Monthly Archives: April 2013

Take three and call me in the morning


It’s been a good week. I’m sleeping a bit better and feeling more content with myself despite not getting much done at work. My wife and I even had sex twice in the past week! As an aside, it’s kind of sad that we have sex so infrequently. For the first few years we were dating we couldn’t keep our hands off each other. The illnesses earlier this year didn’t help, but still. Anyhow, back to my mood, I can’t pinpoint what the cause is but I have a hunch it is related to supplements, learning a new manual skill and surfing.

First, I started back up on my 5-HTP. I have been taking it for awhile, after reading The Mood Cure last year. I don’t wholly agree with everything going on in there, but I tried taking some supplements and some diet changes. I started with the 5-htp and L-tyrosine. Eventually I ended up only taking a single 5-htp tablet in the evening. I’ve been on it consistently but I ran out and hadn’t taken it for over a week or so. I figured I would see if it was doing anything for me. After not taking it for a few days I started having problems with insomnia and a more general depression set it, I finally got off my ass and ordered some more and have been taking it since last week again. My sleep improved pretty quickly as has my mood(although that might be related to the stuff below as well).

Last Saturday I had my first experience doing upholstery. We have some antique furniture we inherited from my wife’s grandparents. Two pieces, a chair and a bench, developed problems with the springs supporting the cushions, some were poking out the bottom. I had looked around into getting them fixed but realized it was going to be really really expensive to do so. A friend who is doing some occasional upholstery work offered to take a look at them, but she started a new job and never got around to coming over, also she wanted to replace the hand-tied springs with foam while I kind of wanted to keep the original setup with the hand-tied springs. I started looking into upholstery classes and quickly realized that, at least where I live, they are hard to find. One community college offered a class via their continuing education but it was filled by the time I found it. On a whim I googled “upholstery” in my direct area(vs the major metropolitan area) and found a listing for upholstery classes(by the hour) at a woman’s shop not far from where I live and it was much cheaper than the community college course! I called the number a few days later and it rang without ever going to an answering machine. I tried off and on for a week with no success. I had kind of given up but then late last week I tried again and finally got through. Anyhow I went last Saturday morning and really enjoyed myself. I had stripped the cushion piece the night before(wow, that took much much longer than I had guessed), but during the class I attached new webbing, and hand-tied the springs. I have a lot left to do(going again this Saturday), but the act of learning something new and actually making something with my hands makes me feel so good.

The last piece of my mood change this week has been surfing. My advisor and most of the research group are out of town at a big conference this week. I took my surfboard to work and managed to get out on Monday and Tuesday during my “lunch break”. The conditions were okay, but I just felt great being in the water, and getting some short rides in. Today the wind was howling by the time I got into work and it’ll probably continue through the rest of the week so I probably won’t get anymore surfing in, but those two days were great! I realized once again how out of shape I am, but I was okay with that. Rather than beating myself up for getting so out of shape, I was able to register it as something that I need to be aware and perhaps figure out ways to get in shape even if I’m not able to surf very often. I also realized that I should take advantage of my work’s proximity to the beach while I still can, I live too far away from the beach to go during the week otherwise.

So here I am, wondering what to do with this information. I still don’t see a lot of options for me work-wise at the moment, but it’s not really getting me down too much right now. If I let myself daydream I envision a scenario where I live near the beach and go surfing in the mornings before work. I wish I could figure out how to get closer to the beach. I think I’ve mentioned before that wanting to be near family and friends, which is very important to us, pulls us away from the beach. We could move closer to my in-laws but other than them and the beach I don’t like that area so much. As for my daydream work, it would consist of lot’s of learning, and I would get to do things with my hands. I like technology and that’s a real possibility but there was something so grounding and satisfying in my brief exposure to upholstery that draws me to the the idea of having trade or skill that I could do. The pay sucks, but this is a daydream right?


Photo from the days when I used to hang with the band.
Photo from the days when I used to hang with the band.

I’ve been depressed today. Not quite sure why, it just kind of hit. I first noticed it when some of the guys at work suggested a last minute outing for beer after work with the group. I’m usually the one organizing these sort of things, but I just didn’t feel like today. I went for a short while, but left when the majority of the group showed up. A friend in Chile e-mailed me last week to let me know that her husband had a seizure and it turned out that he had a medium sized tumor in his head and was going for surgery early this week. It’s been on my mind, and I’ve constantly been checking my e-mail for any news. I think the surgery was today, but I’m not sure. Anyhow, this probably has played some part in my depression today, but again I’m not sure.

The weekend went well. I took my daughter swimming which I really enjoyed. It almost didn’t happen though. There is a small wealthy town surrounded by our much larger and urban city. My wife heard that this town had a nice heated public pool about 5 minutes away from our hosue and had planned on us all going. My younger daughter was being quite fussy so I offered to just take my older daughter. We showed up and I asked how much non-residents were. I knew that it was more expensive for non-residents but I was flabbergasted when I was told that non-resident adults were charged $30 and non-resident kids $7. I was so shocked that I actually exclaimed “$30!?” out loud and made some comment about having to see if I had enough money. I was actually going to leave, which would have been sad for my daughter, but the guy was nice and gave me the resident rate of $15. (Seriously, $15?)

So I sucked it up and paid the $22 for my daughter and I to go swimming. I was able to put that aside and actually had a good time. The small pool was pretty warm, and for a long time we mostly had it to ourselves. I enjoyed playing with her and seeing her having so much fun. The pool was only three and a half feet deep, but I got her to go down the bottom and retrieve an object for the first time, and I even got her to put her face in the water without holding her nose for short periods. It made me wish that we lived in a warmer climate so that she could get more pool time. I think she is like me in that she really loves the water(now if I could get her to be comfortable in the cold ocean I’d be set). I’ve found that I really enjoy the opportunities to do an activity alone with her. I’m not good at the daily stuff around the house, but actual activities outdoors I tend to really like.

