Friday, 30 November 2012

The Club / Gratitude Blog #4

So when I was a kid, about age 9 to 17, practically every weekend would find my parents, my brother and me at the Penang Club (in Penang, duh). Some weekends were great; after a long week of school, we would spend time at the club, where us kids would indulge in the video games and the parents would gamble their money away in the adults' games room. Some of my fondest memories involve knocking on the vault-like door of the adults' games room, peeking in when it was unlocked, gesturing to the lady or gent behind the counter who would in turn gesture to my mum and dad, who would venture over with a plastic baggie with 5 or 10 ringgit in 20 cent coins for the video games. Sometimes my brother and I would spend these coins so quickly that my folks would greet us at the adults' games room door with "Haaah?? So faaaast ah??" Good times.

Other weekends would be tedious; after a week of school – afternoons after which would find us trapped in my parents' office all day before we headed home 50 minutes away, most evenings arriving home at 8pm onwards – sometimes I wanted to just go home and spend more time in the actual house we lived in (and with the dogs we owned then, who, understandably due to our being away so much, were outdoor dogs, unlike today). So the Club was both a place of fun as well as a place of tedium; I remember double-serve chicken chops and fish 'n' chips (because the single serves were too small for us; oy, this explains a lot); I remember the kids' games room aunty (who wasn't as old as I used to think she was, and I'm pretty sure she still works here, even though the kids' games room has now become a storage space). And I remember this kid named Syahreez with whom we'd get up to all sorts of pranks, such as painting "blood" on a friend's knee and then using a tape recorder to record the reactions of people all around us; making prank phone calls ("Excuse me, is your refrigerator running? Well, then you better go catch it!"); devising elaborate hidden-camera pranks that ultimately we never pulled off; planning on setting up a band, which resulted in my very first keyboard (all of 350 ringgit, it cost; the keys were so small that every time I returned to playing a regular-sized piano, the keys on the piano would, like an illusion, appear more enormous).

I remember the patio area downstairs where a live band would play every weekend and the bandleader / main singer would always wave at me because he recognised my musical ability even back then. (I remember when the patio area downstairs didn't even exist, and was instead a children's swimming pool that tended to be neglected and filled with dead leaves and algae.) I remember the old gym and squash courts upstairs (which I'm not sure still exist), and the stories we would tell and hear about that location being haunted. One day we were up there, my brother, Syahreez and I, and we were talking about ghosts... when suddenly the alarm-bell timer on an exercise machine went off even though all of us swore we'd been near it, causing us to run away in a panic. Good times. Oh, we were troublemakers, we were; my folks were even told off by management because of how rambunctious and mischievous we were.

The patio dining area of the Club.
Swimming pool area, and a far-off glimpse of the now-defunct
kids' games room (black square next to the blue rectangle in the background).
The older I got the less appealing the Club was to me because I was starting to outgrow the video games (my brother didn't), and so I'd sit and read a book or comics (every week we had Comic Day, where I'd go to the nearby Penang Plaza shopping centre and pick up my regular reservation of British comic books, such as Buster and Whizzer & Chips), and most evenings get fidgety and irritable as I waited for my parents to finish flushing their money down the drain (midnight tended to be the going-home time). I even remember studying for my important school exams while seated in front of the reception counter at the Club, while the receptionists would make small talk or tsk-tsk at me or borrow my comics because they were bored. A couple of them are still here. Heh.

The Club, also, has accommodation, which is where I am right now. It finally got into the 21st century after a lifetime of not having an Internet connection in the rooms; at long last, free WiFi! A lot of the old staff members are still here, and a couple of them greeted me earlier. Imagine, they'd literally seen me grow from a chubby little kid of 8 or 9 to a chubby adult of 32. So all in all, the point of this long, storytelling post is to say, as unlikely as I would've thought it, that I'm grateful for the Penang Club, and all its memories. Incidentally, I'm not considered a member of the club; my dad is the member (and by marriage, my mum), but my rights as a member's child were terminated when I turned 18. So I'm currently a guest, though I've long entertained the idea of getting my own membership (not cheap, and I'm not sure it would be entirely worth it either, given how infrequently I'm actually in Penang). Maybe in the future.

Here are a couple of pics of the rooms here (generic, plucked off the Club's website, as I'm too lazy to snap new photos, and also because my clothes are lying all over the place, making a mess). I'll be back soon to update on further adventures in Penang. Stay tuned!



Waiting Areas Sure Involve A Lot of Waiting...

