Update: It was Definitely a Concussion

…which has made this a very weird week in Grace-land. (See Friday’s Post for context.) Of course I tried going to work on Saturday, the very next day, with a warning to manager and supervisor (both friends) that I was on concussion-watch but I thought I was okay. And I was okay! Until suddenly I wasn’t. The first warning sign is nausea in the back of the throat, at which point I can make it through a few more customers before I get real dizzy and have to go sit down. The first time it settled after a few minutes, and I was able to work a few more hours (a fixed heater and the sudden addition of WARM AIR blasting over the previously-freezing cashier area helped immensely) but then the same thing happened a little over an hour before I was due to leave. I clocked out immediately, but this time it took a while to settle. I had planned to take the bus home, slowly realized that wouldn’t be happening, and then I couldn’t even cope with the concept of ubering for about half an hour. Finally one of the upper managers was leaving and had a car nearby, and offered to swing back by the shop and give me a ride home. Where, thanks to pushing it all day, it took a while for me to feel better. This was probably my lowest moment all week. I had a pretty bad pressure headache, and I was very hungry, and another thing about concussions is you tend to get over emotional (that morning, while nursing a headache on a milk-crate in the hallway leading to the walk-in cooler, my manager asked if I was okay and I gave him a big thumbs-up but also started crying). So I was in my apartment trying to stand up to make some french fries, realized as I was getting the package out of the freezer that I couldn’t stand up to make the french fries, and then started crying because I was really sad and frustrated that I couldn’t stand up to make the french fries.

This is the type of moment where it feels especially hard to be single. It’s embarrassing to be a grown adult who can’t stand up to make french fries, and I wished I had a designated person, someone with a vested interest in my well-being and someone who has seen me in embarrassing situations before, who could make the french fries and assure my rattled brain it was going to be okay. I was seeing someone last spring while under strict orders from my physical therapist to ice my knee after every run, and one night after running and hitting the grocery store we were in the kitchen and suddenly that person was chopping and frying everything for dinner and just handling it, without me having to ask, and it was such a relief to realize I could sit down and ice my knee and not have to worry about it thanks to that other person.

What I did Saturday, though, was swallow my pride and text some nearby friends who had checked in with me after reading my blog post on Friday, one of whom is an EMT. Within an hour they were at my house with tylenol and a few slices of Otto’s (the local gourmet pizza). By then the worst of the headache was clearing up and I felt a lot less alone, but followed my friends’ urging to call out of work the following day. And I hate that, I hate calling out of work, but there are times when you just can’t tough it out despite your best intentions. I still wanted to get home (1 1/4 hrs away) for my mom’s birthday party on Sunday, and was considering driving despite my friends’ instructions not to, but it turned out two other friends were also going to my mom’s party and were able to give me a ride! I though getting a ride was mostly a precaution, but just getting my stuff together to be away for the evening pushed me into the headache zone, and when my friends arrived I had to ask them to come upstairs to help me carry my things and take the compost out. It sucks to already be carsick before getting in the car. But then it was so lovely to be home with family, cake, and home-cooked meals. The next day there was macaroni and cheese, and nothing beats home-cooked macaroni and cheese for comfort food. Of course I am a little nervous about how much I am eating without any of my usual physical activity—but there will be plenty of time when I am feeling better to get back on the road and back to the gym.

My parents gave me a ride home to Portland yesterday (Tuesday). On the way we made a grocery list (my mom wrote it down because once again I was carsick way before actually getting in the car), and…well, it doesn’t feel great to be a grown adult waiting in the car with a headache while your parents do your grocery shopping. But it did feel amazing to get home to my apartment as the headache was lifting and know that I had a bunch of yummy easy-to-make meal options. And my apartment was certainly a bit of a mess, but thanks to all the work I’ve been doing lately to keep on top of things it wasn’t the worst mess it could possibly be, and I felt really peaceful to be back and cozy in my nice space that I like.

