Knee-deep in the hoopla

In that small window between COVID spikes, I saw my doctor a few times for a few issues. I finally spoke to her about my bad knees.

She gave them a quick examination and ordered some x-rays, which didn’t seem to reveal any damage. Strangely, and I can’t remember the details, the x-rays showed that my right knee was in worse shape than my left, but my left is the one that really bothers me.

The last time we spoke, she ordered me some knee braces and suggested I might have arthritis. This actually came as something of a relief to me, although I suppose arthritis is chronic. At least this is a manageable condition, something I can deal with. If she’d told me my ligaments were shredded or I was walking around with no cartilage, I guess we’d be talking about surgery. I think (but am not sure) that the pain is just pain, and it’s not indicative that my knees will give out on me one day while taking stairs. With arthritis, it’s about managing pain, rather than repairing damage. I think.

I got neoprene braces for both knees and a topical painkiller in case the aches get as bad as they were a year ago, waking me up in tears. So far they haven’t, but I haven’t done a lot of walking in the month and a half since my visit.

Since I haven’t been to the beach in a couple of weeks — we’ve had rain almost every night, and this week is the monthly jellyfish influx — and since I’m in sort-of lockdown again, tonight was the night to get back out there.

I went without the knee braces because I wanted to test the knees out. Weirdly, although they were especially achy this morning, they seemed fine this evening. I only went 10K steps in a couple of hours. Ten thousand has sorta been my ceiling lately since I’ve been trying to avoid pain.

It was kind of scary at first, not because of the knees but because Kalihi and Nuuanu at night can be scary. I slowly got past the spooky feeling, but maybe I shouldn’t. Maybe I’ve been a little foolhardy in my late-night roamings.

It was good podcasting catch-up time. I got back to the house at 1:30 in the morning and felt pretty good, and my knees aren’t even twitching, which pleases me enormously.

Work was mellow and kind of engrossing. Working on a proposal for a named chair, without most of the kinds of details I’m used to getting. I like the challenge. Also had my weekly check-in with my supervisor, via phone.

Breakfast was overnight oats. You know, I used to get whatever rolled oats were cheapest, which usually meant the store brand wherever I was. Since I jumped back on the overnight oats train, I’ve had the major name-brand (you know which one) and right after, the store brand, and there is definitely a difference. The store brand is mushier, like the oats are thinner somehow. They’re fine, but they aren’t quite as good. This may change my approach in the supermarket aisle.

Lunch was a couple of quesadillas. Dinner was a teri chicken egg salad sandwich at 7-Eleven at the midpoint of my walk. During the day I snacked on fried pork rinds, pistachios, and a few bites of the cold pot roast. Definitely not my healthiest day, despite the 10K steps.

I got a text from Alison, a former coworker, about Ocean Vuong’s On Earth We’re Briefly Gorgeous, a novel I’ve heard about all over the place this past year. Guess I need to add it to my list. I did some MS Teams chatting with a couple of coworkers about Klara and the Sun — one of the participants has finished the book.

I spun that James McMurtry album a few more times Wednesday, ‘though most of my listening was podcasts again. Still trying to catch up on a few.

If I can get myself to bed in the next nine minutes, I’ll be asleep before four in the morning. This would be progress. Here I go.

Not a lockdown entry

My last lockdown journal was for Sunday, and here it is late Friday night. Wow. That’s a lot of remembering I’m sure I will fail at. But not tonight.

Just don’t feel like chronicling. I had a sleep-deprived work week in which I did not get enough done, but I finished strong Friday, as used to be my wont but hasn’t been lately. So I’m heading into the weekend feeling good. The last thing I submitted, that cancer center story that’s been bugging me for weeks, was enthusiastically accepted by the first two people I needed to satisfy, so this is good.

I could spend the whole weekend not thinking about work at all, but I’ll probably do a few easy, low-stress things just to keep them off my Monday list. I have a couple of mentally straining things to focus on next week, some of them with deadlines.

My brain is pea soup. My body is the fat trimmed from a slice of prime rib. My mood is rainbow shave ice. My eyes are a glass of iced tea when you’ve stirred too much sugar into it and you can see the grains swirling around before they settle.

