I have been quite disappointed in myself, after making the commitment to do the A To Z challenge, that I was unable to keep up with it this week. It is particularly disappointing because I’ve already blogged about my tendency not to complete things and to be hard on myself when I do not succeed at things.

However, all of Monday had gone by in a blur, and at the end of everything, I was upset because the day disappeared and I hadn’t blogged. Then it was Tuesday, usually the busiest day of the week in my world, and I still had not blogged.

E is also for Easter, which was Sunday and a relaxing day. Easter happened to be overflowing with TV shows I wanted to see, and I also tried my hand at another “E” thing, eating. *laughs* In particular, I made soup in the Crock-Pot, which turned out better than I expected—specifically considering I don’t really know how to cook, but I use recipes as guidelines rather than instruction manuals. I think I ate about 8 bowls of soup over a three day period, before I decided I was souped out (note to self: cut recipes in half. Also, rice is bigger after it’s cooked for a while.) After successfully making the soup, I watched the Smurf movie, which was pretty smurfing cute!! 😛 I don’t really love animated movies; I only usually see them if they are something fantastic, and “cute” isn’t usually my cup of tea. But the movie was entertaining, surprisingly witty, and had a great cast.

E is also for Energy, and I had been in better spirits and having more of it. So, as happens every time I’m feeling positive, I decided to try to cut back on my beta-blocker. Although doctors like to deny it because they are so widely prescribed, many reputable studies and also personal observations have shown me that beta-blockers severely slow down your energy level, cause weight gain, bloating, and in some people, diabetes. However, for people like me who have a high pulse and an irregular heartbeat, it is one of the only effective treatments and significantly lowers your risk for heart attack or stroke. Since my mother started having both in her 50’s, both my brother and I were put on beta-blockers at the first sign of “something’s wrong”. During my trip to the ER after the episode recounted in “B Is For Beach”, the doctors found I had PAT: Paroxysmal Atrial Tachycardia. My heart rate will randomly speed up, trigger heart palpitations and panic attacks. It is not entirely uncommon and not life-threatening, but an episode will keep you in bed or send you to the ER– and the beta blocker put an end to them almost completely. However, the side effects are terrible, even after 4 years.

Worse yet, my doctor denies things like the beta-blocker being responsible for weight gain and fluid retention (even though it has happened to almost everyone I know who takes them. Recently, a friend was put on them, and his doctor immediately put him on a low-carb diet before the pills even took effect.), and also does not understand why I cannot seem to cut back the dosage of this medication. I have tried multiple times, but after doing extensive research on the internet, learned that “rebound symptoms” were common. Cut back on your medication, symptoms of whatever made you take it to begin with return. I’ve never gotten past 4 days of even a small reduction, and my doctor gave me the OK to cut my dose in half. When my blood pressure started to read 92/58, I got scared, and decided it was time to try again.

Today is day 4, and the side effects have been terrible. I feel sad and just want to lie in bed all day, and the smallest thing going wrong makes me want to bury myself in a hole and never come out. My hands shake, and one night, felt so dry and swollen I couldn’t move them. I had a heart palpitation, my BP is up (it’s actually normal, which to me feels like I am riding a rollercoaster), and I generally feel scared. Still, I’ve done everything I can to stick to taking that little piece of pill away every day. It made me feel comforted to know at the same time, another friend has been struggling to cut back on his terrible smoking habit, and his symptoms and struggles aren’t much different. I try to remind myself that if I keep focused on the goal and don’t panic, I can do this thing that will help in the long run. But it is hard on my mind, my body, and my emotions.

I almost quite trying on Monday evening, when E was for Emergency. I had a text from my brother saying my dad was in hospital again. One of the things that scares me about my own health is how unhealthy my own parents are, in their mid-60’s. My dad has stage IV prostate cancer that’s spread to the bones, and is currently doing chemotherapy and injections to shrink the tumours. He also suffers from Lymphedema, is over 500 pounds, and has been confined to a bed and wheelchair for about 6 years. One of the side effects is an inability to get enough oxygen into his body, and although he has a machine to help with this, he doesn’t use it. So, when trying to get into his wheelchair, he fell, and the doctors discovered his carbon dioxide level was at 95%. He is currently in a medically induced coma while they get his body balanced. It is perhaps the third time this has happened. Yet, my dad refuses to go to a nursing home where trained professionals can give him 24/7 care. It is a very tough situation, and it upsets me that my own health issues keep me from being able to travel to see my family.

