“I Seriously Hate You”

“I Seriously Hate You”

“Because if there’s anything you need to be a physical therapist, it’s a sense of humor.”

~Adele Levine, Run, Don’t Walk: The Curious and Chaotic Life of a Physical Therapist Inside Walter Reed Army Medical Center

Fun fact about me: I’m one of the most accident-prone people on the planet. Seriously – it’s almost superpower level (although I’m not sure what good it would serve). I fall UP stairs, I trip over my own feet (and thin air), and coordination and balance are foreign concepts. My parents threatened to make me take ballet as a child to teach me how to walk – I’ve always been THAT bad. This translates to frequent bruises, and A LOT of injuries.

Injuries = Physical Therapy

While I’m no stranger to the OR (and my natural resemblance to Sally from A Nightmare Before Christmas proves that), I try to avoid that scenario as much as possible. I may have a chronic illness, but I still don’t do well with pain, and surgery means PAIN! So whenever a doctor offers to start with physical therapy I agree without hesitation. Doesn’t always keep me from going under the knife, but I have to try.

Let me explain one simple fact for those that have never experienced physical therapy: IT SUCKS! Physical therapists somehow found a way to exempt themselves from the Geneva Convention, employing legalized torture. Even worse, they post this list of cheerful “Nevers” all over the building reminding you that you are their guinea pig for the entire 45 minute session.

What the hell?!

You get a nice little 5-minute warm-up, and then pure hell commences. And they SMILE the entire time! They even laugh! All while you grit your teeth, dig your nails into your palm, and wish you were dead! Then you drag yourself outside, with a cheery, “See you next time!” following behind you. Oh, right, and you’re usually given special exercises to do at home – to continue the “fun.” (I’m pretty sure they implant some kind of micro-camera to make sure you do them, too)

I’m not exaggerating, but physical therapy DOES help. And if you DON’T have a condition like fibromyalgia, it may not be as bad. Unhappily, I have pain receptors on every milometer of my body, so every second of my Graston session is beyond my tolerance level. My therapists know, but neither of us have a choice if I’m going to get that particular muscle through to the other side. They DO push, but it’s right up to the line of tolerance and no further. I might get tears in my eyes, but they don’t fall. It’s a delicate line, and physical therapy dances right to the edge.

I might hate it, but I appreciate it.

My current therapist is a champ, because I frequently tell him I hate him and threaten to kick him in the head. (I have a right ischiofemoral pingement) While vocal cursing isn’t allowed, I admit that there are a lot four-letter words happening in my head when he asks. He knows how to get me talking so I don’t break my jaw. He watches how hard I’m clenching my hands so know when I need a break. And he knows very well that I keep count, and he’ll stop me when he thinks I’m going too far.

He also knows I’m not doing my stretches at home, and he’s stopped asking.

It’s medically-sanctioned torture, but it’s better than surgery. Every session HURTS LIKE HELL, but I can see the progress. This current round’s progress isn’t going as fast or well as I’d like, but it IS there. The laughter helps (I won’t throw that quote in – everyone knows it), and so does his promise that we’ll get where we’re going.

On my bad days, when I have to sit on the couch and watch my fiance’ do kickboxing without me, I feel like it’s all a lie. When I spend the remainder of the day wanting to detach my leg from my body, and I reach for the phone to cancel the rest of my appointments, it seems pointless. Then I remind myself that a month ago, I couldn’t do ANYTHING without pain. Now, I can at least work without wanting to scream. I can walk without a visual limp. Maybe it isn’t much, but it’s SOMETHING.

Besides, even if I end up needing surgery, I’ll still end up back in physical therapy afterward. (Kind of how the wretched system works) Might as well get used to the routine now.

So, yeah, I hate every minute I’m there. I’m a terrible patient, and I complain. It keeps the pain from getting the upper hand. And when my therapist tells me he gets it, he understands… Well, at least we’re on the same page.

Elixir of Life

Elixir of Life

Water bottles

Water – so annoying and yet so very necessary. Without it, you shrivel into a prune and develop massive health problems. With it, you have to confront the necessity of stepping away from your computer for bathroom breaks. Kind of a catch-22, but I’m going to assure you the former is the better option.

Why?

Because you can only lose 75% of your kidney function before you have to face the reality of dialysis and needing a kidney transplant. That REALLY cuts into writing time. So drinking your 64 ounces (at least) a day of water is important. Your kidneys will thank you, and so will your body.

