woo! Finally getting paid on the sorta regular! I can buy a
house car nice bike umm. Groceries and a coffee? #firstworlddancerproblems
Category Archives: adulting
woo! Finally getting paid on the sorta regular! I can buy a
I’ve probably come to this conclusion before, so my apologies if this is tiresome.
I make the same mistake over and over again (what was that definition of madness, again?)—deciding either:
- …that I will somehow throw the neurochemical round-house punch to end all neurochemical round-house punches and knock my depression right TF out.
- …that I’m feeling much better and that, as a result, my depression is just about over and I’ll be fine any old minute now.
Then I find myself flummoxed when I don’t magically turn into … well, not a normal person (as D always says, “Average was never the goal!”), but a not-depressed person … overnight, or when I overextend myself and just can’t even for the next five days.
As such, I’ve decided to adopt a motto that some might call “strategetic” and others might call “cowardly.” In short:
When all else fails, run away
And live to fight another day.
(Coincidentally, this exact phrasing is the motto of Daniel D’Aeve, a semi-cowardly knight [he doesn’t like loud noises, for one thing] and accidental pirate [he doesn’t like boats, either] and the semi-hero of a musical I’ll probably never finish, but who knows. Miracles do happen.)
I’m not going to wrestle my depression into submission. That’s not how this works.
If I keep engaging it head-on, this gorilla will always, always wrestle me into the ground. Depression is like … I don’t know, wrestling some kind of mutant alligator that has gained the ability to steal your strength and make it its own as long as you keep fighting. (I feel like there’s almost certainly a Japanese monster movie about this already, but if there isn’t, there should be.)
As such, I’ve decided to adopt a more conservative tack. I know that I’m too impulsive to entirely avoid wrestling the alligator—sometimes I don’t realize I’m doing so until the alligator is already doing death-rolls at the bottom of the pond—but I’m going to try not to, like, walk up and pick fights with the alligator … even if that means letting it live in my house for a while.
In other words, for a little while, I’m going to try not to do as much.
I’m not going to stop doing everything, of course, but I’m not going to push quite as hard for a bit.
Instead, I’m going to revert to the best strategy I’ve ever found for keeping myself afloat in the midst of one of my moderate-but-grinding depressions: Do Two Things.
Oddly, I thought I’d written a post about this strategy before, but I can’t* find it, so I’m writing it now.
*Which is to say, I ran a search, devoted exactly 30 seconds to looking
for it, and then I gave up because I realized that if I kept it up I’d
start reading old posts and never finish this one.
So, in case you’re wondering, here’s how it works.
First, you get depressed. This makes living seem like a tedious uphill grind, and causes you to write poems empathizing with Sisyphus, and generally makes every single little thing that you have to do in order to continue to remain semi-afloat seem like a hideous impossibility.
Second, you own up to the fact that you don’t want to do anything. You don’t feel up to doing anything. You drag yourself to class because some part of you dimly recognizes that things will only be worse in the long run if, on top of recovering from a depression, you also have to get yourself back in performing shape or auditioning shape or what have you in the span of 3.4 days somewhere down the line. But other than that you feel like you just can’t even.
Eventually, you begin to feel slightly better, and then you look around your house and you realize, Holy Hell, it looks like a tornado crashed through a paper mill, a diner, and a thrift store before chugging right through your door. And also the cat has somehow contrived to get maple syrup on his head (which he doesn’t mind in the least, but you do). And you are out of Kleenex.
Some part of you thinks, “I should do something about all this,” while the rest of you just gazes around at the chaos with the proverbial thousand-yard stare and no idea where to begin.
That’s where Do Two Things comes in. You tell yourself, “Okay. There is no way I can do all of this right now, so I’m just going to do two things today.”
Then you turn to the thing nearest thing—or the nearest thing that feels like you have some hope of accomplishing it—and you do that thing.
The whole strategy hinges on this one truth: that sometimes “Do The Dishes” counts as one thing, and sometimes, “I’m going to wash this one dish” does. Sometimes, getting out of bed counts as one thing, and sometimes completely unmaking the bed, rotating the mattress, and remaking the bed counts as one thing.
It doesn’t matter. You judge yourself by the standard of where you are now. You give yourself permission to wash this one dish and that one fork.
