Where the Body Goes, the Mind Follows

Everyone make it out of this past weekend’s bi-annual time warp okay? I like daylight hours well enough, but nighttime is when I feel most alive, so this is my least-favorite time change. But, I’m managing passably well, I suppose. Only six more months until my inner vampire will be happy again.

A few things about me that might be of interest before we start talking about supplements:
– My body is incredibly sensitive to supplements, vitamins, drugs, etc.
– My personality is such that I pay attention to and notice the *tiniest* changes in my body (yes, it’s annoying – I generally don’t share).
– I’m a control freak, and I studiously avoid anything that fogs my brain or slows my thinking for any length of time. That includes most pain-killers, psychotropic drugs, and large amounts of alcohol. I’ve been tipsy, but only had one hangover, ever, and I’ve never done any kind of street drugs or been “high” aside from the occasional contact high with friends or in concerts. My greatest fear is probably general anesthesia, which I wouldn’t even let a dentist use when he wanted to pull one of my teeth (I’ve had several teeth pulled, fully conscious, thank you very much). Yes, I have a high pain tolerance.

All that said, I am constantly studying herbs, spices, and various vitamins/minerals in order to try to keep my body running as well as it possibly can. And a very interesting (I think it is, anyways) side effect of this is what happens to my brain in the process. Depending on what I happen to be “experimenting” with on any given day/week/month, my thoughts can either be completely chaotic and have the texture of a bouncy ball, or they can be overwhelmed with anxiety in several different forms, or they can be calm, focused and downright serene about life. That calm focus is the goal, of course, but sometimes a new supplement or different percentages of things can screw that up almost instantly.

Toward the beginning of that whole mid-life “thing”, I started taking MSM because I thought it would help with…some aspect of my body (I forget what…it was several years ago, in my defense). I did all my research, and as usual, nothing mentioned anything about mental side effects. Just how great it was for so many things. So, as usual, I tried a quarter of the normal recommended amount first (because…sensitive). The first day, things were okay. The second, things were a bit weird. My body felt fine, but my thoughts were starting to race a bit. Still, I have my off-days like everyone else, so I didn’t think much about it.

Long story short, by the end of two weeks I was an anxiety-ridden mess, misinterpreting people’s actions/words (I’m normally pretty decent at interpreting people), and not interacting well at all due to all the weird and confusing thoughts going through my head. By then it was pretty obvious that it was the MSM giving me some sort of odd mental reaction, so I stopped it, and within a day or so, I was back to “mid-life” normal.

It’s kind of freaky how stuff like that happens. And if you’re not paying attention and keeping track of what’s changed in your life (for me, a new supplement), it’s very easy to miss the cause of such a quick onset side-effect.

In any case, I’ve taken a multi-vitamin for years, and during the mid-life thing I found that fish oil really helped to calm the anxiety in my head. I started taking it to balance out my cholesterol and get more omega 3’s in, and realized not long after that my thoughts were clearer. I stopped it for a few days to test, chaos returned. Started it again, and within a week, I was mentally more stable. I’ve made sure I am *never* out of fish oil since then – it makes that big of a difference for me.

I’ve tried a lot of things, with varying results, and I could share them, but the thing is, everyone’s body and chemistry is different, so what works for me may not work for you, and vice versa. Right now, I’m experimenting with new supplements that are made in Seattle to replace the basic Costco variety we normally buy. The difference is night and day. We have a calcium supplement, whole food vitamins for women/men (same basic mix on the label, just proportioned a bit differently), and new fish-oil tablets that are stronger than our usual.

I’m not gonna lie – it’s not all roses right now. There’s a fair amount of vitamin D in both the calcium supplement and the vitamin, and that tends to wreak havoc on my system (physically). There are a lot of other vitamins/herbs that have been blended together, and according to the company, they’re put together in specific amounts that should make all of the elements more bioavailable. Which for me, is basically code for, “These things are strong – start slow and pay attention.”

Of course I didn’t, because I’m trying to figure out if there’s anything out there that will help talk my body into letting go of extra weight (unsuccessfully). I just went ahead and started with half a dose of calcium, and a full vitamin dose. Which, predictably, made me physically miserable for a solid week until I backed off on the vitamins (cut to half-dose).

But, while my body was rebelling, my mind was doing something very interesting…like…nothing. My anxiety shut down, my thoughts calmed, I could focus without even really trying, and I wasn’t worried about much of anything – just like when I was younger. It was glorious!

When I cut back on the vitamins, the mental effect was still there, just not as strong. Which was disappointing. So now I’m kind of playing with the amounts of the calcium/vitamin supplements to balance out for my physical comfort, and hopefully once I get that figured out, the mental benefits will stick around as well. If they don’t, you can bet I’ll be breaking down those vitamins and figuring out what gave me that shining “moment” of serene relaxation again. Because that is the person I want to be.

