No Talking

There’s a popular philosophy that silence can equal strength. Saying nothing often says more than any words. But what about when you’ve been silenced involuntarily?

Like many people this month, I’ve found myself flattened by a cold. This is not rare or unusual except that at the exact same time the virus hit me, I experienced an allergic reaction to the massive amounts of Christmas tree debris that some of my neighbours left strewn about the elevators and hallways of our building as they took their dead trees to the garbage. Even though building staff seemed to be vacuuming continuously, we were finding needles in the rugs in our (tree-free) apartment.

I’m allergic to evergreens but the worst I usually get is itchy ears in the spring when the conifers pollinate. So when I woke one night unable to breathe, my throat swollen near closed from inflammation and likely a bit of anaphylaxis plus the typical cold-related mucus gluing it all together, I was terrified and really shaken.

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Ramalamamammogram

“So you just turned 40, I want you to go have a mammogram,” says my doctor at my annual physical just after my 40th birthday.

“That’s not necessary is it?” I scrunch up my face.

“What, it doesn’t hurt, don’t be a wimp,” she replies.

“Oh, you’ve had one?”

“Well, nooo…”

Fucking doctors. Who’s with me on the idea that every general practitioner should, during their medical training, have to experience every test they could potentially send a patient for? Not the actual mammogram with the scan, but everything up to that point, including the boob sandwich (male doctors too), as well as a colonoscopy, and a partial toenail removal.

“So how do you know it doesn’t hurt?”

She sighs. “I don’t, but you have a family history of breast cancer from your grandmother, so let’s be safe.”

I can’t honestly remember now if my grandmother had breast cancer or not. I think she did, but she had so many other cancers, along with pneumonia, diabetes, and tuberculosis at one point, that, sure, better to be safe than sorry. And it can’t be that bad, right?

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Middle of the Night Voice, or Why You Should Never Listen to Your Inner Voice

First, let’s be clear — your inner voice is an asshole.

Regardless of the time of day it may come to you, that nagging little voice that tells you that you’re too much or not enough; too fat, too ugly, too loud, too bossy, not good enough, not smart enough, not pretty enough… that voice is intended to fuck with your head. It is never ever there to help you, even though it will pretend to be.

Often the inner voice will come to you sounding like the actual voice of someone who has or does criticize you. Those voices are particularly difficult to free yourself from because they’re based on a relationship, usually toxic, and which you often feel is unfair or imbalanced or in which you’re not taken seriously. The inner voice’s job is to make you feel like crap about yourself, to doubt yourself, to question yourself to the point of failure.

Again, never forget, your inner voice is an asshole.

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Accidentally Zen — How I Hopped Off the Treadmill of Life

So, you know all those self-help articles about how to slow down your life, to step off the overwhelming, too-much-information treadmill that is the basic existence of the modern world? Specifically, the ones that tell you to turn off your phone after a certain time each evening, or to drink a glass of water every morning as soon as you get up? Or to delete your Facebook account?

What do you think would happen if you actually did all of that stuff? Would you be relieved and relaxed? Or frantic that you’re too disconnected from everyone?

While I’ve always been an introvert, for years I was able to exist as one of those introverts who could actually go out and be sociable. I needed a lot of downtime to balance the energy expended running a concert production company, complete with musicians crashed on my floor; and during my time as a local food writer I had to impose a strict limit of no more than three food-related events per week, just so I could get some actual writing done. And I had no problem giving speeches, introducing bands, or barging into restaurant kitchens to interview chefs.

Then, a few years ago, that all changed. A series of injuries and illnesses — none deathly serious, but all debilitating enough that I had to slow down and rethink how and why I was doing a lot of things — meant that I no longer spent a lot of time with large groups of people. It also meant that I had much less patience with other human beings doing generally stupid stuff. And that I experienced no actual necessity to do the stuff (like check my phone constantly) that most people consider part of their daily lives.

I suddenly had the time (and need) to meditate. There was no reason to take my phone to the bedroom overnight so I started it leaving to charge on my desk. I no longer needed a huge wardrobe or to put on make-up more than once a week or so. This psychological paring down had a greater effect; where I once enjoyed window shopping, I suddenly felt it a waste of time, since I didn’t really need or want anything anyway.

