Tag Archives: blogs

Spoons and Showers

This is one of the most popular posts on my other blog, bipolarme.blog. I thought I’d share it with you today to see what you all think.

It is fairly widely known that people with bipolar disorder and/or depression (like me) have trouble taking a daily shower. It’s not that we don’t know what’s involved in taking a shower, or why it would be good for us to do so, it’s simply that showering uses up a tremendous number of spoons.

(Spoons are a measure of how much energy a person has each day. For the full explanation, go to https://butyoudontlooksick.com/articles/written-by-christine/the-spoon-theory/ for Christine Miserando’s post. It applies not just to mental disorders, but any kind of chronic illness.)

Here’s what showering looks like according to Andrew Solomon, author of the now-classic The Noonday Demon:

I ran through the individual steps in my mind: You sit up, turn and put your feet on the floor, stand, walk to the bathroom, open the bathroom door, go to the edge of the tub…I divided it into fourteen steps as onerous as the Stations of the Cross.

I performed a similar exercise in one of my blog posts (Brain vs. Brain: http://wp.me/p4e9Hv-iF) and here’s my version:

First I have to find a clean towel and a bar of soap, get undressed without seeing myself in the mirror, fiddle with the water temperature, wash and shampoo, dry off, find clean underwear, and that’s not even thinking about drying my hair and figuring out what I can wear! Oh, my God, I’ve used up all my spoons just thinking about it! I should just eat Cocoa Puffs and go back to bed.

Now let me say, first of all, that I don’t really like showers. I grew up taking baths and have never enjoyed the sensation of water spraying in my face. But with my bad back and bad knee, getting up from sitting in a bathtub is nearly impossible these days. (Please don’t ask me why anyone would want to sit in dirty water. Everyone says that when I say I prefer baths. I have a nice long soak, steeping in the clean water like a big teabag, and only then wash up and get right out. Used to, I mean. But I digress.)

To most people, showering is a single act that requires the expenditure of a single spoon. Take a shower; that’s it. But for those of us with invisible illnesses, each separate step may require its own spoon. Take something as simple as finding a towel, for instance. Go to the linen closet, grab a towel and voilà! Only a fraction of a spoon, if that.

But surely you don’t think I have had the spoons to fold and put away my laundry. It is all there in a jumble on top of the dryer. (Who needs a wrinkle-free towel anyway?) I have to root around to find one, and maybe twice if a cat has thrown up on the first one I pick. (They love sitting on clean laundry.)

If I have to go to a business meeting I force myself to use some of those spoons showering and getting dressed and acting respectable. But I will pay for it later, collapsing after the meeting in need of a mega-nap.

Now here’s a little secret I’ll tell you. Most people believe you gain spoons by going out of the house – walking in the fresh air, meeting friends for lunch, shopping, going for a drive (does anyone do that anymore?). But the fact is that, according to Spoon Theory, you get a certain number of spoons every day when you wake up. You cannot gain, buy, beg, borrow, or steal any more, not even by breathing fresh air. You can only spend them.

Given the mathematics of spoons, I don’t spend a single one that I don’t absolutely have to. Not going out? No shower. Have to go out for a loaf of bread or a drive-through meal? Wash up in the sink. If I need a shower between outings, my husband reminds me and facilitates by, for example, rummaging on the dryer for a clean towel and clean clothes or a clean nightshirt.

I need those spoons for doing my work at home in my smelly pajamas more than I do for the ordeal of showering.


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Crashing Political Parties

By the time this post is up, President Trump will have been inaugurated and many parties will have held many parties. And a lot of people have a lot to say about that, on both sides.

Because that’s what there are – two sides. Apparently, this is one situation in which there is no middle ground. For or against. Admiring or appalled. People who attempt to take a middle position – wait and see – are derided as “the problem” themselves, or apologists, or pie-in-the-sky dreamers. Any suggestion that we try to understand the other side (whichever that is) and their problems is met with a resounding “No! Why should I?”

I have been steering clear of the fray. I voted, and I have an opinion regarding the outcome. Those who know me well probably have no trouble guessing for whom I voted and what I think of the outcome. But I have avoided posting about it on my Facebook timeline or here (though I did write a few quasi-political posts – http://wp.me/p4e9wS-ol, http://wp.me/p4e9wS-qv, http://wp.me/p4e9wS-o2). I knew that my opinions were not likely to change anyone else’s opinions. I have used sources to refute some misconceptions and fake news, but since the threads went on without anyone noticing my contributions, that hardly counts.

I refused to get involved in the ugliness before the inauguration, and I refuse to now. My decision to stay out of the – I hesitate to call it a discussion –  may have cost me friends. There has certainly been a lot of if-you’re-not-for-us-you’re-against-us thinking, and if I do not declare myself, I become, in some minds, against everyone else.

