I’ve been experimenting with drinking caffeine again because it’s good for my migraines (but not too much) and it’s might be good for whatever is ailing my left thumb. Heh. I first wrote thump. Left thump. That’s funny. Anyway, It’s been a few months and the results have been mixed. I’ve been mostly migraine symptoms free, so yay! Thumb is slowly and painfully getting better. Not fast enough for my liking and I don’t know if caffeine has anything to do with it. I’ve been stretching and massaging it daily, which is probably the real reason it’s doing better.
It’s fucking my sleep really badly, though. at least, that’s what I think is the problem. I don’t think it’s caffeine in general, but either how much I’m drinking or when I’m drinking it. Or rather, not how much I’m drinking, but how strong I’m making the coffee. Either way, I’m falling asleep anywhere from 10 p.m. to 4 a.m. and getting up…well, there’s no set time any longer. On the one hand, it doesn’t matter because I rarely have to be anywhere in the morning. On the other hand, it’s really fucking with me not to have any kind of schedule.
When I was going to bed at 7-8 a.m. and getting up around 1 p.m., that was a schedule. It wasn’t a great schedule, but it was a schedule, nonetheless.
Ok. Because of said schedule, I’m tired. Done for the day.
I love taiji weapons. I probably don’t have to say that by now, but I want to make it absolutely clear. If I had the stamina to do it all day long, I would. I’ve raved about how it’s helped me through the pandemic and how I’ve pushed ahead with it at a clip that has surprised me. In comparison, doing the Solo Form is like pulling teeth with me. Even the Medium Form, which I like well enough, is not something I would choose to do if I had other options–like weapons.
We need to talk about Master T. T. Liang’s Long Form because it has been my nemesis since day one. It’s roughly 20 minutes long and is split into three sections. The third section is nearly as long as both the other sections put together and the entire form is filled with repetition. In addition, Master Liang loved the performative aspect of taiji so he made every movement an even-number of counts so the whole thing could be set to music. That means there is filler, which is strange for a medium that is predicated on exerting the least amount of energy necessary in any given situation.
I have to get into the weeds a little to explain some of the differences between the Long Form and the Medium Form so my apologies in advance if some of this is a bit abstruse. Hah. I first typed obtruse–which is my mashup of obtuse and abstruse. Anyway! In the Long Form, the bow stances–oh dear. A bow stance is when one foot is forward and pointed straight ahead. The back foot is shoulder-width apart (and usually the toes are at a forty-five degree angle NE, if front foot in north). Usually, the feet are a foot/foot-and-a-half apart front to back, but that doesn’t matter as much as the shoulder-width apart side-to-side. There can be a forward bow stance and a back bow stance, but it’s usually forward–meaning the weight is forward.
In the Long Form, the weight is 2/3rds and 1/3rd, but it can be rounded up to 70% and 30%. In the Medium Form, the weight is 100% forward, and it’s 60/40 on the back stance. The benefit of the Long Form bow stance is that you’re not exerting extraneous energy and it’s good for health reasons. The benefit to the Medium Form bow stance is that prime for martial arts applications. At least, that’s my understanding of the differences. The Long Form is considered the beginner’s form and easier to learn. The Medium Form is the advanced form and more difficult. At least this is what my teacher has told me. Her teacher wants her to teach the Long Form to the beginning classes and the Medium Form for the advanced classes. In prep for this, she has been going over the Long Form in all Zoom classes.
I’m trying to keep an open mind, but I still do not like this form at all. It used to give me crippling back pains when we did it on the regular. They would start at the end of the first section and by the third section, my back was screaming in agony. I’ve had to stop more than once during the third section because my back had clenched up so badly. In addition, my knees…oh my poor knees. I was able to clear up the latter problem with the help of my teacher looking at my knees as I demonstrated a part of the Long Form to her. She deduced that I was collapsing my knees and counseled me to make sure that my knees were over my toes. That helped tremendously with the tendonitis in my knees, but the issue of my back pains still continued.