It’s the NCAA men’s basketball tourney, and I’m (ssssh don’t tell my employers) running an office pool. Suuuuper low stakes. But it brings people together and gives them something to talk about at a time when, especially this year, we can all really use it.

I suuuuuuck at picking brackets. My final four was busted before lunch. Oral Roberts beat Ohio State in a major upset (a 15 seed beating a 2 seed) and I had Ohio State going to the Final Four. And you know what? I only regret that I picked them to go that far because I will NEVER pick Oral Roberts to beat ANYone unless it’s Liberty.

Liberty is also in the tourney and I of course picked against them. Because screw you, Jerry Falwell, and your charlatan offspring. And the crap university you founded. And the ground upon which it sits. But not the people who work and study there. I know some lovely people who went there.

A million years ago when I shared those screen shots of my crossword puzzle obsession, I lamented the blue square on a Monday last March. I remembered later why it was blue. The yellow squares are correct solves completed within a day after the puzzle posts. I nailed that puzzle but I forgot to do it before Tuesday evening, so it’s blue. Still annoying, but not as maddening as if I couldn’t do the puzzle.

I offer this explanation in case some lovely female reader out there crossed me off her list for having a blue square on a Monday. Lovely female reader, there are many completely valid reasons for crossing me off the list, but please don’t let it be for that.

I’ve been meaning to issue a rant about the uselessness of laws but my thesis is long and I never have that kind of energy anymore, so I may offer it in smaller bites.

Here’s bite number one. Most of us have known 55 miles per hour as the default speed limit on major American highways for our whole lives. There are a few places where in the last couple of decades the limit’s gone up to 65 or even 75. Here on Oahu, there are no roads where you can legally drive faster than 55, and because our major highways are so curvy in town, the limit is actually 45 in some places and 50 in most.

I haven’t checked my sources (okay, my source is a young adult novel read in eighth grade; it’s either Slaughter by Auto or Under the Influence by W. E. Butterworth, a pen name for the writer better known as W. E. B. Griffin, also a pen name), but if they are to be believed (and the author isn’t known for making this stuff up; he writes detective procedural novels), the speed limit on most American highways was 65 mph for a long time. It was lowered in the late 70s to 55.

You know why? It had nothing to do with safety. Engineers decide speed limits for safety based on roads themselves. That’s why the limit on the freeway through Honolulu is 45 or 50. The engineers set that.

The limit was lowered nationwide because we were in the middle of a gasoline shortage. Car engines didn’t burn fuel as efficiently then at higher rates of speed. This is less true today, as engines are designed to run better and more efficiently at whatever speed, but it was absolutely true then (less absolutely if you drove a manual transmission).

The government lowered the speed limit in order to get us burning less fuel. Given the circumstances, it’s totally understandable. Rough times call for rough governmental measures. This is not a rant about masks or the president’s COVID relief bill, although if you want to apply it there, I’m cool with it.

Obeying the speed limits is kind of an arbitrary thing for most of us anyway. The truth is, most people drive as quickly as they feel safe. The limit may be 25 on Nuuanu Avenue, but if the road is covered in steel plates, as it has been for like a year, very few people will drive 25. And if you live here, you know how slowly people drive to work on weekdays when it rains.

I live in a neighborhood with lots of multi-generational homes, which means lots of cars parked on the street (instead of in carports). And since it’s an old neighborhood, the streets are narrow and there are no sidewalks. Very few people drive 25 through my area because it feels very unsafe. And it is!

That stretch of freeway between Waipahu and Makakilo, though, is long and straight, and the limit may be 55, but if you drive 55 there, everyone is passing you. Unless it’s at night, in which case you have mixed observations. There are no freeway lights there, or at least there weren’t when I grew up in Waipahu.

This is all to illustrate one point in my thesis: we are generally a people who respects laws, but in many cases, such as when we’re on the road, our behavior and attitudes are goverened by something else.

Okay it’s a few minutes past eleven and I’ve got the typing itch out of my fingers, so it’s time to eat some dried apricots and kiiiiinda think about what I want Saturday to look like. Then it’s early to bed because pea soup.

Gummy one reason

I’m unusually stressed. I was going to text someone completely uninvolved just to get it out, but that person is ill and I’d rather not bother her at close to eleven in the evening.

