Sunday, March 29, 2020

Introverts Arise, Virus-Induced Science Hair, I Was Push-up Shamed

Well, here we are in Seattle, many of us locked in our domiciles for the foreseeable future. As someone in health care, I am considered an “essential worker” (it even says so on my badge!) so I don’t have the option of not going in to work. It’s such a wasted opportunity. As a life-long introvert, I could rock a good house-bounding. My whole life has been leading up to me being a proper-shut in, and now I can’t even take advantage of the legal mandate. I know that extroverts are genuinely struggling right now and I don’t mean to diminish their pain, but a small, mean, wounded part of myself is thinking, “Hmmph. Now you know how it feels to be the outlier, extroverts.” I’ve complained more than once on this blog about the constant pressure I’ve experienced to be more outgoing, to express myself, to speak up, to put myself “out there,” and other introvert horrors. Introverts have been dismissed and overlooked numerous times both in the workplace and socially, and I feel like this is our time to shine. We shall rise (quietly), our noses in books, silent heroes of the apocalypse, and the world will gasp in awe at our twin superpowers of Holing Up and Staying Put.

Since Mr. Typist’s barber is (sadly) out of business and Seattle is closed, he’s had to manage his own hair-cutting, to mixed results. He took clippers to his head recently at my...suggestion, and I have to say the sides and back don’t look bad at all. But the top looks like a cross between Thomas Dolby and that Greek guy on Ancient Aliens. It’s all high and wavy and disheveled and wild-looking. I don’t hate it because it makes me laugh, and he’s having a marvelous time finger-combing it to see just how high and mad-sciency he can get it. He’s always had his naturally unruly hair cut and styled with ruthless control, so maybe this virus is ushering in a new era of uncultivated man-locks for him. Anything could happen.

My home workout adventures continue. Since I can’t cope with the enormity of my feelings about what is happening in this world and what is to come for my hospital soon, I have instead become obsessed with why I can’t do a push-up. I was push-up shamed by YouTube fitness guru Jeff Cavalier on one of his recent home workout videos. He said in no uncertain terms that a push-up does not count if you don’t get your chest all the way to the floor. I was completely deflated by this. I’ve never once accomplished single push-up all the way from the floor. I’ve been weight training four to five days a week for almost a year now. I can (or at least I could) lift and even rep an unloaded 45-pound bar on the bench, but for some reason a single full push-up continues to elude me. I can get myself down, but I can only lift myself up about two inches at the most before I collapse. Mr. Typist thinks this is due to my above-average height making it harder because “fulcrums” or something, but I don’t know. I do those stupid chest presses all of the time and it hasn’t translated into being able to accomplish a simple and basic exercise. It’s very frustrating. By the way, do not Google “why can’t I do a push-up.” The internet is cruel, my friends. At any rate, if any of you fitness-y people might have some advice (that doesn’t involve calling me fat, old, or a hopeless weakling) I’d be happy to listen.

A quick update on the hospital: We are preparing. I am managing. I got two full days off this weekend with only few calls and e-mails to field, so I feel slightly less frazzled at the moment. The calm before the storm. There’s not much new to convey at the moment, but I will update you each week.

In honor of Mr. Typist’s hair, enjoy this 80’s throwback video. Always a classic.

--Kristen McHenry

Sunday, March 22, 2020

About the Same, Old New Escapism, Home Workout Jackpot

I wish I could say that I am in a much better place this week than I was last week but alas, that would be untrue. I am still dealing with all of the same stuff, along with working long hours in an environment in which people grow more and more on edge each day. I’m not sleeping very well despite being tired most of the time, and I’m still fighting off creeping depression. We have locked down our hospital and are screening every single person who comes through the two remaining open entrances. After getting home from work on Saturday, I was on my last nerve and I ranted to Mr. Typist that no one should be coming to the hospitals right now, we need the space and resources for sick people, not the worried well, what the hell are people thinking? “Well what if someone has testicular cancer?” he asked. “It can wait,” I snapped. “Testicular cancer is very slow-growing.” That is what working at a hospital during an outbreak is doing to my mind. I don’t know if I’m going to have a shred of sanity left by the end of this. (By the way, I don’t actually know if testicular cancer is slow-growing or not, so if you think you have it, you should probably go to the doctor. You have my permission.)

