What’s in a name? Everything to me.

I lied. I promised you the gout saga was over, and largely it is for you, dear readers, but for me it has only just begun. This last episode was my greatest ever. After years of practice, I have finally attained a an A in Advanced Gout. How about that?

My dear Dr. Family is part of a conglomerate of physicians and health professionals in the city known as a primary health network. Her participation in this network facilitates her access, on an as-needed basis, to a variety of specialists for consultation. Last Friday when I stumped her–gifted patients do that to their docs sometimes–Dr. Family contacted the health-network rheumatologist for guidance. From this specialist, Dr. Family gained useful information on gout management. The specialist also noted that, if I felt it would be helpful, she would gladly meet with me directly at some point. Good to know. Now that I have achieved the pinnacle of goutiness, I have become a coveted patient to any self-respecting rheumatologist. No wonder specialists fight over me.

A few days after this consult, the rheumatologist called me to set an appointment. Somehow my stellar achievement in Advanced Gout warranted me an urgent referral. Wow. I felt like I’d just won a 4-year all-expenses-paid scholarship to Oxford. When I called to book in, I was offered my pick of possible appointment times within the next two weeks. I have done so well in gout that I have been awarded the most valuable scholarship ever: immediate access to a specialist.

There’s a reason I’m telling you all of this, beyond my wanting to revel in my rheumatological prowess: I can’t think of a good name for this doctor. I’m stumped.

Basset hound with head cocked, quote: "What's in a name?"If you’ve followed my blog for any length of time, you’ll know that I take great pride in naming the characters in my stories. Forgive the anything-but-humble brag, but I am proud of my name creativity. There’s Dr. Blood and her entourage of Bloody Residents, Dr. Liver, who evolved into Dr. Fois Gras, and Dr. Heartless, the only doc I’ve ever had who failed me. You may recall Dr. Skeeter, the infectious disease specialist, Dr. Woman, (woman parts), and Dr. Knife (figure it out). Remember Dr. Skin, the kind dermatologist who had, to quote my funny self here, “chosen to spend his adult life examining people’s zits”? Even Jelly has Dr. Animal. Then there are the other non-medical folks: Ms. Making Me Postal at the post office, Ms. Druggie (the pharmacist), and Little Mr. Sunshine, the generous platelet donor, to name a few.

Enter Dr. Rheumy (that’s lame), and I’m stumped. “Dr. Ouch” would suggest she’s hurting me when in fact she’s trying to relieve me of my pain, and “Dr. Gout” would suggest an unduly narrow scope of practice. I have two weeks until my initial appointment to arrive at an appropriate moniker. (Yes, you too can see a specialist remarkably quickly when a mushroom cluster erupts in your finger.)

I welcome your naming ideas, but, because this is my blog, I will make the final decision. Once I’m underground, I’ll relinquish all creative control to you, dear readers. I urge you patience since I may be here for a while yet.

 

 

Green Thumb, meet Red Finger

a few radish sprouts growing

I feel so proud. After a week of building (I drilled two screws in) and seeding (I was deemed competent to seed, after intensive instruction) our vegetable garden, I am thrilled to report our radishes have sprouted. I can’t wait to eat the vegetables of my labour.

I’d hoped to continue to be involved in our burgeoning garden, but a medical complication has arisen: the last joint of my right ring finger is swollen, red, and hot enough to brand you, and even the lightest pressure on it brings excruciating pain. That O I just typed? It hurt like the dickens. So did each L and every period. I considered writing this post as one run-on sentence, but I didn’t have the gumption.

In yet another case of forgetting what I should know by now, I’ve been ignoring increasing pain in this finger over the last few days. The pain is at its worst in the middle of the night, and has woken me from a deep sleep four nights in a row. “What could that be?” I asked my oblivious self. Eureka! It’s gout.

I’ve never experienced full-blown gout in a finger before, although it was numbness in this finger that led to my new gout-busting regimen (recall those unsplittable pills). I didn’t realize how much I used my right ring finger–ah, to be a leftie–until it caused me jarring pain to do so. Brushing my teeth, washing the dishes, anything that involves holding, my ailing finger wants to jump in and help out. I squander considerable mental effort to stop myself from using this finger.

People usually experience gout pain in major lower-body joints, characteristically in the ball of the foot. Imagine searing pain with every step you take, your foot so swollen that your shoes don’t fit. In the past, my feet have usually taken turns being gouty, although sometimes they want the simultaneous privilege of paining me.

