Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Seeing things

I see ghosts. Not ghosts like vague apparitions exhorting me to get out of the house or asking me to help solve their murder, but a more sinister kind. These ghosts are all in my head.

For at least 15 years -- and maybe my whole life, my doctor isn't sure -- I've been having hypnopompic hallucinations. When I start waking up, I see things that aren't there, but they are so real I feel I could reach out and touch them. Most of the time, I see innocuous things -- balloons around the ceiling of my bedroom, gently bobbing in the breeze of the ceiling fan (I groggily wonder, "Is it my birthday?"); beautifully elaborate patterns on the wall, like something on a palace wall in Marrakesh; hieroglyphic-style writing on the wall, sometimes in a lime green ink; damask wallpaper with roses; huge cracks in the ceiling.

But sometimes these visions are of people. And even if they're friendly people, it's so out of context as to be disturbing. The first one I remember, from college, I woke up to see my roommate standing in my doorway in a white nightgown. I wasn't scared to see her, just peeved because she hadn't even knocked. She was a little spooked later when I berated her about it, only to find out she doesn't own a white nightgown.

When I started living on my own, the hallucinations became almost unbearable. I saw ex-boyfriends looking in windows, would-be burglars with ski masks lurking over the bed. But the worst were when I saw angry men with knives or guns advancing toward my bed. I would blink rapidly, telling myself, They're not real, but they wouldn't fade for maybe 20, 30 seconds. So then I'd start screaming my head off. My neighbors probably thought I was insane, and I started to believe it, too. Sleep did not come easily most nights, because I dreaded what I'd see. And who knew when I'd blink my eyes, only to have the vision not go away? I took to sleeping with the light on.

Almost two years ago, I finally mentioned this weirdness to my doctor and she told me I probably had narcolepsy. I doubt I do, but I won't know until I let them do a sleep study on me (and my insurance being what it is, it won't happen any time soon). I don't have any of the other classic symptoms, so I think my hallucinations are part of something else, maybe my depression. Whatever the underlying cause, over the last two years they've become less and less frequent. The weird thing is, I miss them. Not the terrifying ones, but the gentler hallucinations with balloons and pretty wallpaper. It was almost exciting, not knowing what I'd open my eyes to any given morning. And for a few brief seconds, my ordinary, practical world became strange and wonderfully unusual.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Pants on fire

Most writers are good liars. Or exaggerators, if the word "liar" gets your undies in a bunch. It's just part of storytelling, that little extra fudging on the details, or the outright fish tale that hooks your audience from the first word (see what I did there? Perhaps I should blog about my love of bad puns). Truth truly is stranger, and more interesting, than fiction, but sometimes it just needs a bit of help.

I am not always a good writer, but I'm a pretty talented liar. I can make a random trip to the supermarket sound like I inadvertently joined the circus, just by changing up the details a bit. On occasion, I've told an "enhanced" story at a party, only to have my Dear Hubby sputter, "That so did not happen!" or "There were no ninjas at Publix!" I had to have a little talk with him about outing me in public, plus I explained that This is What Writers Do. Hell, I have no idea if all writers do this, but once you start lying you really can't stop.

I'm sure I told some whoppers as a kid, but for the most part I always knew I'd get in trouble. Not so my little brother Scott. Not only could he lie practically from the moment he opened his mouth, but his lies were so extravagantly detailed, we figured they had to be true. When he was about five, he told my father than he and Mom had broken down on the side of the road on the way to the store and this nice man named Johnny Monson had come along and fixed the car. Johnny Monson drove a blue pickup truck. My mother swore to Daddy this had never happened, and she couldn't figure out why in the world he would need to make up such a story. A few weeks later, the whole fam is in the car driving a few miles from home when Scott points out the window at a house and says, "That's where Johnny Monson lives." Sure enough, there was a blue pickup truck. My parents wre a little freaked at that point, because not only did he remember the lie he remembered the details. That is gold medal lying.

I'm not that good. Now, my lies are not of the "I did not have sexual relations with that woman" or "I was hiking the Appalachian Trail" variety. They are innocent, told to embellish a story or just to have a little fun with people. But as I get older, I find myself forgetting most of my little exaggerations and getting busted by my friends. I'm not ashamed of it, I just hope these friends continue to trust me.

But if I tell you something's a fact, I won't be offended if you need to Google it.

Monday, October 12, 2009

Halloween Spooktacular

Halloween, my favorite holiday, is a few short weeks away. Be prepared with some of my favorite ideas for food, costumes and decorations.

Mental Floss - Creepy Halloween Food
The brain cupcakes look gross, and probably taste delicious. The Melting Head Cake makes me want to vomit. That's a good thing, for Halloween.

Trix Your Treats

Creepy Cocktails

Lady Gaga
Let's hope it's warm enough on Halloween for no pants.

Kate Gosselin Wig

How to Create a Jon Gosselin Halloween Costume
Easy: Just be an Ed Hardy-wearin' tool.

Bubblewrap Jellyfish
Strangely gorgeous.

Ideas for Pumpkins

Ghoulish Gourds

Tampon Crafts
I couldn't resist. Cuter than it sounds!

(Re)finding motivation

Above my computer, I have a large yellow Post-It with the Zig Ziglar quote "Motivation follows action."

If only it were that simple.

Some people are people of action. Doing things come easily to them, and they don't have to sit and ponder an action for an interminable amount of time. They just do it. Other people -- like me -- are people of words. I like to talk a problem to death. I can talk for hours about why I have trouble writing or exercising or flossing or any of the other things that I don't do as often as I should. But I still don't do them.

The solution? Find a routine and stick to it, no matter what. When I was working in an office, a routine was a snap. I got up at the same time every morning, worked out (usually...), ate breakfast, got dressed and headed to work. Once at my desk, I made myself a cup of tea, perused the day's headlines and checked e-mails. Around 9 am I was ready for actual work and meetings, and I felt like I'd had enough time to warm up to the day and didn't feel stressed -- or I didn't if there hadn't been a pile-up on 65 North that morning. Sometimes there were hiccups -- like when my boss would convene a 7:30 am meeting and throw off my whole day. So flexibility was also key. But my schedule helped me focus for the day and get down to work without feeling rushed.

Now my day looks a lot different. I get up when I feel like it, which some mornings could be 6 or 7 or as late as 8:30. I may or may not eat breakfast, depending on my mood. Some mornings I just must have a certain thing for breakfast, and as I'm trying to lose weight, that thing is usually not in the kitchen. So then I'm grumpy because I have to eat oatmeal. I watch an episode of Golden Girls, lie on the couch long enough to become deeply bored and finally turn on the computer around 10. Then I'm online all day doing... not much of anything. I play around and waste time until it's the afternoon and I have to pretend I've been busy all day when Royal comes home.

Is it any wonder I don't feel motivated? I've trained my mind and body to do as little as possible. Now, I'm all for periods of laziness, and I think it helps to recharge the batteries and refocus. But the human body and brain isn't built for extended periods of extreme ennui. After a while, you kind of stop trying any more. I realized yesterday I hadn't brushed my teeth all day. That's going a bit far, I think. When you work from home, it is absolutely essential to treat each day like a regular work day. Otherwise, it's easy to let the monkey mind take over and sabotage everything.

So, once again, I need to force myself into becoming a person of action. It seems like I go through this over and over again, and it's true. One of these days it's going to stick, I just know it.