Thursday, December 15, 2011

In which I hit the fast-forward button.

I'm so exhausted from the excitement.  First: I still have no idea what exactly is going on with my job-status, but I'm getting closer to figuring it out thanks to the fine people who are trying to steer me in the right direction here.  Will I do this training or that one?  Will I receive some kind of tiny financial safety net from the government or not?  I don't know!  It's a little adventure, this job upheaval, it is.  Will something good come of it?  I think it has to, one way or the other.  I have to make something good come from the absolute crap-havoc hurting my back has brought into my life over the past few months.

SECOND... We get to be with my family for Christmas!  I'm so excited, it's like there are blinking neon lights in my head, making that buzzy neon-light sound, and making it very difficult for me to concentrate on the things I need to finish up here before we go ... like the chocolates I have to finish before Sunday?

Anyhow, it's the fast forward button because now everything here in Liège becomes compressed to essentials over the next few days.  Christmas plans we made for here we must now undo, and after we leave the house to catch our flight in just a few short days, we'll just be rolling with the punches for a couple of weeks right into the New Year.  We pretty much have nothing planned and this was all a rather spur of the moment and "hey look there are four seats left on this flight" kind of thing.

Eeeee!  I'll get to see my sisters 3 little munchkins on Christmas morning.  I won't have to hear how Christmas dinner isn't the same without us at the table because WE'LL BE THERE!

It's not quite a miracle, but it's definitely a good surprise.  Even if the rest of me is buzzing with nervous energy, the cockles of my heart feel slightly warmer today.

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

It's raining again

Yesterday a man let loose in one of our central squares here in Liège with a hail of gunfire.  He then shot himself in the head.  A few people died right away, many people were hurt, and a few more are in a touch and go state at the hospitals.

I was at home when it happened, thankfully.  I received a text from a friend checking to see if I was ok, and then The Boy called to make sure I wasn't downtown, explaining what he'd heard at that point.  I was surprised at the time, but not entirely.  Though Liège hasn't had a crazy with a gun before, believe it or not I've heard more than a few disgusting news stories regarding prison breaks, judges being shot, and enough rapes and knifings in Belgium to know that certain people don't really hold back here.  While part of it is cultural, part of this certainly has to do with a flaw in the justice system here.  This man had a conviction sheet with 20 items on it at least.  Rape, possession of (many) arms without permit, running a large grow-op, and so on.

Do you want to know how much time he's spent in prison here in Belgium?  From what I understand, not a very long time for someone with such a long rap-sheet.

Know what goes on in Belgian prisons?  Again, from what I understand: Overcrowding.  Early release after serving a third of your time, or payment of a fine instead of jail-time altogether.  And also from what I understand... jail isn't a place that tries to rehabilitate you, or to help you acquire any job skills.  It's just a place where you go to live like a cooped chicken.  Which means if you were a criminal when you went in... chances are you will still not be able to figure out how to live like a decent person when you get out, and you'll turn back to crime.

In this case I'm not saying that this guy would have been any different were he given access to rehabilitative programs in prison, because with a rap sheet like that we might safely assume that he was just scum who didn't aspire to be anything other than scum.  What I am saying is "really?  SO LITTLE TIME in prison for having a large grow-op, RAPING someone, having an illegal armery in your garage? Among other crimes?"

People were really frightened, and rightfully so.  I think a lot of people (myself included) find themselves asking a few questions they weren't yesterday prior to the shooting.  For everyone it's different questions, you know, the kind you ask yourself or others when you realize that life is short and very place-specific.

For me, yesterday is just more weight added to the question that's been growing all through my time here, regardless of how 'adjusted' I've become.  The question being: "what am I really doing here?"

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

The Story according to someone else in the same office

I am officially a "job-seeker".  The lovely lady I consulted with at the FOREM offices informed me (contrary to the one I spoke to last week,) that the employer doesn't actually have to provide the C4 document until the end of the "periode de préavis".  This basically means that I can't expect to see this paper until the end of December, or to be more realistic (since there is the whole "periode des fêtes" at the end of December and offices are closed more frequently at this time of year,) that I'll likely see it (hopefully) before January is half-finished.  Yeesh.

BUT... at least I'm in the system.  Which is good... I think?  I'll find out in the nearish future (at another FOREM office) what exactly being "in the system" is good for as far as education or trades-certification type of stuff is concerned, and in the meantime I'll be doing a little research and figuring on my own as I try to determine my next steps.

Friday, December 9, 2011

Free advice for the FOREM

I'm still waiting on the papers that should have followed my "you're being let go" letter, but I figured 2 weeks was long enough to wait and so yesterday I made a few calls; one to the FOREM (the government administrators of job-status,) and the other to FGTB, a syndicat (union.)

Did you know... that even though an employer is normally supposed to furnish the C4 and whatever other papers that should follow the "rupture of contract" letter within days of the rupture of contract, that a person in Belgium can (and should) still visit the FOREM within 8 days of being let go, even if they don't have those papers?  I didn't.  Lots of other people (both immigrants and native Wallonians,) don't know this too, judging by the number of confused people in online advice forums regarding work here in Belgium.

Did you know as well ... that *nowhere* on the FOREM website, nor the FGTB (at least that I could find,) is there a section or mention of "what to do and when to do it after being fired / laid off".  I'm thinking there should be a general list of things to do and the order in which they should be done, given that I've now seen horrible things online now about employers not producing the C4 for MONTHS after the firing, and former employees waiting for their C4, (thinking it's what they need this document before they can visit the FOREM and register in the system as a "job seeker".)  Those people have effectively fallen through the cracks of the system due to a lack of information.

So, if anyone out there in the readership of this blog happens to be in any sort of governmental advisory capacity - I'm just putting this out there as a free recommendation: please do create a "so, you've lost your job, what to do next?" section on the FOREM site, and given that the FOREM is a site people tend to visit after being let go, or when looking for work-information... place the link to that section fairly prominently.  From my experience of trying to figure out what I'm supposed to do, when I should expect my C4, and so on I can tell you there are definitely enough people out there who don't know the procedure of what to do after rupture of contract, and who don't know they can go directly to the FOREM as soon as they've got their letter of dismissal.  Some have been waiting for months, calling their employers and asking when the C4 will come, all the while unsure of their status in 'the system', unsure of if they are authorized to look for work since they don't have "job seeker" status, and all the while they're worrying about how to pay for groceries while they wait.  And it's simply because they don't know that they don't have to wait!

I tried (professionally and politely,) to contact my employer twice during these past two weeks regarding my C4, and was ignored completely by them.  Now I'm thinking it's almost a good thing they didn't respond to my queries by telling me "yeah, it's coming soon," because I probably would have kept waiting if they had!  I'm also grateful I'm not as patient as some of those people I ran into in the online forums, as it's my lack of patience in this situation that drove me to make the calls I did yesterday.  Today I'm off to my FOREM office to start (hopefully) putting things right.

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Somewhere in the world, Gloria Gaynor is humming.

Physio has begun!  After my first session, I was pretty sore.  For a few days, actually.
Pretty much up until my second session.

After my second (yesterday,) I'm sore, but less so than last time.  Some of what's being done in physio are movements that stretch out my spine.  While this is of course necessary, it's certainly uncomfortable and makes me feel for a day or two like my spine isn't 'stable' enough to handle any complicated, quick, or poundy movements, meaning I haven't dared to try jogging since physio started.  As I'm being treated twice a week there are essentially only 1 or 2 days during the week where I seem to be in decent functional capacity.  The result of this is that while my back is moving along toward a better state of affairs (I hope,) progress with things I'm trying to tackle around the house (such as making candy, organizing my soon-to-be studio, and so on,) have ground to a halt for now.  Next session is Thursday, so hopefully I'll feel 'right' enough tomorrow to jog, even if it's only a little.

I've finally seen my severance pay from work, and have finally been paid for the time I wasn't working by my mutualité, so now I'm just waiting on the official package of "you no longer have a contract with us" documents (otherwise known as the C4) to arrive from the hotel so that I can register in the Belgian system as a "job seeker" and get to the business of getting back on the horse as it were, however that works here.  My little bits of research into this system over the past few days only reveal to me that this process (like many things in Belgium,) looks mighty labyrinthine.  That, and Belgium needs more nurses, physiotherapists, boulangers, patissiers, and chocolatiers.  Did you catch that?  BELGIUM officially needs more chocolatiers.  Who knew?

