Wednesday, July 27, 2022

Persuading myself

One year ago today, I got my first Covid vaccine jab. So much has happened in the year since (including two more jabs and fourth soon to come), but other, unrelated health things have continued. Maybe those other things will soon improve.

Over the past year, the best indicator of how I was doing at any given time was how I was getting on with projects around the house: If I got projects done, I was doing okay, but if I was stalled, maybe I wasn’t doing okay. I haven’t put it quite like that before, but it’s nevertheless a fact—although, in some cases projects stalled for reasons beyond my control, like lockdowns, unavailability of supplies, and so on.

However, a few months ago I pretty much stalled on all my projects for the house, which, as I’ve said previously, I’m convinced happened because the blood pressure medication I was on made me profoundly tired. Today, I started the new blood pressure medication, and it’s with the most hope I’ve had in a prescription change in nearly four years.

In fairness to me, the bad effects of drugs aren’t always immediately obvious because one’s body takes time to adjust to medications and changes like I experienced don’t happen all at once or suddenly. Also, since we humans are pretty good at adapting, and bad effects accumulate slowly, it often happens without us even noticing. Still, it was eventually obvious even to me that something wasn’t right, even as early as April, so why the f*ck didn’t I do something then?! The truth is that I’m angry at myself for letting the bad situation go on for so long: My life has been hell for three months and maybe I could’ve changed that—maybe.

It’s always been my nature to trust doctors and to “wait and see”—which is, if not my greatest flaw, it’s at least my most dangerous one: Doctors do get it wrong sometimes, what with being human and all. This has been a problem for pretty much my whole adult life.

I also know, though, that if Nigel was alive, he’d have told me in no uncertain terms to talk to the doctor—he could be very “persuasive”—and he’d have done it months ago. I know this in part because I went through the exact same thing a few years ago when doctors put me on beta-blockers, which turned me into a zombie, as Nigel put it when he was persuading my to go to the doctor. He had to persuade me again when the beta-blocker they switched me to was only a bit better. At the time, we were only weeks from heading to Australia, and he told me, “I’m not going to Australia with you if you’re like this!” I was thus persuaded to go back to my doctors who cut my dosage, and I felt quite a bit better after that. When I wrote about that dosage change at the time, I didn’t say why I’d changed my mind and gone back to the doctor early, but it was only because of Nigel’s persuasion. In the end, our trip to Australia was a huge success (apart from him catching norovirus…).

I now have to be my own persuader, and it’s still incredibly difficult for me to do. Even so, it’s something I absolutely must learn to do because my run on this blue ball in space may have 2 or 3 decades left, if I’m lucky (?), and I need to do for myself what Nigel used to do—I need to persuade myself to speak up for myself.

So, today I started the new blood pressure medication, and I’m realistic about it: It might be awesome, it might be far worse, but it also may be merely good enough. Good enough would be good enough—for now.

Another thing that held me back was the fact I knew my doctor wouldn’t believe me that the drug was making me profoundly fatigued, because doctors usually assume less common side effects don’t exist at all. I was right, but he agreed to change my drug, anyway. All my doctors have always done that, too—they’re not monsters!—but this is the firts time I asked for blood pressure medication to be change (doctors changed it twice before this).

Maybe this will be a turning point of sorts, letting me get back to where I was a year ago—or maybe even better? Simply getting back to where I was would be absolutely huge, because I’ve fallen so far behind where I wanted to be with this house by now (and far behind where I thought I’d be). I know that much of that is my own damn fault, and I can’t change that—but I can resolve to not let it ever happen again. I just have to master persuading myself, and that job has proven to be the hardest of all. Maybe that will soon improve, too.

I shared the photo up top on my personal Facebook this morning, only adding the “fingers crossed” emoji, 🀞.

Tuesday, July 19, 2022

The Super-secret Project: YOMP2

Over the past few weeks, I’ve been working on what I dubbed my “Super-Secret Project”, one that’s related to several projects, one way or another. Mainly, though, this project is a stand-alone one that’s connected to one other, but is nevertheless a project all on its own: It’s basically YOMP2.

