Sunday, Briefly

Feeling: Like my old self again. AT LAST.

Doing: Catching up on all the things. Working overtime at the day job, teaching my Plotting workshop, and editing for freelance clients. Plus, started costumes for DragonCon…

Not sleeping enough still, but it’s getting better.

Listening to: Cassandra Wilson, BB King (may he rest in peace), Sinatra.

Watching: I saw…

Daawat-e-Ishq (2014) Indian film somewhat (self-referentially) in the Bollywood style. Cute, happy, gorgeous colors and a focus on food/cooking. At the same time, it dissects the very serious problem of arranged marriages, dowry, and independence. Bonus for looking at it not just as a problem for women, but also for men: young men from “better ” households are essentially auctioned off to the highest bidder — the girl whose family can pay the most in dowry (generally presented as “wedding gifts”, though agreed to in advance between the parents). Change comes as much from women saying “I deserve to be valued for who I am” as men saying “I am not an object to be purchased or sold; I deserve love, too”. 5/5*

Nightcrawler (2014) Props to Jake Gyllenhaal for throwing himself into the character; if you’ve never been in the presence of an extreme narcissist — not the charming kind, but the disaffected, disassociated, bordering on sociopath without realizing most everyone around them sees that is something is just “not right” — then this movie might be worth watching. I turned it off three times, kept turning it back on and then giving up again. The main character was simply and purely unlikable. He was a bad guy. He was cold, violent, a thief and a liar. He didn’t bother trying to pretend otherwise; he pursued what he wanted, as if he deserved it no matter who he hurt in the process of getting it. He had, potentially, a few redeeming qualities that you could maybe make out if you squint hard enough, but nothing to show that he was capable of any sort of arc. By the halfway point it in the movie it seemed clear that he was going to be the catalyst for bad things happening to other people, and if he did suffer any consequences, it wouldn’t change him, only be seen as another setback, until he could steal another chance at his American Dream. (I blame the writing/directing here, not the actors, who gave good performances in the limited way they were allowed.) 2/5*

Wayward Pines (ep 1) A dull, Twin Peaks-flavored show without an original bone in its body. Don’t bother with this one unless you’ve never ever seen or read anything about a small town that isn’t what it appears to be in the first ten seconds. (Though this show is obvious from about ten seconds in.) 1/5*

Maggie (2015) Subtle, understated, purposefully anticlimactic (to be discussed further) story about a dying girl in a zombie-infected America. Notable for its stars, including Arnold Schwarzenegger, who gives an excellent performance, even given that I was somewhat distracted by someone else cracking up over the incongruity of a couple of Arnold’s lines. I will probably review this in depth later, depending on whether Don gets there first. (You want his review, honestly. It will have a lot more sarcasm.) Worth watching, so go watch it. 5/5*

Reading: NOTHIN’ BUT BLUE SKIES. Non fiction, reading based on Don’s recommendation. Go read his review here.

Writing: … Nothing, lately. I wish, but there’s too much else to do. Some day soon, I will be able to afford to cut down on freelance work and set aside time for my own writing again. Until then, I’m sneaking in bits of writing time wherever I can, and the last few weeks, there hasn’t been an opportunity. I’m hoping to finish revising a story I wrote a couple of months ago, this week, if the day job isn’t too hectic. (Half our admin staff is out for training, I’ve had to give up lunch breaks and am working late on top of it, so it will just depend on how much paperwork gets dropped on my desk before everyone else returns.)

What are you into lately?

The Unbearable Loudness of Being

I’m six weeks out from my stapedectomy. I’m mostly recovered: I still cough a little, each day, and my voice goes out sometimes, but I’m no longer fighting off a crippling infection. I don’t have the distracting superhero hearing from last month. In fact, there are times I still have to ask, “I’m sorry, what?” when it’s too loud at work, when there’s too much background noise at the right pitch to blur what I’m trying to hear. I can tell that I am hearing a lot more though, and how deaf I am in my left ear is now very apparent. (I used to think of it as my “good” ear.) I’ll need to get the same surgery on that side, if I want my hearing to improve more, and right now, I completely plan to do that. I see no real reason not to.

But. I’m not sleeping.

I have days where I sleep some – restless and uneven, but it’s four or five hours of sleep, added all up. Those days I wake up feeling like I am back on track! I dive into my to-do list, I make big strides, I am a rockstar at work, and I plan out the next day as if I will have an equal ability to move forward.

Then, it falls apart. I wake up dozens of times, at every little noise I wasn’t able to hear before. I’m a zombie the next day, shuffling after brains that are always a step out of reach. I get nothing done; I hate myself for slacking, I let other people down, and the pile of things I need to do looms over me. It sucks.