Thursday, November 24, 2011

Life has a funny, funny way of helping you out.

My MRI shows a ruptured disc in exactly THE place I've been feeling the weirdness from the start.  It's not the best news in the world, and it's certainly a little disheartening to see with your own eyes a picture of your own disc-fluid leaked out into places it shouldn't be, but I've had enough time to accept the fact that I've mucked up my back, that it could be much worse, and I've also had enough time to begin to accept that it can get much better than it has been.  Now at least I know exactly what's happened to it, which means I'll be able to receive some precise treatment to heal up as best as possible.

I've been prescribed physiotherapy, and I saw my physiotherapist for the first time today.  He seems great, and since we were talking about what kind of activities I do, he's going to make sure I get seen by his colleague who just happens to also be a "monitrice de yoga".  Basically she'll be able to use her medical training combined with her knowledge of yoga to help me confidently go back to yoga knowing what positions I shouldn't do, or how to adapt my movements accordingly.  I still have the green light for very careful jogging, too.

Work: I worked yesterday, and discovered along the way that MANY of the things I have to lift at work weigh *much* more than 10kg.  I survived the day and got everything done with proper timing, but it wasn't easy.  Then, when I was done my manager's boss sat down with me and we had a relaxed conversation in which he explained that I was being fired.

Yup.  Basically it's more like being "laid off" due to "restructuring of the company that occurred while I was away from work", but whatever.  Draw your own conclusions, (I have.)  I never thought that the prospect of losing my job would be so... un-stressful for me, but actually, it was.  After working the day, I had come to the conclusion that although I could handle resuming work, it might not be advisable for my body, as far as "getting fully better" goes, so in all honesty I was kind of relieved since I know myself and I likely would have tried to power through, grin and bear it and whatnot, but the fact is I'm not as functional as I thought I was, and work totally proved it to me.

I never realized how heavy the things I dealt with there were, and why would I have before?  If I could lift it without trouble, who cared how much it weighed?  Well, lets just say that there are a heck of a lot of things there that weigh 15, 20, 25 kilos, EASILY.  Dealing with those sorts of things for 8 hours straight?  I did it, like I said, and smiling all the while, but there were certainly points in the day where I was basically praying that my back would hold up while I was lifting something heavy.  Yesterday night I needed a pain killer and a lie-down.

Other reasons not to stress too much about this?  After all that had happened with the shady handling of the 'work accident' situation by the hotel, I wondered if they wouldn't try to find a way to shoo me out the door when I came back to work.  I'd seen them usher another good employee out in a similar fashion, and so knowing they weren't above 'strategic firing' I'd already mentally prepared myself for this possibility.  Additionally I found myself throughout this experience feeling not only unsupported by people I'd worked hard for, but also seeing very clearly that I was working for someone who prefers to treat employees as things to be disposed of as soon as they aren't in mint condition.  Who wants to stay and work for someone like that?

Looking at it coldy: The hotel was my first job here, and I chose it so that I could refine my French skills and still make use of my English while getting accustomed to life here.  Given that I felt I was arriving at the point where I could either pursue some sort of post-secondary level studies in French or find a job that was more challenging, I was already comfortable with the idea of moving on, and had been thinking (privately) I'd probably do so in the New Year.  So instead of jumping in the near future, I got pushed about 6 months sooner than I'd wanted, but it's not so bad that it happened this way.

Because there was no problem with the quality of my work at the hotel, I'm in the position where being let go is supposed to be a 'compensated' farewell.  Not only does the hotel have to pay me severance, but while I'm figuring out my next step I'll (probably) receive some financial support from the government.  I'm not sure how much right now, but I know I likely won't be in fear of starving or be unable to pay the bills.  What could be a silver lining to this is that this sort of "rupture of work-contract" actually opens up a few opportunities for me that weren't easily accessible before:

Access to certain forms of education in Belgium becomes easier in this situation, which I think will be a big help, (there are very few ways as an adult living an "adult working life" in Belgium to secure educational opportunities.)  Having Belgian credentials seems to put employers in certain fields at ease, as they have a better idea of what they're getting or what they can expect to get from you if they're looking to hire you, and so I'll be very happy if I can get myself into a course here to add a bit more Belgo-education onto my CV.  Also: being able to complete a degree or certification in your non-native language generally serves as an immediately recognizable indication anywhere in the world that you must be at least functionally fluent in that language.

Soon (ok, soonish, this is Belgium, after all, and the fêtes are coming meaning admin. offices will likely move even slower than normal,) it will be up to me and a councillor at the FOREM to look over my papers, discuss my credentials and previous work history, my motivations and the direction I'd like to take my working life in, and to try and find something that fits in with that.  I've already been browsing around a bit, and I'm excited about my options.  I certainly don't think that it's a bad thing to be fired/laid off if it means I get access to someone who knows the system better than I do, and who is there to help me navigate it and make intelligent choices in order to get where I want.  At least hopefully that's what is going to happen.

In the end I suppose, it's rather like my compatriot (Ms. Morissette,) once sang: "Life has a funny, funny way of helping you out."

Monday, November 21, 2011

A day of reckoning.

In less than an hour I'll be on my way to the hospital.  I'll hear about my spinal MRI, will be given further instructions about continuing with physiotherapy and/or osteopathic treatments, and I'll find out if I'm being given the OK to go back to work.  I'm pretty sure that I'll be given the green light for work, so then I'll be making a call to the hotel to see about being put back into the schedule.

It should be interesting considering the whole shady deal my manager created by lying to HIS boss (my "big boss") and the insurance companies for the hotel in saying I never reported being hurt.  I'm curious to see how I'll be received at the hotel.  I'm interested to see if the hotel's insurance companies will want to take my doctor up on his offer to prepare them a dossier, so they can see that from DAY 1, this injury has been classified as a work-accident, and rightly so.  We'll see I suppose.

The good thing about my going back (aside from life finally, hopefully returning to something closer to normal,) is that I work alone for a sizeable chunk of every day, when I'm not dealing with clients.  Given that this is the case, it should be pretty easy to spot if someone at the hotel has decided to try and punish me for getting hurt by making me feel 'unwelcomed back'; they'd have to go out of their way consistently to make that sort of effort.  Again, we'll see.

I'm hopeful that anyone who inititally bought my managers lies will have had the time to let logic prevail, and to realize that even though my manager tried to convince them that I was just making "a big deal about a backache" and "trying to take time off with benefits", that in fact 4 different doctors wouldn't have kept me off work for more than 2 months if this were truly the case.  In reality, I'm still not at the point of physical strength I was before I got hurt, but I'm ok enough now to go back to work I think, and I want to.  While some might welcome a break from work, I've been pretty bored and frustrated over this period of time away from work.  Back problems are nothing at all like a rest or a vacation.

I'm really anxious to bring this whole nightmare of a situation to a close, and to finally, FINALLY (after more than 2 months of waiting,) have a better sense of what's going on, in general, with me and my life.  Cross your fingers with me for a second?

Sunday, November 13, 2011

A Curt update

I've got a pounding head today.  Headaches like this bring out the evil in me, so essentially I'm trying to keep to myself, keep quiet and do things I find calming, like making cookies, reading and so on.  It's not working really though.  After making a mousse for dessert tonight and cookie dough to roll out and cut later, I still feel stabby.

I attribute it to too much wine.  Friday we split a bottle with dinner, but since the boy is sick and since I hadn't had anything to drink in a bit, it hit us both a little harder than it ought to have.

Saturday was le Rallye du Condroz.  We went to check it out and indulged in a few vin-chauds during the day.  We only had the chance to catch 2 of the races though before it was time for us to go home and get ready for a friend's birthday party.  Which was at a wine bar, and was open-bar.

We each had 3 vin-chauds during the day at Rally and both took it pretty easy at the party, but despite that neither of us is feeling stellar today.  Bleh.  My brain is pickled.  I suppose I should be grateful anyhow, as at least I left the Rally alive.

The boy is STILL stick.
And he STILL doesn't cover his mouth when coughing, which is disgusting.  It is a miracle I haven't caught his nasty disease.  *knocks wood*

Monday, November 7, 2011

Oh Dora, jullie zein goed.