Hey, peeps. Right now I'm sitting in the airport waiting area, waiting a flight to Penang for the weekend. It's my dear old friend Becky's wedding, and there'll be a reunion with all my old Penang friends as we gather together-gether to celebrate her nuptials. Terry should be picking me up from the airport, and I'll be staying at Penang Club for the next couple of days. No idea what plans lie ahead for the rest of today, but I supect there'll be catching up and hugs and awkward questions galore. Wheee. Till later... ciao.

Random Pic of the Week #1

The ground as I'm sitting at the bus stop waiting for my ride home.


Thursday, 29 November 2012

Gratitude Blog #3

I'm grateful for Supernatural!

Go ahead. Roll your scornful eyes! But let me tell you something, there aren't a lot of shows in their eighth season that can get me thrilled and happy in anticipation for each new episode every week! This year the show seems to be firing on four cylinders again, after a rather lacklustre Season 7. So far we've had, among others, battles in purgatory; monster auctions; found-footage werewolf episode; vampires on boats (vampirates!); and murders in the form of Looney Tunes cartoons! And we're only eight episodes in!

So the bad guy produces a frying pan from out of nowhere:


BAAANGG!!


Tweety-bird sounds.


Awesome.

But, ladies and gentleman, if I may take a moment now to use my serious voice: there's also the fact that sometimes, when I'm feeling down, I imagine the two Supernatural boys talking to me, telling me, "Hey man, you'll be fine. Keep your chin up. Keep fightin' them demons." Yes, it's true, I confess it unabashedly (okay, maybe a little bit abashedly). One day, I swear, when I finally snap and they put me in a straitjacket and in a looney bin, I'm going to look across the padded room and still see them boys starin' back at me:

Wednesday, 28 November 2012

Gratitude Blog #2

I'm grateful forrrr....

Gawsh this is hard.

Can I say sleep?

Okay, I'll say sleep for today. Because it's been mostly a good mental-emo day but totally exhausting. Time for a power nap, I reckon. G'night folks.

Tuesday, 27 November 2012

Gratitude Blog #1

Okay. So my good friend Adam suggests I keep a journal where I daily write down one thing I'm grateful for, and do this every day for 30 days in an effort to keep my spirits up. I suppose I shall give it a go. Wish me luck, peeps!

So let's start with today's entry.

I am grateful for Judi, Jo and Juliana, for the constant motivation and smacks-on-the-heads. Last night, Jo and her sis brought me out for dinner (because yesterday wasn't a great emo-mental-health day), and we had a comforting meal of soup and dunkable bread at Soup Spoon, followed by carrot cake and decaf coffee. Yes, decaf. Good lord, what's happening to me? Caffeine is beginning to have an effect on me all over again. Gaaaah. Is it just me, or does decaf coffee taste not as good? Or is it psychological, because I know it's decaf, hence I think it doesn't taste as good? Hmmm. A mind-teaser. I seem to have gone off the point here. Oh, I know, let's add this to the first entry: I'm also grateful for coffee.

Till tomorrow!

Sunday, 18 November 2012

Nick's On His Crazy Ramble Again

Hello people. Wow, has the past week or so been draining, and not through any developments outside of my addled mind. Last weekend featured a pretty bad emo- mental state, and it has pretty much bled into the week and into this weekend, though thankfully the negativity has, for the most part, subdued, and right now I'm feeling "nothing" most of the time, with my brain put on a "sssh, don't think" mode. My new philosophy seems to be that "if you don't think and don't feel, you don't get hurt". So there's that.

