This title is a metaphor. My romantic life is just fine. Jim and I celebrated our eleventh anniversary and marveled at how we can still stand each other. But! Today I gave a talk in St. Johnsbury. It was excellent, if I do say so myself. You can judge it for yourself and read it here.
If you’ve been following my ups and downs you’ll know that I’ve been pulling back from public speaking a little bit, mainly to just get my house in order (real, metaphorical) and also because I’d been enjoying speaking less. And you know that thing where you’re not enjoying the things you used to do? That was me for a while. I mean I still enjoyed sleeping and reading and eating and watching birds, but my work stuff was seeming more like a chore. So I decided to see if I could retool, say yes only to things I really wanted to say yes to (I am lucky to be able to do this), twiddle a few more knobs, and see if that helped. And boy did it. I did a webinar for the state of Wisconsin a few weeks back that went great (see it yourself here – link goes direct to video). And this talk today was great, start to finish. Fun to get to, fun to be at, fun to hang out and talk to people afterwards, fun to go home. I’m aware that all of life can’t be fun all the time, but I do aim to be able to enjoy it more than I don’t. And it’s springtime and that doesn’t hurt. And so I’m finding myself sort of falling back in love with public speaking, slowly, cautiously, and I’m happy for it. A few other pieces of today that were just dandy:
– Driving through the Northeast Kingdom on my way up and seeing that there was still a little bit of snow on the ground and thin sheets of ice on the water in places
– Possibly the best piece of coconut cream pie I’ve ever had at the Miss Lyndonville Diner, highlighted by an older lady walking by me and saying “Good pie right? I really like pie too. Enjoy that pie kiddo!” (I assume she was serious and not watching me hoover it and thinking “Whoa Nellie, I better distract this woman.”
– Stopped by a library on the way back I hadn’t been to and the librarian asked me “Are you Jessamyn?” and we had a nice talk about libraries.
– That library had a collection of taxidermied birds, so we talked about taxidermy. Turns out a local kid is learning the trade so he cleaned all the birds and they look spiffy.
– People nodded understandingly during my talk when I talked about my love for creepy basements and attics.
– My GPS trying to kill me on the way back by sending me up some very muddy mountains and having the foresight to think “You are alone on a mountain, with no cell service and you know there is a perfectly good road back which may be a mile or two longer… please turn around”
– Stopping by a pond on my way back just to watch the ice move around and try to see a loon (no luck)
– Driving by my old house on the way back and not actually recognizing it–they took down the barn which I knew but I hadn’t seen it–and having that be totally OK. I wasn’t sure it would be.
– Getting home after seven and having there still be light in the sky.
I knew I’d jinx myself with that last post being like “I’m sleeping just SWELL!” but I’m still sleeping mostly okay, maybe a little less than usual, but getting out of bed a bit more excited to greet the day and a little less dreading it. I’ve got a lot of weird little things coming up, meetings, travel, more meetings, and I’m glad I’m feeling not just alive for it, but actually up for it.
For no reason I can figure out, I’ve been sleeping well. Hooray!
This is a big deal because since the Summer and the beginning of my pesky shingles-and-doctors saga, I’d been sleeping unreliably and was never sure I had enough medicine to make sleeping work. Historically I didn’t need much medicine for sleeping, but I needed to know I had some. For work especially, if I needed to wake up early after a day of traveling, I needed to know I would sleep (on a night that might be hard to) so that I could assure people it would be worth it to pay me a decent amount of money to give talks or do my thing. And so when my doctor said “No.” to me getting those medicines refilled, it was a problem for home-me but also work-me. I had a lot of nights trying to white-knuckle it to sleep in case I needed the medicine I did have for later.
At some point, roughly in line with when I found a doctor who was a little more “Hey, you know your body, why don’t we do what works for you?” I just started being tired at night, most nights, and falling asleep within a half hour. Only downside is that I’m into younger-me patterns where I go to bed around 1-2 and wake up around 9:30-10:30. A fine schedule, but difficult if you need to go to a morning meeting. I don’t have many of those, but I have some. Today I worked at the library at noon so I set my alarm for 11 just in case. I woke up ten minutes before it.
I live a pretty routine-bound life and part of that routine is some offline time in the morning to drink coffee, watch birds, stretch out my muscles, and do some little “try to be a good person” meditations. This is much easier if my morning is lining up with other peoples’ mornings so that when I’m really starting my day, people aren’t ending theirs. In the next few months I’m getting more into my old routine, doing a few more mostly-local talks and even leaving New England in a month or so (briefly) for work. It’s nice to feel that maybe I am up for it.