I've hinted at this before, but I'll just say it.  I have linguistic ambitions.  On my "bucket list" there is the line that reads "learn at least 4 languages to or past the B2 point."  While it's true that my French isn't perfect, it has arrived at the B2 level of fluency and continues to move slowly past it, into the C-levels.  My brain seems to be chugging along with it, doing what brains are designed to do and getting better largely on it's own via observation, pattern retention etc.  All I have to do is challenge it now and then by not avoiding French, reading more complex literary materials, and asking questions now and then to clear up things that confuse me (all of these things are fairly easy to do here.)

So there.  I've now got two languages, and need at least two more.

Now, lets talk about Dutch for a moment.  It's similar to English in some respects, and easier to sort out (to me, at least,) than German (since the Dutch don't have the habit of mushing several words together to form one mega-word.)  Mind you, rather like German when it comes to grammar it seems you must speak like Yoda if you'd like your sentence structure to be correct.  While many people tell me German would ultimately be a more 'practical language' to try and learn, I have the feeling that if I tackle Dutch first, German might become more accessible, much in the same way Spanish vocabulary and grammatical concepts seem to have become easier to grasp as my French has improved.

I've been trying very casually to improve my Dutch here, because it really would be useful to me to have more solid 'notions' of it.  Since I'm in a country where Dutch is used in daily life in the Northern half of the country, and is easily tuned into on several TV channels, and since the Netherlands is the country right next door, it's not like I'm very far away from any opportunity to practice.  And practice connected to real-life is what makes a language really "stick", at least for me.

Along with my sparsely exposing myself to internet podcasts like "Laura speaks Dutch", and using an online lesson scheme, (provided free by the Belgian government!)  I've finally discovered something in my own home that seems to help, and is easy to do.  Dora the explorer.  While it's true that Dora makes me want to bash my head repeatedly against a wall when I see it in English, it's actually quite helpful to watch in whatever languages you only have basic notions of.  It's very illustrative, clear, and repetitive using small variations on the themes in each episode.  My Dutch is so weak that I have a feeling it will be quite some time before I outgrow Dora, but I've decided to try and commit to watching her in Dutch whenever I have the chance.

Interestingly enough, there is a show that comes on after Dora that teaches Dutch children basic Chinese concepts.  I suppose if I graduate from the school of Dora I can move on to this show and keep on with regular exposure to Dutch while picking up a few Chinese basics?

Now, if I could just find a similar show to help compliment my slow internet learnings in Spanish.  Are there even Spanish channels in Belgium?  I know we have a few Italian ones, but I don't recall passing any Spanish ones.

So there.  I've gradually arrived at the decision that I'll be going after Spanish and Dutch to meet this "Bucket List" desire.  I feel good about the choice, it seems to make sense for me and to align well with other ambitions and interests of mine.  I'm not sure I'll ever arrive at the point of fluency I'd like with either of them, but you never know unless you try, right?

Anyone know of a place (online or on TV) where I might be able to find full episodes of "Dora la Exploradora"?

Saturday, November 5, 2011

The new coughing etiquette

Things continue to get better, and I couldn't be more pleased about it.  It was about time!  I've now jogged 2km, cautiously with only a little bit of 'weird' feeling in my back after the first 1.5km, and I managed to vacuum and mop the house in the same day without much suffering.  I'm totally off the medications, and can lift an 8kg bucket of water without feeling like I might be doing myself harm.

I've been given the go ahead with caution by the Osteopath to resume yoga, which I've always found has helped my back to feel better able to deal with whatever I've thrown at it in life.  I haven't tried yet though, as I'm waiting for a day when "sickface" is out of the house to do deeper breathing and such.  Yep, the boy is SI-ICK.  Emphasis on "ick".  Fever, chills, body aches, followed by a nasty wet cough.  Gross.  Given that I'm finally on my way out of the "I feel physically useless" realm, I certainly don't want to catch what he's got.  It's been a week full of veggies, garlic, Greens +, vitamins, live-culture yogurt, and anything else I can think of that will help to keep me from catching his nasty bug.  That, and harassing him to cover his mouth when he coughs.  A futile little fist in front of the face (the typical Belgian coughing gesture, shown below,) does crap-all to block flying germs.
(Notice how the illustrator here has shown the grossness of the cough flying right past the futile little fist.)

I like to think of the "futile fist" as a piece of theatre performed by people here so as to make it SEEM like they are covering their mouth, without actually having to make any genuine physical effort to stop the spread of germs.  Honestly this frustrates me to no end because why pretend you're being considerate of others when you are not?  It's to the point really where when I'm sitting across from someone on the bus and they do this (coughing all over me,) I'm tempted to grab their arm and make their futile little fist useful by punching them in their own mouth with it!  Seriously, people of Belgium: you need to master the sleeve-sneeze/cough, or at least really COVER your mouth and then go wash your hands after.  It's a matter of general respect for others, public hygiene, and just ... common sense!  Nobody else wants to share in your disease!

Maybe they'll finally learn when something like SARS comes to visit them.  It seemed to smarten people in Toronto up rather quickly:

Just so everyone can benefit from knowing what a "sleeve-sneeze" is.  Think about it... this area of the body doesn't (after you sneeze on it) touch door-handles, rub itchy eyes, or do anything else really that could pass your germs easily on to someone else.  The "sleeve-sneeze" is SO much better than the "futile fist", in my opinion.

And now that I'm done ranting, the bit about candy.  I have a marble slab, it's heavy (as marble slabs tend to be,) but I'm alllmooost at the point in my recovery where I can lift it and get it ready for some quality candy-making.  Just in time, really, considering Xmas is coming!  As soon as I can move it into place, I'll be starting off with some brittles, toffees and other hard candies. (It makes sense to start with these, as they have a long shelf life when stored in dry, airtight containers.)  I've got a few new recipes I'll be trying out, so I can't wait!  Expect candyporn in the nearish future.

Friday, October 28, 2011

The light at the end of the tunnel

Which is easier?  Mopping the floor, or jogging 1km?

Believe it or not, the answer (for me, surprisingly,) was jogging 1km.

I was guessing that when I asked the Osteopath he'd probably say something about how my spine is straight in one action (jogging) while force is applied to it, and in the other (mopping,) it's bent meaning the force isn't being distributed evenly across the back making it more vulnerable in certain places, or something.  Actually, he did say something like that, (and then added in a bunch of other things having to do with centre of gravity, ribcage expansion vs compression in the motions, and so on.)

Then we talked about why it was that though I could jog a kilometre without feeling major twinges and pain... I still couldn't walk one quickly without that happening.  In this case he said it has to do with the fact that my feet are spending less time on the ground when I jog, so I'm not actually jerking my spine around with side-to-side forces from my feet as much as when I walk, not to mention the centre of gravity is forward when jogging, and the place of maximum shock to the spine (travelling up from a different heel-strike between the two activities) also changes the game there.  Neat.  Also: who knew a light jog was biomechanically easier than a brisk walk?  Oh yeah, probably competitive race-walkers, actually.  Anyhow, I learned something.

I've been adjusted again (As a sidenote: I don't think I'll ever really feel ok though about being twisted, feeling nervous for my joints as they are making popping sounds and are pressed upon in pretty uncomfortable ways, but ... if it works I guess I have to try and feel ok with it.) As with last time, it seems it's taking a good 2-3 days for the adjustment to settle in, so we'll see better how things are in a few days.

I'm supposed to see my regular doctor soon to follow up on my progress however, so I have had to test out a few activities despite it not feeling up to it yet in order to see what kind of improvements I'm noting.  Last week around 4.5 kg was the limit for me before things became uncomfortable, with respect to my lifting a bucket filled with water.  Today it's around 6.5kg, so we're getting there!  Hopefully I'll be back up to around 10kg soon (what I figure is the average weight of the heavier things I have to carry about at moments in my daily life.)  I've been encouraged by the Osteo to go for another little jog when I feel the adjustment has settled, and I can't wait to give that a go given how much of a pleasant surprise the 1k last week was.

So, finally a bit of sunshine (that doesn't have to do with a cute animal picture,) in this crappy, grey, 6 week long streak of whining.  I can't wait to have NOTHING to say about my back.  I bet you can't either!  Maybe I'll celebrate and buy some new running shoes!

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Be at peace, says guru Lemur.

I realize the nervous and neurotic energy of my last post must be counterbalanced, hence this very meditative ring-tailed Lemur.

