Day 545 and Stretched Time

Time has never acted like it is linear in my observation. It extends and stretches when you wish it could speed by. And it slows and circles back when you would most prefer it go quickly. Time is relative is a good joke, but also might be more related to a curse.

As I was waiting for a food delivery order today I could feel time unspooling. It stretched on into two episodes of some engaging but fundamentally disinteresting Netflix show. My head began to hurt. I remember taking an aspirin and getting a snack. I recall a phone call made to the delivery service order. And then my sense of linearity starts to fray. I’m not sure what happened next or in what order.

I think it was clear a migraine was coming on in the middle of this first act of swollen stretching time. But I couldn’t tell you for sure. Once pain hooks up with time it requires a Buddha or someone enlightened on the ways of Jhana. Still I tried to push myself out of the path of this time. Why not ordered a pizza as a replacement meal. That might be quick? I blamed the blooming migraine and it’s sister nausea on a lack of food. But in reality I was past the point of being helped. I was simply trying to avoid the oncoming path of the migraine.

I recall a pizza arriving but not the original delivery order. I made an attempt to eat. But I was in the grips of the time expanding migraine now. I took an Imitrax. I had some CBD. Perhaps terrapins and triptans could convince my mind that the moments of pain were short and fleeting. That was my best hope for experiencing the migraine in a positive way.

I put on a face mask. I sunk into a mindfulness practice. I noticed and turned over the kinds of discomforts I found myself in one by one. The emotional fears that I wanted distance rose up. The pain that bubbled around my body tightened, giving me a rationale for not wanting to being touched. A mind that wanted to drift far from others overlapped with my normal mind, this mind wasn’t forced to endure the noisy input from the world. All those experiences rose and burst forth and dissipated. Pain, distance, and fear came and went.

Consciousness seemed possible again. I had the sense that I could articulate some of what happened to me over the past three hours. That perhaps I could codify it in writing. It wouldn’t be as vivid but it would be there. The fear and failure and disprovals still existed but less acutely. The pressure on my mind had become less swollen. Time wasn’t threatening to extend out any other direction but forward. And maybe I could finally enjoy a bite to eat again. It has been five hours total since the migraine began.

Chronic Disease

Day 540 and No Pain

I’ve come to accept an ambient level of pain as part of my daily existence. I’ve logged over fourteen hundred discrete pain measurements over a three year period. It’s likely one been in pain for a bit longer but those are the documented years since I had a diagnosis and began working to overcome it.

I’ve only had a handful of days where I’ve logged below a three. The pain scale most of the medial industry uses is from 1-10 with 4-6 being moderate pain and 10 being unbearable give me the opioids pain.

I typically log somewhere between four on a good day and seven by it’s end. I’ll usually have an eight or a nine a few times a month. Those knock me flat and I won’t be able to get out of bed. I can work and do basics when I’m at a five or six but it’s very tiring. And frankly it took a lot of mindfulness work to learn to work through pain.

Pain is actually exhausting. It’s hard to even begin to describe how much it reduces your total capacity. Articulating pain has eluded much finer writers than I. Just because one can live through it doesn’t mean one should.

To have had a morning of relief felt truly miraculous. It was sadly short lived. Some stresses hit my day and my pain is back up to a four. I can live with a four. I have been for sometime. But to finally have seen the light of having a pain free day after years of struggling will sustain me for a while. To know that it’s possible. It felt like a miracle.

Emotional Work

Day 535 and Daddy’s Girl

I hate Father’s Day. I find myself debating if I can get away with a text or an email marking the occasion. I do this as I’d like to make it through the day without crying. I almost never can. Sometimes I just ignore it entirely.

I’ll reach out to my brother and ask how he is doing. He’s the only one that seems to have a better grip on the “our father” feelings. They are complex for me and untangling them is always painful.

I am a Daddy’s Girl. Everything that’s good (and some of what is bad) about me is a refraction of my father’s ambitions, interests, desires and personality.

I got my love of technology from him. I got my career in startups from him. I learned to socialize and leave a good impression from him. I got my optimism from him. I also got my need for distance from him. My preference for keeping my loved ones a little further away is from him. My struggles with intimacy and emotional availability are his too. I am my father’s daughter. I suspect I’ve also acted as a proxy for what he wanted in a son as well.