So when I finally realized what was happening, rather than jump on the medication bandwagon, I let it escalate for a while longer. What kind of baby uses liver-toxic medication for pain at the end of a finger? This kind of baby. Now that I’ve started self-medicating, I hope the attack will pass soon.

There are several ways I could view this turn of events. I could focus on how painful gout is and how miserable it makes me, misery that is only compounded by the lack of sleep. (The pain is worse at night.) That attitude isn’t helpful, is it? Or I could be hopeful that the new gout-busting medication I’m on, those other unsplittable pills, is working. I knew those pills would make things worse before it made them better. I’ve decided to make this my first gouty step toward eliminating my gout forever.

I’m anticipating one more collateral benefit: for now, I must delegate all gardening and other household tasks, including dish-washing, to J. (Not just pressure but heat exacerbates the swelling, compounding the pain.) J. may especially resent the extensive garden thinning required when she realizes how much I have overseeded. Oh well, she’ll get over it, as will I.

Increasing my blog’s readership, one visitor at a time

It was a record week with two real live clients. For whatever reason, my second client found the session helpful and decided to rebook. At this rate, I may actually have a bit of income to declare at year end. Do you think her rebooking had anything to do with the despairing look on my face as the session neared its end? Or my begging? I thought so too.

I commended this client for making contact since we hadn’t seen each other for some time. I can’t imagine calling my therapist not knowing if she’d died since we’d last met. Kudos to her for taking the risk. I believe she could see, once she arrived, that my death is not imminent, or at least doesn’t seem to be so.

On a much triter note, I’d love my writing to find a larger audience. All writers would, wouldn’t they? Sometimes my narcissistic side wonders why my blog hasn’t garnered more attention over time. Is it my abrasively opinionated stance? My biting humour? How about my many random syntax errors? You’re probably wondering whether I’ll ever learn to stop my participles from dangling.

Despite my ongoing efforts to keep you entertained–“Enough already,” you say, “I wouldn’t have committed to this blog if I knew we’d be forging a long-term relationship”–I haven’t yet garnered any publishing contracts, I’ve had no requests for guest articles in esteemed newspapers, no talk-show appearances, not even any invitations to relocate to L.A. Perhaps my fame will follow my death, just like that of Bach or van Gogh.

It would probably help if I used social media to broaden my reading audience, but, because I don’t live with a teenager, I’m at a loss. I’ve taken a more primitive approach to expanding readership instead: I awkwardly tell people about the blog and ask them to take a look.

Sadness doll

Can you see the resemblance?

Take, for example, Mr. Platelet at the Calgary Blood Services clinic, the regular platelet donor who likened me to Little Miss Sunshine a few weeks back rather than my soulmate, Sadness, from Inside Out. You know Sadness, who’s forever trying to bring Joy down. (As a side note, notwithstanding the pale blue facial tone, I bear a striking resemblance to Sadness, even when I’m happy. The higher-than-average BMI, the frumpy sweater, the glasses, and the eyes that are always wide open. Hey, maybe that’s why Sadness is always sad. She’s tired all the time!)

I caught up with Mr. Platelet–would “Little Mr. Sunshine” be a better moniker?–this past Monday when I was volunteering and, while he was quietly eating his soup, I told him how touched I was by his kind words last time he was in. And then I clumsily directed him to the recent blog post where he’d played a starring role. In yet another act of kindness, he gamely read the post while consuming his soup. And just like that, I increased my readership that day. Poor fellow probably didn’t know what hit him. Even my clients would say I’ve never been known for my delicate touch.

No wonder my blog readership is increasing at a snail’s pace. Should I reconsider the social media approach? It’s less intrusive. Now I just need a teenager….

Social media icons (twitter, Pinterest, youtube

If you don’t have anything nice to say, don’t say anything at all.

Young girl holding lips closed, as if zipping lips

I am returning to the fold after the longest hiatus I’ve taken since initiating the blog. I’ll skip asking whether you missed me because I don’t want to know. I missed writing, but I didn’t have anything to say, so I didn’t say anything at all. I look back on all my grasping-at-straws posts with shame.

We are now back from vacation. Let’s say the trip was not Facebook worthy, even though I lack a Facebook account. I had no beautiful pictures or inspiring moments to share, and, failing those, no great insights or lessons learned. I was too busy trying to keep dry and warm amidst the torrential rain, the pounding sleet, and the gale-force winds.