Neurotic ramblings

Day two of waking up feeling somewhat decent.  Since I felt alright-ish yesterday, I took on the Osteo's advice of giving a few 'real life things' a try.

I washed the dishes (nothing heavy yet though.)  I vacuumed the house!  (I never thought that sentence would deserve an exclamation point, but there it is.)  After that though, my back was giving signals from THE problem area, like "no further, or I'll get angry", so I stopped and did less active things after.  The vacuum borders on being heavy however, and the Osteo did say I'm not ready to deal with anything heavy yet, so maybe I was pushing a little too much?

But still... I did things!  And I'm not in great pain today!  So today I'm going to try and put a little more faith into what the Osteo said and try "a little jog."  I'm serious, the OSTEOPATH told me to give a little light jogging a try along with a few 'regular life activities' and report back to him for the next appointment on how it went.  I see him tomorrow, so I'll try to go for a kilometre or two, niiice and eeeasy.  If it doesn't go well, at least since I see him tomorrow if I'm in pain hopefully he can fix it.  *nervous face*

I still find it hard to believe that a blockage of the rib could be "IT"... but maybe it is?  After all, the ribs are connected to the vertebrae, so if a rib moves out of place, it could tug a vertebra just enough out of place to cause pain and irritation, I guess?

???  He's the doctor, I'm not.  I just have to remind myself of this when I'm being 'adjusted'.  I still wonder though why "the" place in my back gets SO angry when it's poked by doctors, while no other place on my spine reacts like that.  Hopefully he has an explanation that makes sense for this.  In any case, I feel better putting a little more faith in the Osteo since the specialist has said that for now I can continue with Osteopathy if it seems to be helping.  The specialist said the MRI is just to be sure there isn't anything else like the beginnings of a herniated disc contributing to this whole back-problem, and to close out the file, to be sure that if the Osteo gives the green-light to go back to work that there won't be any complications due to something not seen in the first scan.  Which sounds ... sort of reassuring?  I'd like to think?

Maybe a rib displacement really is the problem.  Whatever.  If I can jog today, I'll know I'm heading in the right direction toward being able to DO STUFF again.  Of course, someone else who is mildly skeptical about the rib-diagnosis has also pointed out to me that I have already had 6 weeks off, doing nothing, (which is a pretty long time,)  so maybe I'm just getting better naturally from giving my back a good rest for 6 weeks.  Even the osteopath did mention that my body had already done some "auto-healing", and said he could tell that a few weeks before I'd seen him it must have felt much worse.  I guess we'll see if I have even more noticeable improvement after my adjustment tomorrow.

Gah.  My head is turning all this stuff around, and won't stop.

Well, no matter if it's the rib or something else, or a combo of things, I'm glad at least that my doctors are being cautious and making sure that I'm in proper physical form to go and take on life in the same manner I did before, and that there aren't other issues before closing the case.  As much as I miss living life, being active and working like a normal person, I NEVER, EVER want to have this kind of injury again, so I'm really grateful they seem to have the same goal.  I sound like a real brat I'm sure when I say this, but this is actually the worst injury I've had in my life.  My quality of life has been crap for the past 6 weeks.  Protect your back always, ladies and gents, please.  You only get one, and it's attached to everything else in your life.

I'm pretty worried about the recommendation to try jogging though.  I'm still having trouble walking at my normal speed, with painful twinges shooting up my spine when I try. : /  But there is no way to know other than to try, I suppose.  Wish me luck?

Monday, October 24, 2011

I owe you some Otters.

If you've been following along, you know why.

Dazed and confused, and... sabotaged?

Yesterday I took all the drugs.
The anti-inflammatory cream, the muscle relaxants, the anti-inflammatory pill (which yeah, burns my belly from the inside,) the other painkilling anti-inflammatory cream.  I did nothing but sit, stand, and walk slowly.
My back was soo angry.

And after all that, today when I woke up my back felt better than it has in days.  Ever since the specialist poked me on Friday morning it was UNhappy.  I don't get it.  Though progress is generally in a good direction (I feel like it's getting better and stronger slowly but surely,) I still feel that one place, right in the spine that feels weak and starts to get angry the second I'm trying to walk at a normal speed, that feels compressed and angry when I carry something that's a little heavy.  When that spot gets angry, everything else flares up.

I ask myself "could that really be just from a rib knocking a bit out of place?"  Of course, not being a doctor I don't know.  On the other hand I have a specialist telling me he doesn't think that's the root problem and who thinks and MRI is probably what's needed to sort out what's really happened.  In the meantime, speaking of back problems, it would appear that I have a boss who's stabbed me in the back, and I don't understand why.

I was told the other night when at the hotel dropping off paper that my manager, the one I spoke to directly about my injury, told his boss that I never said anything to him about being hurt.  I spoke to my manager the day I got hurt about it (because that's what we do where I'm from if you hurt yourself at work, tell the boss so he can make a note of it,) and then when I was in much more pain the day after, realizing that it maybe wasn't just a simple little hurt, he asked me what was wrong and so I talked to him about it again, explaining that whatever I'd done the day before was really paining me.

He says I said nothing.  At all.  Ever.  I was really floored when my managers' boss told me that.  Not only is it like, the most irresponsible thing my manager could have done, but I don't understand at all why... why would he lie?  Was he mad at me?  Did he just think I was faking?  I just don't get it, and when I think about it, it just makes me feel really sad, and like I put my trust in someone who, for some reason I don't grasp, is trying to mess with my life.

My manager has seen me show up to work and do my best no matter if I've had a sleepless night, or if I'm sick as a dog.  This guy knows that even when I had a doctor's note to miss two days of work from a sprained ankle, that I only spent the first day resting and came in hobbling like a good little soldier the next day even though I didn't have to.  I've never had a client complain about my work, and I've always given extra days to the hotel when they've asked me to be there, I've come in early for days where we had big groups needing earlier service...   There is nothing I can think of that I've done over more than 2 years of working there that should cause anyone to disbelieve me when I tell them I actually can't work (and when several doctors agree on paper about that.)  I can't think of a single reason why he might want to try and mess with me like this.  I've been a good employee, and I've done what I was supposed to, and now someone I trusted is lying, and I can't figure out why.

And do you know how frustrating it is to find out that for 6 weeks your managers boss (aka: your big-boss,) has been thinking that you're just 'playing hooky', being lazy and pretending to be sick?  I ask myself too, how could the big-boss possibly believe that, when he too knows that I've given my all to that job, that I've been nothing except for professional for more than 2 years?  You see, my managers boss also told me that my manager has been saying stuff while I've been gone like "well you know she's planning on going back to Canada soon, so she's probably just decided she's tired of this job and is trying to keep her pay".  W.T.F?

I tried to set the big-boss straight.  I reminded him I've been nothing but willing and hard-working.  I reminded him I've always tried to handle things professionally, and I told him that my manager is lying when he says I never said anything about being hurt, and lying again because actually, if I go back to Canada, it will be YEARS from now.  I'm ACTUALLY hurt, I told him.  It's not even about pain, or not being able to carry something heavy... I can't even f-ing WALK at a REGULAR speed, which obviously poses a real problem when my job involves zipping back and forth all day at top speed, along with the other physical work I do.

I'm just floored by the whole thing.  Disgusted really, and confused as to how it is when I've been nothing but honest and professional that I could be treated with not only suspicion, but with bold faced lies.  Fine, I get that there are a lot of people in this country who try to cheat the system, I see it all around... but wouldn't you figure that after more than 2 years of really solid work, people might realize you're not one of those parasites?  That you might ACTUALLY be hurt if you say you are, and if qualified medical professionals are saying you are too?  I just don't get it.  I'm being treated like a liar and a cheater when actually, I'm just injured and trying to get better so that I can go back to working and living like normal.  I am beyond frustrated at this development.

And to top it off, today I have to try and get in touch with some legal advice.  There is a form the hotel gave me, and it's in French legal-language.  It's a subrogation form concerning articles of the law, and my research only tells me that a subrogation means I give up the right to something, and I can't find any clear information regarding these articles of the law other than that they have to do with work-accidents.  I can't simply sign something not knowing what my signature means, particularly not now that I know that things aren't being dealt with honestly at the hotel.  I don't feel I can trust them when they tell me "it's just a form to confirm that you received your regular pay for those first two weeks you were off work sick."  I've never had to confirm being paid before, and the dates on the form are wrong too.  It makes me wonder if this is just another way of the hotel (or at least one person who works there,) trying to screw me over.

