on this day: better living through chemistry

On this day in 2005, I wrote about going on psych meds ... at that time, I'd been on them for three weeks, which means I've now been on them for 13 years and 3 weeks. In that post, I quoted from my friend Jonathan Sterne, who told what I came to call "The Parable of the Pissing Cat".

He was peeing everywhere in the basement right before we were going to sell the house and we had to do something. He'd had all the tests and was healthy according to the vet. He'd acted out once before (beating up the other cat) and we were told to put him on Paxil and couldn't stomach it. We were too worried about losing the better parts of his personality. Well, nobody wants to sell a house when the basement smells like cat piss (much less LIVE in such a place!), so we took the plunge and started giving him Paxil (that was an interesting conversation with the pharmacist). He slept a lot for the first few days and then more or less was back to normal except he didn't piss outside the box anymore. His meow changed slightly, and otherwise it's like he's the same cat minus the pissing. We took him off it as an experiment once and the pissing started again at our new place, so now he's on it for life. Yes I know that's fucked up.

But the house sold in one day.

I also quoted a friend who said, "Being miserable and crazy/funny/fill in the blank is overrated."

How is it, 13 years down the road? Mostly, I don't notice I'm on the meds, which I think is a good thing. And something is still true that I wrote in 2005, about the absence of anxiety:

You need to understand: I have suffered from anxiety for so long, I thought it was normal. If I considered it in any other manner, I assumed the social pressures of modern life was the cause. But basically, I couldn't identify the problem because it was ubiquitous, and when that happens, when you have nothing with which to compare, you can't define it, and so it doesn't exist.

Now I have something for comparison. I haven't felt anxious in a coupla weeks. Not once. And the absence of anxiety is what allows me now to understand that there hadn't been a day in my memory, not a day in 51 years as far as I know, when I didn't feel anxious for part of the day.

And it's a very nice thing to have that disappear.

Which is why I say my life under medication isn't marked by what's good, but rather by the absence of bad.

In the comments section, my son wrote, "We want some money for raising our parents!"

Mommy's alright, Daddy's alright, they just seem a little weird. Surrender, surrender, but don't give yourself away.

 


and when we die

Robin and I were talking about what we'll do when she retires. Talking about finances, not "Let's move to Nerja!" It was more the beginning of a long conversation than it was anything substantial, but just bringing up the topic gets you thinking.

We should be just fine, and I hope I never forget how privileged we are that I can say that. It's all thanks to her ... my pensions are limited, and my social security is small enough that I'm just waiting for her to retire so I can climb onto her benefits. But we have options, which again makes us lucky.

It's not the decision making that's important. Well, it will be eventually, but to some extent, it's about calculating what we'd get if she started Social Security at 70 as opposed to 66, and what kind of payments we'll choose from her ... heck, I don't even know what this stuff is called, the money that's been put away for her retirement.

But you soon realize that what is being discussed is about money on the surface, but the crucial fact (which can't really be exactly known) is how long we will live. For example, just off the top of my head (meaning I could be way off), if she started Social Security at 66, she'd get about $128k over the next four years. If she waited until she is 70, she'll get more by about $12k a year, but won't get that first $128k. So, again just thinking without actually working at it, if she lived to be 80, she would make close to the same amount overall no matter whether she started at 66 or 70. But if she lived past 80, that extra $12k/year would make the Start at 70 option the correct choice. So how long you expect to live matters, and who wants to think about that?

Then there's the part where who dies first matters. If it's me, her finances won't change much, because we won't be relying on my relatively small amount in the first place. But if she dies first, I'll end up with a lot less money, if I understand how it works. And it's about then that you understand you're talking about Who Dies First, and once more, who wants to think about that?

So ultimately, a conversation about retirement always ends up being about dying.

Really, it's another form of privilege that we can even have these conversations. I've already retired, and Robin will retire some time next year, while there are plenty of people who simply can't afford to retire. And while you can't predict the future, we can at least imagine a retirement that isn't an exercise in frugality. It also helps that since Robin has worked for Kaiser for 15+ years, our medical insurance will still be there.

Until we die.

