Thursday, February 13, 2014

Extra Hours of Uselessness

I've had sleeplessness. Sometimes brought on by a racing brain, sometimes from shift-work broken sleep patterns, sometimes even just plain ol' insomnia that doesn't appear to have any cause. Sleep and I have always had an inconsistent relationship.

The last couple of years sleeplessness hasn't been an issue (which let me take a moment to say YAY). Instead fatigue has come to rule and now, while I still don't ever seem to be able to get enough sleep, I'm getting heaps of it. Without the structure imposed by core business hours, I will sleep more than 10 hours a day. Every day. Regardless of what those days may hold. It's easy to recognise that I just need more rest than most, but so far has been impossible to accept as I don't wake feeling rested and renewed. Sure, I really, really, really like sleep. Really. But this sleep is like fake sweetener, it does nothing for me, and fucked if I'm not mighty resentful at losing nearly half of the day to it. If I keep going like this, that's half my life gone. It already feels like there isn't enough hours in the day without sleep getting greedy.

Waffling on a bit. Brain is mighty woolly.

The night before last I just didn't sleep. At all. It wasn't anxiety driven, brain wasn't chewing over anything, heart wasn't stewing, had had a single cup of tea that morning, no sugar beyond the afternoon, easy exercise during the day. My body just didn't feel like powering down, and while I wasn't pleased to watch the small hours become larger hours, the frustration and annoyance that usually comes with sleeplessness didn't feel like playing, and mostly I just listened to podcast fiction between attempts to lie still and breathe slow.

Hell, I actually felt alright when my alarm went off, and the only reason I didn't go to work was because I knew the instant I got out of bed and started doing, that would change.

Fibromyalgia and RSI management requires sleep be respected. The meatsack relaxes in sleep in a manner that's near impossible to invoke while awake. The less sleep you get, the less time the nerves and muscles have to recuperate, the inverse result being that I simply get really fucking sore. And dumb. But mostly sore.

Fuck I'm waffling so much. So very dumb.

Anyway, I figured I'd sleep just fiiiiine last night, because my body's reaction to "not enough sleep" is "HIBERNATE FOR THE NEXT WEEK ALRIGHTY!!!!!!!!!"

And I didn't.

Annnnnnd it's actually really weird. This is not even close to the default behaviour of my body for the past few years, and I'm well and truly out of practice in managing sleeplessness, if my old methods would even apply.

And. And. And. I honestly can't remember what the point of this post was. Other than maybe just leaving a record for myself? Um?

I think it might have been to do with the fact that if I'm letting my body sleep as much as I want I lose too many hours being unconscious, but if I'm not getting enough sleep then I haven't gained any time at all because my mental faculties are – herein demonstrated – shitclogged and I'm so full of aches and fatigue all I can really do is sit and stare at nothing in a daze before gently keeling over onto a pillow that never feels comfortable and still staring at nothing in a daze.

I think it might have been something to do with betrayal, in that my default attitude toward my body is resentment, fury and contempt that it sabotages my capacities and abilities across the spectrum, and then this, whatever this is, comes along like a rogue planet as if to say, "You thought I was talented before, now check this out!"

I think it might have been better crafted. Nuanced. Actually a smooth, interesting reading experience. But this is the exact result of all this body betrayal. A whole lot of flibbertigibbet.

Man, I feel like I'm gonna chunder.

Have a kind day, yeah.

Monday, February 10, 2014

Island of Wings - Karin Altenberg

buy :: site
This book came to me at the Ullapool Book Festival, during which the B&B I was working at was packed full to the brim of authors, editors and publishers. The café was full of book talk. The upstairs lounge was left in an immense disarray every night, as it appears genre writers and literary writers are much the same in their ability to drink and debacle when left unsupervised in large groups.

Karin Altenberg was one of the guests, and I attended an interview with her based solely on the subject of her latest book: St Kilda. The timing was serendipitious. I'd just been there, and still had the ghosts of gannets in the corner of my eye.

It's a beautifully written book. I deliberately let it sit a while, so my memories of the island were not so close, but Altenberg herself has visited the island, and lived for a while on a Swedish island, and there is some intangible but instantly recognisable truth in her prose which captures the essence of island life. That even if you have no contact with the sea, being neither fisher, hunter, sailor nor swimmer, it rules your world with an indifference and benevolence that is at once comforting and horrifying.

This is the story of Elizabeth MacKenzie, wife of the minister Neil MacKenzie, who took it upon himself to save the poor souls of St Kilda. She arrives on this island pregnant with her first child and discovering that no English is spoken, only Gaelic, is completely isolated from everything she has known.

Altenberg spoke of the extensive research she had done prior to writing this book, as there is plenty of historical documentation and correspondence regarding the minister's time on the island. I recall quite strongly that, in all the accounts and letters and records and diaries, she found only two mentions of Elizabeth MacKenzie. One saying she served tea, the other a passing comment on her appearance.

"The forgotten women of history," Altenberg said.

