dreaminghope: (Paisley Hat)
Every morning, the crows of Vancouver fly from one end of the city to the other. At the end of the day, they fly back. The exact times vary seasonally - crows fly by the sun, not the clock - but for at least a couple of weeks in the winter, their evening commute coincides with my walk home.

At the height of the commute, you can see a river of crows that stretches across the sky, from horizon to horizon. This picture doesn't capture it adequately, but every dot is a bird:

Crow Commute

I don't know which is more fascinating: the periods when hundreds of crows are sitting on the trees and power lines, still and nearly silent, or when the hundreds of crows nearly simultaneously take off in huge swooping flocks.

At least none of them are attacking me.

There's a crow in my neighbourhood that hates me. Or maybe it just hates my summer hat (the one in my userpic); I haven't been willing to run the tests necessary to know. I was walking to work one morning when a crow started swooping at my head, screaming. It didn't hit me, but flew at me over and over as I dodged. I ran across the street, the crow still following, still screaming, and hide under some trees. An old man already on that side of the street laughed at me and said something that sounded sympathetically amused in Chinese. I kept close to trees and sprinted down the sidewalk until I was apparently out of the crow's territory. No crows attacked the old man.

A couple of mornings later, I had decided to myself that it was just a one-time occurrence and I walked along that same route wearing the same hat. I got to the same intersection and then a crow started swooping at my head, screaming. I assume it was the same crow, but I can't be completely sure. If it wasn't the same one, it hated me just as much as the other crow did.

This time, I ran to an industrial building and flattened myself along the wall. It was a two story building with no windows and a flat roof. The crow wheeled above me, repeatedly diving as steeply as it could from the edge of the roof down the side of the building. As I edged along the base of the building, the crow kept following and kept screaming and diving. It couldn't get to me, but it sure seemed to want to try. It gave up after about three-quarters of a block and I speed-walked to work, hugging the edge of buildings and keeping under trees whenever possible.

I don't walk that way to work anymore.

I like the crow commute, but a little bit like someone likes scary movies; I get a little adrenalin rush just hearing the crows cawing.
dreaminghope: (Confused Zoey)
I wear a little gold pentacle necklace - a gift from Russ for our first Christmas together - every day from the moment I get out of the shower until I go to bed, taking it off during the day only to work out. I have worn this necklace this way for over thirteen years now. I knew that I checked for its presence several times a day: just before getting on and off buses, just before leaving home or work, and in the bathroom. Those checks stem from the day that the chain broke unexpectedly and I didn't notice right away. I was lucky that day; the pendent and chain got caught inside my shirt. But now I check for my pendent before doing anything where I wouldn't be able to find it again if it broke.

What I didn't realize is that I touch that necklace through my shirt about four times an hour besides those checks. I am realizing that today because this morning, in my chaotic rush to get to the gym before work, I forgot to put my necklace on. Even though I realized this when I got out of the gym, I've still been checking and having a micro-moment of panic before I remember why it isn't there. Finally, I had to stick a safety pin to my shirt about where the pendent would normally be. Now I diddle a safety pin every 15 minutes, but I'm feeling much less anxious.
dreaminghope: (Zoey)
With no more preparation than an hour to read over the manual online and doing a couple of practice tests, I'm allowed to drive a car on the public roads with everyone else (as long as I have a driver over the age of 25 in the car with me and a red "L" stuck to the back of the car).

They let 16 year olds do this‽

I'm scheduled for a driving course starting next Saturday. It starts with 18 hours of classroom time over three weekends. My road lessons will start after that. On a friend's recommendation, I'm registered with a driving school that is supposed to be very good with anxious drivers, and the staff on the phone seemed really nice. Just what I need, mostly...

Because really nice instructors cause me a whole new kind of anxiety. If they are too nice and too understanding, I may cry.

In an effort to get any panic attacks, hyperventilating, or crying out of the way, Russ and I took his car down to some very quiet streets in the nearby industrial park this afternoon. I got behind the wheel for the first time ever and did a bit of very slow, very stilted driving. Russ was great: patient and encouraging. He gently pushed me so I did try a few more things than I had expected to, like reversing a bit and making a couple of turns. I think I reached a top speed of 20 kilometers an hour.

It was, on the surface, remarkably unremarkable. I didn't hit anything. The few other cars on the road passed me without issue. There were no hysterics, though I got a little teary a couple of times. I don't think Russ even noticed, but it may be that he has become somewhat accustomed to my random nervous crying over the years and wisely ignored my watery eyes.