I did text my friend Suzanne because I’m sure she’s up (and possibly out) but haven’t heard back from her. I figure that’s my sign. I’ll just deal with it myself, and with Ronald McDonald.

I don’t plan to write about any of it here, so I’m just hoping the act of writing something will help calm me down.

I know I shouldn’t stress-eat. I shouldn’t eat my feelings either and you should have seen my dietary behavior when I was in the depths of my Crush Girl misery. Helllllloooooo Cinnabon.

That was actually Suzanne’s fault too. When I texted her that I’d asked Crush Girl out and been rejected, she said, “Let’s to go Cinnabon!” We didn’t go that day, but you can believe I went later. And later. And. Later.

Cinnabon is amazingly effective at making you feel better. But only while you’re eating it. Then when it’s all over, you’re like, “Holy crap, not only am I still in this crappy situation but now I have eaten a CINNABON as well,” and you just feel lousier.

I don’t think I’ve written about Suzanne here. I met her when I was working for the engineering firm in Chinatown. Cornell grad (oh wait a minute, I have mentioned her but I haven’t said who she is) and a really supportive friend. She does a good job of sympathizing and then making you feel tougher.

Oh, I’ll write about this part of it. I sorta took care of the non-work-related stressful stuff. I really wanted to get some emails taken care of, so I got in my car to head to the boba cafe I’m so fond of. Pulled into the lot with two hours before closing, and realized I’d left my laptop in my living room.

Drove home. Grabbed laptop. Headed back to the cafe, but midway there I realized I didn’t know where my phone was. I called out “Hey Siri!” a few times but Siri didn’t respond. Noooooooo. Drove home and found my phone next to the spot where my laptop had been, with the flashlight still on. Urrrrrrggggggghhhhh. Got back to the cafe with a little more than an hour before closing.

At least I got the emails done. For a moment, though, I was having the worst evening in a very long time. Coulda been worse: I wasn’t sure what I’d done with my phone — I thought there was a fair chance I’d left it on the roof of my car (something I’ve never done, but there’s a good chance I will someday). But you know, most things are taken care of as best they can. Yet there’s still this hard, squiggly ball in the pit of my stomach.

Which I am now trying to feed with a Big Mac and fries. I don’t think it’s working.

I’m involved in a rather big project at work. The task itself is not daunting, even though possibly a hundred million dollars are at stake, and that’s not an exaggeration. I’m confident enough in my writing and in my coworkers’ talents (I’m the best writer in my company, but I don’t think I’m the third most creative or artistic person within fifteen feet of my desk), so I’m sure we’re going to knock this thing silly. We’re good.

So I’m not stressed about the task; I think I’m stressed about getting it going. I can’t really get rolling yet and argh. Also, I have a few other tasks I’d like to get moving on, but it’s the weekend and I need some rest. Not that I’m exactly getting that, what with all this thinking about it.

Oh, and sometime this week I’m going on a day trip to one of the neighbor islands. Because of the big project. Normally that would be awesome — I’d ask to stay overnight, too, since the others on this project are staying overnight. But I’m in frugal mode, remember (he asked, cramming another handful of McDonald’s fries into his maw)? I can’t really have the kind of fun work trip this could be. So it’s in and out, stay on task, and nobody gets hurt.

I wish I could text Crush Girl and just converse with her about all this, but I’m fairly sure she wouldn’t get back to me, possibly until Monday. We’re friendly but I don’t think we’re in the let’s-share-personal-problems-whenever stage of this friendship yet.

I was chatting with the CEO of my company about sleep, and he asked if I’ve ever tried melatonin. I hadn’t, and he recommended it. So a couple of weeks ago, while I was picking something up at Safeway, I thought I’d see what was available.

There were “regular strength” gummies. The bottle said to chew one or two 5mg gummies. Then there were “maximum strength” gummies. The bottle recommended one or two 10mg gummies. Hey, I’d had zero experience with melatonin, but if anyone’s sleep issues called for two 10mg “maximum strength” gummies, it was me, right?

I can’t say whether it worked or not because I was super tired that night anyway. I do know that I was very, very groggy the next morning, all the way to lunch. Yeah, that was bad.

Everyone I spoke to who’s taken it (and it’s a surprising number of people who’ve taken it) says he or she doesn’t take it every night, so I guess that’s my plan now. I’ll go through the whole bottle over time and see what happens.

