When the Weather Report is Wrong

The Capital Weather Gang wrote a long article about how they thought snow was over for the season. I have never been happier that they were wrong. Living in a sub-tropical climate for all those years renders snow magical for me…. especially when it is big, fluffy, ski-worthy weather without ice and sleet. Of course, it could turn into that later on, but for now, the goal of the day is to take my laptop downstairs to the picture window in front of the porch and just think. I finally figured out how to start the clock running on my book review, therefore, I have more time than I thought I did to get it done.

I am finished with the basics, but not the editing. So far, it’s turning out to be interesting, even though the book was not something I’d have chosen on my own. I can’t tell you much, only that I chose it because it covers a subject in which I know nothing, and I love Knowing Stuff.™ There’s enough character development so that it’s not all about the sport at hand, but should I want to engage in such sport later on, I’ve found myself a solid foundation. The web site I’m working with has been around for years, which is how I know it’s the real deal, and not just a way to get authors to submit their work for free…. I also found a web site for freelance authors, but I don’t think I’ll sign up for that one. It’s because I think that the ads for work should be paid for by the employers, and this one is $100/month. It says that satisfaction is guaranteed as long as you can prove you’ve actually done the work, but there are better ways to go about freelance writing than having to pay money in the hope you’ll get something. Besides, this is not a job so much as a side hustle.

I’ve applied for jobs in several restaurants because I’ve noticed that I do not have time to write if I am tethered to my phone and laptop with IT. Now, I would not turn down a job in IT should it come along, but there is something to be said regarding being done with a shift and going home to write, rather than having your phone ding at all hours of the night with clients expecting a 30 minute service license agreement. The hard part is finding a job in a restaurant that will cover all my bills in the meantime. It’s a good thing I put in an application at both Starbucks and Costco, because both pay well and offer benefits. With my fanatical devotion to good coffee, it also doesn’t suck that I’m also gifted a bag a week. I also don’t want to go a minute longer without a Starbucks baseball cap. I had a friend in college that worked there for three weeks just to get the hat and the apron and then quit, because he was a Linux server administrator. I will not be doing that, but it was funny at the time.

For those who are wondering why I would rather work at SBUX than an independently owned shop, it has to do with health insurance and not much else. I also learned that once you’re in the system, you can take a vacation to anywhere and pick up shifts wherever there are stores. This was a piece of advice given to me while I was waiting in line at Dupont Circle, from a barista that “took off a month” and went to the original store in Pike’s Market (Seattle, of course).

The biggest problem I have is in getting around the city, because it would be a godsend to work in Silver Spring or downtown DC. If I got a job in the tech corridor or Annapolis/Baltimore, it would take me over two hours every morning to get to work with what would be a 20-40 minute drive. Of course it would be more than that with traffic, but with computer jobs, there are generally programs for both working at home and off-hours so that traffic would be a non-issue. Fingers crossed. This is because everything on the server is keyed by changes in file time and tied to user account. I could work anywhere in the world, but I am reticent to leave the 32-inch monitor on my desk…. although I did once see a guy drag a 22-inch iMac to Starbucks.

Believe it or don’t, there are even terminal programs for iPads and Android tablets, which, to me means my laptop just lost six pounds. Full-size Bluetooth keyboards have made my backpack lighter and my muscles hurt less. Plus, the weight of my backpack with my laptop and all the things I need in order to keep from going back to the house bothers my corkscrew scoliosis so that one part of my spine is absolutely scraped to bits. I even had Hayat (landlady) cover the rip in Neosporin and a thick bandage, to no avail.

I talked to my old friend Meag, an RMT in Ottawa about it, and sent her a picture. She told me she couldn’t wait to get her hands on me, but nine hours is an excruciating trip without a car…. and would make the trip prohibitively expensive whether I was flying or taking an Uber. If I was going to go to a clinic that specialized in both massage therapy and chiropractic medicne, she’s the only one I’d want to see. In Canada, the requirements for getting licensed are much steeper than in the United States, and she is one of the people on the legislative board who approves others. I have been told that eventually I will need surgery, but not for another 15-20 years or so. Until then, I just have to nurse my pain. Making my bag as light as possible is as good as it gets- for the moment, anyway.

