Saturday, May 28, 2011

Facedown in a bowl of Udon

I need everyone to BOOOOOOO very loudly and resoundingly with me right now.  Ready?  Go!


Thank you.  I appreciate your support.  We are booing the return of Fatigue, yes, with a capital "F".

I had such a good month.  Four weeks of normal living.  It was swell.  Trouble started last weekend.

I was experiencing a regularly scheduled hormonal event, which normally isn't that much of a big deal, but two or three times a year it totally kicks my ass.  The pain is fierce, and I can't take anything for it.  I grit my teeth and tough it out, because there aren't any other options.

By the afternoon I thought I was past the worst of it, so I set out to meet a friend for dinner and a movie downtown.  I had been looking forward all week to my favourite Japanese restaurant and a movie that's been on my To See list since I heard it was coming out.  I arrived at the restaurant feeling a little overheated, but otherwise alright.  I ordered a Mike's Hard Lemonade, thinking that alcohol would be a helpful painkiller.

I don't know exactly what happened, but after a few sips of the cooler and one bite of Nabeyaki Udon, I started to feel faint.  I put my head down until the moment passed.  I was determined to soldier on, to enjoy my dinner and the movie and my friend, but I just couldn't manage it.  Eventually my friend convinced me to go home.  Ken zoomed downtown in the car to pick me up.  I spent the rest of the evening on the couch, totally zonked out and feverish.

I would have loved to stay home from work the next day, but my assistant manager had the day off and on top of that I had an important meeting scheduled, so I went in to work and pushed through the day.  I did so well that I kept pushing through for a few more days, even though every morning it was harder to get out of bed, and every evening all I wanted to do was park myself in front of the TV and let my eyes go unfocused.

Let me tell you, if The Secret philosophy were valid (i.e. if you believe it hard enough it'll come true!), I would be the peppiest, most productive woman in Toronto.  Yes, there is some truth to positive thinking, for sure, but boy is it ever not the whole story.  My strong belief that one more good night's sleep and some fresh air would get me back to normal did not do the trick, no matter how desperately I clung to it all week.

Eventually I gave in and took Friday off work, although instead of staying at home and resting like I intended to, I let Ken talk me into going out for lunch, which was followed by a little walk, which turned into a longer walk, with shopping, and everyone knows I can't resist shopping.  In the end we stayed out all day and for dinner.  On Friday evening I got home and realized that, despite having had a good time, I'd run myself down further.  Reluctantly, I got on the phone and cancelled my Saturday plans.  (I was supposed to meet my mom.  Fortunately she was understanding, although I did feel guilty for letting her down.)

So, this is going to be a stay-at-home, layabout weekend.  My assistant manager is off all next week, so I have to get myself as rested and ready as possible so that I can show up and be functional.  I do not like the way my body is feeling, with the overall heaviness and persistent tenderness in some of my joints.  It's not so bad that I can't distract myself from it, but that's dangerous because the more I ignore it, the worse it gets.  I am praying that this bout of symptoms does not stick around for long.  To do my part, I'm going to have to cut back on everything again.  Dammit!

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

The MeetUp Group

Every once in a while I get an itch that can only be scratched by going out and trying something new and social.  In the past I've signed up for courses, but right now I don't feel like making that much of a commitment.  I want to go out when I want to go out, rather than knowing that I have to be somewhere every Thursday from 7:00 pm until 9:30 pm, even if it's pouring rain and I'm tired and grumpy.

I found the perfect solution at  There are plenty of groups that allow you to drop in for one session without making any further commitment.  Plus it's dirt cheap - the moderator of the group I attended only charged $5 per person to cover the cost of reserving the meeting space.  There are all types of groups: book clubs, hiking groups, singles groups, etc.  I selected one that listed its focus as "discussion of current events and other items of interest". 

It was definitely an interesting evening, although not always because of the discussion content.  What fascinated me was watching the group dynamics of a bunch of strangers in a room together discussing "hot" topics.  Different people had very different comfort levels with speaking their minds.  I figured that I may as well open my mouth and disagree with people because that's what we'd all paid five bucks for, right?  The chance to engage in challenging discussions.  If I'd wanted to sit around and make nice I would have joined an origami group.

