a block holding me back, as if I were dreading something. But what? How can a writer dread writing? Just doesn’t make sense.

But I refuse to give this up. I have only not followed the plan until I haven’t written enough words, and this blog post surely counts for something. I am making the 350 word daily minimum apply to my stories. It can be 350 in any one story or among stories. Makes no difference. I am making progress either way.

The rest of the week remains challenging: tomorrow I prep for a Thursday through Sunday trip. I intend to keep up my morning meditation, my morning writing, my blog posting, and my story writing all through the weekend. With time and people constraints, I will have zero fuckery parameters to hone my writing craft in the midst of chaos.

I spend so much time not getting down to writing business. I wonder what kind of accomplishments I can make if I can get down to business with less fuckery, less Facebook and news site time wasting, and more story writing and editing. I remain committed to the process. I know where it will take me.

Home. Forever returning home.