Following the gray

March 7, 2013

I thought my last post was a day or two ago. I was shocked just now to see that it was THREE days ago!

This is a bad, bad, bad day for me. Boston has been getting a lot of rain and snow, which I don’t mind too much (as long as thePhoto 3 snow isn’t enough to require shoveling.) What I do mind is the lack of sun. Even on the days without precipitation, there’s no sun! A few times I’ve woken up to see some blue sky out my window, but I can only see a sliver from my bed, by the time I get up an hour later, it’s gone. A day or two ago (I really can’t tell the days anymore) I saw some blue sky. It was so exciting! I had thought about taking a walk, and that gave me the push I needed. I walked a few blocks and back, then found a place to sit. It was too cold to sit still, but I did it anyway for as long as I could because there was blue sky! It really helped. Unfortunately, the sun was behind the clouds and sunset came less than an hour later. And that was the last time I saw blue sky.

When I was a kid, I knew I didn’t like the early sunsets in the winter. I knew it, but I didn’t know why. It wasn’t until much later Photo 1that I realized it was a seasonal thing. And the first time I heard of seasonal affective disorder (SAD), it just clicked. I suddenly knew why I became grumpy every October, and bitchy by November. And those manic days at the start of spring made sense too.

I’ve been feeling it getting worse every day. Last week I felt so lousy from a resurgence of symptoms that I didn’t leave the house for three days. Those were the sunny days, of course. Since then, I’ve been dealing with SAD, the worse symptoms, and the latest round of insurance bullshit. Add to that concern over 5 ill family members (yeah, it’s been an odd week), uncertainty over my immediate future (thanks to the insurance crap,) and the loneliness of sitting home by myself while my friends are all at work, and you can begin to understand why this hasn’t been the greatest week for me.

The gray weather can’t last forever. That’s what I keep telling myself. This is a long stretch, even for Boston. The sun should be out on Saturday. I have no plans for that day, but I sure hope to be outside. A lot. In the sun. Enjoying every minute of it as much as I can. The rest of the shit will still be in my life, but I have a feeling it won’t be nearly as bad when the sun comes out. I just hope it comes out soon.

The anatomy of a trip to the grocery store

March 4, 2013

Ask a “healthy” person what’s involved with getting groceries, and they’ll probably say: “Go to the store, pick items off the shelves, put them in the cart, pay, go home.” Those of us with pain, fatigue, cognitive, and other issues know that it’s not that simple.


Some people use grocery delivery services and some have spouses, parents, friends, or others who get groceries for them. For the rest of us, going to a store for food is inevitable. I just got home, and was amazed, as I often am, at how exhausting it can be. Here’s my own breakdown. It’s different for everyone, but I think it might be worth passing this along to your able-bodied friends who don’t seem to understand the difficulties you deal with. This may open their eyes a bit.

Buying groceries:

