Sunday, August 30, 2009


For the past two months I have been living by one precept: I won’t sleep if I don’t get enough exercise during the day. I am on a constant rotation of stair machines, swimming, power yoga and powerish walking. I am suddenly in wonderful shape, fitting into the jeans that I was too fat for a few months ago.

I also have days when my body cries out for a break. ‘You'll kill us with a big workout every day,’ my muscles scream. On those days I let the hours slide by, and in the evening I take a slow walk 10 blocks up and back on my street. At bedtime I am wide awake and I spend most of the night that way. The next day I am back at the gym.

At some point I was going to truly collapse, and that’s what I got after a night of little sleep, a big workout, a five hour plane flight, and another workout the next day. I did it all in hopes of keeping myself in balance. What I got instead was the opposite: too exhausted to sleep, too exhausted to move around.

I spent yesterday feeling as if my bones had been through a bone crusher and my muscles had been through a muscle crusher. In fact, such a machine exists, with both functions combined into one and having the added advantage of putting your body clock at odds with the schedule of those around you; it is called The Airplane.

Now, after years of practice my brain is pretty much stuck in the groove of constantly thinking about how to avoid physical discomfort: take pills at the 15 different proper times throughout the day, eat the right foods at the right times, don't eat the food that make you feel like a car crash, don’t lie down in bed too long, but do take naps, give myself daily injections and get others to give me more daily injections, if I can’t sleep try taking more chlorella, if my legs ache try taking Heart Gems (yes, I take a supplement called Heart Gems!) but not too many or you might not sleep, etc. Flagging in any of these duties brings on some form of physical discomfort —headache, insomnia, nausea, fatigue, etc. I put this all under the noble label of Taking Care of Myself and Keeping My Body in Balance, but really I am just trying to keep from feeling rotten.

Yesterday there was simply no way around it. I was going to feel bad. All I could do was get myself fed and lie on the couch, working on a quilt. I hurt too much to do anything else. At night as I lay wake in bed, having tried all the supplements that usually get me to sleep, I started to panic. I ached all over, I was exhausted and I just couldn’t drift off. I had failed to keep my body in balance! And then I remembered there is another approach I used to take when things were just bad all the time: acceptance. I thought, well, this is the antibiotic treatment for Lyme Disease. What do you expect? Sometimes it’s just going to feel awful and there will be nothing you can do about it.

And yes, that was a comfort. Simply accepting that I felt pretty rotten helped. I got up and searched through my old cassette books on tape and found an Agatha Christie to listen to, and lay down in bed and felt how tired I was and told myself that was OK.

Thursday, August 20, 2009


On my return to Seattle two weeks ago, I took a look around the apartment and decided things had to change. And I wasn’t just considering the dust The Poet let accumulate in the month I was gone. The piles of books on every horizontal surface; the bags, shoes and DVDs stored on the floor for lack of shelves; the futon/sofa with the broken slat, filthy cover and futon itself perennially slumped halfway down the frame; my medical supplies sprawled across the dining table. And lastly, the kitchen table, which has turned into a sort of desk for the Poet. (seen in the picture.) This is how far things can go when you don't reign them in.

Because at last I have the energy to do something about these things, at last I’ve reached the crisis point when I just can’t take it anymore.

So, between medical appointments, I’ve spent two weeks running around to places like Storables, and considering whether I can afford a new sofa that is non-toxic (the answer is no, absolutely not) or whether I should put the effort into fixing what I’ve got (yes, because it's all I can afford).

Is this getting on with my life? I’m really not sure. So far, the apartment doesn’t look all that different. It’s going to take a few more weeks plus a trip to IKEA before I have the transformation I really want, and I'm not sure I'll ever get The Poet to do anything about the piles of books in the kitchen corner.

Meanwhile I am not writing, not the blog, not anything. I miss it, and I feel my brain is succumbing to a vapid, all-encompassing preoccupation with consumer choices. I am telling myself this is a necessary step before writing. I am thirty six years old and my apartment compares unfavorably with a rodent’s nest. When things are respectable I’ll start to write again.

Thursday, August 6, 2009


I'm back in Seattle after a long, fabulous visit to my family. When I arrived last night our apartment looked familiar and strange at the same time. And also tiny! (It is.) I had been missing The Poet so much, but I was also tired from the plane that I wasn't swept away at our reunion. It was still very, very nice but mostly what I felt was I had a headache. I hate it when I'm too tired to feel what I normally would feel.

I was so fried from the plane I couldn't sleep-- I took extra herbs and vitamin E and lay in bed for awhile, but in the end I got up and ate the homemade ice cream (sweetened with honey) I knew was in the freezer. Alone in the kitchen-living room I took a deep breath and realized our apartment smells like cardamon with a hint of jasmine, plus a very faint smell of old books. It made me happy. These are all smells of The Poet, and mixed together they are also home.

