tales from urban dilettantia

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And now.

I have all of these fragments of posts; the river, the garden, the mortgage belts, the city, maps, wanderings, chance meetings, the ends of the earth.

And – as so often – I’m not writing any of them, but am sitting around vaguely thinking about life, Rachmaninov, whisky, the universe and kitty.

I imagine it’s something to do with leaving Large Accounting Firm, painting more, raging less, and spending time at the gym and climbing, but I’ve got a peculiar feeling of being on the brink of something. Close to presque vu, but not quite. (If someone can give the correct name for what I’m feeling, I’ll buy them dinner. Fancy dinner. And then maybe we could make out on the couch and…wait, this is not the time nor the place. Ahem.)

I am given to understand that such feelings have much to do with the temporal lobes of one’s brain having a Moment which is quite exciting in itself, and I do feel it’s kinda sweet of my temporal lobes to troll me with a feeling of something, someone or somewhere soon. Pretty, existential vertigo.

For the moment, shiny illusions have not resolved themselves, and I’m currently working on settling into a new job, enjoying finally getting mobility and fitness back after the Stupid Bicycle Accident, and wondering what the next adventure will be. Oh, and propositioning a lot of people, with the goal of being Vegas-married to as many acquaintances as are willing. And so while the bigger posts simmer, find herein a small handful of links of various flavours.

Read them fast so we can run away to Vegas, sugarcube!

The Oatmeal on Tupperware

A tale of hoarding, in which I’m afraid I heard myself.

A nice idea for vertical gardening and pallet re-use.

David Foster Wallace on life and work.

Just about the best coat I’ve ever wanted.

Derek K Miller – The Last Post

20 Creative Public Works of Art

Random Soup

Hey you guys, blogging – what is that? Something I don’t seem to get around to doing at the moment, that’s what. Let’s all enjoy a nice list of random things:

  1. I’m thinking about pragmatic internet activism. My current idea is basically that we create or find a non-profit organisation with a legal defence fund, have it run a bunch of Tor exit nodes and work to mainstream the practice of safely running middle nodes for everyone else. Ideally this would be done with the support of a sympathetic ISP.
  2. I’ve been watching North Africa and the Middle East closely. I’m convinced that what’s happening there, in its various regional manifestations, is a turning point in history. People all over the region are kicking their dictators to the kerb, and I dearly hope that these events lead ultimately to a better life for many, and not to further violence, fear and oppression. As one Egyptian Twitter said the other day, ‘It’s scary, but it’s certainly not sad.’
  3. I’m brewing, gradually, a post about gender, consent, boundaries and geek culture. It’s been simmering for months. These things take time to cook.
  4. This year’s theme is ‘sovereignty‘. I drew a mind map for it, which I’ll post at some point soon.
  5. I’m (finally) discovering the wonders of snorkelling in Perth; it’s awesome. Penguin Island, Mettam’s Pool, Boyinaboat Reef; wonderful fish everywhere! I’m getting my dive licence shortly, and I’m considering buying an underwater camera.
  6. Virtual evolution is fun; check out Boxcar2D.
  7. A couple of days ago, I was thrilled to discover people are still using Gopher! Here’s an HTML gateway.  Digital living fossils excite me, as has been previously demonstrated by my passion for Amiga and C64 emulators.
  8. The most recent mental health news is that I’ve reached a stage where the SSRIs alone clearly aren’t working as intended, and so I’ve added the mood stabiliser and anti-epileptic Lamotrigine. I’m not sure what we’ll do if this doesn’t work, but I’m hopeful. From years of self-testing, I’m confident that my crazy is closely tied to either my progesterone levels, or the ratio of progesterone to estrogen in my system, and among other things, Lamotrigine has a progesterone lowering effect.

That’s all for now. Sufficient random soup has been posted.

Ancora Imparo

Oh, today is one of those days when I can’t write a coherent paragraph, and yet that will not stop me from filling the internet with things. (To be entirely honest, I am a little touchy about this, as I once decided to have hurt feelings upon being told that keeping a blog was narcissistic. For someone who says ‘fuck you’ so often, it’s surprising how easily I decide to have hurt feelings.)

Playing with Google Analytics, and I see that most people who find this blog through a search engine are specifically Googlestalking me, or want to know about demand resistance. Although one person wanted to know about ‘awesome Zazzlers’, which was flattering.  (Hi there, flattering person.  Apologies, people who were looking for information about demand resistance.)

The great medical experiment rolls onward. I was pulled off fluoxetine last week, because I appear to be one of the minority of the population who are hypersensitive to it – it makes me vomit, shake and become incredibly anxious. Sunday, coming off it, was pretty much the worst ever. I don’t have the energy or even the desire to write about it, with all the broken communication, misery and generally implosive overreactions that it entailed, not to mention the numb, dizzying, drooling 50km bike ride, from which I’d been too much of a stubborn jerk to withdraw. However, new week, new experiment: I’m trying a very gradual build up to taking sertraline, going from a quarter of a tablet to a full one over a fortnight. So far, two relatively stable days, no vomit. Perceived improvement. Trying to fix the things I’ve broken and let slide in the interim. Drinking a lot of water. Hibernating. If I say ‘shhh’ to you, it’s not you, it’s me.