In August of last year, I talked about buying a vintage Macintosh, and I went on to nickname that project “Ye Olde Mac Project” (or, YOMP). I did a couple updates, one on September 2, in which I talked more about the reasons I was doing the project at all, and another later that month about buying a vintage Power Computing Mac keyboard. In that post, I foreshadowed what would become YOMP2. I said:
…in my first YOMP update post, I talked about not being able to access old diskettes. I said that “somehow getting access to a working vintage Macintosh” was an option if I can’t get the Mac Classic working. The jury’s still out on whether that Mac Classic will work or not, but I made progress on the back-up option, something I’ll talk about in a few weeks (those same Covid restrictions are delaying the completion of this mysterious development). But I think it’ll be a good development.
A few days before that post, I’d bought a newer vintage Mac, an LC575 (photo above right), on our online auction site. I was so vague about it because those Covid restrictions at the time meant I couldn’t go to Auckland to pick it up, and I had no idea when I’d would. Then, the restrictions eased a wee bit, but I still couldn’t go there, so my niece was able to pick it up for me. However, even then I still had no idea when I’d be able to get the Mac—and I didn’t even know for sure if it worked (though I knew the screen worked). I didn’t want to talk about it until I knew more.

Then, things got worse: Auckland got locked down until just before Christmas and there was absolutely no way I could go pick it up, or for family to bring it to me. In the meantime, my niece moved to a new place, and that delayed things further.

I finally got it January, and I started it up. The screen showed a question mark in a drawing of a diskette, which means it couldn’t find the operating system. I checked the logic board and it looked fine: The battery hadn’t exploded (less likely than for the Mac Classic) or leaked, and none of the capacitors needed to be replaced. I thought it looked a bit dusty, though, so I bought a can of compressed air, which I mentioned at the time, adding, “It’s for a super-secret project that soon won’t be secret, but dunno whether it’ll turn out super or not (I’m optimistic, though).” And that’s where things stayed.

I don’t have any reasons, or even an explanation, for why I didn’t work on it, apart from having so many (too many, probably…) projects, and then there was that whole fatigue thing to contend with. I do think, though, that I was also afraid that it, too, might be beyond my abilities to get going again.

It wasn’t just a vintage Mac that I bought, it was a vintage bundle: It came with two keyboards, a mouse, and a Colour StyleWriter 2400, a thermal inkjet printer that Apple started making in September 1994, about the same time the LC 575 was made. While ink for the printer is still available, it’s hopelessly out of date: It printed only 3 pages per minute in black and white, and 0.3 in colour. If I was a collector of Apple products—and, by default, I guess I am—it would be a “nice to have”, but not something I needed or sought. Everything else was useful, though.

However, one of the two keyboards was damaged in that move, but that didn’t really matter because if I ever get the Mac Classic (the first vintage Mac I bought) going, I’ll now have a keyboard for it (because I’d already had that Power Computing keyboard). All that’s good, but then it got even better.

The seller later offered to give me some USB Iomega Zip Drives, and some used Zip disks they had. I told them that those drives have value (they can be quite expensive if in working order and good condition), but the seller didn’t want money for them, especially because they knew the Mac was going to someone who really wanted it. That happened after my niece had already collected the Mac for me, so the seller dropped the drives off, which is probably how they got separated from the stuff I’d bought.

I got those drives recently, after my niece found them in a box, and I plugged one into my current Mac and was able to access one of my Zip Disks. I couldn’t get any other disks to read, however, I didn’t know if the drive was faulty or if, like with floppy disks, my current Mac was too new to access the files.

The next step, I decided, was to to see if I could get the LC575 itself running again. My idea was to plug my own SCSI Zip Drive into it. It took a couple goes, but I eventually got the LC575 to boot up; there were a few old-timey things I needed to do (using long forgotten techniques), but the important thing is that it had been so long since it was last used that it took the hard drive some time to start spinning again. Once it did, it was fine.

