Underneath my yellow skin

Category Archives: Self-Care

(Un)Healthy, (not) wealthy, and (un)wise

I’m feeling better today, which is a relief. I dragged myself to taiji yesterday, despite feeling like crap, and did just enough. I had a private lesson with my teacher, and near the end of the class, she asked if I wanted to do some Solo Form or some Sword Form. I said, “This will surprise you, but let’s do the Solo Form.” Surprise because I love the Sword Form and still merely tolerate the Solo Form. But, the Sword Form is a weight-bearing activity, and I was simply not up for it. The Solo Form, on the other hand, was gentle (especially the first section, which was what we did) and easy on my aching body.

After class, I picked up a few things at the co-op and then went home. I crashed in the early evening, but I still felt better than before I went to class. Actually, I felt shitty upon awakening (around seven-thirty), and then improved throughout the day. That’s why by noon, I felt (barely) good enough to go to class. Bottom line is that taiji is good for me, but it’s just a matter of having the energy to get there.

When I’m sick, it’s the worst when I first wake up and right before I go to bed. Unless I’m really sick, I generally can maintain throughout the day. That’s why I think it might be allergies along with whatever else I’m fighting. I’m tired of it, so I will actually see a doctor when I can get the energy. This week, next week at the latest. I’m skeptical that she’ll be able to find anything, but ruling out possibilities is just as valuable as finding the actual cause. Or if not as valuable, at least it allows me to focus my worry. Some ideas. It’s an immunodeficiency problem, iron deficiency, chronic fatigue, or fibromyalgia. It could also be a problem with my thyroid medication, but I get that checked every year, and it was stable the last time I checked.

I just did a quick Google, and I’m more convinced than ever it’s allergies. I’m allergic to everything. I’ve recounted before that when I take the allergy test where they put all the allergens on your thigh, my entire thigh swells up like a balloon. My brother and I were talking about the allergy shots we got when we were kids, and all I can remember is how miserable I was after each shot. My arm would swell up and be hot and itchy. My brother couldn’t even get the shots because he didn’t reach the threshold for getting them. The last time he tested for allergies, he got hives.

I’ve cut out dairy and gluten because of my sensitivities. I know they don’t reach the level of allergies, but it’s still not fun to spend a half hour on the toilet every time I eat either. I don’t use any scented products because of allergies, and I can smell most people’s perfume/cologne/body wash from ten feet away. I don’t like how Americans are so obsessed with covering natural smells. I much prefer the smell of of an honest sweat than of the crap people used to cover it up. I don’t use deodorant, and I’ve never had a complaint about it. I also don’t take a shower every day or wash my hair every day.

I recently learned that there are corresponding food allergies to pollen allergies (from the Mayo Clinic). It was an eye opener, and it immediately made sense. I’m allergic to every kind of pollen known to womankind, so if there’s a pollen-food connection, then it makes sense that I’m finding myself increasingly sensitive to different foods. The most frustrating part is figuring out which ones are causing the reactions. I need to do a more scientific study, but I get tired just thinking about it.

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Battling the holiday onslaught and other miscellaneous thoughts

Now that Thanksgiving is done and in the bank, of course the whole nation turns its attention to Christmas.

*sigh*

Before I get to that, however, I want to rave about how adding twenty minutes of stretching to my taiji routine when I first get up and sprinkling more stretches throughout the day has really helped my back and my leg by extension. I’ve mentioned it before, but it’s amazing how my back pain has nearly disappeared, and the numbness in my right thigh changed into fiery hot pain in the upper thigh, then fiery hot pain just above the knee, and then back to numbness but to a much less degree. Then, after class yesterday, it was back to fiery hot pain, but only for a few seconds. In addition, we did the whole Solo Form (Medium) yesterday, and for the first time ever, I was able to do the whole form without my back hurting like hell by the third section.

However, my sleep is all over the map, which means I’m probably getting sick again. Which, you know, sucks. I’m so fucking tired from the minute I wake up until the minute I drop off to sleep. I also have this thing where if I miss the window for falling asleep, I’m up for a good long time. I was up for nearly twenty hours yesterday, not for any good reason, but just because I couldn’t fall asleep.

