Selasa, 10 November 2015

On efficiency, an ode to patience

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I cannot stand having my time wasted. Even back in my college days, my four-year roommate and best college friend, Megs, and I would share tortured looks and a mutual disdain for any situation that could be retrospectively described as a waste of time. Once I started teaching I would sit through faculty meetings or professional development workshops and think, I could have graded 50 essays in the timeit took us to discuss the size of pursesthat students should be allowed to carry in the halls. I would doodle in the corners of common core handouts and jot down ideas for lesson plans or my grocery list for the week's Whole Foods run. I would do almost anything to avoid feeling like any amount of time in my day had been wasted.

Which is why (among many other reasons) the progression of this disease has been such a giant f--k you. This disease is the most astronomical waste of time to myself and to everyone around me that I could ever even fathom. I would like to, for the point of helping others understand, chronicle a day in the life of Kate Hooks.

Last Sunday, I woke up shortly after 7 o'clock. I tried to relax and fall back to sleep but my efforts were fruitless so I was up and on the toilet by 730. An hour later Kelly had me dressed and in my chair, and we had plenty of time to head up to my parent's house to walk my crazy dog before my caregiver arrived at 11. It takes about 20 minutes to get from Kelly's house to my parents', and by the time Kelly went in to grab my dog, chatted with my mom and put Izzy's leash on, it was already almost 10:30. We went for a short walk around the neighborhood and by 11 o'clock Kelly left for a run. While she ran, I showered, ate breakfast, got dressed and brushed my teeth. She was back from her run by 12:30 but by the time we actually left my house it was close to one. Think about this for a second, we had both been awake since 7 o'clock and six hours later I had showered and gotten changed and she had gone for a run. If she had run a marathon and I were a Kardashian, then maybe, maybe I could understand how going for a run and taking a shower/getting dressed might necessitate six hours. As it stands however, it is just a tragic waste of time.

The two of us lamented the facts of the situation as we drove another 20 minutes back to her house. If we lived together in an accessible house, a caregiver could have had me up, showered and dressed by 9:30. A caregiver could help me walk my dog around Kelly's neighborhood and could even take me to run errands. While I accomplished these tasks, Kelly would be free to run, rake the leaves, mow the lawn and hopefully have some time to relax before the end of the day. As it was, however, we pulled in to Kelly's driveway at 1:30, only to discover shortly thereafter, that my belly button had leaked urine all over my sweater, my long sleeve shirt, my underwear and my favorite pair of jeans. This was strategically discovered only seconds after Kelly and I begrudged the absolute inefficiency of our weekends together. Without so much as a warning, the familiar scent of urine penetrated my nostrils before I was even out of the van. When I articulated that I smelled urine, Kelly hopefully replied, "maybe it is something on Truman?" I knew full well there was nothing on her dog that could possibly mimic the scent of me peeing my pants. By the time we were in Kelly's living room, I was soaking wet.  Nothing makes me want to throw myself on the floor in a fit of rage more than a leaking bellybutton.  (Especially less than an hour after a shower.) There is the obvious fact that I do not enjoy sitting in my own urine, but beyond that, the implications are maddening.

Since throwing myself on the floor in a fit of rage was not a viable option, Kelly and I elected to deal with the problem head on. Kelly was somehow able to summon otherworldly patience and methodically address the issue. She helped me into a shaky, tone-induced stand, stripped off my saturated pants etc., sat me back down onto a towel, cleaned me off with Charmin wipes, put me in a pair of her (too short) scrubs and a T-shirt and traipsed to her basement to do a load of my urine soaked laundry while I sat in her living room and started this blog. When situations like this interfere with our ability to just enjoy each other's company, my mind becomes a veritable maze of negativity. Much of the negativity is directed towards my body, but there is an underlying current of inadequacy and insecurity woven throughout that quite literally contaminates my entire thought process.

Inexplicably, both Kelly and I were able to move beyond our frustrating morning-turned-afternoon. Once the laundry was finished, Kelly changed my clothes once again, and we were able to enjoy dinner with a friend before traipsing back to my parent's house on Sunday evening. A few days later, however, as I finish this blog while she works another 13-hour day, I am left with an immense sense of defeat. No matter how much I think about the complicating factors in our relationship, I cannot manage to come up with any solutions. Until we are able to live together I fear our relationship will always feel truncated; artificially shortened by circumstances that necessitate our continuous segregation. Kelly and I decided that we need some sort of plan in place by January 1, a plan that will minimize the back-and-forth nature of our relationship and will enable us to see one another more than twice a week. I yearn for such a plan: I yearn for a way to afford caregivers for all of the hours in Kelly's crazy workweek, plus the evenings and weekends, and I yearn for a way to make her house more Kate-friendly. Despite this yearning, however, I am still finishing this blog at my parent's house, while looking forward to another weekend with Kelly that will inevitably be interspersed with periodic bouts of inefficiency that remain completely beyond my control.