I’ve eaten just one gummy a few times since, and I can’t tell if it’s working. I definitely don’t wake up groggy, and I don’t have an especially difficult time waking up (getting moving is a different story, but that’s related to my recent low work morale), but I can’t tell if it’s helping me get to sleep or if I’m just going to sleep.

What I would love is if, when I wake up in the middle of the night, I can just close my eyes and drop back to sleep. That hasn’t been happening. It’s my own fault because I always look at my phone. I check Twitter to see if the White House has blown up the world yet, and then I usually check Instagram to see who’s viewed whatever silliness I put in my IG stories before bed. And then all that blue light goes to work on me and makes my brain think I’m up.

I wonder if this is the time to take a melatonin gummy. When I get up in the middle of the night? Might have to try it.

Oh Suzanne just texted me back. She was sympathetic but not very verbose about it. Then when I told her I’m stress-eating, she said she hopes I’m eating nacho cheese Doritos. I said, “Big Mac and fries — close!”

I feel a bit calmer, if still quite wound up. This might be a good night for a melatonin gummy.

Friday 5: Back Turn

Super tired. I hit the water early Saturday and planned to take it easy — I’ve been a little sore all over from all the stepcount-chasing and the regular swimming, and I’ve slept pretty horribly all week. It was a combination that told me to mellow out for the weekend.

And a weird thing happened in the second half of the swim. I can easily point to halves in my swimming because I jump in at one buoy, swim a varying number of buoys down the beach and then turn around and swim back. On the way back I thought I ought to do at least a short stretch of strenuous swimming, and I just kept going, doubling my usual goal. It was insane because I didn’t really feel strained while I was in it. Just kept swimming swimming swimming swimming. My body wanted to go.

Then I did my errands on foot and got my stepcount without even really trying. So I am rather tired despite a 90-minute nap this evening. My arms and shoulders feel dead.

It might not help the sleepiness (although it helps the writing some) that I’ve got Enya’s Shepherd Moons in the headphones. I was just in the mood. While I won’t argue against “Orinoco Flow” from Watermark being her best song, Shepherd Moons is the slightly better album. For a time in 1992 it was my main way of relaxing and getting to sleep, when I was in probably the worst period of my life for insomnia. And “Carribean Blue” is quite nearly as good as “Orinoco Flow.”

This is the album with Enya’s lovely recording of “How Can I Keep From Singing?” It’s really a cover of Pete Seeger’s less overtly Christian version, but it still works for me. Pretty pretty pretty.

I don’t know if I’m supposed to feel fitter after only six weeks of pretty hardcore focus on regular exercise, but I don’t. Honestly, except for swimming faster and longer, I don’t notice any difference. I suppose the faster and longer thing is a good indication of progress in my primary aim, which is not to die. My BP is going down too, so okay. But naked, I still look terrible, and I wanna get lean for Crush Girl (secondary aim but more effective motivation). Or at least slightly less doughy.

Here’s the Friday 5 for this week, from here.

