Archive for April, 2018

“  April is the cruellest month, breeding
Lilacs out of the dead land, mixing
Memory and desire, stirring
Dull roots with spring rain.
Winter kept us warm, covering
Earth in forgetful snow, feeding
A little life with dried tubers.”
–T.S. Eliot, The Waste Land

It’s springtime in Rochester, and that means sunshine, rain, snow, and ice—sometimes in the same week, sometimes in the same day.  But the garden persists, giving us not lilacs (that should be next month) but rather crocuses, daffodils, and even a tulip or two.

Another result of the warmer weather is I can no longer let the pets nap on my bed, as warm temperatures also bring fleas. And no amount of flea treatment gets ride of them. So I’m sorry, Macy, and I’m sorry, Moe, but we’ll do this again next winter.

Stacey and I went to the food bank on Tuesday, then spent the rest of the day together. Grocery shopping, picking up prescriptions, getting a few art supplies, and topping it off with a lovely stir-fry at Stacey’s place. I even had the chance to play with Fyona, Stacey’s golden doodle.

We’ve had a couple of days in the 70’s, so I think it’s safe to say yes, spring is finally here.

It starts with a stabbing pain in my left temple. From there, it travels down my neck and into my left shoulder. Finally, it settles to a dull ache.

Acetaminophen handles the shoulder–and sometimes, the temple–but most times I end up reaching for my migraine meds. If it’s bad enough, I’ll even lie down for a nap.

Today was one of those bad days. A lack of sleep was the trigger, and so it was a full-blown assault on the migraine: acetaminophen, meds, and a nap.

The funny thing is, sometimes it doesn’t develop into a migraine. The pain, the ache, and everything else. Sometimes it’s just a massive headache. But I treat it the same way: migraine med, acetaminophen, and a nap. See, my migraines are sometimes so debilitating that I don’t want to bet whether it’s just a headache or in fact a migraine.

And in a sense, I guess there’s really no difference.

They Started in the Early ‘80s

That’s when my daughter and I were both hospitalized with viral meningitis. If there’s one good thing about the viral as opposed to the bacterial version is that while the viral version has a 100% cure rate, the bacterial version has a near-100% fatality rate.

I spent a week in hospital, enjoying the visual and auditory hallucinations that were a result of Percodan, Demerol, and whatever other painkillers I was taking. By the way, don’t ever watch “Salem’s Lot” when you’re tripping on painkillers. It’s way too scary and way too believable. I’ll tell you that for free!

A week after I was released, I experienced a headache that was so severe and crippling that I thought the meningitis was back. A trip to my doctor and a couple of quick tests later, I was relieved to learn it was only a migraine.

“Only” a migraine. That’s rather like hearing your doctor say, “Look on the bright side. Sure, you lost your foot, but at least you still have the other one.”

Look, I may not have had a migraine before, but I knew how bad they could be: my mother was plagued with them all her life. But she had such a high tolerance for pain that she would undergo dental work without any anesthesia, which she was allergic to. She joked about it, saying her technique was a state of mind that allowed her to “transcend dental meditation.”

My father used to say, “Someone could sneak up behind your mother and hit her in the head with an axe, and five minutes later, she’d say, “I think I have a headache.”

Unfortunately, that high tolerance for pain was not in my genes.

Anyway, that was my first experience with migraines and migraine medications. Back in those days, they were so severe that when I felt one coming on—they were generally announced by the classical aura hallucinations—the only treatment was to take my meds and lie down in a totally darkened room with a cold compress on my forehead.

Things gradually improved over the years. That first year, I think I had at least one migraine a week. Today, maybe a couple a month. And medications have improved as well: my prescription is for one pill on the onset of a migraine, followed by a second one two hours later if the first one didn’t help. I rarely have to take a second one.

Tracking My Diet

And I track my diet. No, I’m not “on” a diet; rather I use the word in the way it describes my food intake. I track what I eat and drink, trying to see if any what I consume might trigger my migraines. So far, I’ve managed to deduce that my biggest trigger is simply being alive.

And so I continue to write. My blogs keep me sane and productive, and the fact that I have so many people following this particular blog tells me that I’m reaching people.

I have a big enough ego to think that I might even be helping one of two of you to carry on through the darkness. And that, my friends, makes it all worthwhile.

Thanks for reading.

My baby girl is getting married today. For her and her beau, it’s a day of joy and celebration. It would be for me, too, except for the fact that I have been told I would not be welcome there.

My future son-in-law’s parents are conservative and Christian. Rather than offend their sensibilities, since I am a Trans* woman, I have been told not to come. Instead, my “normal” younger brother will be giving my daughter away.

In a way, I’m not surprised. Indeed, I should have been able to predict it—after all, she was raised in a household dominated by her grandmother, who was definitely the controlling Alpha female. Indeed, it took me years after her mother and I divorced that I was able to see that I had been in an abusive relationship.

When I was involuntarily outed—by my ex’s brother—to my family, my father and my daughters immediately stopped all contact with me. It wasn’t until nine years later that my father reached out to me. My older daughter, with whom I had been reunited years earlier, called me and said, “You need to call your daddy. He wants to talk with you.”

My father had had a stroke the previous year, and his health had steadily declined. Now he was bedridden. He and my step-mother had attended a few therapy sessions about me, and he was ready. After an hour-long telephone conversation, we ended by telling each other, “I love you.”

