Sunday, October 31, 2010

Killer weekend

It's early evening on Sunday, and I haven't done one thing to prepare for Admin or Environmental Law tomorrow morning. What's more, I have no real intention of doing so with what's left of this evening. Instead, I've been doing things a whole lot more conducive to my general well-being than studying, like baking things from scratch and getting the apartment ready for some friends to come over for Halloween.
Are you asking what happened to the Type A personality that got me to Harvard in the first place? Do I have to turn in my credentials as The Girl Who Freaked Out More About Possible Academic Consequences of a Recent Family Emergency Than the Actual Emergency? Do you feel like my aunt, who commented on my Facebook post about all the baking I was doing, "Aren't you supposed to be studying?"

I guess the answer is that everyone needs a break sometimes. I was an absolute zombie this past week, no pun intended, and it was clearly because I didn't use last weekend to decompress after the intensity of catching up at school. And I'd rather be a bit unprepared tomorrow than let that happen again.

So the weekend looked like this: Russell and I went to Target on Friday evening, partly to stock up for Halloween and partly to wander the aisles looking at bedding, winter boots, and Legos. (Can you guess which one of us cared about which?) On Saturday, we bundled up and walked down to the Square for lunch at Clover, a new vegetarian food-truck-turned-cafe, before buying some groceries for all the cooking I had planned.

First, as dinner for myself, Russell, and a friend we invited over, there was my first-ever batch of homemade pasta (an enormous hassle I won't repeat until we have a Cuisinart mixer and pasta machine, but pretty awesome to have successfully made) with butternut squash filling and brussels sprouts. Then I helped our friend with the crust for a pumpkin pie he wanted to make for our party.

The whole evening was a lovely prelude to today, when we used the party as pretext to give every square inch of the apartment the thorough cleaning it desperately needed. We always grumble a lot while doing this, but when the place feels amazing afterward and won't need it again for weeks or months, we know it was completely worth it. We also decorated a little, brushed the cat several times in hopes of helping an allergic friend enjoy the party, and baked almost four dozen of my favorite chocolate chip cookies in the world.

Now it's almost time for our guests to start showing up, and I can hardly wait to carve pumpkins, play video games, drink beer and eat baked goods, and ultimately gather around the premiere of the new zombie TV drama The Walking Dead with them. As one friend of ours (who is coming tonight despite an 8 a.m. midterm tomorrow) puts it, sometimes bad life choices are the best.

Friday, October 22, 2010

Pretty rotten

Okay, time for a break from the seriousness of last post!

I was looking through some old photos recently, and I noticed that I had a whole lot of photos of our former cat, Omar, but only a few of Ramona, our current one. Partly this must be due to the novelty of cat ownership in general wearing off with time. But partly it's funny, because Ramona is just about the most beautiful and photogenic cat in the history of, well, cats.

Ramona is so beautiful (and yet so comically chubby, grouchy, spoiled, uncoordinated, and loud at the exact same time) that Russell and I find ourselves singing a pretty specific song to her almost every day. I was definitely humming it during a little photo shoot we had the other afternoon, in hopes of putting a dent in that photo deficit I noticed.

So here it is, my ode to our cat:

Looking 'round the room
I can tell that you
Are the most beautiful girl
In the... room

In the whole wide room

And when you're on the street
Depending on the street
I bet that you are definitely in the top three
Good-looking girls on the street

Depending on the street...

You're so beautiful
You could be a waitress

You're so beautiful
You could be an air hostess in the 60's

You're so beautiful
Like a tree
Like some ceramics or something...

You're so beautiful
You could be a part-time model
But you'd probably have to keep your normal job

A part time model
You could spend part of your time modeling
and part of your time
next to meeee...

Tuesday, October 19, 2010


Yet again, I've gone quite a while without writing anything here. What is it John Lennon says about life being what happens while you're busy making other plans?
I want to tell you why, because it's not only this blog where I've been missing over the last week-plus. But I've spent so much time going over all the details by phone, e-mail, and text message, to so many loved ones near and far, that I'm not sure I have the energy to do it again here.

I'll just say that a very sudden, very scary and serious medical emergency happened to my mom at the end of the week before last, and to see her through surgery I left Cambridge and my classes from last Monday until Sunday night. You can read about her condition in general terms here:

Several family members joined us in Austin, and we were blown away by everything about my mother's care. Not only do I recommend St. David's, and in particular the NeuroTexas Institute, with all my heart if you ever have the choice, but by the wonders of modern medicine she is already recovering at home with a full head of hair and only a black eye to show for the whole ordeal. There is a very long road ahead, but that is a pretty incredible start.

Meanwhile I'm back at Harvard, in a sort of recovery process of my own. Missing a whole week of all my classes was exactly as rough as you'd think: after three days of hospital duty, spending large parts of my time sleeping but never feeling like I'd slept, the double dose of class work required to be prepared each day is taking everything I have.

In every sense, though, it can only get better from here. At first I was afraid my whole semester, or obviously much, much more, would completely get away from me because of this. But with every kind word or gesture from family or friends - and there have been so many - I feel a little closer to normalcy. Even if it isn't the same normalcy I had before.

As Floyd Skloot writes in a beautiful essay I like to read in times like these and just recommended to my mom today, "But no, I am not going to be the man I was. In this, I am hardly alone."

Monday, October 4, 2010

Old enough to know better

Well, here I am, almost two full weeks into getting to focus my energy on school, work, and friends now that my post-graduation job search is over. Or I would be, if I had any energy or could seem to focus at all.
This started with the pretty terrible cold I developed soon after getting back from Austin, which I tried to deny for a few days because the symptoms were so much like extreme allergies, but eventually had to acknowledge when my usual antihistamine quit even making a dent. I switched to a regimen of Dayquil and Nyquil so extreme that attending class and preparing for class basically became an either/or proposition, and I mostly chose to attend class in hopes that copious note-taking would compensate for spending every spare moment asleep or close to it.

That was the start of my lethargy and my saying really dumb things, but it definitely wasn't the end. My cold is long over, and I still find myself coming home from school so incredibly tired that I literally can't bring myself to do schoolwork - or even cook, which is my usual favorite way to avoid schoolwork I don't want to do. I find myself getting grumpy over pretty much anything that requires me to lift my arms, making long to-do lists instead of taking care of little things at my usual clip. And I find myself, just like when I was on Dayquil but with much less excuse, drifting around in a fog that somehow obscures my self-censor so I wind up volunteering the most wandering, badly put, or just plain incorrect information in my classes and group meetings ALL THE TIME. All the time.

I'm so grateful for patient and generous professors, like the ones in my Modern Capitalism class who breezed past my inexplicable, crucial mistake of a famous author's identity like it was understandable when it absolutely wasn't. But I'm also still embarrassed enough to consider this a wake-up call. I know the symptoms of seasonal depression when I see them, and confusion is a big one I just haven't happened to experience before. Fatigue and irritability, meanwhile, are a pair about as familiar to me as the gray, rainy skies we've had outside all week.

So I'm calling a stop. I'm committing myself to do whatever it takes to keep this from happening. This is my third and final year at law school, and if I can't enjoy it - and be good at it, which I had really started to feel like I was - I'll never have another chance. I'm not certain what it's going to take, because I've used my phototherapy lamp nearly every day for the past two weeks and this backslide obviously still happened. But I know this much: if I can't pull myself out of this by sheer force of will in the next few days, my mental health care provider is getting a visit. I know that at Harvard, we don't mess around.