Only Human

I am only human, although I have gone by nickname of Dragon for years. My flesh is mortal and although I have dry skin, no scales adorn my body.

COVID-19 took me out for 3 weeks.

In the midst of these unpresideneted (only unpresidenet because we don’t really study history) times, I have faltered from my writing routine.

I know why it happen and I could list the reason/excuses for it, but they all boil down to the fact that I am human. I can only do so much and in order to maintain the silver of sanity I hold close to my chest, something had to give.

And it was my writing routine.

I started a second job tutoring, twice a week. I’ve worked through the pandemic and all of the ups, downs, twists and turns around. I wrote and I plotted new projects and then came the night when I couldn’t.

The Writer in Happier and Healthier times.

Couldn’t sit and write after work. I couldn’t write because I was asleep. Night after night, I crashed on my bed. The mornings were a blur of things I needed, wanted and could to get were all mixed together. In the evenings, the only thing that kept me moving was the routine of my family life. It anchored and has let me weather the continuous storm that these days have brought.

Writing and the routine of it has returned. I am writing for at least a half-n-hour a day; more when I can. Vaccines have brought hope and some freedom, but the end isn’t insight. There will be a lot more days and nights of this pandemic. And my routines might falter again, as long as I survive this, I am ok with that bargain.

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I’m Not Positive, I Am Trying to be Pragmatic

I am not positive, I am pragmatic.  Or at least that is what I strive to be much of the time. It may seem like my attitude toward problem solving is positive, but the reality is that it is rooted in pragmatism.  Pragmatism is more concerned with matters of fact than of what could or should be.

It is one of the reason, I make lists. It is too easy to get caught up in what the day should be and forget what needs to be done. Or more to the point, it is how to keep myself focused so that I can write and maintain a job, all the while living with depression, anxiety and chronic pain.

There is no use in panicking. Panic doesn’t solve problems. It tends to add fuel to the fire or worse starts the fire. And if I let myself, I will panic. I will freak out. And with that wave of chaos comes the threat of a complete shut down which I can ill afford.

I am also not negative, well at least not overly so. I tend to look at things thought the eyes of experience. Sometimes, this means that I am not outwardly shocked when bad things happen. It means while I don’t want or wish them to happen, I don’t let them crush me at least not for long.

Isn’t there a saying about if you are going through Hell don’t slow down because you might get out before the devil even knows you are there. Some times the best thing to do is to keep moving.

Do I get mad? Hell, yes. And do I sometimes panic? Yes, but overtime I have been learning to let myself feel things instead of fighting it and then release what doesn’t serve me. It isn’t easy and I have failed at it more times than I can count. I have learned to that it is ok not to fix everything that the day needs to end so the dawn will come again. Sometimes with that light comes more than just mere illumination, sometimes there is a new perspective.

Two weeks ago, I started tutoring a young man in math and English. Mostly math, it vexes him. I adore math and all of the things it gives us. A couple of times in our tutoring sessions, I’ve said something about how math is all around us and if it we like those things why not like math. He will think for a second and say he never thought of it like that.

Hating math doesn’t make it any easier so why not embrace it or at the very least not actively hate it. Just one of the many gives that adopting a pragmatic philosophy has given me.

 

Why We Hate Math

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Math is logical and our brains are not. Our brains make leaps while math takes a steady and careful path to its destination. It follows rules and its paths are well chartered. Our minds not so much.

For the record, I don’t hate math. I love it. I became a history major at a point in my life where the emotional side of my life wasn’t adding up. The rules of math can not be applied to the heart. My mind didn’t know to reconcile with the focus need for calculation when it was exploding exponentially with the chaos causes with loss, heart break and uncertainty.

Back in the day (which if you ask my students is anytime between when man discovered first fire to the day their parents were married), math was been a subject which vexed mankind. It remains so to this day.

In other words, math is hard.

We seek meaning and understanding, but you can’t apply formulas to your emotions. The heart resists all such logic.

Take my first college boyfriend (no, we aren’t going back to my first boyfriend, cause that jerk pour a coke on my mom’s white jacket that I had borrowed for some now forgotten offense) I loved him and he loved me. Or at least, we loved the idea of each other. But when it came down to it, the drama that flowed in both our lives was too much. The love equaling love didn’t work out. There were too many unseen variables.

