Friday, December 03, 2010

Here are some of the updates I've been promising you

When I picture other people's immune systems, I get this vision of a whole bunch of little blobs, clad in armor, linking arms together in some sort of infinite, unstoppable cellular chain, Red- Rover style, daring anything to try to get through, and laughing as invaders are propelled back time and time again. When I picture my immune system, I get more of the "singular lazy night security guard who fell asleep with his feet on the desk and his cap pulled down over his eyes and is snoring loudly as invaders just stroll past him and through the gate" vibe.
This is all to explain that the hives I've been battling for near to two months now, which were not only really itchy but also quite painful? Are actually shingles - and not even normal shingles, but "atypical shingles" in that they have attached themselves to more than one nerve bundle. That's right, people, I've got the re-Chicken Pox. And I am not pleased about it.
I am not pleased for multiple reasons - the additional pain I've been going through is the major factor there, but also the fact that my @($#head doctor told me not to come in, even though I told her how painful they were since I could hardly move my hip (They are located on my lower back). And she told me just to take some antihistamines and that they would clear up eventually, because they were probably stress related. Which is not so much true: hives might have gone away eventually with some allergy meds, but the shingles won't - it's a virus. So I've been suffering through them for the past couple of weeks, pretty needlessly, since if she had seen them and correctly diagnosed them as shingles, I could have been on this antiviral med weeks ago. (Not that it's helping yet, but still: at least I know it will.)

On a less infuriating topic, what is it that I've been doing for the past 143 days (and counting)? I've been typing at least 750 words a day. I've joined a site called 750 Words , where the premise is simple: You should write everyday. They picked 750 words because it's approximately three pages, which is what some writing book or another suggests as a good amount to get your creativity flowing, but really you can write as much/little as you want. The blank screen keeps a running word tally, and a little green rectangle pops up to tell you when you've hit your 750 word goal, and how long your streak is. It saves all your writing, and archives it so you can search through it later, if you need/want.
One of my favorite parts of the site though, is what you can do with your words after you've written them. The site has all these different analyzers and you can see a daily representation of what you've written - what your mood is, how fast you typed, how many breaks you took, what your overall theme was, what words are repeated the most. And there are little badges for goals met - 5 days, 50 days, 100 days in a row, things like that. It's the kind of statistics and useless rewards that make my little geek heart happy. At present, my word count is 135,918 words. Since July. (...and July was just my 750th word for today, and the little green rectangle appeared, giving me a nice sense of accomplishment!) Which is major, because 100,000+ words is a whole lot of writing and because a lot of things have happened since July that made me think "Oh, I won't get around to writing today."
During the first month I was doing this, my cousin's baby died, and the day of the funeral, I was sitting in my room, staring at nothing, and trying not to think, and the little reminder e-mail came into my mailbox, and I thought "I am so not doing that today." But then I saw that I had a little streak going, and I thought, well, even if I just typed the same word over and over again 750 times, I'd have met my goal. So I started typing, and almost a thousand words later, each accompanied by a multitude of tears, I had an entry that I still can't go back and read. But I had met my goal. I've met my goal sitting in the rehab waiting room while my grandmother had her PT, typing away on my tiny little cell phone keyboard. I've met the goal piggybacking off of someone else's wifi when UJ's internet went out for three days. I've met the goal with strep throat, shingles, and the flu. I've written about nothing, about everything; I've written the first draft of my blog posts (as I am doing today) and used it as a journal for my rambling thoughts. I have, in fact, just typed the a l p h a b e t with each letter separated by a space, over and over again until I made it to 750. Once or twice, on days when my brain is completely not functioning, I've cut and pasted whatever happened to be in the clipboard memory, over and over again until it hit 750. It's obviously not the kind of writing I'm most proud of, but it's something: I've met the goal.
Here's something I don't really talk about a lot - when you're not working, and you're sick, and you're "accomplishments" are more ... subtle than they otherwise would be, it's hard, sometimes not to feel as if you're not really doing anything. I mean, when I was in school, I had work I was doing, and when it was finished, I'd be ready to pull my hair out, but at least it was done. I had finished it, obviously accomplishing something. Same goes with teaching - I would set daily goals, weekly goals, monthly goals, yearly goals for my class, and I would work to meet them. And there would be accountability for those things - If I didn't pass in a paper, I would fail the class; if my class wasn't learning how to recognize letters of the alphabet, then I would definitely hear about it from the lead teacher. And when I met all my goals, I would get some recognition, somehow - external or internal - that I had done the job well.... via grades, or evaluations, or just the feeling of "wow I really accomplished something here." When you're at home all the time, and you have the energy of a gnat and sometimes all you can say you've accomplished during the day is sitting up long enough to take your pills without choking on them, as months turn into years, and you're still as far away from accomplishing the things you want to accomplish in life, it gets harder and harder to feel like you're doing anything. I may know that the things I do - like spending time with the kids, or my mom, or my grandmother - are vital and important, but it doesn't always feel that way. I've heard stay at home mom's talk about this before, and thought - it's almost like that, like nobody sees what you're doing and how important it is. But being sick adds another layer, because sometimes there is nothing important that gets done. Sometimes I'm just barely dragging myself through the day, and especially during those times, it feels like none of the things I wanted to accomplish in my life are even semi-achievable, so why even bother? But writing? That's something that's always been mine, even when I am at my (almost) sickest. It's one of the last things to go before I fall into the deepest kind of flare, the kind where even linking words together is too great of a challenge. So making myself do it, making myself practice doing something I love, even if I waste the exercise completely because I am just not loving it on that particular day, is valuable and rewarding in ways I hadn't expected. I'm enjoying setting a goal for myself, and holding myself accountable for meeting that goal everyday, and if the way the numbers turn green when I finally make my quota gives me a little boost, what's the harm?

Also? The analysis tools are really fun: I am a higher than average adjective user, for example. I tend to be - or to write like - a positive, focused, introvert. I'm more oriented towards "us" than I am towards "me". Compared to the world average, I talk a lot more about health and relationships, but a lot less about sex and swearing (I guess my goody two shoes image is well earned?). Best of all, sometimes I'll write something very angry and rant-ful, and after the little pie chart will be all "70% excited" and I'll think "Huh?" until I realize it's because every ! other ! word ! has ! an ! exclamation point next to it. It's the kind of fun only word nerds can enjoy, but since I think I might know a few of those out here in the blogosphere, I thought I'd tell you about 750, in case you were interested.

And that's my latest update - Shingles: argh! and words, words words.

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