It was nice being able to stash my bag in my car while it lasted, but here’s the thing about that. Like most people, I do not like to exercise. Walking and taking the bus/train is the only workout I get, because I don’t even notice I’m doing it. If the journey of a thousand miles begins with one step, the destination is being mentally healthy. Medication and a great diet help, but there is nothing greater than natural endorphins that adds fuel to the fire. Silver Spring Station is only two miles from my house, and when the weather is nice, I’ll generally walk at least one direction, possibly both. Though I don’t often walk fast enough for true cardio, the landscape is hilly enough to add incline. Plus, the bus schedule for the main road back to my neighborhood runs every ten minutes, in those moments where I just cannot even, I have someone to bail me out (Hiiiiiii, George!) It is absolutely amazing how much walking overclocks my processor, though I wish I could add memory….. and then I think to myself, God will provide the RAM.

But seriously, folks, I do my best writing while mobile. My head space is just so positive, and God help me if I don’t have my phone. I used to carry a notebook, but if I write things down, I have to retype everything when I get home. I now use Google Keep, but my favorite words in the English language used to be, Siri… open Notepad. This seems like a no-brainer, but I have to use my phone rather than my tablet (if you have 3G on yours, that’s fine, too) so that the notes sync immediately. I am a nerd that needs my information on all my devices instead of just the one I have to hunt down- because of course I’ve dropped it somewhere in my house and the battery has died.

Still using my old iPhone while I search for my Android. I am operating system agnostic, so the only reason I really want to find my Android is that I am missing the tons of extra space I have on it due to the fact that expansion slots are par for the course. Apple just makes extra space prohibitively expensive. Yes, Apple devices are designed well, but so are Android. And for less than half the price of a new iPhone, I can get an Android with 128 GB of space. It’s especially useful now that Netflix and Amazon Prime Video will let you download movies and TV directly to your device. But, if you want to pay $1,000 for a phone that you’ll fill up in two weeks, who am I to stop you?

The amount I know about IT is somewhere between organ grinder and monkey.

Well, that’s not true. At least I, most of the time, remember to buy my own bananas.

Cold

Today is the first I’ve taken a shower and put on real clothes in, like, four days. You’d think that this is because I suffer from depression, but no. It has been in the 20s and 30s this week; when I went to bed last night, it was 25 (that’s in Farenheit, all y’all :P). There is absolutely no part of me that wants to take off clothing for any reason whatsoever. Also, my hair never looks better than after three or four days of bedhead with strong wax in my hair, and it chafes me that my best hair days come when I’m just about to wreck them.

Now, once I am in the shower with screaming hot water pouring down, I’m ok. But those few moments in the cold bathroom are not just dreadful, they’re more than dreadful. I would rather wear my skiing silks, my flannel pajamas, a t-shirt, a long sleeve t-shirt, a double-weight hoodie, and three pairs of socks. During the day, I also put on my snow boots (mainly because they’re warm, but also keep me from sliding down the stairs in wool socks). It’s a look.

Yes, we do have heat at our house, in case you’re wondering. I just get cold easily, and it’s hard for any heater to keep up with DC winter. Besides, the electric company has never charged me for putting on a sweater.

When I had my own place, I never heated it very much- maybe to 50 or 60- because with all the winter clothing I own and an electric blanket, I didn’t need it. I would rather have it cold and be bundled up on my own… except for when I have to change clothes.

I do, however, feel better now that I’m clean and smell really good… but it’s not just that. Laying out all my frustrations yesterday really put things in perspective, because depression and anxiety feel so real, but in reality, it is your brain lying to your face… and as my friend Phil so eloquently said, they know the very best lies to use against you. Going back over and reading what I wrote let me see those lies up close.

