Namo amitabha Buddhaya, y'all.
This here's a religious establishment. Act respectable.

Thursday, August 30, 2012

Talk Thursday: Convention

As I crash the Muslim restaurant of my sweet dreams, I'm pondering the whole concept of convention.  Why?  Because it was my idea, that's why, and also because everybody I follow on Twitter is absolutely refusing to shut up about the hurricane that's going on down in Tampa.  No, the one in Tampa, not the one in New Orleans.  You know, the one where whoever's keynote speaking can't go more than two minutes without saying something stupid that offends half of America.  Or the other half.  Sometimes both halves.  I'm trying not to pay it too much attention.  I may just have to sign off Twitter for the duration.  And I'm not sure what I'm gonna do when that other convention fires up.  Different keynote speakers, same two-minute habit, except they generally don't offend me personally.  The last few days I've felt like scaling Fountain Plaza and yelling, "Can't we all just get along?" as the helicopter buzzes by to film the opening sequence to Dallas.  

Apparently we can't.  Apparently it's been the fate of personkind to be divided into two factions that fight over everything since we were cave men (and women).  The only thing that's ever united the two feuding factions is the presence of a bigger, badder enemy.  So, unless there's an alien invasion (we can always hope), we're stuck with our two sets of clowns until November.  Which, despite all appearances to the contrary, slowly approacheth.  

(A guy I know on Twitter is trekking all over Europe.  When he was in Scotland last week, a Scotsman came up to him and asked if he was American.  When he acknowledged that he was, the Scotsman asked, "Are the lot of you fucked in the head?"  The sad thing is, I don't know if he was talking about Todd Akin or our latest mass shooting.  Latest.  Mass.  Shooting.  Think about that for a second.  I mean, that's like saying World War Two to a space alien.  "Wait a minute.  You had a world war and you did it more than once?!"  How embarrassing.  Please, if any of you ever have a close encounter of the third kind, try to keep off the subject of recent American history.  It's best if you just explain about Steven Spielberg and go from there.)

Meanwhile, I've been having a tantrum.  Tantrum, midlife crisis, whatever you want to call it.  I saw one of my docs today, and he summed it up pretty well by saying, "I imagine it's pretty hard to be you."  Well, uh, it is.  Thank you for noticing.  I have, as they say, A Lot On My Plate.  The latest thing that I feel absolutely outraged at not having under my firm control is the fact that I have nothing under my firm control.  That is, I'm forty-three years old, I have a house, car, cats, wife, responsible job and all the other trappings of adulthood (even my very own credit card debt!), and yet I can't take care of myself like an independent human being.  

I can hear all of the Buddhists laughing out there.  There is, of course, no such thing as an independent human being.  All of us rely on each other.  Don't think so?  Well, take a look at this laptop, here.  The one I'm typing on.  I didn't build it.  Yeah, regardless of what Obama said or didn't say.  It's true.  I did not build this laptop, yet it is essential to my well-being in ways that only become screamingly obvious when you take it away from me.  And I do mean screamingly obvious.  I didn't make my clothes, my mala bracelet, my car or even this unbelievably delicious fried kibbe and akawi pie that I'm snarfing down between sentences.  Other people did all that.  I need them, and they need me.  You can't navigate a lawsuit without a paralegal.  (Well, I suppose you can, but you wouldn't want to.)  You can't run a law firm without the guys that make the copy paper and the pens and the cute little laminated tabley things that pass as desks anymore.  You can't make copy paper without trees, and you can't make trees without dirt and sunlight and a lot of time.  So, technically, I am a product of sunlight and dirt and time.  And I can't take care of myself.  That's obvious.  So what, then, is the Big Deal?  