There was a huge range of opinions represented among the two dozen attendees.  There were a couple of young bucks in suits, several people who claimed to be professional psychics, some extremely grouchy left-wingers ranting about the new Conservative majority in our federal government, a fellow who reminded me of Dustin Hoffman in Rain Man, and many more.  We broke off into smaller groups, organized around suggested topics of discussion.

One guy wanted to discuss "Touch, sexuality, and love".  No one went to sit at his table.  He waited there like a leper for ten minutes or so, and then gave up and joined another group.  I felt a little sorry for him, but it was too creepy a topic to take up with someone you don't know and trust.

The first group I joined was supposed to be on the topic "Is our society based on lies."  I figured that could just be an easy and resounding YES! and then we could move on, but I was interested to hear about what lies were most troubling to my comrades.  A very friendly and bubbly woman that I'd been sitting next to all along immediately launched into "All religion is a lie!  Believing in God is stupid!" and so on.

Having seen that issue from both sides, I felt the need to challenge her.  I asked if she meant the King James Bible God was a lie, or if any and all conceptualizations of God were a lie.  "All of them!"  Well, there you go.  The discussion did move along, with one man at the table arguing for the existence of a Divine Something and most of the group sitting with their mouths firmly shut.  I challenged her on the notion that all religion is purely Bad, which to me is clearly an oversimplification, but we didn't get far from her original pronouncements.

(I have to say that the woman who was airing her views on the stupidity of all religion seemed like she would be perfectly good company if we were not deliberately discussing inflammatory topics. On the offchance that she should stumble across this blog, I would like to state that she was not at all aggressive, just enthusiastic, and I think we could have gotten along just fine given enough time, or a less inflammatory topic of discussion.  I'm sure that some of my lifelong friends may have similar opinions, and that's okay, because friendship is not based on agreeing about everything.  If that were the case most of us would have very few friends.)

The biggest problem with the evening was that people seemed to know how to trumpet their own views very confidently, and I suppose there was some amount of discussion going on in the form of arguments, but I didn't hear a lot of people asking questions.  There were a lot more pronouncements being made than explorations going on.  It's hard to learn something in a group where everyone thinks they already know everything.  Still, I'm glad I went.  It was definitely a stimulating experience.

Would you attend a group like this, given the opportunity?

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Cheerful Against All Odds

Don't hate me for saying this, but I'm loving the endless rain.  I love the lush greenery and the abundance of cheerleader pom-pom dandelions.  I love watching big, squishy worms ooze along the sidewalk.  I love falling asleep to the sounds of drips, drops, and puddles. 

I'm feeling optimistic, a propos of nothing.  I just feel good.  Even though I may need to fire another employee, *sigh*.  These things happen, and I refuse to get caught up in the drama of it as I did last time.  I recognized, after weeks of being in the doldrums, that I had identified with the employee because recently the future of  my job had been slightly called into question.  I was thinking of how sad I would be if I lost my job.  Then I got confused about the fact that I hadn't and probably won't for at least a while yet and I think that at some level I thought I was her.  Once I figured out what I was doing, I snapped out of it.  I promise not to do it again.

I feel good even after the fiasco on the bus.  I was running for a bus that had already pulled away from the curb but was stopped at a red light with the doors open.  I was moving fast so it felt natural to execute a graceful, gazelle-like leap up into the bus.  It was all very Chariots of Fire until my trailing foot failed to clear the doorsill and I went down like a sack of bricks.  I was carrying two bags, a full-sized umbrella, and trailing a coat-belt and a long scarf, so it must have looked like a full closet collapsed onto the floor. 

From where I had fallen, I looked up into the terrified face of the driver.  I could see the whites all around his eyes.  I'm sure he was like "Oh shit, I didn't follow safety protocol and now I'm going to get sued and fired and probably thrown into a swamp of rabid alligators!"  Technically he shouldn't have had his doors open once he was away from the curb - the extra height between the road and the bus floor was what did me in.  Of course also I shouldn't have been jumping for it like an idiot.  I am willing to take full responsibility for my goof.