We travelled into a disaster zone, a bracingly cold and unpleasant spring in la belle province. While we wandered the streets of Old Town, fearing that our umbrella would do a Mary Poppins at any moment, flooding displaced two thousand residents from their homes. There’s something discordant about enjoying the splendours of the area knowing so many people were being profoundly affected.

Maybe that wasn’t it at all. Maybe it was not having Grover, who stars in so many of my vacation pictures, with me. But he would have been so scared by the wind and the rain and the sleet and the snow (yes, there was snow, in May), and he doesn’t own a raincoat to protect his blue fur from the elements. It’s best I left him at home.

We needn’t factor in the exhaustion of trying to think and speak in French. Let’s just say that, beyond understanding French menus, food labels, and public signs, I failed abysmally at speaking and oral understanding. I am in awe of people relocating from foreign lands who master our language.

No, my silence was mostly due to utter exhaustion, I’m afraid. Usually, the excitement of exploring a new place keeps me awake and alert. (That, and the hyperstimulating morning coffee.) When I go away, I leave fatigue, and leukemia, and all those worries I usually carry around with me, at home and pretend I’m healthy for the duration. I crash once I return home. But this time, for whatever reason, fatigue insisted on joining us.

Baby screaming (shot of head only)In fact, I was so exhausted that, to stop my falling asleep on the way to the airport, we moved up our return flight by a few hours. A nap on the plane, and I’d be fine, I figured. I was all ready, earplugs in hand, and then the screaming started. No, not mine, that of the baby one row back. She started wailing before take off and kept it up past landing, with only a few short breaks. I kept telling myself, “I’m sure I was that child” so as to keep myself calm. By flight’s end, my exhaustion gave way to giddiness, which, thankfully, the harried mother could not hear over her screeching daughter.

And so, dear readers, now that that baby and I have parted ways, I am catching up on my sleep. I will be back to regular posting soon. Stay tuned for a “Believe It or Not” story about my day with my pharmacist. It’s truly ah (awe? ugh?) inspiring.

The Premack principle in action: a timely example

Woman with tax documents spread around her on the floor

It’s tax season again, folks. People everywhere are scurrying around trying to get their taxes ready by the April 30 deadline. Since J. and I will be handing our diligent prep work over to Mr. Money, who will complete our taxes for us, we have only until April 3. That’s this coming Monday, isn’t it? I’m sunk.

How many times have I told you how much I hate tax season? Yesterday, J. said insightfully, “Maybe it’s because your earnings have dropped so much but you still need the same amount of time to prepare everything.” Sure, J., although I always hated tax season, even before I stopped making money. Any paperwork has become all the more challenging since my little excursion to the ICU.

I have spent several days avoiding the inevitable by cooking elaborate meals, perfecting a new cake, surfing the internet to address my insatiable curiosity, and picking up extra volunteer shifts. I’ve also spent more-than-my-usual time out of the house, which precludes my completing the one noxious task hanging over me at home. Procrastination raises my anxiety about whatever I’m avoiding, and this anxiety escalates as the deadline approaches.

Now that I’ve run out of distractions, I’ve decided to apply my favourite behavioural method, the Premack principle, to counter my avoidance. You haven’t heard of this life-altering principle? Well, it’s a good thing I can explain it to you. In a nutshell, do the stuff you hate first (the less preferred activity), and then reward yourself with something you enjoy (the more preferred activity).

How do I apply the Premack principle in this situation? I work on my taxes for one hour, which is the extent of my attention span these days, and then I can take a break to do whatever my heart desires. My preferred activities include walking the dog, heading to yoga, cooking a tasty dinner and, of course, writing my blog. Your preferred activities may be completely different than mine. You may choose to reward yourself by crafting or swimming (don’t swallow the pool water!) or finishing that romance novel.

There’s one proviso here. The reward can’t always be chocolate, however much you might want it to be. If you consume chocolate to reward yourself, over time your scale may not be very happy with you. You may indeed complete whatever odious task you’ve been putting off, but is it worth the extra 5 lbs? I learned this the hard way. I managed to gain weight the day I ran a marathon by rewarding myself with an ungodly large steak dinner. Consider this ungodly large mistake a misapplication of the Premack principle.