I had, quite by accident, starting living a life that many people seeking spiritual enlightenment, or a sense of quiet, would be envious of. Call it pared down, zen, or just basic bitch, I was living a very quiet, and very inward existence.

The only problem was, that sense of spiritual fulfillment that is supposed to come with this much mindfulness wasn’t really there. The more I turned inward, the more inward I turned, if that makes sense.

Oh, there was a smugness. Definitely a sense of being ever so pleased with myself at the idea that I didn’t need all the trappings of a wild shopping trip or the ego-boost of social media likes. But in some ways I was kidding myself.

The more I turned away from the world, the more I felt disconnected from it. Should I write a blog post? Oh, nobody will care. Should I make plans with some friends for dinner? Oh, they’ll be too busy… This train of thought comes from a massive lack of self-esteem due to childhood trauma that I usually hide reasonably well. And of course, the disconnection was mostly on me — I was the one crawling into my shell and hiding away.

But have I truly found some sense of enlightenment (peace, calm, what ever you want to call it) in this withdrawal from society? I’m usually pretty happy as an introvert. I am more comfortable alone than with most other people (husband and dog excepted). I enjoy the more basic life that I now live. But if I’m doing all the things I’m supposed to do to be more at peace, why doesn’t it feel that way? Or am I actually deliriously happy and just don’t realize it? Is there more to this zen thing than meets the eye?

Hug the Dog, Plus Other Thoughts on Seasonal Affective Disorder

I’m sitting in front of the HappyLight waiting for the giddy to kick in. Okay, it’s not exactly a feeling of giddiness and there’s not a switch that gets flipped to take you from obviously sad to blatantly happy, but after the fact, after I’ve sat here for 30 or 40 minutes with this light shining in my eyes, there can be a sense of mild euphoria that is both disconcerting and pleasing after feeling so dark.

To keep a sense of balance, I really need to sit with this thing every day. Skipping a day ultimately results in a funk. It’s not addictive, but I miss it when it’s not there.

The SAD has been worse for me this year than I can ever remember and it’s only the beginning of February. It was late in coming; early January instead of November, and I thought briefly that this might be one of those years when I escaped its clutches. Maybe I got enough Vitamin D from being out in the sun all summer — there have been years where that actually did happen. But it hit like a truck during the first week of January when both Greg and I came down with that terrible flu that has been going around. My case was surprisingly mild (a rarity for a person who gets colds that leave her with 10-week bouts of laryngitis), but it was bad enough that I felt like crap long after the fever and the coughing had stopped.

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I’m An Adult Now – Steam Cleaners

dog_carpet

One of the important parts of adulting is knowing the how, when and why of keeping things clean. When I recently posted to Facebook about steam cleaning my sofa I got an incredulous reply from a friend exclaiming that they didn’t even know you could do such a thing, and please would I explain how.

So let’s start with the fact that all fabric things around your house get dirty. Or at least dusty. Here at House O’ Fits, things such as curtains, throw cushion covers, table runners and bed spreads get laundered on a quarterly basis. I use the change of season (solstices and equinoxes) as my calendar guide. Linens that are more delicate or harder to dry, especially if they don’t come in direct contact with skin/hair or pets (things such as pillows, feather duvets and feather or wool mattress pads) generally get washed annually. (Yes, I said washed… I totally wash my feather linens and put them in a dryer – they turn out fine.)

But what about carpets, rugs or fabric-covered furniture?

Dudes, these should also be cleaned. Not constantly, but at least somewhat regularly.

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A Little Squirt of Crazy

nasal sprayTo begin, an apology to anyone with an anxiety-related mental illness. I have no intention of implying that anyone with an anxiety disorder is “crazy” (which is considered an inappropriate usage) but really, crazy is the only reasonable term I can come up with to describe what I recently experienced. It was a really brief glimpse at what it might feel like to suffer from anxiety/panic attacks and to experience what people with mental illness must face when dealing with the medical system, but I don’t purport to speak for anybody else, to define anxiety-related mental illness, or to present myself as an expert in any way. Rather I want to share my experience of a very specific situation that was one of the most terrifying events of my life.