I have switched my gaming escapism from House Flipper to Stranded Deep, an old desert-island fave that I dust off every now and then. They updated it since I last played it and now you can play on “Creative Mode,” which means you don’t require hardly any food or water and you’re immune to sunburn and poison. This takes the stressy survival element out of it and frees one to basically just loaf around, look at the gorgeous scenery, and tread on jellyfish with impunity. I’m taking full advantage. It’s quite a beautiful game what with all of the ocean sounds and tropical fish and gentle rains that fall at random times. My only ambition at the moment is to build a little hut so I can sit in it and gaze out at the ocean while the world burns.

My cadre of YouTube fitness experts are super-serving their audiences lately. I’ve been heartened to find that almost all of them have cranked out home-workout videos in response to the quarantine. Athlean X (aka Jeff Cavaliar), always the over-achiever, put out no less than three in the last week alone. That man is determined. I haven’t watched his latest one yet, but it’s nine minutes long and is entitled “29 Home Exercise Hacks (TOTAL BODY!)” See? Over-achiever. Nonetheless, I went so far as to leave a thank-you comment on his channel, because he explained that you can do Face-Pulls from home if you have a pull-up bar and an exercise band—which I do! This was very exciting for me, because I missed the Face-Pulls. They are a great exercise for the triceps and upper back, which I’m having a hard time figuring out how work effectively with dumbbells. I can’t believe it didn’t occur to me that I could just loop the band around the pull-up bar and do pretty much the same move I did at the gym, just without the weights and pulley. Oh, also, I don’t call it the Face Pull. “Face Pull” sounds like a violent wrestling move. I call it the “Forehead Kiss.” That’s so much more genteel.

Speaking of genteel, I found online an English lady with a high ponytail who has a 20-minute routine I want to try. I was going to do it today, but I’ve already cleaned the bathroom from top to bottom and I’m going to call that my workout for the day. Screw it. I’ll try High-Ponytail English lady’s routine tomorrow if I don’t end up checking myself into my own hospital’s psyche ward before then.

I posted this video about two years ago, but I think it’s worth a re-visit. Nice song, pretty scenery. Enjoy! And take care of yourselves out there. I’m thinking of all of you and wishing you the best.

--Kristen McHenry

Sunday, March 15, 2020

Hard Times and Hard Honesty, Two-Fisted Escape Artist, Sweatin’ to the 80’s

Before sitting down to post today, I was struggling with how honest to be. I don’t want to add to the alarm and panic, and I don’t want anyone to feel that they should need to worry about me. But my work week last week was one of the hardest I have ever been through. Almost all of our volunteers have been furloughed or have left of their own accord, and my job, which I loved and and was good at, has morphed into something else entirely, and it doesn’t look like it’s going to be coming back in any recognizable form any time soon. We are under the Emergency Command structure at the hospital, and all hands are on deck for dealing with the coming influx. There is a barrage of COVID-19 information coming at me all day, every day, and we are in constant reactive mode and working long hours. It’s extremely draining. I am fighting hard not to sink into a depression. I miss the familiar faces I’m used to seeing every day, and I miss the gym with a huge lump in my throat. I had no idea how much of a mental and emotional haven it had become for me, and not having it in my life during this time of extreme stress has made everything that much worse. I’m irritable and short-tempered, I’m drinking too much coffee because I want to sleep all of the time if I don’t, and I don’t have any appetite. I’m crying almost every day, and that’s normally rare for me.

The loss of the familiar is very real, and I am grieving. But I am pushing myself to adjust to this new normal, to keep going and to be strong because I love my community and I love my hospital, and I was put here to serve—and serve I will do. This not the only time in history that communities have gone through huge, reality-bending changes in their daily lives, and I take inspiration in the toughness of those who have gone before. Many have been through far worse throughout history, and when we’re on the other side of this, I will remain standing.

My escapism these days is playing House Flipper and watching fitness videos...both at the same time. I am a two-fisted escape artist. After flipping every house in the game, I finally gave in and paid fifteen bucks to downloaded the garden content. It’s surprisingly good. I can now mow lawns, plant trees, create gardens and backyard spaces, and even put in swimming pools. I have to admit at first I was little stymied, since I don’t know anything about garden design and I had do a lot of Google image searches to get ideas, but I’m starting to get the hang of it. I love planting and watering trees and creating rose gardens and putting in backyard picnic areas. It’s a fun a little addition to tide me over until they get that long-promised new content out. (Hurry up, developers!)