All this to say…what we put in our bodies has such a huge impact not just on how our bodies work, but how our minds work as well. I’ve done so much as far as cleaning up my diet, and it’s still not perfect, but it’s pretty decent, overall. And I know I still don’t get the vitamin/mineral balance I need just from diet alone, so supplementation is an important part of my life. Naturally, as our bodies age, the things we need change, so it’s not really a “set it and forget it” type of thing – it’s something I pay attention to and tweak often, because what helps one day or week may not the next, depending on what’s going on.

Now, to sleep. I haven’t been getting all I need of that lately either, so I’m making a better effort. Except for tonight (Mon/Tues), so I can get this post out (since I have to be up early anyways). But the rest of the week, you can bet I’ll be getting my 6 hours in.

I wonder if those years of sleeping 4.5 hours a night contributed to my mental issues…could I have saved myself a lot of angst just by sleeping more? Something to ponder further, perhaps. After I get some sleep.

Finding the Calm

It’s late Monday night as I type again, but this week, we finish the mid-life crisis. Note that my head isn’t all that great with keeping dates and timelines straight, so all of this might not be strictly in the right order, but it’s all true, which is what matters, really.

In any case, we left off with my tattoo sleeve, and the story it started churning around in my head. The sleeve was finally finished late last summer/early fall, and by then, I was ready to start writing up that story. I was also coping much better with some of the feelings I’d been dealing with. I’d taken up archery (a year ago last month, actually), and faithfully went to the range once a week or so, and I’d also taken steps to ensure I could take care of “me” – which sounds so cliche, but I think that’s because we have to remind ourselves to do it so very often.

I started sleeping more hours at night (after reading a study basically condemning my brain to dementia or worse if I didn’t), and taking time for myself when I needed it. I was still doing a lot of thinking…some of it on paper, some just in my head, about the feelings and…”loss”, I guess, is the best way to describe it. Things that I simply can’t have or do because…well, because I chose/choose to prioritize other things. I acknowledged that I built the life that I have now, and I choose to stay in it for all the reasons that I am who I am.

There are things I still don’t want to accept not having/doing, and experiences I’m choosing to go without, and that’s just something I’m going to have to live with. But I’ve made a sort of uneasy peace with them that allows me to move on. To not dwell and obsess and drive myself insane trying to make it happen no matter the cost…because obviously, I’m not willing to pay that particular price.

Vague, I know. Like I said, some things are too personal for the cold light of public scrutiny. I suspect most who have gone through this same sort of process understand just what I mean.

And of course, I was writing again. Finally. Making time for one thing that I truly needed to get back to. I’ve since restarted Misty’s story, because part of this process was figuring out what kind of a writer I wanted to be, and where I wanted to go with my stories. I started Misty over because I figured out (20k words in) what kind of “presence” I wanted the book to have, and for once, I have an inkling of how I can give it that feel. So far, the rewrite is coming along well.

I decided to release the young reader’s book, under a different pen name (it’s coming out in April). Partially because I’m curious to see how it does, and partially because I’m still curious as to where my young treasure-hunter will end up, and I actually want to write the rest of the series.

Which brings us to the present. And me, on the other side of what’s commonly known as a “mid-life crisis”. But is it, really a “crisis”? It’s definitely uncomfortable and painful and there’s a certain sense of “mourning” that goes on, but now that I look back on it, it seems more like a growth period. A period of redefining myself, and balancing the “self” I was in my youth with the “self” I grew into as an adult. Part of that was stripping off some of the armor I’d put on for protection, and parts of that were embracing my “quirkier” aspects. Yet another part was acknowledging things I’d wanted for a long time but was afraid to really examine, and deciding if I was willing to give up other things in order to have those long-held desires. In some cases, yes, and in other cases, no. And for the latter, accepting my own decisions. Which is admittedly, the hardest part, and there are still parts of me that want to throw a temper tantrum like a child because I can’t have what I want…but that was a big part of the last few years. I’m over the whole tantrum thing. I’m increasingly able to just accept what “is” and move on, though I don’t think I’ll ever quite give up those desires completely. They’re part of me. A good part.

Which is okay. Accepting that there are some things I want and will never be able to have was a big part of this whole experience. I won’t say it’s all “good”, but it is “okay” now, and I can get past it.

Recently, I’ve completely switched up my supplements too, with the idea that perhaps something in my body isn’t “processing” quite right. I’ve been doing my best to lose some weight and its been doing its best to hang on tight, and after some research and reading, I picked out some super-supplements that I hoped would give my thyroid and adrenal glands some help in balancing everything out. I knew they would affect my hormones (any little thing does), but I wasn’t really expecting how much they’d affect my brain. In a very good way.

So, if you’re up for a little “better living through vitamins” talk…that’s what we’ll discuss next week.

For now, you can all be as grateful as I am that the “crisis” is over, the sun is out, and things can only get better from here!

