My Winter of Rest and Relaxation

As the end of 2018 approached, I was craving rest.  November and December had been crazy busy and I was really looking forward to some time off.  But before I could rest, I had a last minute work project to finish, a trip upstate to celebrate Christmas , and a sleepover planned with my nieces.  As all of that approached, I started to feel like I was getting sick, but pushed through it. I got the work done. I got the pre-holiday errands done. I got the packing done. I got the cleaning done. I thought I was maybe fighting off the sickness, but as I got on the train to go upstate, the worst sinus infection of my life set in.

After spending Christmas on my brother’s couch feeling like I got hit by a truck, I managed to get myself on a train back to the city and cleared my calendar for the rest of the week.  I didn’t have the energy to read but I did muster up the energy for an Audio book. Audible had recommended a book called My Year of Rest and Relaxation by Ottessa Moshfegh, because I was a Pisces. It sounded very relaxing and exactly what I needed.

Not too far in, it became clear that this was not a book about rest and relaxation. This was a book about a young woman who wants to sedate herself, so she doesn’t have to live life or feel anything. She has decided that if she sedates herself for a year, she will be “re-set” and can then go on with her life and leave all of the stuff she didn’t want to deal with behind. But it’s a also a comedy. This book was seven hours of a lot of this….

”I took a Valium, two Benadryl’s, when to the Egyptians and got two coffees and a Klondike bar, watched Jumping Jack Flash and The Fugitive and drifted off to sleep.”

I listened to the whole thing.  (Spoiler alert, I am going to give you the play by play.)

Interspersed with reports of the medications she was taking, and the movies she was watching (starring her heroes Whoopie Goldberg and Harrison Ford), we did learn about the life of this no-named woman. She was beautiful, and she believed that no one really wanted to be her TRUE friend because she was so beautiful. She did have one friend she did not really like, who insisted on coming over and complaining about her life while the un-named woman made it very clear she did not want her there.  The main character’s parents gave her almost nothing emotionally and they both died while she was in college.  She was obsessed with an older man who was a complete ass.  She had an insane psychiatrist who kept forgetting her parents were dead and had no idea the woman was lying about having insomnia to get more meds.  Did I mention this was a comedy?  I had read a review that said the ending was worth reading the whole book.  So, I kept listening.

Every month or so, the un-named woman would go to her insane doctor to get more prescriptions.  At about 6 months in, they tried a new drug called Infermiterol (not a real drug) that would make her sleep for three days straight (score!), but she learned that during those three days, her subconscious would do crazy things, like go out partying, buy things online, order Chinese food, drunk-dial the older man, and get bikini waxes.  She wanted to stop doing these things, because they were counter to her goal to do NOTHING, so she tried to avoid this new drug. But after the Infermiterol no other sleep drug would work!  She was screwed!  It was painful to listen to her take more drugs and watch MORE Whoopie Goldberg and Harrison Ford movies and still not be able to sleep!!! But I kept listening.

She finally came up with a plan to have this creepy artist dude lock her in her apartment and make sure her basic needs were met (i.e. food) so she could take 40 of these pills in a row to finish out her “year of rest and relaxation” and NOT leave her apartment and not DO anything or FEEL anything.  In exchange for helping her with this, the creepy artist dude, got to make creepy art of her while she was “sleeping”.  (There is a whole undercurrent about the ridiculousness of the art world in this book that was sort of over my head because I am not in the art world.) Did I mention the no-named woman is independently wealthy because her parents were rich and left her all of their money? This was why she could sleep all day, not work, and still pay for drugs…in case you were wondering.

I kept listening to the book, because now I really had to see how it ended. And we were almost there.  Just three more months of sleep to go.  And luckily, they went quickly because she slept through most of it.

Here is how it ends. (Reminder…spoiler alert!) When she wakes up from her three months of slumber (somehow surviving on diet Sprite and some occasional light snacks and vitamins) she is emotionally healed!  AND she has NO drug withdrawal.  She does have to regain her strength with an egg salad sandwich so she can walk, but she does it.  She is now a person who can tolerate living in the world. And she is still, miraculously, beautiful.  She literally erased all of her angst by sleeping for a year, and then just woke up.  The book ends on 9/11 and she loses her one friend (who she didn’t really like) in the attack on the World Trade Center.  She records the footage of a woman jumping out of one of the towers and watches it over and over because she is sure this woman is her friend. And she thinks her friend is finally feeling alive in that moment. That is how it ends.