Well, the Big Deal is that besides the dirt and the sunlight, I seem to need a team of advance-degreed professionals.  Sometimes I end up in their offices, like I did today, and they say stuff like, "I imagine it's pretty hard to be you," and send me into a tailspin.  I called up Joan and ranted and complained and wanted to know why, after all this time, I still couldn't take care of myself.  And she said, "Jen, you are taking care of yourself.  You're going to see your doctors when you're supposed to.  You're taking your meds when you're supposed to and you're doing everything you're supposed to do."  She's right.  I've even been off sugar for (gulp) seven days now.  The New Guy has inspired me to new heights of--of high things.  "But I don't want to have some committee following me around for the rest of my life," I said.  "I want to be able to stand on my own two feet."  "You do stand on your own two feet," she said, "and those two feet take you where you need to go, when you need to go there."  (Well, she said something like that.  I have a good ear for dialogue, but it's not perfect.)  

Big sigh.  Minor grumbling.  Settling down, wiping the foam off my face.  Okay, okay.  I may not be able to exist as an independent human being, since no one really can, anyway.  But that doesn't mean I have to like it.  And I don't, just for the record.  It'd be interesting, though, if we could get everybody in the same place at the same time and just hear what all of them have to say.  The New Guy and Dr. Patel and Dr. Simon and Dr. King and Jesus and Buddha and Mohammed and what's-his-name from China.  Throw in Avalokishvara for some variety and maybe a little Vishnu.  Good heavens, it's starting to sound like--a convention.  Nobody call Fox News.    

Thursday, August 23, 2012

Talk Thursday: Resigned

So we're going to trial on a case that I was more or less sure would settle.  I don't know why I bother guessing anymore, because I've been wrong so many times.  The one I'm positive will go to trial settles way before mediation, the one where I'm sure we'll settle, nobody blinks and we're at the courthouse for days flinging unrelated side motions at each other.  When we go to trial we're very damn good at it, thank you, but we'd rather not.  We'd rather just reach a good settlement for our client, because trial is both expensive and risky, and hard on everybody from a nerves and exhaustion standpoint.  But a "good settlement" is often hard to define, and our definition doesn't match the other side's definition by the time we're talking about whether or not to go to trial.  So, off we go.  Hope nobody needs me the second and third weeks in September because I'll be indisposed.  Busy, too.

Meanwhile, the Talk Thursday topic-o-meter is down to me and Cele.  I'm not sure how that happened, but I have scads of good topic ideas, so don't worry, Talk Thursday fans.  I'm just kind of wondering what happened to everybody.  Maybe that whole life-getting-in-the-way thing again.  Me, I think I'd go a little crazy if I weren't writing this column (or another novel or--or something).   So I keep churning out the words, resigned to my fate.  Or somebody's fate.  What happens if you get the wrong person's fate? Do you get to trade it in?  Seems like there should be a fate exchange someplace, because I think I'd be a great marine biologist or test pilot or Buddhist monk or inventor of nifty office products.

Not that I'm not a fine paralegal, but I'm sort of having a midlife crisis here.  Or menopause. Or something.  First sign: Driving like a maniac.  Or like a Texan, more to the point.  Listen, I used to drive in L.A., and Texas drivers flat out scare me.  When I start driving like they do, something is definitely wrong.  Second sign: Sugar. I'm not supposed to be eating sugar in quantity.  It messes me up, plays hell with my meds and makes me feel rotten, after I feel good for maybe ten seconds.  I'm trying to get off it altogether, and I have uneven success; three days free here, four days there, maybe two days over there.  I got up to 60 days once. When I suddenly start eating lots of the sweet stuff, something is definitely wrong.

Third sign: Forgot my laptop this morning.  I think it's been at least two years since I've forgotten my laptop on a Thursday, especially seeing as this is the first Thursday after Eid-al-Fatr and therefore my first opportunity to get back to Afrah and snarf down some of their amazing pita bread.  Something is definitely wrong.  And has been wrong for a while.  And so, after seventeen years of marriage and roughly six months of continuous nagging from my psychiatrist, I'm seeing this guy.

