5 01 2013

By Julia Indigo/@juliaindigo

After a quiet holiday, I was doing laundry and packing to make a quick trip on January 2nd. A short drive, just me and my poodle, Ms. Blossom, aka Blossom Possom, aka Ms. B.

Around 9 pm I went over to greet Ms. B, who had been snoozing on the sofa.

“Hey there, sweetie!”

No response.

“Blossom?” I picked up her snout, and to my horror, she barely reacted.

“Blossom!!” She opened her eyes, mere slits, showing her third eyelids.

I sat on the sofa, stunned. What was wrong with her? She was fine yesterday… trying not to panic, I called my Dad, who, at 83, has been around a lot of dogs.

“I’d let her be for now. She probably just needs some down time.” I asked him to call me at 7:30 in the morning, so I can call the vet at 8 (I’m a late riser.) The Pet Emergency Clinic was out of the question – too expensive.

I managed to get her downstairs for her evening business, then carried her to her crate.

She was worse the next morning, and my vet had an opening at 4:20 in the afternoon. I fought down rising panic all day. She was lethargic, a sack of potatoes, no muscle tone, obviously very sick.

To make a long story shorter, he diagnosed conjunctivitis, and sent us home. The next morning she was losing her sight, and no better, not even her eyes. I called and he agreed, she shouldn’t be feeling like this. The blood work showed nothing – all normal – and he was at a loss. We added an antibiotic as a precaution, because in the past she’d not sprung a fever until several days went by.

I decided to get a second opinion, and went on Friday the 4th. By this time Ms. Blossom was completely blind, and her pupils didn’t respond to a flashlight in a darkened room. The vet thought it was SARDS, Sudden Acquired Retinal Degeneration. At least I had a name. We left with the phone number of the city’s veterinary ophthalmologist, who had no appointments available that afternoon.

A cursory web search on SARDS became more and more concerning – many conflicting opinions and articles as to it’s treatment and etiology. There’s a Igi protocol which would likely run into the mid-four figures – out of the question.

I was curious, though. Most articles agreed that for a couple of weeks prior to the blindness, the vast majority of canines exhibited symptoms of raging appetite and thirst, episodes of peeing in the house (due to drinking more water), large weight gain, and panting. Ms. B had none of these symptoms – the only one she had on the very long list was lethargy.

It’s a puzzle. More to the point, it’s a heartbreak.

Today is the first sunny day in what seems like two weeks, and I opened the door onto my balcony and ensconced Ms. B in the sun. As you can see, she’s imitating a Flat Dog, sound asleep. I’m sitting here typing on my laptop, with the fresh air – I knew she would enjoy this, and I am, too.

Flat Dog (Ms. Blossom)

Flat Dog (Ms. Blossom)

I just went for a brisk walk, and can hardly wrap my mind around the fact that less than a week ago she was trotting beside me, ranging to the end of her flexi lead. Since her vision loss I’ve taken her out on the leash a couple of times. We walk at the speed of a Parkinson’s patient.

Canines are adaptable, I know. If she doesn’t end up with SARDS, I know she’ll adjust. At twelve she’s had a pretty good life… and as I told a friend today, anytime you adopt a pet you are setting yourself up for heartbreak, unless you die first. Cold comfort, that.

On Monday we go in for an appointment to find out what this truly is. I’m hoping it’s optic neuritis – something fairly easily treated.

Keep your fingers crossed for us?

My blind girl

My blind girl

Looking back on 2012, my personal journey

1 01 2013

By Julia Indigo/@juliaindigo

Yes, I’m back.

2012 was a year of extremes for me.

January: In the middle of an incredibly busy month, I was diagnosed with sleep apnea. I started Row80, but was unable to keep up with it due to my health problems.

February: A young friend who was working with us from time to time stayed with me, and I loved her company. I learned a lot from her! She continued to stay with me off and on through the beginning of June.

March: I continued to deal with shattering exhaustion from years of sleep problems, calling in sick frequently. However, better sleep finally began to turn my health around, and by the end of the month I was feeling almost normal.