 

 


in loving memory, shyrrl

Shyrrl service

I'd just gotten my PhD. There was a knock at the door. I answered it. There was our neighbor and friend Shyrrl. "Is there a doctor in the house?", she asked. Then she handed me a quilt she had made. It was an Elvis quilt. She didn't like Elvis, but she'd visited down South once, knew I liked him, and so she bought a lot of material for some later use. That became my Elvis quilt.

At today's service, there were a dozen stories like that.


our trip to joshua tree

We returned to the Bay Area on Saturday evening, and on Sunday morning we were greeted by a special section in the Sunday paper about the Mojave Desert. Checking online, I see "The Mojave Road is California's off-roading mecca", "Why do runners love Death Valley?", "Will there be a 'super bloom' in Death Valley in 2018? It's not looking good.", and "Joshua Tree's 'Desert Oracle' reveals his favorite Mojave haunts". I admit it was fun to see all of this, but it had little to do with our own visit, which lasted from Tuesday evening when we arrived, to Saturday morning when we began the trek home. Some thoughts before I forget them ...

Our friends were great hosts, as expected, but the setup was even better than I realized. They have a separate cottage next to their house, good enough to serve as a B&B, so we had plenty of space in a lovely setting. Space is a key word here ... they have 2.5 acres, which seems to be the norm for that area. We went in March because I looked up average monthly temperatures for Joshua Tree, and it turned out to be a great plan, with the temperature never getting out of the 70s.

I've forgotten what order we did things during the three full days (Wednesday-Friday) we were there, but in semi-random order:

Ate lots of good home-cooked food.

Also ate take-out BBQ, and stopped one afternoon at La Copine, a popular place on Old Woman Springs Road (I had fried chicken). Thursday night there was a birthday party for one of our hosts, and a lot of good pizza was served from Pie for the People.

On two evenings, we watched movies, about which more in a later post (the movies were Murder on the Orient Express and Colossal).

The biggest touristy thing we did was go to The Integratron for a sound bath. You drive out to the middle of nowhere (well, most things out there are in the middle of nowhere) and enter a dome that was inspired by aliens from Venus (I'm exaggerating, but only a bit). You lay down, and for half-an-hour or so, while someone plays quartz crystal singing bowls, you merge with the universe. This short video "explains" things, and you get a little sample of the singing bowls near the end:

I'm glad I did it, but I don't feel a pressing need to go again, and outside of relaxing for half-an-hour, I didn't get any Venusian feelings. Still, it enhanced the overall feeling that the residents of the area are willing to connect to all of their surroundings.

There was also a quick stop at Pioneertown, which among other things has a movie set that was used for things like The Cisco Kid TV series:

There was a gentleman inside a store who was working on a book about Pioneertown. He showed me a list of all the things filmed there. I was surprised to see that movies as recent as Ingrid Goes West were shot in part in Pioneertown.

The main point about a short vacation like this is you get to spend time with friends, and that was easily the best part this time (I wish you could see all four of us, but someone had to take the picture):

Steven robin doug joshua tree

Finally, we did spent part of a day driving through Joshua Tree National Park. We took a picture of me at a famous site in the Park, but I'm informed they don't want you to post pictures of it. So I'll include this one instead, to prove I was in nature:

Steven in joshua tree

Bonus song:

 


international women's day

Some of the women whose work informs and inspires me today:

Maureen Ryan, TV Critic, Variety. Sample piece: "‘Sweet/Vicious’ Canceled by MTV but Should Live on Elsewhere (Opinion)". "One of the greatest joys of this job is coming across something around the margins that does something cool, unique, or entertaining. When a show you’ve never heard of does all of those things, it’s like getting a jolt of joy straight to the nervous system."

Sleater-Kinney. All of them, in all of their projects. Special shout-out to Carrie Brownstein for her memoir Hunger Makes Me a Modern Girl.

I think I was too scared to be open with the fans because I knew how bottomless their need could be. How could I help if I was just like them? I was afraid I might not be able to lessen their pain or live up to their ideals; I would be revealed as a fraud, unworthy and insubstantial. The disconnect between who I was on- and offstage would be so pronounced as to be jarring. Me, so small, so unqualified.

Dee Rees, Director, Mudbound.

Lana Wachowski, Director/Writer/Producer. Along with Lilly Wachowski and J. Michael Straczynski, created Sense8.

Hall of Fame: Pauline Kael. "In the arts, the critic is the only independent source of information. The rest is advertising."