Now, let’s talk about NaNoWriMo. I said before it started that I was going to set my own goal because writing 50,000 words a month for me is not a problem. I was already writing 2,000 words a day for months before that, so yeah, I wasn’t worried about 50,000 words. I said I wanted to look into marketing and publishing, but that didn’t happen. I’ve decided I will set aside a different month to do it in. In that month, I’ll lift the 2,000 words a day requirement and focus on editing, marketing, and publishing. I’ve decided which novels I want to publish (one which is on my other website), but I need to do a little updating.

So, what have I been doing this month? Starting four different novels. I worked on the first one for a few weeks, then decided to shelve it. The second one lasted a few days, I think, and the same with the third. Then, I had a conversation with a Twitter friend, @NotSoSilentMajo, who inspired me to start something completely different. I don’t want to talk about it right now because I prefer to wait until I’m done with a novel before talking about it, but I can say it’s urban fantasy. I’ve never attempted fantasy before (though I love reading it), so I’m excited about it in a way that I haven’t been in quite some time. Thank you, @NotSoSilentMajo for giving me the kick in the (not-so-flat yellow) ass that I needed to get out of my rut!

Now. On to Christmas. Me when thinking about it (apropos because I dressed up as Yoko Ono for Halloween one year):

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Fuck it all to hell

so. damn. tired.
Cannot move an inch.

I’m so fucking tired. Not of anything in particular (though I have plenty of that, too), but literally so. fucking. tired. For the past three days, I’ve been dozing on and off throughout the evenings, then crashing hard during the night. Yet, I couldn’t sleep for more than five hours or so. I’m currently watching a Try Guys video on driving while sleep-deprived (early access for being a Patreon member of a certain tier. They’re doing a series driving while ______, and this one is where they had a twenty-four hour stay awake party, then drive on a contained course. It’s well known that driving while sleep-deprived is as bad if not worse than driving while drunk. The doctor in the video said that it was ideal for people to get 7 – 8 hours of sleep a night, and I had to laugh, albeit bitterly. I’ve gotten up to 6 hours, but 7 hours seems like an impossible dreams. I used to get 4 hours a night on a good night, but I’m up to 6. Also, when the doctor advised not to drive when you’re sleep-deprived, I actually snorted out loud. That meant I would never drive, which isn’t possible where I live.

I remember once when I was deep in the middle of my chronic depression, my therapist suggested trying to stay awake for 72-hours as there was some evidence that it can jump-start the brain out of depression. I decided to give it a whirl, and made sure to plan it around a time where I wouldn’t have to leave the house for those three days. Well, life happens. My BFF had her baby six-weeks early, right around the sixty-hours-awake mark. In addition to me doing this experiment, I had an incipient cold. I had to go see my BFF’s baby, of course, or at least visit them in the hospital. I managed to make it there, talked to my BFF, didn’t see the baby because she was in the ICU and I did NOT want to give her germs, then started driving home.

I was going down a road I’d traveled hundreds of times. I could make that drive in my sleep. but, with a lack of sleep (going on sixty-two hours), I suddenly had no idea where I was. I looked at the road ahead of me and did not recognize it. It was as if I’d never had seen it before. I somehow managed to make my way home (still don’t know how), held out for another hour or so, then crashed hard.

When I was in my second year of college, I started having weird fugue states in which I would phase out of reality then ‘wake up’ a few minutes later with no idea of what just happened. I wasn’t sleeping as made clear by the fact that if I were talking to someone, they still were talking to me as if we were having a normal conversation. I had to pretend I knew what they were talking about, which was disconcerting. Worse yet, though, was that I would ‘fall asleep’ while driving, only to ‘wake up’ a few minutes later having no idea where I was. Fortunately, the routes I was taking were familiar, so my best guess is that my brain went on auto-pilot. Still, I was very lucky I didn’t have a horrible crash.

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Finally! No longer feeling like warmed-up puke

I started feeling better Sunday night, and when I woke up on Monday, I was markedly improved. Sinus was clear (although my ears were still scabby and crusty. Yes, they become filled with pus when I pick the scabs), cough was mostly gone (one or two hard coughs every few hours), and better yet, I had more energy than I’ve had in the last month. I didn’t feel like death warmed over, and I actually looked forward to going to taiji. More to the point, I had enough energy to propel myself out of the car.