Less Talk, More Action

This post is going to be late. I know that, because as I start typing, it’s after midnight on Monday night/Tuesday morning, and I need to get some sleep. Normally I can blame a late blog post on household chores or family sabotage or what-have-you, but not this time.

This time is all my fault, for getting distracted by Jennifer Lawrence being interviewed on Steven Colbert, and having a pretty good time after a few shots of rum. Yum. And good for her, for being so…personable and down-to-earth even when she’s nervous and tired and has a million things going on in her head.

Also, I really want one of those green velour shirts she was wearing. I mean, not that exact one, which is probably far outside my budget, but a knock-off would be awesome. It looked cozy and comfortable, but still casually elegant.

I have a “thing” for shirts. Never realized that until this crisis thing, but I do. We all have our quirks…

In any case, we have a mid-life crisis to crawl out of today (or tomorrow, depending), so better get back to it, lest the blog post series stretches out as long as the crisis itself (ugh)…

The year after I got my rattlesnake tattoo was a year of major changes. The boss left and the new one took over (and is good at it, thank goodness). A few other people left, and that meant extra work and stress all around until people could get caught up and up to speed on training and such. One of my dogs went blind, which is how we found out she had diabetes, and then finally had to have a tumor-ridden ear flap removed. We put her down a couple of weeks later when she just wasn’t recovering and it was pretty clear she wasn’t really going to thrive ever again.

After a month or so, we adopted Murphy, which was kind of a drawn-out process in and of itself (but worth it, of course). By that time, it was April, and the summer brought more work stress with no real end in sight.

I’d been trying to write that whole year, and aside from a few bits here and there…nothing. A common thread through this whole process had been the refrain that I wasn’t good enough, I wasn’t selling, I sucked as a writer so why even try, and those negative thoughts just kept swirling around in my head, whispering in my ear every time I sat down at the keyboard. I knew I wasn’t good enough, but I was struggling to figure out what I was doing wrong, and I was never one of those writers with absolute confidence in her work (I envy those people, I tell you what), but I never really thought I was terrible at it, until those years. And I was left wondering why I kept trying, when clearly I had no natural talent for storytelling.

I’d written a young adventure novel for a baby press, and I pulled that just before it was due to be published because I figured that none of my other stuff was selling that well, and I didn’t want to be known as a “children’s author”, and if it did sell by some miracle, how was I going to get the rest of the series done (five-six books planned)?

Like I said, my head was a mess.

The thing about being a writer is, you tend to do it whether you publish or not. I mean, I know writers who say they wouldn’t write without publishing, but I think for a lot of us, writing is a way to connect with and make sense of the world in a “safe” environment (our heads). And when we can’t do that, it doesn’t do good things for our own mental health. We get crabby and sullen and depressed, and add those negative thoughts above to the other feelings and “things” I was dealing with…it was not pretty.

I admit…part of what I like about getting tattooed is the big dopamine hit you get when your brain has to deal with prolonged pain for a period of time. I’m lucky enough to have a pretty high pain tolerance, so tattoo pain is mostly just an annoyance for me, where someone else might be truly miserable in the chair. At the end of that summer, when stress levels were starting to go down, the dogs were getting along better, and I was able to get a little better perspective on life in general, I made several tattoo appointments, one after the other. A horned toad. A barn spider. A grasshopper/lady bug pair. All of which have their own meanings and reminders, and comprise the half-sleeve on my left arm (yet to be finished).

Then I did something completely out of character, and decided I wanted a skull cameo tattoo with lace on the inside of my right forearm. It was the first time I’d picked out a tattoo that didn’t have any sort of particular meaning to me before I had it done. I’ve always loved cameos in general, and the skull cameos are so “Gothic Victorian” that they appeal to me on many different levels.

I generally give my tattoo artist an idea of what I want, and some general photos of similar images I like, and then just let him design a custom piece based on that. When I went in and he’d designed this cameo motif to fit the entire inside of my forearm, I was a little reticent. He explained that he thought the lace would make a nice wrap around the outside, and I wasn’t really visualizing what he had in mind, but I trust him, and I love his artwork in general, so I went ahead and got the cameo done, and scheduled the lace for a month or so out.

The day after I got my cameo, she started whispering to me. Now, I know you’re thinking that I really am crazy, but obviously, the tattoo wasn’t “actually” whispering anything. The creative part of my brain was churning, telling me that the girl in the cameo’s name was Misty, and that she died under mysterious circumstances in an old abandoned mysterious gothic mansion in…the middle of nowhere, Montana.

And just like that, for the first time in *years*, I was excited to write something. Even though I was working on bits and pieces of other things as I could, the story forming in my head and giving life to my tattoo was writing itself even thought I hadn’t put anything on paper yet. And I had to finish some of the things I was working on, so I purposefully didn’t let myself start writing it either. I just let it mull around in my head for the next year or so, and every time I thought of a new character or important plot point, I added that to the tattoo sleeve on my right arm.

