Tired Work, In Longhand

I slept most of yesterday–proper sleep, not the falling into a black void for most of the day that’s been happening lately. There seem to be no other symptoms left, or if there are I’m too tired to notice them. The only thing I’m suffering is exhaustion so deep and wide it mimics total apathy. Even breathing seems like hard work.

Still, I woke this morning with what is probably a short-term burst of energy and the urge to listen to old-school Madonna. And I’ve gotten a fair amount of work done in longhand, which I’ll have to transcribe when I can sit up for longer periods of time.

If I’m indeed recovering, the trick will be not pushing too hard. Every time I get ill or injured, I make it worse by putting off any rest as long as possible and then leaping back into the fray the instant I start feeling the least bit better. I know I shouldn’t, of course–I’m always on friends and loved ones to be gentle with themselves after illness or injury.

I give very good advice, but very seldom follow it.

It doesn’t help that over the past few years I’ve witnessed pandemic, rising authoritarianism, and ongoing fascist coup. Even my ability to find silver linings or transmute pain into art is creaking under the strain. This comic strip sums it up perfectly–and also gives me some hope, because it’s pain (you guessed it) transmuted into art.

I should feel better. I should be grateful to be so lucky, so immensely privileged to be able to rest at least a little. I should be happier.

But I’m not. And it feels like a very personal failing.

At least I felt like eating this morning, and the void seems to have retreated. I’m going to have to work twice as hard to catch up; my job requires a constant juggling of chainsaws. Any halt means a rain of buzzing gas-powered sawblades, and who needs that? Not me, that’s for sure.

I’m hoping my optimism–such as it is–will come back. If all else fails, there’s sheer spite, which has kept me going through personal disasters and might as well be pressed into service for worldwide ones. I’d really like to be a nicer person, but if spite is what it takes to survive, well, that’s what I’ll use.

So, while this temporary flush of energy lasts, I’ll let the dogs drag me around the block and see what fires remain in my email inbox. I’ll work as long as I can, and probably end up sacked out on the office floor at some point in the day. The nice thing about that is the dogs will be overjoyed to have me so accessible, and probably stomp on both my kidneys and my liver to boot. I’ll call it “canine massage.”

In about a week vaccinations should be open in our state. That means the Prince and I have a shot (ha ha) at getting appointments. I suspect I’ll feel a lot better once both kids have at least the first jab, and once we’re all three thoroughly immunized I’ll probably have some variety of crying fit from sheer relief. If I focus on that–and on the fact that I have to finish the second book of Black God’s Heart–I can ignore everything else. At least I’m making progress on the latter, if only in longhand. It’s even soothing to write in a spiral-bound notebook again; my gods, how that takes me back.

Boxnoggin is resting his chin on my knee and Miss B is right behind him, crowding close and giving me the full benefit of sad doggy eyes. They want their walkies; who am I to deny them such a small pleasure? Wish me luck, or at least enough energy to get around the block.

Over and out.

Quiet, Silver Linings

The house is quiet. The dogs know I haven’t finished my coffee yet, though when I do they’ll prance down the hall, attempting to herd me out for walkies. Sometimes it’s vexing, but then I think of how baffling plenty of things must seem to them. Ritual and habit are comforting when one hasn’t much control. Even a canine can feel upset at a lack of agency.

So I call upon patience, of which my stock is slender indeed lately. The exhaustion makes everything twice as difficult as it should be, especially bureaucratic paperwork–which I attempted yesterday, and am about at the point where I’d love to burn everything down and walk into the forest, never to be seen again.

…I’m only half joking.

I suppose I should be heartened that I’m (evidently) processing some of the last year and a half. It means I’m safe enough and have enough bandwidth to deal with it, which is supposed to be a good thing. Unfortunately I don’t want to deal with it. I want to just continue coping and not have to feel this, because frankly? It sucks.