Here's a depression checklist:
  • feeling low and fed up or numb and empty most of the time
  • feeling tired all the time and lacking energy
  • changes in sleeping: difficulty in getting to sleep; waking up early; sleeping much more than usual
I've been noticing that of late there seem to be three emotional states I'm in: either sad, or angry, or just blank. There's very little, if any, happiness, which is a problem, isn't it? I've come to identify that one major factor is my lack of a social life. Here's a rundown of what my daily routine seems to be like these days: Get up at 4:30am. Go to work, where I'm for the most part sitting alone in my section on the morning shift, nobody to talk to, except to receive directions and/or berating from the superior in charge. 9am to 2pm, remain at work by myself. Go for lunch, by myself. Go home at around 2, a slow lonely trudge to the bus stop, journey back to my place by myself and let myself into an empty apartment. Go to my room and proceed to lie in bed and stare at the ceiling, eventually dozing off till about 7pm or so. Get up. Dinner, by myself. Return to bed. Watch television, by myself. Sleep at 9 or so, till get up at 4.30am. And rinse. And repeat.
  • lacking confidence and feeling anxious
  • being irritable, over-sensitive and tearful
My conversations with my parents on the phone have been cranky on my part, to say the least. A part of me is really frustrated and angry at them that they would expect me to remain here in this state, putting their expectations of me above my own well-being. You might question, then, why at 32 would I need my parents' approval? Simple answer is because I do. I've been raised that way. But that's the lazy excuse. The bigger issue is that I need their support, I want it, I'd like to move back home and be with family (and my dog, more importantly), and part of my plan is to eventually leave Singapoo and spend the next year or so on savings, finding my own way without a full-time job. That means, of course, I'd rather not rent a place, as much as I can help it. And I'd rather be at home and not have the parents frequently grumbling about me disappointing them, or giving up a good career opportunity in this soulless city, or whingeing about how I'm spending the next one year or so without a job. So right now, they want me to stay here until I get my permanent residency approved. And so I stay, begrudgingly. Begrudgingly, or resignedly. Perpetually exhausted.
  • finding it hard to enjoy anything – nothing seems fun
You might think that being in Singapore would provide a lot of opportunities for me as an artist. The thing is, right now, in my current state, I'm over it. I'm so tired of this "arts" bullshit. This whole having dreams, and wanting a future in music and theatre. It's all I think about, and I need the thinking to stop. Hell, I'm even dreaming about it a lot of the time. Speaking of which, I notice I have been having recurring dreams. Even in goddamn sleep I don't seem to get much peace from all the stupid things I mentally wrestle with. The list includes:

i) My career as an artist. Just last night I dreamed I was in a studio recording a professional cast recording of Follow The Light. I've composed music in my sleep (most times not really remembering the melodies when I wake up). I've heard my music sung by huge choirs, performed by big orchestras. I've seen my productions in full scale. And then I wake up in this hot, humid bedroom and I sigh, thinking, "Oh. Right", and want to cry.

ii) Yelling at my parents, especially my dad. Frequently. Demanding of them why I don't get their support, why their parenting has led to this lack of confidence and self-esteem, and why I feel perpetually indebted to them to do their wishes. And in my dreams, I yell and yell but my voice runs out and I'm screaming nothing. True story, these dreams have recurred, over and over.

iii) Finding myself in Sydney, 1998, when I was forced to be part of the authoritarian school and live in the boarding house. In my dreams, I'm wondering "Why am I stuck here? I've been through this, why am I going through this again?" If you think about it, there are similarities between then and now. Back then, I felt obliged to make my parents happy, and they wanted me to go to Sydney and put up with it. So I went. And I hated it. Now, I'm doing the same thing: being put in a position where my own wishes and desires are unheard in favour of theirs. And I hate it. So in my dreams, I'm in Sydney, and I'm thinking, "No, no, this is over, I shouldn't be here..." And then I wake up and realize, "Whoooo" it's just a dream... and then I remember I'm where I am right now, and I go, "Oh. Right", and want to cry.

iv) Not sure what this has to do with anything, but I frequently dream about my old house in Penang. I think it has something to do with the fact that while I was in Sydney, my parents moved away to PJ/KL, and I never really got a chance to say goodbye to the house I'd predominantly grown up in. Wouldn't you know it, in 2005 when I was in Perth, they did it again, moved house while I was away. But the latter time was just two roads over, and I'm still within walking/viewing range of the first house we lived in in PJ, so that one doesn't bother me. Anyway. I digress. Eyes on the crisis.