The funny thing is that usually once you get started—once you wash the One Dish—you’ll usually find yourself thinking, “Ah, well. I might as well wash this entire stack; it’s not going to take any longer, really, and I already have my gloves on.”
So often Doing Two Things turns into Cleaning the Kitchen—but you have to remember not to look at that fact too directly, or your motivation might catch your scent on the wind and bolt. Wild motivations are flighty like that.
In my worst depressions, sometimes my Two Things are as simple as getting out of bed to get a drink, then eating a bagel while I’m already up.
When I’m well into recovery, they may be as complex as making the dining room ready for company and re-organizing the closets.
Either way, I give myself permission to feel like if I’ve done my Two Things, then I have done enough for the day.
It is, of course, totally okay to do more than the Two Things. It is pretty much impossible to do less: even in the pit of the kind of depression that keeps you confined to your bed or the sofa, it’s fairly likely that you’ll have to use the bathroom at least twice on any given day. If you’ve been in that place, you’ll understand why that counts. You just start with whatever Two Things are in reach.
Do Two Things acts both as an accessible goal and as a limiter.
If I’m having the kind of day that starts with “I am going to wash this One Dish,” then I know that, no matter how significant an uptick I might feel, I probably shouldn’t tackle rearranging the closets (which always sounds like a good idea, but turns into a nightmare because D has lived in this house for 20 years and almost never gets rid of anything).
Even if Washing the One Dish turns into Washing the Dishes, the knowledge that the first of my two things began as “Wash the One Dish” keeps me mindful of the fact that I’m not yet fully recovered, and that I shouldn’t start burning tomorrow’s matches today.
So there we have it. For the time being, I’m going to Do Two Things. This will help me get through the current slog without overwhelming myself (at least, without overwhelming myself as often).
Anyway, I don’t know if this strategy will work as well for anyone else as it does for me, but feel free to try it if you want to. It’s also good for getting started when you just plain feel overwhelmed, whether you’re depressed or not (this is a key feature of Adulting with ADHD).
I tend to try maintain an aura of ebullient optimism.
I’m aware that I lead a relatively charmed life, in which I’m permitted by circumstance to pursue a fairly impractical set of goals, and to mention that I still struggle seems a bit like spitting right into the face of good fortune.
But I do still struggle, and I’m beginning to understand something, which is this: living a life in which I’m not forced to do work that grinds my soul to powder, in which the work I do is work that I enjoy, doesn’t alter the fact that my mental health is a little fragile and that history and genetics have conspired to place me on a narrow bridge that spans a yawning chasm.
Rather, the life I’m living acts as a kind of safety harness, so that when–not if–I go plummeting off my bridge, I can eventually climb back up, or at any rate be hauled back up by people who love me.
I am capable of periods of immense creative productivity, but they’re interspersed with periods in which merely surviving is still all I can do. Those periods of mere survival are made easier to bear by the knowledge that I won’t have to return, as soon as I’m barely able, to work that will inevitably accelerate the arrival of the next plunge off the bridge.
Because D carries the vast majority of the weight of the financial responsibility of keeping us afloat, I’m able to get up and walk along my bridge for long periods, when in the past I rarely made it beyond the clinging-and-crawling-along-the-edges phase before I slipped again.
I don’t make much money doing what I do, but I usually have enough energy left over to keep our house comfortable to live in and to cook good food.
If there’s one thing I’ve learned, it’s that nothing is ever final until the curtain rises on opening night–and even then, it’s still not final.
This is a comforting thought, since circumstances have conspired to make tomorrow’s tech run the first time that the tandem hammock trio gets to actually be a tandem hammock trio! We’ve worked separately and in various pairings up to this point, but not all together because–honestly, I’m not sure why.
This morning, I worked out the drop sequence I’m doing–a variation from the one the girls are doing, since they didn’t get a chance to teach it to me and we didn’t have video I could work from, but if I don’t completely hose it up, the audience is unlikely to notice 😛
Tonight’s a literal walk-through rehearsal: the apparatuses are in the theater, but we won’t be because life in the arts is, shall we say, a little chaotic sometimes. I’m honestly okay with that: we got up at 4 this morning for a 3.5-hour newscast gig, and even though I managed to reclaim most of my lost sleep this afternoon (and, in my dreams, revisit pets of yore and rehearse in a really bizarre space), I’m still a little tired and totallu okay with not dangling from dangerous objects tonight 😉
^^That’s my kind of news crew 😀
Last night, instead of staying home and hiding from trick-or-treaters, I went to Handstands class and Acro 2. Both went remarkably well. I got to play on hand-balancing blocks, which I’ve been wanting to do forever, and a pair of those hand-balancing frames that look a little like pommel-horse grips sans pommel-horse. I’m finally regaining a really solid handstand, so that’s awesome. I definitely want to incorporate hand-balancing into my skill-set.
