Coffee Break Links

Due to this charming concussion, I’ve been off the computer as much as humanly possible. Regular posting schedule will hopefully return by next month. Here are a few links I’ve enjoyed over the past few weeks, with my occasional ten minutes of (dim) screen time.

ihaveasecret_largecoffeealt

A Burger King dressed up as McDonald’s for Halloween. To heck with legality and branding, this is a hysterically brilliant idea! Those packages are likely now collector’s items.
http://geekologie.com/

Hypnotic textural painting by  Ivan Alifan Jdanov:
https://www.facebook.com/VisualWork

Lighting, sound, texture, special effect brilliance… walk into a vortex:
https://www.facebook.com/yooDesignStudio/

Breathtaking photos of the fall colours in Toronto:
http://www.blogto.com

If you cut this new bike lock, you’ll be sprayed in vomit inducing chemicals. Great idea!
http://geekologie.com

 

Looking for more fun photos? http://instagram.com/cynthiagould

Recent Posts:
Concussion – a Sudden Wrench thrown into the Workings of Life

I’m Running Away and I’m Terrified… But I’m Doing It Anyway!

 

Concussion – a Sudden Wrench thrown into the Workings of Life

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I had a slew of plans for this October. A big VJ gig, launching a ton of new articles for this website, band rehearsals and songwriting… then a metal stand smashed into my head in the exact same place I was bashed late last January, so I have a second concussion.

How does one treat a concussion? Physical and cognitive rest, and no computer screens. Um, yeah. Working on computers is what I do. But the white-blue light really hurts, and this fragile land of headaches won’t ever stop if I don’t do this healing thing right.

Light is now an extreme sport

I saw a light outside the window yesterday evening, and couldn’t help but glance right into a blinding white LED flashlight. Wow, I saw stars for several minutes. Earlier in the afternoon, I was taking a photo and aimed sort of near the sun… darn. Saw trailers for a moment. Fun times. I had to go to work last week, and even with as little computer time and shortest hours possible, it was painful doing little things like scrolling on the screen, or really focussing, or basically being near the screen for more than 5 minutes.

So here I am, typing without looking at a screen which has the brightness turned down to the lowest setting, but still only in 5 minutes shifts every hour.

Weird concussion symptoms that I might not have thought of until I’ve been experiencing them:

  • Complete lack of memory. Even worse than usual
  • Trailing off, blanking mid-thought
  • Writing the second letter of a word first, then having to go back. Usually I only do this when sick or incredibly exhausted, but now it happens several times per page
  • I’m paranoid on stairs, feeling like I’m going to fall, because my balance is very slightly off
  • Random and extreme headaches
  • Slight and persistent headaches
  • Cringing away from light, sometimes even tiny green LEDs. White and blue lights (computer screens above 1% brightness) are the worst. (I’ve been putting masking tape over indicator lights.)
  • Attention span is completely sporadic
  • The sudden bouts of unprovoked exhaustion are fascinating

In short, this healing cycle is weird, disturbing, and throwing me completely off. I can happily take a day off, but several weeks? Barely use a computer, and watch almost no TV? Ridiculous. What on earth am I supposed to do?

I’ve actually been handwriting lyrics and poetry. Taking photos. Staring at trees.

I miss singing. Belting my voice full blast shakes out stress, feels good,stretches my lungs. But no, it rattles the little bones in your skull, so none of that for the next month.

Luckily, I did the same Halloween VJ gig last year, so have 97% of the content already prepared, yet have learned some new tricks and filters this year, so I can update most things to look new. I’ve been working on the files for about ten minutes a day, and am planning to set a lot of things up on auto-shuffle, so that I don’t have to look into the lights very much. Overplanning is helping me avoid most screen time.  I’m also going to have others on hand to help me check the focus, and keep an eye on the quality. For once, I’m not going to be afraid to ask for help. I’m really going to need it. I’m also not going to even attempt to be a perfectionist. It will look good, that is going to be good enough.

This has been a very odd adjustment period, and I cannot play Plants vs. Zombies to destress from it. Annoying. All I can do is keep at it, and hope my brain heals quickly and completely.

This post has taken me much longer than usual to write, and I’m about to ask someone else to proofread it, since I cannot focus right into the laptop. (Thanks, Mike!) Again, annoying. But being kind to my brain will eventually stop the pain, and that really must be my only goal this month.

What weird wrench has been thrown into your life lately? Comment!

 

I’m Running Away and I’m Terrified… But I’m Doing It Anyway!

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Some people run away to join the circus, I’m just taking off for a week to a writer / artist’s retreat. This might not be a big deal to most people, but for those of us with anxiety, there are a lot of potential triggers to be dealt with.

 

New Places
I have many allergies, many things that make me uneasy, and my tolerance for annoyances is a lot lower than most. I can handle anything for a day or so, but a full week might be a bit much. I assume I’ll be able to deal with it, but I need to pack well just in case – earplugs in case the person in the next room snores, antihistamines and all allergy and asthma meds, all possible defences.

New People
Let’s face it, a certain small percentage of the population are total jerks. I have to hope that people spending a week at an artist’s retreat aren’t the sort of people to douse themselves in body spray and stomp around yelling into their phones all day long. But you never know – human beings are random. There might be confrontations with strangers. There might be strange social boundaries that I do not understand, or personal space issues of mine that they don’t understand. It’s the unknown that makes me a bit twitchy.

This is totally illogical, and I am reasonably certain that these artists will either collaborate or keep to themselves, but they’re likely not pushy or annoying. Why would they be? This is a perfect example of imagination jumping to the worst. I don’t want to believe the worst of humanity is likely, so why do I even think of such things? Anxiety. It’s the dark cloud spread over the mind at all times if you let it be there.

