Too much pressure! AAUGH.

I’ve been musing on the issue of blame lately. Not too long ago, someone accused me of blaming others for my problems. I really don’t think I do that. But if you think about it, it’s not so illogical. Like, “Hey, you just totalled my car! What the heck?!” Well, whose fault is that? Not mine. But the whole issue, I guess, of blaming others is that you should take personal responsibility for fixing your own problems. Like, yeah, someone else totalled my car (hypothetically), but I’ve got to get Carlene to the junkyard (curse the thought!), call the insurance company, etc. But still, though, as for the blame, I’d blame the person at fault! [Shrug.]

I think it’s more of an issue with childhood wounds and lifelong issues, and that sort of thing. I was talking to Sonya of deep things–issues, and trauma–and I told her how someone had accused me of blaming others, such as my mom. (I’d made a glib comment to this other person along the lines of, “If you knew my mother, you’d understand.”) So Sonya asked, “Well, do you blame your mom?”

And my answer was, no, I don’t. She’s a loving person whose personality became rather warped in hard-to-diagnose ways due to a horrific childhood. She was a terrible mother to me, but she doesn’t stand by those things, and she has deep regret. It’s palpable almost every time I talk to her.

Now, on the other hand, if my mom was a diehard abuser who stood by her abusive acts and spoke like she’d do it all over again, then I believe I would blame her. So I’m not sure if it’s particularly virtuous of me that I don’t blame her for my problems, or if it’s situational. It’s similar with my dad. They’re both filled with guilt and remorse and the strong desire for do-overs. So I believe it would be pointless of me to blame them for much.

But what came out when I was replying to Sonya is that I’ve been way too hard on myself lately. Like just above and beyond. I wrote to her about how I expect myself to “get over it [the child abuse issues] already,” and how mad at myself I am that I’m not at that point.

(Actually, I might be at that point. It’s sort of hard to tell. Go figure. What does healing look like, anyway?)

But, anyway, I’ve been hard on myself in other ways, too. You all saw how undone I came when my shin splints grounded my exercise efforts. And thank you all for the support! You all are the best!

My omniscient inner voice is saying, it’s a sports injury, Meg, so why are you blaming yourself?! You can’t use the treadmill without aggravating the injury! But it’s not your friggalutin’ fault! Blame the sports-injury fairy, why don’t you? 

(Bad fairy.)

And then I’ve also been too hard on myself in a third way, but I can’t quite recall what it is now… Hmm… my memory’s so shot! I think it’s the psych meds. Heck, I hope it’s the psych meds.

Hmm… what’s the third way I’ve been hard on myself? Well, I recently put pressure on myself to go down on Seroquel (with the goal of weight loss), and I kept trying and trying to sleep soundly through the night on less Seroquel (200 mg instead of 300 mg) with supplements, and I wound up just coming undone. Um. [I’m shaking my head at myself right now.] It was fine to try, but to keep trying, at the expense of my own sanity? I should’ve given up after two or three nights, tops.

Maybe this isn’t about blaming myself. Or it is, but the other issue is that I just put undue pressure on myself because I’m so freakin’ stubborn, and when things go wrong, I blame myself for it, albeit irrationally. I know logically that it’s the right thing to let my shins heal from the overexertion, and I also know logically that it’s not my fault that I need 300 mg of Seroquel to sleep soundly–it’s the whole reason I started taking it in the first place. But I put pressure on myself to change things that are out of my hands.

Why? Why am I beating up on myself and putting pressure on myself like this? Hmm… it just seems ridic. I’m usually nicer to myself and more aware of my human limitations, but lately, I swear, my psyche feels fractured. I have this awful feeling that I’m not living up to expectations. (Whose expectations, Meg?) (No clue.)

Huh. Well, a lot’s been going on, and I feel stressed. Today I’m like a zombie. I’ve been overdoing it on the treadmill, and I’m afraid I can’t handle the exertion. I’m toying with changing the goal to forty minutes twice a day instead of fifty. I could do something like that. My dad says I should just go once a day, and I was like, “Yeah, I’d only lose five pounds all year if I do that.” I’ve realized that for weight loss, especially with my appetite, I’ve got to get hardcore into exercising. But I’ll figure something out. There should be some moderation between not doing enough to make a difference and exhausting myself. Hmm….

So anyway, I’ve been putting insane pressure on myself. I should quit doing that!

Today’s advice column from Miss Manners was priceless:

DEAR MISS MANNERS: I attended a meeting at work where a co-worker had a very embarrassing moment. I thought her recovery was remarkable, so I wrote an email about the incident to a friend:

“Melissa farted during the presentation to the exec committee. Yikes! And of course this would happen in front of the whole team in the first-floor conference room. She stood up, introduced herself, and let one rip. Of all the things!! NEVERTHELESS, SHE PERSISTED. Instead of dying of embarrassment, she said, ‘Oh, wow. Excuse me! I wanted to finish with a bang, not start with one.’ Everybody laughed! She and Mark were able to get through it all with no other, ahem, ‘hiccups.’ Mr. Hartley said the presentation was terrific and thanked her for a ‘memorable morning.’ Maybe it was good luck!”

I sent this email to the wrong person, who then tweeted it out for laughs. I didn’t mention her last name or the name of the company. Should I tell my co-worker what happened, or just hope she never hears about it?

GENTLE READER: To what end? To show that you are repentant and will never do it again? Look up. That boat has drifted.

Miss Manners hardly sees any purpose in going out of your way to point out the tweet to Melissa now. If she does find out, you may say that you are sorry and meant the summary to be flattering. To further soften the humiliation, you can let her know that Miss Manners commends her on her graceful recovery — if not performance. (c) MISS MANNERS

I’m speechless. But I’ll give this a solid 5-stars for content alone. Big thumbs-up!

Out of commission.

There aren’t words for how discouraged I am.

The injury to my shins hasn’t gone away. I’m pretty sure it was caused by spending time on the treadmill in shoes that were too heavy. I only wore them the one day, but I’m still having calf pain. So I finally realized I have to rest for several days (or for however long) and let it heal.