Slowly negotiating the possibility of working in overseas next year. Envious of everyone around me travelling for non-work, in the wake of a realisation I haven’t taken more than a handful of days’ leave at a time since I was in Europe in 2008, nor down even been down to Margaret River since last Christmas, largely due to the year of study-separation-housemoving being a major money and time limiter. Want to roam, to not think, to sleep and to read and to play.

Cooked omelettes on the weekend as Boomer and Six have started laying (‘bok bok bok ba-gawk!’ goes the Egg Song each morning) and Sarah (who is new and lovely and very good at telling stories that make me laugh) helped eat them. The possibility of bunnies with earth moving machinery was raised, and so, tiny art was of course required:

Feeling inarticulate.  I think that is all.

Letters from 2009

This morning, I went for my first run in weeks. It wasn’t a long run, or a fast run, but it felt remarkable nonetheless after weeks of Valium and medication-induced sedentary dizziness and vomiting – so good to be strong and springy and back in my body. The running deserves a post of its own, because it’s been such an important part of my life this year, but this one isn’t about the running.

When I came bouncing back through my gate, I checked the post and there was a letter there, addressed to me in my handwriting, and I wasn’t quite sure what to make of that. I’d forgotten that I spent last year helping conduct a mentoring program with some super awesome teenagers, and on the last day we all – mentors and kids – wrote ourselves a letter to be delivered in one year’s time.

I feel a little shy sharing it here, because at the time I never shared it with anyone.  But I want to, and so this is my letter:

My dear,

I want 2010 to be a better year for you, and I promise to do my best to achieve that.

I want to see food growing in your garden, friends dining at your table, and love and forgiveness in your heart.

I want – no, I need – to know that you have actively worked on your mental health and made progress in conquering your anxiety.

I need you to live a year that you will look back upon with respect and peace in the years to come.

Take care, be strong, learn (and re-learn) to ask for help from those who love you, and never, ever stop dreaming, loving, learning and creating.

All my love.

I am surprised (in all my deadly perfectionist glory!) by just how much I have lived up to hopes and expectations of Last Year’s Me; I trust she’d be proud.

All This Stuff’s Just Ordinary

I’ve been trying to write this post in bits and pieces over the past six months, in part because quite a number of people have asked me to write more about my brain, and in part because it is my story and it is in want of the telling.

I’ve tried to begin it by writing down words like ‘depression’ and ‘anxiety disorder’, and each time get caught in a mire of doubts about the value and validity of pathologising my ordinary. Caught by my dawning understanding that these are not exactly diseases in the way that influenza is a disease, and that they might be more accurately understood as the language and expression of suffering that is prevalent in my culture.  (And yet, the irony – we’ve fought so hard for them to be spoken of in the manner of physical ill-health. Out of Bedlam and into the medicine cabinet and all that.)

I’m caught by my awareness that, in any case, the vast majority of research in this field has been performed on populations at the far end of the bell curve.  Attempting to write about mental health, to untangle the known, the unknown, the physical, the psychological and the interface between is difficult. Attempting to do the same and apply it to myself, seems barely possible at all.

And so, instead of talking about this in terms of disease and disability, this is my ordinary.

Five mornings out of seven, I get up and go to work. Except I set the alarm early, very early because I never know which of those mornings will be one where my brain feels scattered and it will take me two hours to work out what I need to do to be ready and leave the house. Now that I have a list on my fridge, this works a little better. Get dressed. Brush hair. Brush teeth. Feed pets.  Take meds. And so forth.

Seven nights out of seven I go to bed to sleep. Except sometimes I wake up at night in the middle of a raging panic and can’t remember what I need to be well again, and a hour later I’ll make it to the list on my fridge and realise that some water and medication will break the loop of panic.

Sometimes I shop for groceries. There are a number of ways to do this. Going to a supermarket after work is the most flexible and affordable, but is almost guaranteed to trigger a brain failure and knock me out for the rest of the night. Going to a little boutique-ish food market is expensive, but somewhat less likely to be a problem. Ordering groceries online is my favourite, but has a knock-on anxiety effect in terms of time-management since I have to be home. I am often very, very unreasonably anxious about time.

Each weekday, I work. And the foggy depression and the tightly-wound anxiety come and go, and some days it feels almost overwhelming to keep working, to speak to people or in front of people, to eat, to read, to breathe. And other days, I walk in and sit down and work, and everything is fine and I’m mystified as to why it is often so difficult. And yet on other days I experience massive concentration failure, and come home exhausted because even completing a small amount of work feels like it has used up all of my resources. And then again on other days I am sparkly and productive and everything flows.

Today, I had my first consultation with a psychiatrist in twelve years.