Fast-forward to now, roughly two years after my teacher’s teacher switched from the Long Form to the Medium Form. I am now 100% back pain-free because of the stretches my teacher suggested I try. In starting the Long Form again, the pain has come back. Not nearly as intense or as often as before, but it’s there. I’ll get to that in a minute. Let’s talk about the Medium Form instead. Yes, you still have to make sure your knees are over your toes, but it’s easier when 100% of your weight is on one foot.
My brain has been jumping all over the place and my sleep has sucked, so this post is going to meander more than usual. I’m going to pull back the curtain a bit on how I write posts. Not on the writing itself because that’s usually just put down whatever is in my brain. No, it’s about how I decide what to write about. Normally, there’s something pressing on my brain and I let that flow from my fingers until I’ve said all I need to say on the subject or until I lose interest. Sometimes, it’s both, but sometimes it’s one or the other.
In the past few weeks, I’ve been struggling with my concentration for reasons I don’t want to get into. Suffice to say, it’s not as easy to get shit done as it used to be. Most of the time, I just grit my teeth and force myself to write the post. It may not be as long as it normally is or very good, but I get it done, damn it. Today, however, I’m going to write about whatever is on my mind with no attempt at coherency. Here we go.
Lil Nas X. I didn’t know he existed until yesterday when I read something about Satan Shoes, his new kicks. That he’s selling. Oh, and he’s a rapper? Singer? Both? Anyway, there are 666 pairs and they contain drops of human blood. That’s all I knew when I made this tweet:
*sees ‘human blood’ and ‘Satan shoes’ and Googles*
*immediately feels old and tired*
I’m not offended or shocked. Just embarrassed for him.
My sleep has been shit(tier) lately so I apologize in advance if this is a rambling mess of a post. Sleep, my lifelong nemesis. So much so, I’ve written a novel with Morpheus (of Neil Gaiman fame. Not that he invented Morpheus, of course, but this particular version) as the main antagonist. Goddamn it. I still feel sorrowful when I think of that novel because there’s no way I can publish it. It’s not fanfic as the main character is, well, me. I use all the members of the Endless as I envision them, and, quite frankly, it’s really good.
Anyway, I’d been happy because in the past year or two, my sleep had stabilized. But then in the last few months, it’s gone off the rails again. Why? I don’t know. Is it because of the coffee I’m drinking again? You’d think so, but the troubles started before I took up caffeine once again. It may not be helping, but it’s not the root cause. It’s frustrating because caffeine is beneficial for some things (thumb issue if it’s RA), negative for some things (sleep) and both in others (migraines). So far, I’ve kept the caffeine because the positives have outweighed the negatives, but I may have to quit if it gets worse.
My thumb is better. It’s still sore and tender and hard to bend at times, though. I’ve decided that it’s probably better not to wear a splint most of the time because I don’t use it when I type. The main reason to wear a splint is to keep the digit from moving on its own or from being accidentally knocked into. I feel that constricting the blood flow is not a good thing to do for hours on end so I only put it on when my hand starts actually hurting rather than just being sore and tender to the touch. I can deal with it even though I’m not happy about it, obviously. What’s more worrisome is that my right hand is starting to have…issues. Not the same issues as my left thumb, but still.
Ok. I’m just not feeling it today. Here are Maru, Hana, and Miri.
Thumb update: doing better, but still tender and sore. I’m stretching it daily, icing it and heating it alternately. I’m using the splint less because I don’t think it’s helping as much now. More to the point, I don’t do much with my thumb on the daily so there’s no need to splint it. I do wear it while I sleep because I toss and turn while I sleep; I don’t want to knock it into something. In addition, if I type too long without it on, the base of my thumb and part of my palm closest to it actually starts hurting. Then, I put on the splint and it’s better in five or ten minutes. It’s frustrating how long it’s taking to get better, but it *is* getting better.
Weapons. Let’s talk weapons. Wait, where are you going? I know I’ve become a one-note wonder on this, but it’s been consuming me for the past few weeks. Ever since I got the twin broadsword set, that is. I love them so much. They’re lighter than the escrima sticks I’d been using as a substitute and more ergonomically friendly for my hands. They don’t aggravate my thumb and they move like a dream.