He asked me if I was OK, and I assured him that I was fine and moved to the back of the bus.  We waited there for five minutes or so.  Apparently I fell so hard that I broke the bus, because shortly after that there was announcement that we were all to offload and wait for the next bus due to mechanical problems.  Gee, good thing I near to killed myself running for it!  Anyway, later on my knees turned purple and swole up good, but it didn't hurt much, and I got the ground-in stains out of my trousers with one wash.

I did feel sorry for myself for the rest of the evening, but I got over it, and I'm all good now. 

Friday, May 13, 2011

Look Deep Into My Eyes

What is it with optometrists?  I don't ordinarily make unflattering generalizations, but ever since I was a teenager, I've had issues with eye doctors.  We all know that looking deeply into someone's eyes creates a bond of intimacy.  I suppose if you take that one step further, peering through a high-powered magnifying lens straight into the depths of a woman's retina can cause all sorts of trouble.

When I was in high school, my optometrist's name was Dr. Gross.  I'm not making that one up.  His real name was Dr. Gross, and he was always too happy to see me.  He always greeted me with a full-bellied hug.  It was like being smothered by a king-sized mattress.

I left Dr. Gross for the optometrist I still see.  Let's call him Dr. C.  20-ish years ago he was young, handsome, and he impressed me with the thoroughness of his practice.  Initially he was 100% professional.  Over the years, however, his standards slipped a little.

The first thing that gave me pause was a moment when I was in the examining chair and he was adjusting a setting on a mechanical thing full of sample lenses.  "Shall I take my glasses off?" I asked.

"Yeah baby," he said.  "Take it all off."

Then he apologized.  Said he'd had a long day.  Sure, whatever.   No harm done.  It was just a joke.

However, as the years passed, he became gradually more sleazy.  He knows exactly how much he can get away with, and he never crosses the line.  He's careful.  But he's made sure that I know I am his type.  There is always a complimentary remark about my appearance.  There is always a hand on my back or an arm around my shoulders as he leads me to or from his room.  Well, I need assistance, you know, so blind am I without my glasses on.  It's the perfect excuse.

Then there's the gazing.  You know what I'm talking about.  I call it "googly eyes".  It's not lecherous leering.  I wouldn't put up with that.  It's more of a smitten, wistful stare.  He quits as soon as I look over at him, but I know what he's up to.

The second thing out of his mouth each time I see him, after "How are you doing?" is always "So how's married life?"  I can tell he's always hoping to hear that my marriage fell apart.

Why haven't I switched to a new optometrist?  Well, he does take very good care of my eyes.  Every once in a while he waives the fee on a follow-up visit.  Hope springs eternal and I think he wants to stay on my good side.  The location of the office is convenient.  And I really can't be bothered to go shopping for a new optometrist.  I have enough other things to do with my time.

So, for now, Dr. C gets to look into my eyes to his heart's content.  How he finds this attractive, as I tear and squint through the horrible dilating eye drops, is beyond me, but I guess it takes all types.  Maybe that's why he became an optometrist: a fetish for nasty, veiny eyeballs.   Blech.  He's not a bad guy, but he shouldn't hold his breath for me.

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

The Funky Ooohs

I went to a strange event last week.  I believe it was simply called "choir".  The MC half of the hosting team kept saying "Thanks everyone for coming out to choir!" 

My sister signed me up for this group on Facebook, and soon I received an invitation to take part at a venue called Double Trouble in Kensington Market.  I always enjoy singalongs.  Singing is fun, however my singing voice is only passable to mildly good, depending on how much I've practiced recently (usually not at all, because I don't want my neighbours to hate me).  If I'm singing in a group, so long as I'm in tune and on time, the sonic quality of my voice is not important.  I tra-la-la quietly away under the radar.  I can be nasal, weak, and otherwise displeasing, without worry.  The good singers (and there are plenty of them at this event) belt it out and drown my voice completely.  Maybe eventually I'll practice a little and then we'll see.

The date for the event arrived.  My sister couldn't attend, so I was on my own.  I located the address which I had carefully Googled ahead of time.  The storefront was a Portuguese Bakery.  I checked my paper again.  Nope, that was definitely it.  No sign of Double Trouble.  ???