Math has rules and once you understand those rules, problems become solutions that you can check. The heart isn’t such an easy equation to solve. The variables are too numerous for us to calculate any answer consistently and the rules seem to change at Cupid’s whim.

Math is really easy when compared to the calculations of the heart. Just follow math’s rules and you are set.

Not so in love or grammar. But that is another story.

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Night Stalker Too Graphic?

The Netflix docuseries “Night Stalker” has been criticized as being too much for viewers. If it is then we have sanitized the real horror of Richard Ramirez’s crimes to the point that we expect no longer to be uncomfortable when dealing them.

Richard Ramirez was a monster. He was rapist, a child molester and a murder among other things.

This morning, I finished the series. It wasn’t too much. Or maybe I am far more twisted than I thought. But I think the reality of the situation is a little more complex. True crime has become a genre where people expect a certain level of fear and revulsion, but only a enough to be entertained. We want horror to be a fun sort of fright. It is ok for a horror movie to be gory, but not a documentary about a serial killer?

Now, before I go any further, I am also a lover of most things spooky and creepy so my level of gory may be different from others.

Still, I don’t think I am off base when I say that maybe if we understood more about the horrors of men and women like Ramirez that maybe we would fetishize these killers. When Richard Ramirez was being taking to jail, a woman climbed up on the top of a fan and flash him. That’s right, a man who killed thirteen people had groupies upon his arrest.

We focus so much on the killers and their motivations that we forget about the victims including the communities that they terrorized.

So, no, in my opinion the series didn’t go too far. It talked more about the victims and the effects of the investigation on the men and women hunting the Ramirez than it showed gore. Yes, there are crime scene photos. There are also the voices of Ramirez’s victims defiant; some alive, some speaking through their surviving family members. Their humanity is brought forth in this documentary.

The documentary does take advantage of the material it had available, including crime scene photos, interviews and mood music. Some attention needs to be paid to the score. It is ominous and atmospheric tone was composed by Brooke and Will Blair. The brothers have been working since the mid-2000’s and have composed over 50 scores.

Gil Carrillo and Frank Salerno were the detectives who worked on catching Ramirez.

This is less a documentary about Ramirez and more a documentary about the people that hunted him and the people that survived him.

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Meds are not a Failure

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A little over year ago, I went back on medication for anxiety and depression. It wasn’t a hard decision. I was crying in my office, seeing a therapist and trying not to break down pretty much daily.

There was a lie I had committed myself to that I could no longer stomach. It was simple. I was coping with mental illness through diet and exercise only.

Here is what I wrote about it at the time.

I am in a good place.  There is a roof over my head. My relationships both familiar and romantic are going well. I have a steady day job.  There is food in my fridge.  I have health insurance.  There are even nights of the week where I am free to write.

I am in a bad place.  My steady day job has become a nightmare over the last couple months.  Dreading going to work has lead to anxiety attacks both at home and at work.  A couple of weeks ago, I closed my office door to cry.  I stopped wearing make-up to work because there was no point when tears were going to ruin at some point in the day.   Nights when I would have time to write are spend dealing with the aftermath of the day or going to bed early because I don't have the strength to anything else.

 I feel worn and mostly dead.

Looking back on it, I know that the biggest thing keeping me from medication was the mistaken believe that if I went back on it, I was failing. I didn’t put those thoughts into words until after I walked out of the building with a friend. She talked about her medication into a down to earth fashion. It wasn’t big deal to her. It was like taking medication for a cold. The conversation led to a lot of reflection.

Then my co-workers started talking about their own medication and how it was helping them handle things better along with therapy. Why was I denying myself another tool in my fight? Hadn’t I recommended medication to others? If I was physical ill, wouldn’t I be working with my doctor to find the proper treatment?

Because for years, I boosted to other (foolish so) of how I was control my mental health issues without medication. The problem was there were days that I was terrified to leave the house. Or drinking way too much from time to time to chase the blues way. Theses were acceptable to me: parts of everyday life.

I told myself there was nothing I could do about my crippling anxiety when it came to making even necessary and important phone calls. And I continued to tell myself that even after I missed an invitation to the White House in 2015 because I couldn’t get myself to listen to my messages.

Cascades -Pembrooke, VA – Now that my anxiety is being managed, I am able to go hiking again, Photo credit: Lucinda Rose

I lied to myself for years because the hassle of staying on medication along with the cost were the real reasons I stopped taking them.

I am not saying that medication is for everyone. Some people have a hard time finding what works for them or it doesn’t work.

