2016 has been a scary, shitty year for a lot of reasons, many of them political. But that doesn’t mean I can’t tally at least a few things on the positive side of the roster, if only for a morale boost. ‘Cause there are plenty of us out there who deserve some entertainment. Here are some fun things I’ve learned:
1. Take meds with the side effect of drowsiness at night, not at breakfast.
You’d think this should have been obvious, but although the sticker on my pill bottle warned me not to use heavy machinery after taking it, the main idea I understood from doctors and pharmacists was that I should take my medication at the same time each day.
I eat breakfast at roughly the same time every day; dinner not so much. So, I figured breakfast was the best time to take a daily pill.
Ha ha, nope. Turns out that it really does make me pretty drowsy. Not in an immediate enh-I-might-need-a-cup-of-tea way, but in a way that saps my energy all day long. Which is sorta the opposite of the intended effect of the medication, since being tired brings down my mood, and the whole point of the pill is to prevent my mood from hitting super-lows.
Now that I’ve managed to standardize my bedtime more than any of my meals, it’s much easier to take my medication right before brushing my teeth. Bonus, it seems to help me sleep quicker and better too. And my ability to write every day, exercise every day, cook every day — it’s all improved drastically. What was I thinking before?
2. Quick breakfasts = amazing
Cold: Plain yogurt + jam + seeds/nuts/trail mix/whatever
Hot: toasted English muffin, veg bacon, cheese, 50s microwaved scrambled eggs (in a ramekin! So they fit perfectly onto the English muffin!)
Okay, the amazingness of the first is directly proportional to the amount of jam, BUT STILL. I like having go-to breakfasts that take all of a minute to make, are nutritious and filling, and require only ingredients that I like using already.
3. Writing first thing in the morning is an awesome way to start the day.
IT MAKES ME SO HAPPY. Even just 15 minutes or 100 words.
Writing >> not writing
And I am so lucky to be able to do it.
4. How to pick a standard lock.
Boyfriend and I have both been interested in this for a while, as have some other friends who like to know how things work and/or pretend that we are James Bond. So, on his birthday, I organized a small gathering to learn from the amazing organizer of TOOOL Toronto. He explained it really well, with cool slideshows and tons of patience. If you’re interested in the subject and live in the GTA, I highly recommend heading out to one of their regular meetups, which some of us still hope to get out to sometime.
Anyway, now I can pick training locks so simple that no one would ever use them in real life and get annoyed when Elementary shows Watson inserting the pick before the torque wrench. Oh, and also understand why no one in real life, criminal or not, would choose to pick a lock except under a set of very specific and/or gamified circumstances.
5. A towel can stop my back from hurting.
I mentioned to my RMT that I often woke up with pain in the small of my back. He told me to try sleeping with a pillow under my knees.
In recent years, I’ve become pickier and pickier about what I can sleep on. The saggy fold-outs or leaky air mattresses I used to be fine with make me wake up with what feels like a kinked spine. But no longer!
I didn’t want to struggle with anything as squishable as a pillow, so I rolled up an extra towel and put it under the fitted sheet on my side of the bed. And, lo and behold, I wake up with minimal stiffness and aches. No matter what I’m sleeping on. MAGIC.
6. How to split small pills in half without a knife.
The medication I mentioned above comes in pills that are twice my dose, so I have to split them in half all the time. They used to be easy to break in half with my fingers, but I guess the pharmacy started carrying a different brand of generic earlier this year. I struggled, occasionally defaulting to a sharp knife in frustration. Which just left parts of the tablet crumbled on the counter.
Luckily, my mother is a pharmacist and explained: put the tablet convex-side down on a hard surface, and press on each end. Instant halves. Thanks, Mom!
7. What garlic scapes are.
Garlic scapes are the plant part of some types of garlic. Farmers cut it off in the early summer so the plants will concentrate their resources on growing the bulbs. The scapes are stem-like curling greens with buds on the end, and they have a mild garlic taste. I oven-roasted mine with olive oil and sea salt.
8. Flyboarding is cool, but I am not very good at it because I’m scared.
I get up on two feet, then I panic because I feel too high. When I panic, my goal is to get back down into the water as painlessly as possible. So I crumple. Luckily, the instructors catch the whole thing on video for you.
On the other hand, zooming through the water like Iron Man (… but partially underwater) is much more fun.
9. How to pay attention to my body instead of imposing what I’ve convinced myself is best for it.
I struggle a lot with not going to the gym. Like I’ve written about before, I have a tendency to torture myself over not making the “right” physical health choices, even when I don’t have good evidence about what those choices might be.
I’m not entirely sure what I think is going to happen. I’ll lose all my muscles? I’ll be crap at the sports I like to play? My body will become a shape I’ve internalized as unattractive? My clothes won’t fit anymore?
Newsflash, self: you still have muscles. Your body shape changes all the time, because that’s life. Nobody cares about that as much as you do.
Even when it seems like everyone around me is running marathons or cutting carbs, I have to consider both my physical and mental health. It’s not a good idea to force my asthmatic lungs through intense exercise in summer humidity. If I’m so exhausted/achy* that I want to sleep, a nap might be a better use of my time than a run. And I definitely shouldn’t go to the gym out of fear — fear that my body will become the “wrong” shape or that I’ll lose the strength and endurance I’ve worked hard for. I should go because I want to and it’ll be fun.
Plus, doing chores like carrying heavy laundry and hauling groceries home is also physical activity.
To be honest, I’m still fighting with this one. I can’t instantly switch off the unhealthy beliefs I’ve absorbed. But I can make slow progress by identifying the problem. And by reminding myself of the motivational meme I saw that I really liked: exercise isn’t punishment for the “wrong” things your body does, it’s a celebration of what your body can do.
10. How to use Windows shortcut keys.
Like any child of the 90s, I knew the basics: CTRL+Z, CTRL+C, CTRL+V, etc. But since I (finally) replaced my poor struggling Fujitsu laptop with a newer, ultra-portable Microsoft Surface, I learned a few more so I could avoid carting my mouse with me when I’m on the go i.e. pretty much all the stuff I can do with the Windows and Alt keys, which I’d always ignored outside of the occasional necessary three-finger salute.