My audiologist says this is normal, that I will adjust soon, that it is harder for me because I’d compensated and gotten settled into a life profoundly empty of sound. I’d taken for granted that I could roll over onto one side and have total silence while I slept. That’s gone now, and no amount of tossing and turning will get me back to that sweet spot of blissful nothingness.

Which, I will eventually figure out.

Until then, I’m looking into ear plugs. I’m working as hard as I can whenever I can, and I’m apologizing to anyone whose emails are unanswered or who need me to be at my most functional best on the days I’m just not. (If that’s you, I am sorry. Please bear with me.)

File this under “all the things I wish I knew before my surgery so I could have planned for it”.

Stay Gorgeous

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This little note is one my desk at my dayjob, written for me by one of my nurses. It says “It’s a power thing. Stay gorgeous.” She wrote it for me after a tough day of dealing with convicted sex offenders, one of whom ran into me outside of work, got overly friendly, and then came in this week to see if he could make me talk to him. We were talking about the difficulty in interacting with people who seek out ways in which to exert power over you; in this case, trying to turn you into a sexual victim. Do we dress down even further? (I already dress extremely conservatively at work, with very little exposed skin, including ankle-length skirts or pants, long sleeves, hair down, and high collars. This isn’t because I’m shy — it’s because I have a lot of lovely ink and I don’t want to affect the perception of my job performance.) Do we stop wearing makeup? Do we avoid eye contact? Is there anything that we can do to minimize the potential of being targeted? Should we?

The answer is no. It’s a hard “no” to accept though, since we’re taught to defend against people who want to take something from us, and part of defense is (we’re told) minimizing the chance that they’ll single you out. Don’t draw attention to yourself. Don’t talk about your life online. Don’t go out. Stay quiet. Stay hidden, and maybe they will leave you alone and target someone else… Do that for long enough, and you end up losing your whole life to a washed-out existence, afraid of what might happen. That some other people might want to hurt you to get what they want is like the potential of an airplane to fall out of the sky while you’re on it — chances are, it won’t happen, and you can’t control it if it does. Avoid shoddy airlines, ones with track records of failing to maintain their planes, just like you should avoid people who are clearly uninterested in much beyond their own needs, but stop flying? Not if that’s what you need to get you where you want to go.

You can’t help that people will be selfish. You can’t help that some people are broken, or hurting, or sick, or maybe never learned that empathy means not just recognizing how someone else feels, but caring about it. You can’t help that if you live your life to its fullest, if you’re brilliant and talented and driven and kind and loving, there will be some people who get jealous, or angry; who want to stop you from succeeding because they haven’t, or who want to take what you have. Want to own you, if they can. It’s not really about you. It’s them, their issues, their fears, their need for power and control. So, don’t let that stop you. Don’t give up your own potential because someone frightened or annoyed you into it. Stay bright and colorful and happy. Stay strong.

Stay gorgeous.

Monday, Briefly.

Feeling: Sick, tired, and tired of being sick. I’ve officially been unwell for an entire month now, between having strep, surgery (which caused a throat injury), throat infection, vertigo, steroid-induced insomnia, and now — because I wasn’t given antibiotics for long enough — acute bronchitis. Ironically, the “invasive head surgery” part seems to have gone perfectly, and if I hadn’t had the complications, I’d have been back on my feet weeks ago.

Doing: Very little. Anyone wondering if I’ve been lazy and/or procrastinating lately should reread the above. I am doing what I can every minute that I can — which is why this blog post was written at 3 am — and a few more things powered by sheer force of will, but I’m behind on a lot. If you’re waiting on me for something, I will get to it. Probably right after I get a full night’s sleep. Or at least, on a day that I can actually breathe.

Listening to: “Uptown Funk”, still, especially because I found out the glorious Dap Kings provided the horns for this song. Video here. It’s fun, it hearkens back to hate-era disco (as in “everyone hates disco”), it features Bruno Mars — who’s starting to impress me with his interest in reviving older musical styles within his largely pop playlist — and did I mention the horn section?

Watching: I saw

The Secret Life of Walter Mitty (the first 45 minutes could have been 20, but otherwise, a better film than I expected, and cements Ben Stiller on my very short list of Hollywood celebrities I’d actually want to have a conversation with).

Gremlins, because my son had never seen it. A lot of the dark, campy humor was lost on him — and more noticeable to me than I’d remembered — but he liked Gizmo enough to want a T-shirt with him on it.