I’m about to burst into tears. I can’t take several days off exercising! I’ll never go back! I’ll lose my momentum and give up. It’s like when I eat a cookie, and then I slide down the slippery slope straight to junk food. Seriously, I’m about to start ugly crying. I know myself. This is disaster.

I don’t feel any thinner. I feel fat and helpless. I’m going to spend the whole weekend gaining weight again. It’s what I do. Damn it!

Oh well.

Struggling but doing it!

I awoke with a dreadful headache and finally took some pain pills. I’m not sure if I’ll make it to the gym today. It’s becoming harder and harder to go, especially since I haven’t yet conquered the footwear issue. I think my second pair of new shoes (which will hopefully work better than the first) are coming on Monday.

I’m telling myself that it’s a job that I’m getting paid for, because my dad’s paying me $10 a week to keep it up. So there’s that. However, I’ve already spent way more than the $30 I’ll be due at the end of this third week, simply on footwear. AAUGH. But it is what it is. And we still have both parents promising me $200 if I can lose weight.

So I was thinking about it, and going to the gym twice a day is obviously exhausting. I never survive the first trip without promptly taking a nap upon getting home. I don’t think that’s a huge problem, but I’ve had to scramble to keep up with the housekeeping and other tasks. I’d say there are enough hours in the day, but my energy is affected by the treadmill workouts.

It’s almost 2:30 PM now, and I intend to go to the gym for the first time today in a few hours or so. Those headache pills really need to kick in first.

Oh! I forgot to mention two paragraphs ago that I was thinking about how long I expect myself to keep going to the gym twice a day. And the answer is: until the end of this calendar year. Since I’ve devoted the entire year to fitness, and I need to lose around forty pounds at least, then that works out. I’m thinking I might hopefully lose a pound a week, and counting the past three weeks during which I’ve been treadmilling, and the remaining 37 weeks of this year, that would equate to a loss of forty pounds, I’d seriously hope.

I mean, if I lose less than that, my reaction will depend on how much less. If all I lose is five pounds, I’ll give into despair. If I lose thirty+ pounds, I’ll be thrilled.

But yeah, it’s taking all my energy. Today I’m trying to clean the first floor, which is a disaster zone. It’s usually tidier, but I’ve been exhausted and haven’t tended to it in weeks. But golly. It’s taking a while. There’s an overflow of trash near the piano. It’s bad.

I’m conked, just from sleeping poorly. I think I suffer from both bruxism and sleep apnea. I’m trying to cure the latter by losing weight. As for the former, I hate wearing my mouth guard. It hits a gag reflex. I might buy some disposable ones and give them a try, but I don’t have high hopes.

But my guess about the poor sleeping is that I’m going to the gym too close to bedtime. I got home last night at midnight. I don’t think my body can come down from exercising that close to bed. I ought to set earlier-in-the-evening goals. It’s hard, but I’ll figure something out.

I know I’m exhausted, but this has to be the healthiest thing I’ve ever done. Surely my metabolism is being boosted by the constant cardio, and I should be in better cardiovascular health, and it might also be keeping my joints more limber. (One side effect of my meds is that my right knee keeps clinching up, and that’s led to longterm minor knee-pain issues.)

Ohh!! This just in! Ashley Leia gave my latest book a great review! YAY! She wrote:

In this second book in the Naughty Isle series, Chester Payne’s latest target for discipline is Bertie. Aside from the discipline, Bertie and Chester have a different kind of relationship than Alicia and Chester in the first book, and the reader gets to see the softer side of Chester. There are bits of innocence; “darn it all” makes a few appearances.

My favourite part is the raucous group of poker-playing dead grannies. That’s right, dead grannies.

Another fun read from Elm B. Magikl!

Woo hoo! Dead grannies! Thanks so much, Ashley Leia!! You the best!!

You all can buy the book here! If naughty kink is your thing, and/or you like poker-playing dead grannies, then you might enjoy it! YAY! They needn’t be read in order, but I agree with Ashley Leia that I’ve better developed the main character in volume 2. I like volume 2 the best so far.

Well, now I’m high on life. Well, higher. [Eyeroll.] YAY!

Oh, I’ve got to go. It’s time to walk the puppy dog. I hope everyone out there’s having a great day!

Jump in the pond!

Dear Annie: I’m a mom and have been married for nearly six years. But for the past few years, my husband and I have not been on the same path. We can’t communicate without fighting, bickering, arguing, etc. Our sex life has been nonexistent. And I have tried talking and suggesting that we do more things together. I have even tried losing weight because I thought maybe the problem was that I was no longer attractive. I tried everything that I could think of. And some days, I just lay in a different room, balled up and crying.

About a year ago, I started a new job and met a man with whom I clicked almost instantly. Eventually, this co-worker gave me his number and asked if I wanted to go fishing sometime. That night, I told my husband that another man had offered me his phone number and wanted to take me fishing. I hoped he would see that he needed to step up to the plate before something happened. Instead, he flipped out and started accusing me of trying to control him. He started throwing things around the house — something he does a lot when things don’t go his way, often leaving me with bruises and/or him with bruises due to my trying to defend myself. His tantrum that night was the final straw. I decided to take my new colleague up on the fishing trip.

We became close friends but never did anything physical. Then, one day, I found out my husband had been exchanging racy messages with women online. That’s when I decided to go ahead and give my body to this new friend. It was nice. It made me feel like a woman again, not like a jacket that’s sitting in the closet waiting to be worn.

We continued seeing each other and sleeping together for a few months. But last month, after a night out with him, I confessed everything to my husband. He was upset, of course, but in due time he came around and said he wanted to work things out. Well, that was three months ago, and my husband and I still haven’t been intimate. I see no signs of things changing between us. In fact, they’ve gotten more distant, and I’ve noticed he now uses a lock code on his phone and computer.