I should be feeling better about the whole thing, given that it went well, but I'm feeling very unsettled. Up until today, the plan to learn to drive was theoretical. Now it's starting to sink in just how much there is to learn. Giving myself this one little practical experience will give me something to visualize. That's probably a step up from my preparation so far: practicing shoulder-checking while walking down the sidewalk.
dreaminghope: (Confused Zoey)
I don't understand why all the drivers out there aren't terrified every time they get behind the wheel. You are hurtling along in tons of steel, glass, and plastic at speeds much faster than people were ever meant to go. There's danger and distraction at every turn. Conditions are constantly changing, and a moment's inattention could result in damage, pain, injury, or death.

Yes, I know there's some irony in me saying that.

When I turned 16, I never even considered getting my driver's license. I know myself pretty well, and I know I am the kind of person who should not drive. I'm anxious and nervous. I have a bad sense of direction and poor depth perception. I truly believe that not everyone should drive, and that if more people like me made that choice, we'd have fewer accidents on the road. I live in a city, I've always been patient - crucial to using public transportation - and I love to walk, so doing without a license has never been a problem. Then I took up paragliding...

I've been having some trouble landing on target without help. After a couple of near-disasters (more on that another time), we realised that part of the problem is that there's no other time in my life that I move that fast under my own control. I have no experience at steering or at judging distances at 35 or more kilometers an hour. I haven't even been on a bicycle in more than two decades.

At the age of 31, I need to learn to drive in order to fly better and more safely.

I've also realised that I will be a much better part of my flying "team" if I can drive. If Russ, Craig, and I fly together, it means two flights and one drive per person (someone's got to drive everyone up to the launch site and back to the landing zone to get everyone after; you can pay other flyers to take you up, but then you are dependent on the luck of other people being there with vehicles). Some of the roads to launch sites are very interesting. The best ones are logging roads: steep, potholed, tight curves with sharp drop-offs. They apparently get worse from there.

I need to learn to drive a four-by-four on very rough roads, and I may need to learn to drive standard too.

It's my do it anyway project for 2011: learn to drive. Scary!
dreaminghope: (Zoey)
Do kids still call each other "scaredy cat"? I feel like they probably have harder insults now. Six year olds probably call each other "pussy".

I'm a scaredy cat. I don't have a single phobia that stands out above all others (except maybe claustrophobia); just mild generalized anxiety and a general minor-level fear of pretty much everything.

They say to do something that scares you every day, but that seems ambitious to me. I'm aiming to do one thing that scares me every year. It wasn't a conscious decision at first, but more a matter of not wanting to let fear stand in the way of doing something I want to do. It's been a pretty successful experiment:

2007 – Heights: I went zip lining in the jungle in Puerto Vallarta. Since then, I've been on the zip lines at Capilano Suspension Bridge and the Tree Course on the island. I'm hoping to try paragliding this year.

2008 – Needles: I donated blood. I've now donated six times and I have my next appointment scheduled for the new year.

2009 – Birds: For Russ' birthday, I bought us both a day of learning about falconry at Raptor Ridge, which includes actually working with a predatory bird. We were scheduled for a date in October, but bad weather meant that we've had to delay it until March. So there had to be a revision:

2009 – Babies: So many things to be scared of: They are fragile, especially when they still can't hold up their own heads. They are messy (I have a 'thing' about being dirty or sticky). And, worst of all, there's the rejection: if they cry, what if it's because you did something wrong? Maybe you held them wrong, or you smell funny, or your voice is ugly, or your face is weird, or you have bad energy...

When my friend had a baby, I could put off holding him until he was big enough to walk and talk a little, because all my friends wanted to hold our group's first baby. But then my sister had a baby in July, and it was time to get over it. Get over myself.



Doing pretty good, if I do say so myself.

Next: Birds in 2010, then maybe, one day, caving. Or maybe not.
dreaminghope: (Starry Starry Night)
No matter how much I scrimp and economize, I never seem to save. I budget and plan, but no matter how much I save by doing things the most efficient way, I never seem to have extra time when I want it.

I want to bank time; earn some interest on it. I feel safe with something extra in the bank, just in case.

I want to hoard time. I want to tuck minutes away in a box under my bed. I want to collect minutes until I have hours, and hours until I have days. I'd even hoard seconds, each one tiny and precious. I want to be able to take them out of their box and admire them. Minutes like shining jewels, to take up by the handful and let them slip back through my fingers. I wouldn't spend them; just keep them... just in case.

There would come a day when someone would be looking for a pen, and they would find in the desk drawer a stash of shining bits of time. And they would find another stash under the scrap paper, and more in the bedside table, and maybe some in an old spice jar in the back of the kitchen cupboard. And I would never have to worry about running out of time again.
dreaminghope: (Zoey)
Some purchases feel like they should be marked by confetti and trumpet flourishes. Momentous occasions, marking major life changes, happening in front of blissfully unaware store clerks.

