On seeing (and D-ing)

Recently A month ago (!!) I wrote about how well things were going. Pretty much directly after pressing publish, my mood and my house nosedived into a swamp of grey, exhausted ugh.

Like before, I blame the vitamin D. Except in this case more the lack of.

***

Some history:

When my deficiency was first diagnosed (last autumn) I went to the chemist and asked for vitamin D. I didn’t look at the various brightly advertised packages in the main shop, I went straight to the the counter and bought the boring-looking box of tablets I was offered. I figured they were most likely to do the job if they didn’t have to work on convincing you how much they were doing.

I read somewhere that just existing uses up approximately 500-1000 units a day. In summer it’s usually easy to produce enough to live on and have some left over to store for winter. I was outside a lot and it was a very sunny summer, I just seem to have a problem with the production part of the equation. At the end of the summer I had way less than most people have at the end of the winter. Whatever. I’m supposed to be replenishing my stocks so I was told to take 2000 units. The Internet is full of opinions and some people are convinced that I could easily triple the daily dosage or take a lot more once a week. I am very wary of taking too much of anything so I chose to go slowly and steadily, taking them daily and according to the instructions.

I noticed the difference almost immediately. I could pick things up, my cycling speed increased (a bit), I didn’t cry so often. I wasn’t as tired. I was amazed. Life was more lifelike.

<..approx 3 months later..>

I went home (to my parents house) for Christmas and didn’t take enough tablets with me (I had a spare sheet at work but forgot to pack them). I was ok, I’d mostly forgotten what life was like without them and I figured I could take them on alternate days or take less to make them last longer. It wasn’t as if I was going to be there for long, just under 2 weeks.

I got progressively more irritable and a few days after Christmas my brother had the questionable pleasure of an evening in my tearful mope-y company. Not a good use of the available time.

I headed to a supermarket for more tablets. They were much weaker, I think 250 units each, but I took several at a time and they tided me through til I got back. I didn’t want to waste them so I took one strong one instead of two and made up the difference with the weaker ones.

On the recommendation of a friend who swears by them, when I reached the end of the box, I decided to swap the tablets for drops. Since Vitamin D is a fat-soluble vitamin, it made sense to buy it ‘pure’ in oil without the chalky tablet material. There are a million options online and unfortunately very little regulation so I bought the sort she uses to reduce the risk of being scammed. The bottle was quite expensive but contained the equivalent of several boxes so each individual dose worked out (insignificantly) cheaper. You can drip it onto food or a spoon or directly onto your tongue. The bottle is glass and there’s no plastic blisterpacks involved. Theoretically they are a good thing.

In practice, and in retrospect, after taking nothing for a couple of days while I waited for them to arrive and using the drops for a month and a bit, I have the feeling that they don’t have the same effect, or possibly have no positive effect at all.

***

March was hard.

Everything hurt, I struggled to pick up my water filter or heave my bike up curbs. I couldn’t make the glass do what I wanted it to do. Getting up was arduous and getting out of the house was a feat. Cycling to work was challenging and slow (for a comparison, I cycled something like 80km over one weekend in February without a problem). I was permanently cold. I stayed at home at weekends, occasionally in bed.

I spent a week or so crying, more or less nonstop, about ridiculous things (like signposts and Google’s inability to direct me to where I want to go), and broken things and things that feel like they matter (even though they partially only exist in my head) and things that aren’t even things, and occasionally I just cried, no reason necessary.

Sometimes crying is/was the only thing that makes/made sense. Even when it doesn’t.

If I cried in the morning I stayed at home until I could stop my eyes leaking long enough to feel safe taking my bike on the roads. If I cried at work I took a break and typed up invoices instead of blindly playing with fire and hot glass. If I cried at home in the evening I took myself to bed with a hot water bottle and a box of tissues. I cooked and ate out of the saucepan or the frying pan, or didn’t cook and ate cereal out of as many bowls as I could without having to wash up. I left everything scattered on the table, worktops or on the floor next to the sofa. I didn’t do anything non-urgent. I made a point of not trying to not cry.