I really hope it's not the case, but I can't help but feel that way right now, and I can't help but feel like a dumb foreigner because the company I gave my hard work and consistency to over the past 2 years has decided that because I can't work right now they might as well stab me in the back and throw me under the bus.

Saturday, October 22, 2011

6 weeks, 4 doctors

So.  I had my first appointment with an Osteopath on Wednesday.  Interesting.  I've never been to one before, but I'm supposed to trust that he won't hurt me.  He believes the problems I'm having are related to a 'blockage' having to do with my 10th rib being forced into an 'off' position.

Breathe in, breath out and relax, Crackity crack.  A few more twisted positions and a few more cracks and pops, and that was my first 'adjustment'.  Afterward I felt like someone had done the spinal equivalent of cracking the knuckles.  My muscles weren't the happiest and my spine felt... weird.  He said to give my freshly adjusted back a few days to settle, and then to give a few 'normal life things' a try before seeing him again next week... so we'll see.

I saw the specialist yesterday and he doesn't agree with the Osteopaths diagnosis, so an MRI is now booked.  Meanwhile, since the specialist poked about in the affected area yesterday morning it's been pretty angry.  I'm waiting for the angry to die down so I can possibly on Monday or Tuesday follow the Osteos instructions by trying to push the vacuum around, wash dishes, take on a few regular life things and see how they go.

If there could still be a problem with my discs however, I'm wondering if it's smart to have someone cracking my back...  I'll have to double check with the specialist about this.  In any case the Osteo doesn't seem fussed about it.  I told him the specialist thinks there could still be a disc issue and he brushed it off.  Which was, uh, not very reassuring.

I will say this though: Despite my hesitations about Osteopathy, one of the cracks he did seem to release a little pressure feeling I had when I breathed deeply since the back problem started.  So perhaps a rib was involved, but I'm not feeling (yet, at least,) like the rest of the adjustments he made have improved the problem spot.  I'll give him his shot at helping me, and he does seem really optimistic about being able to help me bounce back from this.  I kind of got caught up in his optimism the day I went to see him actually, I guess because I'd like to be back to normal sooner than later and I'd like to find someone who can help me get there.  But as of now, I can't really say I'm feeling much of a difference. : /

As the French say "On verra" (We'll see.)  And then after I've had the MRI, hopefully we really will see.  I'm tired of people poking me and taking their educated guesses.  I've seen 4 different medical professionals now about this over the past 6 weeks, and I've heard 4 different theories as to what's happened to my back.  Hopefully the MRI will make things a little clearer for everyone.

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

One thing I have gained in Belgium:

Patience.  You can't survive (and remain sane,) here without it.  Even if you have what you consider to be reasonable patience when you arrive in Belgium as an expat, the country and its way of working will force you to further develop your abilities in this area.

Monday, October 17, 2011

In which I try to assuage my guilt.

I feel bad about all the negativity here of late.  While it's true that sometimes life hands you a big ol' steaming pile all at once, it's not nice to spread it around.  I'm going to try and offset the crap with good things, even if they are good things that don't come from my life at the moment.  I feel guilty that my blog of late is making for a bleak read.  So here, please take this albino baby seal.

He's extra special.

A day of surprises.

Yesterday was a day of surprises for me, good and bad:

- I met Tom, another anglo-expat in Liège for a chat, and that was pleasant.

- It was a sunny day, which for Liège, is always a welcome surprise.

Now, these things aside, some f-ed up stuff happened last night and I kind of need to vent.

While chatting with Tom in a bar, this guy The Boy and I know from elsewhere in Liège turned up.  I went over to say hi, but the conversation quickly became drawn out and I'm not great at putting the brakes on something like this, so it just kept going.  And eventually Tom probably felt like I'd forgotten about him, and decided to excuse himself.  This is something I feel bad about, because at times I forget my basic social skills, like remembering to introduce people, and being properly attentive and so on.  (So, I'm sorry Tom, if you're reading this, for my being so socially inept about that.)

At any rate, after Tom excused himself the dude we know from elsewhere essentially demonstrated his mastery of the art of pushing conversation on and on while pressuring others to drink.  I hadn't eaten much all day, so this was pretty bad news for me.  The Boy seemed to put up weak resistance and then dove in.

Things moved to another place, after a horrible 'emergency dinner' for me picked up at a Kebab, and they just kept going downhill with whiskey shots being ordered up.  I drew my line and said I was done drinking, and essentially got pestered in varying degrees by the others, but you know, WTF people?  I'm ON MEDICATION that's not wise to mix with ALCOHOL, and I take that pill before bed.  I can't go to bed drunk!  Call me an old lady, tell me I'm not as much fun as you thought, I don't give a toss.  I have one back, and I'm trying to get it better so I can go back to doing fun things (things that are actually way more fun to me than whiskey shots!)  I was as gentle in the rebuffs as possible, and stuck to sparkling water.

Sadly, The Boy had not at all drawn his line.  After a spell of our being there, quite suddenly The Boy announced that we had to go.  There was almost a whole pint of Guinness in front of him when he said it, and when it was pointed out to him, he didn't care.  (The Boy, to my knowledge, would never leave his Guinness like this, so I knew something was not ok.)  We said our goodbyes and left, and The Boy stumbled his way a half block before retching up a good size puddle on the sidewalk.  I told him we should go to his friends place, which was very close by since he was WAY too drunk to do anything, and he said no, he wanted to go home.  I said "I'm taking the bus, you should come with me since you can't even walk in a straight line... I don't know how you expect to drive in one."  No again.  So I waited at the bus, worrying about the boy, about everyone else who was out in Liège, about a great number of things really, and then got harassed by a creepy stranger while I waited, wondering sardonically to myself if things could get any 'better' that night.


This morning The Boy was very quiet.  He seems to have realized (all for himself) that he is out of control, and making some really dumb and ultimately harmful decisions.  I think he scared himself, or finally saw his impulsive behaviour with alcohol in a more honest light.  I don't know really.  I said very little, since after all the other BS that's happened involving him, alcohol and my expressing concern, I've learned it's done little good to express my concern or to try and involve myself.  I've learned to take a step back and respect that his choices are his, and my choice about when exactly I've lost my patience is mine.

So, The Boy told me this morning that he wants to stop drinking, and asked me if I'll support him on that.  I asked him if he really thinks this is addressing the core problem (like... do you know WHY you drink so much sometimes?) or just a scary symptom.  I probed what "stop drinking" meant too.  Not socially?  Not at all?  Right now it seems that he's aware he can't just stop everything since that won't help him to come to know his limits either, and in Liège going completely dry is near impossible.  He knows that there is nothing 'wrong' in his mind with a glass of wine with dinner.  He knows that if he's not driving home there isn't anything necessarily wrong with a few too many among friends at a party.  But beyond that, he seems to be suddenly hesitant.  Caution here I suppose is best.  I think I understand well enough what he means, but I don't know how well it's going to work in a place where people drink in just about every imaginable situation, and where you can actually be ridiculed for trying to drink in moderation.  I'm fine making my stubborn "no."   The boy however ... he generally crumbles under peer pressure, from what I've seen.

I told him I don't know how exactly I can support him on this, since a decision like this comes from ones own convictions.  I told him I'll back him up if someone tries to give him a hard time about not accepting a drink if he's already said no to it himself, but I also said that I've already tried to point out to him the times where he should have said "no" and that I can't and won't intervene or nudge him in the 'right direction like that anymore since it's only resulted in fights in the past.

I've also said that if anyone's asking him why he's suddenly decided to take a more moderate approach, he better not even jokingly say that it's because of me.  I've told him that he's made it quite clear to me previously that this is "his business, not mine" and so I'm sticking to that.  I can only support this if he's willing to take ownership for his decision and his reasons.  But as for my being emotionally invested in this?  No, not really.  After the Citadel I gave up my last shred of actual hope on this issue.  It's not my battle, and I've been told so many times that it's not, and to stay out of this thing which is 'not my business'.  But sure, I'll silently cross my fingers on the sidelines for you if you want.

