Tuesday, August 20, 2013

I think I've become more antisocial over the past few months than I was, say, two years ago. Worse at small talk, not laughing at jokes unless I really genuinely find them funny, not worrying so much about getting together with friends, hanging out at Unfogged a lot less, oversharing or being too closemouthed at random. It worries me a bit.

Is it caused by some problem in my head? Maybe I am relapsing into depression. I had a mild case of depression for several years, for which I was both medicated and in therapy. I weaned myself off the medication with help from the therapist, and made some good lifestyle changes, and I'm pretty sure I haven't been depressed in three years in any meaningful sense, but who knows, maybe I'm just falling back into that condition. Or maybe I'm getting complacent because I'm happily engaged, so I can relax about socializing, even in ways I really shouldn't. Or maybe my job is getting to me. I've never been enthusiastic about it, and it's getting worse soon because the office is moving.

But then again, maybe it's a totally healthy response to just not liking people much. Sorry if I don't always feel like playing along with my supervisor's jokes, I don't actually dislike him, he's just not my favorite co-worker, nor even in the top five. Another co-worker I fail to banter with, I actually do dislike. As for feeling pressure to socialize, well, why should I?

Thursday, February 28, 2013

I found this interesting, both as a funny story and as something I should think about when/if I get back into writing.

It’s eerie to open your email and find a message from one of your characters. It’s downright surreal when he threatens to sue you. A few years ago, I published a story in Tin House which (for reasons that should be clear later) I’ll refer to here just as “Peter T_____, Falling Apart.”... As always, I Googled the name. Not to ensure there were no real Peter T______s in the world—it’s very hard to find reasonable names that no one’s ever had—but so I wouldn’t make the mistake of naming him after some football player known to everyone but me...

In a story, I’d tone down the following for believability; but what follows is the verbatim email: “i thoought when you write a novel all people whom have that name should be notified before writing a novel for the people won;t sue you for infringe ments on said name. and also royalties there are three of us left with the name peter t______.”


I have to admit, I've been shameless about naming characters after people I know, so if I ever finish something I could be in trouble. Fortunately, my habit seems different from this in three ways.

1. I've never used full names, just mixed and matched first and last names.

2. The more important to the story the character is, the less important the person has been to me, and vice versa, and the biggest characters' names are completely made up or named after fictional or historical characters. No one is going to care if a character is named after a common-sounding name from the Mayflower. And if any of my co-workers or friends of friends object to having parts of their names used, it would be fairly easy to change the three or four mentions of those characters to something else. 

3. I've never been in danger of being published. Closest I've come to even finishing fiction since college is my experiment with NaNoWriMo. I don't really feel bad about not making that goal - November was busy in general, and of course, I got interrupted - but I do wish I'd done more since then. I've written about three pages since the end of November. My characters have literally and figuratively been stuck in a boring meeting.

The good news is, I think I've finally figured out how to get it moving, how to get from where they are to where I want them to be. Knock on wood.

Although, uh oh, this made me think of Googling my main character's name, and there might be only one person by that name in the country. Not as common as I thought.

Monday, January 14, 2013

I've never tried using a "Starbucks nickname" before. Suddenly I wonder if I should.

My unusual names, first and last, bugged me as a kid. When I was young, I just wanted to fit in and be normal and a distinctive name, first and last, made that hard. It was also corrupted into lots of weird nicknames, which I didn't like. That was mostly me being hypersensitive rather than anything insulting about them, but still, yet another unavoidable problem because of what I was called.

I've mostly made my peace with it by now. I can better appreciate the meaning and history of "Cyrus." Having a weird name is actually useful in at least one way: weeding out telemarketers. It can be a conversation starter, now and then. And of course, I've grown a thicker skin. And while a "Starbucks nickname" might be be nice, I rarely actually go to Starbucks.

However, I am planning on simplifying my last name when I get married. It would be too confusing to have a hyphenated name when neither part of it came from my wife.

Tuesday, December 04, 2012

I still am recuperating. I'm more tired than I'd normally be on a workday at this time. I haven't biked yet, and probably won't for the rest of the week at least. I have tomorrow off (the hospital asked for a follow-up appointment, so I moved my RDO), and I'm glad.

This isn't the first time I've had surgery - I had three wisdom teeth removed one summer in college - but I'm repeatedly surprised at how it effects me. I mean, I've been in very little actual pain over the past week. I've had a sore back and shoulders off and on - and that surprised me, considering the cuts are in my belly, but I'm not used to sleeping on my back and I've been slouching a lot and a friend pointed out that the abdominal muscles hold up the rest of my body, so who knows - but when I'm sitting still or lying down, I don't feel uncomfortable. And when I am in pain, they've given me percocet for it. Sunday could have been a completely normal day, except for the fact that some of the time I spent reading was in bed.

And I've also been getting tired easily over the past week, and failing at NaNoWriMo is annoying, even if it's for a reason that genuinely no one could predict, as is not being able to take care of myself. But still, occasional and well-managed pain and minor fatigue and annoyance seem like insufficient reasons for the change in my mood. Particularly in the first couple days after the surgery, when it was the worst. I just had a really bad mood, internally. Fairly serious depression for a couple days. Maybe it's just my imagination, but I think I felt worse than the pain and tiredness and frustration explain by themselves, as if healing itself takes something out of me.

Which, when I put it like that, is obvious. Of course it does. I still have three wounds in my belly. I have spent several nights in a drugged pseudo-sleep rather than natural restfulness. Why wouldn't I expect that stuff to effect my mood? This is one of several reminders I've had recently of how complicated the body is, and how despite the amazing stuff science can do, most of medicine is really just blunt instruments. It feels kind of humbling. Chemotherapy is poisoning one part of the body more than the rest. Psychiatric medication are mostly uppers and downers with different side effects than recreational drugs. And surgery like this is cutting out an organ that's gone bad, and patching up (literally patching) the holes long enough for the normal healing process to take over.