He says the medication I am on may be causing my attention problems. And that I’ve worked hard with the self-awareness and the CBT and the Happiness Project stuff, and that I’m not doing anything wrong. (Oh, the validation.  I am needy for validation.)  That the medication I’d first been prescribed (it was Aurorix) was not really appropriate. That the medication I’m now on may be hurting as much as it is helping. That Premenstrual Dysphoric Disorder might be something I actually have, and not just something pharmaceutical companies invented to sell more Prozac. (This contradicts everything I think I know about PMDD.) And that that, if I am willing, it might be wise to take a fresh look at my big, co-morbid bundle of depression, anxiety and OCD symptoms, and try something new. I am willing. And so, this month the brain and I get off the Venlafaxine and the Clonazepam and see what happens.

Maybe this will not always be my ordinary, but if it is, then so it goes. Maybe ordinary will become a different, stable medication, or no medication at all. We will live on regardless, brain and I.  We do well with what we have.

Welcome To Leftovers-Night

This post is like a Leftovers-Night dinner.  You’ll see.

Right now I’m doing some work that involves re-running a model through twenty or so different scenarios, and each run takes around a minute, so I have Notepad up and am using the runtime to write. It feels like a luxury to have some time to start thinking about having a page to fill with words.

I’ve been trying to manage the number of hours I’ve been spending in the office, but even when I’ve been able do that, the intensity of the last month has been something to behold. There’s not much I’m able to say about it in a public forum, but it involves a lot more responsibility and a whole bunch of time-critical work. I’m hopeful October will see a promotion, as I feel there’s a significant mismatch between the level I’m on and the work I’m doing.

Over the past month, the last module of my professional qualification has started up, so I’m studying and involved in a bunch of other things too. I know it’s something I come back to time after time here, but the struggle to manage commitments seems to be something of an ongoing theme in my life. I made a mind-map while I was having lunch yesterday, and even though many things spawned sub-commitments and began to ooze from the edges of the A4 page, it feels better to have the majority of it laid out.

Out of everything I’m doing at the moment, passing the last module of my Grad Dip is far and away the most significant one when it comes to my long term well-being. In part, this is because repeating will be a very expensive exercise, but more because the timing of finishing the course directly relates to when I’ll be free to leave my current employer without having to repay my sizable study debt. ‘Freedom, horrible freedom!’ as they say. (‘I’m the Queen!’ ‘No you’re not!’)

What else? Oh yes, the week just gone has been a shocker when it’s come to mental health – by far the worst in recent times. While horrible, the upside of this has been that I’ve managed to get through it without messing up anything significant, which is quite exciting – my ability to manage depressive episodes has really lifted in the past couple of years, and this is a topic I’d like to write more on at a later date.

Other than that…well. I’ve seen The Mountain Goats, Jeff Martin and Henry Rollins recently. Rollins was doing his Frequent Flyer spoken word tour, and I don’t think I have anything near the articulacy to express how moving and inspiring I found it. The man is a spectacularly interesting human being, and I find much of his discussion around depression, adventure, happiness and human experience to be almost painfully resonant. (I’m selfishly frustrated that he’s famous, because if he weren’t it would be easier to say ‘hey mate, come have a drink with me and we’ll talk about life the universe and everthing’.)

Musicwise, I’ve been obsessing over a few things, mostly relating to recent gigs. Jeff Martin’s Live in Dublin album is excellent, and I would strongly suggest getting it from iTunes if you haven’t already. portabledave has also put me onto The Tallest Man On Earth aka Kristian Mattson, a profoundly Dylan-esque folk muso from Denmark whose new album, The Wild Hunt, I’ve had on repeat. And then there’s the latest Mountain Goats album, The Life of the World to Come, which has this song about the thylacine, the dodo and the golden toad which just about moves me to tears every time, because (like most Australians?) I’m well aware of the heartbreaking footage they’re referring to in the first verse:

The sun above me and a concrete floor below
Scratch at the chain links maybe bare my teeth for show
Fed twice a day I don’t go hungry anymore
Feel in my bones just what the future has in store
I pace in circles so the camera will see
Look hard at my stripes, there’ll be no more after me
Laze by the shoreline while the sailors disembark
Scratch out a place to sit and rest down in the dark
Smell something burning downwind just a little ways
They set up camp and sing and sweat and work for days
I have no fear of anyone I’m dumb and wild and free
I am a flightless bird and there’ll be no more after me

In Costa Rica in a burrow underground
Climb to the surface, blink my eyes and look around
I’m all alone here as I try my tiny song
Claim my place beneath the sky but i won’t be here for long
I sang all night the moon shone on me through the trees
No brothers left and there’ll be no more after me
(- Deuteronomy 2:10)

 

And finally, a few links that I’ve stumbled across and appreciated in recent weeks:

Flickr


Tern, Coffs Harbour Coffs Harbour Coffs Harbour Nudibranch, Arrawarra, NSW Sea Cucumber? Arrawarra, NSW Urchin, Arrawarra, NSW Starfish, Arrawarra, NSW Polychaete Worm, Arrawarra, NSW Shrimp, Arrawarra, NSW Shrimp, Arrawarra, NSW Mollusc, Arrawarra, NSW Gastropod, Arrawarra, NSW 

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About

@dilettantiquity is interested in an unreasonable number of things, including the wide and wonderful universe, happiness, well-being, wine, optimal human experience, non-violent communication, complex systems, existential nihilism, rationality, technology, grassroots organising, cacophony, music, creativity, learning and love.