My first thought was… “That was a waste of seven hours of my life.”

I know there was all sorts of poignant commentary on our society in this book that I was supposed to pick up on. (I read about it in the literary reviews.) I didn’t pick up on any of that stuff. But it definitely, left an impression on me.  This was a CRAZY book and I could not stop thinking about it.  

I was thinking about how much I really needed to REST and how much I wanted to shut everything and everyone out and do absolutely nothing for a very long time. In those days, feeling sick and tired, I could totally relate to wanting to sleep and just ignore everything else.  And that freaked me out. 

I felt sad for this imaginary woman, of course. (I AM an empathetic Pisces sun/Cancer rising.) She had no tools to deal with her parent’s death. She had beauty, money, intelligence, a job in a cool art gallery (that she eventually lost because she kept taking naps there), but she was deeply unhappy. She didn’t want to face that, and she didn’t know how to fix it.  She did all the WRONG things to make it better. But then it WAS better.  And that freaked me out.  Life doesn’t work that way!!!

What was this book saying to me?  Why was it hitting me so hard?  I honestly wasn’t sure.  I continued to hibernate for the rest of the week and recover from the sinus infection.  I started this post about the book but had no conclusion, so I filed it away, incomplete.  I re-entered the world and went on with my life.  Things got crazy busy again.  I started flying around the country, working long hours, and squeezing in “creativity” on the side.

Then my body revolted on me again with another sinus infection. Whatever the message at Christmas, I didn’t get it.  My body loves to send me messages and if I don’t listen, it yells REALLY LOUD and the timing usually sucks.

This time it was my 50th birthday and my sister and my college friends were coming to town to celebrate with me. I managed to rally through the weekend with a lot of Sudafed, Advil, Augmentin, and Prednisone, but then I had to go back in to semi-hibernation to rest.  I felt a lot like the no-named beautiful, sad woman…with slightly fewer drugs and better entertainment.

The book and the unfinished blog post were haunting me (and not just because I am an ISTJ and hate having things incomplete.)  I think this book represents my own ongoing conflict between wanting to just “sleep” and hide out and wanting to be awake and alive – which is often scary and a lot harder.  And how much rest do I need? Am I resting enough?  I am not good at resting.  I am a type A person who always has a list of things to do, but maybe I need to just chill out more often. Does every weekend have to start with a to do list? Do I need to watch more movies and eat more Klondike bars?

I have been getting sick a lot the past few years, so I know something is out of alignment – physically, emotionally, spiritually.  To get back in alignment, I know I have to be IN the world more and go more deeply in to what I need to work on. But when I am sick, ALL I want to do is rest and hide out.  See the conundrum?

I have been debating all of this, thinking about my next move, and pondering how to end this blog post.

Then, last night, I had a dream about egg salad sandwiches. I think that was my sign that it’s time to wake up and come out the winter hibernation.  I have to figure out what my body needs to get healthy (and stay healthy) and find the right balance of resting and being in the world. What is out of alignment is probably some crazy shit that’s been building for 50 years (or maybe 50 lifetimes!) so this is not going to be easy, but I am going to figure it out. I might take a few naps along the way, and I will need to be patient, but I will get to the bottom of it. 

I did put my spiritual journey on the back burner a bit during this crazy time but its still simmering on the stove. All of this resting and being sick, ties in to the astrology stuff I have been studying but I will save that for another time.  If you are interested in my spiritual journey, you are in luck because I will be jumping back in hard core this spring.  Lots of good stuff coming up! I will be going deep. (Soul deep you might say.)

I learned this week, that between the full moon and the new moon, you should close things out, let things go, and make room for new stuff. I am letting go of this book.  I am letting go of this sinus infection. I am wrapping up this blog post and putting it out in to the world.

Bring on Spring and lots of new stuff!!!

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Vampire Brain

Here is what has been going through my head since I got back from Christmas with the fam and started my last 6 days of “vacation”:

“I have to finish all of that work I didn’t get to before Christmas…no, I have to rest and rebuild my energy for the crazy 2013 ahead…no, I can’t relax with all of this work hanging over my head…..I have to get back on OK Cupid and find love…is it really worth my time to come up with witty banter to write to men who don’t reply?….I really wanted to read The 4-Hour Work Week on my vacation to figure out how to “work smarter” …I can’t read The 4-Hour Work Week until I get some work done..I really wish I hadn’t downloaded Bubble Bust to my IPad at by brother’s house….I really want to see Lincoln, Les Miserables, Silver Linings Playbook, Zero Dark Thirty, Django Unchained, and the Hobbit, but I like to go to the movies in the morning when it is not crowded and that is when I do my best thinking…I should get up really early, do some work, then go to the movies…no, I should sleep in, this is vacation!…I should blog more..but there is not enough time I can’t get focused to write anything interesting….”

