№347; sometimes scary.

I haven’t made new years resolutions since I was in high school. I feel like the hype and the pressure set us up to fail. I do, however, consider the new year a good moment for reflection and improvement, so I make lists. I do, however, want to go more deeply into some of my goals for this year. Today: “Get a diagnosis.”

I’ve spent much of the last few years trying to get a handle on my future, but in doing that I’ve somewhat neglected my present. This year, I plan to change that pattern.

Four years ago, I was in debilitating pain at work in Cambridge, MA. My legs were numb and non-responsive. My hands stopped working. I got out of work and took a cab straight to the emergency room at Massachusetts General, on the advice of my GP. They immediately admitted me and took enough blood to make me pass out. At least I wasn’t in pain. The ER doctors’ first thought was cancer. Which at 31 (and I suppose, at any other age) and otherwise healthy is a sudden, terrifying thought. They tested for all the cancers. Nothing. They did a deep family history with me, and when the ER couldn’t find anything immediately, they assumed I was an addict trying to get a fix. I won’t lie – and I didn’t then – I have a history of addiction. At this time, I was nearly six years clean. I told them as much. I have no history of trying to ‘score’ at hospitals, and told them they could call my doctor, my psychiatrist, and/or my therapist, if that helped any. I would sign any forms they needed in order to get my history from any of my care team. They, thankfully, believed me, and moved on. I was admitted to the Neurology department would spend five days in physical therapy, be subjected to dozens of tests (including a spinal tap to test for MS, the results of which wouldn’t come back for over two weeks, and so many ‘reflex’ tests I had bruises up and down both of my legs for weeks), and wasn’t allowed to go outside for a cigarette. They kept me on a constant supply of Ativan to keep my nicotine cravings at bay. I slept a lot. I had visitors, but I didn’t realize it. I cried a lot, too.

At the end of the five days, I was sort-of-walking again (hobbling might be a more accurate term) and was sent home for bed rest. I got home to a beautiful, lavish bouquet from my bosses and coworkers, and strict instructions not to worry about coming back to work until I was ready. I was less than a month from moving nearly 1,000 miles to South Carolina. I wasn’t allowed to drive, carry anything, and could barely keep down food from the exhaustion. Still, I had no answers.

February will be four years since that happened, and I am still no closer to an answer. On top of the mobility and numbness and pain issues, I now have migraines/tension headaches on an almost daily basis (for a year now), my back will completely seize sometimes and I’ll be unable to move, barely able to breath. I have met and worked with some amazing doctors here in SC, but still, no answers. I have tried multiple diets (never with the intention to lose weight, I’m not allowed at roughly 100 lbs), multiple supplement regimes, physical therapy, chiropractic, massage, more sleep, less sleep… You name it, we’ve tried it. Nothing. My coworkers and bosses have been amazing, I’ve spent almost four years at my bar and never once have I had issue professionally because of my issues. I know how lucky I am.

It’s infuriating and sometimes scary and at times I’ve resigned myself to this as my future.

It’s not, though. Grinning and bearing it isn’t the only way! At the end of last year, I finally got a referral to a Rheumatologist and Endocrinologist (who, again, took a whole bunch of blood at first! I was a woozy mess the rest of the day!). This team of doctors are actually willing to work me to find answers. He listened to me. We spent an hour going through my history. He acknowledged my pain. I could have cried in relief and happiness.

I don’t have answers yet, but I have more tests scheduled (I’m so tired of medical tests, but honestly I’ll sit through every single one of them ever if it’ll help!), and for the first time in years I have hope about this. I know that getting an answer won’t automatically fix anything – very few medical issues have a ‘magic pill’ – but at least armed with information, I can move forward.

When you focus too much on the ‘inevitable’, you can’t see all the ways you might change it. 2020 is the year I focus more on the possibilities, rather than any forgone conclusions.

№346; an excerpt.

I don’t often share my works in progress. I tend to write and write and write until it’s time to edit and edit and edit. But in my quest to finish this damned manuscript, I’ve started re-reading it and trying to plan out the rest of the story. I’ve been writing it for literally years. I am done making excuses. So, here I am, with a short excerpt (mostly unedited, my apologies) in a most-likely-vain hope to motivate myself.

I will finish this manuscript in 2020. If I don’t, I will abandon it, because enough is enough either way.

