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

Thursday, November 28, 2013

(gr) Attitude

”All that we are is the result of what we have thought. The mind is everything. What we think, we become.” ~Buddha

It's that time of year. The planes start flying and all thoughts turn to dead birds and for what you're grateful.  I don't do my family Thanksgiving, but I still get together with a group of friends and muse about how lucky we are to live in an environment that's relatively undamaged (since we're exporting our ecological damage to China) and where most of us have jobs (that pay next to nothing and provide only minimal benefits).  And while I cling to Joan, who's the most important person in the world and for whom I'm eternally grateful, I have to tell you that I reached a new nadir in my fabulous career as a paralegal.  I'm afraid that not only are things not getting better, they're getting worse instead.

Yes, I've been taking my meds.  Yes, I'm seeing my doc again on Monday.  He says to trust him, which I do.  But if I were anyone else I'd have thrown up my hands in despair by now and taken a job herding cats, or maybe artificially inseminating rhinoceri.  I wanna pound my head against the wall, I wanna shake myself and say, "What the hell is wrong with you?" More important than that, I just want this whole thing to be fixed.  It's a damn good thing I'm a Buddhist, because if I were any other faith I'd have missed the part where Buddha said, "Don't trust your brain.  It will lie to you."  (Or words to that effect.)

Losing control over your own brain is terrifying.  Terrifying and frustrating.  Two years ago I was one of the star performers at the firm.  What was different between now and then?  I go over and over this.  Over and over this.  I haven't figured it out yet and I feel like I'm running out of time. But I keep trying.  I'm seeing this guy (a psychologist, not a paramour--sorry, I'm really not all that salacious) who's helped me come up with strategies so I won't get behind and manage distractions better.  The second I get to work I strap a notebook to myself (it's on a passkey tether) and put a pen in my pocket so I can write down anything and everything that comes up.  I'm even using Evernote, though I probably could be using it better.  And I have rules for when to do what, and a chime that rings every hour to remind me to stay in the moment.  I hang around after hours and sneak in when we're closed to catch things up.

And I don't wanna give up.  Well, some days I do, because something else has gone wrong and I'm tearing my hair out and wanting to scream because what in hell was I thinking  and I can't remember and more important, can't understand (or, for that matter, make myself understood).  But usually I wanna keep working until they pry the keyboard from my cold pre-retirement fingers.  I wanted to be this particular lawyer's last-ever paralegal, work for him until he decided to retire and then retire myself because there wouldn't be any point in continuing without him.  I think he's going places. I think he will do great things.  I think he deserves the best support possible.  I gave him that two years ago.  I feel like I can give him that again.  But when?  How about now?  Is now good?  Hello?  Universe?

Oh, and I got into a car wreck (!).  On the way home, somebody rear-ended me on the freeway.  It was just a stupid accident.  But I gotta tell ya.  This is, I think, my fifth collision and still, that incredibly loud bang has been following me around and giving me the creeps for a day and a half.  I was in a Really Bad Collision thirteen years ago (in the same car, no less), where a guy ran a stop sign right in front of me and I T-boned him.  I had nightmares and flashbacks to the collision for about six weeks.  Well, Jesus God, I could have killed the guy.  I managed to crank the wheel hard enough that I kind of slid into him sideways instead of hitting him head-on, which kind of broke up the force of the collision, as it were, and distributed it over more of the car. So we both lived.  Anyway, this morning I had a crystal-clear flashback to that wreck (I still remember it, like a movie) and the sound of the brakes and the incredibly loud bang. And I'm like, now? Really?  I need this now?

(See previous blog post.)

Anyway.  You can't trust your brain.  It will lie to you.  This is not a collision from 13 years ago, this is a minor fender-bender on the freeway, the kind that happens every damn day all over Dallas.  I am not hopelessly incompetent, I am just having a very hard time at work for some reason.  It's not my brain deteriorating past the point of usefulness, it's just the drugs, and we'll get the combination right and everything will be fine.  So that's my pre-Thanksgiving complaint.  And I'm not grateful. I'm just stubborn.

Happy Thanksgiving, everybody, and try to be more grateful than I.  Because right now I suck at it.

Monday, November 18, 2013

Uh, Now? Really? Right Now?

So Joan's in the hospital.  For those of you who missed the beginning of this saga, lemme catch you up.  Joan had a tumor on her leg, and the docs thought it was a thing called a lipoma (a fatty tumor) but because it was growing so fast, there was a decent chance that it was a liposarcoma.  Anything in the medical world that ends in "sarcoma" is usually Not Good, so they did the surgery pretty quickly.  And the tumor turned out to be a lipoma--a nuisance, but essentially harmless.  It was one big one with budding little ones, and that was a bit strange, but anyway, there was no "sarcoma".  So that was good.

Then, about two and a half weeks after the surgery, the wound site--which was healing fine, though it was a bit swollen--started turning red and unhappy lookin'.  Back to the doc we went.  The doc took one look at it and said, "Okay, I'm admitting you to the hospital."  The lack of "sarcoma" notwithstanding.

That was last Wednesday.  Joan's been in the hospital ever since.  That's--let me see here--six days in the hospital.  I've been going to work, going to the hospital, then coming home and crashing into bed.  Today I finally did the effing dishes and made up the beds with clean sheets.  And now I'm sitting here writing this because my brain won't wind down.  