We'll see I suppose.  It would be nice if he were to develop a little more self-control.  I'm hopeful he's actually had some kind of epiphany about his impulsive behaviour and how it's not serving him well, but honestly I'm not holding my breath.  It's kind of like when a smoker tells you they want to quit or cut back.  It doesn't mean they will succeed, at all.  In the end that's all up to them, their willpower, and their internal, personal motivations.

So although the day started well, the end was quite the unpleasant surprise, right down to the moment I got off the bus, and the guy who'd been harassing me gave me a creepy wave from the back of the bus with a menacing smirk that seemed to say "Now I know where you live."  That was the cherry on the pile.

It would be a nice surprise in the end if The Boy finally managed to stick to his better judgement.  Here's hoping there's at least one silver lining/breakthrough that can compensate in some way for the awfulness that was last night.

Monday, October 10, 2011

Snails pace.

Things are evolving here at about snails pace.  Are snails faster than sloths?  Well... whichever one is slower, that's me and this situation right now.  At the very least I seem to have found a little internal peace, so though what I might tell you is dreary, please know that actually, I'm dealing much better with the whole hurting my back thing than I was before.

The good news is that my scan at the hospital came back to my doctor and he said he sees nothing "grave", meaning no herniated disc is evident, nothing that could be classified as serious permanent damage.  This was a relief to hear.

The bad news is I'll be seeing a specialist friend of ours soon, who has stepped in at this point because he doesn't think that after a month of doing nothing that I should still have the symptoms I do.  He explained that he thinks an MRI is actually what's needed, since scans (3D Xrays) aren't nearly as clear, particularly when it comes to spotting disc issues.  So the bad news is basically that even with a scan that shows no problem, my specialist friend believes a herniated disc might still be lurking there.

I'll see my regular doctor again tomorrow, and I expect that since I still can't really do much of anything physical, he'll probably extend my medical leave from work.  I hope so at least, since my job is very physical, like a sport really what with the race-walking, carrying heavy things and so on.  Given that right now, I'm at the point where even a short and slow walk (one of the only things the doctor has told me is ok to do,) usually results in more pain afterward and reduced flexibility, I know that I would be an epic failure at meeting the demands of my job.  Even the simple things like clipping my toenails, shaving my legs, and tying my shoes aren't at all simple to get done for the moment, and it's been 4 weeks.

The regular doctor has said that since it's not something that's shown up on the scan, it must be a muscle/tendon thing, and so he'll be sending me to a Kiné (physiotherapist,) and he hopes they'll be able to figure out (finally) what it IS that's gone wrong and give me a good set of instructions like "you can and should do these sorts of motions, but definitely don't do these ones."  Right now it's just me going by feel, playing it safe, and taking muscle relaxants and pain killers daily... which I'm not thrilled about though they do seem to help at least for the time-being.

The ideal situation would be that the Kiné will proclaim "oh yes, I've seen this before and I know exactly what to do to fix you." and they'll be right, and have some treatment plan/technique that will help me see some real improvement in a fairly speedy manner.  As you might have guessed, I'm not thrilled that after a month I still don't have much instruction to help me improve my own health other than "move very little and take these pills."  I'm anxious to be better, I can't wait to feel normal again!

One thing this time has really shown me is that my sense of self worth is too closely linked to my mobility, and my ability to do work.  Logically I understand that this makes little sense, but I've also felt that each time my mobility has suffered so has my self esteem.  Each time I've not been working in my life, I've felt worse about myself too.  The protestant work ethic is only a good thing if you can work... the flipside isn't nice as it turns out.  So this has been a double-whammy for my ego.

Even now while I'm being told that my job is to get better, and while my income and job are, I'm told, protected, I still feel like the fact that I can't do as much means I'm not worth as much as a human being.  Obviously this isn't the right way to think about your intrinsic worth as a person, and it's not a set of attachments that will serve me well when I'm old, retired, and possibly infirm.  I don't really know how to tackle this 'mis-valuation' though, how to work through it.

As for the hotel... well, they are still heel-dragging, but I've decided not to take it personally and just to press on.  They are legally obliged to keep up and fill out the paperwork in a reasonable period of time, whether they want to or not, no matter how busy the hotel is or not at the moment, and I can understand that nobody likes dealing with extra paperwork, but it's got to be done.

I should add that the incident at the Citadel has smoothed on the surface, though I don't feel it has smoothed on the deeper level.  I feel like even if I didn't want to, I've taken another step backwards as far as emotional trust goes with The Boy.  I just can't deal with someone who says a good portion of the time that they want to build a life and a family together, and then hear from that same person when things flare up that it's probably best I go, that I'm not welcome with them in certain social circumstances and so on, that we are kidding ourselves and don't share any of the same goals.  How can you know which of the two opposites is true to this person when they are capable of saying (and repeating) both?

After awhile it's hard to keep faith that the one you hear more often (the good) must be true... because if it were then how is it possible for the same person to say something that is pretty much the antithesis, repeatedly, and with seemingly equal emotional conviction when they're upset?  I need more stability, comfort and consistency than this in order to believe in a relationship and in the idea that it could go the distance, that we could build a life.

We're certainly not at that level right now.  I need to be able to trust that I've got a real teammate who's going to stick it out, persevere and talk it out like an adult through misunderstandings and rough patches because their faith in our love and their desire to keep it is bigger than their frustrations.  I don't know if The Boy can do that.  I hope so, but I also know that I can't compromise on my needs in a relationship.  I can be patient, yes, but only for so long.  I'd like someone by my side who demonstrates an ongoing commitment to try and keep their integrity even when seas are rougher.  It's not fair to hurt your partner simply because you, in a particular moment aren't happy.  (I don't say I'm perfect at this, but I'd say it's clear enough that I try very hard to follow this principle, even when I'm seriously pissed off.)

Trust is slowly built, but easily destroyed by careless words.  Mine's in little bits on the ground right now.  I'm left with the lingering worry that this is someone who though I'd rather not, I may simply have to (in the end, should it come to that,) accept as a fair-weather friend.  I feel like maybe The Boy is someone who, after years of 'building a life together' might be capable of taking off one day when things aren't feeling perfectly rosy for him.  Have we spent all this time working on creating a foundation, testing it for weaknesses and addressing them before building up... or have we just dug ourselves a hole?  I'd like to think it's one hell of a strong foundation and that there's been lots of progress made and shoring up done over the last 5 years.  I'd like to think that all of our efforts to this point have been for something, but you know...  Maybe he's right, what he says when he's angry.  Maybe we're kidding ourselves.  Maybe he'll never be able to get control of himself enough to not say hurtful things he doesn't mean.  And maybe that will be the end of us.  And that creeping doubt is the thing that has made me take a tiny step backwards.

It will take a good deal of consistency over times good and bad to change this.  No matter how rosy the rosy moments are, they do very little to soothe the doubts caused by what goes wrong with us when things go wrong.  It's easy to be loving and considerate when life is easy.  It's simpler to say sorry after the fact, when things are calmer, and even to honestly admit the wrongs on both sides, sort through the misunderstandings and such, but in the end these won't keep you afloat as a couple for the long haul, I think.

It's harder to be loving and considerate in the thick of it, to remain a partner right in that moment even when things hurt and aren't going your way, rather than to abandon ship, set fire to things, and run away.  But in the end it's probably what counts the most to me.

That, and being able to stop living the physical reality of a 77 year old sometime soon.  That would be really nice too.

Monday, October 3, 2011

A cure of sun and salt.

Hm, I never published this, but it seems to be finished.  So I'm publishing it now.

I am back from a week in Spain.

I was entirely clear with everyone before leaving for this week that I desired nothing other than to eat well, drink well, and learn to surf if possible, and it was exactly these things that I ended up doing.

Between the fatigue from work before going on vacation, and the fatigue from surfing (which will provide a workout for everything from your toes to neck,) I slept SO. MUCH.  This is doubly amazing considering the bed in our hotel was actually just springs covered by a piece of fabric.  A torture device, really.  I view the fact that I could sleep on it at all as undeniable proof that I was tired.

The Boy was bored enough during my lazing about that he read most of the girl-health magazine I'd brought along, not to mention 120-something pages of an actual book I'd brought (I have never seen him read anything book-like other than a user-manual, so that was shocking.)