Human beings are complex organisms. Our bodies react to everything from flowers to food differently. Some people do really well with therapy alone. Others do well with a combination of both. Therapy has really helped me break some of toxic patterns.

What I am saying is that medication can be helpful and if you need it then there is no shame in taking it.

Last December, I needed it. And now that I have it, I am able to see more clearly how the believe that medication was a failure kept me from being happy or working my way in that direction for way too long.

Be Well, Be Safe and Stay Spooky,

Lu

An American Heart Bleeds

Last night, I watched the U.S. Capital stormed by protesters. As men and women who call themselves Patriots broke their way into the Capital building, I shook my head and felt something inside me break. Maybe it was the hope that we would be able to put the hate behind us and more forward.

But one thing that Americans are good at is holding on to their hatred as a whole and believing whatever version of history favors them. Now, please don’t misunderstand me, I know there are Americans who have a good grounding in American history and are also able to move on from hate to understanding and compassion. Sadly, those folks have not been listened to for some time.

Four people died yesterday that didn’t need to die. Pipe bombs and a cooler full of Molotov cocktails were founds in the wake of their destruction.

I proudly the daughter and granddaughter of U.S. military veterans. My oldest sister and one of my nephews are now serving the nation, I call home. And yesterday… yesterday, I wondered what all of their sacrifices were and are for if Americans are going to tear down the country themselves while taking selfies.

No one should be proud of what happened yesterday. No one should be pleased by their actions. A time of reckoning is coming and if we who know better don’t show ourselves and let the world know we are better than this we will have doomed ourselves. We maybe doomed either way.

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No More Resolutions

Let’s stop pretending that they work for everyone. Or that they are a great idea to change our bad habits. Let’s start getting smart about the things we want to change or need to accomplish.

2020 threw everyone for a loop. Over 1.78 million people have died worldwide. The plans that we had for the year or even the spring were evaporated in a matter of days. As a society, we are processing grief not only over those we have lost, but for routines and traditions that had to be changed or were cancelled.

The world slowed down and sped up at the same time. We learned new ways to hold meeting and the importance of mental health for everyone.

The Death of Resolutions.

Somewhere in my office, there is a list of last year’s resolutions. They were practical and January that I believed I could accomplish. Things were going to get done. Even as the news of the pandemic spread, I felt confident that it would all be over by midsummer. It wasn’t. Still isn’t.

So the list and the idea that I had to wait for things to be just so to work on this or that disappeared. The list maybe in the trash to be honest. Looking back, while I felt they were practical, there were too many things to accomplish all at the same time.

The idea of setting resolutions for 2021 seems absurd. While a vaccine gives me hope that I will be able to visit my mother in Florida sooner rather than later; I am not sure that now is the time for long term planning.

What are you waiting to do? And how are you preparing to do it? Is it realistic?

The last two are questions that we tend to ignore when making resolutions. We make resolutions like we made birthday wishes when we were five. We close our eyes tight and press all of our imagination into the wish. The results are about the same.

So no more resolutions. No more annual pass or fail tests. Let’s start planning, really planning and get things going.

Smart Planning

Start with one thing not a list of things. Something you really want to do. If it is going to the gym, look at your schedule and find a couple of times a week you can go. If you live in a rural area like I do, your choices may be slim and the hours not great.

Next anticipate roadblocks to your plan. My biggest road blocks are work meetings and sunset. While the first is understandable especially if you work in education or know a teacher the second might seem odd. So why sunset? Our daily dog walk is an important part of my family’s life. We do it together nearly everyday and if I am not home before the sunset I miss it. This also means that someone is going to have to walk two dogs instead of one. Not a huge deal but if I can help it, I would rather be there. It is also

Now let’s circle back to the thing you want to do. The gym example is perfect. The goal of going to the gym more is really about getting healthier. So what do you need to be healthier? Eat right, drink less and excerise more. Since we started with the gym, exercise is the thing that you want to increase so what can you do without the gym. Make a plan and do it.

But, what if I…..

I think the word you are looking for is fail. What is you fail? What if on the day you start your new plan, things go off to heck in a handbasket? Then it is time to regroup.

If you get off track you haven’t failed, this isn’t an all or nothing game, get right back on track. Maybe look at what caused you to veer off course and work to avoid it. For example, I don’t plan to go to the gym on Mondays because those tend to be crazy days. Fridays are another day that I avoid because after a week of teaching, I am exhausted.

