Saturday, January 31, 2009

Grow back stronger

Someone said with regard to my broken wrist that he has heard that after bones break, they grow back stronger. I've heard or thought that logic with regard to a number of other things.

The day we were all waiting to hear which of us would be laid off, someone said, "Every time I got laid off, I ended up with a better job."

When my landlord decided to paint my apartment, I had to pack up all my belongings and then put them away again when the painting was done. It was an opportunity to go through all my stuff and get rid of what I didn't need.

When my computer had a problem and was "fixed" by having everything on it removed, I had to reinstall my programs and restore my files. That too was an opportunity to get rid of things I didn't need.

When my friends disappeared, it was an opportunity to make new and better friends.

It's true that I got some improvements out of the things in my life that broke. Breaking my wrist has helped be get closer to the people who helped me. After my apartment was painted, I did end up getting rid of some stuff, and re-organizing some stuff. And I do have a more discerning view of other people now, so any new friends will be better quality.

But some things that break stay broken. Some things that you try to bring back come back weaker instead of stronger. I still haven't gotten my apartment back to where I want it to be after the painting, nor have I been able to get my computer back to where I want it to be. I don't have friends who are as close as my previous friends used to be.

I like what they say in You've Got Mail: ""People always say that change is a good thing, but what it really means is that something that you didn't want to happen, has happened."

It would be nice if things only changed when I chose to change them, but life is never like that.

It's good to make the best of what life gives you, but sometimes I feel like people are telling me I should be happy about any bad things that happen to me. Making the best of what life gives you doesn't mean thinking, "I'm so delighted that now I am always too tired to do much." It means saying, "I wish I wasn't always too tired to do much, but as long as I am, I guess I'll try to enjoy some restful activities."

Those people who are always telling me that I should be happy about any bad things that happen to me are the people I no longer choose to associate with now that I am more discerning about friends.

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Room with a view

On Sunday, Gail said, "Have a good day." I replied, "You too." She said, "Oh, I will." She said that it was a sunny day and she'd be sitting in a room with 18 feet of glass that has a view of a meadow and a bird feeder with all sorts of birds coming to it. One thing I like about summer is I can sit outside, and it feels like I am passing time in a worthwhile way even when I am too tired to do anything. I'd like to have a room like Gail's so that I can enjoy the view of outdoors even when it is too cold to be outside. I'd like to be able to spend my time in a worthwhile way even when I'm too tired to move or think.

I can't set up a place like that in my current apartment because I don't have the right kind of window, but maybe it's something to look for if I ever buy a house, or if I rent another apartment. My dad's apartment has a sliding glass door with a nice view of pine trees.


Weekdays I work (or sit in the office trying to work). Weekday evenings and weekends, I collapse at home. As I lie around and watch bad TV, I think about how I wish I had the energy to do something better with my time. I know it's too much to hope to be able to ski, hike, take dance classes, rollerblade, learn home renovation, or go to concerts, but I'd like to at least be able to read nonfiction, cook dinner, pay my bills, and prepare playlists. It was this sentiment that drove me on Sunday to decide, "This is no way to live. I'm going to resort to caffeine." I used to never have caffeine. In the past few years, caffeine has been the only thing that has helped me, but I've tried to have it only when necessary. Now I've had caffeine every day for three days. It has allowed me to achieve that level of mellow at-home functionality which I described as reading nonfiction, cooking dinner, paying my bills, and preparing playlists. I don't want to rely on caffeine, but the life I have without it is no way to live.

Wrist update

My wrist is still in a cast, but it doesn't hurt as much, so now I can do a lot more with it. It is wonderful to be less impaired, though I'm still looking forward to being able to do more than I can currently do.

I am now using my right hand for typing, but I don't have full use. Basically I have gone from five finger typing to seven finger typing.

I can't use a can opener.

I can tie my shoes, so I don't have to wear my zippered boots every day. That's good because they were hurting my feet.

I don't have much rotational ability. I can't turn doorknobs with my right hand.

I found that licking envelopes is more awkward now. Somehow I can't quite hold the envelope in the right position.

Both the orthopedist and my primary care doctor thought I would be able to drive. I tried it. It didn't work so well so I don't think I'll repeat it. Besides, we are getting a snowstorm tonight, and I can't shovel snow. When I tried driving, I found there were three things I wasn't good at: turning the key, shifting, and steering.

In order to turn the key in the ignition, I have to use my left hand. In order to reach with my left hand, I have to lean way over.

My car is an automatic, but you still have to shift between park, drive, and reverse. The way the shift is supposed to work is you guide it forward and back with your right hand on top while pushing the button with your thumb. I can do the forward and back, but I can't push the button with my right hand, so I have to do that part reaching across with my left.