He sent a small, thoughtful smile my way and I asked, “I meant to ask, was anyone else joining us tonight? I mean.. I just...” I didn’t really know what I wanted to convey, but I felt awkward sitting alone with him. With the exception of walking me to my car, I had never been truly alone with him outside of the office. I was in a dress that hugged my minimal curves and slid just a little bit more above my knees than I was totally comfortable with - a dress that had made my husband give me bedroom eyes as I left our house - and to anyone else watching, we looked like we might be on an awkward first date. Well, anyone who hadn’t noticed my wedding ring, at least. Then again, maybe the waitress thought the wedding rings were his - that we were a husband and wife out for a night in the city, though she seemed to be familiar with Ari, so I doubt she thought he was married. Then I wondered, did he bring dates here? Had he brought Lila when they were an item? Out of nowhere a flash of concern and anxiety - might I call it jealousy? - flitted through my mind and across my vision I saw red. I shook my head to clear the treacherous thought and looked back to him, “I just mean, I hope I wasn’t intruding on you and Andrew, a guys’ night or something.” I smiled apologetically.

“Not at all, I asked Andrew if he’d like to come out so that he could get to know you better. He agrees with me by the way.”

I cocked my head, “Agrees with you? About what?”

“You play the political game well, and you’re exceedingly competent. You could have a real career in this.” Was that a compliment? From the most mercurial boss I’d ever had? I laughed and thanked him.

“I don’t know that I agree with you guys, though. I’m not in this for the politics. I just want to help, and Jack is so good, and he believes in the right things, and he deserves this. I think he’ll be a great Mayor - he’s already a great man.” He was watching me speak with some sort of tenderness in his eyes, his whole demeanor suddenly softer, somehow.

“That’s it - there. That’s what Andrew saw. He said you remind him of me when I was your age - still idealistic enough to believe this work matters, that it actually can help people. And you joined the campaign for the same reason I did. Coming back was not in my plans.”

Our drinks were set down on the small side table next to our sofa and I thanked the waitress, but his eyes didn’t leave my face. After taking a sip - oof, that was a strong Sidecar - I looked back to him and asked, my heart fluttering in nervousness for some reason I didn't want think too deeply on, “Are you glad you did?”

Something about the conversation had suddenly turned intimate, though I couldn’t pinpoint what. Maybe it was the way his walls seemed to have come down, maybe it was how he slid just a fraction closer to me on the leather, but when he spoke again, his voice was soft, barely above a whisper, and he said, “Yes. Very much so.”

№345; 2020? Let’s do this.

I don’t do resolutions, but I do make lists ✌️
• Drink more water.
• Watch more movies.
Read more books.
• Finish writing #FindingGraceWIP.
• Take more pictures.
Get a diagnosis (I’m heading into 5 years of this debilitating pain and mobility issues and I am so very ready for answers!)
• Vote for Elizabeth Warren for President (at least in the Primary!)
• Write more often here at TMStanton.com
• Spend more time with family.
• Take a break and breath deeply more often

🖤 Favorite moment of 2019?
Moving in with this weirdo
who has totally changed my life 🖤

№344; four seasons

Winter 2019

Spring 2019

Summer 2019

Fall 2019

№343; Boredom

Do you ever find yourself just plain bored? Lately, and I suppose it’s a symptom of my recent bout of depression (stupid bipolar disorder, be gone!), I have found myself constantly bored. Like, bored out of my ever-loving mind. Like, bored enough that I am going insane and don’t even care that I’m depressed! In that way, I’d guess it’s actually a good thing. I am so bored that ruminating on being bored has become my new, all-consuming pastime.

But I can’t just let that be, right? I mean, this is me we’re talking about. I am constantly moving, always working on something new, learning something new, making my life more interesting and doing what I can to do the same for my loved ones. I used to find such solace in channeling this energy into physical acts: volunteering, throwing parties, organizing everything. As my physical energy has calmed down coming into the winter months (me and cold weather simply do not work well together, even cold weather by South Carolina standards), I have found that I’m still mentally bored and restless but my body doesn’t want to keep up with anything that might alleviate that! So, what do I do, you ask? I’m glad you asked. I make lists. And I try my darnedest to check things off of those lists.

First of all, I went out and bought myself the most pathetic little 5lb. dumbbell to try and work through some my fatigue. Wait a minute – how does that make sense? Well, with fatigue (for me, at least) comes muscle fatigue and I’d like to work against the tide on that one if I can. (I am 35 years old these days and from what I’ve heard, it’s all working against the tide of time from here on out!). So now, when I’m home and bored and zoning out to Hulu at 11pm on a Wednesday, I use my pathetic little weight to try to strengthen my endurance!

