Sunday, August 30, 2009

Does depression have an upside?

Maybe it does!

Check out Depression's Evolutionary Roots, a SciAm article.

Maybe depression and introversion are connected somehow. I'm quite "happy" to be introverted if it will help me avoid being or becoming depressed.

Saturday, August 29, 2009

Settling in

Weyburn has been "home" for over a month now, and I've been in my own place for two weeks. Yesterday a desk I ordered finally arrived, a $149.00 special from the Brick, made in China, espresso in color, with a keyboard drawer. This morning I managed to put it together, working entirely from pictures that gave me no clue as to which way the boards should face, the way Ikea does.. but somehow I got it all together, with only once having to take apart the box which holds the drawers, as I had screwed it together entirely wrong first time round. Whatever. At least I have a desk again, one that I do not hate too much; it lacks a hole for cords to slide through/hide in, and the keyboard drawer doesn't slide particularly easily, but getting it together and functional makes me feel like finally I can relax out of moving mode and get busy again.

Slowly I'm getting used to this place that is so leisurely and devoid of stressful excitement that I'm reminded of swimming through molasses. At other (younger) ages, this would have made me scream with boredom and a sense of life passing me by, me not able to participate in it. Now, I feel it's the perfect speed for me to regather my wits and soften up around the edges once again.

Last night was the monthly dinner at the Wheatland Centre, Weyburn's drop-in centre for seniors. At the age of 58, I'm a kid there, but I was invited to join ($20 for a year's membership) so that I can participate in all the exciting events that go one there, like the monthly dinner. If you are not a member it costs $10. If you have a membership, it costs $8. I guess saving $2 each month will pay for the membership before the year is out.

It's a fairly large building, for Weyburn, one story but with several large rooms that can accomodate many people - one hundred twelve people sat at three long tables last night with some room to spare. Nice efficient systems are in place so that lines for food are orderly and swiftly flowing. The food itself is in another room on 3 more long tables, with room for 6 lines of hungry seniors to pile their plates. Last night's menu included roast beef with horse radish, mashed potatoes and gravy, some slightly overcooked vegetables, salad, and saskatoon crisp with a dollop of dream whip. I'm looking forward to the turkey feast at the end of next month. Now that I'm a member I was warned that I may be called upon to help the ladies with various food catering events. Okeydokey. I guess I'll get to know more people that way.

Why I finally joined, really, is because there is an entire room devoted to jigsaw puzzles. A whole room. With a big table and good lighting. And in the corner, stacks and stacks of 1000- piece jigsaw puzzles, hundreds of puzzles I've not yet put together. My aunt and I turn out to both be jigsaw puzzle lovers. She and I snuck away from the table as soon as we dared last night, after the meal, and headed off to the puzzle room to work on the puzzle that happened to be out. We got some pieces together before the meal started, too. The puzzles can be signed out by members, three at once. I can see myself busy writing all morning, then puzzling away in the afternoons while listening to CBC radio.

There are other rooms there - one huge pool room with four large tables. Apparently there are card sharks who attend the Wheatland regularly, and games are scheduled several times a week. Several people have mentioned this to me. Seems it's the "single ladies" who are the most dedicated card players. I'm clearly a "single lady" so I suppose it's out of kindness they are pointing me toward the peer group they most see me fitting into. However, I have never been attracted to card playing.

At least once weekly, a bus picks up seniors either at the Wheatland or else in the mall parking lot, to whisk people off to casinos dotting the prairies. My mother usually goes on these junkets and often wins some money. Mostly she gets her free lunch (included in the excursion) and has fun.

Now that I have a new nest to settle into, I'll be looking out the window lots of evenings and seeing lots of sky scenes, like the one I have added to this post. I confess to having photo-shopped the moon to make it look bigger in the picture, more the size it seems in real life to vision centers in the brain. Otherwise, the color and everything else is the way the camera saw it.

Sunday, August 23, 2009

Controversy in British Pain Society: PT president ousted

BPS = British Pain Society
BMJ= British Medical Journal
NICE = National Institute for Clinical Excellence

Here is NICE outraged by ousting of BPS President in the BMJ, dated July 23.

"We write to express our outrage at the British Pain Society’s vote to force their President, Professor Paul Watson, out of office because some members disagreed with a recommendation in NICE’s recent guideline on low back pain which he helped develop.

The BPS’s sustained campaign against this highly respected pain management and rehabilitation expert is professional victimisation of the very worst kind. That it has now culminated in the BPS forcing an exemplary expert out of office, is shameful.

All NICE guidelines are developed by independent clinical and patient experts who give up their time and expertise, over a two year period, to produce robust, evidence-based guidance. It is totally unacceptable for guideline developers to be singled out in this way and have their professional integrity called into question, simply because some groups don’t like a robust, evidence-based recommendation that has been developed by a group of independent experts.