My lover, meanwhile, is waiting in the wings for me to make my decision. — Between a Rock and Hard Place

Dear Between: More than anything, I’m concerned about your husband’s physical aggression. No matter your differences, it is unacceptable for him to hurt you or even knowingly endanger you as he does when he hurls things around the house in a rage. But rather than further engage him right now, I encourage you to reach out to the National Domestic Violence Hotline at 1-800-799-7233 for guidance in planning your next steps. (c) Annie Lane @ Creators.com

Oh my. I think we should take a closer look as we pass by this train wreck.

That night, I told my husband that another man had offered me his phone number and wanted to take me fishing. I hoped he would see that he needed to step up to the plate before something happened.

No, no,  no, no, no. That’s not how relationships work.

His tantrum that night was the final straw. I decided to…

Oh good! She decided to leave him!

… take my new colleague up on the fishing trip.

Oh!

surprisecat1

Oh my. Okay. I didn’t see that coming. Sort of an unexpected plot twist. Um… wow.

We became close friends but never did anything physical.

So, it was like a platonic thing? Okay, I’m on board.

Then […] I found out my husband had been exchanging racy messages with women online.

Okay. I’m sure that was upsetting.

That’s when I decided to go ahead and give my body to this new friend. It was nice. It made me feel like a woman again, not like a jacket that’s sitting in the closet waiting to be worn.

Oh, dear God. You’ve got to be kidding.

So, apparently the letter writer sees her body as a commodity that should be appreciated and used. I have no words. Weirder, I got the sense that she didn’t have romantic feelings for her lover. So… she just wanted to feel sexytimes again? If you’re going to have an affair, you should at least do it with someone you’re in love with. It’s like indulging in chocolate cake if you hate chocolate. If you’re going to pack on the calories, you should eat something sweet that you love! Don’t waste it! (Yeah, I’m being a bit sarcastic.)

I confessed everything to my husband.

Couldn’t the letter writer have made someone up instead of dragging her coworker into this mess? She could’ve avoided the whole affair by simply pretending to have an affair. Ugh.

I see no signs of things changing between [my husband and me]. […] My lover, meanwhile, is waiting in the wings for me to make my decision.

This is tawdry and disturbing. Her lover ought to run screaming or, better yet, jump in the pond with the fishies.

But what’s really alarming is that Annie Lane saw the violence as her (Annie Lane’s) ticket out of having to give actual commentary on the situation. “Oh, he’s violent! Call the hotline.” I’m not saying I disapprove of the hotline. Not at all. I’m just saying that it made it too easy for Annie Lane to give advice. It would be like if someone wrote in about being suicidal and described their problems in great detail, and Annie Lane was just to say, “Oh, you’re suicidal! Call the crisis line,” without adding any insight or commentary into the specifics. [Facepalm.] She’s always taking these absurd shortcuts.

It gives her a way to pad her column by outlining the letter writer’s issues and then cutting to the chase with obvious advice. It’s advice-giving 101. What do you do if someone has a violent spouse? Show of hands! Yes, you in the back row. That’s right! You tell them to call the hotline! Score!

Head in Hands

The concept of advice giving has evolved, but Annie Lane is behind the curve. Here’s the rest of today’s column:

Dear Annie: April is National Alcohol Awareness Month. While I’ve seen some friends and family really helped by AA, for others, a different approach is needed. I hope you will print these recommendations in your column.

One is SMART Recovery (https://www.smartrecovery.org), which offers a network of resources and is not just focused on alcohol abuse but addiction in general. LifeRing Secular Recovery (https://lifering.org), like AA, is an abstinence-based anonymous organization that provides safe meeting spaces. Then there are also programs for people who have a nonsevere drinking problem but would like to cut back on their drinking or take a break: Moderation Management (https://moderation.org), CheckUp and Choices (checkupandchoices.com), and One Year No Beer (https://www.oneyearnobeer.com). Wherever people are, there are tools available.

So, yet again, we have one of her readers writing her column for her. “Wherever people are, there are tools available.” That reminds me of the episode of The Golden Girls where Rose’s coworker, a newscaster, said, “This is Jerry Kennedy saying, goodnight. And remember, wherever there’s news, I’ll be here.” [Groan.]

Again, I’m not opposed to alcoholism resources. I’m just appalled that Annie Lane is so incompetent at giving advice that she strains every day to find public service announcements written by her readers and/or letters asking for advice that’s so obvious that anyone could give it. A few days ago, a reader wrote a passionate PSA about checking your brake lights, which… I could be wrong about this, but my lights get checked every time I get an oil change. Isn’t that a common experience for almost every driver? You change or top up your oil, the mechanics check your lights and fluid levels.

Anyway, the reader’s PSA also included counting carpet tiles to help with the six feet of social distancing. I’m not making that up! Ohh, geez, Annie Lane’s just not that great of an advice columnist.

In limbo!

Not much going. I’m waiting for my brother to come back over here with more stuff in his rental truck that he wants to leave in our garage. He might also bring some expensive Italian furniture that got broken. He was sent a replacement, meaning that my dad and I can have the original with its broken glass if we want. I’m all over that! As a woodworker, I can replace the glass, but it wouldn’t be etched or engraved, or whatever.

I could clean the house while I wait, but I’m just tired. So I figured, why not blog?

I got a 1-star review on my naughty series, volume 1, on Goodreads. Instead of feeling disappointed, I’m actually worried that my naughty book might’ve upset the reader. Ugh. That’s the last thing I want. I’m consoling myself by reminding myself that I put content information all over the cover, the blurb, and even the title. So I shouldn’t blame myself! And with this genre, there are going to be massive disparities in whether people like it. It’s either going to score with someone or fall flat. In good news, the person doesn’t appeared to have left a text review. With 1-star, that’s always a good thing.