What develops in the pages is a rich narrative full of that which is unspoken, of being trapped in vast spaces and finding peace and strength in being the stranger. It is at once heart-wrenching, both Elizabeth's tale and the circumstances of the people of St Kilda, and uplifting. The island, unforgiving as it is, is a singularly stunning place. A perfect combination of "oh heavens no I wouldn't want to live as the St Kildans did or be so chokingly isolated like Lizzie," and "Perfect wilderness, I want to walk those slopes again." There is no moderate space within St Kilda, and that is how the lives of those who live on her are shaped.

We'll never know who Elizabeth MacKenzie was as a person, never know a thought that passed through her in the long dark winters or the idyllic summers. She's two short sentences in all of history.

It could be that the Elizabeth that Altenberg has summoned to the page is completely inaccurate, and we'll never know. But what Altenberg succeeds in doing is writing of this overlooked woman with respect, warmth, and an understanding that, when reading of her plight and all her trials, is a necessary emolliate for a reader stricken by empathy.

I love everything about this story, even as I despair the historical events which bracket it.

Verdict: Most excellent.

Tuesday, February 04, 2014

A Little Story

For once, my unconscious was kind. She was crawling up my leg when I woke, and I knew it was her. No flailing and slapping in a frenzy of "WTF IS THAT?!"

I don't know how long she'd been trapped in my room. I only discovered her when I returned from Sydney. When I broke the darkness with the bedside light she fluttered against the wall in a panic, a moth large enough to mark her impact with a shy "thud, thud." I couldn't catch her then, nor the following nights. She'd tumble down beneath my bed and there she'd remain, until the next night, the next time I turned on the light.

She was weak now. It was all she could do to climb onto the hand I offered her. Her feet were large enough that I could feel the small hooks she used to cling to my skin, the timidest of prickles. A thick wedge of a rich deep brown with only the faintest ghost of a texture, two vivid grey eyes her patches like the eyes of a storm. A fur collar like a luxurious lady in a luxurious coat.

She was so tired.

I carried her to the bath room, opened the window and let her out into the dawn.

We all have days, weeks, months, in which we're a confused and exhausted moth. I hope kindness finds you.

Later that day, as I stepped onto an escalator I looked down. Another moth, similar in size and colouring, lay against the grill like a crumpled leaf. Hands clasped, wings to the floor. Kindness did not find this one.

Sunday, February 02, 2014

Disabled In The Water

Yesterday saw (after a couple of weeks of grumbling about key selection criteria) the opening salvo of job applications sent to Sydney. Exciting! I have to confess, the past month of navigating the absence of my lover has been, is, continues to be harder than I let on. The job hunt may be a hateful process, but I will go at it tooth and nail to close the distance between us.

The positions were with the public service, and at the end of the bemusingly complex online form, I was asked quite simply if I had a disability. The drop down list gave me two options: lie or dare.

I often fall into the thought trap of assuming myself to be normal. "Okay." I mean, I have a job I can do just fine, I can go out with friends, I can-


I'm part time because I cannot, can not, survive a full working week without pain and deep fatigue. My salary is so much lower than my friends and peers because of this, because I must balance my health before any sort of job advancement and stress, the fucking demon shitheap it is, can decay my wellbeing in mere minutes. That extra day off on Wednesdays I have is not really a 'day off'. Much as I like to plan to do things on that day, mostly it is used to rest. Sleep. To do nothing and use that inertia to keep the fatigue and pain in balance so I'm capable of another two days of sitting at a desk.

Whether or not to be open about this in my job hunt is a little imp of indecision and anxiety I can never quite crush. The fear that admitting I'm a lame horse will mean I'm passed over for jobs isn't unreasonable. The fear that this will see me waiting months before I can move up to Sydney is nauseating. However, if an office isn't prepare to accept my limitations, then it is not an office in which I want to work. I know this. It's the buoy I cling to.

So I chose 'dare'. 

It's the first time I've referred to myself as disabled. 

Some threshold has been crossed in my mind.

Then there was Chinese New Year (KUNG HEI FAT CHOOOOI!), and a house warming party, and a birthday BBQ, and I was all set to bounce into all three. The logistics were planned out, I had my outfit picked, I was fucking looking forward to the silliness and cackling.

Bones wrought of fatigue, a substance heavier than lead. After firing off my applications I crawled back to bed, hoping a nap would bolster me. It didn't. I didn't leave my bed until today. 

FOMO is close, but not quite the right trajectory. My own not-particularly-well-thought-out take on FOMO is that it stems more from the lack of invitation than not being present. We're adults now, I'm not being invited to events out of pity. My friends ask for my presence because they genuinely want it. That's a fine gift, and I do treasure these requests. I just can't.

Every time this happens, I think of all those passing remarks in which someone is referred to, with exasperation and a touch of disgust, as 'flakey'. That I am that person is anathema. I don't want to be unreliable. I don't want to be a bad friend. All your celebrations and achievements I want to add the happy too. In that joyous memory-making dance I want to play my part and add another thread of glee. I love your presence.

The apologies I send are weeping with penance and self-flagellation and regret, and I doubt anyone is blind to the fact that I'm not asking for their forgiveness, but my own. 

There is no way out of here.