Wednesday, August 5, 2009


I used to drink down vast quantities of water. Remember the story about the girl who took ecstasy and drank so much water that it killed her? That was me, minus the drugs, the glow sticks and death. I drank water constantly, and not just any water: high quality bottled water or water filtered at home with my absolutely fabulous Nikken filter. Buying water when I was out was dicey—Dasani or other cheap brands gave me headaches, tapwater was unthinkable. I never left the house without my 20 oz stainless steel water bottle already filled.

This was not just out of compulsion. If I ran out of water, within a half an hour I’d feel thirsty, and soon after that get tired. When my Nikken filter arrived via UPS, about three years ago, there was some assembly required—it contained many different parts that needed to be flushed out and screwed in place and the task looked daunting, given my general energy level. So I only motivated to do it when I ran out of bottled water. Putting that thing together had to be easier than going the store to buy more water, right?

Only I got thirsty in the process. And more thirsty and then tired, until I stopped reading the instructions in order to take a little rest. When The Poet showed up forty minutes later he found me collapsed on the bed. I asked him to bring me water from the co-op. As soon as I drank a few glasses I perked up and put the filter together. I have loved it ever since, because with it I never run out of water.

Now I am in DC visiting my parents, and I am drinking environmentally sinful bottled water, so it’s easier to keep track of how much I drink. And I have noticed something: I am drinking less. I used to drink one and a half gallons of water a day; now it’s close to half that. Today I put a half liter of Evian in my purse—just a tiny half liter!—and headed out on foot in the 90 degree heat to shop and hang with my niece and brother. When I got home four hours later I’d drank only half the bottle.

What difference does it make? It means fewer trips to the bathroom, and it means I am free of the hulking bottles I’ve been cramming into my shoulder bag. A lady-like half liter is adequate. That makes life much easier.

Monday, August 3, 2009


Since I've been sick I am unable to function without one nap a day, sometimes two. And I'm not embarrassed about it. Read here for confirmation that it's a good idea.

Sunday, August 2, 2009


In order to sleep at night I need to move around a lot during the day. I am not up to running yet, and with my Lyme-tendonitis there are limited things I can do—biking outside is not OK, but riding the exercise bike is; walking up steep hills or hiking is impossible, but stairs are OK. (Go figure,)

The best workout I’ve found while I’m staying with my parents in Washington DC is to walk to the US Capitol grounds, a mile from my parents’ house, then bust my butt up and down the huge flights of stairs just installed for the underground visitor’s center. (They look tiny in this picture, but believe me, they're not.) If I make it up and down twenty times, plus the two mile walk, that’s a good workout. Considering before I started the antibiotics for Lyme I was tired at five blocks, whole thing makes me pretty happy.

Today I brought the family dog, Kramer. When she comes along, I tie her leash to railing at the top step and give her a pat each time I come up. Today I was on my eight ascent, taking the stairs two at a time, when a Capitol cop at the foot of the stairs stopped me.

“Excuse me, ma’am,” (I hate being called ma’am. It hasn’t been long since I was getting carded buying cooking wine at Trader Joe’s. Now I am a ma’am.)

“Excuse me, ma’am,” he said, “you can’t leave your dog by itself there.”

“But I’m not leaving her,” I explained. “I’m just going up and down the stairs for exercise.”

No matter. Apparently from the vantage point of some cop on the huge plaza at the top of the stairs, there was an abandoned dog whose owner kept showing up from time to time to pat it, then abandon it again.

“She’s considered an unattended package, ma’am.”


“It doesn’t matter if it’s a backpack or a dog, it’s still an unattended package, and you know what a threat unattended packages are for us.”

I was torn between being horrified at the thought of-- what?-- feeding explosives to the family pet?-- and laughing at the preposterousness of it all.

I was about to point out that a skinny dog whose owner is always in sight of her, whose owner is in fact returning at sixty second intervals while she exercises, is not an abandoned backpack, but I thought better of it. Lots of crazy people come to the US Capitol, and some of them try to kill tourists and the Capitol cops themselves, so there are rules and the job of the cops is to enforce the rules. Even if this guy could see perfectly well that I was just a goofy girl (or should I say lady?) who lived nearby and was trying to walk her dog and get exercise at the same time, he had to follow the rules.

I unhooked the leash from the railing to head for home when I had an idea.

“Kramer, do you want to go up the stairs with me?” I asked. I didn’t have high expectations. Kramer weighs in at thirty pounds, and although her wippet ancestry has made her quite a sprinter, she has a neurotic aversion to stairs.

Well, she bounded up those stairs lickety-split. I think she found being compared to backpack so insulting she had to show the guard a thing or two. I had to hussle to keep up with her, and even the down leg, usually the most unnerving for Kramer, posed no problem. After about seven rounds, her tongue was close to hitting the granite pavement as she dragged behind me. I decided to call it a day.

The guard had been watching us the whole time, just in case Kramer exploded, I guess. When we left I thanked him and he gave me a wave.