It doesn’t help that I’m furious at the abdication of responsibility by government last year, either. We’re personally lucky, here at Chez Saintcrow, to have survived in the shape we did, but it’s still touch and go, and no help is coming because, well, I’m a freelancer. I’m sure someone will bleat “Well, you shouldn’t have chosen this career”, but a single mother with two toddlers had to make what shift she could, and now I suppose I’m unfit for an office job because my tolerance for petty bullshit is close to nil.

Not that it was ever very high, indeed.

So I’m waiting for the moment the absurdity of all this will provoke me into screechy laughter, and meanwhile searching for silver linings. Like said dogs, like the fact that both kids are healthy and one has had the first vaccine dose, like the fact that the words are still showing up reliably, like the lilacs greening at their branch-tips.

My twenty minutes of coherence is all but up. So I have to bolt the rest of the coffee, brush my teeth, and collapse for a short while to gather enough strength for walkies. The dogs, of course, will take stomping on my kidneys for a short while in lieu of getting the leashes and harnesses on.

But at least I have kidneys to stomp on, and dogs to do the stomping, and both kids are tucked safe in their beds. The Prince is on spring break and the Princess has a couple days off work, so they’ll be up to housebound hijinks later today, I’m sure. I’m just glad the Prince’s cough has fled.

See? Silver linings. One must relentlessly pursue them, especially if the alternative is too grim to be contemplated.

And with that cheerful thought, I wish you a lovely Tuesday, my beloveds, and bid you a pleasant adieu.

Hope Eternal, Dog


I know I keep posting pics of Boxnoggin. I can’t help it. He’s just so photogenic, truly a handsome boi.

This is our favorite square-headed canine attempting to drill a hole through me with his gaze, all in service of gaining a bite of my fiery chicken curry. Despite me telling him he would absolutely not like the result, he is bound and determined, because hope springs eternal in the soul (and the stomach) of Dog.

He did not get any fiery chicken curry, but he did get to split a treat biscuit with Miss B after I was finished with lunch.

What can I say? I’m a sucker.

I’m exhausted, coughing, and fatigued. Can’t tell if it’s allergies, plague, flu, or just the last year and a half finally coming home to roost in my poor corpus, but whatever it is, I spent most of yesterday in bed and am about to repeat the trick today. Wish me luck, and remember: Mask up, wash your hands, and hydrate. We’re not out of the woods yet. Far from.

Luck to Get Through

I’m pretty sure it’s not the plague.

Of course when I start watching a series of lectures on the Black Plague1 and reading John Kelly’s The Great Mortality2, the Prince develops a deep cough and I’m afflicted with postnasal drip and a fatigue so deep I feel like I’m under a mile or two of clear water. Of course, I don’t know why I expected anything different. We’re both coughing in spates, though we can both smell so it’s probably not the current plague.

Though it would be ironic, don’t you think? So close to vaccines being at least theoretically available. (The appointments to get them jammed into your arm are somewhat less than available; there’s always a catch. Always.)

Work proceeds apace. Sending off the revision for Book 1 of Black God’s Heart means now I can really get started on Book 2, swinging from one handhold to the next. The other spot in my working day is taken up with Hell’s Acre, which is beginning to move into my skull and make itself very comfortable indeed. And I just saw cover drafts for it, which are going to be amazing.

While I’m juggling those two, Cold North will be a refuge, and a way to make them both behave. Either you tell me what happens next or I go to the Tolkien Viking werewolves is a helluva threat.3 It might even make the steampunk sit up and take notice.

Regardless of how exhausted I am, work needs to get done and dogs need to be walked. I’m only hoping for the luck to get through this, whatever it is, and have it not be plague. I’m hoping it’s just the result of a pretty intense pollen season; anecdotal evidence has the cherry blossoms and forsythia filling the air with a vengeance this year. I’m somewhat at a loss to figure out how the illness found us in lockdown, but even with masks and the Prince’s distance learning we still have some points of interaction with others, like the Princess’s job and my own venturing out for things that can’t be delivered.

All the same, we haven’t had nearly the cold/flu season we’re wonted to in this area, for which I can only thank the masks and hope they stay.