The first task I took on was checking all those 800K floppy disks I hadn’t been able to read before. Out of the 45 I’d found, I checked 35 (the other 10 had software files on them), and of those, 17 had files I wanted to have (most of the diskettes were either blank or had files I didn’t want, like software updates). I was, right, though, that among those 17 were some of my oldest files—but not all of what I wanted.

I’d discovered that I didn’t have the correct SCSI cable to plug my Zip Drive into the LC575 (I think I still have it somewhere, though), so instead I plugged one of the USB Zip Drives into my old MacBook Pro, and I was right: It was able to access all the files on the disks. By that time, I’d found 11 Zip Disks (I’d found another one since last mentioning them). Two of them were Nigel’s files, and appeared to be Windows updates, but the other nine had files I wanted, including the biggest prize: Our emails to each other from before I came to New Zealand the first time, in September 1995, and from during the time between that visit and when I moved here in November. I still have even larger disks to access, but I can’t do much with them because of the limitations of the LC575.

The problems I face are, first, that the LC575 doesn’t have a network connection. In those days, Macs generally used a networking protocol called AppleTalk (later called LocalTalk), often using phone cables with special connectors. In fact, at my first job in New Zealand I set up and maintained such a network, though that one used coaxial cables. The LC575 had an expansion slot, as most later Macs had, and the LC575 takes a card that plugs into the Processor Direct Slot (PDS) to provide an Ethernet connection, and that’s what my wired home network is.

That matters because I the larger external SCSI storage device I have is called a SyJet, sold by SyQuest Technology, a company that at its height was THE way to transfer large files (or lots of files). The Syjet cartridges held 1.5GB each, and was a competitor to Iomega’s Jaz Drive, the cartridges for which held 1GB. I bought the Syjet Drive not just for the larger capacity cartridges, but also because Jaz Drives were notorious for their failures—the infamous “click of death”. Both companies are long gone, and their products are rare. The advent of CD writers and FTP made the Syquest and Iomega products unnecessary and obsolete.

All of this matters because unless I can connect the LC575 to my ethernet network, it’d be an absolutely HUGE job to transfer files. If one of the Syjet cartridges was full, it would take more than a thousand floppy disks to move all the files, however, because the LC575’s hard drive currently only has around 40MB of available space, I’d have to do lots of small batches over and over and over.

In the interim, I’ll check the Syjet cartridges for any files that I want right now. There may or may not be any files like that—I simply don’t know. But finding what’s on them is at least possible now.

The Super-Secret Project, then, was really just a joking name for a revised version of the original Ye Olde Macintosh Project, and it exists for the exact same reason as the original: To get access to my oldest files. But that’s not where this ends.

I have lots of games from that era, including one of my favourites from that time, like “Marathon” from Bungie software (it was a forerunner of their later “Halo” series). It’ll be fun, in a nostalgic kind of way, to play those games again (although parts one and two of the “Marathon” trilogy were ported to Apple’s iPadOS, I find it too difficult to play without a keyboard). In true Apple fashion, there’s one more thing.

The Macintosh LC575 is the model that Nigel had before I came to New Zealand, and for some time afterward. I brought my own Mac with me, and I have vivid memories of us both sitting in the room we shared as an office, him on his LC575, and me on my Performa 637. We both upgraded many times in the years afterward, going back and forth between Windows machines and Macs, before we both ultimately settled on Macs. Nigel’s LC575, then, was an integral part of making it possible for there to even BE an “us”. I didn’t buy the LC575 because of that—I knew it was a good machine for its era, met all my criteria, and as an all-in-one Mac, and that meant I wouldn’t have to find a vintage monitor or work out how to adapt a newer one to work with a vintage Mac. Even so, the fact it’s an LC575 is definitely a nice bonus.

This project, whether it’s called YOMP or YOMP2, isn’t completely finished and done, but I have accomplished the main driver for this whole project: I now have the old files that were the most important to me, especially those 27-year-old emails. And that feels bloody awesome.

