Wednesday, 29 April 2015

A Newbie's Confusion

""Problems, problems..." by Ion Chibzii
I'm very new to this process.  Yes, I've read online diaries and journals and blogs for years, but there's a huge difference between reading and creating one. Many efforts get abandoned. That, by itself, is a testament to just how difficult the creative process can be. And there lies my problem - I just don't see myself as all that creative.

Yes, I've written essays and stories and, gasp, poems for years but I'll be the first to admit that they're quite amateurish. I love the use of language, the effort needed to find just the right nuance of expression to convey an image or a mood, or create a character. I'm often moved, when reading, by wonderful turns of phrase (much to the eternal annoyance of my son who must hear each phrase immediately after I've come across it). Some people have a facility with language that I feel humbled by.

My lack of creativity extends to images. I truly love looking at photographs and paintings and sketches and comics and all other visual arts. I appreciate the effort taken by the artist to capture just the right colour or angle or lighting. I just don't seem to have quite the right "eye" to visualize in this way. I can appreciate, after the fact, but I'm not convinced I can create in quite that way.

To compensate, I seek out images that move me and, I believe, give added depth to the words I type. These images are not mine. They belong to the artist who created them. To see how I respect these artists please read this.

Thursday, 23 April 2015

Another Group of Three - Pt 2

Obstructive Sleep Apnea (OSA) and Me

This is Part 2 of a three-part series. Each post can be read independently of the others; however, if you would like to see the full series, click for Part 1 and Part 3.

About 20 years ago, my then girlfriend complained about my snoring. I wasn't all that surprised because I'd sometimes awaken myself from the noise! However, it wasn't the volume (which she described as deafening) that caused her the most concern. She told me that sometimes I was gasping for breath, snorting, almost as if something was choking me.

Admittedly, I thought she was over-reacting but I went to see my doctor anyway. He sent me to an ear, nose and throat specialist, who ordered a slew of scans and tests, diagnosed that I had Obstructive Sleep Apnea (OSA), and operated on me to fix the problem. The snoring went away, the gasping for breath stopped and all was good.

What I didn't know, because I didn't research it, was that the surgery has about a 25-30% success rate. Or, to put it another way, a 70-75% failure rate. I just went about my life, unaware that for the next 20 years the OSA was wreaking havoc with my body and mind.

Image by Habib M’henni
The name tells you that OSA is a sleep disorder. While you're asleep, your muscles relax and something (your palate, tongue or uvula) collapses to create an obstruction in the back of your throat. This causes you to experience an apnea (defined as the cessation of airflow for > 10 seconds). This can happen dozens of times a night without you ever being aware of it. Some people have hundreds of apneas a night.

In my case, each apnea lasts for 18 seconds or more and I experience 70, or more, apneas every hour. In essence, each time I fall asleep, I end up choking myself for a cumulative 20 minutes every hour. I wake up each morning tireder than I was when I went to sleep. Most mornings, I begin my day with a massive headache. Every day is spent in a sluggish haze. My body feels leaden with exhaustion and my thinking is unfocused. My memory is very much hit and miss.

Keep in mind that I wasn't aware that the surgery had failed. The progression of OSA came back gradually. I thought I was tired because of too much work, or dealing with changing shifts, or a bad night's sleep, or too much coffee, or too much stress. So, I developed ways to function including a reliance on notepads. In time, I realized that these methods were becoming less effective. What I didn't know, was why. Sadly, or, fortunately (I truly don't know which it is), it took something quite extreme to answer that why. That will be explored in Part 3 of this series.

The effects of OSA are substantial. There is an increased risk of stroke (the risk to men is increased threefold); type 2 diabetes (48% of type 2 diabetes sufferers have OSA); hypertension; and other ailments, including depression.

In the U.S., the economic cost of undiagnosed OSA, from medical costs to treat related illnesses and OSA caused car accidents, is estimated to be well in excess of $10 billion.

Against all of this - the low success rate of surgery; the increased medical risks and associated medical costs; the increased economic cost - is a simple solution. The recommended treatment is a CPAP (continuous positive airway pressure) device. In essence, you wear a mask and inhale mildly pressurized air. The continuous pressure is used to keep your airways open so that no apneas occur.

Yes, I'll wear a mask, and yes, it's attached to a machine. But, given the choice of continuing to choke myself, or not, I'd rather wear the mask. Ultimately, I'm looking forward to a good night's sleep, waking up with no headache and feeling vital throughout the day.