April: So normal that I attempted Row80 again. Call me a glutton for punishment! I hit my stride in April.

May: Work was overwhelmingly busy, but I soldiered on.

June: I was still on-point with my blogging, writing about my novel and the science behind it. I also took an audition with two weeks of preparation. I don’t recommend that to anyone! It was an exhausting experience, and I will not fly American Airlines again, until they are out of bankruptcy.

July: The Black Dog of depression came home again.

August: There was nothing memorable about the first three weeks of August. I wasn’t dealing well with the Black Dog. At the very end of the month I went on a last-minute driving trip to New Mexico and Colorado.


The Red Rocks of New Mexico, from the pixabay folder of user Brigitte Werner

During that trip I ended up in Boulder, CO for the first time ever. That’s significant because my protag spends 6 years there at CU, and although those years aren’t a significant part of the book as currently visualized, it does shape the man he becomes.

September: I was barely home when my former BFF bludgeoned me in a meeting about work. Within two days I spiraled into anxiety, which danced with the Black Dog as I worked out how to deal with both. I went back to Al-Anon, finding a home group that’s full of recovery, and considered going back to church. The 27th of the month another good friend had a ‘cardiac event’. Did I ever mention that my number one fear is a heart attack?

October: Much of my friend’s hospital time happened in October: a double bypass, four Code Blues, pulmonary emboli, and an internal defibrillator. I continued to deal with waves of anxiety and depression. There was no question of doing anything creative… it was one day at a time at this point. I went to a church which had been recommended to me a couple of times, but didn’t connect. (My friend is currently on the mend, thank heavens!)

November: Our symphony season was in full swing, and my other BFF was back in the US from overseas. She was with me part of the time here at home, and I went with her to Boulder for Thanksgiving with her cousins. It wasn’t terribly cold there yet, but I loved spending more time there with her… and I also got my desire to live there out of my system. My anxiety finally began to wane this month.

December: I finally got the Black Dog under control, and we had some time off from work. To my delight, I found that my creative juices were starting to surface again! Playing the Nutcracker got me in the holiday spirit, and the 25th Anniversary of the publication of Tom Wolfe’s Bonfire of the Vanities spurred me to read it for the first time. I intended to study it (and still will) – though I haven’t finished it yet, because I joined a book club at work, and devoured Yann Martel’s Life of Pi in two days for a book club meet. Christmas was spent with my parents, on some of the coldest days thus far this winter. Back home on the 26th, then on December 30th I found my church! I’ve never considered a downtown church, but the moment I stepped into the sanctuary at St. Mark’s Episcopal Church I knew I was home.

Losing my BFF has spurred a spiritual transformation in my life. I turned 55 in September, and made the decision in August to stop coloring my hair. The transformation of the growing-out process mirrors what’s going on inside of me… I’m coming to terms with my age and station in life, now enthusiastic and full of possibilities for personal growth in this second half of life.

I doubt that I will return to Row80 until later this year, but that doesn’t mean that 2013 is goal-less. More about that later on! It’s enough to say that I will be blogging once a week, starting now.

What was 2012 like for you? How did it change you? Let me know in the comments!

This Explains a LOT

21 10 2012

By Julia Indigo/@juliaindigo

Tonight I discovered Cal Newport’s blog, Study Hacks, and while more than one post resonated with me, this one hit me in the stomach. It concerns the decision of a world-class chess master, Ken Rogoff, to give up chess and become an economist.

Money quote:

[A]t graduate school he became convinced that dividing his attention meant that both his chess and his economics were suffering. He had to make a decision. [He chose economics.] “Part of my strategy of moving on was to give it up completely. I don’t play chess casually…Not unless it’s incredibly rude to decline playing.”

In other words, if you want to be the best at something, you’re more likely to succeed if you cut off other distracting interests.

As I said, it hit me in the stomach, because I’m a jack of all trades, still trying to make my mark at 55, while remaining unable (unwilling?) to risk doing one thing incredibly well.

