A pit in my stomach

I’ve just returned to my hotel room in Szczecin. I’m here for the second round of dental work. I went to the nearby shopping mall to eat at Pizza Hut. It’s my way of spoiling myself, as I don’t think I’ll be able to get myself to eat any sort of solids over the next week or more. Don’t judge me.

This time I’m here by myself, and I’m not feeling to hot about it. I have massive anxiety when it comes to dentists, and this trip will be pure murder. Bone rebuilding of my lower left jaw, four implants, two root canals and three permanent bridges.

The first trip I had the Doctor with me, and while I was likely not the jolliest of travel partners then, I sure could use her with me now. I’m in a strange city, with people speaking a language I don’t understand. I’m holed up in my hotel room, the room that’s going to be my world for the next four days – that is, when I’m not sitting in the dentists chair.

It’s incredibly anxiety inducing, being here. I feel isolated and looking forward I can see four days of painful dental surgery, and complete exhaustion as my body tries to rebuild and recover. I am not a fan, and if I could I would run away from this right this instant.

Taking stock

Sometimes it’s important to take a step back and try to look at things objectively.

About four months ago talks started with a client. They needed a major overhaul of their online space, ideally for it to coincide with the launch of their product. It was a big project, probably the biggest I’ve worked on in a freelance capacity.

And here we are. Two weeks post-launch, and it’s officially safe to say I botched it. While their website is working better than ever, their community is burning. It’s not good. There are many reasons for this (an extremely tight deadline, several assumptions that have turned out to be wrong, and miscommunication about expectations, to name but a few). But none of that matters in the end. I botched it.

Yesterday my client contact and I started exploring alternative options. Which would mean scrapping the entire community part of that’s been built so far. It’s a bitter pill to swallow, but letting my pride and ego get in the way of doing the right thing will only make an already strained relationship even more unbearable.

The good part is that it doesn’t look like they’re ready to cut ties with me just yet, which I must admit is surprising to me. I’m not sure I would have had the same patience if a provider of mine dropped the ball as spectacularly as I have.

It’s not that I don’t see where I went wrong. I was too ambitious, combined with an extremely tight deadline with very high requirements. But damn if it isn’t an orbital strike to your confidence being forced to admit that not only was a recommendation you made horribly and woefully wrong, it’s been actively damaging to clients relationship with their community.

My usual mantra; Simple is Complex, and Complex is Simple, has quite simply screwed me over. It still holds true, except when it doesn’t.

So where do we go from here? Hopefully, we’ll be moving forward with an entirely new solution to the community issues, and hopefully they’ll want to keep me on board for that process. It’s not a total disaster after all. The hosting setup that’s been built for them seems to hold up fine, though it has it’s own set of challenges. Secondly, the website is purring like a kitten, and has several fairly impressive features and integrations that seem to work really well for their workflows.

Privilege

We need to be clear that there is no such thing as giving up one’s privilege to be ‘outside’ the system. One is always in the system. The only question is whether one is part of the system in a way that challenges or strengthens the status quo. Privilege is not something I take and which therefore have the option of not taking. It is something that society gives me, and unless I change the institutions which give it to me, they will continue to give it, and I will continue to have it, however noble and equalitarian my intentions.

Harry Brod, “Work Clothes and Leisure Suits: The Class Basis and Bias of the Men’s Movement,” in Men’s Lives, ed. Michael S. Kimmel and Michael Messner (New York: Macmillan, 1989), 280.

The worlds oldest cinema

An unexpected benefit from the dental trip to Stettin is that down the street from our hotel is the world oldest cinema.

It opened in 1909 under the name Helios, at a time when Stettin was in Germany. And here 107 years later it’s still going. My inner filmbuff is unreasonably excited.

Facing a demon

One thursday morning in 1997 I was sitting at morning assembly at my boarding school (it wasn’t as fancy as it sounds). I was tonguing around inside my mouth, applied a little pressure to my front teeth. That’s when I hear a small crunch, and the next thing I know I’m holding a piece of tooth in my hand.

I’ve always been terrified of dentists. I can’t remember how or why it got to be that way, but it’s just one of those things. My last memory of visiting a dentist is sorta kinda like what I imagine dying is like. Being blinded by stark white light, blood pounding so hard it causes a headache, while lying down unable to move. Not exactly the thing you want to actively pursue.

This irrational fear has motivated one poor decision after the other. It’s coming up on 11 years since I’ve last set foot in a dentists office. As a result, my teeth … well, let me put it this way; Aleppo is in better shape.

And while it started as fear and phobia, shame has since creeped through the door those two bastards kicked open. And it’s been compounded as time went by. I feel self-conscious about my smile, which is filled with discolouring and chipped teeth. And so it became easier to justify not doing something about it. And that excuse moved onto a financial one, as it became readily apparent that the work needed was going to be ridiculously expensive. And so the situation deteriorated.

