mid-winter reflections

main room in vintage round mirror

After being sick for two weeks and three weekends, my body is much recovered. The ear drum is moving again and I no longer need pain pills, even if the hearing is not back (it seems it will take time). And so as a treat to myself, finally, after months of deliberation, I decided last weekend during the last of the bed rest to replace my poor, dead, six-year-old MacBook with a refurbished MacBook Pro (non-retina), which is not as sexy, thin, or light as the Air but will function better for my storage and upgrading needs, considering how long I keep a computer.

Apple's refurbished computers are triple-tested, with warranty, and come packaged and pristine as new. And there isn't necessarily anything wrong with their refurbished products to begin with; a buyer could have simply changed her mind. My roommate, owner of an older refurbished MacBook himself, turned me onto the idea, and it saved me 15% off the new price, a bigger savings than their 10% educator discount. (Unfortunately, Apple won't let you combine discounts.) This one is beautiful, like all Mac products, and I'm in love with my new main machine. (The old white MacBook shell I'll donate to Free Geek.)

OS X Mountain Lion and the new trackpad are taking some getting used to, and I had to Google how to administer the permissions on the folders from the old computer's brain on the external hard drive, but I'm figuring it out. While Macs are more expensive than PC's, I much prefer the user experience over Windows machines, as well as the design and quality of Mac products, despite their made-in-China-like-everything-else status.

And I'm journaling again. Comparing feelings and anxieties from four months ago, it's obvious that things have on the whole gotten better, for which I'm grateful. Steady income, which adjunct teaching never provided, has been a huge part of this amelioration. And dropping the expenses of car ownership has simplified my life in significant stress-relieving ways: now I have both a laptop again and the ability to save up some money while contemplating future career options.

This week on Valentine's Day, Jeff picked me up from work and we stopped off at a couple of vintage stores in St. Johns before coming back to my place to make dinner. At Sabi & Friends, I found a vintage 22-inch round mirror, a shape I've wanted for years, its tarnish indicating its age and quality compared to most anything I could buy new: beveled, with a thick wooden backing. So now there are two mirrors bouncing light into our dark main room facing east and north. Winter in Portland, with its many cold, dark, wet hours ushering us indoors, for me with tea, candles, library books, knitting, and the Web, is at least good for reflection, looking back, looking ahead.

orange juice in vintage Heath Ceramics, olive-oil-and-butter popcorn, Zadie Smith's NW, & thrifted-wool poncho knitting*

*last weekend's bed-rest treats: reading, snacking, and watching Poirot on Netflix


fresh mint tea

mint trimmings, early February, Portland, Oregon

This is what happens when you've been sick in bed for days on end. You glance out the window and your eye snags on the ragged nasturtium vines in the big planter on the balcony (having bloomed gaily all through fall until the temperature dipped below freezing, at which point they gave up all attempts at sexual display and threw in their yellow and orange towels, their seeds strewn abed for next season), and suddenly you are outside in your down vest with kitchen shears, snipping off dead parts on the potted herbs, which you'd been meaning to get to for weeks.

And then two minutes later it's done, the dead nasturtiums untangled from the living mint, a little pile for the compost, and you feel productive and alive, dirt under your fingernails—no matter that everything sounds likes it's coming towards you from a tunnel or that your cough is still jagged after a week and a half and your gait toddly. It is good you are not operating heavy machinery.

fresh mint tea in vintage Heath ceramics

Then you stuff the mint trimmings into a teapot and steep the leaves in boiled water, stirring in globs of honey, snapping quick photos, proof of life. You consider taking a shot of your Frankenfinger curled around the teacup, the finger cut on a knife the afternoon before while trying to do dishes before crying while bleeding on the phone to your friend Jeff and begging him to come help you cook because you had no energy and felt so alone. But no one wants to see a jagged red slice of living meat with puffy, healing edges.

You realize you haven't been taking good care of yourself—and that if you don't, no one will—not enough supplements, not enough raw vegetables, not enough time with your cat, not enough laughter and yoga and walks and art and talks with friends, too much worry, too much commuting, too much privation. Balance is hard.

You wonder when your hearing will come back, when you should return to work, whether to see a specialist. "I'm worried," I said to Jeff. "It'll get better," he said. "How do you know?" "Well, it'll either get better or you'll start talking like Marlee Matlin or you'll die."

You remember years ago a friend from Columbia in her kitchen in Alameda with the black-and-white-checked linoleum floor and the painted sun-moon-stars on the walls, your first fresh mint tea, your surprise at the brightness of the essence taken fresh from the living plant. And then you sit and sip and write it up because that's what you'd rather be doing with your days on earth. And it's always been that way. And anything else is a lie.


torn drum

lots of little pills

I'm typing from bed, where I've been since Thursday evening, with only brief spells awake and upright in which to pee, shower, find something edible in the fridge to stuff in my mouth to keep the pain meds down, wash a dish here and there, find and visit a doctor (which decision took two days), and fall back into bed. My ear drum's been perforated—the thin flap no longer resisting gaseous pressure as a working drum—the hearing supposed to return, day by day, as the antibiotic works its little bug-fighting magic. Meanwhile, my heart beats in my ear and my head spins like a record. Ba-doom, ba-doom, ba-doom.

I've had the flu for over a week, thought I was getting better, thought I was being all long-suffering and saintly by working through it, coworkers mown down right and left, until it grabbed me by the ankles, nestled in my ear, and whomped me to the ground where I have been groveling near-deaf since.

(Psst. Let me tell you a secret. The worst part of being single is having no one to watch your back when you are ill—no one to do the dishes, no one to bring tea, no one to ask if you need anything. When contemplating a breakup, keep that in mind. Yet at least I no longer must endure the gaze of a man who resents my human frailties. So there is that.)

Welcome to February! Its thin gray days are flying by with nothing to show for it. But who cares about anything when one is cracked out on cherry-flavored Nyquil? All I know is I've never been this consistently sick in my adult life: four cold/influenzas and two costly ear infections since I started working with kids in September. Children should come tattooed with toxicity warnings, skull-and-crossbones stickered across their soft, unlined foreheads. Time for a career change.

Edited to add: It turned out via two trips to an ENT that the ear drum hadn't been torn, only blistered, which created the same symptoms. Who knew a blistered ear drum was even possible?

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