I can still smell coffee, and the Prince says he feels much better this morning. (Since he actually went to bed at a decent hour, but that’s another story.) So maybe it’s not quite as bad as I feared yesterday, but I’m still so tired. My eyelid isn’t twitching, but even my hair feels exhausted at this point.

Here’s to hope. I hate feeling it, since the last year and a half have been full of hope rising only to be kicked in the teeth. It just keeps coming back, whether I will or no.

And with that cheerful note, I’m off to let the dogs drag me around the block. Fortunately they know exactly where to go, and habit will keep them mostly behaving. Habit will also pull me through another day’s work.

Suppose I’d best get started.

Not Further Behind

It’s Monday, I have coffee, and there’s a trip to the grocer’s in my immediate future. We need milk. I dread leaving the house if it’s not for walking the dogs–at least outside I can cross the street to get away from selfish jerks without masks, and the open air means very little viral load.

At least a Monday visit isn’t as bad as a weekend visit. I’m sure the church crowd yesterday was a Petri dish. And speaking of selfish jackasses, someone is still setting off fireworks between midnight and 1am somewhere in the neighborhood. The Princess hopes they run out of them soon and that all their bacon burns–a quite elegant curse, but I have spent some time cogitating on far less gentle wishes.

It’s a good thing I’m not telekinetic. Especially nowadays.

I didn’t peek at social media this weekend, unless one counts livetweeting Netflix’s The Old Guard on Saturday evening–which I enjoyed roundly, by the way. I like watching Charlize Theron in combat. Plus there was Matthias Schoenaerts, whose performance in a different movie I once wrote a whole-ass romance novel around, and KiKi Layne, who is incredible. I liked the movie very much, if you can’t tell. It was directed by a woman and very refreshing to see female pain not being sexualized by and for a male gaze; I had the same feeling while watching Birds of Prey.

I also got some reading in, and it was pleasant to settle on the couch and fall into a book, even if that book was history and as such, a cavalcade of blunders and nastiness. I’m finding very little to be amused about in the human condition nowadays.

I didn’t get half of what I wanted to done during the weekend. I’m feeling a bit under the weather, and the stress of wondering whether it’s the plague, or whether we had the plague back in March, or whether we haven’t had the plague and should dread its advent… it wears on one. But the dogs must be walked, my own tired carcass must be exercised, and the business of living goes on, and on, and on.

On the one hand, it’s not a bad thing. On the other, it’s exhausting.

There’s also a great deal of work to get done today. I have thrown up my hands and decided “catching up” is a chimera; I will instead endeavor not to fall further behind. And to that end I bid thee a civil adieu, my beloveds; it’s time to get the dogs walked before the sunlight pulls other people out onto the street and drives them insane. Honestly, it’s like the big yellow eye in the sky showers most people with cray-juice or something; they start acting like drunken wasps. No wonder I long for rain most of the year.

All right, Monday. I’m not ready, but I am prepared. Let’s see what you’ve got.

Triage Endurance

I’m enjoying the morning Latin lessons more than I thought I would. Something about wrestling with lingua Latina before caffeine soaks in makes my brain feel sharper. Of course, the rest of me feels slow (stultae, even) before the caffeine soaks in, and I make far more errors than I like.

Latin for breakfast, French for lunch, Turkish before bed so sleep can hopefully help me retain verbs and grammar. I was doing German after dinner and Turkish before bed, but that was Too Much. I’d still like to study German some day, maybe when I’ve brushed up my French enough to read some Voltaire in the original.

Goals. I have them. Loads of them. Whether they’re achievable or not is an open question.

Instead of German, though, I think I want to go back to piano after dinner. I never thought I’d miss wrestling with Bach post cena, but here we are.

Mostly I’m trying to keep my brain busy so I don’t brood on current world events. I’m doing literally everything I can–social distancing, wearing a mask if I absolutely have to go to the store, washing hands, reaching out to friends, caring for my neighbors. It just doesn’t feel like enough, and I’m hitting empathy exhaustion on a daily basis.