Welcome to my brain….

This brain banter reminds of the vampire book I am reading called The Twelve (second in a trilogy that started with The Passage.) The government experiments with a virus to try to create super-soldiers and ends up creating twelve vampires from the criminals they were testing on. These are not the sexy, fashion forward vampires from True Blood or The Vampire Diaries. These are creepy monsters that kill most of the humans on the planet. They also create new vampires. The vampires created by the original twelve become part of a “tribe” that has no knowledge of who they are and have one thought, the vision of the murder or rape committed by their maker, that plays over and over in their head.

It’s kind of weird that my brain banter reminds me of these mindless, creepy vampires, right? I can’t explain it, except that the brain banter is annoying. Luckily, not as annoying as having a rape or murder repeating over and over in your mind. One of the many things I have to be grateful for.

I have clearly found some time for reading. (It is vacation!) The Twelve is long and hard to follow, especially on a Kindle where you can’t easily flip back to remind yourself of who is who and where you are in time (it jumps back and forth in time). You also have to remember what happened in The Passage which I mostly don’t because I read it three years ago, but I think I finally have it figured out and it is getting really good. I recommend it.

I have also made time for running, yoga, and meditation to maintain some balance and calm. It helps.

The (seemingly) cute, cool OK Cupid guy who said he wanted to chat, never called. I am not surprised. I have sent a couple more emails that have not been responded to. Good times. I carry on. (I have not emailed my rejectors for feedback. I am fairly certain I will not get a reply and decided I might just come off as creepy. I think I will just play it cool, like its no big deal. Which it isn’t.)

I am caught up on e-mails, the bills are paid, my excess cash is invested, my retirement funds are re-allocated, I reached level 11 of Bubble Bust, I watched The Gray (because James Badge Dale is in it and you know I love him. Spoiler alert: he dies in the first 30 minutes. The movie is not worth it.) and I still have a nice long to do list. I did manage to get out a blog post and I think I can officially say that I am more productive than a creepy vampire!

Early Summer Round Up

Clearly, I am having a hard time keeping up with the blog. I just haven’t been super inspired to write lately. I thought I would pop in today to update you all on what I have been doing, entertainment wise, since the end of Entertainment Christmas.

I know you’ve been dying to know what I decided on entertainment dilemma #2 – should I watch this season of The Bachelorette? Things were getting a little sparse on my Tivo, so I caved. Emily seemed pretty boring, at first. She is beautiful, in that fake barbie doll way, but she didn’t seem to have much personality. I stuck with it and it got better.  Emily started showing some chutzpah! She is not afraid to let guys go or tell them off, but still displays the on camera tears to give us the impression that she has some heart. I am once again sucked in to the unrealistic romantic adventures of a fabulously dressed woman who has hot men professing their love for her after three dates as she gallivants around the world making out with all of them. Good times and so not like anyone’s real life.

On the flip side, I watched Downton Abbey Season 2 in one week. Loved it.  Also so unlike anyone’s real life. Now that I think of it, not the flip side at all. How DO I manage to keep up my 600 square foot apartment without a full staff? I struggle through zipping up my own dresses, pouring my own wine, and getting myself around town without a driver. I do dress for dinner, although usually in my PJs. The lesson here is that crazy drama can happen anywhere. Even in a house full of people who’s only purpose seems to be to keep up their own house and look good. (Kind of like the Real Housewives!)  Can’t wait to see what next season holds for the Crawley/Grantham’s (isn’t that confusing? why do they have two names?) Apparently Shirley McClaine will go head to head with Maggie Smith. Bring it on!

What else? Falling Skies is back. It’s getting better.  The aliens abducted Noah Wiley for three months and now he is back but we don’t know how he was impacted.  That’s a Sci Fi mystery. His son seems to be some kind of alien sleeper with super human strength. Hmm.. The group is now headed to Charleston where they hear there is hot water and government. Woo hoo!

I am drudging my way through book two of Fifty Shades of Gray. It’s OK, not great. I am curious to see what happens, with “Fifty” and Anastasia, I guess.  I mostly want to finish up book two so I can read Gone Girl, which I have heard is gripping. Andersen Cooper just finished it.  He loved it.  Then maybe I will come back to book three. Or maybe not.