It’s difficult, though, because I don’t like leaving the house in general. It’s my low-level depression that makes it twice as hard for me to get in the car and drive. My BFF and I have talked about how fucked up it is that we’d set up a date to go out dancing. We did that maybe once a month, which isn’t a big ask, really. Both of us would spend the whole day psyching ourselves up to go out and begrudgingly get dressed. I’d leave the house, feeling extremely reluctant to go. I’d reach my BFF’s house, and she wouldn’t be dressed yet.

Side note: We have a running joke about her being perennially late. Like other issues in our friendship, once we hashed it out, it was fine. I just mentally added twenty minutes to a half hour to whatever the start time was supposed to be, and it worked out. Funnily enough, one time, she was supposed to pick me up at my house at, say, eight. That meant I’d change around eight-fifteen. The doorbell rang at eight, and I exclaimed, “You’re early!” She said, “We said eight, right?”

We’d chat while she decided what to wear. She often roped her husband into the process (if he was there) because he had a sharp eye for fashion.

Another side note: We were shoe shopping once, and I was griping about my wide feet and how shoes looked so bad on them. She said she once asked her husband if a pair of shoes made her feet look big. He said, “_____, no guy has every looked at a woman and said, ‘Damn, she’s fine, but those feet are too fucking big!'” I laughed, but the message has stuck with me, even though that was probably twenty years ago.

We’d smoke a cigarette on her porch before reluctantly leaving. Once we hit the club or restaurant or whatever, we thoroughly enjoyed ourselves, but it took a lot of wherewithal to get there in the first place.

It’s the depression. When it was chronic and really bad, I could barely make myself brush my teeth, let alone leave the house. Now that I ‘only’ experience low-level depression, I can make myself do the things I need to do outside the house. However, I don’t have an office job, so I don’t have to drive every. That’s another thing. I hate driving, and I’m terrible at it. There are many reasons for that, but suffice to say, it makes it easier for me to cancel on outings whenever possible.


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The more things change

all. the. tea.
Drinking all the tea.

It’s the same old, same old. Just as I was getting better, ROUUUUUUND THREEEEEEEEE. (Imagine buxom chick in a tiny bikini holding up a title card. Or Finchy (see clip. The boys’ character is always named Finchy). Whichever works for you.) It’s as if the fates that be are laughing at me every time I start getting better and saying, “You think you’re OK now? Oh, you poor, sweet, summer child.” I was roughly 85% better when I went to class on Saturday. I went home achy, but not unbearably so, and I was pleased that I was finally on the tail end of the bullshit.

I woke  with the chills. I immediately knew that I was worse because I don’t get cold if I’m not sick. Or rather, I don’t get cold until it’s well below zero. I threw on a sweatshirt and struggled through my morning routine. I skipped class and spent the whole day, miserable, on the couch. Then, early in the evening, I started having heat flashes–which happened the last time I got chills. Though, admittedly, it was cold/hot/cold/hot in rapid succession; this time, it’s chills in the morning and hot at night. At least from my limited data of one day and this morning. I have chills literally as I write this, and now because my words are so brilliant.

It’s depressing and discouraging. I know I need to see a doctor/acupuncturist, but I can’t bear the thought of being out of the house for more than a half hour. I’ve joked before that there are only two reasons I ever want to have a roommate/partner/cabana boy. One is to lift heavy things. Hey, yes, I can do it myself, but it’s nice not to have to do it all the time. The bigger one is to help me out when I’m sick. Shadow is currently snoozing on my legs, and he’s a great nurse (except when he meows at me, drags his nose across my bare flesh, and claws at me (gently) in the morning to wake me up for brekkie), but he’s not so good at making me tea or going out grocery shopping for the bare essentials.

Anyway. If this goes according to the timetable, the chills/heat flashes will last another day, and then I’ll slowly start getting better for reals. Or something. I don’t know, and at this point, I don’t really care. I’m watching Numb3rs as my comfort food right now and hoping I’ll feel better soon.

Making a bad situation worse

There is something intensely boring and self-involved in being sick. At least for me, that is. It’s hard to do much else when I’m not at my best or even at 50%, and it makes me cranky as fuck. I am not at my better self when I’m sick. Mostly, I want to withdraw into myself and hide from the world. Hm. Come to think of it, it’s not much different than regular me. I jest, I jest. (But only partly.) Since I am purportedly a goddamn adult, I manage to keep most of this shit to myself, but it’s harder to do when I’m sick. I’m funneling so much energy into being miserable, I have little left over for the constant controlling of my emotions that I do on a regular basis.