Whoops! According to the Premack principle, I should have worked on my taxes before I wrote this post. Oh well, I’ll get to them later today, after I walk the dog. C’mon Jelly, I don’t care if you’re tired, let’s go.

As always, if you want to accomplish anything of note, do what I say, not what I do.

[Note to readers: In my previous post, I was not the girl in the photo. She had the fashion sense to wear a plaid shirt with her overalls. I did not discover plaid shirts until my 20s.]

All I really need to know I learned in kindergarten…at 53

Adults sitting at table doing arts and crafts

Adults are trying harder than ever to stay young. Adult colouring books are all the rage, for example. Have you bought yours yet? Grown ups can go to summer camp now if they missed, or still miss, that childhood experience. Even food is changing to appeal to adults’ palates: chai tea ice cream or sourdough pancakes anyone?

But the latest adult-as-child experience I happened upon is kindergarten for grownups. Forget 50 being the new 40, maybe 50 is the new 5. That’s right, adults playing dress up, hanging out at the sand table, or prettying up coloured construction paper at the crafts table. I guess I’m not too late to create a macaroni masterpiece on paper after all. The program was created for adults who were in adverse situations (domestic violence? poverty?) as children and did not have a chance to enjoy fully their  kindergarten experience. This program is giving adults the chance to make up for lost play time.

Each class, the adults start by writing their stresses down on a piece of paper and then destroying that piece of paper. Therapists have been known to use a similar approach in helping people work through trauma. Write down your traumatic story or what you wish you could have told that person you’re harbouring ill feelings toward and we’ll destroy what you’ve written together. Heck, leave what you’ve written with me and you’ll be free of it. I, Annie the Psychologist, have even used the method occasionally with children with some success, but I know of others who use it with adults.

There’s only one problem I can see with the approach used by the adults in kindergarten class: they use a shredder to destroy the page they’ve written their stresses on. Beware the evil malfunctioning shredder! There must be a better way.

As a psychologist, shredding is a critical part of my history. The shredder is but one method in my arsenal of protecting my clients’ confidentiality. Mistake in a report? Shred it to bits–hail the cross cutter–and print a revised version. You young’uns may not catch my shredding drift since paper is so passé these days. Ah, those word-processing files sure save the trees, and the shredders.

As a person who shreds by necessity, I have no positive memories of my long chain of home-office shredding machines. Each and every one has jammed or broken and eventually ended up in the landfill after a premature death. Each replacement I bought was supposed to be better than the last, but they all failed miserably. In fact, I believe if I went down to my office right now, I’d find the last defunct one collecting dust since I haven’t had the heart to throw out.

So go to kindergarten if you want to, grown ups. Enjoy the dress-up corner and fighting over sharing the best toys with your adult friends. But record your stresses in a typical kindergartener’s large print and shred your page by hand. Don’t worry, your buddies aren’t going to waste their time digging through the garbage to piece together what you’ve written. They want a story-time seat on the carpet by the teacher as much as you do. Otherwise they might need their hearing aids.

Blogging insights from an old pro (emphasis on “old”)

Old woman adjusting glasses as she looks at her computer

Did you really think this was a picture of me?

I let my recent blogaversary pass with barely an acknowledgement. That’s three leukemic years of writing about mundane daily experiences, misinterpreting research studies, and sharing my highly opinionated thoughts and deepest of feelings. Does this make me an old pro, or just old? You can be the judge.

Three years later, I’m still unable to edit my own work, so you may all think me illiterate. Despite my best efforts, I miss many grammatical and spelling errors, only some of which I catch after the fact. I hope these errors do not interfere excessively with your reading pleasure.

Despite my errors, I still dislike that unrelenting but unwanted attention from bloggers who want to help me improve my writing. I used to feel insulted, until I chose to reframe their offers as a sign of pride. Maybe these vultures don’t reach out to the crummy writers (we all know I’m deluding myself here; vultures are non discriminating). Compliment or not, I’m not investing in their services. Why would I pay to write when I can write for free?

I have learned to limit the length of my posts, knowing if they were too long, you would look elsewhere for entertainment. By practicing brevity, I’m trying to respect your time and space. And just like the psychologist in me can sense when one hour with a client has passed, so can the writer in me sense when I’ve hit my 500-word limit.

I have not gotten any better at being involved in the blogging community, i.e., following others’ blogs, and liking and commenting on their posts, although I do check in on them occasionally. Thanks to all you bloggers who have shown ongoing interest here even though I have not reciprocated in kind. I admire your capacity to focus on anyone’s blog, or life, but your own. I can’t do it.