The guideline developers’ only aim is to help improve the care and treatment of people with specific conditions by highlighting gold standard approaches based on the available evidence. The BPS is clearly admitting that they do not accept evidence-based medicine. Moreover, the Society’s actions fly in the face of the comment made in a recent High Court judgement. At a judicial review of NICE’s chronic fatigue syndrome guideline in March this year, at which the judge dismissed the claims in their entirety, he particularly highlighted the importance of health experts to be able to express their opinions without fear of retribution.

The BPS has acted dishonourably in making their own President a scapegoat for the fact that some of its members refuse to accept that there is not the scientific evidence to support their interventions. It is a sad day for freedom of experts to express views, for evidence-based medicine, and for the ideals of the medical profession.

Yours faithfully,

Sir Michael Rawlins, Professor Peter Littlejohns"

It's worth reading through all the letters in the BMJ link. Rarely are PTs involved in public politics and turf battles at levels such as this. The story involves a PT and it involves pain, so I find it all very interesting. There appears to have been somewhat of a coup by an organized group of doctors concerned over supposedly evidence-based guidelines which might have affected their own livelihoods, or at least what they consider to be their turf...

I find it all a bit bewildering at the moment, as I only learned about it this morning. But I'm curious and plan to read through it all again.

Saturday, August 22, 2009

Weyburn Skyscape

This was the view from my new 4th floor balcony this morning, at dawn. This is what I came back here for. This is what I was homesick for.  

I confess, I'm not getting a lot done these days. I feel lazy. All I want to do is drink in views like this, enjoy the infinite focal length out all my windows here. 

If not now, when? 

The rooftop in the bottom right corner is the condo building where my mother lives. 

Friday, August 21, 2009

Home at last

I'm sitting in my new living room, on a new couch, looking out a new patio door at a new scene.
From this fourth floor level, the scene is a cloudless blue morning sky above rooftops. The rooftops come up to the top of the railing, and above that... endless infinite blueblueblue.

My view is west, so I get reflected light in the morning. In the afternoon/evening I get lots of direct sun, then a sunset. Every day. So pleased about it.

Looking around there is still a lot to be done to make the place more livable, but it's coming together quite well - slowlyish, putteringly, the way I like to do householdy stuff. Contemplatively. It's my zen, and there's no rush. It's a process. Do I mind the mess and clutter? Yes I do. Am I making progress? Yes I am. At exactly the right speed for me.

And I take lots of rests and breaks and do plenty of out-the-window gazing. This is why I moved, so I could have a focal length that goes all the way to infinity. It will take a little while to get there, so I have lots and lots of time.

I'm liking this whole living in utter silence thing I've got here, too. I can't hear any of my neighbours, as the building is concrete. I don't have to actively filter out my mom's country and western music, or her soap operas, or her football games, or chatter about whatever. I can think here. At least I hope I'll be able to think here. That's the plan.

Blogger is acting weird

I can't blog from my iMac at the moment, because everything I type turns to squares as soon as I type a period. None of the other places I visit or post at seem to be affected. This MacAir laptop seems to be working OK for blogging, so I'll have to blog with it.

Update: It must be Firefox - I'm using Safari now, and it's fine. No boxes.

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

A welcome time-out

My mother climbed on a bus today, with her cousin (the one whose garage is currently holding my stuff in storage), to go off on one of her regular casino excursions. Earlier this morning she got up and showered and dressed. When she goes out, she always looks well put together. Anything she puts on always matches, and she always puts on a watch from her vast collection of watches to match her clothing. My mom and Joan Rivers, two watch queens. Before she left, she pulled my attention away from my computer to comment on how great she looked, how summery her shirt was, and seek my confirmation of her visual congruence. "Uh huh. Looks nice" I said.

Such a relief to have her be out for the whole day. My inner space can expand outward once more to envelop its surrounds. Mostly it doesn't care what those surrounds are, as long as they are unpopulated by other humans. The only thing still noisy and interruptive around here at the moment is the clock my Uncle Peter built and gave to her as a gift. A Dutch immigrant to Canada long ago, my Uncle Peter is now gone but managed to live a long and healthy life. He married my dad's sister, the youngest in a family of nine living siblings, the second-youngest of which was my own dad. My dad and aunt were from a dirtfarm family, born between world wars, the tail end of a succession of children made to toe stiff lines by parents who were sternly religious in a Calvinistic sort of way. Dour. No fun allowed. Lots of work. So many older siblings. No particular personal attention. Lots of physical punishment. Lots of churchy activity.

My dad rebelled by learning to play music on a violin. He would sneak away and go for music lessons from his high school teacher who lived a few miles away. If he came home after 10 PM he could expect a good thrashing from the stern patriarch of the family, my grandpa Carl, who brooked not even a slight hint of disobedience. From anyone. My dad grew up stunted in many ways from this lovely upbringing he had. I think he was likely chronically depressed from birth, but faked his way through life, mostly adequately. He got away with being stoic and quiet, because when he lived, that is what men were supposed to be anyway.