Last week, during a midnight crying attack, I wrote a whole post (in my head) about how everyone tells you to surround yourself with people who are better than you so you improve at whatever you want to be able to do, and how none of them ever tell you how to deal with permanently feeling like you are completely incapable.

From where I am, it doesn’t matter which way I look, everybody I have anything to do with has something they excel at. All around me, nothing but experts and success. PhDs, renovations, world travel, glassblowing masterpieces, speeches, new jobs, new houses, holidays, woodworkers, programmers, telescopes, exhibitions, parties, readers, writers, opening ceremonies, secretaries with neat cupboards of labelled and ordered paperperfection, makers of bread, collectors of overtime, parents of multiple children, runners, cyclists, etc etc etc. People are constantly doing things and doing them well. All the time. (For ever and ever. Amen.)

Faced with and compared to all this genius and talent and knowledge and ability, I failed on all fronts. Unless wallowing counts, and even then I know people who are properly depressed and not just paddling in the shallows where jealousy and “can’t even” and inadequacy and self-deprecation and all kinds of darkness lurk.

When I told her at a check up, my Obgyn said the lack of strength and motivation and excess of tears is probably either Depression or Deficiency and ordered another vitamin D test to see if I’m actually building up a Depot like I’m supposed to, or if I need to up the Dosage (look at all the Ds!). She asked what, if anything, had changed in the last few months and the only halfway relevant thing I could think of was switching to drops. She agreed with the theory that oil is a “better” solution, but suggested I go back to what works. Apparently different people are better able to use vitamins in different forms.

Given the choice, I told her, I’d much (much!) rather take the deficiency – especially when you can get tablets in every chemists and most supermarkets, and therapists are booked out until approximately 2080. She laughed and wished me deficiency (Germans are experts at wishing people things).

***

The other day I was talking to H about various things and he said something along the lines of: “..and you saw me. As a person, not just someone who was doing something. No one else does that..”

Awww 🙂

The best thing about it?

He wasn’t “just being nice”. He wasn’t scraping the barrel for things he could cheer me up with, he was genuinely thankful for being seen and was telling me as part of his story. It wasn’t about me.

A couple of days before that, B had a problem with something her husband had said. We talked and wrote and thought and discussed. Once he/they had smoothed things out, she wrote to thank me for taking the time to listen, and for giving her the chance to go through her thoughts before they spoke.

If I rack my brain and trail through my emails/texts/letters I find evidence of other people who have said similar things.

I think I’ve found my super power.

🙂

I can’t do all the things but I can see the people who can, and not doing all the things gives me time to be there for people (most of whom are in the middle of doing or about to do great things).

If I can be good at something, I can work on not minding being awful at everything else.

Going back to the crying, maybe I just needed a break to wash my eyes so I could get on with seeing.

(I bought a new box of tablets too – I couldn’t keep up with buying tissues :))

On rain at lunchtime

The canteen at work is designed for people to go in, sit down, eat and leave again. It’s not designed for everyone to sit around talking once they’ve finished eating.

Today it rained. Very very hard. It started raining at midday, just after I’d got to a table and sat down. The people who had been about to leave, and the people who’d been eating when I arrived and had now finished, stayed put – waiting for the rain to stop. My ‘generation’ of diners also stayed put. The new arrivals had nowhere to sit and wandered about forlornly looking for an empty table..

Something like looking for a parking space in a carpark next to a concert.

On Perfect days

(Anyone who read my earlier posts – or spoke to me during May – knows I was invited to spend a week “messing about on a river” (and connecting lakes). This post should have been posted directly after getting back (mid June) but somehow wasn’t. I’m going to post it now anyway)

________________________________________________________________________________

Some days are just so perfect nothing could make them better. They’re even perfect in the moment you’re living them, not just in your memory afterwards.

They’re pretty few-and-far-between, but they do exist.

The first Saturday of the boat trip was one of them. The rest of the boat trip was fantastic too, but there’s something about doing things for the first time that makes them special.