Speaking of the afore-mentioned fitness videos, I recently came across the channel of a totally charming young woman named Michelle Khare, who does lots of “extreme” physical challenges (“I Worked out Like a Professional Ballerina for Two Weeks!”), but she also has a series where she does workouts from different eras, from the early 1920’s all the way through the ‘90’s. I was especially delighted by the video where she pulls out some VHS tapes from the ‘80’s aerobics craze and does the workouts in tow with her hilarious friend. The women in those ‘80’s videos must have been living on Tab and amphetamines. I have no idea how they got so skinny. But as silly as their style and approach seems now, truth be told they were actually doing some legit hard moves. The whole thing made me miss the era of colorful workout leotards and head bands. Especially head bands. Even during my most grueling sessions with Akida, my forehead never got sweaty, but nonetheless, when I get back into the gym, I’m going to start wearing head bands. Big, bright fluffy neon pink headbands. We’ll all need a little color in our lives by that time.

It’s a bit longer than most videos I post, but I went ahead put up Michelle’s full ‘80’s workout video here. It’s a charming eleven minutes and three seconds of non-COVID related material. Enjoy!

--Kristen McHenry

Saturday, March 7, 2020

COVID-19 Tsunami, Gym Leave, A Lesson in Limberness

Working at a hospital, I am up to my crown chakra in COVID-19 preparations. Just like during the strike, most of my normal job functions have gone out the window and I am on multiple conference calls and in meetings every day in preparation for the tsunami of ill patients who are headed our way. It’s a grim time. I’ve furloughed all of our Information Desk and Emergency Department volunteers for their safety and protection, and it’s looking like I may end up having to postpone the annual Volunteer Appreciation party. I was so exhausted after my work week on Friday I could barely manage a hot shower before collapsing on the couch and falling asleep. I absorb the emotions of those around me very easily, and taking in all of the hyper-nervousness and tension has sapped my energy.

Normally, I would keep my anxiety and creeping depression at bay by going to the gym and doing a lot of heavy lifting, but, to my deep sadness and angst, I have had to put a stop to the gym for the time being. It was a heartbreaking, tear-rendering decision, but in the end, I had to conclude that it is the most responsible thing to do right now. In the best of times, gyms are the ninth circle of hell from an infection control standpoint, and we are at the epicenter of a pandemic. I am at elevated risk because I work in a hospital, and there is a real potential for me to become infectious and not know it, thereby possibly infecting the elderly or immuno-compromised members of the gym, of which there are a fair number. I tried every justification in my head to avoid coming to this conclusion (I'll be really careful! I’ll wash my hands after every set!), but in the end, I had to conclude that it is not a risk worth taking at this time. I hate it, I really hate it, and the second I can get back in there I will, but for now I’m having to find alternatives.

I ordered a weight bench and a full-length mirror from Amazon and went to our local sporting store to pick up some kettle bells and dumbbells to supplement what I already had at home. The mirror hasn’t come yet, but the weight bench arrived a few days ago, and I really like it. It’s a solid piece of equipment and I’m able to do a lot on it. I’ve been doing weighted squats using a mirror from our hallway, which isn’t ideal, but it at least allows me to check to make sure my knees aren’t collapsing in. I’ve been doing as much as I possibly can with barbells, kettle bells, and body weight exercises. I’m getting a full hour in on each workout and feeling tired, sweaty and sore afterwards, so it’s doing something. It’s not as good as the gym, but I’m trying to be scrappy and creative and find ways to make it work and at least maintain some of my progress. The one bright point in all of this is that I don’t have to wrangle myself into a sports bra before my workouts. This is America, after all, and I’m at total liberty to flop about freely in the privacy of my own dang home.

The other bright point is that this morning I went to a beautiful park with my friend/coworker to do an outdoor workout—something I would never normally do on my own. This woman is well over six feet tall and an athletic beast, and she kicked my ass into next Sunday. For two hours, we did stair running, (the up-kind, a total nightmare), push-ups on logs, overhead presses with driftwood, and multiple squats, among other things. It’s all sort of a blur, to be honest, and I’m pretty sure I won’t be able to walk in few hours. But it was a beautiful, overcast day and the park was full of trees and ferns and chirping birds, and families were out with their sweet little children and their grinning dogs and there were many sailboats on the water. It was very healing to be surrounded with trees and to feel my feet on the soil. I deepened my bond with my friend, learned some new moves, and left feeling uplifted, which I was in desperate need of after the week I’ve had. It was a good reminder that through all of this, the world goes on. Nature continues to nature, Spring is beginning to push little budding tongues of flowers through, and the sea keeps rumbling forth, oblivious to our worries. And maybe this temporary leave of absence from the gym will be good for me. Maybe I have gotten a little too rigid and locked into a routine. Maybe it will be good to expand a little, to come to understand that there are endless ways to move our bodies and be physical in the world, and that I am capable of learning many more of them without the security blanket of a gym and a trainer.