Concussions suck! Don’t get one! I’m missing things this week that I don’t want to miss, and I’m getting behind in my training when I’d rather be getting stronger. But having to rely on your village makes you realize how strong your village is, and I am VERY GRATEFUL for friends who looked out for me at work, and brought me food when I needed food, gave me rides and helped me carry things while I was at my most pathetic, for parents looking after me and feeding me, and for everyone else who texted or messaged or commented to wish me well or ask how I was doing. Y’all are the best and I’m very very lucky to have you in my life. I am definitely improving and hope to resume some of my normal activities within the next day or two or three, so see you soon. 🙂

Ice, Or, The Story of Why I Didn’t Run Today

As it became clear today that I would not be completing a long run this afternoon, I told myself I would do a blog update as a consolation prize. Why did I not complete a long run this afternoon? WELL LET ME TELL YOU!

Falling on ice is a pretty common occurrence during a Maine Winter, but it all felt fairly dramatic while it was happening. (Mom you can stop reading now I’m fine!) I got a nice early start to the day, did some laundry and tidying up, had all my things together to leave the house and run some errands, was feeling really great. I went down the rear interior staircase from my 2nd floor apartment, opened the outside door, stepped out onto the three exterior steps leading from the door to the driveway…and immediately went down. There had been a drip of water from the roof onto the steps; the ice was wet and perfectly smooth. Zero traction. I’ve never had problems on these steps before and it wasn’t sleeting or anything, so I didn’t think to be careful. Just step and gone, keys and purse and my new vacuum-insulated tumbler flying out of my hands. I landed HARD on my right hip/buttock and my right elbow, and it HURT. I had to lie there on the steps a minute, whimpering slightly, in enough pain to wonder who I could call for help who wasn’t at work at 10:30 am on a Friday. I don’t remember hitting my head; it all happened very quickly and the largest amounts of pain were focused in the hip and elbow areas. When I eventually stood up, however, I found that I needed to crouch back down almost immediately and put my head between my knees like you’re supposed to do if you’re worried you might faint. It felt PRETTY SILLY to be crouched in pain at the bottom of the side steps next to the driveway, though, so with EXTREME CAUTION I eventually made it back up the three outside steps and through the door to the carpeted entry way. Where I felt very nauseous and once again had to sit down, low to the floor, and keep my head very still. In addition to the nausea, some of the arm muscles I was using to support myself were acting all shaky and not behaving precisely as told. But sitting in the shared entryway still felt silly, so after gathering my resolve I got up, shook the container of ice melt LIBERALLY over the offending outdoor steps, and made my way back up the indoor flight of stairs to my second floor apartment. I headed straight to the couch, and balance/walking was pretty tricky for a minute there. I saw the proverbial stars, which in actuality appeared as kind of a moving diamond pattern overlaying my vision. I was also overheating at this point, and struggled to remove hat/scarf/jacket while also lying down and ceasing movement as quickly possible.

And… within a very short amount of time the room stopped spinning and I was able to sit up, and felt fairly normal aside from general shakiness and bruises.

I figure I must have hit my head, although there still isn’t a bruise or specific place on my head that hurts. Once walking felt okay again I went to the bathroom mirror and checked for dilated pupils, and they looked fine. I also never lost consciousness, and I think those two things are some of the signs of a really bad concussion. After giving myself a good few minutes to make sure I stayed feeling fine, I decided to go about my day but take it with a grain of salt. When I stopped by the donut shop to pick up my tips I went for a mocha with whipped cream instead of my usual plain coffee—icy falls call for treat drinks! And I went to the bank and did all the out-and-about things I’d been planning on, feeling fine and capable but just a little sluggish and off. I decided my body would probably be better served if I replaced “doing a long run” with “resting on the couch” this afternoon/evening, and by the last errand on my list I was starting to get a tinge of a back-of-the-head, nauseous kind of headache. So I went home. And I feel okay, but also like “resting on the couch” is a good thing to be doing. And that’s my story!