It’s now late Tuesday night, and I really do need sleep, so this story will go one more week, wherein I find peace, if not total contentment, and a way to deal with my extraneous emotions in a more productive manner than previously.

If you’re still with me, we’ll wrap up this whole mid-life crisis thing next Tuesday.

Digging Out

That seemed like an appropriate post title today, given that not only are we at the part of my mid-life crisis story where I start digging my way out of it, but we’re also still digging out of who-knows-how-many feet of snow this week, because…apparently this is what our “banana belt” of the state has become with climate change, etc. I’m not sure where we’re going to put much more snow. There’s just no room! It’s gonna be a huge mess when this all decides to melt…

In any case, last week, I left off with a decision not to apply for a very lucrative job, and to make another tattoo appointment. Understand that while I was making these decisions, I was still questioning everything, and trying to keep my head and such where it belonged – which is in the life I’d made for myself, rather than in a fantasy world made of different decisions. I kept flipping back and forth, almost mourning the road not taken, as odd as that sounds. And wanting desperately to know what it would be like, even though my head kept telling me that even though it would have been very different, I’d still probably be in the same mental space at that time, just looking the other way.

Tattoo artist’s rendering of my business logo for Brazen Snake Books on the outside of my right ankle/calf.

That’s the thing about us humans. We always tend to get to a point (or points) where we want what we don’t or can’t have (or chose not to have earlier). And it doesn’t seem to matter what we choose in the moment…somehow, we’ll always hit a point of wondering “what if” later down the road. Just knowing that is at least some comfort, I’ve found. Sort of.

When I turned forty (in the middle of all this, and before the whole job decision thing), I finally decided to go get a tattoo I’d been wanting for years. I got it in a somewhat inconspicuous place on my lower ankle, easily hidden for work. But that wasn’t where I’d really wanted to put it. I was still in conservative “don’t make anyone else uncomfortable” mode, so I went against my own desires. Getting the tattoo was a step in the right direction, but it wasn’t enough. And after I decided not to apply for the higher level job, I decided it was time to take some sort of a big step for myself. Something that would make me feel bold and more in control of my own decisions. Something that would force me to acknowledge my own needs and desires more publicly, because it would be on display nearly all the time. Something that would make it harder for me to repress who I am, and thus hopefully embolden me to embrace that publicly, as well as privately.

My bold, beautiful rattlesnake, inner left forearm.

So, eleven months after getting my publishing business logo tattooed on my ankle and six months after deciding to stay with my current job, I had my tattoo artist design a rattlesnake tattoo with bitterroot flowers (Montana’s state flower) for the inside of my left forearm. The snake’s tongue flicks out right down onto my wrist, so it’s impossible to completely hide without both long sleeves and gloves. It’s beautiful, and bold, and there to remind me to be bold, and to listen to my instincts instead of just listening to my head all the time. And also to remind me not to deny who I really am, even if who I am/what I like makes other people uncomfortable because it’s outside the norm.

It took awhile to get used to wearing this tattoo. It’s not inconspicuous, and it did indeed force me to allow people to see a sliver of the “real me” and to be okay with their judgement on that, no matter what it was. But it also helped me to embrace “being me” in public, and it made me feel bold and empowered.

An interesting side effect is that by growing in that way, I started dealing with those other feelings I’d been struggling with. I started realizing that I didn’t have to actually get rid of them, or overcome them, or change them. That they were part of who I am, and that as long as I didn’t act on them, it was okay to acknowledge and even entertain them without guilt (or as much guilt, anyways). Just being able to do that, to examine them without so much guilt and dismay attached to them allowed me to finally start really thinking about what they meant, and why they had become such a big deal in the last few years.

It also allowed me to start writing about them. Not directly (except to my best friend), but in fiction, where I could sort of look at them from all sides, from a removed perspective that would allow me better personal perspective. I do some of my best thinking while writing fiction, and throughout this whole mid-life crisis period, writing had been nearly impossible. Finally writing again and starting to deal with my feelings on paper was a relief. Those stories aren’t finished yet and won’t be for awhile, but I consider them therapy, and still work on them a little here and there, as I’m able.

It’s kind of amazing how relatively small decisions can be so influential in all areas of our lives, isn’t it? But while I was finally writing again, I still had a ways to go before I’d feel content and “at peace” with my life again (mostly). Which is where we’ll hopefully end up…next week.

On With the Crisis…Off With Her Head!

Tuesdays really seem to work better for this weekly post than Mondays for me (oddly enough), so…weekly posts will now always be on Tuesdays. Until they’re not. Because…life.

Also, if you missed last week’s post, this one may not make much sense. We’re talking about mid-life crises this month. You can catch up with this post, and then come back. Or just jump in and read on, you adventurous soul, you…

Now, where did we leave off last week? Oh right. Existential questions like whether I’m beige or not, whether I married the right guy or not, and whether or not I was living the life I was meant to live, or if I’d picked the “wrong things” altogether, and completely missed my “calling” in life, dooming me to be miserable for the rest of it if I don’t drop everything, do a 180-degree turn and start all over again.