Anyway, tomorrow we’re finally in the theater for real (I got a preview as a function of doing the morning show!), and Friday we open. Saturday is just about sold out, which is awesome.
Oh, andI also know how to find my way out of the theater now, which is surprisingly complicated 😛
Today, I have accomplished the following:
- Get out of bed (eventually)
- Sew buttons for straps into new tights for CirqueLouis gigs
- …Yeah, that’s about it, really.
Every time I’m forced to take a break of more than a couple of weeks from class, the re-entry period is an exercise in grinding self-doubt.
First, taking a break almost inevitably involves gaining a couple of pounds–generally a sum that the average person would barely notice, but which is all too visible when you return to the studio and are constantly surrounded once again by people with less than 10% body fat.
I may be all about body positivity, but I’m not very good at applying it to myself. I’m also entirely aware that I have somehow stumbled into working in a field in which the folks who decide who gets hired and who doesn’t tend to lean strongly towards lean bodies. Toss in the fact that, given my build, a little more size in the thighs interferes with my fifth position, and you’ve got a recipe for Dancer Meltdown in 3 … 2 … 1…
Worse, it always takes a few weeks to re-awaken and rebuild the muscles responsible for correct execution of classical technique–and even as people who don’t dance continue to harp on about my “natural” grace, I wind up feeling like a half-grown stirk in a dressage ring until things start working together again.
This week has been all about finding my core, not dancing like a swaybacked wildebeest, and remembering how the hell to do turns.
- Though, bizarrely, whilst I was not dancing, my chaînés improved dramatically–regarding which, WTactualF?
Predictably, the resultant emotional fallout has been a constant stream of thoughts like WHY DID I THINK I WAS GOOD ENOUGH TO AUDITION FOR THINGS?! and I’LL NEVER BE READY!
So that’s where I am right now. Off to my last week of sandbagging in Saturday beginner class, which I hope will leave me feeling like I can actually dance, and then Jack O’Lantern Spectacular,in which I’ll attempt not to dance like a swaybacked wildebeest before a captive audience of so freaking many.
For some reason, it didn’t occur to me before I had my surgery to contemplate why my surgeon suggests the particular protocol that he does with healing nipples (which will now forever be immortalized as “Post-Op Pasties®”).
- Daily from the Great Unrapping through Post-Op Day 21: apply bacitracin, apply Xeroform, apply adhesive bandage (I’ve been using the store-brand version of the 3M Nexcare ones for the most part); after 21 days, you can discontinue the Xeroform if you like, but continue with bacitracin and band-aids for at least another 7 days.
Turns out that if you don’t do something along these lines, they tend to get all weird and scabby and freaky-looking, and wind up being a major source of (not entirely necessary) worry for guys who have this particular surgery.
Keeping them slathered in bacitracin and covered with some kind of dressing both keeps them from drying out and getting terrifyingly scabby and keeps you from having to look at them all the dang time whilst they’re busy going, “WAT EVEN HAPPEN,” which is totally how I imagine them feeling about the process of being essentially evicted from their prior residences and relocated to new ones.
Likewise, if you’re me, it keeps you from picking at the scabs, which I do compulsively.
So, in short, while the protocol is marginally time-consuming (if you consider “less than 5 minutes per day” time-consuming), I’m really glad that my doc suggests it. I had one little scabby spot on my right nipple, which has since sorted itself, and beyond that there’s just been a little occasional sloughing of dead skin when I removed my dressings.
Much better than having itchy scabs that I’d inevitably pick at, inviting infection.
So, good on Docteur Magnifique for that one, too (even though wrestling the Xeroform was a PITA because our bathroom lacks any kind of flat surface that isn’t the top of the toilet or the precarious edge of the wall-mounted sink).