Do you remember the first time you bought "feminine hygiene" products?

My Mom kept my sister and I's bathroom stocked through high school, so I was in first year university the first time I needed to buy my own pads. As a budding feminist and environmentalist, I was offended and annoyed that the clerk bagged my pads into a brown paper bag before adding them to the re-usable bag that held all my other purchases. Not offended enough to say anything, of course, but annoyed enough to complain about it later in my Women's Studies class.

Do you remember the first time you bought condoms?

Russ offered to go to the pharmacy, but I insisted that I would buy them. A rite of passage, perhaps, or a test of my ability to do this "adult" thing. It was such a big deal to me - I felt shaky and jumpy - but to the clerk, I was just another student in an on-campus pharmacy full of students getting ready for the weekend. I lost my virginity a couple of days later.

Do you remember the first time you bought a pregnancy test?

I doubt there's ever been anyone who has bought a pregnancy test for themselves or their partner in a neutral emotional state. Considering my emotional turmoil, I was a little surprised that a pregnancy test was just scanned through along with my bread and cheese. Given my state of mind, I expected the transaction to be remarkable, maybe even traumatic.

Standing in this virtual room with a hundred-odd friends, acquaintances, and almost strangers, I have this to say: I am not pregnant.

More than two weeks of nausea, bloating, breakouts, smell sensitivity, breast tenderness, mood swings... despite being a consistent Pill user, I really thought I was in trouble. Even after my period started, I took a pregnancy test this morning, just in case.

One beautiful line. Relief.

I am not pregnant.

"Congratulations" isn't quite right, is it? After all, non-pregnancy isn't really an achievement. Never mind; I will celebrate my non-pregnant status tonight by spending the evening as I spend many Wednesday evenings - crafting - but accompanied by a large glass of wine.

It's been a stressful couple of weeks. Maybe two large glasses of wine.
dreaminghope: (Sleeping Zoey)
Saturday, not yet ten, and it's another gray and sodden morning. Up and out of the house so early and heading to the gym; I feel very virtuous.

I cut through the flat city park in front of the bus station, following one of the many paved paths that cut across the open space. Someone is still sleeping under one of the trees, but most people are up. One bench in the middle of the park has two glass beer mugs and an empty cigarette package laying on it. The mugs have an inch or two of rainwater in them.


It's called "sleep restriction", which makes it sound like something done to a prisoner. My doctor at the Sleep Disorders Program prefers to call it "sleep compression", which sounds nicer.

I think the torture name is more accurate.

When you start a diet, suddenly everything is about food: food you can have, food you can't have, how much to eat, when to eat, counting calories and fat grams and fiber content.

I'm a sleep diet.

The bench is pretty far from the bar. Two people must have stepped out of the bar, mugs in hand, for a cigarette. Must have been a man and a woman; I just can't picture two men wandering that far for a private chat, and it isn't the kind of bar that gets a big enough female clientele for two women to be likely.

There are a lot of rules:

No bright lights, television, or computer for at least an hour before bed. Have some carbs and warm milk. Go to bed at midnight, and not a moment before. Stay up later if you aren't tired.

Get up at 6:30, and not a moment after, even on the weekends. Thirty minutes of daylight every morning. No napping. No laying down during the day. Thirty minutes of exercise in the late afternoon or early evening.

If you are awake for more than twenty minutes in the middle of the night, get up. No television or computer, and no novels; do something boring, like folding laundry.

I'm not good at boring myself; I end up telling myself stories when I try. I think about empty mugs sitting on a park bench.

A man and a woman happen to go out the bar's back door at the same time for a smoke. He grumbles about not being to smoke inside anymore. She has a lovely smile. To keep talking, he lies that he left his cigarettes at home and bums one off of her. She listens while he talks about the weather, the crows, and the library strike. She watches his mouth and his hands. He listens while she talks about the transit system, the squirrels, and the punk show. He watches her eyes and her mouth, and her breasts, when she isn't looking.

He buys her a beer – to repay the cigarette – and smuggles the thick glass mugs out of the bar under his jacket. She giggles as they sneak into the shadows of the park, away from the crowd and the street lamps. They take a bench and drink their beers and smoke the rest of her cigarettes.


Two nights of sleep restriction and my body decides to stop fighting the virus that's been threatening for the past week. I've got a cold, and all I've wanted to do all day is curl up in a blanket and sleep. But I don't, because I am far too stubborn. I've drunk a gallon of peppermint tea and taken Advil for the sinus pain. I have to pee every half-hour. I do anything but sleep.