Speaking of the sea, enjoy this wonderfully overblown sea ballad by Billy Joel. There is nothing I love in the world more than a good old-fashioned over-blown sea ballad, so this one is right up my alley.

--Kristen McHenry

Sunday, March 1, 2020

Odd Thought Parade, So...Coronavirus, Lucas the Annoying Scandinavian

As I understand it, one of the tenets of mindfulness is to “notice your thoughts.” I always suspected this was a bad idea, and it turns out I was right. Early last week, I had a strange thought, which led me to notice it, and then in turn start compulsively noticing all of my other odd thoughts, which led me to question my mental stability. See? Not a good idea. Here is a by-no-means complete list of thoughts I had the misfortune to notice this week:

I need to up my lanyard game if I’m gonna make it in this business.
Control the goth, Kristen. Control the goth.
No one would be going after my chickens. If I had them, that is.
Whatever happened to that fake hip-hop street fighting that was all the rage for a while? I kind of wanted to try it.
Back off, Crow. I’m not the least bit interested in your hideous babies.
The Liberty Bell is a strange motif for socks.
(Upon seeing a YouTube video that popped up in my feed): What the hell is the “underbutt” and why on earth would I care what mine looks like? What am I, a pole dancer?
No pride in ownership anymore and it’s a g-d crying shame.
I am so sick of this lady-jogging-on-the-beach default picture on my screen. She thinks she’s better than me, that’s what’s going on here.
These fake sunflowers are hella shoddy, even for ten bucks a pound.
It you’re going to bother to have a taco truck, you could at least be open when I walk over at the perfectly reasonable hour of 9:00 a.m. expecting to get an enchilada.
This whole Dr. Scholl’s thing is a scam. I can’t put my finger on how or why, I just know.

I need to run a giant magnet over my brain and clear it. Does anyone know where I can get a giant brain-clearing magnet?

So, Coronavirus. It’s very hard when these things happen to separate fact from fiction, real information from media hysteria, prudent action from panicked over-reaction. But the fact is that it is here among us and spreading. My hospital is in Emergency Command mode, and our state governor has declared a state of emergency. Please practice good hand hygiene—wash in warm water for at least 20 seconds and use a paper towel to shut off the water and to operate the door handle in public bathrooms. Cough into your sleeve instead of your hand. Wipe down surfaces frequently, including your phone. And if you can, (and I know not everyone can), think about ways you can minimize your visits to public areas—cutting down on trips to the grocery store, avoiding unnecessary travel, and so on. Oh, and kindly don’t pull up to hospital entrances, run in, grab an entire box of masks from the lobby kiosk, then drive off with them, cackling with glee at your ingenuity. We are running out of masks this way, and that doesn’t help anybody.

On a lighter note, my House Flipper adventures continue unabated. I flipped all of the houses that the game had for sale but for one, which is almost finished. (Where is that new content they promised us?!) This means that to continue playing, I have to go back and start doing contracting work again, and these in-game clients are all crazy. I am especially exasperated with Lucas Utne, who wants only white furniture, white walls, and white d├ęcor, because he is Scandinavian. Apparently being Scandinavian makes one allergic to color. It’s making me nuts. None of the furniture he wants fits in the space that he wants it in, and he insists on a full sauna with no less than six benches, never mind that the room he wants this sauna in is tiny and his demand defies physics. I guess I’ll be knocking some walls out to accommodate ole’ Lucas the annoying Scandinavian. The property ladder is not for the faint of heart.