For two wonderfully informative videos on OSA, please view Sleep Apnea Explained Clearly Part 1 and Part 2.

This is Part 2 of a three-part series. Each post can be read independently of the others; however, if you would like to see the full series, click for Part 1 and Part 3.

Sunday, 19 April 2015

Another Group of Three - Pt 1

Image by Rakkar
Introversion and Me

This is Part 1 of a three-part series. Each post can be read independently of the others; however, if you would like to see the full series, click for Part 2 and Part 3.

Years ago, a friend convinced me to complete an MBTI (Myers-Briggs Type Indicator) questionnaire.  Now, even then I knew myself pretty well so I really didn't see the point.  But it was a good friend, so I caved and went ahead.

The results weren't surprising.  In the end, I was typed as INTJ (with the I coming in at 89%) which meant that I was very much an introvert.  This I knew.  I'm the guy who goes to the party and stays in the corner, or goes to the bar and stays at the table.  I hate small-talk (I'm horrible at it) but will gladly sit down with you and have a conversation.  Give me a book, a quiet space and a coffee (or a beer), and I'm in a happy place!

More recently, I read 15 Signs You're An Introvert, Even If You Don't Feel You Are with my son.  He was surprised at how many of these signs (14 out of 15) applied to me.  The odd one out used to apply to me but other factors negated its influence (more on that in another post).

Social events are very stressful to me.  Even though I sit in the corner or stay at the table, the chaos and noise surrounding me can be overwhelming.  My choice to sit back is not being standoffish or aloof but is an attempt to cope with the mass of stimuli coming at me!  At the end of events like these, I need some "me time" to unwind and recharge.  This means I tend to isolate myself and balance the over stimulation with some quiet.

My preference is to be by myself.  I can be by myself in a Timmy's simply by reading an ebook while sipping my coffee and chomping on my donut.  This gives me the best of both worlds - comfortable socializing by limiting the chaos and a personal space that is respected.

FYI, my ideal job, according to various aptitude tests I've been subjected to, is to work in a nice, and very quiet, library!

For more on introversion, please read Susan Cain's wonderful book Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking

or Laurie Helgoe's equally as informative Introvert Power

This is Part 1 of a three-part series. Each post can be read independently of the others; however, if you would like to see the full series, click for Part 2 and Part 3.

Friday, 17 April 2015

Why "The Three of Me"?

Much to the embarrassment of my son, I take fleeting stabs at creativity. I try to keep these efforts, poor as they usually are, separate from my more businesslike writing (letters, resumes, and the like). Admittedly, the distinction between the two is less about quality (it's all universally inept) and more about privacy.

Initially, I saved my creative efforts in a folder I labelled "Me, Myself, and I". The first of these folders was actually a 3-ring binder that I used in high school, Now, it's been a long time since I was in high school so that binder, and me, have fallen apart, although in different ways.

When I started to write using a desktop computer, I kept the label. After all, it worked. My writing was still quite bad, but nicely organized!

Some months ago a life-changing event took place (more on that in a later post). Now, I research, and work and come to terms with what that event means to my ongoing life. Issues with memory and concentration mean that it's important to have a written record I can refer to. Writing will also let me consolidate my efforts. So, I picked up some notebooks at the Dollar Store and began to write away.

It's critical that I share this with my son. My life-changing event came during a time when so much around him seemed to him to be spiralling out of control. By sharing with him, he could know why my life changed so drastically and verify that this change is a positive one.

You've probably guessed, but my son and I live apart. I’m truly fortunate that we've kept a close bond. Circumstances mean that we don't see each other as often as we'd both like, though when we do, I keep him up-to-date on my goings on. Conversation is great for this, but I'd rather our time is spent on "us" and not "me". I do share my writing, but sadly, since my handwriting’s a mess, he sometimes struggles with it (actually, he laughs at it!). The solution is obvious - type my notes so he can read them without the distraction of my poor handwriting (or my being there).

And this is where a secondary goal crops up. The internet is a wonderful resource and my research led me to many stories that helped me. Sharing how I’ve been helped is a way to give something back.

All of this, plus some prodding from others, led to the creation of this blog. But its private/public nature meant my old folder name wasn’t fully appropriate. So, a small variation and voila, “The Three of Me” is born!