[Note: In real life Hibernia is the Latin name for the island of Ireland and has nothing to actually do with hibernating. A hibernophile is someone who is fond of Ireland, not fond of sleeping.]
So the annual joke here is that my landlady doesn’t like to turn the furnace on (not the thermostat, the actual machine that makes the heat) before October 1st. As anyone who has been in New England this week knows, it’s been cold. It used to be a situation that brought me a fair amount of anxiety. My landlady wouldn’t want to turn the heat on. I’d ask her, she’d say no. I’d grow colder and grumpier. She’d stoke her wood stove. My apartment comes with heat included, this no-furnace business is technically illegal but I don’t know how to tell a scrappy 89 year old woman that she is breaking the law and I suspect she wouldn’t care anyhow. I have an electric mattress pad warmer and have been pretend-miserable but not actually miserable as a result of this. Plus everyone likes to brag about how long they can go without turning the furnace on and I am not at all hardcore in this regard compared to some neighbors.
Over the past few years, the routine has shifted a little. Two years ago she asked me “Are you freezing up there?” and I said I was okay maybe a little cold, I’d just put on a hat. The implication that I got was that she was maybe also a little cold but her Yankee morality wouldn’t let her relent and turn the furnace on just for her. The furnace went on when I had guests coming and I said it might be a little cold… for guests. Last year I did give her a running account of what the temperature was in my place and when it got down to 58 she decided that was too cold for me and the furnace kicked in. Today I woke up and it was about that temperature in here, but I put on a few layers and it was mostly fine. I stayed active, determined not to give in. I heard the furnace rumble and the baseboards start to make their little jingling sound this evening and opened my email to a note saying “Just turned on the furnace!!!!!!” I see this as some sort of victory.
I’ve been reading a lot about hibernating since I don’t think it’s just the mattress pad warmer that makes me want to take to my bed in this weather. I learned that fresh water turtles can stay underwater for months at a time. Months. Underwater. Their heart rate drops to once every ten minutes. It’s nuts. And true, not just internet-true, I read it in a book. Then there are the internet fables about human hibernation (some heresay, some sort of true, some about hypothermia, some about who knows what) that would benefit from a bit more research.
My favorite of all the stories is this short story, fully fictional, called The Sleep by Caitlin Horrocks (you can read it on Google books or feel free to find/purchase it elsewhere or maybe get it from your library) about an entire town and a hibernation experiment of sorts. Every time the days get shorter I re-read it. I think you should read it too. Happy resting.
So I’ve been in Westport for a few weeks now. The days sort of run together which is the good news/bad news. I know what day it is because of my work schedule but not always what week it is and June has me all confused because there are five weekends which seems mathematically impossible. ALA is happening in Chicago which I’m sure is going to be a terrifically good time, but I am missing it. I swear I will go to another ALA conference when there is one within driving distance of where I live.
And speaking of driving, it’s really terrific to not have a broken ankle this summer! I have a FOAF (friend of a friend) who needs a car driven from Vermont to St. Paul MN and I’m going to take a mini vacation (as opposed to a Mini vacation) and take a little road trip right after the 4th of July parade in Randolph.
In the meantime, I’m teaching myself how to prune with a pair of loppers, a stepladder and an unruly wisteria. So far so good, I think. And Jim and I managed to get two kayaks on the roof of my car and go kayaking in the Westport River which was a thing I thought might be impossible. I mainly thought this because I had to break down the whole enterprise into steps–and there were a lot of them–and then think about the myriad ways things could go wrong. Which brings me to sleeping.
I’ve always been a weird sleeper, I like a ton of blankets, absolute dark and absolute quiet. I’m happiest of the room is cool and not too muggy which is a thing you don’t really get to choose in the middle of summer when you live nearish to the ocean and your bedroom is over the garage and right under the roof. I like to sleep in a hat because it’s bright in the morning. So one of my many routines here is to close up the room in the morning and then open it up at night to get the cool air in. And then manipulate the air with a number of fans for optimal air exchange. I’m too much of a cheap hippie to get an AC unit. I can get the room about ten degrees cooler in a few hours which is usually okay.
Unlike my place in Vermont which has eight windows total, the place I sleep in Westport (the “cottage” the set of rooms around and above the garage) has twenty-two windows, two doors, five ceiling fans (with two directional settings and three speed settings), one exhaust fan, two free-standing fans (with two directional settings and three speed settings). Most of the windows have curtains, some have two sets. So trying to figure out what the optimal setup is for this situation requires manipulation of a lot of variables. And the weather changes. All of this is to say that once I’ve hopped all over the place opening and closing windows and curtains and switching fans on and off and making them blow backwards and forwards, I am usually pretty tired. Some people count sheep.