v) God. It might be a weird thing to dream about, and it's goddamn scary, believe me, but I often dream of being in situations where I'm forced to pray. I dunno, there are demons after me or something. I'm not so deluded as to decipher this literally. In fact, metaphorically, it's all very clear. So in my sleep, I'm praying the Lord's Prayer and the Hail Mary. And when I wake up, I shoot daggers at the sky, angry at God that my life has turned out this way and I can't even sleep in peace, and all the prayers I truly want to say but am too arrogant and hurt to say remain in my subconscious to be expressed in my slumber.
  • withdrawing from friends and feeling you can't face going out
  • seeing everything negatively and expecting the worst
  • finding it hard to be motivated and thinking 'there's no point in doing things'
  • changes in eating: loss of appetite or eating more than usual ('comfort eating')
  • weight gain or weight loss
My mum said the other day, when I told her I was lonely, that I should go out and "walk, window shop". She doesn't understand how incredibly lonely-making it is to be by yourself in a crowded place, to walk into a space filled with people and feel like you're the only person there. To sit by yourself at a table for one while there are groups of people around you, friends laughing, couples looking happy, families. Or, to dip into the shallow end of the pool, to look around and see attractive people and to immediately think that "a person like me will never end up with a person like that" -- whether or not it is true; my brain immediately goes there -- and end up feeling even more lonely and pathetic. And so I sit in the corner and force myself to focus on my food, which oftentimes seems to be something greasy, fattening and entirely unhealthy. Because when I'm in this state of unhappiness, a hearty meal of organic brown rice isn't going to cut it. You know what does? Macca's. KFC. Something with meat, and potatoes, something deep-fried, or with creamy sauces. Because, goddamn it, food laden with salt and grease and what-have-you takes away the pain. Until it doesn't... then I'm racked with guilt at having eaten all that bullshit, and feeling sick to the stomach, and realising, aw shit, my clothes are increasingly getting tighter and tighter and I'm tipping the scales at a low three-figure kilogramme, and fuck it, I've got nobody in my life anyway so who the hell am I trying to diet and be thin and look good and feel confident for?

I have all this love to give and nobody to give it to. Except my dog. And she's not here.

I told my mum that I frequently come home to an empty apartment. I realised the other day that I could slip in the bathroom and get knocked out, or suffer a cardiac arrest, or hang myself from the ceiling fan (relax, folks, there's no ceiling fan in my bedroom, it's an illustrative ceiling fan) and nobody would know for days until the authorities ram the door down and find me. Sigh. Anyway, mum suggested I find a new place with "new housemates, hopefully you'll find people you can talk to". I felt like yelling. It's not about having people around me. It's not about simply "making friends". I have colleagues at work, but I have walls up, I don't want to let them in. Why? Because depression makes you fucking self-involved, to the point that all you want to do is talk about your problems. How do you do that without making yourself feel even more of a loser, without making others uncomfortable and bringing the party down? How do you tell the people you work with that you made the mistake of moving away from home in an attempt to fight depression, when, goddamn it, among the helpful manouevres to make when you're depressed is to
  • get the support of close friends and family
  • reduce stress
???

Fuck it, do you know what I did? I moved away from my family. I moved away from my close friends. I added on a shit load of stress by coming to this incredibly crowded, high-strung, clenched, uptight, soulless place, where nothing I do at work feels good enough! It's not about having people around you, it's not about making friends, it's about needing safe spaces and cheerleaders, as I've talked to my mates about before. Safe spaces means places/people you can be yourself in, where you can be upset about your problems, and cry, and they're there to listen, to hug, to support. Cheerleaders are those who help you keep your eye on the prize, to tell you to take a break when they recognise you need it, or to smack you on the back of the head, lovingly, to say, "Dude, focus. I'm right here. You're doing fine. Go, Nick. Go. Go. Go."

Do I have that here? Are my fucking colleagues that? Hell, no. I've got, if I stretch it, three safe spaces/cheerleaders in Singapore. But that's stretching it. I don't feel entirely safe with two of them, to be honest (they mean well, and I'm certainly grateful to them, but when a conversation between two of us goes with me saying, "What shall we talk about?" and the response is, "Oh you can talk about yourself, as usual", it doesn't entirely inspire confidence). So I have Little Jo. One. One safe space, one cheerleader, and she's clearly getting tired ... not in a bad way, necessarily, but simply the fact that, as she told me recently, I need to find more people I can feel safe with, because she can't be the only one all the time. You know what's sad? The majority of my cheerleaders aren't even in KL. They're in Perth. But distance, as I've discovered, is a major hindrance to cheerleading and safe spacing. Sure, we can email. We can chat online or  talk on the phone. But it's really not the same. So... how now, brown bovine?

My mum has lately been pestering me to get my Chinese New Year's leave sorted out next year. She texted me a couple of times, but, with no confirmation yet from work, I opted not to reply to the SMS'es, also because I was irritable and cranky (see checklist above). Not to mention being asleep more often than not. I woke up at 5:30am the other night and found three missed calls from home at 3 in the fucking morning, which immediately made me both extremely worried and extremely irritated. I debated whether or not to call them back -- what if it was an emergency? -- but I figured that if I did, it would only make them worry, and let's face it, if it had been a real emergency, the calls wouldn't have stopped after three, and they would've texted more, and would've tried to reach me through other avenues such as little Jo or Terry. So I opted to slam the phone down onto the bed (which is better than throwing it against the wall, as I've had on numerous irrationally enraged occasions), and force myself back to sleep for another hour out of 15 that I'd spend snoozing.