I know, I know. Dramatic, much? But that’s how it feels to go through this sort of thing – or that’s how it felt for me. I suddenly understood why people just up and walk away from everything they have, even if it’s good, to start over and build a new life from the ground up. I understood why people buy sports cars, and maybe go clubbing, flirting with not-their-spouses and generally behaving like teenagers in adult bodies.

Luckily for me, I generally tend to err on the conservative/responsible side of things (always have, even when I was a teen), so while I did have some major mental gymnastics going on, I managed to keep the collateral damage to a minimum. Not that I didn’t entertain leaving my life behind and starting over, mind you. I don’t like admitting that, because I love my husband and we have a good life together, and I’d never leave my dogs no matter what.

There was an inciting incident, of course…I can pinpoint the exact second it started. I’m not going to share that, because…well, while it seems like I share all my innermost thoughts here, there are still certain things I keep close to the vest. Let’s just say that this incident led to a lot of…feeling like I’d made a wrong decision somewhere, and that I might be missing out. And if I did that with one thing, how many other things would that decision have affected?

Needless to say, I spent years (yes, I know it sounds ridiculous, but I do mean years) trying to deal with these feelings of wanting things I didn’t have, but not wanting to give up what I did have to get them, and going back and forth, back and forth trying to figure out how I could literally “have it all” without losing anything I already had.

Newsflash, ladies: If you haven’t yet figured out that our moms were wrong, this is when it happens. We actually *can’t* have it all – not without hurting people we love. We have to make a choice. Often it’s the same choice or set of choices we had years ago, but this is when we revisit those choices and decide whether to start over or not. It’s crazy-making, and I tell you what – I had lots of mental temper-tantrums (and some verbal too, when I was by myself, or ranting via email to my bestest buddy). It was horrible. Like a big, ugly, take-the-whole-chalkboard math problem that was completely unsolvable, but I stil had to try.

And I had to try to act and interact with other people as normally as possible while the mid-life crisis was doing it’s best to ruin my life. Which isn’t easy, especially when you have to focus on interacting “normally” to begin with.

In the middle of all of this, when I already felt like I was losing my mind, my boss announced he was retiring. Quite a few people thought I should apply for the job, and I thought about it for months, going over the pros and cons, and running it through the same mid-life metrics that had been running through my head for at least a couple years by then. Is that who I wanted to be? Is that what I wanted to do with my life? Would I be giving up other opportunities if I did that? Would I be closing doors I didn’t want to close if I applied? Or if I didn’t apply?

Had I not already been questioning practically everything about my life by that time, it might have been easier. But I had been, and it wasn’t, and I agonized over the decision until finally I decided that no, I didn’t want to do that kind of work, or be that kind of person, or close the kind of doors that might have closed (I know that last part doesn’t really make sense out of context – but it does if you’re in my head, so just go with it). I disappointed nearly everyone close to me, but it was the first decision I was really and truly happy with in a long time.

It was also the first time in a long time that I felt like I was in control of my life. I’d made the decision solely with my own interests in mind – no one elses, and that felt really good. It had been a long time since I made a major life decision without first weighing the potential ramifications it would have on other people (and usually deciding in favor of whatever would make other’s lives easier).

That decision started a chain of new decisions that helped me start crawling out of crisis-mode, even though that would take another year, year and a half. Fairly soon after that, I made an appointment for another tattoo.

Which is the part of the story I’ll tell next week…

The Making of a Mid-Life Crisis

I was thinking about things this past weekend while changing out my earrings for February and regretting the Coke I’d downed earlier with a huge bowl of nachos (no regrets on the nachos, thankyouverymuch). I used to abuse my body with alarming regularity before I got smart and realized exactly what was causing my skin problems (mostly corn syrup), and while my body was young enough to weather the abuse then, it’s older now, and less tolerant of poor choices.

But changing my earrings out – seven of them – for the season reminded me of the first time I had multiple piercings in my ears, between when I turned eighteen and could sign for such things myself, and my mid-twenties when I cut my hair off and decided the original seven piercings didn’t go with the new “do”, and looked too “out there” for the professional look I thought I needed back then. Or did need, rather. I was “homogenizing” myself, blending in with the workforce and trying not to draw attention to how I looked, so people would hopefully focus on what I said and did. I was young, and looked younger, and I was learning a lot and trying to prove myself in my job.

Yes, plenty of people choose to do that with visible tattoos, piercings, funky clothing and hair, etc. And more power to them, I say. But I don’t regret adopting a more conservative look and demeanor for myself during those years. It made things a lot easier on me, I think. With every small change I made, I noticed measurable differences in how people treated me. Wearing my hair up more often, then cutting it off. Dressing more professionally/less casual and wearing makeup resulted in a very noticable difference in how people responded to me when I was talking or trying to explain something. Those things made it easier for me to sort of “grow into” my job with less barriers due to my physical appearance – mostly with people outside my own department.