Yeah, okay, this guy is a psychologist/therapist.  So it's not as exciting as it sounds.  But this is interesting.  I've only been to see him three times and it already feels like a matter of life and death.  As in, I'd better show the hell up and work hard or who knows what could happen.  This isn't a problem; I'm very obedient with health care professionals.  After all, I'm paying them to tell me what to do.  It would be kind of stupid to pay them to tell me what to do and then not do it.  (Well, okay, there's this one exercise my physical therapist gave me that I'm kind of slacking off on, but I'm doing all the other ones.)

I've been down this road before, or a road like it, or at least a road that had similar signposts and a big statue of Sam Houston in the middle of nowhere. (I-45 south of Huntsville on the way to Houston.) That guy (they're always guys; women therapists make me really uncomfortable) told me when I moved to Texas that I needed someone to keep an eye on me.  In contrast to my usual being-obedient-with-healthcare-professionals thing, I completely ignored him.  In retrospect, he was probably right.  I find this both embarrassing and annoying.  I am, after all, a grown-up.  Looky: House, car, job, cats, wife.  I should not need "looking after." But then, I shouldn't need to go to OA meetings, and I totally do.  I should not need to avoid alcohol, and I totally do.  I should not need all kinds of things that I'd probably shrivel up and die if I had do do without.  So you might say I'm resigned to needing things I wish I didn't need.

Here's another thing I need: I need to dash off to work now.  Because sooner or later I'm going to need a pay check.

Thursday, August 16, 2012

Talk Thursday: The Constitution and My Stomach.

It's not my fault.  I was just looking at a sheet of advertisements for various legal publications, and one of them was a book about the Constitution.  So I said to myself, "Self," I said, "wouldn't that make a great Talk Thursday topic?" and somehow my laptop managed to email Cele without my knowledge and tell her about it and the next thing you know, it's a Talk Thursday topic.  What a way to run into trouble.  Almost 250 years we've been arguing about the Constitution and about all we've decided is that it's the worst form of government ever invented until you look at all the other ones.

What I really don't like is discussing the Constitution with people who've never read it, or who might have read it once in high school but don't really remember it and haven't a clue what it means.  Come on, people.  It's not even ten pages long.  If the Supreme Court can talk about it for nine months a year, the least you can do is read the thing.  That way you won't pop off with something like, "Let's ban handguns because it says in the Second Amendment only the militia can have guns!" only to be told that, in fact, that's not what it says at all and you might want to read it again.  But remember, I'm not a lawyer or a Constitutional scholar, so you shouldn't take my advice.  I just read English pretty well and string words together okay.

Lots of stuff that people think is in the Constitution isn't really there.  Take, for example, the right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.  Sorry, that's the Declaration of Independence.  And if you really wanna have some fun on a Saturday night, take that document out to the public square and read it out loud, changing the words "parliament" to "Congress" and "King" to "President."  On second thought, don't.  You might "disappear" into Guantanamo, never to be seen again.  You know, kind of like what might happen to Julian Assange if he ever leaves the Ecuadorean embassy in London.  (Hang in there, Julian.  I have it on excellent authority that an airdrop of Asti Spumante and all nine seasons of the "X-Files" is on its way right now.)

What else isn't in the Constitution; "Last of all, to thine own self be true." That's from Shakespeare, Hamlet.  "Any people that would give up liberty for a little temporary safety deserves neither liberty nor safety."  Ben Franklin.  Yeah, he did sign the thing, but that's splitting hairs.  "Four score and seven years ago, our forebears--" Lincoln, kids.  At Gettysburg.  "Courage is resistance to fear, mastery of fear, not absence of fear."  Sorry, that's Mark Twain.  Well, surely "Weaseling out of things is important to learn.  It's what separates us from the animals! Except the weasel." is in there somewhere.  Nope, that's Homer Simpson.  And it doesn't say anything about a Constitutional right to act stupid in public, either.  We've just sort of unofficially adopted that one.