Later I called back and was told it was nothing, that my mum had been worried. I felt enraged but didn't want to yell at my dad on the phone: You don't fucking call someone at three in the morning unless it's a bloody emergency, got that? If anything had happened to me, don't you think my employers would have called, or the Singaporean authorities, or little Jo would've been in touch with Terry who would've been in touch with you?! And here's the thing, if you want me to live away from home, stop checking in on me, stop expecting me to reply every time you try to reach me. If being away from home is inconvenient to your plans to go away, then heeey, maybe I should just come home, right?? But no, you don't want that. You'd rather I stew in my self-pity and abject misery here on my own, choosing to ignore the signs of what has been determined as clinical depression, choosing not to even find out more about this condition, fretting that people are going to judge me or judge you for my mental-emotional debilitation. "If you leave Singapore now, what will people say?" "I'll tell them I was depressed." OH THE HORROR, YOU CAN'T TELL THE WORLD THAT, WHAT WILL PEOPLE THINK OF YOU?!!!!

Fuck. This. Shit.

So I'm floating in this state of anger, sadness and sheer apathy right now. It's a weird state to be in; I don't feel entirely upset at this current point of writing (despite the big dramatic block letters above), but I'm not encouraged to do something, either. I'm probably going to make myself a hot drink, sit in bed and... I dunno? Read, maybe? I'd go out, but honestly, it's so goddamn crowded on the weekends, which as I've mentioned earlier makes it really lonely-inducing; and I also hurt my back by, get this, folding laundry. Folding. Fukking. Laundry. Not even ten shirts, I think, and my back was killing me. And then it just got worse to the point that I couldn't roll over in bed. And I tried to carry a bowl of noodles from the kitchen to my bedroom and found myself grimacing throughout the six-metre trek. Oh, it's just my posture, and the 30kgs of weight that I've put back on, no biggie. So there's emotional pain, and mental noise, and physical pain. Not to mention I've been going to the gym at work lately and ended up with a sore, painful ankle joint. Aaand, it might be my diet, but I've been having heartburn-type symptoms for a while now -- a pain in the chest that radiates upwards and affects my neck and creates what feels like a headache. Whoo-hoooooo. Life. You're absolutely fucking faaaantastic!!
  • Physical symptoms are common in major depression and may lead to chronic pain and complicate treatment. Symptoms associated with depression include joint pain, limb pain, back pain, gastrointestinal problems, fatigue, psychomotor activity changes, and appetite changes
Right on track.

The other day Jo suggested I call some friends to go out, go to the theatre, go to a concert. The idea of it made me so heavy. Again, no. I have no desire to call people I'm not close to and try to establish rapport, make small talk, or worse, hear about your life and realise other people aren't in my shoes. Misery, after all, loves company. I received an email from one of the arts people in KL (whom I've mostly burned bridges with, well done, Nick) saying she was putting on a show featuring her original songs and she was going to be a guest singer with the Malaysian Philharmonic Orchestra, and it made me so angry that I jabbed the delete button repeatedly, delete delete delete, and then wondered what was wrong with me that I see other people's happiness and other people's successes as reinforcements of my own perceived failures. Goddamn it, I should return to therapy. But I've tried it twice, and didn't think it was working for me in either case. (Not to mention, the first one, at RM250 a pop, was really painful for the wallet.)

You know what I need? Have you seen the new telly show Go On starring Matthew Perry? It's about a dude who's forced to join a therapy group after the death of his wife, and all the misfits in the group are dealing with some loss of some kind. It's a comedy, and yes, the characters are exaggerated for humour's sake, but as I was watching it I wondered if there's something to group therapy: the idea that people of mutual difficulty can get together and support each other, and act as a social group of sorts, and not judge whenever someone wants to take the spotlight to whinge about his/her own issues (or judge while realising and he/she is also in a position of being judged); and to merely accept and support and encourage one another no matter how idiosyncratic one's issues might be. Case in point, in Go On, there's a girl who's neurotic and grieving the death of her cats. Her cats. And there's another woman who's angry all the time. But as a group, they're awesome, and they're hilarious, and they cheer each other on. It's about safe spaces. And cheerleaders.