After three years of blogging, I don’t fully understand why readers seem more engaged with one topic than another. Every time I post, I wonder whether readers will find the subject interesting or thought provoking or, God forbid, painfully boring. I am constantly surprised by what garners a response. I was hoping eventually I wouldn’t care about your responses–I should have enough confidence in my writing not to care, right?–but I’m not there yet.

I do wonder whether readers are most engaged when I bare my soul. (As an aside, I’d initially written “bear” for “bare” but I caught that one. Embarrassing spelling error averted.) If I write something heart rending or distressing or I disclose a bit too much, I can usually count on some kind of reaction. People love pathos, which makes sense to the psychologist in me. You realize that your interest in these more emotional posts makes me the exhibitionist and you the voyeur (but not in a 50-Shades sort of way). How does that make you feel?

Unfortunately, I can only share so much before my boundaries kick back in, so you’ll have to accept the occasional trite dog post. Everyone needs a break from the intensity sometimes, both in blogging and in real life.

As always, comments are always welcome and appreciated. As Frasier would say, I’m listening.

Reconsidering second-language acquisition in older adults

I’ve had my new cellphone for a few months now, and still I’m struggling to master the sophisticated features. The phone allows me access to my email, my blog, and the internet. I could even post to my Facebook account if I had a Facebook account. I didn’t realize I’d be buying a mini computer. My retired phone pales in comparison.

Then there’s the joy of texting. Once I overcame my emoji resistance, I became excited to have access to such a wide variety of expressions, and I now pepper my texts liberally with random little yellow faces. Turns out emojis are no longer just faces, however; there are families and animals and objects and musical instruments and places and…oh, you know this already.

Grid of facial emojisAs I type my vacuous texts, the corresponding emojis pop up so I can insert them in place of the word(s). That’s how I discovered my favourite, the stinky poop emoji, that little brown pile–what other colour would it be?–above. (I only typed “stinky poop” in my text to find that emoji; I was not, and I repeat NOT, texting anyone about my poop.) You heard it here last folks: written words are becoming obsolete.

No one told me that learning all those facial-expression emojis would be like acquiring a new language altogether. Turns out I’m an ESL (that’s Emoji as a Second Language) flunky. I have seen repeated pairings between emojis and my written words–I type the feeling word and each time it prompts the corresponding emoji–but my near vision is so poor that, as far as I can tell, every little yellow face looks the same. Angry? Upset? Happy? I have no idea! I’m finally rid of all those uninterpretable little black squares I used to receive in my texts, only to find myself face to face with indecipherable faces. Maybe I don’t lack an ear for languages after all; rather, I don’t have the eye for them.

There’s a commonly held belief that children learn new languages more easily than adults. From my five-minute extensive research review, I’ve learned that children more easily master the pronunciation of a new language than adults, and they have the advantage of new-language immersion at school. But, according to my quick but thorough scan of the research, so long as they’re not too far over the hill, adults can also master new languages under the right conditions.

What if all these researchers are barking in the wrong ear? Hasn’t anyone considered the impact of kids’ superior vision on language learning? I, for one, believe there is a strong correlation between visual acuity and language acquisition. I don’t need a young person to teach me those they-all-look-the-same-to-me emojis; I will eventually master them on my own, thank you very much. Right after I buy a new pair of reading glasses.

In the meantime, if you notice that my emojis don’t quite correspond to the sentiment I’m trying to convey in my text, don’t mock me. I’m so far over the hill that you may need to cut me some slack.

The Validator saves the day!

Boy at table in striped shirt writing with pencilCan you believe I started my blog three years today? As a writer, I decide which stories to highlight and how I’m going to tell them.These decisions are often completely arbitrary. Speaking of which, I ended Friday’s tale prematurely because I felt I’d dragged you down enough for one day. That and Joy doesn’t like it when Sadness steals the limelight.

Now that you’ve had the weekend to recover, I’ll finish what I started. After my chance encounter with Mr. Shuffle at the Cancer Centre, I headed back to the car. J. could tell immediately that my mood had shifted. I was glum and quiet, so she asked, “Whassup?”