Then I read this from Michael Nielsen in the comments to a different post, this one:

On a very closely related note, here’s a great story about the world’s leading string theorist, Ed Witten, as told by a grad school friend of Witten’s (source: )

“How long will you need to find your truest, most productive niche? This I cannot predict, for, sadly, access to a podium confers no gift of prophecy. But I can say that however long it takes, it will be time well spent. I am reminded of a friend from the early 1970s, Edward Witten. I liked Ed, but felt sorry for him, too, because, for all his potential, he lacked focus. He had been a history major in college, and a linguistics minor. On graduating, though, he concluded that, as rewarding as these fields had been, he was not really cut out to make a living at them. He decided that what he was really meant to do was study economics. And so, he applied to graduate school, and was accepted at the University of Wisconsin. And, after only a semester, he dropped out of the program. Not for him. So, history was out; linguistics, out; economics, out. What to do? This was a time of widespread political activism, and Ed became an aide to Senator George McGovern, then running for the presidency on an anti-war platform. He also wrote articles for political journals like the Nation and the New Republic. After some months, Ed realized that politics was not for him, because, in his words, it demanded qualities he did not have, foremost among them common sense. All right, then: history, linguistics, economics, politics, were all out as career choices. What to do? Ed suddenly realized that he was really suited to study mathematics. So he applied to graduate school, and was accepted at Princeton. I met him midway through his first year there–just after he had dropped out of the mathematics department. He realized, he said, that what he was really meant to do was study physics; he applied to the physics department, and was accepted.
I was happy for him. But I lamented all the false starts he had made, and how his career opportunities appeared to be passing him by. Many years later, in 1987, I was reading the New York Times magazine and saw a full-page picture akin to a mug shot, of a thin man with a large head staring out of thick glasses. It was Ed Witten! I was stunned. What was he doing in the Times magazine? Well, he was being profiled as the Einstein of his age, a pioneer of a revolution in physics called “String Theory.” Colleagues at Harvard and Princeton, who marvelled at his use of bizarre mathematics to solve physics problems, claimed that his ideas, popularly called a “theory of everything,” might at last explain the origins and nature of the cosmos. Ed said modestly of his theories that it was really much easier to solve problems when you analyzed them in at least ten dimensions. Perhaps. Much clearer to me was an observation Ed made that appeared near the end of this article: every one of us has talent; the great challenge in life is finding an outlet to express it. I thought, he has truly earned the right to say that. And I realized that, for all my earlier concerns that he had squandered his time, in fact his entire career path–the ventures in history, linguistics, economics, politics, math, as well as physics–had been rewarding: a time of hard work, self-discovery, and new insight into his potential based on growing experience.”

I look back at some of the stuff that I’ve busied myself with while continuing to work as a musician: astrology, tarot, religious studies, weaving, knitting, acupuncture, herbology, the Spanish and Japanese languages… all the while dealing with chronic depression, anxiety, and undiagnosed sleep apnea. I’ve not mastered any of the above… but I’m pretty good at all of it.

All this life experience is folded into writing – the one form of self-expression that encompasses it all.

Am I back? We’ll see!

No, I’m not really back

22 09 2012

By Julia Indigo/@juliaindigo

Apologies for the two posts that went out yesterday – they were scheduled, unfinished, and I’d forgotten about them. Unprofessional… and deleted.

I can’t stand blogposts that start out, “Did’ya miss me?” Lorinda (Termitewriter!) did comment to that effect (and I appreciate it!), I don’t expect that anyone noticed that I’d dropped off the radar. We are all too busy with our own lives for that.

This summer dissolved into a miasma of depression, endless days of horrible heat and lethargy. It wasn’t as though I suddenly fell through the rabbit hole – it was more like a sinuous slide into the quagmire. We are temporarily laid off in the summer, and though the idea of three months of free time to do whatever one likes is appealing, the lack of any kind of schedule (and accompanying lack of income) requires a lot of discipline… something that I lack when severely depressed. I had a good number of goals – I was signed up for Row80 – but I couldn’t accomplish any of them. I don’t remember the last time I sat down to write.