I like "constitution" for its other meaning; guts.  Well, rather, the quality of guts.  If you have a strong constitution, it doesn't mean your copy of the book about the Constitution has particularly tough covers (though for what books like that go through, it probably should).  It means you're strong, healthy, robust, well-suited to go traipsing through the Highlands after rogue sheep and, I dunno, cows or something.  If you're sick, it really helps to have a strong constitution, because that'll mean you'll get better sooner.  Lately my constitution has gone flying out the window, which is bad because how will I know what the Second Amendment says about an upset stomach?

In all seriousness, I'm finding This Thing Called Life a little bit overwhelming at the moment.  Maybe that's why my cube at work is totally stacked with files and large piles of paper.  Or maybe it's the piles of paper that are causing me to feel a little bit overwhelmed.  I'd clean them up, but I don't have time.  Or rather, I would have time if I wasn't trying to do five other things at the same time.  Which is a little overwhelming.  The other day a client showed up for an appointment and I ended up having to sit with her for about fifteen minutes and go over her medical records.  I actually asked the manager if she'd come in there with me, not because I needed protection from the Big Bad Client (she was a little abrupt, but not rude or anything) but because I needed to be sure I'd be on my best behavior and I wasn't sure I could be, with the head space I occupied at that time.  She said no, I went in there anyway, behaved myself and survived, but it was a close thing.

I'm starting to think I might perhaps need a tiny vacation.  Maybe I'll fly over to D.C. for the weekend and check out the Smithsonian, with its original copy of the original Constitution.

If my stomach's up for it, that is.

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Mini-Post: Ranting About Guns and Mental Illness

Yeah, I'm gonna go off on a rant here.  Don't worry, it won't take long.  The subject once again is guns, but this time it's about taking them away from mentally ill people, seeing as we've had an epidemic of mass shootings lately and, hey, it's easy to blame the alternately sane.  But, I gotta ask: Are you referring to me? I am, after all, bipolar I, which is the "bad" bipolar disorder, the one that gets all the attention, the research funding and the Charlie Sheen publicity.  Obviously People Like That shouldn't be allowed to own weapons. Save 'em for the warmer, fuzzier, Catherine Zeta-Jones type mentally ill people.  

(By the way, I love the way this article talks about "keep(ing) guns out of the hands of criminals and mentally ill people."  Thanks, Michael Bloomberg, for lumping us all together.  I'm sure the criminals appreciate it too.) 

Oh, but wait.  I'm "different."  I don't wanna kill scads of other people, just occasionally myself, so there can't possibly be any harm in letting me have a 9-mm Glock.  What's the worst that can happen?  I blow my brains out and save some serious Obamacare bucks?  Besides, what are you going to do, traipse around the country and stamp "Do Not Sell Guns To This Person" on the forehead of every depressed housewife who's ever taken Prozac?  

If you ask me, I'm the one that needs the handgun, and a lot more than you do, because sooner or later the frick'n villagers are gonna descend on Flamingo Lane with their torches and pitchforks to drive me out of town because I'm clearly too dangerous to remain within the community.  They better hope I'm not in my manic phase when this happens or I'll--I'll WRITE all over 'em.  

Jen has spoken. 

Thursday, August 9, 2012

Talk Thursday: On the Flipside

Now this'll be a challenge: Trying to explain the significance of "On the Flipside" to a generation that may have never seen a record.  A record?  Well, it's a big black vinyl disc that produces sound, see, and some of them were bigger than CDs and some of them were just about the same size as CDs, and the small ones were called "singles," and--what's a CD?  Oh dear.  Well, back in the Pleistocine, before there were iPods...