Now, I used to struggle with meeting that goal. It was just plain impossible – not only from a practical standpoint (my previous job made it impossible on a lot of levels) but from the fact that I just plain didn’t want to guzzle that much fluid. Have you ever measured out 64 ounces? It’s insane! Even broken down over 15 hours, it was too much. Well, I convinced myself it was too much. Plus, it was water. Water was BORING.

Then I got a kidney stone.

I cannot accurately describe the level of pain a kidney stone produces. That 1-10 scale they ask in the ER? I gasped out a 13 and meant it (okay, I meant a 236, but they rolled their eyes at my 13). After the stone was analyzed, coffee and tea fell off the list of things I was allowed to have (a lot fell off that list, but we’re discussing fluids). Do you know what it’s like to be a writer and be deprived of coffee?! (Side note: soda was already off my list due to other health issues – being me is fun!)

Water became my new best friend. And it turned out water wasn’t so bad after all. Kidney stones don’t like acid, so I added a touch of cranberry juice or lemonade to my water for flavor. Now the struggle was meeting that 64-ounce goal each day. It still felt like an insane amount to achieve during my waking hours. I mean, remembering to eat was difficult enough – now I needed to drink, too?

Parents to the rescue!

My parents bought me that big blue water bottle you see in the picture. It holds 64 ounces, so I didn’t have to keep track of glasses each day. (Yes, I tried that – it didn’t work) I fill it each morning, and it sits beside me on my desk while I work. That shade of blue is in the corner of my eye while I work – a nice subtle reminder. When I need to run errands or when I hit the gym, it’s a bit bulky. So I have my trusty Child water bottle for those times. That water bottle holds 20 oz. I either fill it from the big bottle or fill it separately and go for more than 64 oz. for the day.

Yes, drinking regularly means peeing regularly. I’ve made my peace with that fact (seriously – is it THAT much time out of your day?). Mostly because I’ve noticed other benefits from meeting my water intake each day:

  • My skin looks amazing
  • My hair isn’t falling out or breaking anymore
  • My lips don’t chap as much
  • My weight stays on an even keel
  • I don’t wake up parched
  • The blue bottle has some heft to it, so I get an arm workout every day

It’s your call, really: stay healthy enough to continue your writing, or sacrifice your health and lose time you could be writing. Personally, I hate hospitals, so I do everything I can to avoid them. If that means I have to step away from the keyboard a few times a day, I’m willing to accept that.

Besides, no way in hell am I going through another kidney stone!

The Autopilot Concept

The Autopilot Concept

My I Love Kickboxing gloves

Admission: when I first conceived this post, we weren’t in lock down. I considered holding off until orders were lifted, but A) that could be another couple of months for some, and B) I realized there was no reason. After all, it is entirely possible to find ways to exercise in the comfort of your own home. So onward!

Yeah, I know: some of you cringed when you saw the “E” word. After all, as writers, our place is sacked out in front of our computers, shoveling sustenance into our mouths (when we remember to do so). And I used to abhor the thought of taking an hour out of my day, too (not to mention the very idea of getting into anything resembling gym clothes and going in front of other people).

What changed?

For one, a lot of surgery. I have the fortune of inheriting really bad genes, and my body hates me (not a joke – it does…but that’s a post for another time). Some of those procedures came with physical therapy and therapists laughing hysterically (turns out, I am also a freak…and not in the way I knew). Since I didn’t want to keep repeating that process – anymore than I already had – and because I wanted to stave off some of the nastier aspects of my body destroying itself, the E-word was the solution.

Now, before you jump to any conclusions, this had nothing to do with weight loss. I’m a major advocate of loving your body, however it looks. I don’t believe in starving yourself, I definitely don’t believe in depriving yourself (I eat normal food, and I have never turned down anything), and I think all fad diets are absurd. None of my surgeries were related to weight; they really were bad genes, as well as terrible job conditions.

Moving on: I discovered that the gym really wasn’t so bad, especially because I walked in with the indispensable accessory of headphones (you people are introverts – I know you own them).

MAGIC!

I suddenly had an entire hour of privacy to live in my head! Once I had figured out the various machines, my body could go on autopilot, and my brain was FREE.

I get SO MUCH writing work done!

I can unravel scenes that I was blocked on, design characters, sketch out plots, work through dialogue – whatever I need! I just program whatever playlist is most appropriate into Pandora, and I’m all set. With the volume set high enough, even if someone tries to bother me, I’ll never hear them (and I have a great resting bitch face which tends to discourage people).

