Herding Ducks

Before we enter today’s scheduled ramble, let me point out for those of you tuning in from other continents and nations that we Americans have a weird relationship with ducks: we have all our ducks in a row, we take to things like a duck to water, we become sitting ducks, and things are as easy as duck soup and we – and our time – often gets nibbled to death by ducks.

As an immigrant, I can say that I fully expected to come to the states and find the country awash in ducks: Mallards in the garden, domestic ducks in the cellar and a duck in every pot.  However, other than the iconic V shape of ducks flying overhead when the seasons change, the US might be one of the most duck-free countries in the world.

Which just goes to show that language – and humans – are irrational.  Which goes to show…

Which goes to show that the part of writing that involves managing yourself can be very troublesome.  Because basically what is happening is that you are both employee and manager.  Which means both sides of the equation have the same biases.  It also means when you’re ill, you’re both ill at the same time.  And you have no perspective on it.

I’ve expounded here, before – still am – about how you should keep your nose to the grindstone.  There are reasons for this.  It’s too easy to be what the French called une malad imaginaire – sort of an hypochondriac, but less severe.  You don’t think you’re dying of something dread.  And you don’t even think you’re sick exactly, but you’re draggy, and you’re working against he current and you say “baffle this!” and go off to do something that doesn’t require concentration or mental power or whatever.  Or you just take a nap.  Next thing you know a year has gone by and you haven’t worked.  It’s distressingly easy to do.

Writing is an occupation that should put paid to anyone’s ideas that they are fully rational.  No matter how much you THINK you want to write something, or that you know exactly to the last iota how it should go, the truth is that most writing for most people – at least fiction writing – involves a negotiation with the subconscious to get it to play along and play nice.

So, I established the rule that I must AT LEAST try to write every day.  It doesn’t always work.  Depending on how little my subconscious wants me to work on something – or on whether it’s desperately trying to communicate I’ve gone wrong and failing – my body has developed the ability to do a good imitation of sleeping sickness.

Because of this – because the boss part of me knows the employee part of me very well – I tend to get exasperated, assume I’m malingering and try to bully through, even though at times it’s like pulling teeth.

There have been times when my suspicions of my – apparently maligned “employee side” – have been unjustified.

For instance, in the period I now refer to as “hormonal madness” I finally got the point that there was something organic wrong when I literally couldn’t remember where I’d left the characters from one screen to the next.  That those books – mostly the musketeer mysteries – are mostly coherent tells you how hard I was working to contravene my body.  It took me that long to figure out that there was something PHYSICAL wrong, because there were psychological reasons for my issues, too – like the fact that by that time I knew giving a book to Berkley was like throwing a baby down a volcano.

Over the last year I’ve been having some of the same issues – in that I always feel sickish and foggy-brained, and forcing myself to work has become increasingly difficult.

Some of this, I think, is that my house had gone from semi-functional to non-functional and I can’t work in a mess – I just can’t.  My well trained housewife-conscience comes out and reproaches me.  That’s taken care of.

But the house work was also an attempt to do something useful when I couldn’t concentrate.  And the inability to concentrate…

Well, there might be other reasons.  This post is so late because I have a doctor’s appointment, and had to do some stuff in preparation.  BUT I think I found one of the reasons.

I’ve been waking in the middle of the night nauseated and with heart burn and having trouble going to sleep again.  Given my age, I assumed “hormones.”

Well… that might not be PRECISELY right.  Last night I slept surprisingly well, and this morning I woke up clear-headed.  It was in a way like when the kids first slept through the night and I woke up going “Oh, wow, I remember this feeling.  This is awake.”

As I was dressing, I noticed a rolled up t-shirt on my husband’s bedside table.  I asked him about it and he explained.

You see, he used to have bad apnea, before we went on low-carb and he lost 130 pounds.  After five years of increasingly worse symptoms – which affected me too, though most of the time I wasn’t aware I was being kept awake, just that I had heart burn and nausea all the time, and was gaining weight.  (You see, I can’t sleep at all, if he’s not in the bed.  It’s a dysfunction.  Deal.) The reason was that the noise was just enough to keep me from being FULLY asleep – he had a sleep study and got on a CPAP.

But as he lost weight, the CPAP gave him too much air.  And he wasn’t having a real issue.  Sort of…

Except over the last year I’ve been aware of its creeping back – in the sense that I would wake up now and then and hear him stop breathing then start again, explosively.  This always happens – now – ONLY when he’s sleeping on his back.  The problem is the years with the CPAP trained him to sleep on his back.

He’s been stumbling through the day, and having some of the same issues I have, which led us to believe that it might not be hormonal and…

Last night he was reading about home-made remedies for apnea and read about sewing a rubber ball to the back of your shirt, to make you uncomfortable if you turn on your back.  Well, he didn’t have a rubber ball, and he’d need me to sew it, anyway (I think a rubber band might work as well) so he rolled up a t-shirt and put it in the middle of his back.  It worked.  He didn’t stay on his back, and I seem to have slept fully.  And the difference is like night and day.  Because even a minor sleep disturbance – of the sort where you’re not aware you’re not in deep sleep – repeated night after night takes a toll on your mind and your functioning and your health.

