I mentioned recently that I know what to do when my nemesis comes skulking around, wrecking my mood, sapping my energy, and sometimes rendering me grouchier than usual. It took me a good while to figure it out some years ago.
Your own path back to the technicolor world is unique to you, but these things help me:
Bicycling. I’ve said before and it proved true for me again over the weekend, exercise always helps. You don’t have to ride fast or far, but ride — or run or walk or do something else that suits your capabilities and makes you feel good.
Talk about it or write about it. I’ve done both, the first with Mrs. Smith and with professionals on occasion, the second right here and elsewhere. Great combination for me.
It isn’t always easy to act. Getting results can take time.
Now, back to the final edit of my new crime novel.
My nemesis had not stopped by in many months, maybe years, to remind me that it was still there, waiting. It returned almost imperceptibly.
The thing arrived in recent days like Sandburg’s fog, on little cat feet, while my attention was somewhere else. By this morning all the vibrant colors of the world had faded to black and white and then to drab shades of grey.
Sleep is a haven and waking unwelcome. Numbness is a blessing.
Now that I recognize the old signs I’d almost forgotten, I know what to do, what help I need to send this depression back to its dark lair. Maybe someday it will remain there.
For now, a little patience. Soon it will move on, and so will I.
My recent summons to jury duty came as I was nearly done writing the manuscript for North of Grand, my second crime novel. Having no idea what was on the docket, I tweeted something to this effect shortly before leaving home for the Boulder County Justice Center:
Reporting for jury duty. Potential fodder for a new crime story?
I deleted it soon after learning about the nature of the case.
As it turned out, I wasn’t among the first 44 individuals to be questioned during voir dire, so I expected to be done soon. I was wrong. Several people in that group were excused for various reasons so other names, including mine, were drawn from the pool of dozens of prospective jurors.
One of the prosecutors asked if I thought I’d be a good juror, and why. I said yes. I mentioned that I had a longtime interest in the workings of the justice system, that I’d served on a jury in a criminal trial in the past and had covered police and courthouse beats at times as a reporter.
I also mentioned writing crime fiction, just in case that might be important to anyone. The prosecutor smiled and asked if I would be using the case at hand in a story. Not directly, I said, adding that listening to real courtroom dialog again and seeing how people interact certainly could be useful in some way.
Eventually I found myself one of 16 jurors who were sworn in to serve on the panel. We could only wonder about which four of us were alternates until after the lawyers’ closing arguments. I was among the final 12 tasked with reaching a verdict.
During the three-week trial it was difficult to focus on much of anything else. I fell farther behind where I had hoped to be on my new manuscript. No urgent day-job deadlines loomed but I was able to do a few tasks some evenings and weekends.
It became almost impossible to walk by my suitcase in the basement without seeing things I cannot unsee. A touch on the shoulder or a bit of pain in my hip brought to mind the sight of a reciprocating saw and other cutting tools that were used to dismember the body of young Ashley Mead.
After reading the guilty verdicts in the courtroom and releasing us from jury duty, the judge asked us to meet with her in a conference room. She thanked us, answered a lot of questions, and asked us for feedback about the experience. We learned that there is something called vicarious trauma, and that the county would pay for two counseling sessions for each of us. The judge gave us a list of several professionals who would make time for anyone within 48 hours, and she encouraged everyone to contact one of them soon. I know I wasn’t the only juror to take advantage of the offer.
Now that the trial is over, I’m back to work on my day job, where there is no bailiff to say “all rise” before I enter a room. It’s good to be inconspicuous again.
I am also back working on my new manuscript, the second crime novel featuring Detective Red Shaw. There was no trial in Blood Solutions, and there will be no trial in North of Grand, but it will be a better story for the delay.
I did move my suitcase just a little farther back in the space under the stairs to the basement, recognizing as I did it that hiding it completely would be futile. I do trust that the images it brings to mind will fade with time.
That’s one of the positive things I can think of right now. Another is that the trial is history and I don’t feel compelled to write another word about it.
Imagine being plucked from your day-to-day routine and plunked down in a jury box for three weeks.
Imagine what you see and hear as prosecutors try to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that the defendant murdered, disemboweled and dismembered the mother of his child, stuffed her headless, limbless torso into a suitcase, and dropped it in a dumpster in another state.
Suppose you can discuss this with no one, not even your fellow jurors, until the appointed time comes to deliberate.
That time came for me yesterday. The trial ended a few hours ago. The jury on which I served found the defendant guilty of first-degree murder and three other charges.
I leave the details to your imagination and the news media because for now I don’t have the words to describe the experience beyond this:
Whatever discomfort the jury felt, it was nothing compared to the horror that many others in that courtroom have been through and will remember with such pain and sorrow for the rest of their lives.
If I write about the experience again, in this space or elsewhere, it is simply my way of coping. Some questions are too difficult to discuss in person other than with my closest family and friends.
If you read to the bottom of my previous post, you might be surprised to learn that there is one book I am more than happy to just give to anyone who might find it useful.
Miles to Go: An Alzheimer Journal is free for the next few days on Amazon. Beyond that, since the platform limits how long I can offer it for nothing, it’s the minimum of $.99. Anyone who wants the book but doesn’t like buying online can just ask me for a PDF any time using this simple form.
I initially published the whole thing on a previous blog so anyone who came across it could read freely. Having it on Amazon makes it possible to reach more people.
Since the scourge of Alzheimer’s Disease remains an awful reality for so many, I hope others can learn from my family’s experience, as did the reader who included this in an online review:
“I even took notes because the emails showed subtle changes that many other family members could not see and yet is what everyone in this type of situation is going through.”
Back in the day, by which I mean since x number of years ago until a few hours ago, I had a Jeep. Not just any Jeep. I had a 1991 Wrangler Renegade, which I bought from my car-salesman brother-in-law. He got almost all of my business while he was in that business.
The story went that the previous owner lived in Madison, Wisconsin, and drove the red
Renegade mostly to church on Sundays. She was the proverbial little old lady.
The Renegade had only 30,000 or so miles on it at the time, after 10+ years, so I was inclined to believe it.
That thing could handle snow. When I bought the Renegade, we lived in Iowa, halfway down the hill on a dead-end street, so 4WD was important. I drove it to work and back for years. I could go anywhere. I drove it from Iowa to Colorado twice, and all the way back to Iowa once.
We went fishing together. We drove some bad Colorado mountain roads that tested our nerves, and our wariness of heights, and our shocks. We flew down the highway topless, usually when it wasn’t raining and the sun was hot overhead.
Then came the day.
The choice: Sell the 2007 Prius, which faithfully takes us 50 miles on a gallon of gasoline, or the Renegade (17 mpg on a good day). Something had to give if we were to leap into the 2017 Escape we were eyeing.
What would you do?
Used to be it was easy to spot my ride in a huge, crowded parking lot. A boxy, rusting, red thing the likes of which I’ve never seen elsewhere. Now, to find my car at the park-n-ride or the parking lot at DIA, I will look for the teeny Iowa Hawkeyes sticker in the left-rear window of my little black Prius among a sea of little black Priuses. I have to hope no one else out here puts that same sticker anywhere near the same place.
Mrs. Smith Compound drives the sleek, white Escape. It looks great on her.