I don’t know how to explain this, but each weapon has a different feel to it. When I hold one in my hand, there’s an energy that is distinct to that particular weapon. The sword is an elegant weapon as it dances in the air. It is the scholar’s weapon and it’s all about finesse. It’s lethal, yes, but it’s more about showing that you are a master over the weapon. The saber, on the other hand, is more about bonking people very hard. It’s a strong, powerful weapon that makes me feel like a warrior as I wield it. Spear is back into the finesse category and it’s both solid and delicate. It’s over six-feet long, which makes it interesting to maneuver it indoors. Cane is pure Broadway. I can’t help it. I just want to tap my way across the room. Karambit is fast and not-so-furious, and I feel like a proper rogue when I wield it. Stealth mode activated!
Moving onto the double sabers. Doing the drills with the escrima sticks, it felt weighty and almost meaty. The steel is thin and flexible, which results in making a swishing sound if I move it too quickly. That’s a bonus because I tend to hurry through my movements. My goal in moving the twin broadswords at the moment is not to trigger the whooshing sound. Also, not to hit myself. I’ve done that more than once because when you pass the blades behind your back, you’re supposed to actually touch them to your back. Which is fine and good, but there’s a thin line between touching and hitting. Fortunately, it’s with the back of the blades and not the front, but still.
Deer-horn knives. These are on the backburner right now. I walk the circle once a week, but I have so many other things on my plate that I haven’t pushed myself to learn any more of it. I just finished teaching myself the Wu-Li Wudang Sword and the left side of the Sword Form. Both of these were fairly easy to teach myself (at least the forms in general. Nowhere near polished, of course). Next up is the last row of the Karambit Form, which I’m sure will be more difficult. I already knew the right side of the Sword Form and have done it probably close to a thousand times. With the Wu-li Wudang Sword, I already knew the different energies being displayed.
Alright. I’m struggling with this post. My mind has not been sharp the last week or two, so I’m going to wrap this up for now.
My twin broadsword set has arrived. I found it outside my door last night and was surprised because I was expecting it later in the week, but, of course, I’m ecstatic. Picture to the right. Please ignore the fact that I had to stand on my piano bench in order to get both broadswords in the picture (yes, on top of the piano cover).
They’re thin metal–almost foil-like–and make that weird swishing sound that such material makes when moved too quickly. It’s a good reminder to slow down and be deliberate in my actions. Just because I want to be the human blender, it doesn’t mean I have to go as fast as possible. That’s a main tenet of taiji–slow and smooth. It’s called the lazy martial art because the goal is to put in the minimum amount of effort needed for the maximum output. No pain, no gain? No. No pain, period. If you’re getting pain from doing taiji, you’re doing something wrong. Such as, I had tendonitis in my knees. It was because I was overextending on my front foot and I was collapsing my knees. Once I fixed those issues (which took time and focus, by the way. Bad habits die hard), my tendonitis went away.
Side note: I think that’s one reason I’m so grumpy about my left thumb having problems (and the tiniest hint of the same in my right thumb). I’m used to using taiji to clear up my aches and pains, but the thumb is difficult to focus on, even with taiji. I’m doing the left side of the Sword Form which is supposed to help according to my taiji teacher, but that may take some time. See, that’s the thing about taiji. It helps, yes, but it’s not an instant cure. But with my back and knees, I was fairly confident the taiji would help. Those were established solutions. My thumb? Not as sure. I could tell my teacher wasn’t sure it would help, but at the very least, it won’t hurt. Also, I’m wary about what it is because I had an issue in my right wrist three decades ago that my doctor incorrectly diagnosed as carpal tunnel. I had it wrapped for months and did everything I was supposed to do to alleviate it. It didn’t get better and I was sent to a specialist. He grabbed my thumb and yanked on it sharply. I jumped in the air and he said my problem was the opposite of carpal tunnel. I don’t remember what the actual diagnosis was, but I had surgery, wore a soft cast for a month, and it was all better. While what I’m experiencing now is nothing like what I had before, I do wonder if it’s the same thing.
My thumb is slowly getting better overall, but it’s really bad in the mornings. It’s funny how little I actually use my thumb and how upsetting it is to have this issue. I’ve completely trained myself to use my right thumb for the space, which was the major thing I used my thumb for before. Weirdly, using my left thumb doesn’t hurt most of the time; it’s just specifically bending the knuckle that is painful. And the base and root parts of my thumb are tender to the touch. If I don’t touch my thumb and am not trying to bend it, it doesn’t hurt at all.