I am indeed so much stronger than I usually think. No one that digs a hole as deep as I did and then has a parent die while trying to dig themselves out isn’t. You can either get stronger, or you wither away. I’ve already gone the “withering away” route, and it didn’t do anything for me. I got stronger because there wasn’t a choice… anymore.

The lies my brain used on me at that time in my life were that I was a burden to everyone I knew and it was better to just disappear off the grid. It did not seem like a permanent solution to a temporary problem, because there was nothing about my illness (I’m bipolar, for those just joining us.) that said this is manageable, and you will improve. Everything in my life pointed to getting progressively worse, akin to terminal cancer but closer to alcoholism due to the strange and self-destructive behavior it presents. To me, the worst thing in the world was to have my loved ones watch the roller coaster, knowing it would never end.

It was during one of our legendary blowouts that Argo saved my life, and I mean this quite literally. My response to feeling that ill was to talk about it to my friends, hoping that they’d safety net me until I could function again. It seemed reasonable at the time, but it was leaving out a crucial piece- responsibility & self-reliance. We were talking (well, arguing) about everything that was going wrong and she said, can’t you see the common denominator is you? Why do you expect everyone else to fix you? It got through to me that I wasn’t moving under my own power, and within minutes I was on the phone to my insurance company and checked myself into the psych ward at Methodist Hospital. I wouldn’t have done that had it not been a real emergency. I didn’t have a psychiatrist and couldn’t get a new patient appointment for three more weeks, and I absolutely needed help that day, right then. My depression was telling me I wasn’t going to make it three more weeks.

So, if you ask me what really saved me from myself, it was a friend who was willing to kick my ass when it needed kicking. The treatment did not work overnight- it was not a miracle cure- but it definitely pointed me in a better direction. That being said, the group therapy I experienced made me vomit up even darker emotions than usual and the better direction came from everything getting a lot worse before it got better. The biggest regret of my life is the way I treated those around me during that time, because everything spewed at them was a direct reflection of how I felt about myself. The old axiom is true- hurt people hurt people.

By then, Dana wanted out and I needed a sounding board more than ever, but I’d used up every “get out of jail free” card I had with Argo and I didn’t trust anyone else. But panic attacks that presented as rage burned that bridge butt-quick. I feel more guilt about pushing Argo away than I ever will about Dana and I breaking up because Dana was in the room with me. She participated in 3D. Argo was just on the receiving end of words she didn’t deserve without my ability to see her eyes, her reactions, and know when to back the fuck up. There could only be so much in the way of damage control because of it… because I know the first time I saw her eyes flash in anger or sadness, I would have become a sobbing mess on the floor, all the fight taken out of me because I couldn’t just hear about the damage. I could experience it. I could see up close and personal what I’d wrought.

With Dana, I saw everything.

It’s not worth revisiting, but the picture was bleak. All the color in our world just bled out on the floor, and I ran. We were way past the point of reconciliation, and I knew within myself that if I didn’t run, I’d spend way too much time trying. We were past the point of no return, having alienated each other with mutually assured destruction….. robbing me of all but the deepest regrets. Yes, there were (and are) things I still have to get over, but it was also extraordinarily freeing to be able to walk away knowing that I’d made the absolute best decision I could make with the information I had.

When I arrived in DC, it was April and there was still snow on the ground. The weather matched my mood.

It was cold…. like those few seconds in a cold bathroom, angry in the moment and yet, knowing that warmth will eventually arrive.