I watched three flicks that I really liked in the past month: Extremely Loud Incredibly Close (which had me sobbing), War Horse (also a bit sentimental and I liked it more than I thought I would), and The Artist (great movie). I also watched about 75% of Rise of the Planet of the Apes which I hated so much I couldn’t finish it.

On the 4th of July I was entertained by ten adorable children doing a birthday rap followed by a mini dance party for one of my BFFs.  That might have been my favorite entertainment since Game of Thrones. Watching a four year old unexpectedly break out the robot, is pretty hard to top.

Entertainment Dilemmas

I have been wrestling with a few entertainment dilemmas.

You may recall that a few weeks ago, I turned off the TV every night at 9pm and finished a book. The book dilemma was what to read next. The plan was to read the super popular erotic novel, Fifty Shades of Grey. I started it, but it was SO horrible that I could barely stand to skim the first few chapters. I was not super excited to read a book that starts with a man taking a college student’s virginity and then begging her to be in an S&M relationship with him (as his submissive, of course). And to top it all off, I did not find it that erotic. I have read my fair share of erotic literature, but this just did not do it for me. I was really scratching my head to figure out why the three books in this series are at the top of the bestseller lists.

Then I read Marlo Thomas’s take on the book. (I follower her on twitter. She is one of my childhood feminist idols.) She said she got it. Apparently, later in the book, Anastasia stands up for herself and there might be more to it than the first few chapters. I decided that if Marlo liked it and was continuing on to book 2, I should continue on as well.  It did get better.  I am sticking with it. Dilemma #1 solved.

The second dilemma is whether or not to watch this season of The Bachelorette. I usually really enjoy this ridiculous show, but I am not sure I can take another season of scripted fake romance. I left American Idol behind and have not regretted it for a moment, don’t miss it at all. I have a couple of episodes of the Bachelorette on my TiVo, but I think I might be able to resist it. Now the Bachelor Padlater this summer, will be harder to resist.  That show is crazy drama.

That brings us to dilemma #3. After my “turn off the TV at 9pm” week, I removed a bunch of stuff from my TiVo Season Pass list.  I have had a busy few weeks so I have not had time for to much TV and Mad Men, Game of Thrones, The Killing, and Scandal (LOVE it) have kept me pretty satisfied, but one show’s commercials have been tempting me. Revenge. Apparently there was this shocking season finale that I missed and I am kind of dying to know what happened! How have these crazy rich people turned on each other this time to cause misery and drama in the Hamptons? It’s been eating away at me.

Then, yesterday, I got an email offering me two free weeks of Hulu Plus!! I can stream Hulu Plus through my TiVo so I don’t have to watch on my laptop at my desk (yuck) and I can go back and watch episodes of pretty much anything. Clearly the universe is sending me a sign that I need to find out what happened on Revenge. As an extra bonus, I can watch Downton Abbey and maybe finish up Battlestar Gallactica that I still have three more seasons left of.

It is a quiet holiday weekend in NYC so, except for a pile of work I need to get done, I have time for some entertainment. Hulu Plus, here I come! Dilemma #3 solved.

I Finished A Book!

At the beginning of the year, I said I wouldn’t write about what I was going to do. I said I would just do it and then write about it. Well, I broke that rule this week when I announced my plan to turn of the TV every night at 9pm and read until I went to sleep.  I have to say, it was kind of fun to say I was going to do something and then DO it. (It’s like checking things off a to do list, and we all know how much fun THAT is.)

This week, in the 9 -10:30pm hour, I finished The Paris Wife, an historical novel about Earnest Hemingway’s first marriage. I realized how good it was at the end, when the marriage ended. (I am not giving anything away, you can read the whole story on Wikipedia.) She explained the pain so well, that all of my previous bad breakups came flooding back and I remembered that panicked feeling that comes after the initial relief when a bad relationship is over. If a book makes me feel something, it gets a thumbs up.

I also felt a HUGE sense of accomplishment for finishing the book and sticking to my plan!  It felt good to watch less TV. I could only watch one show every night so it took me through Thursday to watch all of my Sunday night shows. Crazy.

Who knows what next week will hold, but this week, I finished a book!