Monday, December 03, 2012

On Nov. 24, I got back from a nice long Thanksgiving vacation with T.'s family in California. I hadn't been able to do too much writing then. When I went to bed on Sunday, Nov. 25, I had about 32,000 words written. The goal for NaNoWriMo is 50,000 words written in November. So I was behind, but it wasn't insurmountable. On at least two days and probably more, I had written over 3,000 words per day, and even then I hadn't been trying all that hard. If I could do that on every day remaining, I could meet the goal with time to spare. On Monday, Nov. 26, first thing in the morning, I found a 2,000-word file I had misplaced, so that bumped up my word count quite a bit with no work besides a little editing to fit it into the right places.

Then, around 10:30 a.m. that day, I got appendicitis.

I first noticed some abdominal pain around the right side. It wasn't all that severe, but it was really weird, a little like the nausea of a flu and a little like a muscle cramp but not exactly like anything I'd ever experienced before. I gave it an hour to see if it would get better, but it only got worse, so I went to the nurse's office in my building. They told me to go to a hospital. One of my supervisors was kind enough to drive me. The ER people gave me tests for several hours, and I was in surgery that night and spent the night there. I took it easy the rest of that week, staying in bed or in front of my computer or the TV. Thursday and Friday I went into work for a few hours. Thursday was fine. I worked about half a day, and I feel like I could have stayed longer but it was convenient to leave with a friend rather than take a bus and metro home. However, Friday, for whatever reason, took a lot out of me and I had to go home in less than two hours.

There's something else I still find really crazy: on the same day I developed appendicitis, T. sprained her shoulder. She had visited me in the hospital, and afterwards she was walking outside somewhere and slipped and fell hard. In addition to scrapes on her hands, she could barely move her right arm. At the time she didn't think too much of it, but on Tuesday after I was dropped off she saw a doctor and got sent to an emergency room herself. So she spent last week recuperating as well.

Needless to say, I didn't finish the novel. I was in the hospital, or on the way to or from it, from before noon Monday until after noon Tuesday. The rest of the time, theoretically I could have been writing, but I didn't. I spent a lot of time sleeping, or reading while lying down. Everything I did took while recuperating - cleaning the kitchen, and we did the laundry, and I did some editing for some friends who are looking for jobs - took longer than usual, and I was doing more stuff than I probably should have while recuperating because T. was recuperating too. And, of course, it was hard to concentrate on the story while dealing with all of this.

Well, maybe next year.

Wednesday, November 07, 2012

Today I have made great progress on NaNoWriMo. I might have got twice as much done today as on any previous day - and the day's not over, so if not quite twice as much yet, I'll definitely get there before the end of the day. I had a slow start, but today I figured out a process that seems to work fine for me. This is great.

This worries me.

Obviously, it's only a tiny worry around the edge of otherwise good news. Doing well is good, and if I don't make the goal, it's still fun, still more productive than some ways I spend my free time, and still a good challenge for myself. But the thing is, if today and maybe tomorrow had proved as unproductive as previous days, I'd really be too far in the hole. Considering my other commitments this month, and the fact that even if I do find a good process I can't expect to maintain it all the time, catching up after falling that far behind would have been practically impossible. I would have needed all-nighters or prescription drugs or something, and I still have a day job and a life, I couldn't do that. It would basically be over.

... so if it was over, I could stop. I had tried something new, but I knew it would be hard from the start because of both the goal itself and all kinds of stuff going on in my life these days, so if it didn't work out, hey, no hard feelings, maybe try again next year. If today hadn't gone well, I might as well quit. But now it's not over. There's a difference between trying and failing, and giving up. And I don't want to give up, do I?

So I guess I'd better get back to it.

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

I own a house and am engaged.

Those are both old news to anyone who sees me in person; sorry to anyone who I haven't been in touch with lately. And the engagement officially came first but both were in the works for a long time in advance, so going into detail seems pointless.

The date of the wedding isn't officially locked in yet, but the season we have in mind is still a long ways away, but getting closer, so it's on our minds, her more than mine. The house has been keeping us busy. We weathered Hurricane Sandy even better than I expected, but now winter is coming on and I've been trying to insulate.

Owning a house is weird. I still feel a tiny, niggling inclination to drill a hole in the wall just because I can.

I'm sure T. is glad I haven't done that yet, but I'm not sure she could even tell, because I've been fiddling with little things all over the place. New lampshades on the light over the dining room table. Foam insulation in cracks. Several trips to Home Depot and similar places. I've set up a ladder half a dozen times to paint. We've put a few prints and paintings and posters and wall hangings up and have several more draped over things near where we plan to put them when we get around to it. I kept the drain on the patio clean during the hurricane by going outside and removing leaves by hand. We have had two plumbers here for a leak discovered after we moved, one for a routine tune-up of the heating system in preparation for winter, and one energy efficiency consultant, and I spent an afternoon at the DMV to update my driver's license to get proof of residency within 30 days of the purchase to get some tax break or other. A new smoke/CO detector up in our bedroom. The old smoke detector from there in the old bedroom that was missing its smoke detector when we moved. The smoke detector in a third room adjusted because it was noticeably sagging, and I thought about taking it down and re-fitting it, but decided, fuck it, we have enough going on, it doesn't look that bad, close enough.

Remember this? And that was just about leasing and moving in with T. The more I do about the house we own, the more I notice I have to do in general.