I’ve also re-downloaded Duolingo (ugh, I have a years-long on-and-off relationship with that annoying-ass-little owl 🦉). I plan to brush up on my French and Spanish. Like I plan every winter, but hey, with this new boredom streak maybe this will actually be the year!

I have asked for more work at my day job. I have doubled the amount of free-labor I put into social media programs for local businesses (for the fun of it). I’ve considered getting a second job – something in a grocery store or at the mall – just because.

In general, I’ve started trying to focus on my intellectual and physical habits in my “free time” – I’m trying to stop picking at my nails (going so far as to put *gasp* clear polish on them as a deterrent). I’m putting more effort into the look I present professionally (which still involves a lot of hoodies, but better matched hoodies!).

I’m doing my best to drink more water everyday (based on my size and age, I should be getting 64oz a day, which is, like, a lot for a cola addict like me!). I’m considering driving myself even more insane by quitting smoking (shhhh! I haven’t decided yet! It’s hard!).

I still feeling that nagging, persistent voice though – You’re borrrred. You should be doing something productive. I know you’re tired but O. M. G. just pick a project, any project! It never stops. It beats down on you. I don’t have children, our apartment is immaculate at the moment because the second there’s something to clean, we clean it. I’ve rearranged like three times in the last month. My boyfriend, bless his heart, has been very supportive and helpful, especially with the heavy furniture. I create messes just to have something to clean up or organize. Our cats require very little attention!

What do you do when you find yourself beating your brain up against a wall like this? I’ve trying using the time exclusively to write and I find that my restlessness just gets in the way. I’ve spoken with fellow writers and a lot of the advice I’ve gotten is to simply be more gentle with myself, to give myself the free time, to relax.

It’s not in my nature, unless my nature is changing. It’s very much an odd feeling of being lost.

№342; Dragon Mode

Yesterday, I went through my Nanowrimo stats to try and get myself feeling better about my last month of writing. I noticed a few patterns and one day in particular stood out – my 14,000 word day. The day that saved my 50k goal and won the month for me. 14,000 words in one day seems insane when you just look at the numbers, but it’s actually not my biggest day for pure word count. In the Nanowrimo of 2006, I had a contest of sorts going with a fellow writer. Coming to the end of that November, I was way behind – I hadn’t even crack 20,000 words and I was being so badly that I called in to work for two personal days and spent both days doing nothing by cranking out words. I didn’t answer my phone, I didn’t watch TV, I barely left my bed. Come lunch time on day two (which was November 29th), I hit 50,000 words. In those two days, I had written 36,000 words total. I texted my friend and broke the news to him – I had beaten him and won the challenge. He took me out to lunch. My hands were crippled. I had to take the next two days off to have a long weekend to recuperate. I couldn’t type. I couldn’t cook (the microwave for the win!). But I had won.

I don’t think I’ll ever beat that marathon of word count, but one days like my 14,000 word day, I fall into the same patterns. We’ve come to call this “Dragon Mode” – I am unreachable, untouchable, completely lost in the screen in front of me. Pain doesn’t matter – I am a writer with pretty severe arthritis! – until I’m finished. I don’t hear anything said to me, I don’t feel feelings, I am just typing.

I’ve always had that mode, whether it was essay writing in college or reading entire books in one sitting as a child. But, I never knew it would be useful to me! I remember when I was little, keeping a flashlight under my pillow so that I could read through the entire night without my parents knowing I was still awake. They would go through the roof when they caught me! I had a bedtime for a reason! But my mom is a reader, too, and she understood in a way, so I would never truly get in trouble, but man, in the moment, whenever I was busted, I was sure the sky was falling and I was going to be grounded for life. But I just wanted to read my book! One more page, chapter, just let me finish it!

As an adult, I don’t have to worry about getting caught; I can read all night through and the only repercussions I face are my own in the morning when I’m clearing exhausted and need to get to work. I can do the same with writing, and I have. Give me a playlist, a word processor, and the time, and I can write like the wind. I love Dragon Mode and all the pains and successes that come with it. Do you have anything of the like in your life? Is there something you can do without interruption for hours on end? Can you hone your focus to a pinpoint and just not let up?