My taiji teacher suggested acupuncture, which I am fine with in theory. In reality, though, I have a complicated reaction. Not to acupuncture itself. I think it’s a good thing. But to the fact that I’m Taiwanese, and I know little-to-nothing about it. If I go to someone in Minnesota, they’re most likely going to be white. So, there’s a layer of shame and defiance in my attitude to begin with, which is not a good way to go into a new situation. But, as uncomfortable as that is, it’s better than going to someone who’s actually Chinese because I have even more feelings about that. It’s part of being in the diaspora–never feeling as if I belong to anywhere in particular. I know to many old school Chinese/Taiwanese people, I’m a disappointment/shame to my culture. In addition, I’m Taiwanese with a grudge against the Mainlanders*, which would not end well, either.

Regardless, I need to do something because every time I start to come down with something, it’s never-ending. It goes something like this. I start to feel off, which means my energy starts flagging. That lasts for a week or two. Then, sinus issues. Then, bowel issues. Then, coughing/sneezing/sore throat issues. Sinus issues may or may not persist. Throw in flu-like issues from time to time, lather, rinse, repeat. Last night, I was lying on the couch under a blanket and my cat (on my legs), and I got the chills. That’s another phase of being sick for me.

I’m tired of this. It seems to happen every year. My taiji teacher asked if it could be a prolonged sense of allergies, and that might be part of it since I’m allergic to everything. It’s worse when I get up in the morning and then for a few hours before I finally drop off to sleep. My ears are totally scabbed over with crud, and they hurt.

I’m in the same position, still have the chills, and I’m sipping my honey ginger lemon tea. Is it helping? Dunno, but it tastes good.

I really liked this song until I figured out what it was about (which was by the end of the song–it’s pretty obvious. At first, I thought it was about a lover, which would have been bad enough, but it’s God, which is even worse). Too bad because her voice is gorgeous.

 

 

 

 

 

*Brief primer: Chiang Kai-shek fled the Mainland to get away from Mao. He took over Taiwan and ruled it with an iron fist. Taiwanese people were considered second-class citizens under his regime, and he considered it part of China. My parents believe in an independent Taiwan and that we are Taiwanese, not Chinese.

Moving on up

badass asian chick with sword!
Shaolin Sword. Different, but still cool.

For the first time in two weeks, I feel like a semblance of myself. I said when I first started feeling punk that I’d rather have a few days of intense sickness and then get over it then to have something that lingers forever and ever. When I was first sick, it was a low-level, but pervasive exhaustion that sapped my will to do anything. Then, I had three days of concentrated crud, which, while it sucked, was bearable when I got marginally better the next day. Then, yesterday, Monday, I felt significantly better and went to taiji for the first time in weeks. We took it easy, and we did a little of the Sword Form, which always makes me feel better. I was careful not to overdo because I know myself. Like many people, when I start feeling better, I’d go hard at whatever I was doing and make myself sick again.

You’d think it’d be easy to tell myself, “Remember, just because you’re starting to feel better, it doesn’t mean you’re completely better.” Well, it’s easy to tell myself that, but it’s harder to truly embrace it. I’m a pretty low-energy person in the first place, but being sick makes me almost completely immobilized. When I finally can move without much exhaustion again, I want to go hog-wild (which for me means going to TWO places in one day rather than one).

I left taiji feeling a bit tired, but not excessively so. It felt good to go to class and stretch my limbs. It also felt good to see my teacher and classmate (there’s usually only the two of us on Mondays) after being absent for a few weeks. I still did my daily routine, but I learn so much in class that I don’t like to miss it. In addition, we’re going through the Sword Form with refinements and slight tweaks, and as I’ve said a million times, THE SWORD IS MY JAM. I love it with a passion unmatched for anything else. I would sleep with my sword if I could (well, no, I wouldn’t, but it’s always in my heart), and I could do sword for hours on end.

