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Tuesday, January 29, 2019

State of the Blog

It's been a long time since I wrote anything here. I thought I would for Christmas, and then time got away from me. I didn't even have time to post last year's Christmas thoughts. I also thought I would be able to write for the end of the year or New Year's Day, but I didn't. Then the new year started to progress and with that, my wife's and my trip to Italy (Rome, Venice, Florence, Pisa, Pompeii) was coming up (we needed to get ready for that), so by the time we got back from that, I was on an intense working 2 jobs schedule with lack of sleep and sinus crud for a week before rest, recovery, and have to as well as downtime.

Somehow, I made it through, and well... here I am.

As a Parkie, I can say that I definitely need some downtime when the world is just too much. Being alone or being mindless with the TV are good things, even if they aren't productive. I'm sure a lot of you in the early stages, like me (I'm somewhere in 2), are experiencing that now. I'm sure others of you have experienced this. Sometimes we get too tired to sleep, let alone read or function as anything more than "I must get up and refill my drink and get a snack." However, it's at these moments that we have to move and fight back against PD.

Yes, it's at these times we have to stay mobile and active. It's been said by many; exercise to decrease rigidity and disease progression is essential. For this, I'm glad that our local rails to trails (above) is finally finished. Yes, it seemed to be raining a lot last year, but sometimes we just need to push through it (as long as we can take care of ourselves while doing it). Our bodies will appreciate it. I know mine appreciated being walked so much in Italy (my dystonia even cooperated!).

One of the things that I'm contemplating writing is how much the fluctuating dopamine in my brain produces a wave of different emotions and responses. Depression, Anxiety, Anger, and Irritability. Yep. They're the 4 Horsemen of the Apocalypse of My Brain.

But I don't want to think about that now. I have a chance to write something to start a new year out here, continue to sort out my pictures from Italy (color and black and white - note since it's Italian art, not everyone - i.e. David and Venus, as well as many other artists' subjects - is fully clothed, so view as appropriate!), as well as write for Parkinson's Disease Dot Net, so I think I'm going to go to my mellow place since my wife is home (early, like me) safe and sound. As the snow piles up and the cold comes in, I expect it to be a horrible icy morning tomorrow. I'm hoping the last of my snow days can fight it because the roads were nasty this afternoon.

Home and protected from that is a good thing.

There's something about home that really feels good. It's the feeling of being safe, loved, and belonging where I am. There's something comfortable about the couch, too. Sure, home isn't like being exhilarated in the great outdoors or in some spectacular man-made confines, but it definitely works at the end of a long journey.

All in all, my time in Italy was a great trip, though the comparison of poverty to wealth showcases / priceless art galleries is very sad. When homeless people are passed out and practically living on the steps of ornate churches that are covered in pristine sculptures, paintings, and mosaics, something feels "off." I'm not sure what the answer is, but it was something I noticed. We much preferred Venice and Florence for the art and architecture. Pompeii was also incredible, but I'll elaborate on them later.

We returned home to the cold and respiratory crud, which isn't fun, but as I said, there's something about being home. I like how John Dos Passos expressed it in the U.S.A. Trilogy (written after World War 1):

U.S.A. is the slice of a continent. U.S.A. is a group of holding companies, some aggregations of trade unions, a set of laws bound in calf, a radio network, a chain of moving picture theatres, a column of stock quotations rubbed out and written in by a Western Union boy on a blackboard, a public library full of old newspapers and dog-eared history books with protests scrawled on the margins in pencil. U.S.A. is the world's greatest river valley fringed with mountains and hills, U.S.A. is a set of bigmouthed officials with too many bank accounts. U.S.A. is a lot of men buried in their uniforms in Arlington Cemetery. U.S.A. is the letters at the end of an address when you are away from home. But mostly U.S.A. is the speech of the people.”

Yeah, there's something about finding your car at the end of the journey and reflecting on all that is and all that we are because of it. "U.S.A. is a part of my identity, even if I'm seeing the world."

For me, the best part of the journey was being speechless and in tears from the beauty that is the Sistine Chapel (Virtual link here). I had seen God and Adam's hands touch before, but I never saw the totality of an act of discipline, talent, and faith quite like that. For the first 10 of the 15 minutes of our tour, I couldn't figure out where to start, it was just so immense. I'd love to just have an afternoon to sit there and feel the power of Michelangelo's art, but alas... tour schedules limit this. We spent over 2 hours in the Vatican Museum and still didn't see everything.

And yes, I did get to take my Nana to the Vatican. I think she would have liked it.

The lowest part of the trip was "crashing" emotionally at the Colosseum. It's a longer post, but essentially between running late + missing our tour (we rescheduled for a different day), not eating / drinking / sleeping regularly, and being harassed by street vendors, I had enough, and I found myself sitting on a bench with my wife, crying, as I told her she didn't understand how bad the Parkinson's emotional hell ride can be.

I don't understand why the Parkinson's emotional hell ride is as bad as it is. How can someone who doesn't have it understand? At least there's empathy and support to compensate.

All the same, for the state of my blog, I'd rather just focus on things that make me happy, like free breakfast day at work or when Bryce Harper and Manny Machado will "settle" for their contracts.

After the trip, I decided to take an art history class (free through work). It's the first class I took since 2010, and it's my first online class. There's a lot of neat stuff to learn in it, and I want to be able to talk knowledgeably about art when we go to museums (next stop Athens, Greece, in late March). I also don't want my wife to worry that I'll either make her take pictures of me in front of paintings or try to touch a statue or painting. Hence, this seemed like the right class. Besides, learning is a good thing, and I believe we should all engage in lifelong learning as much as possible. Most of us have learned a thing or 2 about our conditions over time. Why not learn something fun, too?!!

As I sit in the online class responding to discussion posts, I find myself missing teaching. Now, I don't miss the grading or any of that stuff that goes with management, but I miss the "being involved in active transmission of learning." Contemplating that, I realized for the first time since I made the decision to not teach that I missed something about teaching. It felt like a void in identity, as if a part of me was "changed." Maybe I can find a way to philosophize at the Pantheon or something, but for now, it just feels like a part of me is missing.

Damn you, Parkinson's!

So yeah, here I sit, contemplating how to take my blog back from the "bots" that invade from foreign medicine or NSFW websites. Yes, as a blogmaster, I see where my traffic comes from (while not posting regularly, much of it was coming from Russia). Hundreds of hits would come out to link to my Parkinson's discussion. I can see what there names are. Mostly, they're just "hands off" type names, but the first one I clicked wasn't. Bad move. I'm not bothering to look at these again!

In the end, I have no idea why these people link to me. There's only 1 post on PD and effects down there, and it's hardly tantalizing to reflect on how PD affects urinary and sexual functions.

I also have no idea why I get inundated with spam from med sellers. Has anyone ever clicked on 1 of those buy medicine sites that they see in a comment list or e-mail? Man...

But yes, here I am in 2019, thinking about how we're almost 1/12 of the way to 2020, thinking about all of the things that I want this year to be, and thinking about how I still appreciate everyone who reads, read, reacts to what I have to say. There's still more to talk about.

It's just a question of time to do it all.