Visualize it.

Not only should you think about what it will look like when you accomplish your goal. You should also picture what it is going to look like doing it. It might also be helpful to write out what the day is going to look like with your new habit mixed in.

My gym workout plan looks something like this:

  • Wake up at 5:30
  • Stretch, take a shower and make the bed
  • Breakfast by 6:30
  • Morning walk at sunrise
  • Pack Lunch
  • Leave for work at 7:45
  • Leave work by 4:00 for gym
  • Finish workout by 5:00
  • Walk dogs when I get home.
  • Cook dinner
  • Writing time
  • Stretch before bed / sleep by 9:30

Weekends are a little different and this plan is for Tuesday and Thursdays for when I have arranged to leave work early. On the other days, I would come home and do a workout at home. Do I work out everyday? Yes, sometimes it is only a dog walk but everyday unless I am sick I do something for my physical health.

Start Small

Pick one thing and begin to work on that. Once you develop your new habit, choose something else and make it a continual cycle of renewal and improvement. You might be surprised at how much you accomplish in a year.

And above all, give yourself a break. We are living through a global pandemic.

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Three Lessons for the New Year

The End of 2020

The days and hours of 2020 are coming to an end. But, before you get on your knees to welcome 2021, remember it isn’t over. The horrors of this year aren’t going to evaporate at the stroke of midnight. The virus will still be with us even while the vaccine gives us hope. Fake news profiteers and science deniers will still be among us. Racism and its kin will still be lurking in the shadows seizing on the opportunities to raise their heads and tiki-torches.

But we know better and it is time that we start doing better.

Seriously, if you learned something in 2020 carry that knowledge into the New Year and act on it. Here are a few things, I learned.

Be a Better Friend

Earlier this month, I learned that one of my best friends was in the hospital on a ventilator. Not from COVID, but pneumonia which isn’t much better. Since moving to Virginia, we haven’t been in contact and truthfully, that started before the move.

One of my worst habits is failing to keep in touch with people that I love; friends and family included. This habit has meant finding out about the loss of someone months after they passed away and not spending precious time with them. It has meant people not knowing how much I love them and disappearing from my life.

In October, a week before my birthday I fell ill with COVID-19. My friends and family made sure that my needs were taken care of and that I didn’t feel alone. Cards and care packages, phones calls and instant messages, there was a lot of love directed my way.

So finding out that S. was in the hospital and I couldn’t get in my car and go see her; broke something deep inside. I couldn’t be there to hold her hand or support her family. All I could do was wait, pray and hope that she would recover. As of today, she is off the ventilator.

I started my efforts to be a better friend through the sending of Yule cards this because I knew before hearing about S that I wanted to be a better friend. I made a few ornaments for people and have tried to be better, which in the end is all you can do. How can you be a better friend?

Health before Work

I come from a long line of workaholics who have passed along a host of bad habits. You might recognize some of your own habits here as well. Over the summer, I planned for the upcoming school year, attended professional development and attended meetings. Most of this time was unpaid or as one of my former admins called it “volunteering”. Many teachers will tell you that it is often easier to come to work sick that write sub plans and I can tell you this is true. I have been my own sub many times.

The only day I was planning to take off was my birthday and that I was told the week of that I couldn’t take off because the sub had cancelled. Strangely, since I had COVID at the time, they graciously let me have that day. They did however call me every couple of days to see when I would be returning. Not to check on my health, but to when I could come back to work.

Did I meant that I worked with pneumonia in Florida because it was the end of the school year and I was out of sick leave? To be fair, I didn’t know it was pneumonia until after the school year was over. The first two weeks of that summer were spending confined to the sofa where I tried not to die and lived in a semi-lucid state thanks to codeine.

What did all of that pulling off my own needs for the needs of my employer? Pretty much nothing except higher medical bills.

One way, I’m fixing this is by making doctors appointments sooner than later, not waiting until the summer when it is convenient for the school and leaving work on time twice a week to go to the gym. (If you have ever known a teacher, leaving work on time is a big deal.) What do you need to do take better care of yourself? People are like cars, we don’t work so good when we avoid regular maintenance.

Don’t Wait for the Perfect Time

Because there is no such time. Waiting for the perfect time is a waste of time. If you want to go to Italy, which I do, then go to Italy. If you want to write a book, get typing. Want to start a You-tube channel, do it. Do it sooner than later or better yet now.

