It’s rather a chilly day in Johannesburg today. Lots of rain and electric storms. Perfect weather to brew a cup of hot chocolate and get to writing. Except that my cats think this is perfect cuddle weather. I’ve trained Adelheid to move a bit to the side so I can use my left arm, but Yoda, who weighs around 6 kilograms, refuses to budge. So I’m trying to work around her. 😂😂
Some of the best naps I’ve enjoyed have been on a recliner, specifically the one I normally use when I write. A few years ago, after the second operation on my right knee, my orthopaedic surgeon suggested to me that sitting at a desk with my knees bent at ninety degrees might not be the best option for me. Being a writer, which normally would involve sitting at a desk, I thought about this for a while, and came up with a great solution, which resulted in me buying my first recliner. Of course I wasn’t trying to write while in a reclined position. What I was really interested in was the front part of the recliner that elevated my feet, which kept my knees in a slightly flexed position, just as my doctor suggested.
I also bought one of those laptop stands with the cooling fans built in, so that I could rest my laptop on my thighs. And that’s how I’ve been writing the past couple of years. Of course the best benefit of writing like that, is that even with the backrest of the recliner in the upright position, it’s really comfortable. This can present a problem at times, because sometimes, when I’m really thinking deeply about what’s going to happen next, and I get into a bit of a dreamy state, I drop off to sleep.
The advantage of that is that it allows my subconscious to come to the rescue and supply me with the next part of the story, and it’s really great when that happens. If not, I’ve lost an hour or two of the day, oops. I think that part of the reason why I fall asleep is that I’m constantly running in the red when it comes to sleep, so any time I get too comfortable I run the risk of dropping off.
Why am I running in the red, you might ask. Well, to summarize, somewhere around the age of thirty five I developed a fear of sleeping. That was when, for some inexplicable reason, I started waking up at three in the morning, in the middle of a fight or flight reaction. Medically it’s called a panic attack, or an anxiety attack, but basically it’s the result of a massive release of adrenalin while asleep, and boy is that a nasty way to wake up. You’re filled with intense fear, except that there nothing there to be afraid of, your heart is hammering, you’re hyperventilating and shivering and consumed with an insane desire to go outside and just run. From what? There’s nothing there. But try telling your body that.
Of course all medical technology could offer was sedation, which didn’t work, mainly because I found that while it could dull your senses, it didn’t take care of the panic, and I hated not being in control, so I gave that up after a short while.
Sleeping became a problem, but by resisting my body’s desire to sleep, I inadvertently stumbled onto the solution. By going to bed at three in the morning, I avoided the panic attack and normally slept through until eight, by which time the house was normally so noisy that it was difficult for me to continue sleeping. So that’s five hours at least. Certainly better than nothing, but an hour in the afternoon is often irresistible.
And what do I normally do until three in the morning? I watch TV, read, work on my latest manuscript, or just wander around the house. Being a bit of an introvert (more than just a bit), I’ve grown to relish the silence in the house while my family is sleeping, and quite frankly, after ten years it has become a habit.
But let’s get back to the fact that I’ve had some of my best naps on a recliner. Just an update to my post, “Disappointed“, I did finally have my knee operation on February 18, when all my blood levels were back to normal. I then had to wait a few months for my knee to heal before I could have my shoulder fixed up. And all that from one misstep off a ladder? Freakin’ unbelievable. Anyway, before I went to hospital on May 28 for the operation on my left shoulder, I wondered to myself how I would sleep for the six weeks that my arm would be in a sling. And then I remembered about my recliner, and how it would probably be a great idea to sleep on my back in a slightly raised position.
My mind made up, a few days before my operation I bought a new recliner for my bedroom. Of course my kitties all had to test drive it first, but when they realized that I was giving them my bed, with the electric blanket permanently switched on, they decided I could have my recliner.And wow, I wish I had realized before how comfortable this would be. I used to wake up in the morning feeling as if I was broken, mainly due to five heavy kitties piling onto me the minute I got horizontal, twisting my body into all kinds of unnatural positions. Just try to imagine having traction that’s pulling in five different directions all at the same time.
