Time to write

The Thanksgiving Holiday weekend took me to a dark place. The four-day weekend was most welcome because I have not taken any extended time off since October 2019. There is nothing really stopping me from taking time off. But we have had a lot of crises at work — and if I take time off, those crises will still be waiting for me when I return — and that would really make it hard for me to enjoy a vacation. And within an hour of starting my first day back, I would be stressed and upset and wondering why I bothered. I sometimes wish I had one of those jobs that happens in real time. I used to be friends with a bus driver and when he took two weeks off, someone else drove his route. When he returned from his vacation, there was no work to get caught up with.

Thanksgiving Day itself was not too bad. I took a bus across town to have dinner with friends. The mood on the bus was fine. But then I had a fifteen minute walk along streets that were largely deserted. And there was a tense atmosphere at my friends’ house because one of them had accidentally sliced his hand that morning and spent some time in urgent care getting it treated and bandaged — leaving the other to do all the cooking. And I was not able to be helpful — because I have that autistic habit of just being in the way. I was driven home around 7:30pm and the streets we traveled were deserted. And I arrived home to my dark and chilly apartment. I drank some wine that I probably did not need and watched some music videos on YouTube that took me deeper into the dark place — where I have been since. I do not typically listen to music let alone watch videos. So when I do, it is a sign that something is not right with me.

Last night I went to bed listening to the Films To Be Buried With podcast presented by Brett Goldstein, who plays Roy Kent in Ted Lasso. And the podcasts kept playing. I woke up several times overnight and did not turn off the iPod. Brett’s own voice, rather different from the gruff voice he uses as Roy Kent, is very comforting. Most of the guests I have never heard of. And I am not a movie buff. But it does not matter. It is rather like listening in on an interesting conversation in a coffee shop or pub — something I have been greatly missing. And there are more than 170 episodes, so plenty more to enjoy.

I did a bit of writing yesterday and it lifted my mood a little. But last night I succumbed to wine and music videos again. That will not be happening tonight because I am out of wine. So I am going to try to spend more time writing — and see if I can write myself out of the dark and back into a happier place. I also have not done any arts or crafts for a while. I started a hat on my circular knitting loom last month and perhaps I should finish that while listening to more of Brett’s podcast.

I am not sure what keeps pulling me into dark places. But I think I have a hard time tuning out the angst of the world around me. I have known times in my life when I was facing serious challenges and difficulties and everything was going wrong for me — but the world around me was chugging along pretty well — and I was able to be encouraged and reassured by seeing other people enjoying their lives. That encouragement and reassurance is no longer there. And the prospect of a reintroduction of Covid-19 restrictions just before Christmas does not look good.

My latest writing project concerns a group of guides (angels) and the conversations they have with mortal souls in between lives. It is intended to be a humorous examination of ways humans can manipulate their destiny across many lives. I think about reincarnation a lot. When I hear about a three-year-old child who can play a complete concerto note-perfect, I just assume it is a reincarnated concert pianist with a good memory. No mystery there!!

Just falling asleep

Yesterday I had a dental appointment first thing in the morning. And it was time to take x-rays. When the lead apron was draped over me, I felt this sudden calm wash over me. I sleep with a weighted blanket, but it is quite a bit lighter. I wished I could have had the lead apron on for the entire appointment. Next time, I might actually ask!

My bedtime routine is undergoing some adjustment. For the last six years, I have been watching M*A*S*H. I have all eleven seasons on DVD, although many of the discs are very temperamental from wear and tear. Well, now my portable DVD player is acting up. I only bought it three years ago, but it was a rather cheap model (I was amazed it was still possible to buy a DVD player at all) — and it has seen a LOT of use. I could look into getting a USB-connected DVD player to plug into my Chromebook, but that would hardly be convenient in my bedroom. So I decided to bit the bullet and try bedtime without M*A*S*H.

I always take my iPod Touch to bed with me because it serves as my alarm clock. So now I am collecting podcasts to listen to. I used to be a huge podcast junkie. But now that I work from home, I do not need to load up on podcasts to for my bus commute (that can be ridiculously long for the distance when Seattle traffic is gridlocked.) So, I am not sure what I want to listen to these days (apart from the various Ted Lasso podcasts.)

I found a really interesting podcast called The Rise And Fall Of Mars Hill, about the megachurch that was once a phenomenon in Seattle. But I have kept falling asleep about twenty minutes in, even though I find it really interesting. I am finding myself nodding off very quickly to other podcasts as well.