I did branch out from the gym, and I joined I Love Kickboxing. Even there, where I can’t wear headphones (they play music throughout), and I need to listen for the exercises to be called out, I still get work done. During the bag rounds, my body knows the movements, and my head goes off on its own. When I’m frustrated about a scene or short story that won’t work, punching a bag is the best therapy in the world!

Still not convinced?

Have you noticed how much geek swag is out there?

Above are my actual kickboxing gloves. I deliberately bought two sets of 16-ounce gloves, and I painted them with Harley Quinn’s symbols. My gym bag has a flerken on it. I have a headband with the Cheshire Cat grin. I have a Venom tanktop and a Lion King top and short set.

People, they cater to US!

Yeah, it’s a little harder to workout right now. My kickboxing classes are now via Zoom, and it’s shadowboxing instead of with a bag (it’s a little weird). Instead of using an elliptical, we’re walking the dog around the neighborhood on nice days. It’s also using the Nintendo Switch and our Ring Fit Adventures and Fitness Boxing games.

They still work the same: the body knows what it’s supposed to do, and while it’s exercising, the mind can do something else. You’d be amazed at what you can accomplish while you’re on autopilot. And if you get a little added benefits from the exercise itself, well, that’s not a bad thing, is it?

Just give it a try – see what comes of it. You’ll be glad you did, I promise.

Brain Fuel

Brain Fuel

Meal Prep on Table

Ah, meal prepping – two words that are the very bane of my existence. The concept of buying out Costco so you can rush home and spend the entire weekend (what a waste of good writing time!) cooking the EXACT SAME FREAKING MEAL one thousand times and then turn your refrigerator and freezer into an ad for Doomsday-Preppers-R-Us is ridiculous. Who in their right mind wants to eat the same thing day-in and day-out?! Have you people not watched every movie or read every book warning against such pablum?!

Stop the madness!

Still, I acknowledge that it is important to put fuel in our tanks so that we can continue to function, and our brains need fuel so that we can continue to create our writing. I also acknowledge that when we’re up to our eyebrows in our fiction and the words are flowing like waterfalls, we can barely remember to stop and go to the bathroom (don’t laugh – you know you’ve been there). Hell, I’ve lost an entire day before when I was on a roll – looked up and couldn’t figure out why it was still dark out and had to be informed it was now night, that I had typed all day, and could I please move my ass and do something “constructive” (that wasn’t my current relationship, needless to say). Getting into that creative roll is awesome, but starving your body is bad. Looking like you’re preparing for an impending Apocalypse is also bad, and denying yourself any variety in life? You got it, super bad.

Luckily, I’ve found a compromise.

First, you find a significant other who likes to cook. Just kidding (although, seriously, it’s awesome, and I highly recommend one). I do a half-ass meal plan each week on Sunday night. I have a planner where I write out what I’m going to have for the week – JUST THE WEEK – for breakfast and my snacks (my fiance’ makes dinner each night, so that’s up to him). This saves me from having to think about things in the morning when I’m still waking up, and it gives me a structure for the week when I’m planning my work. Lunch is often leftover from dinner, so I don’t worry about writing it down, or I have a few staples I can rely on and rotate through, so I’m not stuck eating the same thing every day. No two weeks have been the same yet, so I don’t get bored.

Second, you find a few recipes for breakfast, snack, and dessert that make multiple servings and rotate through them. That will give you extra you can keep in the fridge without stacks and stacks of those silly meal containers. I have a growing list of recipe cards, and when I finish off one Rubbermaid container, I make something new. It works out great, and, again, I’m not getting bored. Also, I’m usually only making one or two things at a time, which only takes about an hour out of my day (max) – not the entire weekend. It’s usually an hour I need to get up and walk around and stretch, anyway, so it works out. The fridge only has one corner taken up at a time, and I get to keep my work on track – everyone wins.

It really is that simple!

We need variety in life – not just as writers, but as human beings. Most of us have routines, regardless of what kind of work that we do, and those routines can take a lot out of us. Whether you thrive on routine or not, it wears you down. You need to have a little color and dance in there to make your life meaningful.

So put down the thirty pounds of skinless chicken breast that is going to take away your entire Sunday to grill and consider just getting a few cans of tuna…unless you’re hosting a major get-together to celebrate an accomplishment. Then I say let’s hit Costco!