More on the Mac LC575: It was available February 1994 to April 1995 (the one I bought was manufactured in August 1994). It has a Motorola 68LC040 33MHz processor; the “LC” in the processor name means it had no Floating Point Unit, which affects graphics, and the same processor with an FPU would be labelled 68040. The LC versions of processors were used in Performa Macs and in LC models. It could run up to MacOS 8.1, and shipped with System 7.1. They started with an 80MB hard drive (the one I have has a 250MB hard drive), and had 4MB built-in memory, expandable to a 68MB maximum. They had a built-in 14-inch Trinitron colour CRT monitor, a 2x CD-ROM drive (read only), and a SuperDrive for floppy disks. It originally cost US$1,699. In today’s money, adjusted for inflation, that would be about US$3,049. The 2022 US amount would be around NZ$4993 in today’s dollars, which can be compared to current models: The new Mac Studio with an M1 Ultra chipset would cost NZ$3,999, but without a monitor, and the more comparable 24-inch iMac with maximum memory and internal hard drive would be NZ$2499. Modern Macintoshes are definitely a LOT more affordable now, even if it sometimes doesn’t feel like it.

Monday, July 18, 2022

Cooking from the cupboard

One of the cooking challenges I enjoy the most is making something new using, and using only what I have on hand makes it even more of an interesting challenge for me. Saturday night, I did exactly that. It was very inexpensive, meatless—and far too much work.

The dish (photo above) was KÅ«mara gnocchi with Garlic Cream Sauce. I made the gnocchi myself, from scratch—I’d never done that before. I mention that first because, frankly, doing that was the most important part of it to me, and the motivator for trying the recipe.

The meal is adapted from a recipe from New World’s YouTube Channel (WATCH), however, theirs had a garlic cream sauce, with pesto sauce as a sort of garnishy thing (and that was supposed to be homemade, too, but, yeah, nah, that wasn’t going to happen). Instead of that, I combined store bought pesto with the cream sauce. The result was okay, I thought, and the original would’ve been okay, too (though I think the original should’ve included some onion, based on similar sauces I’ve made or had).

However: This recipe was waaaaaay too time-consuming: It took an hour and a half all up, so I won’t be making it again. I’m also highly unlikely to make gnocchi from scratch again, or, at least, I’d only make ordinary gnocchi, not the kÅ«mara one (it was okay, but nothing special). Supermarkets sell really nice pre-made gnocchi, after all. still, I don’t regret making it—it was just too much trouble for not enough payoff. IMHO.

When I sat down to cost out the recipe, I realised I’d accidentally left out the 1/2 cup of parmesan cheese. Oops. The costs are probably more or less the same, though, because I used store-bought pesto. Your mileage may vary. The costs were:

KÅ«mara – orange: $4.00/kg, 500g used: $1.06. Plain flour: $1.33/kg, 1 cup (120g) used: $0.16 $2.50/250g jar, approx 10g used: $0.10. Cream: $3.6/250ml box, 1 used: $3.60. Grated parmesan cheese: $34.10/kg, approx 45g in the recipe: $1.53. Olive oil (panty staple): $10.70 per 1 litre bottle, approx 15 millilitres used: $0.16.

This means it came to a total of $6.55 for the entire meal (today, around US$4.04). This means it’d be $3.28 per person (today, around US$2.02) if two people were fed, $2.18 per person (today, around US$1.34) if three people were fed, and $1.64 per person (today, around US$1.01) per person if four people were fed.

It’d be fine for two people, definitely, and most likely okay for three, but I don’t think it makes enough for four people. Adding chicken would definitely make enough to feed four people, or the recipe could be increased—at additional cost, of course.

Thinking about it the next day, I thought the meal would’ve been better with the garlic cream sauce that the original recipe used, or, maybe if I’d included the parmesan cheese I would’ve liked it better. Regardless, neither of those changes the fact that making the gnocchi from scratch was too much work—and far too messy—to justify the effort when it’s just for me. I might do that if I was making it for the family, or if I’d made it for me and Nigel, but, yeah, it’s a lot of work. And that’s why if I make it again, it’ll definitely be with store-bought gnocchi. And maybe chicken.