In my part of the country, they didn't actually call it the flipside.  They called it the B-side.  The A-side was for the main song, the "real" song, the reason you bought the record.  The B-side was for Some Other Song.  Sometimes it was a dance mix or something of the A-side song.  Sometimes it was something else from the album (see, kids, the big vinyl discs were called "albums") that the band liked and wanted to get out there even if it was never going to be A-side popular.  (Yes, I know you just download songs in like ten seconds these days.  No, don't tell me about it.  When the RIAA comes knocking on the door I don't want to be an accessory after the fact.)

Once in a while, though, you got a rare treat.  A B-side song that was as good as, or better than, the A-side song.  When that happened, it was sort of like the world stood on its head, because what was this B-side song doing on the B-side when it should clearly be on the A-side?  Rumors would swirl around the release of the A-side.  Conspiracy theories would be launched.  Whole plots and counterplots could spin out of a few dark bass notes.  Sometimes I really miss being fourteen, when you could spend most of an afternoon talking essentially about nothing.  As opposed to now, when we talk about the economy and our jobs and which of the Presidential candidates would look best in a Speedo.  

In my lifetime, I have been so fortunate as to come across a B-side that was so good I can't remember what the A-side even was.  Oh, sure, I could probably Google it, and get half a dozen hits from half a dozen people even more obsessed than I am with random bits of obscure trivia, but if I actually found out, some of the magic would be gone.  The record was by Big Country, it was from the early 1990s (CDs were just coming in) and the song was called "Never Take Your Place."  Not only was it the best B-side I ever heard, it was one of the best songs I ever heard.  I can still hear it in the back of my head, and remember most of the lyrics all these crazy years later.

Okay, nobody panic; I'm not going into one of my Stuart-killed-himself-ten-years-ago (eleven this December) and-I'm-still-not-over-it fits of mopeyness.  I decided, recently, that I'm never going to be over it, so there's no point in trying to get over it.  It hurts, but I can live with it most of the time.  Some wounds don't heal.  Maybe this one will scar over eventually, but I'm not holding my breath.  Okay?  Okay.  On with the story:

If you want to hear the track, you can download it for a mere 99 cents right here.  I highly recommend you do exactly that.  It's a dark, dreamy, haunting sort of song that will stay with you for quite a while.  I'm particularly taken with the lyric, "All the gold of Africa will never take your place."  In context of the song, it's striking and sad.  In context of what eventually happened to the singer, it's a bit spooky.  In fact, a lot of BC's lyrics seem to point to Stuart's end; particularly disturbing is one from "Seven Waves" a few years later: "I might just swim out on the waves tonight, and lay right down and drown." Do normal poets write lyrics like this?  I don't know any normal poets.  I don't, for that matter, know any poets, though I just met one two weeks ago.  Once I get to know him better I'll ask him.  (And he'll probably look at me quizzically and start playing his harmonica.  Well, you know.  Poets.)

I wonder if, another 50 years from now, our ancestors will look back at the 1980s and wonder why we judged our entertainment value on whether it was A-side quality or B-side quality.  They'll probably be transmitting songs through the air by then, and playing them on passing clouds or the backs of beetles.  Then they'll get hold of Never Take Your Place and have to revise all their theories, which will ruin half a dozen master's theses and more than a few recording agents.  If there are recordings.  Recordings?  Well, children, long ago music needed an actual solid object to exist...

Thursday, August 2, 2012

Talk Thursday: Failure to Launch

Well, this probably comes as a surprise to no one, but I'm taking a few days off from the swimming.  I'm just plain tired.  I'll probably be back in the pool tomorrow, though, because I'm starting to miss it.  I think I have a minimum level of chlorine in my blood, and if it drops below that I start questioning the reason for my existence.  Kind of like a fish out of water.  No, more like a fish who's been kidnapped by (human) aliens, taken out of the water, tagged, photographed, measured, and then dropped back into the water as part of some big scientific project it knows nothing about.  It will tell the other fish this story at the campfire later on (do fish make campfires?) and the other fish will say, "Tell us another one, Ralph" and "Did they give you the old anal probe?" before breaking up into crude fishy laughter and passing around another six-pack of Glorp Light. No one ever believes Ralph when these things happen.