I try not to beat myself up for forgetting to blog in the midst of all this, and my body struggling with itself to even do simple tasks—but it does feel a lot like “F”, which is failure.

At this point in my life, I need a win. I need something to go right. I need to do something I didn’t screw up along the way. I need to fight for every day to be a good one, even if my quality of life isn’t what it used to be and may never be the same again. It’s too easy to give up hope and not find anything to smile about when you wake up in the morning, when everyone should be smiling just because they woke up in the morning. There is so much in life I don’t have the means, ability, or knowledge to control, making sure that there are little successes where I can find them is important to me–even if it just means writing on this blog every day.

I may only be able to live a “C” kind of life these days, but it’s way better than an “F” kind of life.

“We don’t even know if her writing is any good. And what if she wakes up, and she’s 30, and what does she know how to do?”
“She knows how to have fun. She does what she wants to do, when she wants to do it, and she has fun–and then she thinks about that fun and she learns from that fun.

Thanks to Xfinity and the promotion they have going on that seems geared to target people who get obsessive about things they really like, but only for a short period of time, I managed to watch two entire series of the much-buzzed-about HBO show “Girls”. I haven’t watched the show for a number of reasons, but the main one is the fact that I don’t have HBO. I also no longer have Blockbuster Online, since their service turned to absolute crap, so really, there are few ways of seeing the show.

After 20 episodes plus commentary with Lena Dunham, I can say that I do indeed like the show. I was prepared not to. In fact, over the past 36 hours, I’ve seen Lena Dunham naked so many times that I think I might be in a relationship with her. I feel like I should be buying her dinner or something, because I probably know more about her character’s sex life than my own. I don’t really think we should keep seeing each other. There is no physical attraction whatsoever, and she seems remarkably self-involved. Yet, I keep watching.

And, strangely enough, that kind of defines the phenomenon that is “Girls”.

One of the reasons I stayed away from this show is because of all the media buzz surrounding it. From haters who summarize it as “over-privileged twenty-something white girls whining about imaginary problems” to pro-feminist bloggers who write about “rape scenes” and “lack of female sexual empowerment” in a show that’s supposed to be about young women *becoming* independent and empowered, there was enough to make me think I was better off not watching it. Not to mention the fact that, plot-wise, it seemed like a younger, poorer “Sex And The City” (you’ve got the quirky writer, the prudish skinny brunette, the wild child, and no Miranda—she’s been replaced by a somewhat manic 21-year-old virgin. Redheads were not popular in casting, apparently. :P )

Many of my friends loved the show, assured me I would love the show, and as a female creative person who is vocally supportive of other female creative people getting out there and being “real”, I would love Lena Dunham.

However, all the interviews and publicity I saw about Lena Dunham seemed to reference her looks and her weight and her nude scenes, and how being an “average” woman on TV was groundbreaking. Something about all this just made me feel uncomfortable rather than interested. Perhaps it’s because of the 145-pound actress making self-deprecatory comments about her weight and her appearance through her character, while simultaneously sending out the message that it’s cool to be comfortable with yourself—-and by the way, this is what the average “real” woman looks like, so we should get more comfortable with that, too—and the fact that the mixed messages made me uncomfortable. Since gaining some weight two years ago, I’m about the same size she is (although we’re clearly shaped differently) and her show is littered with references about how her character is “plain” and “fat”. Does this make me “plain” and “fat”, and even if I happen to be those things, do I want to see a reflection of them on TV? Or is the point that her character is NOT “plain” and “fat” and “weird”, it’s just how she sees herself?

