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December 7, 2006

It’s one of those nights at work where I’m glad I brought two books. The wee small hours are normally quiet, although nothing is guaranteed, and I’m too far away from the television to really hear it, and I can’t be bothered, anyway.

I’m fighting major cramps, the kind that make you want to curl up in a ball and cry until the pillow is all wet and soggy and cold and gross. I’m also fighting a minor cold. My throat hurts and nothing feels right. I’m bummed, also, because I have new drugs, new, really powerful drugs that if I were at home I could take and then curl up in that pain-free drug zone, but really, you don’t want the person answering 911 to be in that zone. You want your cat in that zone, not a public servant. And the Big Pain this month is landing smack dab in the 12 hours that I’m at work. So I ball up by myself over here in the corner and squinch my eyes shut and wait it out. By the time I get home at 7am, I’ll be human again and won’t need the meds. That’s a good thing.  But it's no fun right now.

Bah. I need to go back to acupuncture. I’ve been running, and taking my calcium, and avoiding caffeine, blah blah blah. Acupuncture is the best thing for this – I just have to get back into it. Need to find a good acupuncturist in Oakland. Know of any?

Hey, I’m going back to dayshift! Did I tell you that? On dayshift, I don’t get much knitting or reading done, but a twelve hour shift flies by. And it should be pretty permanent, as I’ve got the seniority now to keep it. Thank goodness. My two to three hour daily commute will be a thing of the past; it’ll be a 25 minute door-to-door trip. Dang. That’ll save me hours a day, in travel time alone. It pays 5% less because of differential pay scale, but I’m sure the gas savings will make up for that. And time! More time!

Oooh! I have no pain right now. Isn’t that the best feeling? When the pain abates for a moment? Mmmm. 

In comments, Lisa asked,

You have a good time a lot of the time -it must be a gene! I think it's wonderful to have that. I'm not jealous but mildy curious as to how one can engineer their life in order to achieve that. I haven't a clue.

In answer, I’m not totally sure. I work at it. I really do. Also, it really might be a gene, or a chemical composition in my body that I accidentally inherited and really like – maybe I got some positivity gene. Not so much Pollyanna Syndrome, but I can find lots of things to be glad about, even in the midst of frustrating times.

And yes, suffering comes to everyone, so, dude, I believe in having fun whenever you can. By that I don’t mean by throwing parties and going out to functions and being social – I mean by knowing what you like to do and planning time to do it. I do a lot of that. I’m selfish about it. I alert Lala when I feel like I haven’t had “my time” to do fuck-all, and I claim the TV. Or I go into the city and look into windows. Or I throw cheese at the dog, or spin, or sit in the sun on the back porch, whatever makes my heart happy.

You gotta plan that stuff, you can’t wait for happiness to find you, because it while it sometimes surprises you and sweeps your off your feet unexpectedly, usually it’s hanging out in the side yard, digging holes, burying bones. You have to call it. You have to court it, plan for it, woo it when you wake up in the morning and kiss it goodnight. Or maybe I mean woo yourself, kiss yourself. (I swear, I’m not dipping into the pain meds; perhaps it’s the exhilaration of the pain subsiding, natural endorphins kicking in, that’s making me write like this.)

But do it, do plan for your own happiness. That means taking care of yourself, physically. Giving yourself small nice things. Knowing what you like best, whether that’s a color you put on the walls or the kind of tissue that makes your nose happiest, and giving yourself time to enjoy them. Sit on the floor with your fabulous dog (and she is fabulous, I know she is) or rub the pretty cat’s belly or drink your really strong (or weak) coffee and look at your yellow (or blue or green) walls and blow your nose with soft tissue and enjoy the moment. 

I’m trying to meditate more, too. Do you KNOW how good that is for you? All juju aside, it’s just good for the body, period. 

Lisa also asks: I was wondering if you rented your apartment? And what happened with the difficult man next door? 

I did rent the apartment, to a lovely ex-Peace Corps volunteer turned high school teacher. The difficult man next door is still damn difficult. But things are slowly getting done and resolved at the place – the roof is fixed, and we’re working on the deck as we speak. And it’s all good.

I’m going to read now. You do something nice for yourself, okay? 


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Oh, you poor thing. Still in pain? I hope not.