Actually, the funniest review I ever got was for one of my Advice Avengers books. Hold on and let me find it… this review cracks me up every time. Here it is! It wasn’t accompanied with a starred rating–just text. I’ll copy/paste it:

** Disclaimer: I won a copy of this book from the author via Goodreads Giveaways in exchange for providing my honest review. **

I didn’t get very far in this book, I’m sad to say, before I had to quit reading. I did like the character of Corey’s mom; she seemed very realistic. The issue I ran into was the subject on which it looked as if Corey and her group at school were going to be allowed to do a report/project. It’s possible if I skipped around, or just skipped ahead a certain ways, that I could get around that, but I don’t know and I just am personally too repulsed to try. I don’t think that giving the topic would be a spoiler and if you’re fine with it then you may like the book, so I’ll say that it’s…
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…The Donner Party.

I’m very squeamish about it myself, just one of those things for me, and had I known it was even mentioned in the book, I would not have entered the giveaway. My apologies in that regard.

HA H AH HA HA HA! Oh my. I mean, of course I’m upset that she didn’t enjoy the book, but… the huge to-do over the Donner party just cracks me up. I sort of get where she’s coming from, and I respect her feelings and opinion, so what I’m really saying here is that her review is hilariously written. Pregnant pause… scroll down… the Donner party. 

Quite honestly, it’s good that she quit reading because, uh, I got rather graphic with it later in the book. What was the joke I had in there? “I’d like a nice leg of lamb seasoned with some Rosemary. Hey, Rosemary, can you give me a hand.. and a leg?” [I’m shaking my head at myself right now. That’s deplorable. I think I might’ve deserved that poor review.]

I’ve been having treadmill problems with my feet. After some intense sole searching (pun most definitely intended), I realized that my left foot is bigger than my right, and that my left shoe was too small. I wrote a whole blog post about it and then deleted it, for some reason, before bed. But that was the problem. I’ve been using hiking shoes because I need extreme foot support or my whole skeletal system gets out of whack. I ordered new shoes a half-size up, same make and model.

The new shoes fit great, and the blistering problem on my soles is gone. However. Ugh. The new shoes, at a half-size higher, are heavier! And now I’m getting shin splints on the treadmill from having to lift my heavy shoes! I can’t win.

What to do? Ideally, I need a supportive shoe that’s lightweight, I’m thinking. So should I keep throwing money at the problem, or what? Skechers Shape-Ups used to work, but I’m not sure they’d be entirely safe on a treadmill. Also, they don’t offer ankle support, which they need, because they’re rather wonky. These are the shoes I’ve been wearing, and they have excellent support. I got both pairs, the 9.5s and the 10s, for around $60 a pair, lightly used. And now I’m tired of throwing money at the problem. Who knew the 10s would be so much heavier?! AAUGH!

*****

Okay, my brother came and is gone now. It was great to see him!

I ordered some new Skechers hiking shoes on eBay for $40, free shipping. I hate-hate-hate throwing money at a problem, but the new shoes have hiking soles without weighing a ton. No stiff leather uppers, basically.

Because the weird thing–the really, really, really weird thing–is that I like using the treadmill. To recap, I’ve been going 3.2 mph at a 4° uphill incline for fifty minutes each time, twice a day. I also dislike missing a workout. That makes me feel awful. Here’s why I like treadmilling:

  • It makes me feel accomplished! Go me, working toward my goals, and all that.
  • It’s the most I can do without risk of burnout, so I’m pushing myself to the max here, and doing it successfully!
  • I’m changing inner thoughts from, I can’t do this, to, heck, I am doing it. Look at me! Keep on truckin’! 
  • I enjoy listening to music again, and there’s no better time or reason than being on a treadmill to get some tunes playing. Occasionally, I’ll buy some new tunes from Amazon for around a dollar a tune. Nice! My little music player is wonderful.
  • I like being at the gym, and I have a sense of belonging, even though I never talk to anyone because I’ve got my headphones on. The staff are really nice and always wish me a good workout, and then they wave goodbye when I leave. I don’t even want my own treadmill–I like the gym experience with the TV screen and the community feeling, etc. I rarely feel that way! So, wow.
  • With the TV screen, I can see people walking behind me in the screen’s reflection. Almost no one ever looks at me as they pass! This is doing wonders for my paranoia. You have no idea. I discreetly watch every single person, and they almost never glance at me. This could help my energetic field to feel less polluted whenever someone’s behind me. (In school, I was always that kid who had to sit at the back of the classroom, or I’d be wallowing in self-consciousness of a painful magnitude.)

So now I’ve got to figure out how to survive the next three days until my newer new shoes arrive! I could keep the other new ones for non-treadmill use or sell them on eBay. Hmm… they’re nice shoes, so it might be wise to wear them when I’m not on the treadmill so that my new treadmill shoes don’t get worn out unduly. I could wear my original shoes and lather my feet with Vaseline to prevent blisters due to the shoes’ being too small.

I’m not happy with these options (and I’m not happy that I just had to spend another $40), but I can’t let myself miss three days’ worth of workouts. I’ll probably wear the smaller shoes, because shin splints could be a serious health issue that’s best avoided. It is what it is.

But yesterday, both workouts were pure hell. My feet were dragging–quite literally. It was tiresome to keep lifting my feet. According to the product page, the shoes weigh around 2.7 pounds. Goodness. The new ones I just ordered that haven’t come yet weigh around 2 pounds.

I hope everyone out there is having a great day!!

Oh, nice! This just in! I got another review, this one of 4-stars, with this comment: “Such a good short story. I was left wanting more🔥😉” YAY! Hey, I’ll take it! Thank you!! I shall deliver! Smokin’ hot, eh? (I might be getting a lot of reviews soon because my giveaway just ended!)

Spring cleaning!

So, I’m doing some spring cleaning today! I’m rearranging the furniture while cleaning, and the whole place is a mess. It’s taken a toll on me to be doing the treadmill twice a day! Tonight, I’m taking a break from it as my shower night, even though I don’t see myself having the energy to take a shower and keep moving the furniture. AAUGH!