  1. What are you ahead on?
    We have this staff newsletter at work, something I work really hard on every month. I mentioned to my boss last year that I would eventually like to take it over entirely, rather than just edit the publication draft and contribute my two monthly columns (a one-minute writing tip and a short movie review). Because of a few major organizational changes recently, my boss is a lot busier, so last month she just sent me the material and I put it together and made it sound nice. It was fun. I love this kind of work because I’ve been working really hard to transmit a sense of inclusion among my coworkers as much as a lowly staff writer can, and this newsletter is one nice way to do it. This month I’m putting it all together myself for the first time and I’m excited to do it, and I’ve been really on it, far ahead of my usual timeline for this thing. And coworkers have responded well, sending me some really nice contributions. I kind of wanted to give a life answer and not a work answer here, but work is on my mind a lot lately.
  2. Who’s slowing you down?
    I suppose the answer for everyone is going to be “me,” and I’m going with the same answer. Seriously, who among us can really say we aren’t the ones most effectively getting in our own ways? I wish I could find a way to — oh, never mind. There’s really nothing to say here except “me too.”
  3. When did you last stumble getting out of the gate?
    Man, Wednesday and Friday were difficult. Because I’ve slept horribly, I had an unusually difficult time Wednesday getting up and out to the beach before work. I have to drag myself out every morning anyway, but I manage okay most of the time by telling myself that sleeping in is for people who didn’t let their bodies go to hell for a decade and a half. Don’t knock it; it totally works. I don’t psych myself up to hit the beach. I psych myself down. Anyway, I did get there but I got there so late I got lousy parking and was only able to jump in and jump out. Friday I had similar difficulty but for different reasons. Thursday I woke up SUPER early to get my dad to the hospital for some knee surgery. While he was under the knife I hit the beach for the unusual Thursday swim, so Friday morning I was utterly beat. Skipped the beach (even though Friday is usually the best morning for it) and stumbled into the office close to ten! One more reason this job may be better than teaching for my longevity. School bells are a bit less forgiving of this sort of thing.
  4. How’s your mane these days?
    Ugh no no no no no no. I don’t want to talk about it, but I’m grateful for the reminder. I need to make an appointment with a doctor to talk about it! It’s thinning at an alarming rate now. I mean, it’s sort of on schedule because I’m FIFTY this year and holy moly. Okay switching subjects because the hair thing is really a sensitive issue.
  5. When did you most recently find yourself unexpectedly hoofing it somewhere?
    Walking is (once again) a regular part of my existence, so it’s seldom surprising to me that I’m walking anywhere. So the unexpected part would have more to do with the where than the how. A couple of weeks ago on Administrative Professionals day, I was invited to lunch by another department who was taking its Administrative Professional to Aunty Pasto’s. I was happy to be included so I quickly grabbed my stuff, locked my screen, and joined in. And we had a very nice time. I had a mixed mushrooms pasta dish, great conversation, and a nice walk. I take most of my lunches by myself, mostly because I need some me-time sometime during the workday, but also because I usually have breakfast after a swim, so I’m not ready for lunch until most people have eaten, like 2:00 or 2:30. I wasn’t about to say no to such a nice invitation, though, and it was the right call.

The first three months of the year, it seemed like there were one or two major new metal releases every Friday. That’s sort of slowed down lately, so I’ve been going back to the old favorites. Lately I’ve had the Springsteen playlist on repeat, and it’s been good for my ears. I’m mentioning this now in hopes of reminding myself to put a few thoughts together about “Thunder Road,” which in recent years has dislodged “The River” and “Born to Run” as my favorite of Bruce’s tracks.

That would be a good list. Ten favorite Bruce songs. Note to self.

Flesh Becomes Water; Wood Becomes Bone

Okay this will be a fast one just because I haven’t done anything in super long and I should put SOMETHING in this space.

The simplified life continues. Three days during the work week, I get up early and hit the beach for a swim. I’m in the water close to an hour, sometimes cranking out a nice, strenuous swim and sometimes sorta cruising, but I do feel myself getting stronger. More important is the peace and happiness (or something approaching happiness) I get just from spending that time in the water as the sun’s coming up. I don’t know if this is doing my body any good, but it’s doing my mind a lot of good. My mood on beach days is usually terrific.

I’ve tried different breakfast options, including overnight oats, which I love, but on beach days there are few things better than a footlong sandwich at Subway. I can’t explain it. On both college campuses where I’ve worked, Subway was the only thing open during winter and spring breaks, and for a couple of weeks during the summer, so I’d usually get my Subway quota during those periods and really never eat there otherwise, but dang. After an hour in the ocean it’s all I want to eat. Though I know it’s not the best choice, I try to assure myself that I could do a lot worse for my body.

I usually take the mornings to read while I’m having that sandwich. Then it’s off to work, where I’ve been pretty dang productive lately. Lunch is usually somewhere nearby, although I try to get a few thousand steps in too. After work I walk the rest of the steps toward my weekly goal (which is something like 91K steps, or 13K per day) then get home.

Then it’s just getting ready for the next day.

On non-beach days, I sleep in. I would like to get it up to six beach days per week (Sundays off) but my body won’t take that yet. I had a week when I went five days and my mood was the opposite of good.

Does any of this have to do with Crush Girl? Maybe.

Now I (kssssssssh) Lay Me (ksssssssssssssh) Down

The sleep thing continues to be an issue.  I can neither explain nor understand it.  I get home from work with the clearest, best intentions of getting stuff ready for the next morning (I’m okay there), then doing something to unwind, then putting myself to bed properly, getting a good rest — thanks to my Darth Vader machine — and waking up refreshed and ready for another day.