This post won’t do it justice, but I’m going to write about it anyway in the hope I can convey a fraction of the amazingness to screen-paper.

______________________________________________________________________________

I arrived on Friday, was picked up from the station, fed, watered and sent to bed.

I woke to the promise of warm breadbuns for breakfast. By the time I was up and dressed the promise was reallife and waiting for me on the table.

We packed the car and after a brief detour to the workshop to do some last-minute finishing off, we found ourselves parked in a playground on the banks of a huge lake on the outskirts of the city looking at a row of motor and sailing boats, one of which was to be our home for the next week-and-a-bit.

We unloaded the contents of the car into a heap on the pier and I misused a kid’s trampoline while R parked the car where it wouldn’t disturb anyone. I love trampolining, even if the sign forbids anyone over 14 the pleasure of bouncing. Luckily the trampoline police were on duty elsewhere and I got off with being laughed at by R as he came back to start loading the boat.

The only way onto the boat was a thin wooden plank leading off the wooden pier and across the water.

The plank wobbled.

Also the boat rocked if you touched it. I don’t balance better when holding onto something unstable.

I’m not particularly scared of walking on curbstones, and the plank was considerably wider than a curbstone. However. Something in the knowledge that the plank was at least a metre above the water, whereas the curbstone is a maximum of maybe 10cm above the road, made walking along it that much more nervewracking.

Having made it to the boat carrying considerably less than I could carry along a curbstone, R wisely decided I ought to stay inside the boat. He fetched the rest of our stuff while I stowed it somewhere it’d be out-of-the-way yet accessible for the rest of the week.

As soon as the pier was empty we were off 🙂

R’s friend A and A’s nephew D were already onboard A’s boat and waiting for us to get our butts in gear and catch them up.

The first port-of-call was the filling-station.

Filling a boat is very strange. For starters you have to pull up alongside the fuel pump in your boat and then tie it up before you can fill it. I don’t drive, but I’ve never seen anyone tie their car up, and I don’t remember ever tying my motorbike up. I clambered out of the boat and stood on the ‘bank’ out of the way.

When the tanks were full, we untied the boats, moved 50yards up the river and ‘parked’ (involving more tying up) so we could go shopping. We didn’t want to leave the boats unattended, so A and D went shopping first, then it was our turn. The shop was a good 5 minute walk from the river so they brought the shopping trolley back with them. We laughed, took photos 🙂 and walked the empty trolley back to the shop. R refused to walk the trolley back after we’d shopped, so we left it in its trolley shed and carried our shopping back to the boat.

We now had food for the boat and food for us. We needed water. We stopped at a very small port, where a man threw the end of a hosepipe at us and wished us a good day when we threw it back to him.

All things being sorted, we were finally ready to go.

 

It didn’t take long before R suggested I drive. Drive? Steer? Whatever one does to boats to make them go where you want them to go.

As I said above, I don’t drive, but I was curious and 8km/h is a speed even I can handle, so I agreed and he set about telling me how it works. I slid onto his side of the ‘sofa’ and took the wheel. A drove in front of us setting both the speed and the direction, so I just had to follow him without ramming him, the banks of the river, the other boats, or anything else really. There’s also a guage to tell you how deep the water is. Running aground does you no favours.

It seems I am surprisingly good at steering a boat :).

Having discovered this, R relaxed and lay back in the sun. I can’t watch people being lazy if I’m not 😉 and I was supposed to be revising for my upcoming Glass-Theory-Exam, so I dug my 400 painstakingly written 13×7 cards out and handed them to R with the request to go through and ask me the questions. The rest of the day was spent with me behind the wheel and R behind the cards.

Turns out R is dyslexic and, apparently, my handwriting is appalling. Reading is something that came pretty naturally to me, so I don’t really understand how it must feel not to be able to, even if I can understand not making out other peoples’ handwriting. He stumbled through the question while I tried to work out what I might have written, then I answered and he tried to work out what I might have written and whether it coincided with what I answered.