Since I dragged poor fictional Lucas, here’s a lovely song from his culture of origin:

--Kristen McHenry

Saturday, February 22, 2020

Adult Perspective, Petite Murderer, When Horses Attack

One of my favorite childhood authors was Zilpha Keatley Snyder. I was transformed by her book “The Changeling” and loved all of her other novels in almost equal measure. Recently, desperate for something to read in the tub, I rummaged through my bookshelf and found a battered copy of the Newberry-Award winning “The Witches of Worm,” a book that was was high on my list of childhood favorites. I’m not one for hanging on to material things, but for some reason, I’ve kept this falling-apart paperback all these many years. As a young teen, I read it with deep fascination and total belief in the premise, which involves a unhappy girl named Jessica who adopts a demonic cat that talks to her psychically and puts bad ideas into her head. As an adult re-reading the book after many years, of course my perspective has greatly changed. I don’t remember now what exactly happens in the book, so I’m curious to get to the ending, but I am wondering if Jessica may have a burgeoning case of schizophrenia, I’m worried about the completely dysfunctional and borderline abusive relationship between her and the titular cat Worm, and I find myself appalled at her mother’s neglect. Jessica is a child. She needs care and attention. But when I read the book as a young person of about Jessica’s age, I didn’t feel that way. I thought that Jessica was a little mean, but strong and self-sufficient. I didn’t realize how vulnerable she actually was, and that a lot her problems stem from the fact that she is in desperate need of love and basic adult protection. It’s odd how I completely missed that reading the book as a kid. I suppose as children, we simply adapt to what we do or don’t have, since we have little to compare things to and can’t make accurate judgments about our own needs. But aside from all of that, the pure magic that I remember as a kid still permeates Snyder’s writing. She is a uniquely talented writer, and my childhood self is very grateful for the gift of her stories.

I met my new fill-in trainer this week. She is pretty, feminine, sweet and personable--and a veritable stealth killer. I let her kind demeanor and dainty figure lure me into a sense of complacency, and halfway through our session, I was in deep and wondering what the hell was happening. I was dripping sweat and gasping and the whole time she kept saying, “Good! Good! You’re doing so great!” while my quads and gluts were being put through hell and I was too busy to notice--until the next day, when I realized the true extent of her brutishness. I’m going to have to watch her closely in the future, and not let her use her kindliness as a distraction from the obvious fact that she is trying to destroy my quads. But in all seriousness, I do like her. Quads aside, she’s very nice and she showed me some new techniques that helped my reverse lunges, which I appreciate. Also, good news-- apparently my regular trainer’s new son came out great. Photos were sent, and the consensus among the gym staff is that he is the cutest baby ever to grace the planet, so that made me glad.

In my ongoing longing for a pet, I recently found myself deep in conversation with one of my retired volunteers about her long career in dressage, horse shows, and breeding and buying horses. I remarked on my last experience horsebacking riding at the beach and how my assigned horse had a mind of his own and a strong personality, and that I had no control over him whatsoever. She then recounted a story wherein she was once picked up whole in the jaws of a disgruntled horse and thrown across the stable. I was horrified. I love and appreciate horses but I’m also pretty scared of them, specifically of being kicked or attacked by one. I can’t imagine being picked up in one’s jaws and bodily thrown about. According to this volunteer, working around horses is rough on the body. She’s been thrown, stomped, kicked and bitten more times than she can count. She’s a tough lady, that one. I am not about to go out and buy a horse any time soon, but I am longing for that human-animal bond.

Since we’re on horses, here’s an old one by Band of Horses, featuring an intrepid pillow thief. Enjoy!

--Kristen McHenry

Sunday, February 16, 2020

Speeching My Truth, Accidental Lesson, Trainer Separation Anxiety

Every year for a work-related event, I have to do a Big Speech in Front of People, a feat which I greatly dislike performing and spend much time angsting over. This year, writing the speech has been like dragging through a slog pit of wet cement in full metal armor. All of the pieces were there, but nothing was flowing. It felt heavy and stilted and full of tortured metaphors (those are my specialty), and worst of all, it rang in my ears as strangely insincere. Last week, I closed my office door and blocked out a section of time to do nothing but focus entirely on the speech: No getting distracted and checking e-mail, no answering the phone, no running out to the lobby to solve problems that people should be capable of solving on their own. The mental space gave me the gift of clarity, and I realized that the speech sounded insincere because it was insincere. The word “authentic” has been thrown around so much that it has very little meaning anymore, but the truth is that the speech was not coming from my authentic self. I was keeping a key truth to myself because I didn’t want to be vulnerable. The minute that I opened up and said what was true, not just what I thought sounded the prettiest, everything fell into place beautifully. The words flowed, the tortured metaphors resolved themselves easily, the theme coalesced, and the speech finally sounded like it was truly coming from me. It still needs work, but the essence is there and I can stand behind it with peace in my heart now.