Even after years of therapy, unpacking how I feel about my father has not made the tender feelings any less acute when I touch them. I merely understand that my trauma is my father’s trauma and his trauma is his father’s and so on stretching back to who knows when. We carry our heritage.

I tell my father I’ve forgiven him for his mistakes. That I understand he did his best. I don’t think he believes me. I hope he does one day. He done what he could.

I am the absolute best of my father’s good traits. I am also the absolute worst of them too. Most of the good I have is because of him and most of the bad too.

Which makes me so angry. The steam rising up that my mother did all of the emotional work, gave me all of the love, and yet here I am a reflection of him and not her.

I’ll never understand how divorced parents can live with that kind of betrayal. To have done all the emotional work of parenting and yet see their child as a reflection of the other one. Anger is usually just hurt. And I do hurt. Not on my mother’s behalf. She is fine. I hurt because I wanted my father to be there too.

My father tried so hard to be a good father. My dad paid the bills. My dad was funny and well liked by everyone but his immediate family. My brother and I love him, but for a long time I don’t think we liked him. Maybe I’m wrong as my brother has been working through his feelings longer than me. Maybe he always liked him. I know we always loved him. I still love him.

I like my dad now. I can see him as a human as I get more distance from my childhood. He can be an old man now and not the father figure that let me down. Which is a relief when I can hold that thought. I see all his good and how he passed it on to me. And I can see how even the bad, perhaps especially the bad, what made me into the woman I am.

He is smart and loves technology. He has never missed a Comdex or eventually a CES. He always has the newest gadgets. His enthusiasm for new things has never waned.

Like other Boomers, his belief in the future and in youth, let him retain a kind of enthusiasm for what’s next even in hard times. And that inspired my entire life’s trajectory.

There will never be a time in my life when I don’t seek his approval. He loves the future and I want to create the future for him. The new and the next will always be for him as much as it is for me.

Which is impressive as the “new” hasn’t always been kind to him. He suffered for his optimism. I have no fear going into this recession because I saw him be broken by one and come out the other side. He is still the same enthusiast he was before the markets crashed and bankruptcy hollowed out his American dream. He got it all back and more. And that belief that we can build back always stuck with me. I’ve never been afraid of hard times because of him.

I’m moving to Montana soon. He moved there first. He’s like that. Always seeing one step ahead. I fought against the idea of Montana for a bit as I wasn’t sure I could make the same decisions he did. Even though I often do.

But I do believe he is right about the last best place on earth. And true to our preferences for distance he will be a comfortable five or six hour drive away. Neighbors in the end but with plenty of space.

Fathers and daughters have it tough these days. Sexism and expectations for how to live are in flux. My father did his absolute best to never let me see myself as anything less than equal. Which isn’t always an unqualified good but I’m still grateful for all of it.

If you’ve ever felt let down by your father even as you know he’s buoyed you up your entire life, then this post might make perfect sense. If not then it may seem offensive to codify the complexities of a familial relationship in public. How could she write something like this? To which I say sometimes the only way to love someone is to say your truth out loud.

Happy Father’s Day Dad. I love you. And I know that to be true because love is having someone betray you, utterly let you down, or even do the unforgivable, and yet you still love them all the same. I forgive you. I am still Daddy’s Girl.

Aesthetics Emotional Work Travel

Day 531 and Overpacking

I used to be an expert packer. If you do some deep Googling on me you will find lots of travel tips as at one point I was the co-founder of a travel cosmetics company called Stowaway. I was on the road a lot and became quite practiced at getting my entire life in a carry-on.

I can’t seem to pull it off anymore. At first I thought it was because I didn’t travel during the pandemic. Then I blamed it on being modest disabled from all my various health nonsense. But I’ve just stumbled onto the real reason

I’ve got fantasies of having a life where I still do things.

By packing high heels and nice dresses and several colors of lipstick I am telling my disability “not today Satan!” Except then of course I don’t use any of it. Because I am in fact still disabled.

I packed an outfit for a black tie gala when I went down to Austin. Because you never know when you might appreciate having a gown on hand and it didn’t take up much space. Now mind you I still attended an actual gala, but I ended up wearing a tank top and camouflage pants. Crypto is low key that way.