It starts to rain. His apartment is nearby. They leave their drained mugs and an empty cigarette package on the bench.

It's almost time for my hour of screen-free time. I've got a magazine at the kitchen table, where hopefully I'll be too uncomfortable to fall asleep while reading. I did manage to stay awake on the bus this afternoon.

Get through the next five days, and it'll all be better. So the doctor says.

Did she walk through this park this morning and see the empty mugs and the damp cigarette box?

It's no wonder I don't sleep.
dreaminghope: (Quiet Gargoyle)
1
The SkyTrain's pulling into the station, and it is packed. She'd wait for the next one, but it's rush hour; the next one will be just as bad. Or worse. Her heart is pounding and her palms get moist.

She starts counting – one, two, three, four; one, two, three, four – trying to turn all her thoughts to the numbers and away from her oncoming panic.
2
Picture a red number one. Picture an orange number two. Picture a yellow number three. Picture a green number four. Repeat.

It takes a lot of layers of thought to distract.
3
Touch index finger while picturing a red one... touch middle finger with orange two... touch ring finger with yellow three... and touch pinkie with green four... repeat.

The physical action, the recitation, and the detailed visualization still leaves room for an underlying mantra: "Just keep counting. Just keep counting. Just keep counting."
4
There's a lot going on in her mind, but the panic is still there, simmering quietly. It is amazing how much her mind can hold all at once. That thought takes its place too: Red one – keep counting – orange two – how much can be thought at once – yellow three – keep counting – green four – thinking so much – red one... repeat. Get on the crowded SkyTrain car.
dreaminghope: (Confused Zoey)
I stand in the bank, wondering why the ATM won't take my bus ticket.

That didn't really happen. But it was the kind of day where it could have.

I consider waiting for the bus even though it'll take longer to get me home just because the up escalator at the SkyTrain is broken and I hate walking up still escalators.

That part is true. Does it matter?

I decide to take the SkyTrain despite the dizzying climb up the escalator. The woman climbing in front of me has a red tote bag covered in quotes. The one near the seam facing me says "Do one thing every day that scares you". I'm scared of so many things. I'm used to pretending that I'm not scared; I do it all the time. I pretend I'm not scared that the escalator will start unexpectedly under my feet.

I have my MP3 player on. It's still a new experience wearing one; I've never even worn a Walkman before. There's an instrumental playing as I get on the train and take hold of the center pole directly in front of the door. I sway with the train's motion, the music playing directly into my brain, and stare out the window at the world passing in a sunny blur. I get off at the next station. It's a dreamy movie scene, from an artsy film in which nothing happens.

The woman and her tote bag was actually at the gym and not on the escalator. My MP3 player's batteries died earlier today, but I have worn it on the SkyTrain a couple of times before.

That's the kind of day it's been.
dreaminghope: (Cute but Deranged)
I took one over-the-counter sleeping aid last night; after, my edges felt fuzzy, like my skin wasn't containing me properly. I still didn't sleep properly. Today I tried to compensate for my exhaustion with coffee. I had two whole cups, and then I was jittery and shaky and...

A customer ordered four pounds of butter this week. Why would anyone need four pounds of butter? He only ordered a dozen eggs. What takes twelve eggs but four pounds - four pounds - of butter?

This seems like a food mystery in need of a food detective. Unfortunately, I am not a detective.

I'm a spy.

I'm a food spy.

This afternoon, I snuck around a West side grocery store in a state of caffeine-induced paranoia. I watched over my shoulder all the time, jumping at shadows and scurrying away from every person wearing the grocery store's colours. Every time anyone approached, I would hastily grab the nearest item from the shelf and pretend to be studying the ingredients. Then, if the other person didn't leave right away, I would casually wander off.

I now know all the Happy Planet ingredients. That stuff's popular with the yuppies; I had to casually wander away and back again four times. I bought a "man goes blueberry" because it doesn't have any bananas in it.

I'm a food spy: stealthily recording the prices of juices and crackers for a competitive pricing secret shop.

I think I need to go coffee-free tomorrow.
dreaminghope: (Naked)
If I'm to meet someone somewhere and they are five minutes late, I start considering the things that may have delayed them: a late bus, a misplaced house key, a slow watch, a random sighting of a pink rabbit.

If they are ten minutes late: some bad traffic, a last minute phone call, an encounter with a talking pink rabbit.

If they are fifteen minutes late, I start to worry: maybe there's been a car accident, or they came down with a sudden and severe illness, or maybe the pink rabbit turned out to be homicidal.

By the time someone is twenty minutes late, I've begun rehearsing the speech I will give at their funeral.