I continue to be enraptured by “House Flipper,” although its limitations are beginning to frustrate me. They are supposed to have an expansion pack coming out soon, and I wish they would hurry it along, because I feel like I’ve used every design combination possible by now, and I’m going to start getting bored soon. But the point of bringing this up is that as I was browsing houses recently, I accidentally clicked on and bought the most expensive house in the game. It used up almost all of my cautiously-built up savings and obliterated my methodically plodding approach to the property ladder. I had real feelings when I realized that what I had done was undo-able. It wasn’t a flop-sweats and panic-attack situation—I am firmly rooted in reality and I know it’s not real money--but I did have few minutes of mild freak-out. That led me to reflect on my life-long risk aversion when it comes to money. I have heard the theory here and there that women make better financial managers exactly because they tend to be more risk-averse. I don’t know if that’s true, and I don’t know if my financial risk aversion is related to my gender, but I definitely have that condition. I took a few deep breaths and talked it through with Mr. Typist. I realized that I could sell the house for a very high amount once it was finished, so the money wasn't lost, it was invested. And ironically, I made such a huge chunk of change on the house when I sold it that I was way ahead of where I would have been if I had continued to make timid little purchases out of a fear of loss. It was an interesting lesson.

At our session last week, I said goodbye to my trainer while he goes off to be a dad. He was a bit manic, but very happy. I’m glad for him. I kind of doubt that he’s going to come back, and if he doesn’t, I’m very grateful for the time that I’ve had with him. I switch over to the new lady next week, and I feel a bit anxious about it, which is slightly ridiculous considering that personal training is not being foisted up me in any way, it is something that I am  doing entirely of my own accord. It’s just that I’m used to my trainer. It took a very long time to get a rapport going with him and for us to understand and trust each other, and now I have to get used to whole new person and I don’t know what she’s going to be like. I’ve considered just being brave and doing this on my own, but I made a big advancement in being able to bench press an unloaded bar, and because I’m just in the beginning of learning to master that, I need the help. I’ve tried lifting it on my own without a spotter, but I get wobbly and I’m very scared of dropping the bar on myself and crushing my rib cage. This is what happens when you skill up. It just complicates everything. 
Since this inexplicably popped up in my Youtube feed, and because it’s been raining for 700 years straight in Seattle, here is a great Nineties throwback video with Shirley Manson from Garbage, who my checkout lady at the grocery store flatteringly insists I look like. (I don’t, but I’ll take the compliment anyway.)

--Kristen McHenry

Sunday, February 9, 2020

Missed Calling, Rebellion Aforethought, Poetry Spit-Shine

I briefly mentioned in last week’s post that I had started playing “House Flipper” and that I found it relaxing. In the interim,“House Flipper” has gone from a pleasant time-passer to a near-obsession. Long ago when I was but a naive twenty-something, I thought that I wanted to be an interior designer. Then I found out that it requires spacial awareness, math skills, and an inordinate amount of decision-making involving granite, and I lost interest. But I’ve always had a strong interest in design and I used to watch those home-decorating shows on cable with rapt attention. I am enjoying the heck out of the design aspect of this game. I love going into an empty house, coming up with a design and color theme in my head, and watching it come to fruition. If I do say so myself, I have created some beautiful spaces in-game, even if they are of no consquence in the real world. Now l am wondering in all seriousness if I truly have missed my calling and should have gone into interior design after all. I suppose it’s not too late, but I’d probably just smack up against the same spacial and math barriers as I did before. And it’s much more enjoyable to sit at my desk and create pixelated designs than have to actually go take classes and learn how to do this stuff for real.

I was given a directive from on high last week which, deliberately and with rebellion aforethought, I declined to follow. I had a litany of reasons why, but it mainly boiled down to the principle of “enough is enough.” I made a good friend of one of our building engineers when I confessed my insubordination to him on our way to a morning meeting. He was greatly impressed, and he looks at me with a new respect in his eyes now. I can tell he had me pegged as a goody-two-shoes rules-follower and an obedient drone. Which led me to ponder once again the question of whether or not I am actually a rules-follower. Although I generally do follow rules, I don’t think that I am in my heart of hearts a rule-follower. I am a workplace peacenik (the strike was extremely hard on me emotionally for all the rancor and ill-will it caused), so I will follow rules in the service of group harmony, but I’m generally rules-suspicious and am not above finding ways around the ones that I find senseless, or that cause me unreasonable inconvenience. However, although my act of defiance didn’t impact anyone negatively, or at all, I still felt wierdly guilty about it for a good portion of last week. So who knows. Maybe I am a rules-follower after all.