About a month ago I realized that I had zero interest in anything, which got my attention. I finally accepted that I have two chronic, disabling diseases which exacerbate each other:  sleep apnea, and chronic depression. Both require constant vigilance, because both are very capable of ending my life.

I also realized that I was an idiot if I didn’t take advantage of a sudden opportunity to vacation in New Mexico and Colorado on the cheap, so on August 24th I tossed the dog in the back of the car and headed out. I ADORE driving vacations.

After a week I ended up in Boulder, CO for two days, exploring the University and Pearl Street, seeing where my protag Steven lived when he was an undergrad there. Call it research, it was marvelous. I can’t wait to go to Los Angeles during spring break to explore where the majority of the book takes place!

This photo was taken on May 25, 2009 by Lee Coursey.

Pearl Street, Boulder, Colorado

I returned home in time for my fifty-fifth birthday in early Sept, and promptly found myself in a conflict with a colleague (and former best friend) which left me reeling. I cannot abide conflict, and the very notion of taking care of myself by calling someone on their bad behavior gives me (literal) panic attacks. I do not have nerves of steel in this instance. But what’s done is done, what is unacceptable is just that, and I’m glad to have that very problematic friend out of my life… even though we sit next to each other at work every day. Rehearsals don’t start until Oct… so I have another week to steel myself for that uncomfortable reality.

Summer gives way to blissful Autumn today, and with the turning of the year I feel my energy returning. I’ll return to blogging eventually, and I know I’ll write again. Until then, enjoy the changing seasons, wherever in the world you are.


7 08 2012

By Julia Indigo/@juliaindigo

Pablo Picasso (1881 – 1973) Woman in an armchair 1910 Oil on Canvas 

Photo by Tony Hisgett / CC BY 2.0

“Art washes away from the soul the dust of everday life.” – Pablo Picasso

All of the art of the Twentieth Century was birthed in Pablo Picasso’s brain. Discuss.

I think I’m on my way back to regular blogging, and I apologize for the unfinished, yet scheduled blogposts which were prematurely published. It’s been an interesting summer… and I haven’t had much to say. But I do miss all of you guys.

Is this a Belated or an Early Row80 Update?

28 07 2012

By Julia Indigo/@juliaindigo

Sometimes life catches up with me, and for the past two weeks I’ve been emotionally underwater. Everything has been more than I could handle; I ended up frustrated and tied in knots. I even let a previously-scheduled, unfinished blogpost go out on Tuesday. Hopefully I’ll get around to editing it tomorrow. I made an overnight trip last weekend, and had my cousin here for a couple of days this week, but that’s not why I was immobilized.

I think it was the black dog – depression – once again.

Black dog by Michelle Buntin

In the past 24 hours I’ve taken some steps to once again manage the black dog, and actually got out the flute for some quality time: scales/arpeggios/Mozart. I’m thinking about my WIP, and this blogpost is another effort to pull myself out of this slump. I had big plans in the exercise department – an hour-long morning walk – but that came crashing to the ground last night when I slipped on my carpeted steps while taking the dog out last night, resulting in a couple of jammed toes. Ouch. I slipped because my vertigo came back this week, though it’s manageable for now.

Okay, enough whinging! How about some good news? The house is clean, including the kitchen sink. The dog is happy, and I get a deva-style haircut next week. I’ve been having big fun experimenting with hair gels, and my curly locks are out in full force. As soon as I publish this blogpost I’m heading out for a walk (a slow walk!), and then opening up Scrivener and finish inputting the macro edit that I did two weeks ago, in preparation for sitting down and finishing up that first draft.

How was your week! I’m looking forward to reading others’ Row80 updates!

Open Hands

24 07 2012

By Julia Indigo/@juliaindigo

There was a time in my life when I hurt and would do anything to make the hurt go away… There was a time when I felt that there would neer be enough for me of anything good… I wanted to hold tight to anyone or anything forever that made me feel good for a moment.

Today i look beyond the immediate momen of satisfaction and decide what is good for me in the larger picture of my life. Today i have faith and patience and can wait to make loving and positive choices.

From Time for Joy: Daily Affirmations by Ruth Fishel

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