Perhaps I have rediscovered this crazy idea of just going to bed and falling asleep 😴 How wild is that?

Jigsaw puzzle enjoyment

Jigsaw puzzles are immensely soothing to me. Around three years ago, I was given one as a present. It was a bit of a surprise, but I decided to have a go at putting it together. I do not have a large enough table for a puzzle to occupy for weeks at a time, but I found a board I could use.

Working on the puzzle immediately became a regular part of my routine. What I discovered is that it uses a part of my brain that works rather well — and only that part of my brain. I was able to enjoy listening to podcasts at the same time without missing anything. One part of my brain processes the shape and color of puzzle pieces while a completely different part of my brain processes the verbal content of what I am listening to. These two different parts of my brain are not competition with each other for bandwidth and it makes the multi-tasking effortless and stress-free — unlike other multi-tasking I am often called upon to perform.

I also attribute time spent assembling puzzles to a significant advance in my computer coding capabilities. I have been programming since the 1980s, but never very well. And when I was given the first puzzle, I was struggling to learn Java. Three months, and half a dozen puzzles, later, I was amazed at the progress I had made. I wondered if by assembling puzzles, I had beefed up the parts of my brain needed for coding — but without actually having to be coding.

I finished my latest puzzle on Saturday morning. As a puzzle fills in, I really enjoy running my hands across completed areas, feeling the outlines of the pieces. And there is a distinct pleasure in placing a piece. It is both tactile and sensory. When I finish a puzzle, I usually leave it out for a couple of days so that I can enjoy stroking it.

On Saturday afternoon, I went in search of a new puzzle. Often, the pickings can be slim in January, when stock is depleted from Christmas sales. I expected it to be even slimmer now, given that so many people are stuck at home — but there was a good selection. The puzzle I bought is only 1000 pieces — but I think it will be challenging and will keep me busy for a while.

Now I need to line up some good podcasts or audiobooks to enjoy while working on it.

On the spot

Podcast hosts often wrap up an interview with a set of “Quick Fire” questions. I guess it is a convenient way to end the podcast with a sense of completeness, especially if it was an interview that was hard to keep on track. But listening to it makes me anxious.

What does it mean to be brave?

How anyone can come up with a quick answer to a question like that is beyond me! I would have to think about that for an entire day. Perhaps some podcast guests have to think about it for an entire day and then phone it in later.

I doubt I will ever be a podcast guest. But I have been put on the spot often at work. My workplace has Equity & Inclusion as a major point of the mission statement, so we have a lot of trainings and workshops. Under pandemic restrictions, there have been fewer trainings and the online format has been rather different. But in the past, we would sit in a circle in a room. And before starting, we would “go around the room” and introduce ourselves. Some leaders would also ask us to sum up our current state of mind in one word.

Oh dear. I was never able to fully listen to anyone’s introduction because I was too busy (a) trying to discern my current state of mind, and then (b) trying to decide on the one word that best described it. So I eventually just defaulted to “anxious”.

Then at the end of the session, we would go around the room and offer one word that summed up what we were taking away from the training. By the time it was my turn, most of the good (and acceptable) words had been taken. On one occasion, my word was “smooth”. Naturally, I got a lot of odd looks. I explained that it was the only word coming to mind right now.

I assume this is due to my various impairments with processing, especially with verbal information. Unfortunately, this is a such a common feature of training, once our training schedule picks up again, I might have to resort to preparing generic words ahead of time so that I have something to say in case I draw a complete blank.

Another thing that floors me is when we have to include some fun trivia with our introduction. Meetups on Zoom are often hosted by someone who asks us to share what we have been binge-watching on Netflix. I must be the only person in the modern world without a Netflix subscription. The only paid subscription I have is for Apple TV+, and if it was not for all the Ted Lasso fans out there, I would imagine myself to be the only person in the modern world with an Apple TV+ subscription (I signed up for it when I got a year of free access after buying a new phone and I will continue with it because it has great programming.) I also have access to PBS Passport and a big archive of old PBS programs. Other than that, I just have unpaid YouTube. So anything I mention is likely to be rather obscure. Instead of listening properly to other people introducing themselves, I am distracted as I try to think of something I have been watching that someone else might have heard of. But when my turn comes, the response is always blank stares and silence.

The one-word summaries at the end of a training strike me as nothing other than a gimmick — an easily deployed tool that gives everyone the feeling that something has been accomplished — except those of us who have spent the entire session thinking about our word instead of focusing on the actual training.