Many people use the argument that a person’s blog or Facebook page is like a party the person is hosting, and the host is entitled to say anything he or she wants. This is as good an analogy as many others. But its corollary is that I do not have to remain at the party, or accept invitations to future parties. (I do agree that a person who behaves boorishly at a party can or should be ejected, but that tends to lead to really boring parties, with everyone nodding and shouting the same thing.)

When most of the invitations I see are to ad hominem parties (attacking a person instead of her or his relevant behavior, statement, stance, or action) and ones where only one opinion may be shouted, I prefer to play online bingo. I have taken a break from social media (except to post my blogs) a couple of times last year, and I feel another such fit coming on.

I don’t have a problem with online “parties” that involve sharing verifiable information or organizing to oppose a perceived injustice by legal means. But have you noticed how many suggestions are of the “hang ’em high” variety? I’m not talking about just one end of the political spectrum, either. One may be more likely to invoke firearms as a solution, but both are “sharing” in the gloating and finger-pointing and obscene memes and vulgar nicknames. I refuse to engage in dialogue with anyone who says either “rethuglicans” or “libtards.”

I understand the need to vent when one is disillusioned, outraged, insulted, ignored, or otherwise upset. Doing that venting in public, or even at one’s own party (which the virtual neighbors can “hear”) is no doubt satisfying, especially if one is particularly clever at inventing epithets. But it does no good, and only makes the divisions wider.

Yes, yes, I know I can just keep scrolling, but not without seeing hateful memes and pictures at the very least. I feel the same way about them as I do about photos of abused animals: I don’t want to see the carnage even if I support the cause. But I digress.

Blogger Jim Wright (www.stonekettle.com) often says,”If you want better government, be better citizens.”

I would add, “If you want better parties, be a better host. Or guest.”

Seven Reasons I Hate the Bloggess

Red heart, studded with apins isolated on a white background. 3d render

First, let me say that I read the Bloggess all the time. I have her books and I read them all the time too. But secretly I hate her, and here’s why.

1. She had a weirder childhood than I did. She lived in a small Texas town full of farm critters and wild animals, and weird characters, including her father the taxidermist, and has interesting poverty stories, like the one about the bread-sack shoes. I lived in a nondescript middle-class suburb with a stay-at-home mom and a dad that went to work every day smelling of Vitalis and Aqua Velva, rather than deer blood.

(This was also the problem I had trying to write country songs. You can’t get very far with “I was born an industrial engineering technician’s daughter/in the Central Baptist Hospital of Lexington, KY.”)

2. She had more interesting pets, with more interesting names than I did. She had a raccoon named Rambo that wore Jams and a delinquent turkey named Jenkins. Later she had a dog named Barnaby Jones Pickles and has cats named Ferris Mewler and Hunter S. Thomcat. We had dogs named Blackie and Bootsie and rabbits named Christina and Mittens. Our recent dogs have been Karma and Bridget, and the only eccentric cat names we’ve bestowed have been Django and Dushenka.

(Ordinarily, I don’t like cat names like Baryshnikat and F. Cat Fitzgerald. I think cat names should be something you wouldn’t be embarrassed to yell out the door if one of them wanders off, like Louise or Garcia. But I suppose the Bloggess’s neighbors are by now used to anything.)

3. She has more interesting disorders than I do. I have a bad back and bipolar disorder type 2 (and a blog about it, bipolarjan.wordpress.com). The Bloggess has generalized anxiety disorder, anti-phospholipid syndrome, rheumatoid arthritis, depression, and, apparently, an obsession with chupacabras and vaginas. This gives her much more to write about. Although I do have two blogs. Two! In your face, Bloggess!

4. She’s less inhibited than I am. The Bloggess would have ended that last paragraph, “In your face, motherfucker!” I didn’t learn to cuss till I was in my 20s and no one I meet ever believes I swear until I do. Then they’re shocked. Also, I swear all the time, except in my blogs, where I’m afraid I’ll offend readers, all of whom I assume have tender sensibilities. The Bloggess knows her readers better than that.

5. She has way more readers than I do. And she’s published books and has another coming out. I have 495 followers and I think most of them want to sell me books on how to publicize my blog. I should probably study a book like that, but I’d rather read ones about emerging viruses, cloud cities on Venus, and mostly true memoirs. On the other hand, I have the distinction of being the only writer ever to have articles in both Catechist and Black Belt magazines. So take that, moth . . . Bloggess!

6. She and her husband have more interesting arguments than my husband and I do. We never even talk quietly about whether Jesus was a zombie.

