Monthly Archives: May 2010

Experiencing technical difficulties.

It’s not my computer; it’s my desk. Or, rather, my body and the way it feels when I sit at a desk for more than 10-15 minutes at a stretch. I don’t have any pain, but I do get a feeling of “heaviness” in my lower legs, tightness in my lower back, and an overall feeling that my body is utterly out of whack. I can’t find a comfortable position, no matter how I shift in my seat, and I’ve switched between three different desk chairs (my usual Aeron, an old crappy task chair, a squishy “Executive” chair I keep meaning to CraigsList) in an attempt to alleviate it. None of them made a difference.

I have no trouble standing (even for long stretches of time), or lounging on the sofa, or slouching in a deep armchair with one leg thrown over the arm. I can paint or read or walk around for long periods just fine. I’m also okay if I lean on a tall stool while working at my drawing table or sewing. But this sitting-at-a-desk thing is giving my body a lot of grief.

This has been a growing problem for at least a year, but it’s finally to the point where I have to (literally!) get off my ass and do something about it.

As I type this, I’m standing.  It’s still not a very good arrangement; I’ve put my monitor atop the computer tower (which sits on my desktop), and the keyboard is sitting on a stack of books. The keyboard’s at a decent height, but the monitor is still too low, so I’m getting stiff shoulders and a crick in my neck. But my lower back and legs are fine–which they would not be were I sitting–so I think I’m on the right track.

Over the next few days, I’m going to figure out some sort of standing-desk arrangement. I can’t spend any money on it (because I’m still on my spending fast until the end of the month), but I’ve got loads of scrap lumber and hardware and ingenuity, so I’m sure I can invent something that will work.  I’m a big believer in the idea that if you don’t fit into the world, it’s your job to remake the world to fit you–and on that note, I’m off to find my tape measure and see what I’ve got in the lumber pile.

ETA: I’ve got it! I swiped some of the Ikea ‘Ivar’ shelving in the basement, and it’s the perfect thing for this project. I need to clean it up, and I might have to buy a pull-out tray for the keyboard, but I’ll definitely have a new standing computer desk before the weekend.

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What I don’t regret, #1.

Five years ago, I dropped out of a grad program in the Humanities after only two quarters (and I barely lasted that long).

It was a highly-regarded program; I had full funding for the first year; the faculty included many scholars working in my areas of interest; my fellow grad students were a congenial bunch, and the department and staff were very supportive. As grad programs go, I had it good–and I knew it.

At the same time, I was utterly miserable. Before that first quarter was half-over I knew it was a mistake. I felt trapped and suffocated and didn’t want to be there. Specializing in a particular field (which I had been so excited about when I applied the year before) now seemed like a dead end. I wondered how I was going to make it through the next two years of coursework, much less write a dissertation.

I wanted to quit, but gave it another quarter to see if things got better; I’d worked so hard to get there, after all.  The professors who wrote my letters of recommendation were also friends, and didn’t want to disappoint them. I dreaded telling my family I’d left, and explaining why. I didn’t want to be the first one in my cohort to drop out. And besides, grad students are supposed to be miserable, aren’t they? Continue reading

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Fear less.

I got turned on to a great new Web-based magazine today, via Seth Godin’s blog. Fear.less is about fear. Or, rather, it is interviews with individuals who have passed through the fire of their worst fears and emerged transformed. In a culture that is pervaded and driven by fear–of terrorism, of fat, of the flu, of foreclosure and economic doom–Fear.less is a welcome antidote. And it’s free. So check it out.

And funny that I should sing the praises of a new magazine about overcoming fear–because it fits in so perfectly with the subject I’d already decided to write about.

A couple of entries back, I wrote about Nate’s dying, after defying all odds and living for nearly a year with end-stage Chronic Renal Failure. Taking care of him forced me to confront a host of my own fears, which I wrote about last October. But when I said that “…one sickly little orange cat changed me and changed my life in ways I’m still only beginning to comprehend. I am not the same person I was, I no longer view the world in the same way I once did, and I have plans for the future that I never would have considered before,” I wasn’t kidding. And I’m not just some crazy cat lady wallowing in maudlin sentiment, either.

Because of Nate, I’m headed back to school again, at age 42. It’s going to take me a while–I will probably be about 50 by the time I’m done–but I’m going to be a veterinarian. Continue reading

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May Day resolutions.

Most people make resolutions to get their act together at New Year’s, but I like to pick any old upcoming month of the twelve available, make a resolution or two, and go for it. Most months, I don’t make any. But for May, I’ve made two: update my blog every three days, and go on a spending fast.

On my calendar, I’ve made an UPDATE BLOG  note for today. There’s only an hour or so left in the day, but that’s fine; I just have to write something. And if I end up writing a sad and gimpy little excuse for a post, well hey–it’s not as if I have a readership, right?

The whole point of this resolution is to get into the habit of posting in the first place. That’s it. Now that I’ve resuscitated this poor, neglected critter I’ve got to keep it breathing if it’s ever to sprout new legs and walk again. I get the feeling that someday soon I’m going to want it to not only walk, but to run–so I’ve decided to stick with it through each ragged breath.

The spending fast I’ve committed myself to is a simple idea: make no unnecessary purchases for an entire month. Pay the usual bills, buy groceries, attend to any crucial unexpected expenses (such as a vet bill or car repair), but that’s it. Don’t eat out; don’t buy fabric, books, art supplies, or other “useful” extras; don’t spend money on entertainment; don’t grab coffee, snacks, or any of the countless small purchases that add up. Continue reading

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Painting again–again.

“I’m painting again!”

How many times have I said that over the years? I don’t think I want to know. But does it really matter? Probably not. (Okay, definitely not.)

So: I’m painting again–again. And I’ve finally given up on art as a career.

This doesn’t mean I will never have some sort of art career. I’m only 42, and with heredity and ever-improving medical technology on my side I’ve got at least another 50-60 years to go. A lot can happen in that time.

What it does mean is that I’ve given up fretting over how I’m going to make a successful art career happen. I’ve given up worrying whether a given piece of work, or series of works, will be saleable. I’ve given up thinking about sales, marketing, geting into galleries, opening an Etsy store, having prints made, finding exhibit space, taking decent photographs, getting into juried shows, or blogging about my work on a regular basis.

It means that I’m just going to paint–for its own sake, for my own enjoyment. I’m going to paint things that appeal to me, that I want to see on my own walls. I’m not going to try to exhibit or sell my work, even if it means I run out of wall space. And unless I really want to, I’m not even going to post pictures of what I’ve painted to my blog or discuss it with anyone.

I’m just going to paint. Continue reading


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