Anyway:  I'm having, shall we say, a colorful week.  I've been covering cases for a colleague who was out on medical leave, and I just found out she's not coming back.  Yikes, what am I going to do with these cases?  I started a class, went to see an ortho. doc who pronounced my knee Not In Need Of Surgery, navigated the Chick-Fil-A boycott/celebration/onslaught and snuck out for frozen yogurt at least twice.  And I stared into the abyss that is what I'm writing lately and determined that it is, indeed, an abyss.  Or maybe a sinkhole.  Anyway, there's a void, and nothing to fill it.

I need a project.  I need a project like I need chlorine.  Without a project, I'll be the next Ralph, drinking Glorp Light and wondering what in hell an anal probe is, anyway.  Oh, I can write; watch this column come into existence every single week, whether I feel like it or not.  I need something to write about, is the thing.  The increasingly-inaccurately-named Mindbender trilogy (which has four volumes, and part of a fifth) is not going anywhere fast and I've yet to come up with anything to take its place in my head.  Joan thinks I should be writing comedy, and I do have this thing going about statuary and public art all over Dallas suddenly coming to life and proving problematical for law enforcement.  And it's okay--it's kind of fun, actually--but it's not, you know, Art.

Not that I have a clue what Art is (except this guy I knew in high school who always seemed kinda sleazy; years later I ran into him again, heard his side of the story and realized I had judged him too harshly, as nearly all of us do to other people when we are between the ages of thirteen and seventeen).  I want to write suspense/thrillers.  I wanna do sagas of intense complexity, with big secrets and car chases and gruesome murders and blood all over the place.  I wanna do more rapid page-turns than Big Steve and more plot twists than Kameron Hurley.  (And if you haven't read God's War and Infidel yet, get moving; Rapture comes out in November.)  I want explosions and betrayals and fast-moving conversations that you have to follow or your life will be in danger.  I just need, you know, some kind of, like, idea.

What do I have instead?  Living statues.  And some Norse gods.  Pretty sure there were a few Norse gods in there somewhere.

In the literary world, we call that failure to launch.

So I'm taking a class.  The class is based on The Artist's Way, a book by Julia Cameron.  It's designed for writer's block, which I don't think I have, exactly; writer's anxiety comes a lot closer. Or maybe we could say writer's void.  The thing is, it just looks like an abyss; in fact it's an underground mine fire, like in Centralia, Pennsylvania, and when a hole opens up to the surface it belches toxic gas, fumes and blasts of lethal heat.  The book is supposed to help with this.  Overcome writer's block, turn out prizewinning novels, stories, plays.  So far it's been creepily about feelings, which, as a former Lutheran, I have none of.  Just kidding.  Well, kidding a little.

Anyway, I hope it helps.  We just started Chapter Two, and since the mighty Law Dogs are sidelined tonight by extremely high temps and missing personnel, I might just go home and, uh, do my homework.  You know.  Like in high school.

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

The Big Swim

Friday evening, 5:30.  I'm standing in the shallow end of SMU's remarkable pool.  Remarkable in that it's a 50-meter pool, the only one in North Texas (or one of the few, anyway), and remarkable in that the temperature change between the shallow end and the deep end is like twenty degrees.  Well, probably more like ten degrees, but it feels like twenty degrees.  I'm warmed up and stretched out and now I'm bouncing around, frustrated and ready to push off the wall and wondering why in hell the delay.  It's over a hundred out here, my nerves aren't getting any fresher and I want to get this overwith, dammit.

There are two other women swimming in my lane.  This is unusual; the last few times I did the Big Swim I was by myself in a lane.  I wonder how we're going to do this.  I wonder what they'll do when they catch up to me (they always catch up to me).  While I'm wondering, the coach calls everybody together and announces we'll be starting in thirty seconds.  Thank God.  I'm going second among my group of three, ten seconds apart from each of my lane-mates.