R knows loads – often more than the teacher – and can [usually] explain it in a way that makes me want to listen, so each card became the starting point for a mini-lesson.

 

After a while we arrived at the lake. A threw the anchors out and R and D attached our boat to theirs and we all went swimming (very cold, but okay once you were in).

I lay on deck “to dry” ;). R brought me a Thermarest which meant I lay there a lot longer than strictly necessary.. 🙂

A started washing his boat, I can’t watch people being lazy when I can’t, but I can’t watch people being quite so active while I’m laying around doing nothing (actively watching them be busy doesn’t count) so I washed ‘our’ windows. I’d been irritated by all the dead flies and gunk on the windscreen while driving but hadn’t wanted to say anything… This was a fantastic opportunity to do something about it – and prove my year of washing school windows was good for something.

R sunbathed – apparently watching people clean stuff helps him sleep ;).

As soon as everything on A’s boat and the windows on ours gleamed and glistened (wonderful words :)) we settled down for a BBQ and an evening in. Our boats were joined together so that we were practically all in one ‘room’. The BBQ was on theirs, so we were able to relax (even more) and wait to be served :).

In our supermarket dash it seems R and I had stumbled across the best lamb ever. I wouldn’t recognise the packaging if I was looking for it, and I don’t even remember what the shop was called, which is a bummer, but maybe its bestness wasn’t entirely due to the sheep…

 

D is clumsier than I am 🙂 He was our dinner-entertainment, dropping and spilling things to the amusement of all (and he laughed with the rest of us, so either he’s a fantastic actor or he really didn’t care).

A washed up, R lit the oil lamps and anti-fly-candles and I sat with a Baileys-and-milk listening to the Irish country band giving a concert on the far side of the lake (even if I didn’t believe R had booked them especially) and watching the stars come out.

 

I don’t think anything could have added to the “idylle” (idyllic-ness).

On leftovers, menu-planning and how not to roast parsnips

I can’t see how menu planning is supposed to work.

The idea is great – decide what you’re going to eat when and then buy the ingredients for those meals. Super. You don’t buy ‘extras’ or ‘rubbish’, you have a plan so you don’t have to decide what you’re going to cook when you’re too tired to think, you have everything you need when you need it, you have balanced meals and balanced weeks, and all manner of other delightful benefits.

My problem is what happens when life strikes?

Like last Sunday when I just wasn’t hungry, or when things work out differently to the way I thought they would. What happens to the food planned for those days? Do you shift everything along a day (ie, Sunday’s dinner is then eaten on Monday)? But what if you have to make something easy on Monday so you can go out? Do you wait until Thursday when you have time? Leaving all the ingredients until then might mean they go mouldy in the meantime and you’re no better off than with no plan. Do you ignore Sunday altogether and carry on with Monday as per plan? Sunday’s food is then effectively scrapped before it’s had a chance to think about mould.. Do you incorperate the ingredients in the rest of the plan, thereby in effect replanning the week (making the first plan redundant)?

As I said, I haven’t figured it out yet. I try to buy things I can use in more than one meal and then use them up as and when, preferably before they run (or ooze) away of their own accord.

Whatever. I still had parsnips in my fridge from an idea I’d had a week ago. Parsnips are pretty rare over here and one of my favourite vegetables. Occasionally they’re to be found in fruit&veg shops, but they’re certainly not as widespread as in the UK. I found these in a supermarket which really surprised me. I would hate for them not to be eaten, but I somehow hadn’t got round to doing anything with them.

This evening was a stay-at-home kind of evening so I decided to grill them. It’s like roasting only quicker. And more exciting if you use baking paper. I am incredibly lazy as far as washing up goes.

What’s left of the paper..

However, I don’t think there’s a way around washing the tray when grillling. I set my oven on fire while putting the tray-with-paper-and-parsnips-on in it.