As for the rest of this post, you are just right, right, right. I know, because I'm really bad at planning to have fun. Especially as a student, since there's always some work you can be doing (read! read more!). But I end up neglecting other parts of my life, and that sucks for me, and for Bill. So I do try, but I could do better. I am actually pretty good at those little things that make me happy: good coffee, subscriptions to most of my favourite magazines, etc.


I agree that happiness is a choice. I feel like this society trains people to be so passive, to just wait for things to happen. It's a hard lesson to learn that you're responsible for your own happiness, but it really does make the difference. I've been growing more and more happy with life since I've accepted that it's mostly not about changing my conditions, but about changing myself.

There is an acupuncture school in Berkeley...forgive me but I am totally forgetting the name of it, having left the Bay Area almost 3 years ago (boo hoo!). I went there for a while and had good experiences, and not so expensive as I recall. The students need to run their plan by an instructor before they get started, so everyone is really, really thinking about what they're doing. Good luck!

I'm right there with ya with the cramps today. :( Hope you are doing better.

I love, love, love this post. I know exactly what you mean about needing "me" time, and planning for happiness.I'm dealing with some yucky life stuff right now, and the gentle reminder to simply enjoy the moment came at the perfect time. Truly a lovely post. Thanks so much.

This is a great post. As in, print out, highlight, and keep put up on fridge kind of post. Thanks.

You are truly a joy to read, petal. Nasty cramps and all. Thanks for the reminder that happiness needs to be sought with purpose, not just waited for.

I agree with your philosophy. It's important to take time for yourself. It's as much a gift to yourself as it is to other people, because you are a happier person to be around. And those little things, the nice tissue, the expensive dark chocolate every so often, the special knitting bag made by a friend, they bring a smile to your face every time you use them. Makes a bad day better.

Your post today actually shed some light on my behavior yesterday. I need to stop back into my local B&N to apologise to someone that works there. I've felt horrid since about 5 minutes after I left yesterday.

For DAYS I had been looking forward to sitting down in the cafe area with a nice cup of mocha and some knitting books. Me time. I finally carved out the time yesterday, and the knitting section looked like someone had barfed the books onto the shelf. No rhyme or reason - and hard to find the right books. I spoke with a wonderfully nice clerk who offered to spend some time cleaning up that area. And instead of thanking her, I continued to complain.

I reacted like a two year old when told I couldn't have candy before dinner. Prolly throw some PMS into the mix I'm guessing here.

Well, heck. This comment got really long. When what I really meant to say was thank you for your thought provoking post today.

Blessings -

The only good thing about menopause is no more cramps like that -- I remember them well.....

What an excellent entry. Inspirational, even. Happy doesn't just happen.

It's just so easy to keep all the worries and lists and hurdles in the front of your mind, that you have to occasionally take a moment to remind yourself that life is not all hand-wringing and woe, and a deliberate injection of small joy can do a lot of good.

Dude, you're right. Change your attitude, and you change your world. Many things will still be hard, but it's easier to face them when you can turn your mind in the right direction.
And yes, I'm learning this the hard way. It's a process.

Ohhh, so sorry 'bout the cramps . . . I get them bad, too, so I know what you're talkin' bout!

And the happiness thing? SO well expressed . . . and really made me think about what kinds of things I can do to be happier. Growing up, many of my family members were very negative and pessimistic, and I really have to work at it sometimes to resist becoming the same way. So thanks!

Geez, I hope your cramps are better!

People often ask me the same question, about happiness and all. I wasn't always this way; I used to be a very negative person. Then a series of events impressed upon me the understanding that life is short, and you have to make the most of it. (It's difficult to discuss this topic without using greeting card words like "cherish" and "precious.")

This same understanding is probably an occupational hazard for you. I've had several friends who worked 911 dispatch over the years, and also Fate has decided that my role in life is to be the one who calls 911.

It is a far, far more difficult job than I think most people realize. Someone once pointed out a 911 dispatch job opening to me, they were all like "Oh, look at the pay!" I said "Think of a reason why someone call 911. Now imagine that you're the person who has to take that call. Now think of ALL the reasons, and imagine that it's your job to take those calls, all day, every day." She turned gray.

You're a much stronger person than I could ever be - and stronger than I think most people realize. It takes a lot of tenacity to do your job AND still find joy in the world.

I am the Queen of Very Long Comments.