That was a Friday. The following Monday, my wife suggested we drive down to see my dad. We live in upstate New York, and he in Maryland. Apparently my two brothers had flown in to visit him, and had already been there a couple of weeks.
Tuesday morning we loaded the truck and headed down to Maryland. We hadn’t been on the road 30 minutes when my daughter called. “”Your daddy’s gone,” she said.

We continued our trip in silence. Rochester to Hagerstown was about an 8 hour drive, with stops for meals and refueling. It was dark when we arrived, and after a couple hours of conversation, we found a motel and checked in. The plan was for all of us to meet at the funeral home the next morning.

My younger brother was there, as were my daughters and my eldest grandson, the one who had adored my father. I finally reconnected with my younger daughter. It was a loving reconciliation.

A year or so later, I made a futile attempt to move back to Seattle. Futile, because I had forgotten that under Washington state law, between first and last months’ rents, as well as a damage deposit, it would have cost me a minimum of $2400 just to move into the cheapest apartment available.

I ended up taking the train back to Rochester, but not before my younger daughter visited me a few times. I also got the chance to spend time with my older daughter and my grandchildren.

Then, as Don Henley once sang, “I got the call today I didn’t want to hear.”

I told myself it didn’t matter, that she would change her mind. I knew I was fooling myself when she didn’t even have the courage to call me herself. Instead, she saddled her sister with that onerous duty.

And so today is the wedding. At first, when my older daughter texted me how unhappy she was that I wasn’t there, I didn’t even want to get out of bed. After a while, I got up and got dressed, ate breakfast, smoked a couple of cigarettes, and knew that today was going to be a hard day for me. All of my mental issues—my depression, anxiety disorders, dysphoria—are beating inside my brain. The wolf is howling at the door, demanding to be let in. I’ve been crying off and on for the past two hours and considering my options.

As they always do when my depression spirals out of control, my first thoughts were of self-harm. I wanted to die. But then my mantra kicked in: “Suicide is a permanent solution to a temporary problem,” and I knew that no matter how this day goes, I will still be here tomorrow. Hell, I don’t even have any razor blades in the house!

The deeper that sorrow carves into your being, the more joy you can contain.
Is not the cup that holds your wine the very cup that was burned in the potter’s oven?
And is not the lute that soothes your spirit, the very wood that was hollowed with knives?—Khalil Gibran, “On Joy and Sorrow”

And so I continue. Writing this story suffices for today’s therapy. I’m going shopping with my BFF later today, and we’ve got a full agenda…to be closed out with pizza for dinner….

11:30 a.m. Wednesday

The power went out at my house 20 minutes ago. No real surprise, since we’re under a high wind warning and gusts up 70 mph/112 kph are in the forecast.

After going through the house and unplugging all my electronics, I sat down to chronicle the experience…

…and immediately ran into problems: not wanting to sit in the dark as I wrote, I moved to a seat next to the window…

…where the glare was too harsh on my iPhone screen for me to write comfortably. So I’m back in the armchair I usually sit in to write. The light is dim in this corner, but it could be worse: Charles Dickens must have written by candlelight, or the glow of a kerosene lamp. And since my internet connection is down, I can’t check to see if gaslight was available to him.

How easily we take things for granted. "Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic." So said Arthur C. Clarke in the ’60s or’70s, and it’s just as true today as it was then. There was a time in Salem, Massachusetts, for example, when my iPhone would have had me prosecuted as a witch.


2:00 p.m. Wednesday

The power just came back on. Well, not just—it took a few minutes for the router to reboot. Then I had to crawl under my desk and plug my laptop back into the power outlet and wait for it to boot up. But you get the picture.

NOTE: Dickens did indeed write by gas light. Many of those same fixtures are still operational today.

My 2-hour loss of power forced my to solve yet another First World Problem: should I continue to read a novel on my iPhone, or should I conserve my battery power for the more important task of posting memes to Facebook?

I’m no longer writing this on my iPhone: once the power (and with it, my internet connection) was restored, I uploaded what I had written so far to my iCloud folder, then copy/pasted it into Open Live Writer, my default blog composer.

And while Dr. Clarke was right about technology and magic, he neglected to point out how easy it can be to take both things for granted: I’m sitting at my writing desk, surrounded by the latest technology, connected to the knowledge of the entire world, and yet I am lost when the power goes. I can be in instant communication with nearly anyone in the world, but what keeps me humble is this:

The knowledge that when Arthur C. Clarke was consulting (from his home in Sri Lanka) with Stanley Kubrick (in Los Angeles) on the movie version of “2001: A Space Odyssey,” they did so via a pair of Kaypro 8-bit, 64K RAM computers connected by 300-baud modems…a far cry from my Wi-Fi connection to the cable internet router.

Not spoiled too much, am I? Before I got rid of my old Keurig coffee make, I could have a cup of fresh coffee in under 5 minutes whenever I wanted one. Even now, my microwave lets me brew a cup of instant coffee in under 4 minutes…if I decide I even want a cup (to me, there are a time and a place for instant coffee: never, and in the trash).

Talk about spoiled: I still miss my 2-hour battery backup UPS (uninterrupted power supply) I had when I was in Oregon. Yes, I miss it, but not enough to shell out $200 to replace it. I spent that money on a 3-terabyte external hard drive.

But now I’m rambling

So I’ll post this entry and log off for now.