I decided washing the tray was marginally better than burning down the house (MY HOUSE!) and took what was left of the greaseproof paper off the tray. I added some peppers, cheese and ham, waited for just the right degree of burnt and settled down to a feast.

🙂

On the danger of over-eating on a Saturday.

I ate LOTS on Saturday evening. I hadn’t had much lunch apart from the cake at the sale, and there was a galoptious potfull of leftovers to eat up. We didn’t quite achieve empty, even with 15 of us, but I did my best ;). Not sure to what extent my stomach would agree with me on that – on top of actually eating too much, lentils seem to expand once you’ve eaten them. I went home with the feeling I’d narrowly escaped exploding.

I tend to eat too much, then curl up to digest, a bit like a snake. This meant that I wasn’t really hungry on Sunday, in turn meaning I didn’t really eat (apart from yogurt, the most amazing chocolate muesli and the left over crisps from my ‘party’).

This morning, I woke up to the sound of my meanest alarm clock blaring in my ears. I have several and the mean one’s really only for emergencies – I usually wake up to one of the milder ones and turn the mean one off before it wakes the whole street up or someone calls the fire brigade. This morning I’d slept through the others and even this one had somehow managed to work its way into my dream and escape detection.

The reason for my ‘out-like-a-light’ sleep? Not sure, but it probably has to do with not going to bed early enough. I was trying to fill in a form. Or, more accurately, trying to write my CV so I can send it off with the already-filled-in-form to the nice lady who wants it. I probably haven’t done many more exciting/relevant things than the average person, but the manner in which we moved around while I was small, means I went to a LOT of schools. Then, despite changing schools again in order to do my selection of A-Levels, I ended up attending yet another school parallel to the first (eighth) because they cancelled the course after AS. But I digress.

Being a Brit living in Germany generally confuses things anyway, but in this case makes things especially complicated because I don’t have the same sort of report as they do. We have a final exam/coursework based grade and a certificate for each subject, they have a report with the result of every test they’ve ever taken on it. Someone works out the average overall grade, based on how many hours over how many years were spent learning which subject and [probably] what the headteacher eats for breakfast. At least I think that’s what they do. What sort of school you went to, and in which county, determines what people think of the number produced at the end of all the calculations. Whatever. I don’t have one. So I have to explain what my string of letters mean to the official people who are expecting a solitary number.

Oh yeah, and I spent a year ‘dossing’ between sixth form and starting my apprenticeship. At least on paper I dossed. In reality, chasing after small children didn’t feel much like dossing.

I haven’t figured out how to fit all that on one side of A4, so that it’s still readable, and fits the requirements of being in reverse chronological order. Yet.

I would be quite happy to spend the next few weeks working on it (like playing Tetris), but it should already be lying on the nice lady’s desk. And it’s worth something like 1500€. *sighs* With a price tag like that it ought to be at the top of my priority list. Which it was for about 3 minutes, and then life happened. Which is why I was still up at 12:30 last night. At one point it looked quite hopeful that I was going to have something to show for my lack of sleep, until my printer decided it was going to have a headache and print one stripy line a minute. ARGH.

I gave up, washed my hair and went to bed. I did admittedly sleep remarkably well, until the lorry reversed into my room anyway.

I left the house at least 6 minutes too late, realised it was raining, rushed back upstairs for my umbrella, rushed back down my stairs and then up the next flight of steps to the street (oh the joys of living on a hill ;)). I arrived, with wet feet and my jeans a couple of shades darker than usual, 1 (or 3) minutes late, depending on which clock you go by. This remarkably didn’t translate into decibels, but rather into a scowl which, while not being particularly upcheering, was at least gentler on the ears.


The connection to the title? Pff.. Isn’t that obvious? I didn’t eat much yesterday, and didn’t leave myself time for breakfast. Running while hungry is silly, and much harder than it ought to be. The rain didn’t help, but I can usually make the journey in about 9 minutes if I run compared to 17 if I walk, today I needed 14 despite attempting to run between alternate lampposts.

Okay, so maybe that’s a bit of an overkill, but I need something to blame 🙂