I really want to be able to smile again. Smile without thinking about what others might think. Especially since I have so much to smile about these days. My business is doing well, I have the Doctor in my life (and she is just amazing) and the days are looking brighter and brighter, even as we’re moving towards winter.

So now I’m facing the demons Shame and Fear. They’ve been riding me for more than twenty years. I’m terrified, and anxious, and excited, and nervous. But something has to change. And so on Sunday I’m taking the first of three trips to Poland, for extensive dental surgery. Wish me luck.

On the subject of self-care

One of the ways that stress has affected me, is that it’s taken my general lack of care for myself to new levels.
Which is weird, seeing as it wasn’t something I spent a lot of time on before, and when I neglect myself I lose the tenuous grasp on myself I already have.

Basically, because I don’t have much of an appetite I forget to eat. This leads to my blood sugar crashing. Which leads to hypersensitivity and bouts of unstable emotions.

Now, I am normally able to identify what’s going on when its about 5-6 hours too late. At which point I overeat to the point where I start feeling shame, because I am still about 30 pounds overweight. It’s a delightful circle of stupid.

Back on the horse

I haven’t been very good at keeping this thing up to date. That despite the fact that it’s incredibly healthy for me to get my thoughts out of my brain and “down on paper”.

But hey, what’re you gonna do?

Anyway, I’m still alive, and doing fairly well (all things considered). Trying my very best to get back on my feet, and get things settled in some sort of routine. The Doctor is also working her ass off, but we’re still good. It’s been difficult adjusting to the boyfriend thing, while also dealing with stress induced insecurity and self-doubt. There’s no doubt in my mind, that I am my own worst critic. Most of the time I feel like I’m holding up a facade, because if I didn’t things would quickly come tumbling down.

My memory’s been getting worse. I forget the simplest things. I switch around words. It’s super disconcerting. But the Doctor and others around me have been fairly good at dealing with my broken mind. In that regard I’m extremely fortunate.

It’s not all bad, though. I can feel how my mind is still slowly picking up speed in other departments. Ideas are coming, and motivation follows. Kin has gotten som help in the form of another developer signing on and helping out on the project, and I finally got around to ordering the parts for a prototype Smart Mirror.

4AM panic attacks

I’ve been trying to sleep for the past four hours. I’ve been doing the insomnia shuffle. It’s become a familiar pattern for the last couple of months.

You see, I’ve been out from work on sick leave. Stress, it seems, has finally done me well and truly in.

Normally my nights consists simply of me tossing and turning until something snaps and I collapse into a state of not-really-sleep, that’ll last anywhere between four to six hours. Then I’ll wake up and be awake for anywhere between sixteen to twentyfour hours, before collapsing again. Rinse repeat.

I’m shaking as I’m typing this. About an hour ago my heart was racing a thousand miles an hour, my fight-or-flight response was triggered, I was hyperventilating and all my senses were on high alert. Why? Who the fuck knows.
I’ve had a few of these lately. I say lately … I mean within the last couple of months. But it’s gotten increasingly bad.

Maybe it’s all the changes that are happening? Maybe I’m just losing my mind?

It’s unusual for me to not be in control. I mean, not complete and absolute self-control. But at least have some sort of vibe about how, what and where. I feel like I’ve lost that. Many times I get that same sensation you get when you’re almost asleep, and your brain somehow get’s tricked into thinking that you’re falling, and it wakes you up to brace for the impact. That second of shock, disorientation and panic, yea? That’s been my ongoing sensation for at least 70% of the time for the last 2-3 months.

It’s a real treat, I tell ya. I am genuinely terrified. I’m starting to think I can’t trust my own thought processes, because idiotic and irrational ideas keep creeping in, and if I follow them to their conclusion I know I will permanently damage relationships with people I hold very dear. It’s not going terribly well over here.

Stress is the mindkiller

We’ve all read Dune by Frank Herbert. And if you haven’t, you should. Go do it now, I’ll wait.

In his amazing book (and the somewhat okay movie) we encounter the Bene Gesserit and their Litany Against Fear. It is recited during times of tribulation and trials, in order to clear the mind and maintain focus in situation where fear might grip the heart of our would-be hero. It goes like this …

I must not fear.
Fear is the mind-killer.
Fear is the little-death that brings total obliteration.
I will face my fear.
I will permit it to pass over me and through me.
And when it has gone past I will turn the inner eye to see its path.
Where the fear has gone there will be nothing. Only I will remain.

But to me, fear is not the greatest mindkiller. Fear is just another face of uncertainty, and is quite often overcome be mere confrontation.

To me the greatest mindkiller is stress. I know this because I have encountered this beast quite a few times by now. And every single incident has, and is, worse than any fear I’ve ever felt (including the one time I was mugged at knifepoint). Stress creeps in, often under the radar and absolutely destroys every single productive thought in my brain. It shuts me down. It drains my energy, creativity and productivety. It effectively reduces me to a drooling mess. It’s not pretty. Trust me.

Currently this beast is riding me hard. And I’m doing my best to curtail it’s efforts to destroy me.