At this point, I’ve written a fair bit about the surgery that I had to shed my moobs. I’m extremely happy with the results thus far, but that hasn’t stopped me from being extremely curious about the healing processes of basically everyone who has ever had any remotely similar surgery.
This has led to some interesting discoveries. First, there’s evidently a whole lot of controversy of the subject of drains: which is to say, a lot of people don’t want them, and seem miffed when surgeons require them. Second, quite a few of the people who wind up with the exact surgery that I had seem to want their incision lines to be perfectly straight.
I don’t mean to be a jerk about it, but neither of these positions seem terribly well-considered to me.
In short, people don’t like drains because they’re uncomfortable. I’m not arguing, there: they are uncomfortable. The only reason I bothered taking any of the opioid painkillers prescribed by my surgery was so I could sleep with the poky-arsed drain lines annoying my intercostal tissues.
Given the minimal amount of drainage I produced, I legitimately could’ve gone without—but I’m glad they were there, just in case.
All too frequently, I run into an argument that goes, “Well, Bob didn’t have drains, and he was fine.”
The problem, there, is that it’s really quite difficult to predict who’s going to be like Bob, or like me, and who’s going to wind up with massive swelling that could’ve been prevented by installing a couple of drains for a week or so.
Surgeons can control their technique. What they can’t control is how our bodies react once all is said and done.
Some, like Imaginary Bob’s and like mine, just go, “Oh, no worries, I’m on this healing thing,” without any major drama.
Others go, “OMFG WHAT IS THIS WHAT HAVE YOU DONE AAUUUGHHHHHH!!!” and promptly kick up an inflammatory tornado, producing great gouts of fluid that can turn into seromas which are also quite uncomfortable, and which then require (you guessed it) drains anyway.
I’m a big believer in the idea that prevention is better than a cure.
I think the path my surgeon took in my particular case was just about ideal. D was hoping we could start for home on Monday evening or Tuesday instead of Wednesday evening or Thursday, so the doc suggested a compromise: if my drainage levels were good (read: minimal), we could have the drains out on Monday. Given that my surgery took place on a Thursday, this seemed like a really good compromise.
As it turned out, I experienced almost no inflammation and drained almost nothing from the word go, and the drains did indeed come out on Monday. Yes, they were annoying while they remained, but let’s be frank: roughly 4.5 days of moderate discomfort is preferable to the risk of epic swelling accompanied by potential weeks of discomfort. (To be fair, pain perception varies tremendously, and the drains might actually be a lot worse for some people than for others—but for most people, they’re basically just an annoyance, and a temporary one.)
Some surgeons (mine included) use drains for essentially everybody. Some decide on a case-by-case basis. Some don’t bother at all. Regardless, when it comes to this kind of thing, it’s worth considering that surgeons undertake a decade or more of specialized schooling to learn their skills—and, especially for cosmetic surgeons, it’s in their best interests to do whatever is going to get the best results.
In short, with a few exceptions, they generally have more insight into what they’re doing than their patients do, and it’s probably in our best interests to give due consideration to their surgical preferences.
For some reason, a lot of guys seem convinced that curved incision lines scream “BREASTICLES!”
In fact, I don’t think they do, and here’s why: curved incision lines follow the anatomical shadow of the pectoralis major. To the uninitiated, they’re not necessarily going to shout, “Yes, I had breast reduction surgery with removal of extra skin!”
- Exception: the rare cases in which an ill-advised surgeon makes them too curved—but, honestly, my jury’s really out as to whether that actually looks more unnatural than a perfectly straight incision does, since I’ve seen it so rarely even in my endless trawling of post-surgical pix.
Under ideal circumstances, they nestle in the literal shadow of one’s pecs, where they will eventually camouflage themselves as an extra measure of definition. And, of late, as surgical techniques have improved, ideal circumstances occur more frequently than one might imagine.
Perfectly straight incision lines, meanwhile, look unnatural. The human body is not a straight-lines kind of place. Straight incision lines depart rapidly from the anatomical shadow of the pectoralis and advertise themselves as exactly what they are—evidence of surgery.
The human eye is more likely to notice them simply because they contrast so sharply with the curvilinear nature of even the most masculine of human bodies (to wit: none of us are actually built like Minecraft sprites).
Even under ideal circumstances, perfectly-straight incision lines don’t camouflage themselves at all.