My good friend Ashley Leia was blogging about the law of attraction, and I figured I’d share some thoughts about it. In a broad sense, it’s what we use to manifest our desires. In a more specific sense, it involves:

  • Stating the desire intently. “I need an apartment with such-and-such affordable rent, such-and-such features, and in such-and-such location.”
  • After you state it, you push it into the universe and then forget about it.
  • What I mean by “forget about it” is that you quit thinking about it, except for when you’re actively going apartment hunting (in-person, online, etc.). Then you think about it, sure.
  • Because when you send it to the universe, the universe gets to work doing aspects of manifestation that you can’t do: the universe will create synchronicities that guide you to the right place/person/item/etc.
  • That’s where the faith comes in. Yeah, sure, you can pound the pavement looking for a certain apartment (and you should), but only the universe can guide your feet.
  • You can manifest a vehicle, a relationship, a qualified contractor, an affordable item you need, etc., etc.

When I read about it as a teenager, it was referred to as a “substance request” in the book I read, and those were the steps you’d follow, as outlined above. Surprisingly, I got my mom interested in it, and she started doing substance requests, too. Go figure. She’s normally so critical!

Can the law of attraction work if you don’t send out the call for whatever you want? Yes. For one thing, the law of attraction is hardly common knowledge. And sometimes, in my belief, divine timing steps in even when you’re not actively looking for something. For some reason, this seems to be especially true for relationships.

I’ve used it to find: my car, my pets, my apartment when I lived in Georgia, my mother’s house when I was a teenager, and relationships. With relationships, I have this belief that I created friendships by writing my Advice Avengers series. Prior to writing it, I only ever had bad friends: the kind who didn’t care about me, and who gossipped about me maliciously, etc. After I wrote it–it’s all about family and friendship–I miraculously found similar friends of my own–you know, the good kind (shout-out!). I’m not sure how point A led to point B, but somehow, via a convoluted pathway, it did. I couldn’t be happier with all the wonderful friends I have now, after decades and decades of having crap friends. (I hate to describe people as crap friends, but… they were crap friends.) I seriously went through a long period of not believing worthwhile people existed. That’s how disastrous my relationship history is, up until I wrote my series about friendship.

Actually, I first started making new friends in 2015, and there was a huge learning curve. None of my original friends from then are still my friends. They’ve branched out to new friends who have been solidly in my life, but the original people I encountered had a lot of bad traits, just like everyone else I’d ever known, and I didn’t want to see it. However, I’m glad I stuck with it, because all of those failed friendships led to the friends I have today, and that’s priceless. I feel quite blessed in the friendship and relationship department.

I should get back to work if I’m going to keep moving furniture and take a shower. Sigh.

The best laid plans!

So… yesterday. My dad went to the zoo with two friends of his, a dating couple in their thirties, whom he knows from the local tavern that he frequents. I was in charge of the dogsitting, so they left their cockerdoodle puppy (or whatever the heck that furball was) with me so that I could arrange a playdate between him (his name’s Phoenix) and LuLu, my female Newfoundland.

Yeah. I’m sure you can see where this is headed.

The two dogs didn’t hit it off. Who’d’ve thunk it? LuLu took a perfectly innocent sniff, and Phoenix got mouthy with her. Before violence could erupt, I yelled, “It’s time for treats! Treats!” and I grabbed a handful of dry kibble and tossed it all over the floor.

The two dogs loved it! They raced here and there to get all the kibble.

Two minutes later, they were no longer friends again and were starting to get mouthy with each other. (And by this, I mean they were fake-biting each other in a way that seemed to be heading someplace dire.)

“Treats!” I yelled. “It’s time for treats.” And all was forgiven between them… for another blissful minute.

Let’s just say they were both extremely overfed by me.

I put Phoenix in my dad’s front office and secured the access by pulling over a small side table. Peace reigned supreme for a whole minute, right up until Phoenix leapt onto our cushy chair, and from there leapt onto the sofa, and then he was back in the living-room area. “Oh, Phoenix!” I squealed.

I went upstairs and asked LuLu to come with me. She was compliant, and this worked out because Phoenix wasn’t familiar with my stairs, so he remained in the living room. So LuLu and I had a certain amount of peace for several minutes, until…

“AROO-ROO-ROO!! AROO-ROO-ROO!” It sounded like an injured sea monster. I raced downstairs with LuLu hot on my heels. Phoenix had poo-pooed right in the middle of the living room floor.

“Oh, Phoenix!” I wailed. “Oh! You’re a puppy. You can’t help it. It’s okay.” I cleaned it up, but then the bickering continued, so I gave the dogs even more treats.

Then LuLu and I went back upstairs, but again, we were regaled by a sound sadder than I can readily articulate here, like the braying of a drunk, heartbroken donkey. Back downstairs we went. Again, the dogs couldn’t get along. Desperate, I went down to the basement and retrieved an old dog cage. Upstairs, I assembled it and put Phoenix inside. Phoenix was not pleased, so he started barking like a banshee who was on fire.

Feeling bad for him, I grabbed a strip of precooked, seasoned chicken from the fridge (I use it in my salads) and slid it through the bars for him. LuLu curled up on the sofa and posed no threat to Phoenix, so when Phoenix continued barking and barking like a canine maniac, I knew he was throwing a tantrum; but I was out of options and couldn’t let him out of the cage.

Instead, I went back down to the basement and got my noise-canceling headphones that I use when running my table saw, Blades of Glory. I put them on and worked on a creative project at my dad’s secondary desk. I could still hear that dog! Good grief. I had a stress meltdown of sorts where I felt like I’d be a terrible parent if I were to ever have kids. Being stressed, it felt as if my psyche was fractured into a million little pieces, which was an odd experience. I can’t handle stress, and that’s the nature of my disability.

So then, my dad and his two friends came home and came inside. Our house is a mess, I should add. I’m in charge of the cleaning, but since I’ve been killing it on the treadmill, I’ve had less energy for it; and we’re slobs, to be completely honest.

“He got sent to his cage,” I explained.

Dani asked why, and I was unable to articulate a response. My brain was fried. I muttered something about fighting and nipping and roughhousing, but mostly it was a struggle to send Dani and her boyfriend on their way so I could collapse and recover. It’s an interesting experience to be so stressed that you can only interact marginally because your brain’s shot to hell.