I’m mad about the miles I’m missing. Due to scheduling conflicts I won’t be able to get a long run in on Sunday, and I’m not going to run tomorrow unless I really feel up to it. I don’t want to mess around with a possible concussion, even a mild one, and getting through work may be quite enough for the day. This might leave me with as few as 10 miles for the week , which is frustrating when I’m shooting for 20 at a minimum and would rather be in the 27-30 range (somehow I couldn’t fit in any extra mileage on top of the pub runs this Wednesday and Thursday either). But one thing I learned after an injury last spring is that sometimes rest is just what you need, so I’m trying not to stress about it. I’ll just try not to look at my Strava mileage for the week (Strava is the run app I use) and hopefully I can make up for it next week. I did a pretty hard workout at my circuit class yesterday and I’ve been leveling up on some of the weights, so it hasn’t exactly been an easy week and it might be an okay time to take a break. Either way it can’t be helped. And at least I hurt myself while walking, in winter boots and street clothes, and can still claim to be pretty darn good at running on ice.

Stay safe out there, and be careful on steps!

Is Running The Best Procrastination Strategy Ever? Discuss

LIFE. It feels like I’m looking into fog or deep water, squinting my eyes and searching for defined edges among so many shifting priorities and goals, all moving in and out of focus at different times. Running has been the clearest priority for a while now. I’m also trying to prioritize simple and practical self-care. I hate to use the term “adulting”…but I tend to go from work to runs to social engagements without a lot of time in between, and I’ll leave the dishes in the sink or the work clothes in the pile because getting to the next thing is more important to me than cleaning up my space. I’m really good at working towards big, flashy goals. Training for a marathon, finishing NaNoWriMo, making everything spotless before a party or event. I’m less good at the daily upkeep that would help me feel less scattered and anxious in my environment. So I’m working on it, because it’s winter and I need every bit of positive energy I can get. I’ve also been watching Netflix’s Queer Eye reboot, and it is HIGHLY MOTIVATIONAL to imagine what the Fab 5 might say if they were looking around my apartment.

RUNNING. I am really proud of how much time I spend running…as anyone who’s talked to me for more than a minute has probably figured out. It’s hard not to mention it because any interesting thing I do in any given week probably has something to do with running or one of my running communities. Part of why I’m so proud is because it’s a GIANT CHANGE that I made in my life, and a change that I STUCK TO. I made this change not long after radically changing my hairstyle, which helps with my strong sense of “before” and “after,” and it’s reassuring to be in the “after” and to know that I’m capable of making giant changes. This is who I am now. And it’s a relief to no longer have the constant anxiety of feeling like I should be exercising regularly, because I do. That aspect of my life is now in place. I have different anxieties about whether I’m training properly or doing enough, but BARE MINIMUM I exercise 4 days a week. And even as I struggle with things I have struggled with for years, like keeping my space tidy, and even as I am sad about the things I am sad about, and mad about the things I am mad about (things that ended suddenly, without much closure), at least I am this person now. I ran 27 miles this week. I ran over 1,000 miles this year. This is who I am now, and that means a lot to me.

But… remember those shifting goals, edges obscure, some so vague you have to squint to see the shape of them? I started this blog to write about writing, and sometimes it seems like constantly crushing the running and physical goals has allowed me to slack off on other goals that are difficult, and that I’ve been working towards longer. I get a large or small sense of accomplishment after every single run, and if I’m feeling accomplished it’s easy to put off working on my book until another day. After all, I am tired. I earned this post-run beer. And my laptop is slow and bug-ridden, and I can no longer use it without a mouse and not plugged into the wall. So much hassle. I might as well just watch something on Netflix, or plan out my long run for the week and think about how accomplished I’ll feel after that.

I don’t really have an answer. Priorities shift and life comes in seasons. I may be failing miserably at my December Sketch Challenge, but several times over the past years I’ve been able to use my art training to design athletic T-shirts for one of my running clubs, which combined my big new running passion with my long-term goal to keep making art. Of course doing any of the art I want to do is hindered by my buggy laptop than can barely run Photoshop anymore and my broken drawing tablet…so the real answer here might be that I need to save enough money to purchase tech that would enable me to do the things I want to do. Which means finding a second or a different job and working more hours, which may be difficult to schedule with all the running and won’t leave much extra time for creative endeavors.