Still, as it was, this recipe was cheap to make, meatless, and, for a change, used only stuff I had on hand, and that means it’s something I could, theoretically, make at any time. Yes, well, nice in theory.

Sunday, July 10, 2022

A day better than expected

Every once in a while, days turn out differently than we expected at the start. When it’s a better than expected day, it can be pretty great. Like yesterday, for example.

Yesterday ended up being a good day because of lots of unusual things. I caught up with my cousin-in-law, which is unusual because of all the plague and winter illnesses (on top of ordinary busy-ness) have meant the family hasn’t had much chance to get together over the past few months.

Next, I looked through some boxes of my own stuff, packed away for years, to look for something I need for the Super-Secret Project. Didn’t find that, but found lots of personal treasures I thought were lost in the sands of time. I was surprised, but also happy to find those things, relics of my life from decades ago.

I made my awesome dinner, fed Leo, and that was followed by the most unusual thing of all: I took Leo for a little walk.

The back story is that walking three dogs alone was impossible, but Jake was arthritic and couldn’t go on walks, Sunny always pulled on the lead (then her health started to fail), and Leo couldn’t walk far, so I always ended up having to carry him home. Plus, I have a large fenced yard and the dogs could run around as much as they wanted to, though Leo was the only one who actually ran.

On top of that, I’ve had that ongoing issue with often deep fatigue, so I wasn’t up to walks. Leo and I play The Chase Game all the time, though: He has me chase him around the house, sometimes he chases me, and he clearly loves it. He especially likes it because he gets far better grip on the carpet than he gets outside, and he can change directions quickly (important for the game). I haven’t been up to playing the game with him as much or for as long as I was last year, and I’m pretty sure the medication I was changed to late last year is the culprit (a few days ago, I talked about the new medication I hope will help this problem, and that starts in about two weeks).

So, why a walk last night? The neighbours over the back fence were having a small party, sitting outside in their covered area (I presume they have some sort of patio heater…), and Leo does NOT like people on the other side of his fence! If they’re talking and laughing, he hates it even more. Just before dark, I had to go outside because he was barking at them through the fence, and then I had to make him walk back into the house. He just kind of glared at me when I gave him a verbal command, so I had to herd him into the house. I knew he’d run right back there if I let him out into the yard, and that’s something I always do after he eats his dinner.

So, the only solution was to take him for a walk. Thing is, Nigel and I only walked him once or twice, and I haven’t since I’ve been in this house, so he doesn’t quite get the concept: He never sniffed the spots other dogs had visited, and he never, um, emptied his tanks (which was the whole point).

We walked down to the end of the street, and then someone from the area walked their dog toward us a young (>2 years?) black Lab sort of dog who was on lead, of course, but a little rambunctious (I wasn’t sure whether the guy had complete control). I picked Leo up, and he was NOT happy about that: He did his high-pitched bark/whine thing, which seemed to echo; I was a bit worried that neighbours might think he was hurt.

I carried him part of the way back to our house, and he squirmed. I put him back down (I still hoped he might empty his tanks…), but he wanted to go find that other dog, and I was afraid be might wriggle out of his harness (he’s done that before), and I’d have no hope of catching him if he did that.

I picked him up again, walked a bit further uphill toward home, and put him down again. We got to our house, but he wanted to keep going. I walked him onto our front lawn (which he again never sniffed), and still wasn’t keen on going back inside. I, however, had reached the end of my energy reserves.

The walk was short, but apparently enough to tire him out: He usually plays with his toys in the evening, but yesterday evening he mostly slept. In the end, he didn’t wee in the house, and preventing that was the whole reason I took him on that short walk. Maybe he was too tired?

We were lucky that it wasn’t raining at the time (it’s been raining a lot in recent days), but we’d have been luckier if I’d had the stamina to walk him farther/longer. Hopefully one day we’ll both get to have longer walks. But last night, we got a little one. And Leo got to have his very own good and unusual thing his day, too.

Sometimes, unusual things can make a day turn out better than expected. Yesterday was just another example of that.