Adopting a fairly professional demeanor at work was a way of protecting myself too. My very first job as a teenager and on through college went about as you’d expect, with a lot of personal sharing among staff, and also a lot of backstabbing and personal vendettas that left a rather sour taste in my mouth. I was so tired of it all and hurt that people who had acted friendly toward me actually didn’t like me much at all that I was determined not to ever let something like that happen again. So I put up a wall – separation of work and personal life, and for the most part, I did that by adopting a professional demeanor that did its job well. Maybe a little too well, I’m realizing now. But at the time, it’s what I needed.

I’ve mentioned before (I think) that I stopped getting tattoos because my husband doesn’t particularly care for them. I was taught that wives are to be subservient to their husbands, and even though my own personality and feelings are somewhat different than that (*ahem*), it’s hard to leave all that ingrained teaching behind. I felt like subjugating my own wants and needs for those of my husband was just what a good wife does. Turns out, it’s a great way to lose yourself and become resentful of the limitations that you’ve placed on yourself (my husband never once even hinted that I should stop getting tattoos – it was all me).

What does all this have to do with a mid-life crisis? Basically, I spent years “toning myself down”, blending in, acting “normal”, and keeping a safe, professional distance from people. I kept my appearance neutral, my tone moderated (for the most part), and focused on doing whatever I could to…not be “liked”, really, but to be an “acceptable” person for people to be around. I kept the most real parts of myself to myself, hidden under layers of virtual “beige”, assuming that’s what I needed to do in order to be tolerated and get things done. And for awhile, I think it was (the real “me” is not always the easiest to be around – I am rather…quirky, to put it nicely).

The thing is, you can only do that for so long. Eventually it starts to wear on you, and you start thinking about how you used to be. And you question if that old “you” was the real you, or if the beige “you” is the real one, or if you’re not either of those things, but something else entirely. Did I make the right decisions? Did I marry the right person? Did I do the right thing staying in the job I have, or should I have looked for something better? What if I’d chosen a completely different life – would I be happier? Or would it be worse? Maybe the same, in a different way?

I was between thirty-five and forty when these questions and other unsettling thoughts started plaguing me. I thought I was too young for a mid-life crisis, until one day during the tail end of it, I came across a couple of articles that said women often experience one right in that general age-range. And the key thing for a lot of us is…we’re trying to figure out where we lost that piece of ourselves that’s missing. Often, the search for that starts back in the high school/college years.

This is long, and there’s quite a bit more to the story. So if you’re interested, stop by next week for another slice.

Moving Right Along…

Last week was kind of like a bad thriller – mostly unbelievable with a few redeeming scenes here and there. Even this past Sunday pretty much sucked when I discovered a pinhole leak in a hose under the kitchen sink (all I wanted was a garbage bag, dang it!), and then couldn’t get the connector off so I could replace it. It’s currently covered in electrical tape, which is covered with a layer of duct tape to keep it from leaking this week, since we won’t have time to get back to it until next Saturday. Fingers crossed that will all hold for the next 6 days.

So, now you know why this post is late. That whole little discovery, from finding water, to figuring out what was leaking, to a trip to the hardware store (the dogs enjoyed that, at least), to spending an hour or so trying to disconnect things without breaking them took way, way too long. And of course I was tired, due to being up way too late again Sat. night because of the stupid gel polish that, once applied, refuses to let go of my nails.

Apparently some of us just have that problem, and the only way to deal with it is to either not use gel polish, or to get a good electronic file, file the color off (which does work – yay!), and backfill the base coat before polishing again (instead of removing the base, so you don’t damage your natural nails). I learned that by surfing several out-of-the-way nail tech sites and youtube videos while waiting for my regular polish to dry after pitting my own gel polish base coat with my very old e-file to remove last week’s manicure.

A new electronic file, and better technique thanks to youtube videos, and that should solve my gel polish problem. As soon as the mess I made of my nails grows out and I can try again, anyways.

There were a few good things that came out of last week though. My alter-ego’s draft is all finished and ready for formatting, and the cover art is done for the ebook. It feels good to be on the verge of publishing something again. Good, bad, or ugly, the writing cycle doesn’t really feel complete until you put it out there to sink or swim, as it will.

I also caught up on a writing motivation lecture series I bought awhile back and never finished, and came up with a new plan for nightly scheduling to hopefully get more done as far as studying writing craft and keeping up with publishing business goes.

Provided this week is more…cooperative than last, I should be able to get a fair amount of writing done, at least one newsletter out, and some editing done on another draft that’s nearly ready to release. Here’s hoping.

And with any luck, back to nightly workouts as well. I didn’t get a single one in last week, which sucks. I really do need that to keep the stress levels and weight down.