Why do I love it so? I can’t fully explain it, though I’ve thought about it more than once. I’ve told the story before of how once I ‘graduated’ from the Solo Form, my teacher mentioned the Sword Form. I vigorously said I didn’t want to learn weapons (oh, I was so young and naive back then), but she gently persisted. Finally, one day, she pressed her wooden sword in my hand, and as soon as I closed my fingers around the hilt, that was it. I was born to wield a blade, and I haven’t looked back since.

I know some of my classmates are envious of my Sword Form and how easily I learned it, but I can’t take any credit for it. It just came naturally to me, and I practice it frequently. I do something with the sword every day, and I practice the Sword Form about once a week. I understand my classmates being a bit jealous, but they don’t see how diligent I am with the Sword Form. I get a bit tired of having to play down my ability or biting my tongue from saying that I’m good because I practice. I mean, yes, I have natural talent. I’m not going to downplay that because it’s true. In addition, I’m good at learning stuff. Well, usually. When I’m not, then I don’t do that thing any longer. I’m not proud of it, and it’s not a good thing about me, but it’s the truth.

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Dragging through the mud

I don’t get sick often, but when I do, I–wait, that’s a lie. I get sick a lot. Or rather, I get sick in clumps. I may not be sick for months, but then I get sick, it lingers, I start getting better, I get sick again, and I can’t seem to drag myself out of it. During one epic episode, I had bronchitis for eight months. EIGHT MONTHS.

I got seven to eight hours of sleep last night, which is another reason I know I’m sick. I don’t sleep that much in one go unless I’m sick. I’m still exhausted, and I just want to sleep.

A little Monster Hunter: World talk. Just a little because I need to run to Cubs then go back to sleep. I took on the Pink Rathian with little problem except for her goddamn poison. I forgot to spec out for that (I can negate poison completely), and she got me three times with that goddamn tail of hers before I cut it off. Still. She wasn’t *that* much harder than the regular Low Rank Rathian (with whom I had very little problems), and my speculation is because I’ve fought so many goddamn dragons/wyverns in Dark Souls.

I’m back to wanting to master the Charge Blade again. Except, it’s going to take an appreciable amount of time in order to do so. I’m also back on the Insect Glaive train, having used it to totally dismantle the High Rank Tobi-Kadachi. Granted, he’s not that tough, but the Low Rank Tobi nearly wrecked my shit the first time I fought him. Anyway, I love the mobility and the range of the Insect Glaive and how easy it makes it to mount the monsters. I’m keeping it in my repertoire of viable weapons.

I just ran to Cubs and now I’m tired. I will cut this short and write more about MHW on Friday, the actual designated Fun/Video Games day. In the meantime, watch someone much better than I, Casey DeFreitas from IGN take on her most hated monster–Kirin.

Rainy days and Mondays

I’m sick. I started feeling a tickle yesterday, and I was hoping it was just allergies. *spoiler* It wasn’t. Today, I woke up experiencing the full cruds, and it’s the worst. Honestly, I would rather be full-on sick for five days then feel crappy for weeks. It’s not bad enough to lay me out completely, but it’s enough to make me drag my flattish yellow ass all over the place.

I had to skip class yesterday because I just didn’t have the energy to drive myself there, and I didn’t want to infect my classmates with whatever incipient cold is brewing up inside of me. I probably would have benefited from the class, but it seemed like scaling a mountain to get there.

In addition, I’m having phone woes. My beloved Nexus 5X died on me two weeks ago. I got a Moto X4 to replace it, and it just died today. After I’ve had it for less than a week. Yeah, I’m not impressed by that. I’ll be returning it and getting a different phone.

So, yeah. I have the grumps today. That’s why I’m not doing a full post. Sorry about that. Here’s a video of Maru making pizza.

Frailty, thy name is humidity

gorgeous humidity.
Beautiful, but deadly.

I am back from my week of fun in the sun, emphasis on sun. I went to Malta, Gozo more specifically, with my family and Ian, and it was an experience unlike any other. First of all, I have to get the elephant in the room out of the way.

The heat. More to the point, the heat and the humidity. It’s the summer in Gozo, and it’s the worst of the worst. More than one Gozitan commented that we had come to the island at the wrong time while looking as cool as a cucumber as I sweated a river down my body. My mom’s sandplay association had a conference and why they chose Malta during sweat o’clock time, I’ll never know.