Minggu, 01 November 2015

On making plans…

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 On making plans

There were times in my life I described myself as impulsive. Those times are over. I suppose in the grand scheme of things that I have lost over the last 18 years, losing my impulsivity wasn't too traumatizing, but when I really think about the impact of this loss, on both myself and on the people around me, it becomes just one more thing in a series of things that makes me want to stick my head in a blender (I used to say that all the time when I was teaching: "I'm sorry I cannot focus on your question kiddo, there is so much background noise right now it feels as if my head is in a blender" or, if the class was particularly annoying I might say, "guys, if you cannot follow directions I am going to stick my head in a blender"). But yes, at times the loss of my ability to be spur of the moment does indeed make me want to stick my head in a blender.

Some cases in point: the weekends. The weekends are my time to spend with Kelly. Depending on her work schedule, we spend about 2 1/2 days together a week. However, also depending on her work schedule, she has three days to get her own stuff done. (Someone recently referred to this notion of "getting stuff done" as adulting, doing things that no one particularly wants to do but that all adults need to do – laundry, dishes, yard work, errands, etc.) in a normal relationship, partners can adult whenever they want: perhaps together, perhaps while the other partner is sleeping or otherwise engaged, or maybe they do their adulting simultaneously and separately. Regardless, when Kelly does her weekly adulting, which, because of her schedule, needs to happen over the weekends, what does she do with me? Does she do it while I am getting ready on Friday morning? Does she adult with me and have to worry about locking down my chair in between errands? Does she leave me attached to my computer in the comfortable chair in the corner of her living room while she adults? All of those scenarios have happened and they all have worked out perfectly well, but they all – every one of those scenarios – require planning.

Ages ago, before Izzy became an aggressive dog, I took her to the Baltimore dog park on afternoons after school. There, as she ran around getting her energy out, I would chat with other dog park regulars. One afternoon I was griping about having to go to the grocery store after the gym, and one of my dog-owning friends remarked, "that sucks, so you have to get your wheelchair out and put it together just go in for eggs and milk?" I replied in the affirmative and was amused by her response, "man, that's got to be even worse than carting a toddler around!" Although that scenario is no longer relevant because I can neither drive myself to the grocery store nor assemble (or use) a manual wheelchair, drawing an analogy between my disease and an unruly toddler seems somewhat apropos. I am a hindrance to adult with, and a responsibility to adult without. Just as you cannot leave the toddler at home unattended, I am a potential hazard when left alone. I can assure you I will not "get into" anything or stick my hand in the wood stove, but my proclivity to find myself in a pickle is almost without limit. At the very least, I need reliable access to my cell phone before conducting myself independently for more than 15 minutes.

Understandably having an in-depth plan for the weekend's adulting, let alone a minute-by-minute schedule for Friday through Sunday, is not always at the forefront of Kelly's mind at the conclusion of a 50-hour workweek. And I do not feel like badgering my already badgered girlfriend, but unfortunately, even without adulting, my life requires a lot of advanced planning: how long should my caregiver stay on Friday afternoons? Will I need my mom's help at any point or can she make plans? Do I need my college students to work over the weekend? Should we have a college girl come to Kelly's house on Friday or Saturday to help me with my nightly duties? If so, what time will we be home from whatever it is we decide to do? What about my dog? Will we have time to take her for a walk or play ball with her? What time should I be home on Sunday?

And don't even get me started on the holidays when my college girls are out-of-town for six weeks. Over the holidays I need to call in reserve caregivers so I need to know what days I will be at Kelly's and what days I will be at home needing someone to get me out of bed. This is a reality I could do without, but it exists nonetheless. As a consequence, I am micro-managerial to the extreme; a characteristic that I am well aware is excessively annoying. When one creates a dating profile for an online dating site, one will never list "micro-managerial" or "controlling" under the adjectives that describe me section.

So while it does not rank high on the list of things I miss that this disease has taken from me, impulsivity is a highly underrated characteristic. With the holidays looming, my need to plan intensifies and my frustration nears its boiling point, so if I ask you what your plans are for New Year's and it is not yet November, feel free to roll your eyes but, for the love of God, just answer the question.

Selasa, 27 Oktober 2015

A brief addendum

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Since we were already on the topic of relationships…

Kelly and I had a very enlightening conversation last Friday as we drove around Keuka Lake taking pictures of beautiful fall foliage. I told her my perspective of how outsiders view our relationship: that I am pitied and Kelly is viewed as a hero, as someone who is doing a great service, as the white knight who selflessly has taken on a project such as myself. Kelly's view is the exact opposite: that I am perceived as the hero of the relationship, as someone "inspiring" who bravely pushes through boundaries in my motorized wheelchair. She says she feels invisible and that, at best, people think nothing of her at all. Something tells me that both of our individual perspectives are wrong and that the truth lies somewhere in between.

So let me just clear something up: Kelly is my hero. Not because she is my personal savior or because she puts up with my constant needs, rather because she is selfless, hard-working, compassionate to a fault, incisively smart and intensely resilient. Our relationship is not easy for all of the obvious reasons, but also because it is unchartered territory for both of us. More than anything right now, I think Kelly and I both could benefit from couples who can relate to our particular situation. I am hopeful that someone who reads this might be able to point me in the right direction. 

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