Have you ever noticed that when it rains, it pours?  The best possible example would be 2001.  In a span of three months, the Twin Towers fell, a guy in my church choir died, Joan's mom died and Stuart Adamson died.  I mean, I'm sure they all didn't plan it that way (except maybe Stuart) but I had just started to crawl out of a crippling depression and by that December I'd turned around and crawled right back into it.  I wouldn't really be back to normal for another couple of years, during which I made such a mess of my life that when Joan made the first suggestion about moving to Texas I said, "Great, how long will it take you to pack?" instead of "Where? Isn't that near North Dakota someplace?"

And since the universe really listens to me when I tell it these things, let me just reiterate that I don't need my wife very sick in the hospital when I'm trying to a. keep my job and b. not go crazy.  Okay? Okay? Hello? McFly?

That's the thing about being me.  It's like I'm Oklahoma.  Most of the time I'm fairly peaceful, running a casino in a small town in Durant County, but then suddenly the sky darkens and this tornado rips through everything and destroys jobs, friendships, mortgages, relationships.  Tornadoes are entities unto themselves once they really get going, but they need supercell thunderstorms to set them off.  In 2001, three people I cared about dropping dead in a matter of weeks was the supercell. And the Twin Towers thing didn't help.  (By the way, I have no idea if there's actually a Durant County in Oklahoma.  I just think there should be.  The man got the railroad built, didn't he?)

In case this isn't obvious, things are just Not Going Well at the moment.  Not going well at work, not going well at the house (though we got the first part of the major plumbing repair done, for less than we thought it was going to cost, and even managed to squeeze in a new water heater as part of the deal).  Not going well here on the old laptop, with my writing group, with swimming and with being alive generally. I'm pretty sure I've already heard the tornado warning sirens kick on a couple of times, but then, maybe not.  Maybe they were false alarms.  Anyway, I feel like I'm sitting here in a weather tower, watching one hell of a big supercell start to rotate not all that far away.  And wondering if there's anything I can do to keep it from sucking (pun intended).

But, as my doc keeps reminding me, everything's different now.  I'm medicated, I'm meditated, I'm surrounded by good friends and I'm Doing All The Right Things (except for hitting the sugar, and I'm doing that pretty hard).  I'm not drinking anymore, I'm not a member of a Lutheran church filled with easily-ruffled feathers and my options for getting into trouble are somewhat limited.

Plus, there was that moment on the freeway where I was hurtling toward the hospital after a ridiculously long day at work and getting more and more upset at the way things were going when suddenly it occurred to me that if I couldn't stay calm in this situation, of all situations, I did not need to be calling myself a Buddhist.  And I like being a Buddhist.  Even if you have to stay calm through some pretty hairy moments.  Like tornadoes.

The thing about tornadoes is, you can't really predict them.  You can say, "Oh, yeah, conditions are perfect out here," and then watch a supercell rotate all day and do jackshit nothing.  Or you can think this is just a little spring shower and suddenly the alarms go off.  So if you can't predict them, the best alternative is to duck into a well-built underground shelter while one goes by.  Which is the equivalent of staying calm in a catastrophe.  Yes, even in Durant County.  If it exists.

Thursday, November 7, 2013

Mini-Post: Still In Free Fall...

...but it's possible that my silly parachute might open after all.

For those of you who missed The Blog Post That Cannot Be Posted, let it be known that just in general, things sucked rocks.  And they still do, but there are cautious signs of improvement.  I still have a job, and we're still making the mortgage payments.  We still have a huge plumbing repair but we got the first half of it done for a lot less than we thought we'd have to pay.  Joan had to have surgery on her leg, but the tumor turned out to be benign.  So a whole lot of the end-of-the-world crises du jour seem to be working  out. As they almost always will if you let them alone for long enough.

Last night I called a doc I used to see a looooooooong time ago, when I lived in Arizona (what was that,the early 1990s?  Good Lord, I think it was.)  After I ran my assortment of symptoms by her, and detailed my cornucopia of pharmaceuticals, she said it sounded like at least two and maybe three of the drugs I'm taking aren't working,  She wants to remove this and add that, lower this and maybe not take that anymore. She wants me to go on FMLA for two weeks to accomplish this. (My firm's too small to be covered under FMLA, but especially if we wait until December, I can probably do it.  Basically nothing happens in the legal field between December 20 and January 3, anyway.)

So now I gotta get all this verified by my Main Doc, but if she is right, then all I've ever been is depressed. And I have been depressed before. One would think I would know the symptoms by now, but I don't.  Didn't, anyway, this time. I associate depression with feeling mopey and sad.  Feeling hopeless and devoid of all life is a different thing entirely. The manager kept telling me I seemed like a whole different person, though.  Aha, perhaps now we know why.  Does depression affect one's competence at work?  I guess it might.

And so, as I sit here at Afrah with a tablet and a keyboard, an akkawi pie and a milkshake that escapes being a milkshake because technically it's an "iced cappuccino", I am reminded once again that I have a frick'n serious medical condition.  One that requires constant monitoring, maintenance, meditation and medication. And fewer afternoons sitting in a cold living room watching plumber guys move back and forth with their hands full of PVC pipe and stranger things. Yeah, I know.  I'm just sayin'.