Brain Chemicals & Body Chemicals
So many ways to be bedeviled.
Dame Sophie is still recuperating from her recent bout of COVID, so Dames Margaret and Karen are here each with a section of their own musings for your entertainment. And, in the meantime: Don’t forget! An annual subscription to Two Bossy Dames is still 20% off, in honor of our Prodigal Hulahoop’s Blessed Return. Sign up now or regret forever!
Dame Margaret’s Penny Worth of Thoughts
As I’m presently staring down the barrel of my fifth week without my regular ADHD medication— with no end to the mysterious shortage of the medication in sight— it seems there’s no time like the present to tell you a bit more about the productivity coach with whom I have been working, as I promised a few issues ago. Her name is Robyn Holzman and apparently some of you have already gotten in touch with her thanks to my aforementioned mention a few weeks ago, which makes me extremely happy for you because she is terrific. Prior to starting her own business, she worked within schools teaching children and teenagers with ADHD how to manage it, so she’s especially skilled at working with people like me who made it all the way to 34 before getting diagnosed.
My ADHD is a ferocious, many-tentacled beast but, in much the same way that talking through my baroque emotional existence with a therapist helps me recognize and change patterns, talking through my unhinged ADHD existence with Robyn has helped me enormously. She is excellent at helping me identify the patterns that are tripping me up, gently getting me to recognize where I have control over those patterns, and creating very grounded, practical plans to build new habits to replace those patterns. And then, just like with therapy, I have all the tools I need to change, and I must reckon with how pathologically reluctant I am to deploy them.
Because, the thing is, I like texting with my friends in the middle of the day while I’m doing it. I want to know what their Hinge date from last night texted them, or what weird product Instagram tricked them into buying, and I want to know right now. We need to figure out which swimsuits they are going to pack for their upcoming trip to Panama. It’s only when it’s suddenly 4:37 in the afternoon and I realize with a sinking heart that vast swathes of my day’s work are still undone that I’m like “[Extremely J. Walter Weatherman Voice] and THAT’S why you’re supposed to log out of all your texting apps on your laptop.”
But, in the moment when the current of the bad pattern carries me away, it always feels great. And building a life where I’m less accessible to those currents is a struggle because, even though I know in the end it will make me much happier, in the moment I have to make the change it feels like I’m giving up so much fun. Nothing in Robyn’s arsenal can entirely solve this dilemma— I just have to be brave and make the changes and patiently wait for the net gain of happiness to register. But here is a small list of the material, practical strategies she’s helped me develop that really DO make a difference (when I can bring myself to use them):
Maybe the most successful is my clipfolio chore-banking practice. A TikTok somewhere put forth the suggestion that a to-do list on a clipboard, written in big clear letters, was the best way for them to organize their day because it would be right in front of them and very easy to read, and for whatever reason I was like “Sounds true!” So I got the prettiest clipboard-type thing I could find (Rifle Paper Co’s “clipfolio”), a 24-color pack of extremely dope erasable markers, and successfully developed the following habit that genuinely works when I make myself do it: on the bottom quarter of the page, I make my “chore bank”— in no particular order, I write down everything I can think of that I’d like to get done in a certain day. THEN, I go to the top of the page and start trying to figure out how many of those things I can actually get done, and in what order. Some of this is very Your Mileage May Vary— a fussy clipfolio and fancy markers might not work as well for you as, like, a yellow legal pad and a really smooth ballpoint pen. You know better than I what incidentals make your brain purr. But I do think the two step method is essential to why this works for me: I truly can’t make a list and prioritize it simultaneously. Emptying out my brain and then prioritizing makes all the difference in the world.
The next most successful: using either a literal plastic lockbox for my phone or a cute little app that penalizes me for using my phone for a certain pre-set amount of time, I make my phone less accessible or tempting. THEN I put some of this (extremely cool) tape that’s basically post-it notes crossed with masking tape over the front of my phone screen or the back of my little plastic phone jail, and I rest a pen by my phone. That means when, inevitably, I recall various different things I need to do with my phone during its much-needed time out, I can make a list of them RIGHT ON MY PHONE to tackle whenever I’m allowed to use my phone again. It is, I cannot stress this enough, completely infuriating how effective this is when I can bring myself to implement it. I would infinitely prefer to let my phone completely derail me from whatever task I’m trying to accomplish, but for the days when I want to go to bed feeling good about myself, this trick fucking works.