My incision lines aren’t straight. I wouldn’t want them to be straight. If anything, I wouldn’t have minded them being just a bit curvier towards their lateral ends—but, once again, my surgeon knows what he’s about. He’s been doing this for a long time.
I’m sure there are plenty of folks who will disagree with me on both these points—and, ultimately, I’m not telling them they’re making the wrong choices. People get to make their decisions based on their own bodies and their own long-term goals.
I just hope that, in making these decisions, there’s more to the decision-making process than “drains are uncomfortable” and “male bodies are made up of straight lines.”
Regarding point the first, that’s true, but they’re also temporary, and if they’re too horrible you can have them out early.
Regarding point the second, that’s really not true. Even Arnold Schwarzenegger is made up of a series of curves with varying radii. Ask any artist, or any robot who wants to look more human.
A note on all this: I recognize that there’s a pretty strong dose of privilege involved in the fact that I feel comfortable writing this.
I can assume that, while they’re kind of visible now because they’re still pretty pinkish, my curvilinear scars will eventually hide in the anatomical shadow of my pecs because I’m a dancer and an aerialist and a semi-mesomorph who puts muscle on at the drop of a hat. Even after three weeks sitting on my butt(er), and thusly at the least-defined I’ve been since I got back from my illness-and-holidays binge-eating tour of central Kentucky, I still have more definition in my chest than a lot of people will ever have. I get that.
Likewise, my work both demands that I be extremely fit and begets extreme fitness, and at least part of my rapid and unproblematic healing comes down to that. Maybe I would have felt differently about drains if I’d had to cope with them for more than 4.5 days (though, honestly, if you’ve got a lot of drainage, it’s probably a good idea to have drains).
On a different axis, I grew up in an extremely privileged setting which afforded me the opportunity to purchase all the anatomy books and drawing materials my little heart desired, and I have a very visual mind. It’s easy for me to say “scars should be curvilinear because bodies are curvilinear” because I’ve spent my entire life poking around with images and models of what human bodies look like beneath their skin and a brain that happens to be very good at storing and regurgitating that information (but which can never freaking recall a person’s name when I really need it to >.<).
So there’s that, also.
Lastly, a lot of the guys who have this surgery are trans, and every single opinion I have is founded in the fact that, as an intersex person, I face a different set of challenges in life than transfolk—one that overlaps with trans experience in some ways and is fundamentally different in other ways. For one, I may occasionally get misgendered in public, but I don’t have to put up with people constantly questioning my right to identify as a male.
- Curiously, exactly twice in my life, someone has asked me, “Why would you choose to live your life as a gay man when you could just be a woman if you wanted to?” Both times, it was another femme-y gay man who asked … and, in both cases, one who had grown up in a part of the United States that is actively oppressive and deeply repressive towards gay men in general and especially towards effeminate gay men. The region in question also tends to do a lot of conflating sexual orientation with gender identity. Neither of these guys had ever seen me unclothed, nor did they possess a clear concept of the fact that being intersex didn’t mean that I had “both sets” until I explained: in my case, it primarily means that I’m an ideal dish for a gentleman who prefers dainty Vienna sausages, so to speak, which isn’t quite the same as being able to just up and declare one’s self to be female even if I wanted to. And now you know way more about my body than you ever wanted to. You’re welcome.
Since transguys comprise a significant proportion of the folks who have this particular surgery, I feel like it’s probably worth acknowledging that I’m operating from a different vantage point, and that it colors my decision-making process. I think the same probably goes for non-IS cisguys: the set of my general experiences with being a guy differs from theirs as well.
There’s an extent, of course, to which everyone’s experience with gender, and with walking around the world as a gendered being, is different. Before it was corrupted as an insult, the phrase “we’re all individual snowflakes” meant exactly that: every one of us is the same in some ways and different in others, just as snowflakes share some basic characteristics and differ wildly and beautifully in other ways.
What I’m talking about, here, are collective experiences that shape the way we see the world: just as my upbringing in a forward-thinking part of the country prevented me from asking myself, “Why wouldn’t I just want to be a girl instead of being gay?” Those options, for me, have always existed on two different spectra.
So, anyway. Those are my caveats. I’m sure things are even more nuanced than that, but I need to wander off and do some errands now, whilst the day is young.