I am a weirdo and I know it. Most of the time, I’m fine with it. More than being fine with it, I’m happy that I’m not part of polite society. I make it easier on myself by only being friends with fellow weirdos (though some pass better that I do) so I don’t really think about it on the daily. Sometimes when I talk to my brother because he’s definitely more mainline than I am, but he’s starting to skew more towards weird the older he gets.
A week ago or so, I was talking to my BFF. Somehow, we started talking about kids and school. Probably because she’s a teacher and has a teenager of her own. She got her first jab and will be getting her second this week. Yay! I’m so happy for her. I’m not eligible because most of my issues are not documented. And, they’re not as serious as many people’s. I mean, yes, having bronchitis for six months is no fun, but it’s not life-threatening, either. That’s sums up my myriad of health issues. None of them are terrible in and of themselves, but they could lead to something worse and the sum is worse than the individual parts.
For example. Having a cold or bronchitis for months is not a big deal in and of itself. Constantly getting them, though, is an indication that I have a really shitty autoimmune system. Nothing too serious, I don’t think. I’ve never had a doctor voice concern about it, but there could be several reasons for that. Oh! My thyroid issue is a big deal, but that’s mostly taken care of. Migraines? I consider myself fortunate that a full-blown migraine is rare for me and when it does happen, it just puts me out of commission for one day and most of the next. And, by out of commission, I mean weakened, exhausted, extra-sensitive to stimuli (I’m already sensitive to stimuli in my day-to-day life), and being fragile. The second day after the migraine, I’m about 80% back to normal. Given the descriptions I’ve heard/read about how terrible some people’s migraines are, yes, I consider myself lucky. Also, if I catch one in time, I’m just stuck with a low-level headache, slight nausea, and hurting eyes for the day.
When the pandemic started, I knew that if I got Covid-19, it would most likely hit me really hard given how badly my body does with regular colds. The last time I got the flu shot, I was out of commission for three days afterwards. Yes, I know it wasn’t the flu, but it sure felt like hell, anyway. I will be getting the vaccine for Covid-19 when I’m allowed, but I anticipate having a bad reaction to it, especially the second dose.
Where was I? Oh, right. So my BFF and I talked about how for most of her kids, the pandemic has sucked school-wise, but for a minority of them, they have thrived doing online schooling only. I said I felt similarly. Because of my PTSD, I am aces in a crisis. It’s only the imminent threat has passed that I fall apart. For the pandemic, that meant around month four or five. I went from being calm and focused to being incandescent with rage. For two or three months, I was furious. Some of it was reasonable, but some of it was just generalized anger at the world around me. Two things I regret most about last year (other than the pandemic itself, of course) were my missed trips to see my two best friends. I’m hoping to see both of them in 2022, but it’s still hard to swallow.
While my BFF and I were talking about school and neurodiversity, I mentioned that I wished there had been more known about neurodiversity when I had been a kid. I would definitely have preferred online school to in-person school for several reasons and would have love the current situation from a school point of view. If I were to go back to school, it would be online with me doing most of the heavy work by myself at home.
I’ve been thinking about my thumb a lot for obvious reasons. It’s funny how much you take things for granted until it hurts like fucking hell. well, to be more precise, it aches like hell. It doesn’t hurt, per se, except the time I slept without the splint because I foolishly decided I didn’t need to wear it at night any longer. That’s where my background comes in because my mom is the same way. The second something feels better, she decides she can go 100 again. She recently had surgery on her shoulder (which had issues that made me so angry at my father and the doctor, but there wasn’t anything I could do about it because she was in Taiwan) and she was upset when she wasn’t back to her normal self in a month. She complained, saying her doctor said that’s how long it would take.