The Soul of Leadership Was Not For Me

I just finished my first non-fiction book of the year.  I am not a huge non-fiction reader.  I like stories.  It can be a true story.  I prefer a good true story to fiction, actually.  But if it isn’t in the form of a story, I would like it summed up in nothing longer than a magazine article.  Maybe this comes from years of being told to roll things up to communicate to executives.   I have set a goal of reading at least 5 more non fiction books this year, so maybe I will find one that keeps my attention longer than an awesome episode of Glee or Breaking Bad.

I did force myself to finish Deepak Chopra’s The Soul of Leadership: Unlocking Your Potential for Greatness so I could get to my next book.  Why did I decide to read this?  Around New Year’s, I saw Deepak on CNN saying something very profound while I was running on the treadmill.  By the time I got home from the gym, I couldn’t remember what it was.  I searched the internet to see if I could find the clip on CNN.com or You Tube but no luck.  I thought if I read his new book, it might be in there.  I was also thinking a lot about unlocking MY potential for greatness, and it seemed like something that would help me get psyched up for my new leadership role at work (which has still not started yet..LONG transition period.)  I don’t think I found it in there because I still can’t remember what it was.

I think part of the problem might have been the Kindle.  On the Kindle, it is hard to flip back to refer to things.  When I am reading a story, I can visualize it in my head and I don’t need to go back and refer to anything.  With this book, the ideas kept leaving my mind and it was not easy to quickly browse back to re-orient myself.  Maybe it was the Kindle, or maybe I just was not that in to the ideas in this book.

Deepak talks about his leadership concepts using this acronym (see how it spells Leaders!)

  • L (Look and Listen)
  • E (Emotional Bonding)
  • A (Awareness)
  • D (Doing)
  • E (Empowerment)
  • R (Responsibility)
  • S (Synchronicity)

I always have a hard time getting through this “self help” stuff because it just sounds like common sense to me when I read it.  (Be a good person, listen to people and understand what they need, have self awareness, mediate a lot, etc…)  There are some pearls of wisdom here and there, but those could really be summed up in a magazine article.  I am sure some people find this book inspiring.  That what keeps this man in business, right?  Maybe my head was just not in the right place.

I think the people who read this book, will already embody a lot of these leadership qualities.  This book might remind them of things they already know or inspire them to be more conscious of them (until they get busy again) but my guess is that the people who really need to learn how do the things in this book (because they are horrible leaders) won’t read it, or can’t learn them from reading a book.   Just my opinion.

Next up, The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet’s Nest. The last in Stieg Larsson’s Millennium Trilogy.

Little Bee and The King’s Speech

I read an entire book this week.  It was a small book, only 288 pages, but I feel a sense of accomplishment.  I am retaining my (failed) goal from last year to read at least one book/month in 2011 and so far so good!

The book was Little Bee by Chris Cleve.  It came highly recommended by several women I traveled to Sicily with, so I was sadly disappointed when I did not completely love it.  Let me re-state. I LOVED the first 75% of it, but the last 25% was bad.  The dialogue went down hill, the characters started doing silly things, and the end was….a huge let down.

The book is about a 16 year old Nigerian girl and a well-to-do British couple who’s lives become intertwined due to a tragic event that alters all of their lives forever (of course).  The book alternates from being from told from the point of view of the 16 year old girl, Little Bee, and the wife of the British couple.

The perspective of Little Bee is well written (in a poetic voice that takes a few pages to get used to but  grows on you) and I loved the way he illustrated Little Bee’s perspective of England as a girl who grew up in a primitive Nigerian village but spent two years learning “the Queens English” in an immigration detention center.  There was great suspense and plot twists right up until 3/4 of the way through and then it just got weird.   One character entered the story that was completely unbelievable and the story just fell apart when lots of tings that made no sense started happening.  I can’t say more without giving it away, although I can’t imagine you would read it after my glowing review.

I also went to see The King’s Speech.  This is a movie I can recommend highly with no reservation.  Loved it.   True story (so I got a nice history lesson) about King George IV who was originally Prince Albert but took the name George when he became King (Albert was, apparently, not considered a cool King’s name.)   Prince Albert had a stammer (which I just learned from Wikipedia is a synonym for stuttering although Albert had more of a hesitation than what you would more commonly think of as a stutter) and he worked to overcome it with a speech therapist from Australia.  The movie is about the process of him overcoming this speech impediment and the friendship he develops with his speech therapist.  It is heartwarming and funny and deep and just a great flick.  Colin Firth is awesome, as always.  I also saw him recently in A Single Man, which I also really liked and he was also fabulous in that.  And he was of course in one of my favorite movies of all time, Love Actually.  I think he should be the King of England.  He rocks.