This one is, sadly, iPhone exclusive, but the new focus modes feature on iOS 16 have been pretty great for me. I can design a homepage for my phone and a specific notification set-up that automatically kicks in from 9-5 every work day, or any time I enter a particular location. So I don’t see the text notifications about Panama bikinis unless I specifically go looking for them. It’s not as good as just… being a person who can naturally prioritize “the work I am being paid to do” over “a conversation about what clothing my friend should wear for an important photoshoot,” but it’ll do in a pinch.
And, finally, here are two BIG ADVANCES I can credit directly to the company I now work for, which is extremely friendly to my neuroatypicality. First— and this actually predates me but is literally what Robyn would have designed for me if she’d needed to— I love the weekly check-in doc my manager uses for our one-on-ones so much that I’m sharing a copy of it here. I set aside 30 minutes before the meeting to fill it in and 30 minutes after the meeting to put the jointly-identified tasks for the week into my calendar, and the way it makes me feel human and capable! Cannot be overstated!!!! Second, any time I can feel my brain putting itself out to pasture, I can Slack one of my teammates and job into a co-working Zoom with them. We chat for a few minutes at the outset, each share what we’re hoping to get done with the time in front of us, and then mute our cameras and just.. work. For whatever reason, knowing someone else is working alongside me, even if it’s only virtual, makes staying on the rails 62x easier for me. If your company does not have the same kind of compassionate ethos as mine, you might be able to do it with other friends who also work remotely— or you can join one of the many online communities that offer similar services. I think you’ll be surprised what a difference it makes.
Dame Karen’s Two Bits
Didja read The Menopause Article in The New York Times? Turns out a single study with design flaws that came out in 2002 and “found links between hormone therapy and elevated health risks for women of all ages” is the reason hormone therapy, which works wonders for many people, is still seen as risky by some doctors and so some people are left to needlessly suffer the many and sundry bullshit side effects of menopause.
Of course, as Sari Botton points out in the latest issue of Oldster, if you have a family history of breast cancer there’s extra risk involved and it doesn’t feel good to a lot of people to “fuck around and find out” when it comes to putting things in their bodies. As always, I just wish there was more long term, long-ranging research on this topic and need to once again trot out the tired old saw of “if this happened to cis men, the entire medical establishment would be ON IT.” (Please note your Dames did a whole perimenopause issue last year and it’s chock full of good resources, several of which came from readers in the comments.)
I’d also love to see more people write about menopause as depicted in popular culture, both implicit and explicit— I got into this in the aforementioned perimenopause issue and please see also Mona Eltahawy’s wonderful essay The Menopause Multiverse, in which she lays out the case for Everything Everywhere All At Once being a menopause movie.
Speaking of past issues, musician and member of Dames Nation Chelsea Spear, aka Travels With Brindle, who we featured in the newsletter last year, wrote a beautiful tribute to the late, great Tom Verlaine, who fronted the band Television and died just under a week ago. There’s also this tear-jerker of a eulogy in The New Yorker from his ex and fellow luminary Patti Smith.
Speaking of tear jerkers, I started watching The Last of Us even though I hate entertainment focused on apocalypses, am bored by zombies (they take such pains to not say zombie but COME ON), and am grossed out by overgrown fungus of all kinds. Why? Because they used “Long, Long Time” by my all-time fav Linda Ronstadt in the gorgeous third episode in which two men, played by Nick Offerman and Murray Bartlett, find each other in the middle of absolute societal breakdown and forge a loving, decades-long partnership based on the love languages (sorry) of, respectively, nurturing and protecting. Friends, I WEPT. I am a giant crybaby but when it comes to crying over television and movies it’s generally restricted to a light misting and some delicate sniffling, not a full blown weepfest, but there I was. I wrote about the use of the song for Wide Open Country and would like to add here that I was disappointed they didn’t use the part of the song in which Queen Linda does a voice-cracking key change that will slay you with its anguish if you’re not careful. However, my friend pointed out that this may mean they’re going to bring the song back in a later episode WITH KEY CHANGE for extra heartbreaking pathos. BRING IT.
I’ve been meaning to get this deck of cards based on Gabrielle Hickmon’s gorgeously written and designed essay “How You Play Spades Is How You Play Life: Spades In The African-American Community” published by The Pudding in 2021 for…over a year now, and there’s no time like the present, especially since they’re donating $5 of each sale to Black Girls Code through February in honor of Black History Month.
Did you know Desperately Seeking Susan had an alternate ending in which Susan and Roberta leave their dudes behind in New York and set off on an Egyptian adventure together?! I did not! It’s available on YouTube! Thank you to my Twitter pal April for calling this to my attention. This is why streaming will never be as good as DVDs— extras! Commentary! Trailers for other movies that came out on DVD at the same time! Falling asleep and waking up to the weirdly designed menu screen repeating itself again and again!