Speaking of rules, I recently received in my inbox the rules for the Annual Spirit First Meditation Poetry Contest, which has spurred me to put aside House Flipper for the time being to work on my new poetry series and get some poems polished and shined for contest entry. I will be writing about meditation in a very different way than I have before. We’ll see how it all pans out, or if it even will. I feel oddly insecure about the viability of this new venture and I’m not sure how any of it will go over. I just keep telling myself that the worst that will happen is that I will have written a bunch of poems that no one likes and everyone will think I’m weird, which is hardly the end of the world. 
In celebration of all of you secret rebels out there, enjoy this video by Dorothy.

--Kristen McHenry

Sunday, February 2, 2020

I Had a Week, Ultimate Putter, Trainer Abandonment Issues

This week was a profound one for me. Those of you who are local know about the healthcare strike that occurred involving my hospital system. We have been in preparations for this for many months, and this week was it. By Friday night, I was so exhausted and simultaneously wired that I couldn’t even sleep. All I could do was lie in bed and stare at the ceiling while trying to control my racing thoughts and transitory PTSD. It was an epic week. And it left me to ponder the wonders of humanity. While I witnessed some truly atrocious behavior, I also witnessed the absolute best of humanity. I saw what happens when people truly come together as a team in a crisis and work for a common goal. The complexities of operating a health care system during a work stoppage are legion. It requires that people go all in on supporting each other and doing whatever it takes to make sure that patient care is not compromised and that the massively complex system continues to operate. Although tensions were very high, days were epically long, and we were all completely out of our minds with stress and fatigue, there was a never a doubt that we were a team and that we would take care of each other, no questions asked. We were all stretched to the max, yet kindness, caring and generosity of spirit were in abundance. And we did it. We made it through and we protected our patients and our workers and we supported each other. I am so proud of my colleagues and so proud of our volunteers who contributed a great deal to the success of the operation. I’m never going to forget what people are capable of in a crisis.

In order to recover from my complete emotional and physical burnout from this week, I downloaded a fun little game called “House Flipper.” It’s kind of like “Viscera Clean-Up Detail” but way more chill. It’s the ultimate putter-er. You hole up in a little shack and do contracting work while trying to save up enough money to buy your own house and spruce it up. I’ve really taken to it. I enjoy the little stories that go along with the jobs I get assigned, and I could paint, spackle, mop and decorate contentedly for hours. Meanwhile, my own apartment remains a sty in desperate need of dusting and vacuuming, but I’m having too much fun cleaning virtually to worry about that.

On the same day my trainer carefully guided me through my very first bench press with an unloaded 45 pound bar, he announced that he will be going on leave for two months because he and his wife are “having a son” and he wants “stay home with his new infant” and “help out with the baby.” Pffft. Whatever. Fine, I get it--his “newborn infant” takes priority over training my clumsy bag of bones. He totally triggered my abandonment issues, but to his credit, he arranged to set me up with Big Arms Stacy in his absence. He said he wanted me to get proper instruction in his stead, and that this Stacy person would be good for me. I call her Big Arms Stacy because she has these astonishingly muscular arms that I routinely gaze at from a distance while trying not to be creepy. She also has a tiny waist and long dark hair and is very pretty and all of the guys in the gym are constantly flirting with her. I’m a bit intimidated by her, but my trainer said she’s a total workout beast and he feels confident that she will be a good stand-in for him while he bonds with his new little guy. I’m looking forward to formally meeting her since I’ve been too shy to approach her on my own. I’ll miss my trainer, but maybe it will be good to switch things up a little bit and get a different perspective. And maybe I’ll get some insight into how she got those big arms.

This is unrelated, but all I’m capable of today besides pretend cleaning is watching cute animal videos. Enjoy this delightful Tiny Cat! It cuts off rather suddenly but I’m sure you can find the full episode somewhere.

--Kristen McHenry