I described my encounter, and how bad I felt for this man, who was unwell and appeared to be alone. (His family could have been waiting for him, for all I know; I just didn’t see anyone with him.) I’d made many potentially erroneous assumptions about his life. Then I added, “My cancer journey is so much easier than everyone else’s, I’m so lucky to have a good leukemia–a good leukemia? I said that?–and an easy chemo, blah blah blah.” You get the idea.

Enter the Validator, J.’s other superhero persona. (You’ve already been introduced to the Anti-Procrastinator, who completes tasks before anyone realizes they need to be done.) She said, and I paraphrase here, “Remember when you almost died? Remember when you were so weak that you couldn’t tie your shoes without tipping over? People stared at you because you looked so sick. Remember how many months it took for you to regain your strength and to complete a 5-star Sudoku again [excuse the humble brag]? You’re not working in the profession you love and you’re tired all the time and your cancer has been no piece of cake.”

You may recognize this old theme in my blog: the incessant need to convince myself that my cancer is lame, and that my suffering is small potatoes compared to everyone else’s. Heck, I’m 4-1/2 years in, and I’m not even dead yet. I’m a cancer failure.

All these things are true. I’m still alive, but cancer still courses through my veins. At one point, my leukemia made me as weak or maybe even weaker than Mr. Shuffle, not that cancer is a competition. You know this already; I’m just trying to convince myself that I don’t have to minimize my experience. I’m reminding myself yet again of the dangers of social comparison, which sometimes makes me feel better about my situation, but more often makes me feel worse.

So Mr. Shuffle, I’d love to nurse you through your illness, but I’m hoping you have your own community of support since I don’t have the energy. Believe it or not, I’ve got cancer too. I may look perky now, but my road has had its share of bumps. I hope you’re able to regain your strength and that you’re feeling better soon. Fight the good fight and know my heart is with you.

Then the Validator wisely reminded me that feeling crummy is often one stop on a cancer patient’s way to healing. Wise woman, that Validator. I hope she’s right, for Mr. Shuffle’s sake.

The Real End

Quitters never prosper? I beg to differ.

person's hand turning the page of a book

Last week I started a novel that was one of the Globe and Mail’s books of the year. I have the utmost respect for the Globe book reviewers. If they tell me it was a book worth reading, and it sounds compelling, I read it. Often I agree with those reviewers.

This highly recommended book wasn’t a bad book, it was readable, but I was plodding through it. Then it hit me that I wasn’t enjoying it. The main character was a despicable guy from the outset, and he didn’t get any better. I didn’t want to know more about him; I just wanted him to go away. So I stopped reading. Not only that, I didn’t even skim the remainder of book to find out what happened because I didn’t care. Yes, I quit the book outright.

While I was plodding through this book, my overzealous conscience was haunting me, “You started the book. You’re half way through. You must finish it.” That same conscience prompted me to attend every single one of my lectures in university (does anyone do that?); it ensured I was over prepared for any exam I wrote (with mixed results); and it prompted me to obsess for days over any essay or report.

I can recall attending psychology conferences that bored me silly yet staying right to the end. Why, Annie, why? I’ve never left a yoga class I really didn’t like since I wouldn’t want to hurt the teacher’s feelings. My internalized Big Brother is watching me all the time.

Ditching last week’s novel may seem like small potatoes, but it was huge for me. It’s taken me years to learn I can let go of things I don’t enjoy. Why persist in activities that don’t bring me any pleasure or satisfaction? What’s the point? Wouldn’t my time be better spent engaged in something more rewarding?

I realize we can’t do only the fun stuff all the time. Even beach bums need money to buy food. If we want to graduate, we all have to endure the dreaded required courses we’d never choose to take. Sadly, there’s drudge work even in jobs we love. We need to fulfill those obligations because that’s life. Rather, I’m referring to those activities we take on by choice.

Now that I’ve tried quitting, I’d highly recommend it. Just like some workplaces are toxic and some marriages are abusive, some books are not to my taste. Why not redirect my energy to something I’d enjoy more? Consider Oliver Sacks’s wisdom as he neared death, “There is no time for anything inessential.” Even you cancer-free folks might want to consider this notion.

So bail on that continuing education course you thought you might enjoy but is actually boring you to death. Take a nice walk or enjoy lunch with a friend instead. Trust me, the teacher won’t miss your incessant yawning from the back row.

The following day I started another book, and it was so engaging, I couldn’t put it down. Maybe it wasn’t deemed worthy of the Globe’s annual list, but I’d highly recommend it, if that counts for anything.