True story: This update is prompted by a combination of ennui and reading about people’s winter thermostat settings.
So everything is holding steady, which is good. Miracle drug still doing its miracle thing. I got hold of a fitness tracker this winter and have started watching the daily exertion count, which makes it much easier to manage my activity level, but also maybe a little more depressing (she said buoyantly). Basically the pace of six days on, one day off works pretty well, as long as the six days are “average”. I’m getting trained to take a second rest day preemptively if I know I can’t afford to bonk later in the week.
What doesn’t work: Continuing with a few extra average days, because you feel fine and anyway there are important things happening . . . talk about high-interest loans. Try to skip one rest day, and find your brain slowly draining away during the last couple “just one more normal day” days, and then your body is utterly laid out, as if you had the flu only you did not have the flu, for five days. Try to gain one day, lose five, and also alienate a few folks by your lousy social skills during the pre-collapse decline. Yeah, that was a neat experiment.
So that trained me to be aggressive about managing rest, and overall it was a beneficial experience because without the certainty that rest is a non-negotiable, it would be much harder to set the boundaries. Also, I discovered all these interesting BBC miniseries, so it worked out. Essentially I can tell how sick I am by how interested I am in television. Healthy = Zero Interest. Medium = I’d rather be writing. Desperate = Is There a Law that Brendan Coyle has to be in Every British Period Drama Ever Made Since 1991?
The surreal part of all this is that I find myself thinking, about myself, Well, um you don’t look sick to me. That’s a good thing (yay modern medicine) because pallor and gasping and feeling perpetually buzzed is overrated. The new normal is operating like a completely normal person, and without any particular difficulty, other than that normal happens to be at the limit of my physical capacity. But that at-the-limit situation doesn’t how I’d think: It’s no problem at all at any given moment to quick sprint across the yard, or take a long walk, or haul boxes of stuff in and out of the truck, and so everything seems completely not-sick. The hitch is in the number of days I can pull it off for, before I find myself suddenly struck by the Useless Fairy because I used up my minutes.
The other confusing thing is that if I’m on an even keel, things that other people find difficult, like spitting out massive quantities of punditry, are easy. Effortless. Which makes it seem like I’m a person of leisure and boundless productivity, when what I’m actually doing is preventing myself from going absolutely mad while I ration the physical exertion like an exercise miser.
I think that’s what it is: Being actively sick was like being exertion-destitute. Now I’m upgraded to the exertion counterpart to living on a very frugal budget: It isn’t that you can’t live on it, and have nice things and go places and all that; it’s that in order to make normal life happen without careening from crisis to crisis, you have to spend your limited resources very carefully.
Oh, so the thermostat story: We’re the kind of people who don’t turn up the heat in the winter. Normal winter thermostat settting was low sixties during the day, down to 55 at night (if it got so cold indoors, which is only in the depth of winter), and with a little blip up to 65 in the morning during shower-time. Also we’d push it up over 65 if guests came over, because people don’t always dress for winter during winter. We have a small wood stove in the living room that lets us do the cozy-around-the-fire thing in the evening if we want to as well.
Seemed to us like a fairly moderate regime, far less rigorous than the norm throughout the bulk of human history, but perfectly manageable even living in one of these societies where you’re expected to engage in full-immersion bathing every single day of the year, no matter how cold it is outside, thank goodness for hot water heaters. (I don’t mind a hot shower nor the benefits of obsessive hygiene, this works out for me, product of my time as I am.)
But what happened was that as soon as the house got cold, I completely turned into a slug. The new-normal wasn’t sustainable. I theorized after a little research that since I was already living at the limits of my endurance (which sounds more dramatic than it is, but still, is the case), the extra load of trying to keep the body warm was pushing me over the edge. I set the thermostat to “hold temp” at 65 night and day, and sure enough the body reverted to its normal cycle of productivity.
So now when I see people talk about thermostat settings, I have a whole new layer of curmudgeonly thoughts that I don’t share. To summarize: You don’t need to turn the heat up, unless you do.
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