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I’m on sick day number 3 for a headcold. I wrote this to a friend elsewhere:

“the head cold from hell. I’ve spent the last 48 hours surfing the web, playing WoWpandas, and watching TV. Also, blowing my nose. There’s a nearly full grocery bag of used tissues by the couch, which is charming and I’d like the maid to come deal with it, but I don’t have a maid. Also, sleeping on a crazy-ass off-cycle cycle, sort of 2 am to noonish. we traded last night — bruised rib guy slept on the couch and i slept in bed on a mountain of pillows, instead of the other way round. our house is a fucking wreck of dirty floors and dishes, i canceled three other-problem doctor appointments and a business trip, and have lost three pounds probably because, y’know, food tastes gross when you can’t smell, and I’m probably dehydrated. On the upside, I CAN BREATHE TODAY using my nose and i don’t feel the need to swallow a handful of symptom-suppressing medication. Rock the fuck on, man.”

I’ve dropped so many professional balls this week that I can’t even see which ones have rolled under the furniture. As noted, our house is a disaster that needs a deep cleaning. My personal life and its organizational bits needs a complete overhaul, reschedule, and do over. There are Halls Triple Soothing Action Cherry cough drop wrappers all over creation.

But you know, I really don’t care all that much. I mean, sure, I dread trying to put the pieces back into some sort of logical not-woefully-behind order, and I dread tackling all of the things that still and yet need doing, but… I’m sick. I needed a break. My body aches and my head throbs and I can finally breathe but taking a shower sounds like too much work…

It’s pretty much the best possible sign that I have worn myself out. And I’m heeding it. The balls can just keep rolling under the sofa. I’ll find them next week when I can get off of it long enough to clean up after myself.

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I just saw a tweet from the Ancestral Health Symposium in Boston that said, “Look not just to diet and exercise as variables, but also social organization. How does community affect health?”

And I immediately said, “Tons.” Community affects health TONS.

Justin got up this morning and went for a run around the back field, with encouragement from me, after I came upstairs from doing 40 minutes of stretching and bodyweight exercises. Everyday when I finish that exercise, he says “I’m proud of you.”

That’s part of my community, and affects my health.

We live in a rural area with lots of small farms. There’s always local produce (in growing season) at the co-op, both in-town grocery stores, and at countless farmers’ markets and roadside stands.

That’s part of my community, and affects my health.

My secretary gave me two lovely cucumbers from someone’s garden — her husband had been gifted with a giant bag of them, and they had too many — and they became part of my sandwich for lunch today.

That’s part of my community, and affects my health.

We live in a place where people can drive 20-50 minutes and be in deep woods, on a river, up a mountain, and spend a lot of time talking about what they do in those places and how amazing it is, and offering to share their experiences with others.

That’s part of my community, and affects my health.

I live within drop-off range of a family-owned grass-fed pastured ranch that does a meat CSA, delivering locally raised and processed meat to my doorstep once a month.

That’s part of my community, and affects my health.

I work on a campus that has a vibrant food culture, eatery options that provide standard fast food fare side-by-side with gourmet options, and a conscious operating choice to cater to the needs of vegetarians, vegans, and gluten intolerances. When I forget to pack a lunch, I do not live in a food desert.

That’s part of my community, and affects my health.

Nearly all the friends I see locally and regularly are vegetarians, or hunters who only eat meat they’ve harvested, or engaged in eating whole foods. We talk about those things. Regularly.

That’s part of my community, and affects my health.

Seriously. Think about it. How can community not affect your health, when you parse the variables?

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In 1973, my parents got married.

 

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In 2012, my mom’s gonna get married again.

I really couldn’t be happier about it. I grin every time I think about it. Now I just have to pick out a dress I can wear with a camera around my neck…

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Driving 14 hours with my very best friend and enjoying every minute of his company.

Lying on the grass, eyes closed behind my sunglasses, soaking in North Carolina sun, and accepting a glass of preposterously sweet white wine from Amy while I listened to Erin and the Lauras and Anna and Courtney talk.