I doubt he said that exactly because she has a habit of hearing what she wants to hear, but even if he had something similar to that, it doesn’t make any kind of sense to think that you’d completely heal from a major surgery in a month. That’s the thing about being a perfectionist, however, and I know this from experience. We don’t have much resource for dealing with ongoing frustration. In my brain, I should be able to think my way to a solution. Also, despite my contrarian nature, I am a rules follower for the most part. So, in my brain, if I am actively working on improving my thumb, then it should get better. And it is, but on such a slow schedule. First week, I just tried to massage the thumb and take it easy. While wearing a splint. I do stretches for my thumb every day and today, I received my heat/ice therapy assists (gel patches, gel finger splint, gel mittens. The gel packs can go either hot or cold). I’m going to do some heat/ice therapy and see if that helps as well.
On the taiji front (because you know I can’t go a post without talking about it.
Side note: When I first started studying taiji, I would notice how much my teacher talked about it and how she had made it central to her life. We are friends as well as teacher/student and in the Before Times, we used to hang out while not in class sometimes. It was clear to me that taiji was her life. Which, good for her, but I didn’t understand it. I was doing it begrudgingly and not really wanting to be there.
I never thought about my thumb before it started being a problem. It makes sense. Why would I think about my thumb? I have two of them and they do what they’re supposed to do. Period. That’s good enough for me. Until my left thumb started twinging in pain. Nothing big. Not often. Just once in a while, it would tweak. And the joint would pop and lock when I bent it. This was perhaps two or three times a week. The clicking didn’t hurt; it was just annoying. Then, about a week ago, things escalated dramatically. The base of my thumb started hurting more regularly. Again, not in and of itself, but if I touched it or moved it in an odd way. Not hurt, but more like ached. The clicking was deeper for a lack of a better word, but still did not hurt.
It was highly annoying, however, and I knew I did not want it to get worse. I Googled it because that’s what I do. It’s rheumatoid arthritis also known as trigger thumb in this particular case. There are stretches recommended for it, which I’ve been doing every day. In addition, I have picked up a splint for it that I am wearing most of the day and night. Is it helping? I think so? It’s hard to say.
I have to say, before I got the splint, the pain increased dramatically. the base is painful to the touch, though not inflamed-looking. The clicking is more often than not, ranging from a quick, barely-audible click to a deep, grinding click. Bending the thumb is painful at the base and the clicking itself hurts sometimes. Once in a while, the bending pain is excruciating, but it’s bearable most of the time.
I’m a contrarian. I know this and to some extent, I embrace it. I swear to the heavens that it’s not out of spite or because I think I’m better than anyone else, but it’s just how my brain works. I tend to look at something from several angles and poking holes in theories. I will say that part of it is me always rooting for the underdog, which means I want to represent the minority viewpoint more often than not. It’s also because I hate things being misrepresented. It’s one reason I had to step back from politics because of the in-fighting. I expect Republicans to attack Dems, but it’s Dems viciously tearing each other apart that drives me fucking nuts. It’s always been that way, but it started getting really bad during the 2016 primaries and it has just gotten worse over time.
I am a far leftie in theory and a not-quite-as-far leftie in practice. That means I get to see the ugly on both sides. It really irks me that some Democrats online spend more time slinging arrows at each other than across the bow. What is the fucking point? I’m not talking about discussing the differences and hashing out what’s important to the party. I’m talking about demonizing the other side and declaring them the enemy. Seriously. We’re talking about degrees of how far we should go on an issue rather than being on opposite sides. It’s frustrating and irritating, and I want no part of it.
However, this post isn’t about me being a contrarian about ideas and politics and whatnot, but rather about me being contrarian when it comes to pop culture. Now, while it’s true that in the aforementioned instances, there is often a small part of pure contrarian because that’s who I am. It’s 95% not that, but maybe 5% that. In this case, though, it’s simply I don’t like what other people like. I know some people think it’s me being hip or whatever, but it truly isn’t.
A recent(ish) example is Knives Out. It was a huge success and it got raved about over and over again. So many superlatives, so little time. It was an ensemble cast with a quirky detective, which should have been right up my alley. I watched the trailer and was…not impressed. Everyone talked about how great Daniel Craig was, but I could not get past how terrible his accent was. Maybe it was purposeful? I mean, he’s a great actor so I cannot imagine he couldn’t do a spot-on accent. Also, he appears clueless, but it had to be an act, right? Like Poirot.