  1. Let’s assume I’m already dressed. The first thing is to sit down, put on shoes, and stand up again. Oy. Next, coat, scarf, and other wintery layers. In the summer, carry 1-2 water bottles.
  2. Walk down the hallways, down the stairs, and outside.
  3. Spend a couple minutes trying to remember where I parked my car. Beep the alarm to help find it. Before the memory issues, this was rarely a problem. Now it’s happening more often.
  4. Climb into car.
  5. Drive to grocery store.
  6. Circle the lot looking for a decent space. On bad days, I must be as close as possible to the door. On better days I can be a bit further back. It’s been a long time (years) since I’ve had a day that I could park at the back of the lot. Also, it’s better not to be too close to the next car on the driver’s side if I’m going to have trouble getting out of the car this day, or if I’m going to have trouble controling the swing of my door. My grocery definitely needs more handicapped parking spaces!
  7. Get out of car.
  8. Open back door and bend over to take out shopping bags.
  9. Walk into the store.
  10. Get a cart. Try to get one of the carts that’s smaller and therefore easier to push and manuver around the store.
  11. Check grocery list. Thankfully, I can keep mine on my phone now so I never forget it at home.
  12. Walk up and down the aisles, careful not to forget anything. Going back takes too much energy.
  13. Check grocery list. Memory ain’t what it used to be.
  14. Pick up items, sometimes having to crouch down (ouch!) or reach up (are you kidding me?)
  15. Examine items to be sure they don’t contain gluten or other bad-for-me ingredients.
  16. Lean over to place items in the cart. Anything unbreakable just gets thrown in. Bending is only for items that need more care.
  17. Mentally calculate the weight of all items in the cart. Only get more groceries if I think I can carry them to my apartment later.
  18. Check grocery list. Damn memory!
  19. Realize I forgot something after all. Go back.
  20. Repeat 11-19.
  21. Exhausted now. But almost done (sort of)! Head to checkout.
  22. Unload cart. Bend and lift. Bend and lift. Bend and lift. Heavy items in left hand, lighter items in right. Unless right is having a great day, then medium items in right, too. Pay attention, now, I don’t want to hurt later.
  23. Wait for cashier to scan each item.
  24. Insist on packing my own bags. I know from experience that the workers always pack my bags too heavy, since I look healthy, and then I can’t manage them. Lift each item and place it in the bag.
  25. Lift the bags into the cart. Oooh, feeling that.
  26. Pay the cashier. Most days I can pull out my credit card and sign the screen without a problem. There were times I couldn’t even hold a pen, though, which made things more complicated.
  27. Walk out to the car.
  28. Lift bags from the cart into the car. Not good.
  29. Return cart to store front area. No, neither of my groceries has a cart return in the lot.
  30. Trudge back to the car.
  31. Collapse into the driver’s seat. I want to be done. I need to be done. But I’m not done. Rest in the driver’s seat for a few minutes.
  32. Drive home.
  33. Attempt to park at least twice before succeeding. The more tired I am, the more tries it takes to successfuly parallel park.
  34. Rest in the driver’s seat for a few minutes.
  35. Climb out of the car.
  36. Pick up each bag from the car. Swing one over each shoulder. I try to get no more than two bags per trip. Otherwise, I may need to make more than one trip up to my apartment, and that’s too exhausting and painful.
  37. Get to my apartment.
    • Walk down my walkway.
    • Climb up the stairs.
    • Unlock the door.
    • Press the button for the elevator.
    • Wait impatiently with the bags on my shoulders, because it’s easier than putting them down and then having to lift them off the floor.
    • Take the elevator up to my floor.
    • Walk down the long hallway.
    • Fumble with my keys. Hopefully don’t drop them (I hate when that happens while I’m carrying things!)
    • Unlock door. I’m home!
  38. Walk directly to kitchen.
  39. Unload first bag from shoulder to the kitchen counter. Ahhhh!
  40. Unload second bag (if there is one) from shoulder to the kitchen counter. Ahhhh! Relief!
  41. Walk back to front entry.
  42. Close door.
  43. Remove coat, scarf, and other layers. Kick off shoes.
  44. Walk back to kitchen.
  45. Remove each item from the bags.
  46. Put all freezer items into the freezer. Hopefully apartment is warm enough that fingers don’t go warm right away.
  47. Put all fridge items in fridge. Hopefully there’s room on the upper shelves so I won’t have to do more bending at this point.
  48. If I have enough energy, put all canned items in the cabinet. Try to carry several at once to reduce trips across the kitchen (about 4 feet each way.)
  49. If I still have enough energy, put away the rest of the food.
  50. Walk to the front entry with the grocery bags. Leave the bags there so I remember to bring them to my car the next time I go out.
  51. Wash hands. I want to make sure I don’t get the flu on top of everything else.
  52. Drink lots of water. I’m probably dehydrated by now.
  53. In the summer, go to the bathroom. I’ve undoubtedly drunk 8-16 ounces of water, if not more, during this trip.
  54. Collapse on a chair or the couch.

And now the shopping is done! Yay!

I didn’t plan out this list in advance, I just wrote it as I thought of it. And then at the end I went back and added #24, because I realized I forgot to mention paying. I’ve probably forgotten other things too. But I find it interesting that I didn’t plan this list, and yet more than half of it involves what happens after I leave the store. That says something.

How does your list compare? Is it similar? Completely different? I’d love to hear about it! I think this is an activity that many people take for granted. I used to, but I sure don’t any more. I’m incredibly grateful that I can still manage this most days!

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