In any case, something about the whole thing made me feel vaguely uncomfortable, and I figured this was either a show that I couldn’t relate to at all, or would be a good way for an insecure person to reinforce insecurities by seeing some sort of reflection of herself in a character that was described with not particularly positive attributes. Thus,about a month ago, when I was approached by what turned out to be a guy far too young for me who compared me to Lena Dunham, I didn’t necessarily take it as a compliment, although he obviously meant it as one.

The idea of watching this show scared me, in a way, because it’s not often on television you see a brutally honest depiction of someone who in some way reminds you of yourself. In a way, this is a type of scripted television that’s way more real than any “reality TV” or “true life story” you’ll see, and I can see why it would be uncomfortable and intimidating. While not all the characters on the show are as real and brutally uncomfortable as Hannah (the character based on Dunham’s own life experience), some are. Almost all have moments that make you cringe, while at the same time, you recognise these things have happened to you or someone you know.

“Girls” entertains, but unlike “Sex And The City”, it makes you feel uncomfortable and doesn’t apologise for that. It shows people at their best, and at their worst. Surprisingly enough, the scene that made me feel the most uncomfortable wasn’t one with Lena Dunham present at all. One of the characters is a very experienced, likeable, and totally irresponsible hippie type who ends up in a screaming match with someone she believes loves her. Instead, he ends the relationship by tearing her down in the most vicious ways possible, and she doesn’t even flinch. When he says, rather than loving her, he considers her a mistake and a “whore with a terrible work ethic”, she hits him. At the same time, you barely see her react to being verbally abused, making it obvious that this seemingly confident character has never actually been loved by anyone, despite her greater experience with the world. It made me terribly uncomfortable to watch, and I actually felt somewhat damaged after seeing that scene, to which I could relate a little too much.

I think that’s what the show does, and it is why Lena Dunham isn’t just the overrated, controversial twenty-something of the moment. She (along with Judd Apatow) take what should be one-dimensional characters we’ve all seen before, and put them in situations of such vulnerable honesty that there are moments that are tremendously emotionally affecting. While I’m pretty vocal about my feminist viewpoints, I honestly didn’t see anything in the show that made me angry enough to not watch the show. Sometimes, the girls on the show are in situations where they are not treated nicely by men, and by each other. Again, there are things that are hard to watch. But they’re also things that anyone who has made it through their twenties living a relatively unsheltered, adventurous lifestyle has probably experienced (the funniest episode is undoubtedly the one where Dunham’s character does cocaine with her gay ex-boyfriend as “research” for a story).

I don’t necessarily feel the need to see Lena Dunham naked more frequently, and the character she portrays on the show is far from stable (not that any of them are), but it’s really difficult to listen to her talk about her creation and not like where she’s coming from. She’s definitely a cool, creative person, and I wish the press had focused more on the positive aspects of her show and her persona. In this day and age, almost anyone can be a blogger, an aspiring filmmaker, an artist whose favourite subject is “Telling the story of my life”. That’s often mistaken for shallow self-absorption or shameless attention whoring (we can all thank the cast of “Jersey Shore” and anyone in the Kardashian family for that.). However, it’s downright ballsy to do it in a way that not only doesn’t idealise or glamourise those you know and the situations around you, but is willing to show you at your lowest and most “unbeautiful”.

That’s reality, and while I may have avoided the show out of an instinct that it would make me uncomfortable, that’s also precisely why I needed to watch it. It’s why most women in their early 20′s to early 30′s could benefit from watching it. Sometimes, life isn’t pretty, and no matter how time you invest in the right manners, the right job, the right makeup, the right clothes, and the right friends, you’re not always going to be so pretty, either.

Yet, most of the time, if you’re lucky, you’ll have people around who love you anyway. They may never understand you, they may get mad at you and think you’re not worth the trouble until it occurs to them that everyone is insufferable sometimes, and some may walk away when you need them. But, in the end, there are always people who love you, and they’ll come back for you anyway…even when you don’t deserve it.