Some people are trying to get me to go back to church, and to be perfectly honest I'm not sure what's keeping me. Could it be the whole gay and being Catholic thing? I would've thought I'd be over that by now. More likely it's the anger in me that, after Perth, I'd worked hard for years to get Follow The Light produced, and what happens? Just when it "seemed it was part of God's plan" that it get produced in 2010, it simultaneously triggered off all the elements that led to this crazy downward spiral into depression. And I'm angry, I confess, that moving to Singapore seemed to be part of "God's will" (haaahaaaa) and instead of finding joy, I'm ... here. I dunno. Maybe I'm not seeing the forest for the trees. Maybe all this anger and pride and hurt is the point. Maybe God's still at work here. Or maybe there is no God. I dunno. I'm exhausted. Can I stop thinking about this now? (And please, bible-lovers, don't even try to tell me "God loves you no matter what", because that is irredeemably and irrevocably meaningless and banal.)

It's been almost two years since Follow The Light and the events thereafter have stayed with me to my detriment till today. Jesus, there have been people in actual committed relationships who have moved on more quickly than I have. What the hell is wrong with me? How did things get this bad? And how can my own compositions, my own creation, which I was once so proud of and eager to produce, become such a source of hurt? It confounds me, it really does. Which is why it's also so important to me to reproduce and restage FTL at some point, because I really need to build new memories and associations with it. I need it to be a product of joy once again, for myself, if I may. But I can't deal with thinking about that right now, so I'm going to stop. That's for another time. When I'm in a better time, place and headspace.

I hear my music in my head a lot of the time. It's always there. And not just simple melodies, but, as in my dreams, imagining it with full, lush arrangements, performed by orchestras, professional performers who will make audiences cry and induce goosebumps. It gets to a point where hearing the music as I'd like to but haven't yet reach makes me frustrated, and angry, and upset. And what's funny is that I can't turn the music off by listening to other people's music. Because then I'd start analysing what I hear, wondering, how come this song, with its banal simplicity and ridiculous lack of substance (hello, Gangnam Style!) can reach millions around the world, and I can't? Either that or the music I physically hear clashes with the music in my head, and believe me, that can be incredibly noisy and maddening. So I try to avoid music at all costs, to avoid the clashes, and to avoid the reminder that my own music career has gotten nowhere. On my phone, I listen to my own music, arranged on my keyboard, because I find that when I'm physically hearing my own songs, it makes the music in my head stop. Which, to the casual observer, might seem that I'm so full of myself, choosing only to listen to my own crap. Well fuck you. Movies in the cinema don't necessarily turn the music off -- it really depends on what I'm watching -- and I find that the other effective way to keep my mind quiet is to watch television shows, especially reruns of shows I like, which bring comfort in their familiarity.

I. Am. So. Messed. Up. I am 32, gay, never been in a relationship, feeling like a failure as a gay man, a failure in my journalistic career (which, let's face it, I have very little remaining interest in), a failure as a Christian, a failure as a well-rounded (which is different from round) person. All I have left that remains a passion to me, even if it's dangling by an extremely fragile thread, is my career as an artist... right now, it really feels like I'm a failure on that front, too. If I fail at that, then I have nothing left. Even as I type that, I know it's not necessarily true. But depression is as such that your logic and your emotional state are two very, very separate dichotomies that are frequently, if not always, at odds with each other. I'm still on anti-depressants, but they can only do so much and are not a cure-all if the source of the depression isn't deal with to begin with. And right now, I'm not entirely sure how to deal with the source.

So little Jo suggested that if theatre and music are currently sources that make me rankle, how about volunteer work at an animal shelter? I tell ye, the idea instantly made me feel lighter. How about that? Go and volunteer my time helping out doggies and kitties and what-have-you. Picking up poop, but hey, I've had dogs for years, I'm used to it. So I told Jo, sincerely, "That I could go for. That doesn't make me upset." And so I'll look into it, though given that I'll be going away on Dec 1 for a friend's wedding, and then there'll be the holidays, I'm not sure how it's going to pan out. But who knows, volunteer work could help lighten this load. Be with animals. Animals are therapy. Case in point: my lovely Ashley, who I say good night to every night. True story. Only because there's a cute photo of her on my computer desktop. So when I close my computer lid, I say, "Doggy!! Nite nite, love you." And close the lid. And sigh. And wish I could snuggle up to her little furry body. And stare at the ceiling, tearfully, and pray for sleep without noisy dreams.

Where are my cheerleaders?

Where are my safe spaces?

Where are my friends?

Where's my family?

Where's my dog?

Not here.

Not here.

Not...

Sigh.