Big Hero Six, because my son actually asked if we could watch this, and he rarely likes age-appropriate stuff. (He’s all Blues Clues and Walking Dead. No, I don’t let him watch Walking Dead, outside of the zombie scenes.) It was fun, touching, and while it was limited to a very tight PoV and almost no one did anything important except the MC, all of that focus was on a bright, awkward, Asian kid who wasn’t treated like a minority, just a person, living in a multi ethnic world.

I’m still watching iZombie, Jane the Virgin, and Grimm, whenever there’s a new episode. Other stuff too, if someone else is or I’m really, really, bored, but those are the only three shows on TV that I’m not burnt out on or tired of hoping will improve.

Reading: started Jeff Vandermeer’s Annihilation.

Writing: Revising last week’s 1700 word SF story into about 2500, when I figured out there would be no character arc unless I added to the beginning. Also trying to finish a 750 word story for this (deadline 4/26/15).

What are you into lately?

Stapedectomy Post Surgery Update, Day 17 (Should be the last one of these for a while)

I saw my ENT surgeon again yesterday; I’m cleared to go back to work on Monday. The vertigo was caused by a microscopic piece of bone debris, left over from the surgery, which had probably been trapped higher in my ear canal, but as the swelling went down as I healed, it fell onto the footplate of my inner ear, and irritated the cochlear nerve. (He could tell because that kind of irritant causes a very peculiar kind of vertigo, which explains why mine felt different than I’d imagined from reading explanations online.) Eventually, the bone fragment, likely smaller than a grain of sand, is absorbed or settles or breaks down further, and is no longer a problem, which is just about where I am.

Yesterday was also the last day that I had to take steroids to reduce swelling, and coincidentally was also the day I found out that medication has been the cause of the massive insomnia I’ve had since my surgery. Last night, I slept almost six hours, all in a row, for the first time in weeks, and I already feel 100% better than I have since before this all began.

I don’t go back in for another month, since at this point I should be past all of the potential problems. When I do, I’ll have a hearing test to determine how successful this surgery was. I don’t know if I still qualify as deaf, but I do know my hearing has greatly improved, even if the almost-too-much-to-take super hearing has gone away. So unless something major happens, this will be my last post on the subject until next month.

Would I do it again? Definitely! This time around, there was a lot I didn’t know, and I’d have been better prepared if I had. Plus, I had been sick just before the surgery, I spent most of my recovery time off with my nearly-teen son home all day on spring break (with my usual sitters both away on vacation), AND I ended up with a couple of “uncommon but not unheard of” side effects. Now that I know what the process really entails and what my body will need to recover, I can plan for it. I’m always better when I have a plan :)

That’s what these blog posts have been about, really: putting this information out there for other folks who are getting ready to go through the same thing, since I did extensive Googling beforehand and still didn’t know what to expect. If one other person finds these notes and had an easier time after their stapedectomy than I did, it was worth the effort of writing it all down.

At the end of the day, I think the hardest part was feeling like I was wasting all of this “free time” — time off from my day job — and not accomplishing as I should have. I knew I was getting things done in five and ten minute increments, before passing out again, but it didn’t feel like enough. I was sure that I was a giant slacker.

Until I started to make a list of what I actually gotten done, outside of the whole recovery thing. That includes keeping my family fed, dishes and laundry washed, house clean… Completely rearranged my kitchen, built a book shelf, reorganized a cabinet to be a soundproofed mini podcasting studio that I can close up out of the way… Taught my son a couple of new recipes, including a pull-apart pizza bread that he’s willing to help make, costs about $4, and he’s willing to eat instead of ordering a pizza (his favorite food) which saves us money… Fixed my bedframe, cleared out some excess stuff and donated it so it’s not in my house anymore, knitted a scarf for the coworker who gave me a gorgeous coat in February… Using my tablet, and reactivating my Pinterest account, I spent hours researching for upcoming projects and stories… Cooked a bunch in advance so I’ll go back to work with a full freezer and won’t have to worry that I’m too tired to feed us, sorted and filed several months worth of paperwork… Prepped my upcoming plotting workshop, discovered a way to make paper journaling work for me, wrote two stories and a poem and started revising a couple of older pieces… Even painted my toenails. (They are very cute.)

Just in tiny little increments. Individually, no day seemed filled with usefulness. But I kept at it, every chance I got, and it all adds up. I’m hoping that this weekend I can tackle getting Lakeside Circus caught up, and do some freelance work. Then I might feel like I actually got things done…

Looking for the rest of my posts about this surgery? I’ve assembled them all on this page.