Staring across Chadwick’s bonfire-lit back yard party at 50 people, two thirds of whom I’d never met before, listening to loud music and drinking seriously alcoholic fruit punch from a red solo cup.

Having the kind of friends who make buttons that say “What Jenica said”, and then wear them all weekend.

Waking up in a tent, more than a little hung over, staring at the dancing shadows the leaves were making on the roof and thinking, “I’m not getting up yet.”

Having a just-a-few-hours-notice backyard cookout with my college roommates and their families… 10 hours away from home. Because we could, and it sounded fun.

Staring in wonder at the heat-distressed tiles lining the belly of the space shuttle Discovery while Justin told me about the science behind heat shielding.

Driving 10 hours home with my very best friend and enjoying every minute of his company.

I needed that.

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I still sit like this. Now when I do it, my elbows turn a bit further out, and my hands a bit further in, and people tell me I should stop doing that, ack.

and yet.

I still sit like this.

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three decades older, blonde again, and on trains not nearly as magical as those first ones i rode in Europe, but still.

I still sit like this.

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I woke up this morning to the alarm and a screaming headache. Tried to ease it, failed, and called in sick, and went back to sleep with a handful of painkillers and a weighted lavendar bag on my eyes.

It worked. I woke up at noon feeling marginally more human, if a bit migraine groggy. Which is good, as I have a conference call in an hour, and I need to clean up my presentation for Montreal tomorrow, pack a bag, and drive up to Canada in a few hours.

But first I needed to tend my thumb; I smashed it with a mallet last night working on a leather project without Justin’s help. So after my shower I needed to clean the blood blister, release the pressure, and bandage it again. So I did. And as I stood there, holding a bloody alcohol wipe and awkwardly maneuvering a Neosporin tube without using the injured thumb, I glanced in the mirror. Wet hair, jeans, battered army green Blue Sun tshirt, 18 year old wool-and-cork clogs on my feet.

And I marveled at the facets of my life. This woman, right now, slightly mangled, very tired, and wearing her favorite clothes, is in fact the same one who’ll stand up and speak for an hour in front of a room of Canadian librarians tomorrow in a pink and yellow Jackie-O-esque shift dress and peep-toe patent wedges. And as I do, I’ll have freshly painted fingernails… and a bloody bandaid on my left thumb.

And every bit of it’s me.

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“This is quite a project I’ve undertaken.”

I offer Spock eyebrow.

He elaborates. “To watch all the Treks in order.”
“It’s a long-term commitment we’ve undertaken.”
“We? You’re not watching all of them. You’re watching, like, half, sporadically.”
“Yes. That is my project.”
“I think your project is to endure my project.”

Sorry, everybody, I’d stay to chat, but Jean Luc is on the big screen, and I have a project to participate in.

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While I was in DC, I was sitting talking with Sarah Houghton. She posted a year ago about Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome, which she has and copes with daily. A short bit:

“EDS causes every collagen cell to be faulty and programmed to be too stretchy. This means that skin, tendons, ligaments, and other collagen-heavy body parts are super-stretchy and flexible.  For example, I can touch the tips of my fingers to the back of my hand.  Joints are very unstable, painful, and dislocate often. Oh the stories I could tell about dislocated wrists, hips, ribs, and knees! Other effects are chronic systemic nerve inflammation and pain, easy scarring, eye and vision problems, digestive system problems, vascular problems, and increased overall sensitivity (food allergies, contact reactions to chemical substances, etc.).  Pretty much anywhere there’s collagen, we’re screwed.  A good way to think about EDS if you’re not familiar with it is that it feels like extreme rheumatoid arthritis in every single joint, with the addition of dislocations and lots of other nasty side effects when you least expect them.”