Me time--sooo important. DH and I had a rough patch recently, and he was very clingy. Good for 'us,' but not so good for 'me.' (Things are much better, btw.) I found I get very, very cranky if I don't get my few minutes with my coffee on the couch, and it's not caffiene withdrawl!

Also, for cramps, I highly recommend Thermacare heat pads. They're these disposable pads that stick to your skin or clothes, stay hot for 8 hours, and can be stashed in a desk or locker or something until needed.

I don't know if you want to know this, but there are two (2) guaranteed cures for those awful, give-me-the-good-drugs kind of cramps (which I also suffered from age 12 until 35): 1, have a baby -- the cervical stretching will cure them, and B, have a hysterectomy. No more periods = no more cramps. Oh, there's another one: menopause.

Now, you may think that those are all pretty extreme measures, and you'd be right. So take the drugs and enjoy the moments (and weeks) between cramps.

Too much info - who wants to hear about your uterus? I enjoy your blog but this is the perfect example of something that just should have never been on the internet...

Rachael --

What a great post - well aside from all the pain, hope you're feeling better BTW.

But back to happiness. I think that I generally choose to be happy. But I definitely don't insist on planning to do the things that make me happy and taking more agency in that area would be a good thing.

You've inspired me.

Oh and congrats on dayshift!!

Nice post! Loved your description of the pain of cramps; oh, man alive, yes. I can totally identify w/ having the type o' job where you need ALL your faculties. It's a pain in the arse. But really rewarding, too!

what a great post... i have been thinking a lot about this recently, in a difficult fall where it was really hard to carve out that me-time... it's so critical to happiness. there is the happiness that comes from being with others, out there in the world, engaged, and the happiness that comes from knowing that you are taking care of yourself, your creativity, making your own peace and quiet or loudness or action or whatever you need... this is not so articulate but i found your image of courting happiness like a loved one to be so lovely and apt.

Hmm. I'm not sure at all why we can't speak about cramps on the internet. Many moons ago (pun intended) I was involved with an original piece of musical theatre about waitressing. When the punk song called "Fits of Cramps" came on we invariably heard the door to the theatre slam but many many more in the audience were delighted.
Well, I delurked to add my agreement about your ideas around being happy. I would have to say that for the better part of the last 18 months I haven't been "happy" for very good reason(s). But I haven't been hopeless either. This pain I am living through I understand must be borne to leave it behind. Loss is a part of life as is death and if you know joy then sooner or later you're going to know grief. Also a baby might get rid of cramps - s/he will also keep you trucking when it's tempting to let inertia take over. And I think you and Lala would make great moms. Imagine the little knitting banjo player(s)....

Thank you for this thoughtful post!

You know, you just have the best blog. I have been lurking around here for a couple of years and I very seldom comment because I don't have a blog, but I love to read yours. You have such a sunny, upbeat tone, somehow even when you are miserable with cramps. We have a pretty good acupuncturist here in my Northwestern Canadian home. You could all come for a visit ...

I haven't had cramps since I started having kids. Sure, that creates pains of another sort, but no more cramps (and I used to have bad ones)!

And, I'm definitely with you on the positive thinking stuff. I think it's how you're raised, though. My mom is a positive thinker who actively seeks happiness. I got that from her. The one thing that's hardest for me to stand is watching someone allow their negativity to multiply for nothing. Makes me sad for them that they can't see they are the ones making the choice to be miserable. I know this, because I've seen people whose lives generally suck that are pretty darn happy anyway.

Yeah! Bravo!! Excellent post about happiness!!! Happiness is not the default state of being, you gotta work at it. Smile at the little things, like the fact that I just swept the kitchen floor and it looks nice. And being grateful and saying THANK you like mean it, that helps a lot, too.

Good post - it's important to value yourself enough to nake time for those things that make you happy. From the other side - if you are only entertained when you are upside down at 60 miles per hour your entertaining events will be few. It's important to learn to appreciate the small joys of life - even if it's only that you woke up this morning in pretty much the same condition you were in when you went to sleep. Every day is a gift; you can appreciate it or act like a spoiled baby. It's your choice. Oh and one other thing - when things are not going well it's really better not to spend a lot of time whining and complaining. I find it tends to give the bad stuff more of a grip on your spirits. Whine a teeny little bit, then pull up your socks and get on with your life.

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