So. New week, new motivation, same ol’ optimism that things won’t be *too* bad. Forward, ho!

Progress, Set-Backs, & Movies

Vacation is over, and it’s back to the office today. Last week was phenomenal as far as vacations go. I relaxed, but I also got a lot of stuff done (that in and of itself was relaxing to me – because it was all stuff I wanted to work on). I wrote nearly every day (only missed one), I got a draft edited up and ready to send to the formatters, I picked out some potential cover art images for that story, and printed out another story for a last read-through/edit before getting that ready to publish.

I also started the clean-up/restoration project for my antique sewing machine, which is still in progress, but it’s been a fun learning experience. I’m working on polishing the metal at the moment, which is proving more difficult than I thought it would be. One-hundred plus years of grime and etching aren’t all that easy to get off, and I started thinking I needed to make everything shine again before I put it back together, and then realized that really…I don’t. The marred spots and matte chrome are part of this machine’s particular story, and while the rust really did have to be removed to save the metal, the rest of it really is just fine like it is. It’s an antique. It shouldn’t look new. It should look well used and loved, and mine definitely does. I’ll replace the belt (already have a replacement ready to go on) and needle, but otherwise, everything else will be original, stained and faded though it might be.

I’m kind of bummed that I didn’t get it all put back together this past weekend, but I still don’t have a new needle, thread, or any fabric at all, so it’s not like I could use it anyways. Next weekend, I’m going shopping. And I’ll put everything back together and finally get to try it out.

I still didn’t get six hours of sleep this past Saturday night – gel polish is no joke to remove! Unfortunately, the steamer appliance I bought really isn’t working well at all for this, and I don’t know if it’s the polish I’m using, or the steamer or what, but I think soaking the polish off in a more traditional manor might solve my problem. I’ll try again next weekend.

The UV-cured gel polish itself is awesome, and it’s so great to be able to just pick up and go straight to bed after the last cure time with completely dry nails. I hope I can find a way to make the polish removal quicker though, or it’s kind of pointless for getting to bed earlier.

While the nail polish steamer hasn’t worked all that well for me, I got another steamer that is just *excellent*. I found one of those tiny little egg cooker/steamers on sale on Amazon the other week, and it is just the handiest little kitchen appliance ever! Poke a hole in the eggs, put them on the tray, add water measured by the included cup, put the lid on and press the button. I’ve made soft and hard boiled eggs so far, and both are incredibly easy. No pan to clean up, no paying attention to when the water starts boiling and setting a timer, no real clean-up necessary. It’s wonderful, and I love it. It took very little effort to get ten hard-boiled eggs all cooked, peeled and ready for breakfasts this week.

The hubby took me to dinner and a movie for my birthday – we went to see the new Jumangi, and I tell you what…it was *hilarious*! It looks kind of cheesy from the trailers, but we laughed all the way through. So funny. Well worth the watch, IMO.

Then yesterday I got sucked into watching Sunset Boulevard on PBS, and it was mesmerizing on several levels. If you haven’t seen it and you get a chance to, it will especially appeal to us writerly and creative types. Worth the time, even though it did put me behind on housework for the rest of the day.

I had a great vacation, and I feel rested and ready to get back into the normal workday routine. There are a few things I need to work on, time-wise, but I think I can do better going forward. It was a good, much-needed break.

Oh…and if you ever consider reading Chuck Palahniuk’s Doomed…well…it’s weird. Interesting in an odd way and amusing, but weird. Just sayin’.

Vacation! Older! Motivated (sort of)! Tattoo!

For the one or two of you wondering, no, I did not get 6 hours of sleep this past Saturday night. Or most nights last week, actually. It was just one of those weeks where not much went right, the world was chaos, and I just kind of hung on and made it through. Some weeks are like that. No avoiding it, unfortunately.

I made a mistake with the nail gel polish application last week, and that’s why Saturday night I was up way later than I should have been trying to get that polish back *off* my nails. Learning curve, nightmare, chaos, yadda yadda yadda. Lesson(s) learned and noted, next week should go much faster. Hopefully.

As you might have noticed when you tried to go to the bank or mail something, today is a federal holiday (Martin Luther King Jr. Day). Which is why I’m hanging with the dogs and having lunch with my parents/grandma instead of toiling away at the office. Because I have extra vacation hours to use or lose this year, and because Wednesday is my birthday (always take my birthday off), I went ahead and just took the whole rest of the week off too. Which fits in nicely with one of my non-resolution goals this year, which is to get my butt in gear and publish some more books.

I have at least two drafts that just need some editing, formatting and cover art before they’re ready to go up for sale. They’ve been in that state for a long time now, and I just haven’t had the…well, chutzpah, I guess, to get them out there. Issues with confidence, directional issues, mid-life-crisis sort of issues…it’s been a crazy few years. But it’s time to get back in the game. I’m writing regularly again (thank God), and it’s far past time to start putting stuff out there too.

