Writing

Friday Fictioneers #1

Yep, continuing to do this now. Should be fun. I really need the accountability and the practice. There’s just something about having to post at a certain time to keep me…writing? Creating? Freaking out less? Either way, wow, more rusty than entry #0 if possible. And I’ve decided I should make an account just so I can be part of a community – ish. Might offset the perils of social quarantining for the past (and future) months.

Photo Prompt:

© Jan Wayne Fields

Closure

She stares at the hat stand in the small shop. It’s such an obvious tourist trap, with price marked up by at least 200%, yet she is contemplating a purchase. She’s always preferred physical souvenirs to Instagram memories. The handful of black sand from the volcanic beaches of Hawaii lets her relive her honeymoon. A colorful, cheaply made hat from a beachside shack in Samoa marks her first trip alone after a messy, emotional divorce.

She buys one with a neon bright print. It will sit on the shelf next to the black sand. A suitable bookend for that affair.

Life

Why Is My Mental Health So Shit?

Alright, let’s talk about my health. The title of this post couldn’t be anymore obvious, but you know, I’ve never really thought about how frigging true it is until lately. I know people say stuff like ‘oh he worried himself sick’ or ‘they gave themselves an ulcer from all the stress’. And I think, yeah, people’s immune system gets low when they’re stressed so of course that happens. But I never thought too much about it, until it actually happened to me.

Yeah, hindsight and self-discoveries just make me feel ultra stupid. So basically I had a deadline coming. I’m part of a non-official writers’ group – more a support group than anything else “professional”, although on my resume I’m certain I can call it such. Anyways, it’s my turn to submit some chapters from my novel. I volunteered to do it, it would help my work tremendously, but oh my god was it super hard for me to sit down and work on it. Like, right now the chapters I want to submit needs major rewrites, because they’re the beginning chapters and I hadn’t gone back to fix them yet and they don’t match anything else later. Process of writing drafts, completely normal, but holy shit, so much pressure to make things perfect from scratch again! My creative process basically shut down, and I just became this listless blob for a few days, and then I developed that lymph node swelling/throat thing I talked about yesterday, and it’s just all downhill from there. I ended up not going to the monthly meeting at all because I was too tired to read other people’s things to critique, let alone talking to other people (via Zoom but still), and so, here I am today, nothing good written, missed deadline, sick, a bad place.

I’ve always been a bit trepidatious talking about my work. Where I realistic am, instead where I wish I am, stuff like that. I guess the first step of progress is just to be honest with myself. (And being honest in public is a whole different thing, but I think it helps more? Accountability and all that.) I’ll talk about this in detail in another post, because this one is about how my utterly crazy mental blocks basically made me physically ill for two weeks. I called my doctor today and scheduled a tele-health appointment later this week. The symptoms may or may not completely dissipate by then, but at least I can get some round of antibiotics if it it’s still there. Or something – I feel like my body is just completely breaking down right now with infections everywhere. This isn’t me being a hypochondriac; I’m really not in a good place health-wise. At least the doctor could either calm me down and be like, no you don’t have cancer/etc. just stress here’s some anti-inflammatory drugs, or he would actually be concerned and I’ll get it looked it. If it’s something serious early detection is key right? The point is, if my brain didn’t go crazy I probably wouldn’t be in this situation right now, and I don’t know what to do to make myself calm down. Well, I do, and that is finish the novel completely, which means I’ll be calm in like six months, which is not acceptable! Ahem. Right. That’s another post. Sorry the blog is kind of all over the place by now. I’ll keep you updated. Stay safe, everyone!

Life

Apparently Stress and Sickness Go Together

So I got pretty sick last week. Nope, not Covid, and not any cold or flu either. My lymph nodes acted up and my throat swelled, and I was just dog-tired for no discernible reason. I basically slept all day for a good few days, and every time I swallow it was, well, not painful, per se, but uncomfortable. Like my esophagus was dragging a bowling ball with it, and you can hear this weird ‘click’ when it finishes. It started at the top of my throat, and then traveled downwards. I was freaking out thinking it’s cancer or something crazy, until my s.o. calmly told me, no, the chance of it being cancer is astonishingly low. Cancer doesn’t just suddenly pop up and certainly doesn’t get better when you take anti-inflammatory drugs like ibuprofen. You’re just stressed and have some sort of infection. Stop freaking out.