And those are some of the things I am trying to balance! Life is always messy and nothing is perfect. I try to make progress every day. Lately when I find myself sitting on the couch, exhausted from a late bedtime and early wake-up and body aching from my strength class the day before, I ask myself, “What can I do to work towards my goals right now?” Sometimes it’s writing a few cover letters and sending out some resumes—each one is a little easier to do. Sometimes it’s just washing my dinner plate and cup before going to bed, or doing a little foam-rolling and stretching to help my legs feel a little better. Maybe tomorrow it’s opening up my manuscript file and revising a chapter, or even a paragraph. A sentence. Who knows, right? Anything could happen. And this is who I am now. I have made changes, and I can make more.

-GM

February Update

Hello blog! Just a quick check-in to let you know I survived the holidays. December Sketches, Christmas, New Years, my birthday, Valentine’s, Etc.

I finished the December Sketch-A-Day Challenge  and completed 31 sketches for the first year ever! It wore me out, though, and I wasn’t super thrilled with all of my sketches. Well, okay, here’s one that turned out nice.

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I’ve also have visitors. Four whole people in December, including my brother and some very dear friends. Two of whom stayed for almost a month.

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And then my parents visited, and we went to Cambodia, which was my first time leaving  Thailand in a lot of months. Then my parents went to India, and then came back to Bangkok where I met them a week later, so it was like they visited twice.

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At the end of a long day of touring Angkor in Siem Reap, Cambodia. Angkor is a UNESCO World Heritage Site, commonly referred to as Angkor Wat. Angkor Wat is actually the most famous of many ruins, and we are standing near the back of Angkor Wat in the photo above.

Oh, and on my birthday I had dinner outside by the river with these lovely people (and the guy taking the photograph, sorry Andrew!). They even got me a CAKE, which was ridiculously sweet. Then, at home, I had a drink out of this glorious unicorn goblet which recently arrive in the mail from Lady Higg.

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I’m also writing, when I can. I’ve been wrestling some plot demons, but I think I’ve found a solution—to at least some of the problems. What with preparing final lessons and student grades, picking up an extra class, making travel plans for my last few weeks, and job hunting, it’s been hard to find the time. Did I mention I’ll be home in less than a month? See you soon!

A Lost Month, and Beautiful Things

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Floor at Wat Pha Sorn Kaew, Buddhist Temple in Khao Koh, Thailand

Okay. We have some catching up to do.

First of all, culture shock is real, and I lost August. Not entirely lost—I traveled to Chiang Mai and Bangkok, I wrote some, and planned and organized thoughts for the rest of my novel. I went to school every day, and joined my friends for dinner and lunch and afternoons at coffee shops. When I wasn’t with people or fulfilling a work obligation, though, I was lying on my bed watching Gilmore Girls, and even when I was with people I mostly felt really, really bad. I identified with many of the things on this “13 Lies Your Depression is Telling You” list, I felt like a terrible teacher, and I wanted to go home.

I don’t know how much of this was the isolating effects of culture shock, and how much was mild depression. I’ve always struggled with ups and downs and probably always will, and going to Thailand in the first place was a response to some pretty serious negative feelings about my self-worth. I didn’t feel like I was capable of anything, so I went to the other side of the world to prove myself wrong. I’m not necessarily knocking this as a solution, but… you’re still you, even in Thailand, and all those bad feelings won’t instantly go away.

I’m doing amazing now, though, and I’m really grateful to everyone who sent me emails and skyped and chatted on facebook and talked and ate meals with me during my bad month. The human contact was so needed and appreciated. Somewhere along the line I got really cynical about a lot of things, and I made a decision a few weeks ago to be more grateful and less self-defeating. To believe that things can be done when I start them, instead of assuming laziness and failure from the outset.

Here’s what I’ve been up to:

Running. Thursday will mark three weeks successful completion of my 5-runs-a-week routine. I run around our school building (.4 miles a lap!) and the students laugh and smile at me. They wave and shout “Hello teacher!” when they see me, every time they see me, which is sometimes three or four or even six times per run! This is a good system because I always run a little faster after a student makes me smile. My favorite was when a group of M1 girls (seventh graders) said, “Teacher, fighting!” as I went by. That’s my new mantra, whenever I’m out of breath and want to stop: Teacher, fighting!