Can I trust myself to Work?
I am there to be productive – to work on my new poetry collection, really learn my new camera, go on photo safaris, take a zillion notes on upcoming projects, brainstorm, write an ebook. What if I nap the whole time? What if I stare at the wall and cannot even get started? What if I let myself down? What if I place impossibly high expectations upon myself and fall short? How much work each day will be enough? Will I be proud of the work that I do? I feel that value for money must always be acknowledged – I am paying to stay here for a week, I need to churn out an amount of work that reflects that amount.

I am a busy person, and feel that I am never producing enough. However, I cannot expect to make up five years of “not enough” in one week. I also need to enjoy my time. I need to unclench, and acknowledge the atmosphere, the wonder, the “running away” part of it all. I will also need to allow myself to be spontaneous, no matter what I was supposed to accomplish that day. If there is a thunderstorm over the lake, I should be grabbing my camera and shooting the cloud formations. If there is a perfect sunset, I should drop everything and go admire it.

Will my day job be okay?
I am fully aware that I shouldn’t worry about this, but I cannot help it. Sometimes I have to finish jobs at record speeds, and I just don’t know if anyone else can work as fast as I can in emergency bursts. When under the wire, I am a machine. I don’t know any other designer who works that way. So if the hammer drops on several projects at once when I’m away, who will perform miracles, while they’re busy with their own workloads?

I know this is ridiculous, and I am entitled to vacation time. But I haven’t taken a full week off in years because of this. Which mean I really need it even more. Oh well – they will sink or swim without me, I cannot dwell on it. But it will be tricky to block this from my mind.

Planning Ahead
I am going to start every morning at this retreat with handwritten “morning pages”, and vent my dreams, my fears, whatever is sloshing around my weird little mind. Hopefully venting this will clear my brain for the day so that I can get straight to the Do List. Yes, I will have a Do List for each day, with expectations, timelines, and productivity goals. But if one day I really need to nap and stare at the wall, I’ll allow it. I cannot bully myself that much. I might need to meet a buddy for lunch and get lost in conversation for a few hours. I might need to suddenly photograph the sun setting over the water for a full hour. I am going to do everything in my power to leave my anxiety on the mainland and not bring it with me. A vacation from stress and anxiety. Perhaps it is possible.
What perfectly reasonable situation makes you anxious? Please share in the comments!

Coffee Break Links

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Every week I’ll be posting links I’ve enjoyed – mostly good news, fascinating or thought provoking ideas, and some amusement.

Continue reading “Coffee Break Links”

Taking Care of Yourself in an Emergency Situation

A month ago I was coming back from a camping trip, and we blew a tire on Highway 401. Now, I am absolutely terrified of cars, and highways, so this was a traumatic episode for me – I suddenly had to remember all of those lovely hippie things like finding your centre, breathing, not clenching my neck and shoulders as my body trying to curl up into itself with absolute horror.

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After reversing the van dreadfully illegally into a rest stop, we eventually found a tow truck and ended up at an auto shop in Napanee. (Rankins Towing – they were amazing!) As one of the mechanics and my friend took off to Canadian Tire to find a new wheel so that we could eventually make it home to Toronto, I realized that I absolutely did not want to get into a car again immediately. I happened to have noticed a breathtaking antique Pontiac in the parking lot, so I decided to hang around the lot to take photos. This was one of the smarter things that I’ve ever done for myself.

Instead of rushing around and being in the way, I was able to completely ground myself in visual art, which is like Valium for me. Losing myself in shape and colour and texture enabled me to relax my body and mind to shake off the stress from an hour ago. I was able to do something for myself, feeling productive, but also staying out of everyone’s way so they could do their jobs instead of dealing with a clingy little frightened girl.

ihaveasecret-emergency

I was actually surprised when they came back – I thought perhaps 10 minutes had gone by, but I had been concentrating intently for at least half an hour. We got back on the road, and I was relaxed enough to chat merrily with my friend and try to take his mind off what had just happened so that we could concentrate on more important things like finding a place to have dinner.

 

Life Lessons / Reminders:

  •  When you’re in a time of extreme stress, if at all possible, take that important two minutes to stop everything and think about what you need right now.
  • If you cannot help, get out of the way. Lurking around is not productive.
  • Whatever keeps you calm, whatever keeps the anxiety at bay, try and do that even if only for a few moments. If that is impossible, even just thinking about doing it a few hours from now will calm you down. Put yourself in that headspace.
  • Doing something, doing anything, will give you focus and purpose, redirecting your mind. If left alone, your mind will dwell on the stress, will replay the bad moments, and will make everything much worse. Do not leave your mind to its own devices. Control your mind – keep it as busy as possible, especially when something stressful has just occurred. Write, doodle, make a list, play a game on your phone. Distract, control, redirect.
  • Dinner is always the most important thing!

Coffee Break Links

Good news, fascinating or thought provoking ideas, and some amusement.

Sept 28 – Every week or so I’ll be posting links I’ve enjoyed – mostly good news, fascinating or thought provoking ideas, and some amusement.

ihaveasecret_largecoffeealt

Silence can help brain function, yet it is increasingly rare:
www.lifehack.org

A road that disappears under 13 feet of water, so it can only be used twice a day. Weird. Dangerous?
geekologie.com

You’ve seen amazing photos from the Hubble Telescope, but this “Deep Field” photo in 1995 was a true breakthrough:
www.vox.com

Sometimes an artist needs a muse. Sometimes they don’t realize they need a determined and strangely insistent woman who wants to see other sides of herself through their eyes, their art:
www.newyorker.com

Anti-Vampire Black Garlic Doritos exist. Why? Not sure.
geekologie.com

Law of Media – the news always chooses the least flattering photos of me, ever. Oh well. Great article on the Haiku Deathmatch I hosted a few weeks ago!
themedium.ca