It's dangerous to leave me alone with too much time to think. That is, unless you would like to know what I would say at your memorial.
dreaminghope: (Squinty Puck)
When I was a little girl, I hated to be dirty. My mother jokes that she wanted to just roll me in the mud, because I was so meticulous and unnaturally tidy for a small child.

In elementary school, I used to borrow safety pins from my teacher and pin a little fold in my clothing to hide any spots of dirt. I hated looking dirty; if I couldn't get rid of the stain, I wanted to at least hide it and appear clean.

I like order. I like proper punctuation and clean sentence structures, stories with tidy endings, and labeled boxes for all my different craft supplies. I keep everything – I have scraps of fancy paper as small as a couple of centimeters square – but it is all tucked away in an organized fashion. It is chaos forced into order by plastic boxes and dollar-store shelving units. But my craft room looks nice again.

My LJ is like that too. A chaotic life – neurotic thoughts and silly fantasies – forced into individual posts with tidy titles. And things that don't fit into a tidy post often get swept aside, never to appear in LJ at all.

Russ told me I had a "Zen-like calm" this morning. When confronted with someone who is upset or annoyed (as Russ was this morning, since his cat woke us at 5 AM), I often become very peaceful and serene. I don't think of myself as a calm person, though, because my mind is so often whirling behind the scenes. I just hide that over-thinking like a dirty spot hidden behind a safety pin.

I fear insomnia tonight. I know that thinking that I may not sleep isn't the best way to get myself to sleep, but my mind is off and running. I am considering making what may seem to be a minor lifestyle change – starting to go to a gym – and I can't help but try to predict all the possible obstacles.

Next I do the self-defeating thing that lots of people do: I start thinking about all the other things I should do in my life. I should eat less sugar, I should eat more protein, I should wash the floors on a regular basis, I should wash the cats' food bowls every day, I should go to bed earlier at night, and I should get up earlier in the morning … and, of course, when you start thinking about all the changes you should make, it's easy to get overwhelmed and end up making none at all. I know lots of people do this to themselves, especially at this time of year, but I don't think all of them end up having sleepless nights because they are considering joining a gym.

I want my life to fit neatly into the days, and I want a healthy body and a clean house too. I don't make changes easily because I resent the confusion of changing my routines. And I want to bring this post to some sort of tidy conclusion, perhaps where I have come to terms with the messiness of life and feel secure that I will sleep well tonight, but life isn't really like that, is it?

Sight

Jun. 17th, 2006 06:51 pm
dreaminghope: (Naked)
I take out my contact lenses and instantly feel vulnerable. I'm acutely aware of my sudden lack of ability: I can't read anyone's facial expressions or see if anyone's addressing me. Like someone who thinks that everyone who's whispering must be talking about them, I am convinced that everyone is looking at me. I sit very still and try not to look in anyone's direction, lest they think I'm staring at them.

I'm never without my lenses during the day, especially not in public. Yesterday, I sat in the bright and busy optometrist's office, feeling exposed, waiting for my turn in the office.

I'll leave restaurants if I'm not sure whether I seat myself or wait to be seated. I'll leave stores without buying anything if no one's at the cash register and there's no clear indication of how to get someone there. In a bakery or deli case, I won't ask what something is or how much it costs; if I don't recognize it and it isn't labeled, I won't buy it. Alone in public, I get very peculiar about my interactions with other people.

The optometrist calls my name from across the room. By the time I grab my purse, she is already heading down the hall. I follow hesitantly, reluctant to assume that I'm supposed to follow her, but unsure what else to do. I'm relieved when she greets me; I did the right thing!

At the end of the optometrist appointment, I have a new prescription: -8.00 and -10.00, for those to whom that means anything. For those to whom that doesn't mean anything: I don't see well without lenses.

On a side note, I get asked a lot by those with good eyes what it is to see like me. So, if you would, a photo demonstration.



The right hand picture is approximately what I see without my lenses. This is what Zoey would look like to me at about two meters away.

Restless

Mar. 10th, 2005 12:38 pm
dreaminghope: (Default)
All week I have been feeling restless and a little nutty. I choose to believe that it is mostly too much doing and not enough sleeping, though the huge consumption of sugar due to recent birthday celebrations may also be involved.

I am left wondering whether my blood pressure, which feels high (though not "going to work at Omega" high) is caused by my anxiety, whose cause I have not yet pin-pointed, or if my feelings of anxiety are caused by a spike in blood pressure, whose cause I have not yet pin-pointed.

I am not encouraged by either possibility, but I am not worried yet (which is good; anxiety about the anxiety wouldn't help me). I think I need to learn how to relax.

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