I found there are two advantages to sleeping on a recliner. Firstly I’m held in position very securely, so no chance of turning onto my side by accident and hurting my shoulder. And because I’m sleeping on my back, no sleep wrinkles from mashing my face into a pillow. What a bonus, I look younger already. 😉 I’m seriously considering continuing to sleep this way even once my shoulder is healed, which could take a while. Even though I can stop using the sling in about two weeks time, I’m still looking at a few months of physiotherapy before this arm will be anything close to fully functional.
But I know the burning question here is whether I’m able to work on the next Blackstone book while my shoulder is healing. Well, for the first two weeks after the operation my left arm was completely out of action, and I spent my time watching TV and listening to music and reading and trying anything that kept me from going out of my mind. Yep, I hate being helpless and the truth of the matter is you need two hands for just about everything.
Accepting help from my family for things that I took for granted was difficult for me. One weekend we went to my brother’s house for a barbeque, after my sister had helped me dress, my mother had tied up my hair and my father had laced up my boots. And at the barbecue my sister casually leaned over and cut my meat into small little blocks that I could just pick up with a fork. Yes, that’s love and I felt about five years old. Ugh.
Anyway, those of you who want to know what was wrong with my shoulder. In the fall that I described in the post, “Disappointed”, what had actually happened was that I had torn my bicep tendon and injured my AC joint, which is a little joint on the top of the shoulder that helps with the rotation of your shoulder. Anytime you reach across your body, let’s say to put on your safety belt, you’ve used your AC joint. And if you reach up for something above your head, your AC joint is at work again.
So anyway, after the operation my doc said that he had managed to repair the tendon successfully, but he’d had to shave away a lot of bone to get my AC joint functional again, which in fact had already been compromised even before I fell. According to him it was one of the worst cases of shoulder impingement he had ever seen, which explained why my left arm had been practically useless before the operation. Basically the narrowing of my AC joint, combined with the injury sustained in the fall had trapped the tendons of my shoulder resulting in pain and reduced mobility.
I remember even while finishing Somali Sunrise that I had been in intense pain from my shoulder, and had to take regular breaks because my chest muscles kept cramping. Oh, the pain of creation. 😉
The good news is that by the third week after my shoulder operation I was able to get back into a regular schedule of writing. I managed that by propping my elbow up on the arm of my new recliner, thereby supporting my shoulder, and then releasing the clip of my sling so that I could rest the heel of my hand on the palm rest of my laptop. From there it was easy for me to reach the keys of my laptop and type quite comfortably without straining my shoulder or upper arm at all. I include a photo for illustration.Of course, Yoda, one of my kitties, decided that she would help to keep my arm steady by providing support. She’s such a little darling and guards me day and night. I think she senses that I need a little extra help at the moment. And of course we enjoy wonderful naps together.
But I’m quite confident that I’m on schedule to publish the third Blackstone book by December. And as always, I’ll announce it here first.
This is a photo of one of my kitties, Rocky. He was brought to me in a state of complete starvation at the end of December 2010. He was three months old, but looked like a 6 week old kitten, and weighed just 600g. He was hours from death and nobody held much hope for him. For the first 5 days I hardly slept, expecting each breath to be his last. He pulled through, and three months ago I took him for his standard FIV (feline aids) and FeLV (Feline Leukemia Virus) tests before he could come out of quarantine. Alas, he tested positive for Leukemia so his life expectancy is limited, at best. Due to the extremely contagious nature of the disease, Rocky will be in quarantine for life, however long or short it may be. For now he appears healthy, though his blood tests tell a different story. He’s a bit of a silly clown as you can see in the photo. We can learn from him, I think. Like most animals he doesn’t know how to feel sorry for himself.