While I am introverted, and not terribly keen on socializing, I haven’t quite given up on a world where I go out if I want to. I want to feel like I’ve got the option to say yes to a nice dinner or to a meeting up at a cocktail bar. Leaving behind my favorite pair of Gucci heels is cutting off some part of my life in my mind.

If I only pack comfortable clothing and sensible skincare I feel as if I’ve conceded something to my disability. If I don’t pack a nice dress, even if my entire trip is planned around being casually at home in an Airbnb, I feel I’ve somehow given in to the pain and fatigue.

I’m not entirely sure if this is something I can work through. Or even if I want to work through it. I hate having to make room for medication and supplements and knowing it means there is no room for a hair dryer or a second pair of heels. I’d rather overpack. I’d rather have some sense of optimism and ambition.

But then I’ve got to get through customs at Heathrow and I’ve got no intention of checking any of my luggage during a chaotic summer for travel. So it might be time to try getting back to traveling light. And that means fewer cosmetics and clothing.

Medical Travel

Day 529 and Close My Body Now

Menstruation is mostly an exercise in pressure changes. Cramping and bloating make for a good reminder that we are ugly bags of mostly water. Or if you prefer meet popsicles. But I don’t recommend flying while menstruating as the pressure changes, aka jet belly, that wreck havoc on your lower intestines don’t really need the extra help.

I’ve got a theory that shorter flights are worse for jet belly because all the fluids and gases that are rumbling about inside you have less time to adjust. If you’ve never noticed that your lower half is bloated and rumbling after a flight, well, lucky for you. But I’m pretty sure you are also lying.

Our flight got put in a holding pattern over Denver as we waited for a thunderstorm to clear out. I could not have asked for a better metaphor as my cramps kicked into high gear. My chatty seat mate kept trying to engage in conversation and all I could think was I’ve got to shut my body down.

And then as if being crampy and bloody wasn’t embarrassing enough I started humming a twenty year old techno tune from Madonna. Yes, I remember the lyrics to her James Bond song.

I’m gonna destroy my ego

I’m gonna close my body now

This turned into a mantra as the pain and discomfort threatened to kick my stress responses into a cortisol spiral. I began a series of breathing exercises and kicked myself into a meditation so deep my poor husband couldn’t reach me. Madonna might have had a point. Ego destruction and closing down your body has a place during intense pain and discomfort. It only has to hurt if you let it.

Aesthetics Startups Travel

Day 526 and Out of Practice Yuppie

A well dressed, tall, friendly looking white gentleman tried to join me on an otherwise empty blue velvet couch that I had deliberately planted myself in the middle of to avoid socializing. All that was missing was a “closed for business” sign around my neck.

I had attempted to tell him “no actually this seat is taken.” I was confused he didn’t immediately pick up on my body language. I had spread my entire body across the couch and had intensely “don’t come here” body language. I had my purse down to take up more space. I laid my hand with my wedding ring on my knee so it’s instantly visible. He didn’t pick up a single visual cue. I tried verbal. I literally shouted at him that no he wasn’t welcome to join me. “This seat is taken!” Didn’t make a difference.

I don’t think he could hear me as he sat down and tried to strike up a conversation despite his obvious discomfort clinging to the edge of the couch with half a butt cheek in mid air. He tried a few lines of conversation as I doggedly ignored him. I started a tweet and angled my phone screen towards him so he could see me typing complaints. Didn’t help at all.

I really had done everything I could to claim this space as my own. The couch was directly beneath an air vent trying to push cooler air into the crowded house bar. It was as hot inside the bar as it was outside but this one area had modestly more airflow making the summer heat at least breathable.

Which is to say it was over 100 degrees inside the old house. The Rainey Street bars in Austin are all converted old historical houses with wide open full floor windows and open doors to allow people to enjoy backyards with twinkling lights and hipster backyard games. These bars are a cultural treasure in March for SXSW when everyone enjoys the mild 70 degree early spring. In June during a heatwave they are a hellscape for yuppies who have simply forgotten how to socialize like normal human beings.

I was engaging in some incredibly rude behavior yes, but the bar has no other visible seating near an air vent and even the 5 degrees of lowered temperature and the moving air helped a little. I was wearing loose comfortable clothing but it was still intolerable. I regretted not sourcing a wheelchair for the week but then again none of these houses are accessible anyway. It was the only spot in the entire bar where I could even attempt to mitigate the effects of my invisible disability.