I can place my hands on the steering wheel when going relatively straight, but my right hand can't do the maneuvering needed for steering around a corner. I was slow steering with my left hand. It would not be good for dealing with an emergency situation, or even being around cars that were in a hurry. I also would not want to have to parallel park, since that requires both shifting and steering.

Favorite Charities, Take Two

In May 2007, I wrote a blog entry about my favorite charities, but there were too many of them, so I'm going to try to narrow it down. The origin of the thought was hearing about requests to donate to a charity "in lieu of flowers" in honor of dead people, and trying to figure out what charities I would want people to donate to for me. But it's really about more than that. It's about getting to what values are most important to me, because once I identify that, I can think that about how to live my life in service to those values.

I favor trying to grow the good things rather than trying to tear down the bad things. The values that are most important to me seem to fall into two general categories:
  1. Community. I aspire to be a person who knits people together and spreads harmonious feelings. I like groups/institutions that emphasize integrity, community, egalitarianism, and participatory decision-making. I have experienced this type of community at Haverford and at Clearwater. Other places that probably also have this type of community are Marlboro College, College of the Atlantic, Waldorf schools (Hawthorne Valley School appeals to me), Sudbury schools, and Quaker schools. One thing about these schools and about Clearwater is that people can be a part of the community and then take the values they learned from it out into the rest of the world.

    Folk music can be used to inspire a sense of community. Pete Seeger has a gift for this. I also admire the way his grandson, Tao Rodriguez Seeger, shines a light on other people.

    I like libraries, because they try to give everyone equal access to information.

    People are diverse. It's natural to seek the company of people who share one's culture and values. I don't expect that all people will be comfortable in all groups. But we should respect and grant rights to all people. Morality should not be judged based on theology, wealth, or the number and gender of one's sexual partners. Instead, the measure of morality should have to do with whether we treat other people with respect, compassion, and integrity.

    HomoRadio is a radio show which enlightens people about gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgendered people.

    Oliver's Naturals is a restuarant which knits people together and spreads harmonious feeling. It also promotes organic, locally grown food, which brings me to my next item:

  2. Sustainability. I like small business, organic foods, farmer's markets, food co-ops, simple living, and solar power. Many times supporting these things also includes supporting community. For example, I connect with local people when I go to the farmer's market or community garden.

Based on the above, my list of favorite charities/institutions includes:

  • Haverford College (especially Quaker Student Scholarship Fund)
  • Clearwater (especially funding for low income people to attend the festival)
  • Your local public library
  • HomoRadio
  • Oliver's Naturals
  • Fedco
  • Capital District Community Gardens
  • Troy Farmer's Market

Thursday, January 15, 2009

People can be really nice

In the past few years, I sometimes thought I wish I had something like a broken leg that people would understand. I'm not sure I can even say I've had chronic fatigue syndrome because I was never diagnosed with it. (I'm better enough now that I can pass for normal. That is, I can go to work and do what I need to do as long as I allow time for rest and keep my activities mellow.) So in the past few years, I've felt that because I was not officially sick, I was expected to attain some level of competency that was really beyond me. I'd go out in the world and act like a normal person, then go home and collapse. Not having much of a social life, I was free of having anyone question what I did in my free time.

Anyway, here I am now with a wrist fracture. I've been okay the past three days, but at times it has been hard. At times I felt like I just can't live like this, how will I get through more than a month like this. One time I wore the same clothes to work two days in a row because I couldn't bear the effort of changing. But despite the difficulties, it's better than CFS because some people have been really nice. Sure, there are some of the same detrimental responses I got with CFS -- people telling me something that is hard for me should be easy, people telling me I should do certain things. But there have also been these heroes:
  • Stephen, for all the things I described in my previous post, plus some others. Cooking, washing dishes, typing for me, bagging the trash, hanging up clothes, boiling eggs.
  • Bob, for taking me to urgent care and waiting there with me for 2 hours.
  • Meisha, for taking me to get the cast put on.
  • Gail for taking me grocery shopping every week.
  • Bob and Naomi, because when I gave Bob food from my refrigerator that I wasn't going to use because it was best for two-handed people, he took it home and Naomi cooked it and sent me back some delicious dishes which included my food but also many other things.
  • Mario, for calling me to offer sympathy and Sean for calling to offer to engineer my radio show so I wouldn't have to miss it.
  • The people who said "let me know if you need anything," including Jamey, Cagatay, and Christos.