I hope he’s right, but it’s been a full week now and it feels like the swelling has gone down a bit. It has moved to a small area on the lower right side, and the clicking noise isn’t nearly as loud, and there are now some times when I swallow it almost feels normal. So, cancer is unlikely. I am thinking of calling my primary doctor, though. They’re doing telemedicine, I believe, but during this time I really don’t want to have anything to do with hospitals. My s.o. also said maybe you caught a strain of flu that’s prevented by your flu shot, or a cold you had before, so instead of fever/coughing etc. you just have an overactive lymph node. I don’t know. I am thinking I was just super stressed, and the birth control pill I’m taking is not helping things much either. (To regulate my period, so I can prep for the next stage of my IVF.) I’m going to call and make an appointment tomorrow. Maybe at least the doctor can give me some antibiotics or something.

Yeah sorry I’ve been gone for a while again. But guys I’ve been pretty stressed lately, and yes, the quarantine does have something to do with the overall state of things, but I’m pretty sure my stress comes from my work. I’ll talk in detail about that some other time. Maybe tomorrow. Now I’m just going to sign off and take another nap.

Miscellaneous

One Man, Two Guvnors

So National Theatre in London is doing this awesome program called “National Theatre at Home” in lieu of the coronavirus shutdowns. It’s basically free livestreaming of plays on Youtube, and then the show stays up for the week afterwards. I’ve never seen a British play (yes I know it’s U.K. not Britain and all that just, for the sake of easier words) that’s not some form of Shakespeare, and this week’s show being a comedy seems like a good mental break from all the stress. I was a little skeptical of how well this’ll work as a Youtube video, but eh, don’t knock it until you try it I suppose?

So I sat down and watched One Man, Two Guvnors with James Corden last night. And it was great! Absolutely hilarious. I’ve never seen James Corden act before – I knew he could sing very well from the “Carpool Karaoke” segments on his show – but wow, he was just awesome in this! The play is a mix of ‘comedy of errors’, physical slapstick, a smattering of audience interactions, and a whole bunch of British humor that I could only infer from my limited exposure to the culture (I was almost positive there was a Margaret Thatcher joke in there but, not 100% sure). I’m also very glad there’re captions, because there’s no way I would be able to understand most of the dialogue because of all the different accents (and British accents in general. I had to watch Doctor Who and Sherlock with subtitles most of the time.) And usually I’m not big on slapstick or physical comedy, but there’s just something different about watching it “live” on a stage than, you know, in films. The people actually doing stuff without “takes” and the live audience participation made it super funny, even though technically I’m still watching a ‘film’ in that it’s a Youtube video.

I think this just cemented the fact that I’m the kind of person that actually enjoy plays. Too bad I can’t afford going to see any on a regular basis, and there aren’t that many in my area. It’s a major city but nothing like New York. And in the foreseeable future we won’t be able to go anywhere with people anyway, but at least there’s stuff like this.

I highly recommend watching the play while you still can. And donate if you can, because the arts is what’s keeping a lot of folks sane nowadays. Me included.

Life

Quarantine Shopping and a Little R&R

I went out shopping today for the first time in weeks. Now I did go for regular walks around my subdivision so I’ve been outside, but I haven’t actually been in a car going to a grocery store or anything like that. To minimize exposure it’s always my husband who goes out and do the shopping so it’s only one person out at a time. But now I need personal care things like razorblades and cotton balls, so I went out with him because he wouldn’t know the exact brands and stuff.

And boy it took forever! Sure, the roads are fairly empty since my state is under shelter-in-place orders, but there are just so many other things we have to do to prepare to go out. We both have to put on masks (not N95 ones, but a surgical mask is better than nothing), bring hand sanitizer, my husband somehow got a box of Clorox wipes and keeps that in the car to constantly wipe down everything. Then we get to the grocery store and had to wait outside in designated lines because the store’s pretty small, so they had to limit how many people could be in there at one time. We bought out about 2-3 weeks worth of food (frozen meat and non-perishables, mostly) and then went to Target for the daily use things (still no paper goods, but that’s probably because we went too late in the day). And when we get back we wipe everything down and wash our hands a lot and leave some non-food items in the bag to be put away 24-48 hours later. Under normal days a trip like that would take less than an hour (barring traffic, but the Target is literally 5-min drive from my house, and I mean that in LA-traffic speak which is like .1 miles or something). Took more than 2 today! And I’m so stressed from just general anxiety that I was exhausted when I finished everything and just lay on the bed for a while, listening to podcasts. I have zero motive to write anything. So I decided, well, might as well take the day off and take care of some other work/life related things, like figure out some refunds and plan out the rest of the week and the like.