The Snowman Cometh (with Apologies to Eugene O’Neill)

I know it’s hard to tell with a still picture, but it’s really coming down out there… and forecasted to continue. We may actually get some accumulation. I am excited about this, because there is nothing I love more than newfallen snow (when I’m dressed for it). Walking around in the pristine white brings me so much joy. I only hate snow after it’s been on the ground for a few days and ranges from grey to black with tire tracks and dripping oil. Although, if I had to choose, I believe the dogs love it more than me… which reminds me of an old Sam story………….20171209_110711

My roommate, Samantha, has parents where one is Methodist and one is Druze, but does not claim any religion for herself. So, a couple of years ago when the snow was very deep, Sam shouted at her dog, “come on, Daisy. Time to part it like Jesus.” I started laughing so hard that tears came to my eyes and said, “ummm, that was Moses.” She just laughed and said, “whatever.” Of course, this is the same person that when, years ago, I got a “Share a Coke with Mark” bottle and joked that all I needed now were Matthew, Luke, and John, has been calling me Mark ever since. In fact, I think that since then she’s forgotten my actual name. I dig it. Fits in with the theme….. Auna calls me “Hipster Jesus.” Being nicknamed after a Gospel writer doesn’t seem like much of a demotion. After all, he was a writer. 😛

I am caught between two ideas right now. One is that I am still in my jammies- cute ones, so that I at least look marginally dressed- and I have two shows to catch up on. The first is Doc Martin, and the second is The Crown. I was going to start with The Crown, but Doc Martin is just so damn funny, and I could use some funny in my life.

The other idea is that there’s just so much to do and see in the snow, and I have the clothes to be very, very, very warm while I’m out. I could go to downtown Silver Spring and ice skate, or I could go to Zoo Lights, or I could just walk around my neighborhood and see who’s already on the ball with the Christmas decorations. The one drawback to this is that it is actively snowing, and when snow gets on my glasses, I can’t see anything, anyway. You would think that an umbrella would help. Not so much. Snow generally blows sideways. Before I make my decision, I will check and see if Zoo Lights is a recurring thing, or if it is only today. The best time to do all this stuff is after the snow has stopped, there’s a satisfying crunch under your feet, and the weather is cold & clear…. perhaps not clear, because it’s usually overcast even when it’s not snowing, but you get my drift (see what I did there?). I am waiting with baited breath to see what happens this winter, because sometimes we get a few inches a couple of times, and sometimes the heavens open up and dump everything they’ve got. Winter before last, it was over a foot and a half deep. Everyone had a different name for it:

  • Snowpocalypse Now
  • Snowtorious B.I.G.
  • Thanks, Snowbama
  • Enforced Captivity
  • Working Without Pants -or- Working Under the Covers (IT doesn’t DO snow days.)

If we do get The Big One,™ I will work out more than I have all year, because it’s more strenuous to lift your knees that high while walking…. because you can either walk on the unplowed sidewalks, or take your chances on the street. I choose knee/ass deep snow rather than getting hit by a driver who thinks they have this snow driving thing down (they don’t). Everyone thinks they’re a friggin’ expert until they spin out, because thinking you’re an expert generally leads to driving way too fast for the condition at hand…. and I have yet to see anyone chain up on a back road. My general rule is “go around me, moron.” I’ll either see them further down the road fishtailed into a snowdrift or being told by the police that maybe they should control their speed. Of course you can get a speeding ticket while going the speed limit when snow is blowing sideways…. or worse, the snow has melted and it’s still cold AF, so there’s black ice everywhere.

The safest way to get around in all this mess is public transportation, because generally, if you’re going to be in an accident, the city bus is going to “win….” and a good bit of the Metro is inside, which is even safer. Plus, with everyone wanting to run their own heaters in their own cars on their way at every possible opportunity, parking is even harder than normal.

Speaking of driving, though, I had a funny Uber moment yesterday. The Uber driver always checks to make sure he/she has the right destination, and I told him I was going to the mall. He said, “in DC? With all the monuments?” I laughed and said, “no… I’m not going to The Mall, I’m going to a mall.” I was in an Uber pool, and the teens in the back laughed and said, “No! In Silver Spring!” I bought all my clothes, got my bag of coffee (finally) and managed to get out of Whole Foods for less than $50. Beat that with a stick.

I even remembered to get more eggnog….. because I’m in my jammies.

Cute ones.