Sunday, January 11, 2009

What I've discovered so far about one-handed living

What I've discovered so far about one-handed living:
  • I don't have a sling, but I tend to hold my arm as if I did because it hurts less that way. Sometimes I hold it at a right angle, near my waist. Other times I hold it angled upward, near my opposite shoulder. If I'm at a desk, I can put my elbow on the desk and have my arm point upward, or I can lay my arm on the desk.
  • Use of my hand is impaired not only by the presence of the cast, but also by the fact that it hurts to hold my arm in positions other than those described above.
  • Holding my arm in these positions messes up my overall alignment, making me feel twisted or hunched.
  • Cooking: avoid cooking in pans, things that need cutting, or cans that need opening. You can eat foods cooked in the microwave, such as frozen dinners, oatmeal, tea, and popcorn. You can also eat foods that don't need cooking, such as rolls, cold cereal, and apples. Oranges can be peeled, but it is difficult. You can pour liquids into cups. You can open bottles and jars as long as the lids are not on too tightly.
  • Dishwashing: You can wipe things out, but you can't give them a good scrubbing, so dishes that have something stuck to them will still have it after you've done your version of washing the dishes.
  • You can get dressed, take a shower, wash your hair, do laundry, take out the trash, put in contact lenses, and use the computer, but these activities are more draining, painful, and time consuming than they used to be.
  • When doing something like taking off a sweater or taking off a backpack, you must first think strategically about how to do it.
  • Ponchos are nice because you don't have to deal with sliding the sleeve over your cast.
  • Use a computer for the things you used to write by hand, such as grocery lists and phone messages.
  • The doctor may have been out of his mind when he said I could drive. Luckily Gail said she would take me with her grocery shopping every week.
  • I don't think I can shovel snow, but since I can't drive, I don't need to.

Friday, January 9, 2009

Life with a fractured wrist

Monday morning I was refreshed from 2 weeks of vacation and ready to be productive at work. Fate intervened however. On my way to work, I slipped on the ice and fractured my wrist.

Monday afternoon I was still cheerful, viewing it as a novel adventure. By Monday evening, I realized the enormity of the difficulties I would be facing for the next 6 weeks or so. Wednesday morning when I woke up, I lay there thinking I'm comfortable now, but as soon as I get up, everything will be hard, and it will hurt. After getting up, I got dressed. I put on my shirt and sweater, saying "ow, ow, ow" as each made the journey over my wrist. Then I looked at my pants and thought with discouragement, "You mean I have to put those on too?

I was very fortunate in that Stephen, Bridget, and Ben had already planned to visit me Tuesday night through Thursday morning. Bridget told me how to wrap my cast in plastic bags so I could shower. Stephen made dinner and washed the dishes both Tuesday and Wednesday nights. He packed up the leftovers into bowls that I could handle in my current condition, leaving me with prepared food to eat after he was gone. He brought me lunch from Oliver's. He spent the afternoon in my office, doing all my typing and mouse clicking for me. After work he continued to assist me, helping me to upload photos. He bought me baklava. He hardboiled all my eggs so that I would be able to eat them.

Now with my visitors departed, I have a number of tasks ahead of me. My job mostly consists of typing at the computer. Doing it with my left hand only was quite trying at first, but I am getting used to it. It's not as challenging as all the things there are to do when I'm not at work. Tasks I took for granted before have now become difficult or impossible. I think it will be a while before I wear contact lenses, chop vegetables, open a can, wear shoes with laces, wear a watch or belt, or iron my clothes. However I do need to do other things, such as simple food preparation (i.e. microwave dinners), washing dishes, getting dressed, taking a shower, washing my hair, driving, getting groceries, and doing laundry. Some of these I've tried already. The rest I'll probably try this weekend. I think it will get easier. As time goes on, my wrist will hurt less and I'll be able to use it more. Also, the more I practice one-handed living, the more adept I'll become.

Monday, January 5, 2009

Vacation is over

My vacation is over. I will be back in my office one hour from now. Before I get back into the swing of things, I want to remember the perspective I gained from my vacation. I feel like I have not yet figured out what I learned from that perspective, and already it is being whisked away.

My parents were only married for a short time. Their lives have followed separate paths. Yet it is remarkable how much consistency I felt in the sense of who I am and where I come from when I stayed at each of their homes. What did it tell me? That I come from a down to earth background. That it's normal to eat canned beans and frozen dinners, that I don't have to be a fancier cook. That I'm a country girl, comfortable in hiking boots. Working in an office, dressing up, and staying in fancy hotels is not who I really am or where I'll find fulfillment.

There were about four days when I slept at least 12 hours a night and also napped during the day. I did not go out much, mostly just stayed in and rested. After doing that, I was caught up on resting, and found I felt healthy with the equilibrium of sleeping a mere 8-9 hours a night, and being physically active no more than about an hour a day.

Sunday, January 4, 2009

Montpelier laundromat

At the laundromat in Montpelier, the signs on the non-working washing machines and dryers say, "Resting today. Please use my neighbor."