I feel kind of guilty not working on my novel, but I’ve been steadily writing a lot these past couple of weeks, and I think one day of rest is good to have. I’ll just have to pick it back up tomorrow, when I don’t have to brave the outside world too much. You’d think quarantine wouldn’t stress out super introverts like me, but for some reason it’s making my anxiety worse. I guess it’s the whole sucky situation as a whole. I know we’ve been very careful but now I couldn’t help but wonder did this one trip give me or my husband coronavirus? I have asthma and he has horrible allergies and get upper respiratory system illnesses a lot, so yeah, if this hit us it’ll hit us hard, probably. Cross our fingers, I guess, and just try not to worry about it needlessly in the mean time. It’s much easier said than done.

Games · Life

Something Light and Fluffy

With all the stuff going on in the world, I’m going to talk about happy things today. And for me that usually entails books and video games, so, games it is.

So let’s chat about how much my husband and I have been playing Animal Crossing: New Horizons, shall we? He’s never played an Animal Crossing game before, so it’s all great fun to introduce him to the franchise. I’m an exclusively single-player gamer – never had friends to play with (they either weren’t gamers, also loners, or played different genres from me), did the bare minimum of social interactions in MMOs, drawn to builders and story-focused rpgs, etc. I do like couch co-op with my husband and we had played a few games on the Switch so far, but they are all platformers and, uh, I’m alright with them but he sucks at it haha. So it’s usually a fun but frustrating experience. But Animal Crossing, man, has such a seamless and relaxing two-player mode that we both got obsessed with it on the spot. It got released last Friday and we were basically playing nonstop over the weekend. The non-time-travel way, too, although I did set the clock to 3 hours earlier than my actual timezone, because we both like to play at night and this gives us some leeway when it comes to store closing and daytime bugs and such.

It’s such a delight amidst all the chaos to just plant trees, catch bugs, dig up fossils, and collect/build/decorate furniture to our hearts content. To top that off, my husband is a social gamer and has co-workers/friends to play with, so I’m actually playing with people I know in real life online. We visited each others’ islands and gave each other things that a single game didn’t have (kind of like Pokemon, there are fruits and other items that require multiple islands’ resources if you’re a completionist.) They also time travel, so I picked up some out-of-season bugs and such. Not gonna lie, I desperately needed this in my life. So happy and relaxing. It’s also, ironically, making me do more work too, when I’m not obsessively playing.

So if you’re stressed and have a Switch I highly recommend picking up this title. Even if you’ve never paid attention to Animal Crossing before. (No, this is not sponsored by Nintendo I swear.) It might help with all the worldwide anxiety right now. Take care of yourself, everyone. I will be on a virtual tropical vacation for a while.

Work · Writing

How Would You Know If You Don’t Try?

I am having some serious issues concentrating on work these past few days. I don’t know if it’s fatigue or anxiety or what have you, but I’ve got no motivation to do work. I mean, so what else is new, but instead of pure panic I just feel demotivated and drained. I’m not fearful of my work, at least I don’t think, but regardless I’m still not working due to… depression? Boredom? Fatigue? I really don’t know.

It doesn’t help that I’m submitting some chapters for my writer’s group’s upcoming April meeting. (Don’t worry, it’ll be via digital means; we’re not going to someone’s house like we usually do.) I was hoping to submit 2-3 chapters but at the rate I’m writing them now it might not even be one. I’ve half a heart to cancel my submission already because I’m afraid I won’t have enough time to make it “good enough.” But you know, I still have two solid weeks to drum out a single chapter, at the most, and since I haven’t even started, how do I know I won’t have enough time? My fear of that deadline is creeping on me. Maybe that’s why I’m dragging my feet? Kind of like giving up before I fail rather than trying to win and then fall short. Ugh, yeah, I think that’s it. Well, the only solution is to stop scaring myself silly or give in to depression, but instead pick up my busted ass and try.