I could feel my spine starting to swell within minutes. Ankylosis is a winter disease. Heat and humidity swell the spine and that pain will radiate out to a kind of ambient full body throbbing intensity that cannot easily be ignored.

Actually, pain is just like the heat in that way. It overtakes your willpower slowly but inexorably. Quietly it makes itself known like the stillness of Joseph Conrad’s Jungle.

“And this stillness of life did not in the least resemble a peace. It was the stillness of an implacable force brooding over an inscrutable intention. It looked at you with a vengeful aspect.”

Joseph Conrad “Heart of Darkness”

The amount of determination you have to play mind-over-matter games is simply a fight against time. Eventually you get tired from the effort. You pray you don’t let it take you to the dark places it took Kurtz. But you know one day it could take you too.

Eventually my husband came back. He’d been searching for a bathroom and our hosts for the evening. The yuppie next to me pretended to ignore him. He sat for another two minutes or so just to give the impression he’s weirdly close proximity to me was on purpose as a resting place and not at all an attempt to strike up a conversation with a woman who did not want to talk. A tactic we’ve all used once or twice to conceal a social faux we didn’t mean to commit.

Alex and I used to attend parties like this all the time. We were aggressively on the circuit for both tech and media events for well over a decade. He used to produce TechCrunch Disrupt in a long distant past before he transitioned into being an operator at early stage startups. Then those startups matured to established companies. And now it’s become clear we are established professionals.

We no longer need the social circuit. Networking has lost its payouts. More people want to meet us and ask for things than the other way around. We’ve made it. And it’s a good thing too as the social contract is breaking down all around us. Yuppies have forgotten their manners as we are all out of practice with the basic niceties of the social season. Everything from how we approach someone to begin a conversation to whom we may invite to a private event is now fraught. Hell I can’t even remember how to apply professional makeup anymore so I can’t look down on a man looking to chat. We’ve all lost some of our humanity over the pandemic.

And I find myself mumbling “the horror, the horror” as I walk myself back to the hotel because the streets won’t allow taxis in the downtown core. The transition from soft times to whatever comes next is full of unexpected surprises.


Day 524 and Low Recovery

I’m on my way to Austin Texas today. Most of yesterday got eaten up by various preparations to be on the road. I’m scared for this trip as Texas hasn’t made cannabis legal so a core part of my physical stability regimen from my physician can’t be brought with me if I want to stay on the right side of the law. I’m terrified of Paxton the incredibly corrupt attorney general.

I did a bit too much yesterday in preparation for travel and unsurprisingly my Whoop and Welltory are flashing red warning signs. I struggle to sleep before travel because of the anxiety and no amount of magnesium, melatonin, quiet reading and essential oils was going to get me down. Even Ambien was like yeah girl your heart rate is crazy.

A poor set of recovery metrics from Whoop

I’m hoping the flight is easy and I get a good night sleep once I’m in Texas. I’d like to be in the green for tomorrow as I’ve got a few little things to finish in preparation. But my basics biometrics are still so bad a 45 HRV is considered good as I think I’m still in a long post viral thing from May.

The Texas heat is going to quite extreme unfortunately. I’m skeptical all go outside for any longer than it takes to get a cab. I brought a bathing suit but I am not sure frying by the pool will do me any good.

A weather forecast for Austin Texas showing a string of over 100 degree highs for a week.

I’m much more concerned about Texas’ notoriously unstable power grids. What if it goes down while I’m there? Will my Texas prepper friends take me in? Will the hotel be on a generator? Is downtown Austin likely to be restored quickly? What if it’s a cascade event and nothing can be brought up for days like their last major grid event?

I’ve done my best to set the lowest possible expectations for being able to meet up with me socially. Which is a shame as conferences are for networking. My DMs are packed with excited DAO folks trying to get my attention. Meanwhile I’m not even confident I’ll leave the hotel room for anything but my own talk and one meet up with a long time friend whom I’ve not had the chance to be with IRL.

I’d like to do more but so many factors are combining to make me extra cautious about obligations. There are too many potentials for a cascade failure and I want to give a great talk so I’ve got to save my energy for that. I’m not worried about being good for the talk.

