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.)