Fortunately just then I noticed a gate to a narrow alley down the side of the store.  A black, metal, unmarked door was open and people were milling in and out.  People who looked like they just might be there to sing.

I climbed a creaky set of wooden stairs up to a room over the bakery.  It was crammed with artsy-nerd types, mostly grouped into tight cliques talking excitedly at each other.  The din was incredible.  I picked up a set of lyrics sheets from the front and then stationed myself by an empty section of wall.

A woman around my age was nearby, also unengaged in conversation.  I introduced myself and we got acquainted.  It was also her first time there.  I was all proud of myself for making a new friend.  Ten minutes later my new friend said "Are they going to start soon?  I'm not sure if I'm going to stay."  Five minutes after that (by which time it was 20 minutes after the supposed start time) my new friend decided to leave.  She was not enthused about the crowds and the disorganization.

Then I was friendless.  Each clique around me resolutely kept a wall of shoulders facing out.  This is typical Torontonian behaviour.  If you don't get in at the ground floor when new social connections are made, the cliques solidify quickly and you can rarely wedge yourself in.  It makes me kind of sad, but at least I've seen it often enough to know not to take it personally.

I'd come all the way from North York for the event, so I wasn't about to give up and leave.  After waiting another fifteen minutes, standing awkwardly in the steadily increasing storm of conversation, the hosts, one MC guy and one mainly musical guy, got everyone's attention and we got started.

What it boiled down to was we took two popular songs, broke each one down into four-part harmony, and sang them as a choir.  It was pretty cool.  The mainly musical guy plays guitar and sings extremely well.  The MC guy went around making sure that each group knew their part of the harmony.  I think we could have used a little more specific direction at times, however for two guys running a free event and trying to corral the attention of 50+ excited attendees, they did very, very well.

I'll be going back soon.  Maybe when I'm there with my sister I'll meet some more new people.  She's the extrovert of the family, my happy, shining, smiling sister. 

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Worm Hopping

First I need to make an announcement:  I am well!  I have been back to my normal for a while now, but didn't want to jinx it by making premature pronouncements.  I feel rested after 8 hours of sleep!  I've been making plans!   With friends!  And making plans to make new friends!  It's fantastic!

No big surprise: the gloom I was feeling is also drifting away, like fog in bright sunshine.

Bright sunshine has been in short supply weatherwise.  I'm not sure how it's been for folks elsewhere on the continent, but Toronto has seen a ridiculous amount of rain. 

You know what time it is when the rain starts pouring down.  It's time for WORM HOPPING!  Those of us who are soft-hearted (and possibly soft-headed) walk slowly when it rains, scanning the sidewalk ahead with urgent concentration.  We are looking out for our helpless friends, the worms.  Here are some tips to make your worm avoidance techniques more effective.
  1. A live worm's body will be oriented in a more-or-less straight line.  When a worm is cruising, he will point himself towards his destination, and go for it.  Flies buzz around aimlessly, landing here, then there, then going back to where they started from.  Worms are much more purposeful.  Worms have goals, and they achieve them.
  2. A curled-up worm is most likely a dead or dying worm.  The poor little things crumple in their final agony of suffering.  If you spot a curled-up worm feel free to step on it - if you don't mind getting worm-goo smushed onto the sole of your shoe.  If you don't care about being gross, go for it.
  3. Convenient though it may be to bring your waterproof shopping buggy out in the rain, it will be much more difficult to avoid all the worms when you are trying to keep track of both your feet AND two wheels.  I will not address this message to those who ride bicycles, because it's illegal to ride on the sidewalk in Toronto, so goodness knows you will NOT be up there running over worms, will you now?  And women pushing infants in strollers, well, new moms have enough to worry about without worrying about worms.  Which brings me to my next point.
  4. If you do step on a worm by accident, don't feel too bad.  There are lots more worms where that one came from.  Why do I even try to avoid them?  It's irrational.  But then again, so are keeping pets, giving birthday gifts, and writing blog posts.  Some of the best things in life are irrational.  Like me.  I rest my case.