So, if you’re trying to work as hard as you can, but can’t quite defeat the problem, consider that there might be something wrong with you and that to get your ducks all in row, you need to not be a sitting duck and go get a check up, or examine the health of those around you to see if it’s possible you too are suffering from their health.

Because it’s too easy to get nibbled to death by ducks without noticing it.

Work hard, and try to make that shifty employee side of you work.  But be kind to yourself too.  (And be kind to our web footed friends, too, while you’re at it.)



  1. Keep problem-solving.

    Don’t give up because you think the problem has been solved: revisit it periodically. That’s how I live!

    You could have solved the wrong problem, or the right problem at the time but it has changed.

    IOW, keep learning – ruts are for wheels.

    And then, once you find a solution, however temporary (http://liebjabberings.wordpress.com/2013/02/27/energy-usage-t…-able-to-write/), USE it for Heaven’s sake!

    Ay, ay, ay! We humans are such persistently stubborn critters, it’s a wonder we EVER get anything done.

    1. Ducks are easy to herd… into the sky! Ask any duck hunter. It’s after that where things get difficult. BTW, about 15 million ducks use the Central Flyway every year – one of four flyways in the US. We have plenty of ducks!

      Sleep apnea is a bear. I can’t sleep on my side, because of all my back issues. Thank goodness for oxygen concentrators that do a much better job of keeping things in order than a CPAP machine.

      My problem is the world’s most persistent sinus drainage issue. I picked up a sinus infection cleaning a cold-room in a 300-year-old house in England we were renting. A solid month of antibiotics didn’t clear it up. The next step is surgery to scrape out the sinuses. I keep putting that off — it just sounds too painful.

      Our youngest daughter has eczema. I’m going to have to talk to her about a low-carb diet. That will kill her — she’s a pasta and pizza freak.

      Will continue to do what I can for you, Sarah. If you need more, just ask!

    1. Eep! Now I’ve got rolling memories of my father teaching the whole family to sing along… she lives deep in the swamp, where it’s always nice and damp (must pronounce damp to rhyme with swamp). Aie!

      Maybe I can get Lambchop to sing the neverending song?

        1. Assuming you’re really interested… Let’s see. I learned to pronounce swamp like Swannee — sue-wah-mm-p! But damp is dam with a p tacked on the end da-mm-p. Long a versus short a, maybe? But when singing the song, suddenly damp becomes something that starts like dahling. Hum. There’s something about loose cheeks versus tight cheeks going on there, too, but we probably don’t need to get into that. It may be worth noting that I have had folks who think they can identify accents tell me I have a bit of middle Ohio, a dash of southern, and a mess of southwestern twang in there, along with other stuff. Which actually reflects where we lived while I was growing up, and where the family is still scattered. So my notions of how words are pronounced are not always right.

              1. Well, when you add my mid range hearing loss to the issues with not hearing sounds you didn’t grow up with — it’s no wonder I have an accent you could cut with a knife.

                Actually Robert realized the other day that I can sing songs I learned before I lost my hearing, and I BELIEVE my accent in French is much closer to French, in fact, Frenchmen compliment me on my accent (even if older son says I sound like my IQ leaked out of my ears) which I gather means something. But I learned French before I lost my hearing…

      1. Curses on both you and TXRed. Now I have both “be kind to your web-footed friends” and Lambchop’s song running through my head. You are evil and terrible and there must be some sort of punishment commiserate with this horrible crime. [VBEG]

  2. Here you go, blazing trails so that others may see the marks on the trees and know the way out of the woods…. After two weeks of tossing and turning, I finally remembered I’d packed the earplugs for a trip and not unpacked them. (Calmer Half’s CPAP is very loud.) So up at oh-dark-thirty, I stumbled around to his side of the bed, and found the spare tin of earplugs. Now I’m experiencing what awake without clawing my way through the first cup of tea feels like. Heartburn, nausea, and weight gain, you say? That could explain… a few things. THANK YOU, a thousand times thank you.

  3. I just found out that one of the muscles on the right side of my back (latissimus dorsi, if I got it right) seems to have been in something like a permanent cramp for years. I have complained about it, but nobody, before now, took a proper look (well, feel).

    Nice. I haven’t been sleeping well because of it, and the whole time this has been a problem which would have been fairly easily fixed if I had only known A) what it was, and B) been given/searched from internet a few simple exercises or gotten to a massage therapist.

  4. You see, I can’t sleep at all, if he’s not in the bed. It’s a dysfunction.

    Meh? Sounds like normal to me– and not just because I keep throwing myself awake when the cats run into a door (INTRUDER!) AND when the girls talk in their sleep, instead of just the latter.

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