Further meal experiments

Yesterday evening, I tried another meal experiment, one that was a bit unusual because I got the recipe from a YouTube video, and it was similar to a recipe I’d tried a week ago that I got from a different YouTube video. I felt the first attempt needed changes, and when I saw the second video, I knew it would be much better. It turned out I was right. If nothing else, this experimentation is showing me that I’m becoming able to pretty accurately anticipate what a recipe will be like.

The first recipe, the one I thought was “alright, I guess…”, came from a YouTube video posted by a New Zealand supermarket chain. I originally subscribed to their channel so I could more easily find their TV commercials to share here on the blog—but they seldom post the ads any more, and it’s now mostly just about recipes. This one was the first I thought I’d like to try making.

I’ve never actually cooked red lentils before (only brown), and I didn’t realise that they can turn mushy when they’re cooked. I thought about adding a can of chickpeas to bulk it up, but added a can of brown lentils instead. The results was okay, but not awesome. I also served it on basmati rice, which wasn’t really necessary.

I was thinking about how to change it to improve it, when I saw a video by a British YouTuber I subscribe to, Luke Catleugh. I watch all his videos, but that particular one caught my attention because of the title: “MEALS FOR UNDER £1”. I’ve been fascinated lately by trying to make yummy, nutritious meals (especially meatless ones) for as little money as possible. This particular recipe stood out for me because it seemed to fix all the problems I felt the first recipe had—and I was right (the video is at the bottom of this post, queued for this recipe, or you can watch it on YouTube).

The first difference was the use of chickpeas—I should’ve followed my instincts with the first recipe! The spice blend was also somewhat different (a lot less ginger for example), and the blend that Luke used suited my tastes better. My only real variation was that I used dried chilli flakes instead of fresh chilli, something I’ve never cooked with and am leery of because I don’t like food to me too hot.

Repeating what I did when I talked about my homemade chicken soup, here’s what’s in the recipe, the unit cost, and the amount used, and actual cost:

Dried red lentils: $2.70/375g bag, 90g used: $0.16. 1 can chopped tomatoes: $1.20. 1 can coconut milk: $3.00. 1 red onion: $4/1.5kg bag, 150g used: $0.40. One low-salt vegetable stock cube: $3.90/box of 10: $0.39. Various spices (pantry staple): approx $0.25. Olive oil (panty staple): $10.70 per 1 litre bottle, approx 15 millilitres used: $0.16.

This time, I included the cost of pantry staples, mostly because I happened to need a new bottle of olive oil, so I had the current price available; I don’t know that I’ll always do that. In any case, with all the things I could cost out, it came to a total of $6.05 for the entire meal (today, around US$3.75, or £3.12—I mention the prices in pounds sterling because Luke originally priced it in that currency). This means it’d be $3.03 per person (today, around US$1.56 or £1.88) if two people were fed, $2.02 per person (today, around US$1.25 or £1.04) if three people were fed, and $1.51 per person (today, around US$0.94 or £0.78) per person if four people were fed.

In my opinion, the amount the recipe as presented (and as I made it) makes would probably suit two to three people, unless, maybe it was extended with a salad, naan or other bread, etc., which would add to the cost, of course. However, doubling the recipe to have larger portions, to feed more people, or even just to have leftovers would still be quite inexpensive. In fact, it would be pretty comparable in cost to my homemade chicken soup, and arguably heartier.

I really liked this meal, so I’m adding it to my list of meals to make several times a year; the only real barrier to making it with any kind of frequency is that I don’t normally have coconut milk in my pantry. Maybe I can make it whenever coconut milk is on special (or stock up so I have it in the pantry when I want to make this).

All of this is part of my effort to live more frugally/sustainably, while still eating well and more healthily. I’m enjoying the challenge of doing all three at once, and this recipe is definitely one to help me achieve my food goals.

Wins all around!

Here’s the full video, queued to start with the recipe I followed:

Thursday, July 07, 2022

Another attempt. Again.