The other day, I wrote about trying a couple of low-carb recipes.
I’m doing the low-carb thing until I can get back to my usual training and performance schedule because it’s an easy way to balance input and output without feeling like I’m starving all the time.
My diet is usually pretty well stocked with veggies and so forth, so this mostly means that I’m stuffing my face with a metric shedload of cabbage (Savoy or Napa, at the moment) where I’d usually put pasta, burritos, or taco shells, but of course there’s more to life than cabbage. (Pumpkin smoothies, by the way, are totally in the “more to life” department. Recipe forthcoming.)
In that vein, I’ve decided to try a couple of specifically low-carb recipes that would work for both D and me, since it’s not like I asked D if he wants to give up bread and rolls for the next month.
The two standouts thus far in terms of ease of preparation and really nice results both hail from TryKetoWith.Me, the blog of “KetoGirl,” a computer-science student and ketogenic-diet advocate in Chicago. These are two of her simpler recipes, and I chose them because when I looked at them, I didn’t instantly go, “ACK! TOO MANY STEPS!” and click on back to a safer place.
- No, I’m not making fun of the Safe Spaces concept. I think they play an important role, and they have definitely been helpful to me at times in my life. I mostly just wanted to link to the Safety Dance because it’s hilarious.
Because it’s fall and I’m obsessed with putting cinnamon in everything right now, I decided to make sweet-spiced versions of both these recipes—so (because I am apparently out of plain cinnamon … wonder how that happened) I made the waffles with pumpkin pie spice standing in for the optional cinnamon, and I turned the doughballs into mini pumpkin pie spice rolls by rolling the dough out flat, coating it with a blend of Splenda and pumpkin pie spice, then curling it into a long log and cutting it into individual rolls.
- Not everyone is into sucralose and what have you. It works fine for me, so I use it, but stevia or xylitol would work just as well.
Both recipes proved pretty easy to follow—if I was working directly off my tablet or had printed them a little differently, I could have avoided the one mistake I did make, which was the result of my own formatting, not KetoGirl's.
Neither required an exhaustive list of ingredients I can't find locally. In fact, I found them all, plus one random extra (arrowroot powder, which I've been meaning to buy forever but always forget about), at a not-particularly-fancy Kroger a couple miles up the road.
For both these reasons, and because the end results are delicious, I am happy to issue the Cooking with ADHD Squirrel! of Approval© to both recipes.
The only drawback? The whole point of doing a low-carb diet while I'm on the bench is to make maintaining energy balance a no-brainer. The pumpkin pie spice rolls are so freaking good that they might completely torpedo that plan.
Just sticking this here in case it might be useful to anyone else. I’m going to try this recipe:
…use some of the waffles for dinner or dessert tonight (haven’t decided yet if I’m making savory waffles or sweet ones), then freeze the rest. I’ll keep you posted.
Update: These are great! I made a sweet version seasoned with Pumpkin Pie Spice (I wanted just cinnamon, but apparently I’m out of just cinnamon?), and they’re lovely. Also, I would definitely count them as ADHD-friendly, though the way I printed the recipe made life challenging for me. I forgot the baking powder initially, then added it after I made the first waffle and realized my error. I’ve done this before, with other waffles, soooo…
I think, though, that I’d really like to try making them in a regular waffle iron rather than the Belgian waffle iron that I have—which is what I usually think about waffle recipes, actually, so they resemble regular waffles in that way, as in effectively all ways.
Also going to try making these whilst I’m mucking about in the kitchen:
Both look pretty ADHD-friendly (at least, once you remember to buy the ingredients that maybe you don’t have if you’re not normally a low-carb person), so I’m eager to see how they go.
I won’t know until I’ve made them, but I’m hoping I can potentially adjust the waffle batter so I can use the Foreman grill to make a sort of foccaccia-style thing with it (between the Foreman grill and the waffle iron, you can make SO MANY THINGS, guys). Likewise, I want to try making cinnamon doughballs based on the garlic recipe. I’ll report back about those, too.
In other news, for some reason or another, our water has been shut off. We’re current on the water bill (I checked, and then paid the next bill since I was logged in anyway), and usually the water company sticks a note on the door when they have to shut us off for maintenance. I’m stumped.
I suppose I could call them, but I’m going to give it a couple of hours first.