7. She has a stronger voice than I do. I mean her writing voice. I had no idea what her speaking voice was like until I saw a video clip of her on the web, talking about vaginas. But when I’m going to write in my blogs, I have to lay off reading her for a day or two, because her voice takes over my weak, tiny mind and it wants to sound like her. I wish I could write like that. Or at least as well as that.jennyme

But, like the Bloggess, I am a strangeling. And that’s a start.

What’s Different About Blogging?

Just as fiction and nonfiction are different, prose and poetry are different, and romance and science fiction are different, blogging is not exactly like any other form of writing.

Blog Weblog Media Online Messaging Notes Concept

For the casual or non-professional blogger, those who aren’t trying to build a platform as a subject matter expert or make money from a blog, the writing in a blog will likely not conform to any particular style of writing.

Here are some of the kinds of writing you often find in blogs.

Journals. Many blogs are used as online journals. Bloggers record observations about life; events in their day; personal feelings they wish to share with others; and assorted photographs, memes, jokes, trivia, and perhaps random thoughts. But stream-of-consciousness or confessional style journals are not likely to be appealing to large groups of readers. No one has so interesting a life that others want to follow the minutiae – unless, of course, you’re an Arctic explorer, a circus acrobat, or a pop star. And even they have dull days sometimes.

Articles. Fact-based articles on various topics – food, sex, crafts, pets, children, aging, media, politics, literature, and even swearing – can be good blog fodder. But if you’re aggregating news and facts from other sources, that’s not the same as writing your own content. And while it’s possible that an expert on a particular topic might be able to write factual articles week after week or month after month, such a blog will likely appeal to a limited number of readers in the same field.

Editorials. Opinion pieces are the meat and potatoes of many blogs. The problem is that bloggers most often want their writing to reach an audience – and not everyone’s opinions are well-thought-out, well-expressed, or even interesting. And unless you’re a “name” blogger with a wide following and a certain amount of credibility, who is going to be interested enough in your opinions to keep coming back? I mean, who really cares what I think about the Flint water crisis or where Caitlyn Jenner should be allowed to pee? Even super-opinionated blogger Jim Wright (http://www.stonekettle.com) occasionally gives himself and his readers a rest with cat pictures and woodworking info.

Funny stories. Let’s face it. Few of us are capable of being reliably, consistently funny. Humor writing is a very specific genre and craft that only a few – Erma Bombeck, Jenny Lawson (http://thebloggess.com) – ever master and that many fall flat with. Again, if you’re writing your own material rather than aggregating humorous quotations and stories from elsewhere (and you are giving proper credit to the original authors, aren’t you?), humor blogs can quickly become limited to only the readers who share your specific taste in what’s funny and how to express it comedically.

So what kind of writing is best for your blog? You’ll have to figure that out for yourself. I recommend some mix of all of the above types. But achieving balance between two or more types of writing can be difficult. How much personal revelation is too much? How many dry facts are too many? How can they be blended into a cohesive whole?

I have two blogs that I play around in. One (obviously) is this one – what I call my general-purpose blog. In it I try to post mostly funny stories and opinion pieces on some topic I have experience with or strong feelings about. Here are some examples of each: “When I Say Shoes…” (http://wp.me/p4e9wS-c8), I Blame the Cats. Always. (http://wp.me/p4e9wS-1B), The Education Argument (http://wp.me/p4e9wS-6G), Post Feminism: Back to the Future (http://wp.me/p4e9wS-4P).

My other blog, Bipolar Me (bipolarjan.wordpress.com) is topic-specific. As such, it contains a blend of journal (personal experiences), factual information, and occasionally opinions. Again, here are some of each: I May Have Miscounted My Spoons (http://wp.me/p4e9Hv-g6), More “News” About Mental Health (http://wp.me/p4e9Hv-9L), A Response to the Dalai Lama (http://wp.me/p4e9Hv-9T). Even more occasionally, I include humor – The Depression Diet (http://wp.me/p4e9Hv-db) – or poetry – Sense of Self (http://wp.me/p4e9Hv-9O).

I experiment with styles of writing in an attempt to keep my readers interested, but also to keep myself interested. In particular, I don’t want Bipolar Me to be all gloom-and-doom or perpetually “what I did today.” Et Cetera, etc. was conceived of as a blog where I could write whatever I wanted on any topic I wanted – books, cats, family, humor, rants, and to a lesser extent social issues I feel strongly about – education, feminism, etc. Bipolar Me seems to be the more popular of the two, but Et Cetera, etc. has had some unexpected surges. (I have thought about changing the blog’s name, but haven’t found anything I like better.)

At any rate, my advice to the newly blogging is this: Mix it up. It will help you find your voice, attract new readers, and keep you from burning out. Unless your blog is very topic- and tone-specific, a little variety is a good thing.