Shortly after I read that post, I went to physical therapy for my ongoing neck/back/shoulder problems, and my new PT, Jamie, said, “Wait. Your shoulder’s really mobile. Can I do a set of tests that aren’t just on your shoulder?” and promptly declared that I’d scored the highest possible on her standard test for hypermobility. It explained a lot — why I have muscle pain even though my range of motion is huge, why my pain just migrates around as I fix one problem after another, why my shoulder subluxates at my command, why I get trigger point migraines, why my right hip often feels like it’s slipping out of its socket (it is). Sarah’s post gave me some insight into what Jamie was talking about, and I was grateful. I fired off an email to Sarah thanking her for that.

So in March I was sitting with Sarah and we were commiserating. Great skin? Yep. Valedictorian of yoga, since it’s not muscle flexibility we demonstrate, but joint flexing? Yep. Injure yourself doing yoga as a result? Yep. Injure yourself doing just about anything if you’re not careful? Yep. Ache all the time? Yep. True believer about massage and chiropractic as ways to mitigate and maintain in the face of a body that’s just too stretchy? Yep.

Someone gave us a puzzled look. I said, “I have the baby version of the condition Sarah has.”

She gave me a funny look and asked why I said that. I made explanations to the effect of “my life’s not as debilitated as yours has been, and my joints don’t actually dislocate like yours do and and and…” On the one hand, that’s totally true. I do feel that way — like it’s just not as serious, because I’m not as impacted, so I don’t feel like I deserve to get the attention of saying “i’m sick.”

On the way back up to our room that evening, Colleen also pointed out that it sucks to admit that your body’s broken and that you’re sick, and it’s much more comforting to note that someone has it worse than you do. Well. Okay. Yeah, that too.

Yesterday as I was getting undressed for my twice-monthly massage, having already asked my therapist to please focus on my shoulder, which was spasming all week for no apparent reason, I noted that my right hip really ached. REALLY ached. It’d been twinging as I walked across campus earlier, but it actively hurt in that moment. So I did a forward fold, because that motion will often make my hips pop, and that settling back in is often what they need. But this time, it wasn’t a joint pop. I felt it move back with a meaty thunk. Like it was… shit. Like it was halfway to dislocated. Goddammit.

It hurt all night, and I downed a handful of painkillers to get to sleep.

This morning it’s fine. Now my shoulder just hurts again, tiny spasms all along my shoulder blade and a hollow clicking noise when I pull it back to straight and adjust my posture. Like it does every day of every week of my life.

You know why my shoulder hurts? Because my body doesn’t work right. Because I have a hypermobility condition, and my joints are all too loose, and my muscles strain to compensate by pulling tighter. And that has an affect on my life.

Whether I like it or not.

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Because everyone needs one. What’s on yours?

Bad Day – Fuel
F**kin’ Perfect – Pink
Sober – Pink
Close Call – Rilo Kiley
Windmills – Toad the Wet Sprocket
Dear Avery – The Decemberists
Desperation – Miranda Lambert
Don’t Carry It All – The Decemberists
A Long December – Counting Crows
Jane Says – Jane’s Addiction
Crowing – Toad the Wet Sprocket
Who Says – John Mayer
Dancing On My Own – Robyn
Betterman – Pearl Jam
A Murder Of One – Counting Crows
Unwell – Matchbox Twenty
Come Back Down – Toad the Wet Sprocket
Grenade – Delilah
If You Only Knew – Shinedown
Fall Down – Toad the Wet Sprocket
Anna Begins – Counting Crows

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I was just at the opening reception for the conference at which I’m speaking tomorrow, and I came upstairs to spend an hour working on the last details of the speech, whilst texting with Justin and trying to avoid a stupid fight because we’re both overwhelmed.

And then I remembered.

It’s April 5th.

2012.

Oh.

I still miss you, Hank. I hope you’d be proud of me, even as you watch me burn bridges and turn my back on people you loved, knowing that you yourself did the kind of things I do. I hope you’d be proud of me as I try to protect the things that mattered most to you, as I try to be the kind of person you taught me to be, as I try to cherish the things that had meaning in your world.

I still miss you.

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