So this week is all about editing. I have a 500 new-word minimum to meet every day, but after that, it’s all about getting those two drafts cleaned up and in publishable shape. I’ve set release dates for both of them, mostly just to give myself a deadline (I work best on deadline and I haven’t been setting many of those for myself lately), and meeting those release dates means absolutely finishing the edits on the first draft this week, and the second has to be finished by mid-February (but the sooner the better). I’m going to spend a fair amount of time (several hours) on each of them in the afternoons this week, and see how much I can get done.

I’d also really like to get that antique sewing machine I bought last fall up and running. I have a new belt for it, a bottle of oil, and some new bobbins…and I can’t remember if I bought a new needle for it or not yet. It needs to be cleaned and oiled, and then the new belt put on, and that should be enough to get it running. I want to make Murphy-dog some new leggings, which will be a super-easy first project for someone who hasn’t sewn in ages (just tubes with casings on each end for elastic). I don’t have any fabric or thread at the moment (details, details), but payday is next Monday, so once the machine works, I’ll head out to the craft store.

The sewing machine will be a “break project” – I can’t sit on my butt all day, every day (well, I could, but it would hurt and not be all that healthy). If I work on it for an hour or so a day, I should have it in good shape by Saturday, I’d think. The scrubbing decades worth of grime off will probably take the longest amount of time.

Wednesday afternoon, I’m treating myself to a new “Smurfy” tattoo on my left ankle. I doubt he’ll have time to do the whole thing (it will wrap around), but I have an appointment at 1pm to get it started.

It was three years ago on the 16th that I started getting tattooed again, after a very long haitus. Allowing myself to indulge in something I enjoy despite the negative opinions of others is kind of like the middle-aged guy who buys a sports car in/after a mid-life crisis. It’s helped me to feel more like “me” again, instead of someone I made myself appear to be for the comfort of everyone else. There are consequences, of course (there always are, for being openly yourself), but I’m more equipped to handle them now than I ever was as a younger person…probably much like that guy takes better care of the sports car as an adult than he would have as a teen. Being married to someone who supports that need in spite of personal objections is a rare and amazing thing, indeed.

So, writing, editing, sewing maching restoration, birthday, tattoo. It’s gonna be a good week, methinks. I hope yours goes well too!

Nailin’ It…Slowly.

So far, its been pretty easy to eat an egg once per day (see this year’s resolution post if you have no idea what I’m talking about). Getting six continuous hours of sleep a night? Not so easy. Especially on Saturday nights, which is when you’d think it would be the easiest, since I can generally sleep in on Sundays. Alas, no matter how late I can sleep, I still have to be up by 7:30am or so to feed the dogs, so my 6 hours has to happen before then (anything that happens after is just a bonus, and one I often take advantage of).

This is because Saturday nights are “nail nights”, or more properly, manicure nights. So I wait until the dogs and husband are settled for the night around 11:30pm-12am, and then I get out my nail “stuff”, pull up whatever show(s) I’m currently watching, and start the process of removing my old nail polish, filing, shaping, buffing, and re-polishing. I also soak my feet and do a simple pedicure at the same time…re-polishing my toenails every 4-5 weeks or so. I generally get done around 3:30-4am, but then I have to wait for the new polish to dry before I can go to bed, which is another hour or so. Even then, I often end up with sheet prints in my polish or scrunched up tips just because the polish wasn’t *truly* dry.

In any case, I decided to try a new method of doing my nails this week, to see if I could speed up the process a bit, and even with a somewhat steep learning curve, I shaved an hour off my normal time. I still need practice, but considering I spent an hour or more just reading instructions, watching videos and being extra-careful, I think I can cut at least another hour, hour and a half off next time. And there are other things I can do to speed things up, like setting up my “space” and picking out colors, etc…earlier in the day, so it doesn’t take that extra half hour in the evening before I can even start.

Could I just skip all this and go to the salon for a couple of hours? Sure. But I really don’t like having someone else do my nails. I did once, because I got a gift certificate for a manicure, and I didn’t like anything about the way she filed, shaped or polished my nails. I didn’t like the touch from a stranger on my hands. And doing that every two weeks holds no appeal to me whatsoever, much less every week.

More importantly though, nail night is “me time”. Not “me and a stranger’s time” or even “me and a friendly acquaintence’s time”, but time for me to be alone, recharging my introverted little batteries, watching shows my husband has no interest in, and just generally enjoying having a few hours to myself. I still fully intend to take 3 hours every Saturday night to relax, do my nails and watch my shows. I’m just cutting that time down from 5 hours to take better care of my brain (such as it is) by sleeping more.

I think by mid-February, I should have it all down to a science of sorts, and I’ll be in bed by 1:30am on Sunday mornings. I dare say that will make Sundays more productive as well. Which would be really nice. We’ll see.

Now, back to the grind. But only for a week – I’ve got next week off work, and I intend to enjoy it to the fullest. Five more days…