I consider my 36-hour fling with Lena Dunham and her colourful cast of characters to be one of the most rewarding I’ve had in some time. I’d highly recommend. :)

Earlier this week, fellow blogger Gala Darling posted about a bunch of random and interesting commentary on life, but one of the things that jumped out at me was the recognition that many of us aren’t really all that old, yet we’re children of a different era. We grew up in a time when using the phone actually was a popular part of day-to-day life. Her blurb on the current state of indifference with which we view phone calls was funny, yet quite true.

It’s funny; the more accessible and inexpensive phone access becomes for most of us, the less inclined we are to use it. I remember racking up WAAAAAAY too many phone minutes with long-distance boyfriends and infatuations in the late 1990′s and early 2000′s, years where unlimited cell phone plans were rarely offered, and if they were, they were very expensive. These were the days when people were slowly forsaking their landlines, the annoying dial-up sound had been replaced by DSL and cable internet, and spending your cell minutes on someone was a valuable investment. Nobody spent time texting; instead, people sat having conversations over IM. (I can still recall my utter indignation at the idea of IM, though I spent much of my waking life using it. An angry “I can tell you’re multi-tasking me” would hopefully remind the person on the other end that talking to me was indeed worth a bit of undivided attention.)

I also remember 2002-2007 being years where a phone was permanently glued to my ear. Phones were tiny, if not yet smart, and everything was becoming more and more unlimited. I conducted more that one new in-depth friendship primarily via phone calls, and all of those people are still in my life today. I also sent myself back into memories of my teenage years, talking on my pink phone (yes, I did have my own room with my own phone, so I can’t say I had a terrible childhood. *lol*) until my arm would cramp and I’d have to pee, but I still wouldn’t want to hang up because there was more gossip to be had. On any given month, my unlimited Sprint plan would indicate I’d used between 3,500-6,500 minutes a month, for years.

These days, nobody has time anymore, and connecting with a friend means a series of impersonal texts. I empathise with Gala when she points out that nobody actually wants to have a conversation; the phone is becoming obsolete and real conversations are something that’s relegated to the face-to-face, because nobody wants to spend forever and ever typing out deep thoughts and feelings in 140 character blocks. It’s actually inefficient and time-consuming, except for the fact that you can do other things in between messages. Yet, if you know me, you know I text constantly..and so does virtually everyone else I know.

So, that leads me to my thought for the day: “Do we live in such a self-centred world where nobody is worth the luxury of undivided attention anymore, unless they happen to be within a 5 minute radius and can meet up for coffee?

Are we a generation of multi-tasking addicts that don’t have the time or interest in making real connections with fellow human beings? The more tools we’re given to connect, the more superficial we get about connection, and the less frequently people have interest in having meaningful conversations with other people. In my mind, this seems directly related to the sharp decline in the number of couples getting married, the number of people actually investing in relationships, particularly in large cities.

We’re not putting in the effort, and it’s something of which an entire generation is guilty. Yet, it’s a little sad. Sure, we may have been inefficient with sitting around hanging out and talking on the phone all the time back in the old days, but from my personal experience, the people I became close friends with were the ones with whom I took the time to converse. You can’t bond, discuss “What are your hopes and dreams and fears, and who are you, deep down inside?” while sending “Hey, how are you?” texts to friends, and unless you have the luxury of having enough time to schedule one-on-one coffee and dinner dates with all your friends (and if you’re like me, many of your friends don’t live anywhere near the same city as you do.), the end result is often a feeling of alienation. A million tools to connect at our disposal, and yet it’s easy to feel “We used to be close, and now I barely know you, because we never have time to catch up.”

For some people, it doesn’t matter. The superficial conversation via text or FB is enough to keep a friendship going. But, me, I’m an old-fashioned girl. I still write e-mails about my thoughts and feelings to old friends, or in attempts to get to know new ones better. I still send letters and cards in the mail with handwritten messages. I still step outside my bubble of “what’s going on in my life” to make time for those who are important to me, and I still expect that anyone who really likes me is going to consider me worth undivided attention.

Sadly, there just aren’t that many people who see things the same way. Rarely do my letters and e-mails get a response; phone calls are returned by a text or a FB message.

I suppose I’m a child of a different era. When it comes to friendships and relationships, I put in the effort, and expect the effort in return. In my mind, it’s just a way of saying, “No matter how busy life gets, you’re still important to me.”