My Aunt Ella, the one who married Uncle Peter the Dutchman (so handy with tools and able to build anything out of anything), was the closest to my dad in age and close observer of his treatment by his father. On the day of my dad's funeral, when I asked her how she had felt when her own father had died, she disclosed that she had felt quite fine, was glad to see him gone, that he had been a real tyrant. It was then I found out, for the first time, that all my dad's life, pretty much, as a child, he'd been especially singled out to be physically abused by his father.

The things you don't learn about your own family by attending funerals, when everyone's guard has been lowered, or else breached, by grief.

My Aunt Ella, unlike my dad, has been an endlessly cheery person, extroverted enough to keep up with my mother. In fact they are quite good friends, these two old women. Aunt Ella's rebellion was to cut her hair and wear a bit of make-up. Both of which were taboo in her family of origin, and both of which were adopted by only one other female sibling out of five.

Anyway, Uncle Peter came along and managed to charm the old patriarch, Carl, with an old-fashioned approach - asking for Ella's hand in marriage from her father, maybe even before he asked her. Uncle Peter cracked, then translated into English, coded messages during the war for the Allied forces. He was highly mechanical, understanding heavy equipment well enough to be able to maintain a whole isolated prairie power station, himself, for decades, employed by the province. In his spare time he built things, useful items, from scratch and from kits.

The clock he gave my mom is one of his many constructed contributions to the world. It doesn't run on time anymore, as he is no longer around to maintain it periodically, but it still sounds nice, chimes out the hours abut 10 minutes before the actual hour. A clock like that is nothing I'd ever have in my own place, as I would find it too intrusive, but my mom likes it because she liked Uncle Peter a lot, and because she likes noise. She's extroverted. Noise feeds her brain. Her brain organizes itself around externalities whereas mine organizes itself around the still place in dead center of its own quiet world, inside its own inner space. Which, when I live alone, I can easily find and orient to. Living with my mom, not so much.

Temperamentally I am more like my dad was, although outwardly I'm like a carbon copy of my mother. She is a "field-marshall" type, in the Myers-Briggs sense. Me, I'm more an INFJ. What I find irritating is her need, compulsion really, to organize every breath I draw, in advance, as though I was still 3 years old. She always has. It has taken me a very long time and a lot of space between her and me for me to find a good boundary to erect between my life and her version of it. Staying in her spare room for three weeks has been quite a test for that boundary - it's still holding but I can hardly wait to move into that place of my own on Saturday, and I'm so happy to have this day - this precious day, to myself. Well almost, except for the clock sounding, reminding me every 15 minutes that this is not my space.

Saturday, August 08, 2009

My new place

Somehow events transpired to permit a barely 5-year-old, two bedroom condo, gently used, to fall straight into my lap, for a very very good price. I didn't hesitate, not even for a moment. I bought it as fast as I could. It will be perfect. It faces west, is on the fourth floor, plenty of sky (sunsets) to watch. I move in just a week, out of my mom's spare room.

It's been interesting, living with my mom, age 85 and still going strong. I do not feel as invaded by her anymore, have more patience with her, can see all sorts of similarities we have. However, she's extroverted and I'm introverted. Right there is the origin of most of the issues I've ever experienced in our relationship. She talks almost non-stop about everything, including topics as diverse as who might belong to the truck parked outside to making gingerbread cookies to the best way to make Saskatoon crisp, has the soap opera going on TV while the country music is still playing in the kitchen, wears dual hearing aids but still doesn't hear very well. I don't hear all that well myself, and am used to living in a completely quiet environment. So we are joking about having to yell everything at each other twice.

She endlessly ruminates aloud, I figure, to keep her own brain organized. She drives too - a nice fancy new car ("not a Cadillac, but the next thing to" she commented), even if her destination is only two blocks. "My car needs the exercise!" she declares. I realize she needs to keep driving or she might lose the ability to do so. She carefully parks in the underground, not letting her shiny car bump into anything. She wants to drive me around Weyburn, which is a real pain, because I like to walk, am used to walking everywhere, kilometers a day, and here the downtown core is a mere six blocks in diameter, and we are living right on the circumference. Yes, I'll be glad to move out. Again.

The last time I moved out I was just seventeen, and it was to go to university. This time, I'm pushing sixty, but I remember exactly how I felt over 40 years ago. What a gift, to be able to revisit that ground.

I will be living just down the block from her, on the same block actually, but on the other side of the street. We can see each others' balconies from our own. I can keep an eye on her without having to be directly in her space. She can phone me everyday to let me know how she's doing, and I can write my brains out while looking at ferocious prairie skies. At least that's the plan. For now.

Somewhat unfortunately, the weather here isn't how I remembered it. This year south Sask. weather has been cloudy and cool, more like Vancouver weather. The good thing, though, is that the sky is so big there is still lots of light even with thick cloud cover. Yesterday we were out shopping at Canadian Tire, where I bought four new bookcases and some new clothes (in Weyburn, Mark's Work Wearhouse and Canadian Tire are under the same roof). As we walked back out - to the car - we noticed that there were patches of blue opening up. Mom remarked, "My Aunt Hattie used to say, if there was enough blue to mend a Dutchman's pants, the sky would clear." And there was. And it did.