About 3 weeks ago, I had an “incident” and said I was going to change my blood pressure medication. That was a bit cheeky, since I hadn't yet said anything to my GP. It's now official, and, as per my request, I'll be changing to a different drug at my next prescription renewal, in a couple weeks. This is, in fact, the first time I've ever asked to change BP drugs.

The new drug is called Losartan, and is an “angiotensin II receptor antagonist”. Like (nearly?) all medications used to treat hypertension, this one has other uses, too. It’s often used for people who can’t tolerate ACE inhibitors, and both my current drug and the discontinued one before that are that type.

I could've predicted that my GP would be sceptical that the current BP medication is causing my ongoing (but not constant), excessive, tiredness, because doctors are always sceptical whenever I suggest a problem with a medication—even when it turned out I was right. I'm used to it. Still, if I report that I don’t feel right, it’s worth trying other options.

This will be the third BP medication I've been on. The first two didn't seem to cause excessive tiredness, but when I was overly tired, they were combined with other drugs that could’ve had that effect, either alone or in combination, so, maybe they did? I was on the second drug from when I got my stent, and only changed because it was discontinued. The tiredness is definitely greater now than it was under my previous drug, though I was tired then, too.

Obviously, I can’t know if this change will help or not, or whether I’ll experience any side effects. Honestly, though, even a small improvement would mean a big improvement in the quality of my life. I’ve learned how to ration my energy, after all, and if there’s more energy to ration, then I’ll be able to get a lot more done, and that, in turn, will help me get moving—in every sense.

If this doesn’t help, then I’ll just have to keep pushing until a solution is found. It could well turn out that there is no good solution, just one that’s less bad than others. Pushing and trying is the only way I’ll ever know, or have a chance to move forward again.

Important note: This is about my own personal health journey. My experiences are my own, and shouldn’t be taken as indicative for anyone else. Similarly, other people may have completely different reactions to the same medications I take—better or worse. I share my experiences because others may have the same or similar experiences, and I want them to know that they’re not alone. But, as always, discuss your situation and how you’re feeling openly, honestly, and clearly with your own doctor, and always feel free to seek a second opinion from another doctor.

Tuesday, July 05, 2022

An unusual thing happened

This morning I had an unusual thing happen, something with plenty of rational explanations, all equally plausible. But it’s the implausible, impossible to prove or refute that gripped me: It felt like I got a visitation from Nigel.

It was about an hour or so before my target time to get up, I was lightly asleep, deep enough to not be aware of my surroundings or to have conscious awareness of dreams, and also not awake enough to have any sort of self-directed dream. In fact, at the time, it didn’t seem like I was dreaming at all.

So, I was in that thick fog that lies on either side of the border between sleep and wakefulness, and I heard Nigel’s voice saying clearly and distinctly, “Are you there?” There were no visuals of any kind, just the sound, and it startled me awake. I felt kind of frightened, to be honest, for no rational reason, except, maybe, that it sounded so real, and that’s physically impossible.

When I dream, the people in them don’t sound much like they do/did in real life—they sound kind of muffled, mumbling, often kind of vague (all of that’s also actually true for “characters”, people who don’t seem to be anyone I actually know). What I heard was nothing like that: It was totally clear, distinct, and left no doubt about who was saying it.

Here’s the thing. People often assume that I don’t believe in anything supernatural (including any of the thousands of gods and goddesses that humans have believed in over the millennia), and some even assume I reject all of that. The truth is more complicated, as it always is: My core belief is that, based on the evidence, there’s probably nothing beyond the physical world. The important words there are “probably” and “evidence”: I won’t take someone else’s beliefs or feelings or hunches as a reason to believe something, but verifiable, reproduceable evidence that doesn’t require metaphysical interpretation would convince me, and although that’s never happened, I’m happy to have my mind changed.

I know plenty of people who have had dreams they believe were visitations from Nigel—in fact, I think there were probably many I was never told about because people know about my scepticism. However: I don’t for one second doubt that those people feel they had a visitation; the issue for me is that I wasn’t the recipient, so how can I have a personal feeling about the experiences of others? I take what they tell me at face value and accept it as a possibility that I simply have no way to prove or disprove on my own.