I also spent a lot of time over the weekend, starting on Friday night, watching a live stream of the Coachella festival (hooked up the computer to the TV and stereo). It’s been a long time since I’ve been to a concert, so being able to see these bands play live, even if it was on the TV, was fantastic. I gained new found appreciation for some bands I was already familiar with and liked (Café Tacvba, Blur, Red Hot Chili Peppers) and discovered some new music as well. I stayed up way too late for 3 nights in a row, but it was very much worth it.

Despite enjoying the music so much, I also found missing being around live music. When I was in graduate school a friend of mine from high school was in a fairly successful band in the same city I was studying in. Besides the small club gigs, they also got to open for major acts at big venues. During that period I used to go his shows a lot. I was kind of the unofficial photographer for the band so I often got backstage passes. Seeing the bands on TV/computer made me miss that period in my life. It reminded me of the excitement of live music and everything involved in touring and playing. I spent about 5 days at one point with the band on a mini-tour. Not that I needed an excuse (it was just the band members in their van), but I went along as the photographer. I still remember that week as one of the top 2 or 3 weeks in my life. It had been a long time since I had just spent time in a car with friends, or actually just spending so much time with friends in general (I considered the rest of the band friends). The time in the van on the highways, the small parties and BBQs at friends’ houses, setting up for shows and taking everything down, it was all great. I realize that this can get tiring if you are doing it all the time, but for those 5 days I had the time of my life.

Besides missing that time in my life, I also admired the musicians I saw on TV for being so good at something. Part of me had the normal reaction of wishing I could play music in front of thousands of fans, but I more regretted letting most of my musical training lapse( I was never a great player, but I enjoyed it) and I more generally lamented feeling like I’m not REALLY good at anything. This has been a problematic theme for me at work, but this week it has felt more general. I just honestly feel that I am not good at anything. It’s not to say that am terrible at everything, but rather I don’t have any skills that I can point to say “I’m really good at this”. This is also probably getting me down as well.

I remember one of my philosophy professors in Australia (an American ex-pat, probably depressive) telling the class a story about being on some bluffs overlooking the sea on the east coast with his wife (he pointed out to us that they had divorced) and being depressed because he had just read “A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur’s Court” and felt that unlike the protagonist, if he suddenly found himself in the past he would have no useful skills, for example making matches. I haven’t read the book but I completely understand that sentiment and I think that the memory has stayed with me for these past 17 years for that reason. I feel as if I have a bunch of small disparate skills that I’m okay at, but that in the real world (life or job-wise) I’m pretty useless.

Update Okay, I posted this about 10 minutes ago, then browsing the web(rather than going to sleep) ran across this, maybe someone is trying to send me a message?

Nowhere Man

The Beatle’s song “Nowhere Man” came to mind as I was beginning to write this post. I feel exactly like I’m making all my “nowhere plans for nobody”. I actually often create problems with scheduling at home because I make all these stupid plans in my head and it seems all decided but then I forget to tell anyone about them.

I’ve been feeling somewhat lost this week. We had my daughter’s 6th birthday party on Saturday which was fine. Nothing particularly bad has happened since, but I just feel so ungrounded and unmotivated. For example, I’ve been trying to write up a paper on some research I did but I’ve just had the hardest time doing it. It feels like I can’t wrap my mind around what I am trying to say and that I get bogged down in small grammar details, and nothing flows or makes any sense. Trying to dig up citations seems to be such a huge task for some reason. I escape by working on the figures, which for me is much more straightforward and fun to do. It’s funny, I can do a decent job editing other people’s writing but writing my own stuff is usually such an overwhelming task.

Today this inability to act or do came up at my daughter’s school. She left her backpack in the cafeteria by accident yesterday and my wife had asked me to look for it this morning when I dropped her off. I checked the lost and found, but when it wasn’t there I kind of gave up. I’m still not sure why, but the idea of having to go sign in and find the cafeteria(I still don’t fully understand my way around the school) then take the backpack back to the classroom seemed too hard. Writing about it seems ridiculous, but I just couldn’t do it. The secretary is kind of mean, but so what? All I had to do was explain that I needed to look for my daughter’s backpack and be on my way.

When I told my wife she was somewhat incredulous that I didn’t do it and was annoyed because it meant she would have to go after school with both kids to find it. She didn’t yell or anything, and given the circumstances was quite gracious and calm about it. I tend to cut myself down when I’m upset about my behavior but she was patient enough to ask me to stop insulting myself and listen to why it had inconvenienced her so much. I grudgingly listened and realized that I had made things difficult, apologized and still felt like shit. The rest of the day I’ve been off, questioning my ability to do anything in life, feeling like I’ve reached my peak in income and career and everything from here on out will be downhill. I feel like I’m too dumb or unmotivated to learn anything new that requires mental ability. I’m also beginning to get worried because my usual excitement for doing stuff like surfing is also beginning to diminish. I haven’t had the opportunity to surf since vacation, and the conditions haven’t been good anyhow but I’ll have to keep an eye on this.

To focus on the positives (since there are so many negatives I could go off about), I did make some progress on some ongoing projects I’ve fallen behind on. I complied the list of replacement parts for a receiver I am fixing for a friend (this had been seeming impossible for weeks now) and am waiting for confirmation to order the parts. My other accomplishment this week was posting the vacation pictures online for family members. I also got around to printing some B&W photos (one of which I posted above) which I haven’t done for months. Unfortunately, these actions didn’t pick me up as much as taking care of unfinished business usually does.

I’ll try to focus on the rest of Nowhere Man, and hope that I am not completely hopeless and just viewing life through an extremely distorted lens.