Didn’t mean to turn this into a semi random peptalk. On another unrelated, much lighter note, Amazon delayed my Animal Crossing: New Horizon copy by a week, so I just canceled it and opted for digital instead. It’s all ready and pre-loaded for release day (midnight tonight), which makes me happy, although I’m not going to actually start playing until tomorrow. Why? Because it’s in real time, so all the stores and other things are closed at night. (Yes, they have an overnight box but it’s not quite the same feel). I rather just play it 10 hours later when I wake up and am refreshed, and it’s beautiful daylight in the game, too.

Life · Work

It’s Super Effective!

Yeah so I now have concrete evidence that not going on r/coronavirus, or reddit in general because the front page is coronavirus related anyway, helps me with productivity. A lot.

On Saturday I deliberately forced myself to put down the iPad and not look at any outbreak related news. I was a lot more productive and worked longer hours. On Sunday I didn’t, and well, kind of whiled the afternoon away, so I subsequently freaked out and obsessively clicked on links. Yesterday I only allowed a little bit of perusing in the morning and not so much later, and guess what? I got no work done in the morning, and in the afternoon the minute I (again, forced myself to) put down the iPad, I started working almost right away. It’s crazy. Well, not exactly ‘right away’ as there’s an hour of ‘lag,’ per se, between me reading anything and starting working, but that just means my brain needed the time to switch gears. But as soon as I cut off the obsession the gear did switch, and that’s the important takeaway here, I think.

So today, and probably for the foreseeable future, I will at most allow myself some minor perusing just to keep up on the events. The minute I realize I’m getting sucked in I will stop. It works, but needs self discipline. I am in an entirely self-driven career anyway, so I guess this is a good way to practice as any.

Life · Work

Detox

I’ve decided that I should stop visiting reddit about the coronavirus. It’s not good for my mental health. I would be working and wanted a brief break and so go on the subreddit, and whop, there goes an hour of clicking on headlines and reading comments and silently freaking out. And then when I try to get back to work my headspace is nowhere near where it needs to be to concentrate. And so I open more tabs, because I don’t want to work, and so rinse and repeat. It’s why work that should only take 2 hours takes like 7 hours, which is ridiculous. And then I have bad dreams on top of that. My sleep pattern has seen some crazy wild swings like the stock market. All in all, I need to stop visiting that website.

If anything super major does happen (like we finally start actually testing and discover there’s 100,000 cases in California or something), I’m sure the front page of reddit will let me know. Or the actual news. Or anything, really. I have to concentrate on my novel now – I refuse to let it go past the full five year mark. I had a brief existential crisis before I went to bed last night, about how I’ll never finish writing anything, good or bad. Again, not good for my mental health, but I’m pretty sure that’s just anxiety talking (brought on by all the stuff that’s going on in the world). So I’m going to limit my exposure to fix my anxiety, and that starts with not going to r/coronavirus for a while.

Gosh, Animal Crossing: New Horizons can’t come soon enough.

Life

Ah That Virus Yeah?

Unless you’re in the camp of ‘it’s just a flu no biggie I’m not going to bother with any precautions,’ you probably are a little bit nervous about the worldwide coronavirus spread. I live in a very populous city with no doubt thousands of cases of coronavirus around – untested and under-reported, of course, considering this is the good old US of A and all. My homebody nature is kind of saving me here; I don’t go outside if I don’t have to, and being a writer recluse my routine now doesn’t significantly deviate from the non-pandemic times routine. But my husband has a regular job at an office, and yes, it’s one of those open-floor tech companies where you cram dozens of people per giant room, with a cafeteria where everyone goes to eat. I’ve been telling him to try to start work-from-home, because the company does have the capability just like Amazon and Microsoft, and he said his company is considering it. Nobody I know so far has gotten the virus, thank goodness. I really don’t want my family to be the first in our circle, you know?

But yes, I’m pretty nervous about it. So I’m glad that I confirmed with my doctor and so postponed my IVF treatments both for my body’s recovery and because of the emergent crisis in the States. They said things’ll probably peak around May. Well, I kind of wanted to get things going then, but depends on the global climate may have to delay it further. I’m not happy about that, but hey, I’m not happy about the stock prices and the crazy hoarding going on either (couldn’t buy toilet paper, paper towels, had to order my sanitary napkins online; it’s nuts), so might as well chalk it up to the Heavens (which this sort of is? All things considering?) and wait. And hope the US pick up on testing and stop being so incompetent and actually care about people’s lives rather than economic numbers as much, but that would be asking too much.