The difficulty for me is that I’ve never had anything I’d interpret as a visitation from anyone who’s died—never. Or, have I? Certainly no one has ever appeared to me in a dream and delivered a message, but there was a time at least seven years ago when there was one particular weird thing that happened, a tale I haven’t talked about before.

This was at our house on Auckland’s North Shore, and I think it was before my stent. Whatever was going on that particular night, I wasn’t asleep yet, but not far from it. My eyes were closed, but through my closed eyes I “saw” my mother walk up along the side of the bed, reach over, and then I felt her stroke my hair. She didn’t say a word, and when I opened my eyes, she wasn’t there. Of course. But it definitely felt real, both physically and in that sort of ethereal way we feel when we’re physically close to someone with whom we have a strong connection.

Rational me can list all the ways this can be explained, such as, random brain cells firing, that it was possibly a replaying a real scene from my childhood, that it was my mind trying to make sense of/cope with some worry. Or, maybe it was exactly what it seemed like—after all, I can neither prove nor disprove that.

Which brings me back to Nigel. He and I had very similar beliefs about such things, and I would have told him about my experience. His attitude would have been similar to my own: It was whatever it was.

When Nigel was in his last week, we were talking about death, and I said to him that if there was anything after this corporeal life, he had to find a way to let me know. I also told him it had to be clear, unequivocal, and not need any interpretation. I’ve never had any sort of sign or whatsoever, though after he died I thought of something that only he and I knew about that he could tell someone in a dream, and if they then told me, I’d know it was the evidence. But no one has ever told me that thing, or anything else that only he and I knew about.

A simple clear message directly to me would be nice, but even if it’s possible, that doesn’t mean it’d be likely. The closest I ever felt to a visitation from Nigel was one night in this house, and again through my closed eyes, where I “saw” a dark, cloud-like shadow near the ceiling above the bed. That ethereal feeling was kind of like Nigel, but it was weak, so I didn’t think it was a visit from him, and, of course, when I opened my eyes, there was nothing there but the ceiling.

There’s another bit of background to what happened. Yesterday I read a post on one of the LGBT+ widows groups I’m on from someone who said (I think—there were a lot of typos) that they were an empath and had a message for someone in the group that their partner had been trying to reach them and couldn’t. It’s fair to say that I’m especially sceptical of such things: They remind me of horoscopes, where there are enough partial, kinda, sorta relevant details that someone can convince themselves, without any rational reason, that the message is really about them.

That post, though, reminded me that I’ve never had a visitation or message or whatever from Nigel, and there have been times I thought to myself that maybe he just hadn’t been able to get through. That post could well be the actual reason for what I “heard” this morning, and it wouldn’t be the first time that something a I read online or saw on TV popped up in a dream.

And yet, it definitely didn’t feel like a dream, and it “sounded” just like real life, which doesn’t happen with my dreams. On the other, other hand, the specific words are what someone might say when trying to establish communication, like in that post. On the third hand, it’s also something Nigel would’ve actually said to me.

There are cultures around the world, and have been throughout time, who believe the dividing line between the corporeal world and the non-corporeal world (“spirits”, if you prefer) is at night, and connection between the two is easiest through dreams. There’s absolutely no possible way to prove either one, and, obviously they can’t be disproven, either. I often wonder, what if they’re right? However unlikely it may seem to rational me, that same rational me also knows it’s not necessarily impossible, either.

So maybe it really was Nigel, maybe it was inspired by something I read online, maybe it was some combination, or even none of that. I don’t have any way to be certain, so, as with everything else that some people consider metaphysical, supernatural, spiritual, or whatever they call it, I remain sceptical, but with an open mind.

And yet: “Hearing” Nigel speak, without me having to play an old recording, made me happy. Even if it was nothing more than random brain cells firing, it meant something to me. Seeing/hearing doesn’t always mean believing, but it also doesn’t have to. Rational me knows that, too.

This morning, an unusual thing happened. I don’t care what anyone else thinks about it, because I don’t know what I think about it. But I’m open to finding out. And so is rational me.