I warned him that I wouldn't be the peppy voyageur I often have been, going here and there, exploring and so on.  I told him in advance so he could be prepared, though when we arrived and I wanted to do very little, somehow this came as a shock to him which is how he ended up reading and learning about, (among other female-francophone concerns,) a condition known as "la vaginisme".

I needed the amazing charcuteria where we went and bought various afternoon treats, I needed the fresh and insanely cheap seafood and wine, I needed to finally surf after wanting to learn for years and years, and I needed the amazing views offered along the beach (sculpted spanish surfer-boys and beautiful sunsets alike.)  I needed to roll my r's instead of making them at the back of my throat.  Spanish r's are so much more pleasing than French ones.

And, it totally didn't hurt to meet Manu, the drop dead gorgeous guy who attended the same surf-school as us, with the amaaazing eyes, staying on I'm not what sure floor in the same hotel as us... *siiiigghh.*  It's probably a good thing he was only there for the weekend.  First guy I've met since The Boy that has made me feel like THAT when I look into his (amazing, did I mention they were amazing?) eyes.

The Boy totally knew I had a crush.  I don't lie about these things, so I was honest in saying ", his eyes?  WOW."  And even The Boy had to admit that Manu was a gorgeous man who had 'something' about him.  I had hoped The Boy would find some solace however in knowing that Manu was also the first boy I'd seen that had really wowed me like that since him... but he thought I said that just to be nice.  The Boy needs to trust that I'm more honest than nice.  Nice and honest are not mutually exclusive, but they sure as heck aren't best friends.  Anyway, what can I say?  I'm not going to lie and say a gorgeous man isn't gorgeous.  I'm not going to say that a man who clearly takes care of himself and happens to be genetically gifted isn't attractive.  But I'm also not going to lie when I say that it's actually quite rare that I see a man I find 'magnetic'.  So yeah, that was the brief caliente bit of vacation.

Of course, there were other tensions, largely caused by the fact that I unplug from the work-world faster than The Boy, and there was a talk which I suppose revealed my feelings about what's possibly gone awry in our duo a bit more clearly.  The fact that I was better at surfing than The Boy for the first few days didn't help either.  I did give him some pointers on judging waves though, which seemed to help him after the first two days, and now we both are of the opinion that surfing is awesome, and we'd like to do it again.

It was a mixed bag, but still I got exactly what I needed out of it.

Sunday, October 2, 2011

I miss Spain

I finally got our surf pictures back.  The most impressive surfing moments however don't translate well to film and we feature as unidentifiable specks on a bigger wave further out.  The ones where you can see it's us are the ones where we're just finishing our ride as the wave peters out closer to shore.  Either zoom lenses or waterproof camera cases are needed to take good surf photos.  Lesson learned.

I am the tiniest speck in the middle.  You can't tell but I'm having a great ride there.

Yes, that is me surfing like a newbie there. :)

and there,

and there again.

I will finally have a scan tomorrow to see about my back.  Given that it's been three weeks since I hurt myself, and that slowly but surely the problem seems to be getting better, I'm not sure how much they'll see now.  They should have just done the darned thing when I couldn't move without pain... because I'm pretty sure that whatever happened to me would have been much more visually evident then.  At any rate, I'm hoping they figure it out because not knowing what's wrong with it is disturbing.

I'm weary from worry too as things have taken a turn for the crappy here.  My work seems to be uncooperative in the administration of my medical documents (which they are supposed to, by law, be forthright about, but it would seem they are not being so,) and last night I stupidly tried to go with The Boy and his friend to see the candle-lit pathways that (once a year,) light up the citadel of Liège.

Silly me, I thought we were going to see a quiet and beautiful annual tradition of Liège, but in reality it was THRONGS of people, lots of bars, loud music and oh yeah, a few candles along the sides of the roads.  I did my best to say little and try not to slow the others up too much with my injured-walk, because, you know... sometimes you don't get what you expect and that's life.  My perceived lack of enthusiasm for the idea of being driven home by someone who was over-the-limit for alcohol, and my demand that they do the right thing and switch to water for the last glass or two, however was the straw that broke the camels back and was met with angry words, and a general 'Thanks for ruining the evening, everyone back to the car, we're going home NOW.'

*Sigh*  I should really just start assuming that anything, even those things that are normally quiet and somber like... funerals possibly even, are also events where (in Liège at least,) there might be a bar and it might actually be just as good an excuse as any other for people to get drunk and disorderly.  I should also know better than to try and separate any Liègois from his bottle before he's ready.  Anyhow, it's not as though I have a problem with people getting drunk at a party.  I just have a problem with them thinking it's just fine to do such an irresponsible thing as to drive home drunk.

Regardless that this conviction comes out of caring for those around me, I've been told by the boy that I'm no longer invited to accompany him to party with him and his friends.  Fine.  I'll go the parties I want thank you very much, and I'll find my own (safe) way there and home, and maybe in the end I'll make a few of my own friends along the way.  Who knows, maybe everyone will be better off for it.

Right about now though, with all the merde hitting the fan between my health, my work being unresponsive with documents that they should be being responsive about, and my new slightly-more-than-before-social-outcast status, I'm really missing that feeling I had while surfing in Spain.  There I felt like I could do something right, that was also good for me, and that didn't hurt anyone's feelings or result in bizarre forms of retaliation.  It was simple.

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

If you need me, I'll be in bed.

Week two of "you may do nothing" as ordered by the doctor.  Muscle relaxants have now been added to the drug-list, and I'm supposed to take my first tonight before bed.  I hate taking medication, but I hate not being able to do anything even more, so I'll do it.

My back has gotten a bit better, but not nearly enough to say that I'm good for much of anything.  Doing nothing is maddening.  I've devoured many magazines, watched many movies, and generally have refined the art of using time without using the body.  Thankfully, I have also lost the weight I put on right after this happened, since extra weight's not so good for the spine.  My stomach finally seems to have made peace with the reality that no moving = less food.

It was a different doctor I saw yesterday (mine's on vacation,) and he thinks it might be the beginnings of a herniated disc.  The good news is that even if it is, these usually improve with rest, but the bad news is it would never be as good as new.

And still no scan has been done, which means it's really all opinions and waiting right now.
Back to bed.

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

The wavering column

As mentioned previously, I've gone and mucked up my spine.  At work, of all places, doing something so banal it isn't even worth discussing.  (Ok, I was lifting a big pot full of eggs, if you really must know.)

Who'd have thought that after a week of grueling surf-lessons, fighting rip-tides and even getting whacked in the face by my own surfboard (it only happened once,) that I'd muck up my back, at work doing something I often do?

In fact, I didn't even think I'd hurt it seriously on Saturday when it happened (I figured I'd strained a muscle,) so I went to work on Sunday thinking that moving would help it to feel better, but by the end of the shift I was trying not to burst into tears.  That it hadn't reacted at all like a muscle strain was my first clue that it might not have been a simple little twinge I'd felt the day prior.

I have now seen a medical professional, and the good doctor has instructed me to take crazy anti-inflammatories that make me feel dumb, to move as little as possible, and to let him know if it's better by Monday.  If not, I'll be heading to the "scanner".  It is high excitement time in my house, oh yes.  Why just today, so far, whilst sitting on the couch moving very little, I managed to whittle the size of my email inbox down from 19 pages to 4.  I have also managed to read through all the flyers and local papers we've received over the last 2 weeks.  Additionally, I have entered 3 online contests (pick me for the free trip to Toronto, Belgacom!)  The list of achievements is stunning, I know.  I'm already stir-crazy.

And there will be no half-marathon in London, it seems.  Pounding 21 kilometres a mere 2 weeks after hurting your back is a very bad idea says the doctor.  Mind youuu, the cutoff time for the race is 3.5 hours, which means if I could walk each kilometer in 10 minutes or less... then technically I could still do the race?  Not sure that's a good idea either, though.  Hmph.  I'm trying to see the bright side of this all, and have been telling myself that maybe if I'd RUN the race I might have re-injured my achilles tendon, as it would have been a little soon to be putting that kind of distance on it.  I'll have to find a way to make something of it that seems positive.  I know... perhaps I could dress up as a snail, walk the race and come dead last?

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Bye bye, fruit fly.

Alright.  So I was in Spain for a week, and I will talk about that soon, but first I really need to show you this.