I keep waiting to do things like visit friends and work on photography. Then came 2020 and I couldn’t see friends and family. I could work on photography but I was stopped from going places much of the time. I told myself that I need to get a better camera or take a class. All of which produced no art on my end and only increase my anxiety.

Even before 2020’s series of foreseen catastrophes (every since one was predictable including the pandemic), I had been working on ridding myself of the perfect time excuse. 2020 just added some more fuel to its pyre. And while you’re at it, add the need to be perfect to the fire as well. Perfection is an ideal and when it does occur it doesn’t happen without a whole lot of practice.

What lesson did you learn this year? How are you going to do better in the coming year?

Pennies on the Ground

Coming into work, I saw a penny on the ground.  It was tails up, bad luck.  But then the words of one of my godfather’s rung in my ears, “Who am I tell the universe that I don’t need money?” Or abundance.

So I picked it up

That penny sat on my desk at home for a week and then it went into the coin jar.  In a couple of months; maybe a year since I don’t use cash much, I will take all the coins out, roll them and make a trip inside the bank to deposit them.

The penny on the ground isn’t going to fill the jar. Nor is it going to get me out of debt or help me save for my next adventure on its own.  Just like sitting down to write for ten minutes isn’t going to write my next novella.  It will, however, help me get closer to those goals.

Because who I am to turn down the abundance and gifts of the universe?  Like the gift of a quiet Sunday morning to write.

Love,

Lu

How Not to Give Up

When I asked for a blog topic, this isn’t the one I was thinking of, but the one I was thinking was leading me down a self-indulgence path.   Something I don’t need.

So here goes.

How I haven’t given up? Or How not to give up when the Universe keeps smacking you in the face.

This may not be the best advice, but it is what I got.

Are you really giving up, taking a break or walking away? 

You need to define this. What does it mean to you?  If giving up means ending your life then my friend, stop what you are doing and call 1-800-273-8255. Do it now. If you click on the link, there is even an on-line chat if making a phone call is too much. 

Because you are precious to someone. Hell, you are precious to me.  

Your life affects other lives.  The Universe might not care, but you may be the universe to someone else.  

Giving up on toxic and unhealthy relationship is healthy even if it is with family.   Giving up on trying to please everyone is healthy.  

What you may define as giving up may be resting for a day or a couple of days.  

It may be approaching the problem from a different angle. Take a break from the weight of thoughts and come back at it with a fresh mind. 

 Or it may be deciding that what other people define as a problem isn’t one for you. 

Sometimes, you can only do a little at a time.  You may move more slowly than others.  Sometimes, it isn’t your problem to begin with.

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Photo by Lucinda Rose taken at Hollywood Cemetery, Richmond, Virginia.

Feelings You Got Them

The statue in this photo is bowed down in grief.  She is giving into her grief.  Sometimes, I let myself do the same thing.  Sometimes, I do give up, but not forever.

I let myself feel the things going through my mind.  I let them run their course and then I look at what I can do next.  If there is anything for me to do.

Today, I spent most of the day in between self-pity, a glass of wine and a severe lack of motivation. I weakly tried to get myself to do things by creating a list, secretly knowing even as my brain was telling to do that I won’t complete the list.  And it isn’t done.

I did feel bad about it and then I thought about the weekend and where my thoughts have been for the last two days.

Friday, I found out that the arthritis in my knee is more severe than previously thought.  All I can do is manage the pain and work to maintain movement until such time as it can be replaced.  I’m forty-two.  Replacement isn’t even an option for a decade or more.  I felt like the universe was saying there was an answer to my problem, while at the same time denying me access to it.

I tried not to cry, but I eventually did.  Several times. I talked it with my boyfriend, my family and friends and once I got the truth out of my tangled web of emotions I felt better.  The truth that the real reason for the flood of emotions was that three weeks I had hope that the sudden increase in knee pain would be fixable.  My doctor was hoping it would be as well.  And it isn’t.   I had to give up on the idea that there was a fix to this problem.  Sometimes, you aren’t giving up by accepting there isn’t something to be fixed.  It can take some time to do that.

Sometimes, you need to walk away.

Sometimes, you decided something isn’t for you.

Sometimes, you need to let yourself grieve for the idea of what could have been.

Sometimes, you just need to take a break.

And sometimes, you need to cry.

I hope this helps.

Love,

Lu