Early in February of 2015, I came down with a cold. It moved though fast and I was feeling remarkably better after only a few days. Then the second wave (or a second cold) hit. This time it was bad and I started taking a pile of cold medicines to try and make life a bit less miserable. Specifically I was taking one of those daytime/nighttime cold pills and making regular use (but still following the usage directions on the package) of a generic store-brand nasal decongestant spray.

I had started out with pills that included pseudoephedrine, and those worked reasonably okay. When they ran out I turned to another, similar product that replaced the pseudoephedrine with phenylephrine. For those not in the know, or who missed the early seasons of Breaking Bad, pseudoephedrine, despite its efficacy, is being phased out of cold medications because it is regularly used as an ingredient in the production of meth. (As a cold medicine it tends to make people fairly stoned, but it also works decently well at its intended purpose.) Phenylephrine, the drug now being used instead, does a pretty crap job of actually decongesting anything, which means that in all likelihood, more people will do what I did and will use  decongestant spray on top of that.

The problem with those decongestant sprays is that you can only use them for 3 to 5 days or you risk a rebound effect (it takes more of the medication to work, and it doesn’t last as long); addiction to this product is pretty rampant. So after 5 days (specifically, February 15th) I stopped using the spray.

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Lucky Dip – January 2, 2014

Yes, I’m trying this again. Shut up and enjoy the links.

octopus

I’m a little disappointed that I didn’t get this for Christmas, but I’m sure it was just an oversight. Hubby’s probably just saving up for it. Or trying to figure out where, at 4ft across, we’d put it. This one-of-a-kind piece by Mason Creations is sold, but there’s always next year.

vincentprice

If you didn’t already think Vincent Price was awesome, here’s another reason – he wrote a book about his dog! Illustrated by Hirshfield, of course.Via Dangerous Minds.

yearbook Olde Tyme high school yearbooks, just as boring as current ones, except for all that hair! Via Twisted Sifter

smashscale

Ditch that whole idea of standing on your bathroom scale and feeling bad about yourself this new year. Instead – get all “Office Space” on that tyrannical appliance and savour the freedom behind the idea that numbers are meaningless. Via The Militant Baker

martinet

Steampunk? We’ve got your steampunk right here, Buddy. The beautiful nature sculptures of Edouard Martinet, made from spare parts.  Via Dangerous Minds

Perfum(ing) 2

perfume gas mask

If you watched CBC’s The National last night you might have caught my 15 seconds of fame as I was interviewed for a piece about perfume and perfume allergies.

Unfortunately due to a miscommunication on the specific topic and my own failure to research the correct issue, very little of what I said in the interview was used, and what did get used was out of context.

When the producer originally contacted me, I was told the piece was about a new law in the European Union that would force perfume companies to list the ingredients on the labels. In fact, the piece was about a move by the EU to ban certain (natural) ingredients that have been in perfume for decades and are thought to be the cause of an increased number of allergic reactions to perfume products.

So when Aaron Saltzman asked me if I though the ban was a good idea, and I near-shouted “Absolutely!”, I was wrong.

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Let Them Eat Cake – On Women and Their Relationships with Food and Body Image

cake

Dear women of the Western world, please have some cake. That’s right, get up right now, and go get yourself something frosted and gooey and decorated to within an inch of its life. I implore you to treat yourself, just because it’s a crappy, cold, grey Monday.

However, if you go have cake, there are rules. First, no hiding the cake. No sneaking it back to your desk, or hiding in a closet while you devour it. Eat that baby out in the open, and to hell with what anyone else thinks! Second, you must eat the cake and then forget about it. No making yourself feel guilty, no calculating how many extra crunches you need to do to work it off. Third, no remorse, after the fact, when a skinny girl walks past you on the street, and you start thinking about how much closer you’d be to that “ideal” figure if only you’d not eaten that stupid delicious bit of pastry and frosting.

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