Here’s the absolute worst part–we were staying at a Jesuit retreat center. That’s not the bad part–they were wonderful people. Very kindhearted and generous, which I’ll get to in a minute. The retreat center had no air conditioning. I repeat, the retreat center had no air. Now, if you know anything about me, you know that I HATE the heat. Hate it with the passion of a thousand fiery suns. Anything over sixty makes me cranky, and when it hits eighty, I’m a right bitch. In Gozo, the average temperature while we were there was high eighties with an 80% humidity. There were two large fans in the bedrooms, but all it did was move the hot air around. Ian and I kept the windows open (one in the bedroom and one in the bathroom), but it didn’t help much, either.

I couldn’t sleep in the heat. It was oppressive. I know that phrase is overused, but it was true. I never knew how much I took for granted that nighttime would bring about a cool and much-needed breeze. I love my air and pay fealty to it, but I reasoned I could live without it. I have. My air was broken at the beginning of this summer, right when we had a few days of 100 degrees. It was actually broken since last year, but the AC company told me to wait to fix it until April of this year so the warranty would last longer. Well, not longer, but you know what I mean. In April, we had a 1 1/2 – 2 feet snowstorm, so the last thing I was thinking about was my air conditioner.

Anyway, I suffered through it wearing as little as possible and blasting a big box fan right in my face. I moved as little as possible, and it was relief once the heat broke. My air was fixed a few weeks later, and I haven’t looked back yet. Naively, I thought if I could deal with that, then I could deal with Malta.

I could not have been more wrong.

The heat hit like a Mack truck the second I stepped on that island. It surrounded me like a shroud and grew incrementally tighter every second I was there. From the moment I woke up until the moment I went to sleep, it wrapped around me like a blanket and wouldn’t let go. Breakfast was at 8 a.m., lunch was at 12:30 p.m., and dinner was at 7:30 p.m. We got there last Tuesday, I want to say afternoon? It’s hard to remember because time was so convoluted in Malta. Anyway, my heart sank when I realized there was no A/C, but I naively thought I’d be able to deal with it on some level.

That’s a lie. I knew I would have trouble with the heat. I’m a wimp when it comes to heat–there’s no getting around it. I can’t even deal with Minnesota heat which is bush league in comparison to what I experienced in Gozo. I’d lay down in the heat around midnight, drenched in sweat, feeling miserable as I waited for sleep to find me. I had one fan blowing directly on my face, but it didn’t help. I was miserable and pissed off, but trying not to wallow in it–or my stench.

Sleep was not my friend during those nights. I’d sleep for maybe an hour or two, and then I’d wake up hot and sweaty. To make matters work, I didn’t fully understand how the toilet worked, and I have a thing about public toilets anyway, so by the fourth or fifth night, I was pretty much avoiding the bathroom in the bedroom and using the one in the center itself. Ian and I got into a fight over the toilet in our bathroom, and it’s in a large part because both of us were sleep-deprived and majorly cranky. I felt like everything was working my last nerve, and I had to actively hold back from snapping.

Ian and I would go out to smoke at three or four in the morning, and it would be minimally cooler. It was actually cooler outside the rooms than in, but, again, it was a matter of degrees. As in less than five. We’d stay outside as long as possible, and then return to the stifling room. We’d both try to sleep, but it was nearly impossible. My sleep is shit in general, but in Malta, it got even worse. It hit Ian even harder than me, and I don’t think either of us got more than three hours of sleep at a time.

We’d wake up around six or so and then swan around miserably until breakfast. I have to give the retreat center props for having gluten-free cereal and bread (from my favorite maker, Schar) and vegetable milk, even though I don’t know what exactly it’s made of. Breakfast was  gluten-free flakes and vegetable milk, a banana, gluten-free bread with three slices of ham. Coffee or tea, orange juice, and water. Another smoke, and then life on the bay.

This is one of the ways the men at the retreat center were so wonderful. The director drove my father, Ian, and me to Xlendi Bay the morning after we arrived and picked us up a few hours later. He did that the next day as well. On the third day of the conference, he was busy, but he had one of the fathers drive us instead. Xlendi Bay became our second home, and, yes, it’s a tourist haven, but it’s gorgeous, and the water was crystal clear and cool. I loved wading in it, feeling the buoyancy keeping me bobbing. I had to be careful because of the rocks, but it was such a breath of fresh air–pun intended. Plus, there was a breeze that kept the air from being stifling.