Dani asked me something like, “Did they bite?” or “Did they fight?” and I couldn’t tell what she asked. (I’m half-deaf, and stress makes my auditory processing issues act up, I’d wager.)

“Uh… yeah. No. Not really. I don’t know,” was the best answer I could give.

After they left, I came upstairs and took a nap. Ahh, sweet sleepytime bliss. I needed it!!

*****

In other news, I’ve still managed to use the treadmill twice a day (except on Wednesday and Sunday evenings, so I can take twice-weekly showers). Go me! Yeah, I’m super-impressed with myself.

Also, I made it to round 2 of the contest! And I’m supposed to be writing a story right now. AAUGH! Get some inspiration, Meg! Write for glory!

Eh, change your outlook.

TRIGGER: SUICIDE (discussed in the context of a tragic news story.)

Dear Annie: My ex and I got married when I was 19. We stayed together for 10 years, during which I was dealing with untreated depression. That did not make life easy for either of us. Eventually, he left, leaving me to care for the kids. He gave us some financial support but was not present in their lives.

Unfortunately, I did not give my kids the attention I know now they badly needed. I was preoccupied with my worry about being alone forever. I have tried to make up for this since, but my daughters still harbor a deep resentment for me. I have told them numerous times how much I regret my behavior and offered to hear all their sadness as a consequence of my actions without trying to defend myself. But they have both cut me out.

My son, the youngest, is still in my life and has reassured me that I was not a terrible mother. He also suffers from depression, and for years he abused drugs. I blame the fact that he had no father in the home for those important first years.

Even after all these years, I am still preoccupied with my time married to my ex. Random thoughts are always about him — what could have been — and I always feel on the verge of tears.

I’m about to turn 70. Is there a way to finally put this behind me? I’ve had much therapy over the years but still revert to the pain and sadness about the childhood I was unable to give my kids and the loss of my marriage. I think that if I go into therapy again, nothing will change. But should I try again? — Regretful Mom

Dear Regretful Mom: To the question of whether to try therapy again, my answer is always yes. In your case, especially so. You’ve been dealing with clinical depression since you were a teen. That black dog, as Winston Churchill called it, can’t just be shaken off. Therapy won’t wash away all your pain and regret, but it can help make your feelings more manageable and life more enjoyable.

Additionally, in light of your son’s drug abuse, you might benefit from a support group such as Nar-Anon (www.nar-anon.org), LifeRing Secular Recovery (www.lifering.org) or Families Anonymous (www.familiesanonymous.org). (c) Annie Lane @ Creators.com

Well, that is the lamest, most pitiful advice I’ve ever encountered.

By all means, she should keep going to therapy. I’m sure it’ll start helping her depression any day now.

Head in Hands

Um, is there some reason Annie Lane couldn’t recommend psychiatry? Why does it seem as if there’s a pejorative belief that depression isn’t a “real” mental illness? It’s like, just go to therapy and figure it out. Do you know how often people with other mental illnesses, such as schizophrenia or bipolar, get told to keep trying at therapy (in lieu of taking drugs)? NEVER! Because those mental illnesses are taken seriously and understood to be connected to brain chemistry.

But with depression, there’s this condescending outlook where it’s assumed that the depressed person has a bad attitude and just needs to try harder to get to the heart of it. [Eyeroll.]

But I’m giving Annie Lane too much credit. It probably didn’t cross her mind to recommend psychiatry. That would’ve required too much thought.

Depression can be every bit as debilitating as other mental illnesses. This bizarre belief that therapy can turn it around because depression’s just a negative mental outlook is offensive and untrue. It could be true in some cases, but I’d say it would be a small number of cases altogether, maybe 5% at most.

And here we have someone who’s been depressed for her whole freakin’ life, as Annie Lane pointed out, and yet she should just go back to therapy.

hows-that-working-for-you

And what’s up with all the support groups? Her son no longer uses drugs, and he’s the one kid who she has a great relationship with. Or do we want her to question how solid that one relationship is?! Geez.

But about depression. I watched an episode of 48 Hours Mystery once, and it was really upsetting. It was about a boy who was around eighteen years old, and he struggled with extreme depression and anxiety. A female friend of his convinced him to commit suicide. She was like that devil on his shoulder who pushed him over the edge. I think she’s doing hard time now, as she should be. Not cool.

But as horrific as that is, the other thing about the episode that really upset me was the treatment for depression that this young man was receiving. His doctors had him on a low-grade antidepressant like Celexa, or something, and it made a tiny, tiny dent in his depression; and everyone seemed to have the attitude of, great, he’ll be better in no time flat, as if it was up to him to overcome the remaining 95% of his depression. But you could tell from his vlogs that he was still miserable and barely hanging on.

Why do so many doctors refuse to take depression seriously to the point of only marginally medicating people who are suffering from severe symptoms? It’s loathsome. It would be similar to having extreme and severe anxiety and being given a prescription for an antihistamine.

And it’s hard for patients to speak up and say, “I need something stronger,” because the patient doesn’t want to seem like a whiner, nor does he want to acknowledge to the doctor how hard it’s gotten, nor does he realize how bad it’s gotten because his perception is grossly skewed. Doctors shouldn’t let patients fall through the cracks by treating severely depressed people with token prescriptions of Celexa.

This poor letter writer has all these critical inner thoughts, and to me it seems like it’s the mental illness(es) talking. But she doesn’t have enough objectivity to realize that, because those inner thoughts have always been her reality. And here Annie Lane had the opportunity to recommend psychiatry, and she totally dropped the ball.

Killing it! (Or: a very good day.)

That’s what I’m talking about! Heck yes. I went back to the gym this evening and burned 300 more calories at the treadmill. I got a second wind! Who knew that would happen? Go me!

It’s been a great day. I got an email stating that there would be no contest results until this time (midnight) tomorrow. That was a bitter disappointment, but it hardly compares to getting bad news in that regard.