0 meters - 400 meters:  I did this last year and I've done it again.  I push off going way too fast and have to reign myself in.  It's adrenaline, nerves, jumpiness, too much coffee.  I chant in my head when I'm swimming and I try chanting slower now: namo ami tabha (breath) namo ami tabha (breath).  It takes me 300 meters to get into a regular rhythm.  This doesn't bode well.  She who starts too fast finishes too slow, or something like that.

500 meters: Collision.  As predicted, the woman behind me catches up to me.  In the meantime, though, I've caught up to the woman ahead of me, and all three of us run into each other at the far end.  I'm not sure how this is supposed to work.  In practice I'd just grab the wall and wait for them both to pass me, but that's not an option when you need to keep moving.  There's a mad scramble, a tangle of arms and legs.  I pull over as close to the lane line as I can and slow way down.  Woman #1 gets the hint, scoots quickly by me and swims on.  Woman #2 takes a minute or two to realize that she, too, can pass me.  By the time they're both safely ahead, I've lost about 25 meters.  I swim like mad for the next 25 to make up some time.

800 meters:  Crash and burn.  Suddenly my arms and legs start to feel like they weigh about a thousand pounds each.  The little gulps of air I take every three strokes aren't doing it for me anymore.  I shift to breathing every second stroke and quickly start hyperventilating.  I'm swimming too fast again.  I try to slow down.  This is crazy.  I have 1200 meters to go and I'm not sure I'm going to finish the next 50.

900-1200 meters: Things get weird.  It's probably lack of oxygen, but I start seeing and hearing the weirdest things in the pool.  I hear a bunch of dwarves singing something from the Wizard of Oz soundtrack.  I see a flash of white and wonder why there's a polar bear in the next lane over. (Yes, okay, it was probably just somebody's bathing suit, but my brain saw white and thought polar bear.  That's just how it works when I'm oxygen-compromised.)  I think about rolling over on my back, backstroking for a little while until this goes away, but I don't see anyone else doing it and I'm not sure I'm allowed.

1300-1500 meters:  I feel terrible.  Cold from the cold end of the pool, hot from the hot end of the pool.  It's like spiking a fever.  My stomach's upset and I'm telling myself to just quit, I've gone far enough, other people are starting to wrap up anyway and I can curl up in a nice warm towel.  I keep going, though, mainly because I'm on autopilot.

1500-1800 meters: I got this.  Suddenly I realize I'm almost done.  The upset-stomach feeling goes away, and the warm end of the pool is nice to come back to.  I gulp some water from the bottle on the deck and Tammy gestures that I have two more to go.  Two more?! I thought I was almost done.  Well, I can do two more.  I head back in to do two more.

The Big Finish:  I can't help it.  It's probably being my father's daughter, but I have to add this little edge of drama to things.  As I make the last 50-meter turn and head home, I start speeding up.  I have no energy for this and it doesn't prove anything anyway but here I come, getting faster now, then faster than that, until I do the last 25 meters at full speed.  I crash into the wall both hands first and the bow wave I brought with me washes the rest of me in.  "That's it," Tammy calls from her chair, and I say, "Thank God" and rest my head against the tile.  Four days later, on Tuesday, July 31, I will finish Swim for Distance Month with 24.23 miles.

And you know what this means: Make those checks out in any denomination you choose to Survivors of Torture, International, a 501 c 3 corporation (that means it's tax deductible) and mail 'em to me.  Please get them here by August 10, if you can, because that's when I want to send them along.  If you don't know my address, DM me on Twitter: @jenstrikesagain.

THANK YOU EVERYBODY!!! And especially Tammy, who sat in the heat for an hour watching paint dry, er, watching me swim back and forth, and who also altered my birqini so I could swim in it without trailing legs behind me.  And to Joan and Tracy who had a hot meal of fajitas, rice and beans waiting when we got home.  Boy, were those ever good.