I’ve got an incredible gift where I can muster all my focus and energy even when extremely sick. I’ll use every last drop of it to meet my obligations. No one will be able to tell I’m sick. And then it’s entirely possible I’ll crater for days. My autonomic nervous system is very sensitive. It’s a blessing and a curse.

I’d you absolutely must find a way to meet with me (and sorry pitching me IRL might not be in the cards but DM and we will chat) I may try to host some folks at my hotel suite. If you are an actual friend of mine and can respect the disability situation maybe we can make it work. But no promises. Which of course my actual friends will understand so open invitation and such.

Chronic Disease

Day 517 and All At Once

I had insomnia last night. Earlier in the day I’d done a treatment for my spine and I felt terrific afterwards. I let the feeling of being without pain amp me up and then couldn’t come back down from it in time for bed.

I should have taken an Ambien and quietly read a book but, because I’m always worried about over using any type of pharmaceutical, I decided to wait and see if I could fall asleep on my own. Not that I helped myself in the matter. I kept my phone open and scrolled through such worthy topics as “what is Cat Marnel up to” and a meme account called tee-shirts that go hard.

I often find myself struggling with the decisions of “past me” when it comes to sleeping. I was in so much pain today I found myself unable to concentrate. The correlation between a bad night of sleep and a flare in symptoms is pretty clear. Living in a linear manner is one of the downsides of the human condition.

Around 4pm or so I had to tap out of the day. Forgoing the Ambien last night in a fit of false virtue meant I needed to a far worse drug today. I wanted to fight it but I just couldn’t. I slapped on a THC patch and put on Everything Everywhere All At Once. As I let the chemicals sort themselves out, I was reminded that time isn’t real as Michelle Yeoh made her way across the multiverses. The pain passed. Time did what it does in my human perception. And I’d survived it.

Chronic Disease

Day 513 and Pain Myopia

It’s a testament to how excellent my health has been for the past five months that I’m absolutely indignant about feeling shitty today. Last year feeling shitty wouldn’t have been a surprise. It was more like my default to be in constant pain.

Today my brain was fogged, my energy was low and much of that is tied to my pain being just unrelenting. I’ve been riding between seven and ten on a ten pain scale for the past two weeks. Infections tends to set off all of my chronic issues. My pain is tied to the legacy of old illness. If you think long Covid is bullshit, I can assure you that many significant infections leaves behind post-viral bullshit that can fuck your long term quality of life.

Pain is a steady companion in my life. In five hundreds blog posts I’ve mentioned pain ninety four times. Even I’m a little astonished looking at that number. Twenty percent of my life has the dark overhang of pain. I’m in pain more than that, I’d wager it’s about half of my life if my logs are correct. But 20% is about right for when pain is so present it’s at the forefront of my consciousness.

And that’s with assiduously managing it through medications, lifestyle and nutrition. But to realize that pain on the forefront of my mind 20% of the time feels a little bleak. It seems like a miracle I’m as functional as I am. It’s a miracle anyone is every functional with pain at if I’m honest. Pain is a myopic master.

Emotional Work

Day 512 and Not So Glamorous

Remember that respite I had yesterday from the flu? Yeah me neither! I barely crawled out of bed this morning after some pretty gnarly dreams. My subconscious was going through it.

I had a three hour session of biofeedback yesterday working through some of my self limiting beliefs. It’s truly wild how you will just perpetrate the worst emotional violence on the people we love the most. Alex and I in particular love acting out various O’Henry stories in our marriage. Gift of the Magi is a particularly favorite where we will actively sacrifice something we love for the other only to discover we’ve destroyed the very thing that our partner loved. It’s a super fun cycle and every time I think we’ve found a way out of the cycle we manage to do it all over again. The problem is the glue.

So I was a bit frazzled today from working through all the emotional stuff. I need to stop giving Alex power by letting him take care of me. He needs to drop care taking me. You know standard marriage stuff. I can write whole love letters about it. Anyway I digress.

I was a bit fried today as I was recovering from pushing yesterday. I happened to have a friend that wanted to talk about how I was doing. I think he was expecting a more glamorous even sexy answer. People often think I’ve got a more interesting life than I do. Which is funny as I feel like I write about the mundane details of chronic disease with some frequency. But today I was not swanning about in Europe or writing love letters. I was in a dark cold room fighting off a migraine and some spinal pain. Because sometimes life just isn’t all that glamorous. And honestly that’s ok.