Right after that disappointment, a perfectly timed distraction arose: Sonya sent me a photo of the health issue she’s been dealing with, and I freaked out. I was like, Sonya! You need to see a doctor posthaste. Posthaste! But she was off somewhere else on social media (talking to her mom, I later found out) and not reading my messages. So I was like, Sonya! Don’t make me phone you! I’ll call you on the phone! Just watch me! So help me God, I’ll do it! You need medical care! Posthaste, Sonya! Posthaste! Because when I get really worried, I start speaking Victorian.

Well, she continued ignoring me, so I went downstairs and dialed her number. I called three times, and there was no answer. No voicemail message, either. Was I dialing correctly for an international call? No clue, but she’s answered a few times before.

So I went back upstairs to my computer, and she must’ve known I’d been calling, because she finally showed up. She said she’d been talking to her mom and that it was all fine. She had to spend a long time convincing me that she didn’t have a horrific illness. She’d been telling me about it recently, but either she was downplaying it or (more likely) I downplayed it inside my head, which I tend to do. Often, you have to hit me over the head with a problem (particulary if you’re being academic and non-emotional), or I’ll remain hopelessly dense. Or you can do what Sonya did today and draw me a picture. That also works.

So I was like, you’re sure you don’t have [horrible disease]? 

And she said, both doctors told me it’s [common illness]. I just can’t get it treated! I think I’m allergic to the medicine.

I was relieved.

At any rate, by the time my nerves recovered, I’d quit caring about the contest results. Then, Sonya and I goofed off for a while before she went to bed. (She lives six hours in the future.) I told her about my positive book review, and she said that I’m the only author she knows who writes good campy smut. That made my day! 😀 Must be a niche market for it.

My friendship with Sonya is so easy and natural. At first, it was more formal as we were getting to know each other. But it was also hindered by the mutual acquaintance who introduced us. Mart was a devilish man who was feeding both of us misinformation about each other. We saw through it, but it still made things… I don’t know… formal and somewhat forced for a while. Like, he told me Sonya was a sex addict with whom he felt afraid to be alone. Now, if I can just say how outrageous and idiotic those implied accusations are, there aren’t even words for it. He told her equally idiotic stuff about me. And yet, he’s the reason we’re friends.

I can’t help but appreciate the guy. He must’ve been at war with himself. He did a lot of scuzzy things to me that were very upsetting, but at the same time, he kept encouraging me to have a relationship with Sonya. Go figure. Outwardly, he kept causing problems for me, but inwardly,  he led me to my best friend. You can’t make this stuff up.

Although I’ve met Sonya in Prague twice, I never met Mart. He was living in Prague when I met Sonya (online), and she knew him from her in-person writers’ groups, but he moved back to Great Britain before I visited Prague. He was devilish. Well, he was a Scorpio. (I sincerely apologize to every other Scorpio out there who I’ve just offended.)

Anyway, then I watched my dad’s gameshows with him and then went to the gym.

Dear Annie: We occasionally will have friends over for dinner, and there have been times when they simply won’t leave. I’m not talking about an hour or two; many times it’s three or four hours after dinner!

We love our friends and are happy that they feel very comfortable with us to stay that long. My wife and I are both retired, so it’s not like we have to be up early the next morning, but we do have other things we’d like to get done before turning in. I try to drop subtle hints but to no avail.

What’s a polite way to wrap up a delightful evening that shouldn’t be more than a few hours? — To Leave or Not To Leave

Dear To Leave or Not To Leave: It sounds like your subtle hints are not working, so it’s time to start from the beginning. Next time you invite your friends over, instead of just putting the start time, add an end time. That way, everything is clear before the dinner even begins. Another tip could be to have a goody bag with a cookie in it. You could drop a subtle hint like, “Here, don’t forget your cookie on your way out.” Honesty coupled with kindness is always appreciated. (c) Annie Lane @ Creators.com

Oh no. [Shaking my head.] Well… no. Still, no.

“Here, don’t forget your cookie on your way out.”

That sounds about as rude as saying, “Don’t let the door hit you on your way out,” but with a cookie. Admittedly, the cookie adds panache.

I’d be more direct, but not in a mean way. I’d yawn, stretch, and say, “This party has worn me out, but in a good way. I’ll sleep like a log tonight and have pleasant dreams. We’ve really enjoyed your visit.” Then I’d shoot my (fictitious) spouse a knowing glance so that he could add, “Yeah, it’s been great. We should do this more often.” And then we’d rise to our feet in one fluid, coordinated movement.

When I’m the invitee, I look for such hints. However, the letter writer doesn’t really specify how obvious their hints have been, which makes it hard to know what they’ve already tried. I do like Annie Lane’s advice about giving times upfront. “Care to join us for dinner from, shall we say, 6:00 to 8:00 this Friday?”

Hmm… Ask Amy’s advice is usually much better. Let’s see here…

Dear Amy: A very dear friend of mine is dating a man who is racist, phony, full of himself, selfish and has publicly humiliated her in the past.

He nearly killed a few of his and her family members by being reckless with covid safety, too. These family members narrowly escaped, so now he thinks he’s in the clear and continues to be reckless. Needless to say, I can’t stand him.

My friend recently asked me in an email conversation if I like him.

This is a simple enough question, seemingly, but I have avoided answering since I’m not sure what to say.

I don’t want to lie, but I also know that honesty could cause a serious rift.

How should I respond to suit both my conscience and our friendship?

— On the Fence

On the Fence: A judicious answer is called for. We do not live in judicious times, however, so let me try to provide a possible script: “I assume it’s obvious that I don’t agree with ‘Sean’ on some pretty basic matters. Most important to me, however, is how he treats you. In my opinion, he doesn’t always give you the respect I know you deserve, and I sometimes find that upsetting. The most important thing for you to know, however, is that I’ve got your back, no matter what.” (c) Ask Amy

Good script! Interesting question.

Since I think it’s okay to lie, I wouldn’t be morally opposed to stretching the truth here. There are so many options! Lie outright, trash-talk him outright, and anything in between or not covered there.