Strength training. Three days a week, I’m doing push ups and squats and crunches. Like, more than I knew I could do. I’ve flirted with pushups in the past, and exercise machines and stuff like that, but this is the first time I’ve realized how it works. You do this. It feels like this. This is uncomfortable, but instead of stopping you do a few more, or a lot more. Sweat drips onto your yoga mat, your muscles surprise you, and you feel fierce. In a few days, you come back and do even more.

[Reality check: I still can’t do more than three full push-ups in a row. Instead of letting that discourage me, I’m killing it with the modified ones and I’ll work my way up to full ones very soon.]

Other stuff. Stretches and yoga, which get mixed in with the running and strength training. While on a school trip, I got up early to do yoga on the balcony while the sun rose over a misty sea. My yoga instruction is entirely from youtube videos, but maybe all these people who are talking about yoga all the time are actually onto something.

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Environment. My brother told me a while ago that a clean house fights depression, so I’m trying to do things to make my surroundings feel nice—even though I’ll only be here for six more months. It’s difficult because my house is dirty and desperately needs a coat of paint, but I’ve been putting things on the walls and investing in cleaning supplies. I haven’t kept up with the cleaning quite as well as the exercise, but I’m picking things up more often and working on some projects. I’m sewing fabric curtains for an ugly piece of furniture, and I bought a new bed set and a folding table to go by my bed. Little things, but worth it for the happiness I get when I use them, and the happiness that comes from feeling at peace with my surroundings.

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I’ve also done some traveling these last few weeks to the ocean and the mountains. The ocean, man. I lived a ten-minute walk from the ocean for last past two years, and didn’t realize how much I missed it until I saw it again. And yesterday’s ride on a mountain highway to a stunning temple 117 km (70 miles away) was awesome, and now I’m remembering my plans for longer bike trips. Things feel possible again, and it feels especially amazing because nothing felt possible in August.

There’s a lot more to say, always is, but for now enjoy some pictures from yesterday’s road trip!

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The five sitting Buddha statue at Wat Pha Sorn Kaew

Me and Anna, my friend from Germany who has been teaching at the school and sharing my house for the last two months. It was her last weekend in Phitsanulok, and I'm so glad we got to do something fun together!

Me and Anna, my friend from Germany who has been teaching at the school and sharing my house for the last two months. It was her last weekend in Phitsanulok, and I’m so glad we got to do something fun together!

Stairs!

Stairs!

Mountains!

And mountains!

Leaving on a Jetplane

All my bags are packed, it’s time to go

I’m standing here, outside your door…

I’ve been singing that song all week. My bags have been (mostly) packed since late last night, and I’m sitting at the Portland International Jetport waiting to board my first flight. This one’s to JFK, where I’ll board a flight to Abu Dhabi later this evening. My final flight is from Abu Dhabi to Bangkok, and I should arrive about 25 hours from now. I’ve just said goodbye to my parents and my boyfriend, and I’m a little sad. It’s been a wonderful last weekend in Portland, though; my boyfriend and one of my oldest friends teamed up to orchestrate a surprise going-away party on Friday evening, and there have been a lot of good times around all the packing and panicking and last-minute goodbyes. Thank you for all the support and well-wishes; I love you all, and I will do my best to keep you posted as my journey continues.

So, I’m moving to Thailand in a week

Maybe I should have mentioned something earlier?

It was such a hard decision to make that I didn’t want to post anything before everything was settled, and then when everything was settled I became too busy to do anything else.

I’ll be teaching English at Princess Chulabhorn’s School in Phitsanulok, Thailand, for an entire year. To prepare, I have been taking an online TEFL (Teach English as a Foreign Language) Certification class, which includes a 20-hour practicum that I have been serving by volunteering at an adult ESL class in my community. I have a week to pass my final exam, move out of my apartment, pack my bags, and say goodbye to family, boyfriend, and friends.

And then… well, then I’ll have an adventure. Updates to follow.

See you in Bangkok.