In the past ten days, it’s worked out this way maybe once.  It’s comical and heartbreaking at the same time, which I just realized should probably be my epitaph.

After weeks of breaking my own promises to myself, I finally made those doctor appointments.  Had my blood pressure taken, and it was almost fifty points lower than when I first had it looked at last August, but it was up a few ticks from the last time several months ago.  Ugh.  Doctor upped my meds by 25% (two pills in the morning instead of the one and a half) and I go back in a month to check it again.  My systolic has gone steadily down, which is a big encouragement.

I see the eye doctor Monday afternoon.  I think it’s time for a field of vision test, but this one might just be eye pressures to see if I’m holding.  I should be; I take my eyedrops religiously, which is one of the idiotic reasons I haven’t always been putting Darth Vader on my face.  The stupid eyedrops go in, and I have to lie still for three minutes or so.  I usually make it five just to be safe.  And you know what happens?  I fall asleep.  I do set a timer, but the timer goes off and instead of reaching over and grabbing the face mask, I just hit the kill button and stay where I am.


I also discovered (because I finally read the accompanying literature, only eight months after my diagnosis) that replacement Darth Vader parts are covered 80% by my insurance if I order through the approved vendor.  Different components have different wait times for replacement approval, but I was eligible to get everything replaced.  My 20% share came out to $67 bucks, which is kind of alarming.  Not for me, but for people who don’t have the insurance I have.

My weight is up a few ticks from the last time I looked at it, but down seven pounds overall since last August.  Should probably keep that trend going.

Metal Health’ll Drive You Crazy

We have this policy where I work that says if I’m out sick for three days, I have to get a note from a doctor saying I’m okay to come to work.  I had a cold.  I missed three days.  I made an appointment to see a doctor.

They took some vitals.  I was fine, cold-wise, but my BP was off the chart.  We’re talking in the 210s.  The doctor asked me a bunch of questions.  Do I drink? Yes, but not more than a couple of beers per week; usually a couple of beers every other week.  Do I exercise?  Yes, but not very strenuously.  I walk about 40 miles per week (81,500 steps per week back then).  History of high BP in my family?  Yes.  But no history myself.  I’ve never hit numbers above normal.

She ordered some bloodwork.  There was nothing to indicate I should have high BP, although my LDLs were high normal and my HDL low normal, and my blood sugar was “pre diabetic.”

I was immediately put on medication to manage the blood sugar.  I immediately modified my diet to get rid of most of my empty carbs, mostly rice and bread.  I got some BP meds, and orders to come back every X weeks until I got it down to acceptable.

How well do you sleep? my doctor asked. I’ve had sleep issues all my life. How many hours do you usually get? Um.  Five and a half to six? Why so few? Because I’m immature and irresponsible. Do you snore? Like a madman, although that wasn’t always the case. Do you wake up gasping for air? Yes, pretty often. Do you wake up with headaches? Frequently.

She set up an appointment for a sleep study.  I knew it already; had suspected it for years.  Sleep apnea.

I slept in a sleep lab at the hospital.  First for a few hours for observations, to see if I had sleep apnea.  Then for a few hours more with a CPAP machine attached to my face, so they could try different levels of air pressure to see what worked best for me.

A few days later, I had a machine, a small thing you plug into the wall, about the size and shape of a loaf of pumpernickel.  Connecting the device to a mask covering my face and mouth, a long plastic tube.  There’s a reservoir for water, so the air going into my lungs is humid enough not to dry me out.

This is my life now.  A friend tells me something about the construction of Asian men’s skulls and throats makes us more likely to have sleep apnea.  I admit that while there’s no Mrs. in my life right now, I’m a little worried about the sexiness of this if there should ever be one.

My boss says you never know.  There’s surely a woman out there with a Darth Vader fetish; she’s waiting for me to find her.

A friend assures me that Bane is sexier in bed than a snorer.

My BP was coming down, but during the holidays I kinda let everything go, diet-wise.  So I haven’t been back to check my numbers, despite calls from the HMO to make appointments.  One reason I’m typing this up now is to remind myself that I need to do it already.

First thing Thursday.  Or Friday.