It’s a pity that we’ve largely lost that aspect of our society, but we’ve also lost the genuine desire to connect with fellow human beings on a level that extends beyond the novelty, beyond the superficial, beyond the entertaining. Almost all of us have so many acquaintances and so few friends, something I remarked upon to a friend recently (via text!. *lol*) I think it’s because we don’t put in the effort, beyond, “Talking to you is awesome, as long as I can do it while I’m dong a bunch of other stuff.” And, thus, most of our conversations with others stay on a surface level, never get too deep, never leave you feeling that you’re maintaining close bonds with even your closest friends.

I’m not an “on-the-surface” kind of girl. I appreciate that The Guy I’m Currently Dating still has a 45 minute conversation with me before bedtime on nights we don’t see one another. We don’t always really “connect”, but sometimes we do, and for me, that’s the sort of thing that creates closeness and understanding. It is really an essential piece of every important relationship and long-lasting friendship that’s ever been a part of my life, and I don’t see myself requiring that level of emotional intimacy less simply because the ways in which we communicate with one another makes that difficult to achieve.

It’s a shame most of the world can’t, or won’t, slow down enough to see who and what is actually around them, to have friendships that go beyond the surface, to actually think and feel and share. Maybe I’m simply one of a dying breed, an antiquated romantic with a greater interest in and need for emotional and intellectual connection than most people I meet these days, but I do think so many people are missing out on so much, living this fast-paced life that’s well-suited to always skim the surface of things.

You only get one life. Why not invest in a little more love, a little more inspiration, and a little more honest connection and communication with those in your life? I think my friends deserve more from me than abbreviations and “Talking to you about pleasantries while on my way to do something more interesting”, and I can’t imagine myself ever having a relationship with the type of person who believes that short text messages mean “We talk on a daily basis.”

I have a few friends who, like myself, seem disinterested in catching up on pleasantries and more interested in actually forging connected relationships, and make a valiant effort to do so via text messaging. However, the medium just isn’t suited to the verbose, people who have a lot to say, people who want to say anything of substance. Messages are delivered out of order, or completely lost, or put on time delay…and it takes ages to type out multiple responses. Sometimes, the results are amusing…you’ll get a reply to one thing that’s unrelated, and therefore completely inappropriate, and very funny. Other times, this same problem can cause huge misunderstandings.

No, text messaging is not a substitute for picking up the phone (when you want to have a conversation with someone) or sending an e-mail (when you want to engage in the exchange of thoughts, ideas, and feelings in some manner of depth.). It’s great for finding out where your friends are, meeting up at the right time, letting someone know you’re stuck in traffic, or just saying “Hi, thinking of you”. But the fact that so many of us use it for absolutely everything means that actually communication is falling by the wayside.

I am, at heart, and old soul. And, the older my body gets, the older my soul becomes..the less I relate to the disconnectedness that defines our society. I’m going to be one grumpy, bitter old lady in 50 years. ;)

The 1990′s called. It said to pick up your damn phone. :P

It’s been such an insane kind of week. I feel like I’m stuck on a huge emotional rollercoaster and I’m holding on for dear life, waiting for it to stop. I’ll write a blog about all the craziness quite soon.

In the meantime, I’ve been addicted to this song for about 10 days now. The first time or two I heard it, I hated it. I didn’t get it at all. However, The Guy I Am Currently Dating totally loved it. I just chalked that up to me having waaaaay> better musical taste. :P *lol*

Before I knew it, I woke up with it in my head, and then I started watching the video. Then I started watching a better version of the video. It is still stuck.

Since that point, numerous friends have experienced the same phenomenon, even one who, like myself, didn’t initially care for it. It’s like everyone in my world, including me, is voluntarily drinking the Kool-Aid.

Don’t say I didn’t warn you. But if you want to hear a song in your head or listen to it on you computer non-stop for the next week, this one is it. (sorry, but I don’t seem to know how to embed videos on my page. Facebook makes it way easier.)

Gotye and Kimbra, "Somebody That I Used To Know"