I’d rather that than not caring at all, but still. If I tire myself out with work and study, the anxiety dreams are a little less fraught. At least there’s a delicate balance being held and I can sleep.

How are you doing out there, dear Reader? I meant to tell you the story of Big Barda, Boxnoggin, and the Birdfeeder, but Squirrelterror tales take a little more work than one might think. Maybe next week, because there’s more than one part. Knocking over the heavy iron pole and breaking a glass hummingbird feeder was only the beginning, and Barda’s got quite a mouth. Poor Boxnoggin literally could not believe some of the stuff she yelled at him.

Anyway… I do have something to say today. I was talking with a friend about the looming, constant empathy exhaustion yesterday, spurred by this Vice article, and she commented on the advice often given.

Exercise. Eat well. Sleep. Well, for one thing, the distribution chains are creaking under the load, fresh produce and “healthy” foods are more expensive than junk–by corporate design, I might add. And if you start nattering on about “bulk buying” and “just make your meals ahead of time” I swear I will start tossing things and screaming, because that takes energy too and a lot of people live in food deserts even before the distribution systems took the first giant hit of lockdown. Not to mention some of us don’t have the equipment to exercise in postage-stamp living spaces, and if your only time to get some sweat-effort in is the evening and you’re female, going out to walk or jog when men who might have mayhem on their minds and nowhere else to congregate can be hazardous to your health.

And sleep? Don’t even get me started.

I know the science says this is what helps, but it’s just not feasible for a lot of people. I agreed that while veggies and exercise might be the best, they can also be out of reach for the non-privileged, and a bit of wine and pizza on the couch might be all one can achieve.

And you know, that’s okay.

If you, dear Reader, need permission to do things science says might not be helpful but you know are helpful for you and within your means, consider said permission given. We’re in an endurance round of triage, and whatever gets you through is A-OK.

For me it’s it’s legal weed on Fridays before D&D with a group of close friends, and setting aside Sunday to eat whatever the fuck I want in whatever quantity I desire. (Last Sunday was the Great Molasses Cake experiment, and I think I put away half a two-layer cake just by my lonesome.) It’s also mumbling Latin in the mornings and watching weird YouTube fanvids because I don’t have the energy or brain-cycles for binging new shows. (Although I did make it through The Umbrella Academy recently, which is less misogynist on the screen than in its original format–not by much, but I’ll take what I can get.)

Whatever it takes to get you through this in one piece and of reasonable sanity is A-OK. Feel free to tell me about your coping mechanisms below–you might even find a couple fellow Readers saying “hey, that’s a good one, I’m gonna try it.”

I’ve finished absorbing some coffee and my head is full of Latin phrases, if not declensions. (Mostly involving a drunk parrot, thanks, Duolingo!) Time to take the dogs for a walk and let the night’s dreams settle into their proper places under the floorboards of consciousness. Yesterday was difficult, today promises to be only slightly less so.

It’s okay. We’ll get through it together.

Over and out.

King Boxnoggin Abed

I was brushing my teeth and had taken the decorative pillows off the bed–they were left over from the reign of King Trundles, who needed to be propped up so he could breathe and also so he wouldn’t smear schmutz on my personal pillows. I heard my daughter pass the bedroom door, then she began to laugh.

I looked out of the loo and was greeted by the sight of a very tired Sir Boxnoggin, gazing at me like “…whut? It’s bedtime.”

I looked at the Princess, and so did he, with the same air of patent weary astonishment he’d deployed in my direction, and that did it. Both humans cracked up, laughing like loons.

Boxnoggin, of course, had no idea why we were amused. I managed to snap a picture of him looking at my daughter in the door with that regal, puzzled expression.

“Is he… is he making a move to rise in the hierarchy?” the Princess asked, when we could both breathe again.

“Maybe?” I hazarded. “But it won’t do him any good. I’m still the alpha bitch.”

That broke us up again for a good two minutes or so. If sadness and stress takes years off your life, the sheer hilarity of our canine overlords must add them.

I hope your weekend is calm and refreshing, chickadees. The world is nuts, but at least we have dogs.