What I loved most about the bay was seeing a plethora of people from all around the world–or more accurately, from all around Europe. There were people of all shapes and sizes, and none of them were self-conscious about their bodies. I saw older and large women who were rocking bikinis and bathing suits with confidence, not giving a damn about the cellulite on their thighs or upper arms. They didn’t give a thought about how their bodies appeared to others–which was so mind-blowing to see. I’m so used to American women (me included) being obsessed with what is wrong with our bodies, and even if it was an illusion, I loved seeing women who just didn’t give a damn.

Related note: Right before going to Malta, I went shopping to look for a bathing suit at Target. I had little hope of finding one because bathing suits are not made for women like me. But, I tried on a two-piece that was made by a company specifically for plus-sized women, and to my surprise, it did not make me want to cry when I saw it on myself.

In Gozo, I saw a women similar to my size wearing a swimsuit that was similar to mine except it was bright blue and flowery while mine was black–natch. The top had a camisole-like base with flowing drapes over it. There was cleavage shown, but still had support. The bottom had boy shorts with drapes over it as well. I didn’t feel uncomfortable in it, but mostly because of how comfortable everyone else was around me. On a related note, there were so many beautiful people–but not in the conventional way. They all looked like they lived hard and joyfully, and I had to stop myself from staring more than once. It’s why I like European flicks–the actors look real. Haggardly beautiful, but real.

After a refreshing morning at Xlendi Bay, it was lunch time. It was usually some kind of pasta followed by meat, potatoes, and veggies. Then, dessert or fruit. I tried to stay strong, but I broke. I had to eat the pasta because I was famished. Another thing I didn’t realize is how used to eating whenever I want I’d gotten. I don’t like to eat three times a day–I prefer to graze. In Malta, I felt I had to stuff myself when I had the chance because I wouldn’t eat again for a long stretch of time. On the other hand, I was so hot, I rarely felt like eating. It was a weird situation.

Dinner was vegetable soup, then meat, potatoes and veggies, and then wine. The first day of food was great. By the last night, I think everyone was a bit sick of the same thing. Oh, there was bread for every meal as well, but I couldn’t eat any of that. The pasta I had was good, but it wreaked havoc on my system. I stopped eating it after three days with just a pang of regret.

The last day we were in Gozo, Ian and I begged off the planned tour despite persistent urging from my mother (because I fucking hate tours. I hate crowds of people. I hate people telling me what to do or where to go. And, to be honest, I wanted the time away from my family. After breakfast, Ian and I walked into the town center with the explicit plan to visit the shopping mall and the citadel. There would be air conditioning in the shopping mall, we reasoned. Oh, how wrong we were. It wasn’t really a shopping mall, but merely a collection of shops for tourist with an occasional blast of air, but not A/C per se. I was dying at this point, but it was our last day in Gozo, and I didn’t want to waste it.

Walking to the citadel was painful; I’m not going to lie. I was gasping, though I tried to keep it quiet, and my extremities were tingling. My right thigh was numbing in pain–and this thigh has been a problem for the past six months or so. My dad has a lot of pain in his thighs in a similar way to what I’ve been experiencing, and it’s turned out to be serious. I’m not a doctor, but my interpretation is compressed vertebrae. There’s talk of an operation. The citadel was very interesting, but I was seriously hurting by the time we got there. I overheard a mother asking her daughter in concern if the daughter was OK, and the daughter nodded, but her face was dangerously flushed. I hope she’s OK, but it heartened me to know I wasn’t the only one who was having such difficulties with the climate.

I had a fish stew that was fucking amazing. But, no air until the cab we hailed to go back to the retreat center. I know we overpaid, but I didn’t care by that point. I would have paid five times the amount for five minutes of cold. It showed me how weak my flesh was and how willing I was to do anything to get out of that remorseless heat. I said to Ian that it started to feel malevolent, as if the heat was personally targeting me. Yes, I know it’s not true, but it really felt malicious by the third night I couldn’t fucking sleep. We slept with the door open during the day which helped, but it felt weird to do that at night. I don’t know why, but sleeping with the door closed was nearly impossible.

I have much more to say, but this is getting long. I’ll wrap it up here and pick it up at a later time.