Last night, while trying to sit comfortably (I've gone and messed up my back at work,) and read with a glass of wine, a fruit fly kept harassing me.  Just one.  Eventually I got so ticked off with it not leaving me alone coupled with my inability to move to kill it, or to move much at all really, that I decided to try something I'd read about.  Apple-cider vinegar in a cup with a few drops of dish-detergent stirred in.  I placed it near my reading location, and like magic the little bugger found his way in and promptly drowned himself.

20 minutes later I glanced at my newly created trap and saw exactly THAT (the picture above.)  Holy crap, where did they all come from?  It had only been 20 minutes!

Anyhow.  Just sayin' that if you hate fruit flies... now you know what to do.

Friday, August 26, 2011

Of late

I have this post, and it just keeps getting longer.  It's a miscellaneous list of things I thought to tell you, but never found the moment to.  So I'm just going to blurt some of them out now.

---I read The Hobbit.  It was in the pile of "why haven't I read this" books.  Considering how much I disliked Tolkiens writing style when I tried (quite some time ago) to read Lord of the Rings, I was pleasantly surprised.  My beef with LOTR?  Simply that right from the start, Tolkien left nothing to the imagination.  He described everything in excruciating detail.  I like being able to fill in some of the blanks for myself.  In The Hobbit there is a balance that works for me.

---I am now in the process of reading Naked Lunch.  Wow.  I expected gross and strange, (though I haven't seen it, I was already aware that David Cronenberg had made a film inspired by the book,) but ... WOW, this book is stranger and more gorey than I could have imagined.  I can understand why the American public had a tussle over whether or not to classify it as pornography.  It is ragged and disgusting and poetic all at once.  Most days I can only read a few pages in a sitting before I start feeling the urge to close the book because some part of my brain feels overloaded with a jumble of these... crazy, dirty, profane things.  It's interesting.  Always when I'm reading, I think to myself what a gold-mine of ideas this book could be for an illustrator.  I could see Tomer Hanuka pulling something amazing from it.  At the same time, I don't think that any film could do the book justice.

---My internet is acting up.  Telling me daily for spells that I am not connected when my modem says I am.  Belgacom, you are getting on my nerves.

---In the next 7 days, I work 6.  For half of this, it is the very busiest time of year for the hotel.  The Formula One races in Spa.  How it goes largely depends on the clientele we get.  Last year it was largely press and professionals involved with the races in some way.  Even though the hotel was rammed it was really a very civilized lot, which was so nice.  I didn't feel as though a steamroller had been flattening me for three days straight.  This year all signs point to lovely, civilized people once more, (yay!)  Of course, I try to give the best service I can either way, but it's much easier and genuinely much nicer to serve well behaved, conscientious people.

---Very soon we will be in Spain, on a beach, trying to learn to surf.  I'm very excited for this, but I worry that I may truly suck at it.  We'll see.  Even if I've only managed to get up on the board and stay upright for a few 5 second rides on a few tiny waves, I'll consider the trip "totally worth it."  I've been told surfing is hard, so I'm setting the bar low.  Very low.

---And now, thinking of the upcoming week on a beach, I am reminded I have some crunches to catch up on...

Saturday, August 20, 2011


After a reader commented about Pukkelpop, I decided to leave a brief word that:

a) It has been quiet here, but this has been due to good sorts of my being busy rather than my being hurt.  (I was not at Pukkelpop, the Belgian festival where a freak storm arrived, causing things to crash down on top of a crowd, killing 5 and badly hurting another 40 or so.)

b) I'm still a little in disbelief as to how that happened.  For anyone who was affected by it, know that my heart goes out to you.

Friday, August 5, 2011

Breaking up is hard to do.

Not too long ago boyfriend and I had a talk about how he seemed to be holding himself back from doing some of the things he wanted to do, that he knew would be good for him, and that I was encouraging and supportive of him doing.  He was holding himself back because he felt that being 'selfish' with his time was wrong, because his poor girlfriend might have to be alone at home.

Rubbish, I said.  This is absolute rubbish.  Firstly, it's a lot of pressure to be seen as the only regular source of fun in someone's life.  Everyone needs to have their own lives and their own things, a variety of forms of fun and relaxation to choose from.  I can't be your pretty-much-everything-other-than-work, I said, and you're not mine.  No couple can have only work and each other and hope to go the distance because that's a pretty narrow and stifling kind of life, and both people will eventually grow to resent it.

I happen to enjoy much of my solo-time too, so the idea that I could be thought of as some suffering lonely wisp of a female who is nothing without her man by her side is so very wrong, honestly it's kind of insulting and just ... barf.  I told boyfriend that this seems to have been an on-and-off source of angst for him that we've discussed several times.  Each time I've told him I have my own things I can and like to do.  I've said that everyone needs time without their partner to be able to have that balance, to be able to breathe and bring new things into the relationship, to be able to appreciate or evaluate it from another slightly more distanced perspective.  It's important to remember who YOU are, by yourself sometimes and not to always think of yourself as part of the UNIT.  I've tried to encourage him to do things he's said he wants to do, to remind him to look into activities he's expressed interest in... but this has come to feel like pressure for him, like someone pushing him.  Which is rubbish as well, but fine, I can understand that pressure won't help either so I've said less lately about it.  Until last week.

Last week marked the return of 'mopey boyfriend', with his existential angst and questions about what he is doing with his life, and we ran through the same roundabout of assessing what was the matter, and how he feels he's not as happy as he'd like, why feels he's holding himself back from advancing on the things in life that might make him happier.  And when it came around to the idea of him holding himself back over the guilt of leaving his girlfriend at home alone?  I decided to break up with him.  I told him I love him very much, and I'll stick around for now if he'd like, but that clearly there was something in his mind about having a "girlfriend" that was causing him to make stupid choices based on a cookie-cutter idea that is good for neither of us, and certainly doesn't seem at all to align with his ideas of what would make him happy.  If being an 'official boyfriend' is to be an officially unhappy man who makes poor decisions for himself, then that's not really the kind of man I enjoy the company of anyways, so I said as much.

I don't want him to hold himself back, and if even some part of him thinks I'm the reason, I'm perfectly comfortable trying to take myself out the equation.  I told him that I was no longer officially his girlfriend, and that if in 1 year I see that he really hasn't done much to be proactive and to take CARE of himself, I will make my arrangements, and leave Belgium to get out of his way and on with my life elsewhere.  I told him to get out there and to stop worrying irrationally about something that he now has no official right to worry about.  I said "I'm taking a step backwards, I am officially taking this relationship less seriously, for the good of everyone involved."  I said "Maybe you should too, because I don't want you to wake up one day and think that you if only it hadn't been for me, you would have done so much better for yourself in life.  You need to do what's right for you, and you need to realize you're responsible for yourself, for your choices, for what you do or decide not to do about your happiness.  If I'm part of that, fine, but if I'm not compatible with that, or if you can't figure out how to balance these things together, that needs to be figured out, sooner than later for the good of everyone involved."

I asked him if my moving out would help him to focus more on himself, but he said no.  So I reiterated that we are no longer 'together' and that I wouldn't be comfortable being his "girlfriend" until he showed that he was making more balanced decisions in his life, taking greater responsibility for his own happiness by being true to himself, standing up for what he really wants and taking ownership of that, rather than regularly sacrificing himself for his estimations of what might make others happy.

He seemed forlorn for a few minutes, and then it was like some self-protection mechanism of his ego kicked in and he was really... in denial almost.  As though he didn't hear what I'd just said and since I was willing to stick around and observe awhile it must mean I wasn't serious, as though nothing had really changed just then.  And I felt sad as I saw this happen.  He was lulling himself away from grasping at the seriousness of the fact that I don't ... I can't be an accessory to someone stifling their life away on my account... particularly when I'm quite vocal about saying it's not what I want!

So there, I'm a single lady and my housemate is a man I used to be with, whom I go out with on dates sometimes.  I can't help but feel that getting a place of my own might help him to see a little more clearly that I'm serious about this though, about my taking this relationship less seriously.  I really feel it's important to have a partner who knows how to take responsibility for himself, to stop pining for things he isn't doing and start doing them.  I need a partner who knows how to take care of himself, and how to balance that with the care of a relationship, and right now that balance isn't there.

The boy would feel much better (I think) if he could just get past that mental block... that fictional idea of what makes a "good and loving boyfriend" and get out there and live a little more.

Honestly, if you aren't living your life for you... what are you doing with it?