There’s an episode of Frasier where Niles asks Frasier if he (Frasier) thinks that Niles and Maris (Niles’ horrible wife) are meant to be together.

It seems like a no-brainer to me (Niles should’ve run screaming long before he did), but Frasier spends the whole episode pondering his answer. He philosophizes and muses over things like destiny, fate, and so on. He takes it very seriously because he thinks Niles really looks up to him. In the end of the episode, we find out that Niles is going to do whatever he wants to do (read: keep going back to Maris) regardless of Frasier’s advice. (Frasier ultimately concludes that they don’t belong together.)

But if I were in this situation of not knowing how much honesty my friend could handle, I’d feel her out. “He’s not perfect, so can you be more specific? This will help me give a more nuanced answer,” or some such. If she replied, “His haircut. Isn’t it dreamy?” then I’d agree that it’s dreamy, and I’d throw in some mild criticism of his choice of shoes to justify my earlier statement that he’s not perfect. If she replied, “What do you think of his outlook?” then I’d share a few instances that concerned me.

But that’s my advice for the hesitant letter writer. If it were me, I’d be very honest in this situation. As outspoken as I am, I think we all know I’d see the question as a writing prompt that I’d go to town with. Ode to the phony racist, a poem by Meg in haiku. 

Well, this has been fun! It’s been a great day all around.

When the going gets tough…

So, I hit a wall. (Don’t worry. It was a metaphorical wall.)

I decided last night to go ahead and not expect myself to use the treadmill on both Sunday and Wednesday evenings. That way, I can use those times to take twice-weekly showers, and I’ll still be burning 300 calories 12 times a week, for a total of 3,600+ calories, which should help me lose a pound a week, right? This is a win-win, because I need to be way more disciplined about taking regular showers. Now I will be!

But today when I went to the gym for my first daily treadmill session, I gave up after only burning 68 of the 300 calories I wanted to burn. I realized that my feet were suffering from the sweat, so I went to the drugstore and bought some foot spray. I also swung by the grocery store and bought some Luna protein bars in case my body wasn’t properly fueled.

Those issues taken care of, I returned to the gym after a few hours, but I was dragging; and it took everything in me to burn 232 more calories needed to total 300. I think the problem is that my period’s starting, but what to do? I can’t let it derail me! No, Meg, by all means, keep torturing yourself, why don’t you? AAUGH!

I don’t know. I may or may not go back this evening, because I’ll be awaiting contest results, unless they come in super-early, or something. It’s 4:00 PM here, and the results are due by midnight. When you add waiting for results to being menstrual (or premenstrual, rather), I might just give up.

Or not. I could make a concerted effort. It’s helpful to understand that my period’s causing the problem. I was talking to my mom on the phone, and when I explained, “… but my period’s starting,” her response was a very knowing, “Ohhh.”

My mother had extreme hormonal problems during her child-bearing years. Lord above, there was this one time when I was fifteen that she and I both had hormonal PMS issues, and we spent the entire evening yelling and shrieking as we hurled insults. You can’t buy memories like that. Just priceless. “You’re less obedient than a dog!” she accused. And my response was, “You’re comparing me to a dog?! Do you want me to sit, heel, or roll over? Woof! Woof! Woof! Who are you calling a dog? You’re a dog, woman.” And on and on.

But I digress. I’m sort of glad that my current relationships are much calmer. I thrive on stability and calmness. But anyway, the menstrual situation leaves me wondering how hard we should push ourselves. The problem is that the 300-calorie-burning, fifty-minute routine done twice daily is exactly what I was capable of… right up until my period rendered it too difficult. For all the men out there, the female menstrual cycle takes a lot of energy and can be exhausting, among other things. I knew it wasn’t in my head, because my heartbeat was going higher than it has been recently. My routine has historically (i.e., in the past week) been at around 130 bpm, but today, while I was struggling, it got jacked up to 140. Same routine, same speed, same incline. The menstrual struggle is real, people.

I’ll figure something out. I’m sure it’ll all be good. I just don’t want to keep making all these exceptions. Slippery slope, and all that. At least I can say I got it half done today, if nothing else, even though it took two trips to accomplish that much. And I’ve got a healthy salad I can have for dinner, and I got some lowkey snacks like breakfast cereal and Luna protein bars.

While talking to my mom on the phone, she said, “Just don’t do what I did and go on one of those crash, liquid diets. I lost fifty pounds and gained back a hundred.”

“Oh, there’s no chance that I’d do that.” I didn’t mention that her actions toward me during her liquid-diet phase scarred me for life. (There was extreme physical abuse.) Oh, but that reminds me. Lord above, she still wants to read my memoir.

No agents have expressed an interest, so it’s going into the Meg vault. I have no real desire to self-publish it. But at any rate, my mom wants to read it. I told her no, that it’s too personal, and she started digging her way in. “What’s too personal about it? Would it upset me?”

“Uh… well, it’s just, uh… depressing.”

“Does it have a theme? What did you tell agents about it to get them interested?”

“Um… I just said, here’s my memoir. It has this many words. There’s no theme. Just my life.” (This was a big, fat lie. The memoir’s called Spanked. There’s an obvious theme there about physical abuse.)

“Well, maybe that’s the problem. They weren’t interested in regular life.”

“Right, I think that was it,” I lied. “Memoirs really need a good hook, ya know?”

(My mother is the reason I don’t necessarily see lying as a vice or honesty as a virtue. If someone’s being nosy and dysfunctional, lying can be the only way to protect yourself.)

So then I told her about how I’ve self-published smut under an assumed name, and she had some sort of freakout. (“You wrote and published what?!”) I was trying to brag about having received two five-star reviews thus far (one on Amazon, one on Goodreads, and thank you, Ashley Leia!!), but she was hung up on getting me to promise her that I used a fake name. I was really hoping for some praise or congratulations, but with my mother, that’s often asking for too much.

Well, I’ve enjoyed blogging here. I hope everyone out there is having a great day!!

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