I stock up on dopamine* in the mornings by dancing, sometimes singing to my favorite songs.  These range from So Whatcha Want by The Beastie Boys to the opening of the 2013 Tony Awards as sung by Neil Patrick Harris (thanks, internet, for all your flaws, for bringing me this ode to excess.)

Being a stage performer, particularly in musical theatre where you might have to be singing, dancing, and acting all at the same time, is tremendously hard work.  It is physically demanding, often debilitating.  Lots of musicians bring the same energy to the concert stage, not just in rock but across the board (it’s Britney, bitch.) 

It’s not just the dopamine I’m chasing but the calorie burn.  So I’m not ashamed to say I had to bail out about two minutes into the Talking Heads’ performance of the song Life During Wartime in the seminal concert film Stop Making Sense. 

IDK what David Byrne was eating those days (looks like nothing) but he never stops moving and neither do the rest of the band.  If you don’t regularly exercise, you’d never keep up, because they are beasts.  MF, they are playing their instruments while running in place and has Gen Z seen this shit yet?  This is a TikTok challenge waiting to happen, amirite?

So I thought, what a great candidate for a stupid goal. To be able to do David Byrne’s bit in Life During Wartime.

Get delusional, isn’t that what the kids say?  This is a theme for me right now, after a post I made about impossible goals to a lively group of professional writers blew up, getting a few hundred comments from writers at every stage of their career.   Why not carry this energy into everything I do?

I need delusional goals.  Ordinary ones don’t seem to motivate me.  So why not try something ridiculous?  Absurd and not wholly useful except that it spurs me to be more active.  A chance to score a symbolic victory over my human tendencies—taking the easy way out, hoarding calories in case of famine, anxiety about my appearance and social rank.

We have so little time on earth, and there’s so much that we might do that we’ll never have the time to even read about in someone else’s words.  We’re dying the minute we’re born and I think if more people understood that we might as individuals and as a civilization use our time better.

I’m old enough to feel this in my bones.  They say youth is wasted on the young because it’s only the accumulation of years that make you understand time at the cellular level.  There is no solution to death.  I don’t know that I’d choose eternal life even if it was offered.  All we have is today, this hour, this second, this heartbeat, this blink of the cosmic eye, our every breath one more pearl strung on a thread that grows shorter and shorter.

Do it now.  The thing you always wanted.  Do it now because there is only now.  Only this moment, this breath.  This.

Photo by Alex Turcu on Unsplash

An incidental cruelty

Hi, welcome to adult-diagnosed ADHD for women, where today you’ll learn that:

While scientific evidence is still emerging about how changing hormones can impact ADHD Janine feels the link was undeniable. Oestrogen helps to modulate the release of dopamine in the brain. When Janine’s level of oestrogen began to drop as she entered perimenopause, the ADHD symptoms she had been able to manage became much harder to deal with.

ADHD can have a significant impact on people’s lives — even when you’re an adult – ABC News

I was today years old when I learned that. You might not have been masking intentionally. Your ovaries were doing it for you. As their function declines, so does your dopamine supply. An incidental cruelty. Aging isn’t a punishment, it simply is, but that doesn’t make it easier.

Might explain why I recently got back into Drum & Bass. I’m rather a connoisseur of dopamine stimulation (within the boundaries of my enduring motion sickness and terror of deep water) and there’s something about playing a belting dj mix as I rocket around my empty kitchen at 5 am that helps the rest of my day run smoothly. I’ve already invoked some chaos, gleefully triggered some joy. It’s a smooth run from there.

The post nobody read

[edit] Look, I don’t mean for this to sound like a complaint, a “I did a cool thing and no one noticed, boo hoo” entitled little sulk.  I’m just baffled.  I haven’t had *crickets* in ages, maybe never.  So let’s stir the pot.  Will someone go back and read this? 

Interestingly the post had a lot of meaning for me.  The next day, I tossed together a stream of consciousness poem and posted it right away, and boom, views.  And you would not believe how common that is across the creator-sphere: the thing you pour your soul into gets barely a glance, and the piece of fluff you made for a laugh goes viral. Which is really justification for making as much art as you can.  Who knows what will get noticed?

The Post FKA: “The Ides of March? Never Met Him. What’s He Like?’

Three years ago, I self-published my first short story.

Two years ago, I had fourteen titles on sale, was writing a few novels, and felt like I was figuring things out.

Last year, I went over the edge.

Any old edge will do. How about this one? (photo by Alan Tang on Unsplash)

Up till then it had felt like I was doing everything right.  I don’t think I knew how depressed I was, which is something my mother said in reference to the same time in her life.

Taking medication was me making a sensible choice for a goddamn change. A grown up, self-disciplined decision to rein in my worrisome habits of thought and behaviour and become (what the hell was I thinking?) a productive member of society.

The results were predictably bad. You may recall that I am manifestly incapable of doing anything directly. Plans adjust themselves, reality reorganizes, and my intentions never end up aiming at my goals. I must approach all challenges and opportunities sideways: improvise, adjust, create new ways in the midst of living them. This is a very durable feature of my personality, and it affects everything I do, including taking medication to regulate my brain function. I’m sorry, but my brain function is a bratty queer with a glitter gun and the first six rows of the audience *will* *get* *wet.* Trying to rein this in leads to wildly unregulated emergent behaviour, and it was bad.

While high on legal speed, I did not buckle down and focus on my writing, which I was suddenly unable to do. Nor did I get really organized and plan my next year, down to the hour.  No, in between the bouts of tremors and sobbing into the carpet, I decided to start another blog, devoted not to writing but to (honestly, what the hell was I thinking?) historical menswear.

I swear it made sense at the time.  A distraction from the stress of a publishing career and encouragement to do more sewing, and if I was lucky, a back door into being known for anything at all, which somehow optimism and fairy dust would turn into a book career. It became one more task looming over me, one more chore to neglect. I needed to write books, not faff on about cravats on a blog no one would read without me promoting it like crazy.

I took the medication for a week. I quit when they wanted me to up the dosage.  Once I recovered from my inadvertent meth bender, I wrote a novella in which a doctor gets punched. I’ve done plenty of drugs under my own recognizance, and if I’d paid a schemy 22-year old in a nightclub bathroom for a pill that did to me, I’d hunt the little shit down and get my money back.

The blog lasted six months.

edit: This blog? This blog I do nothing to promote, that doesn’t sell my books, that does nothing for anyone? It’s coming up on two years. 152 posts. See? It’s just like I said. Sideways or not at all.

New recipes for the uninhibited

a cluster of wine glasses lay on their sides on a white marble counter, dregs of white and red wine in each glass. a little of the red wine has spilled on the marble.

(who wish they were maybe just a bit more inhibited now and then because really, saying yes to everything is sometimes a bad idea)

Part Two of our ongoing series of semi-sarcastic but functional drink choices for people who are trying to reframe their relationship with alcohol, caffeine, and all the other complicated molecules that so radically affect how we think and act.

[Read Part One here]

The Interrupter

The low- or zero alcohol drink that tastes like booze that you drink when you’re already drunk and want to keep drunkening further but know you cannot, for your health and manners. Best served fizzy.

The Cold Front

Whatever medication you say you’re taking so your pushy relatives stop asking you why you aren’t drinking at Christmas.  Please pretend to consume responsibly by faking a minor ailment that won’t lead to a ton of questions.

(All recipes by The Fixer, some fairly insignificant rights reserved)

The Great Treadmill Desk Experiment

A fitness treadmill in an ultramodern office. The wall behind is broken up by thin columns supporting rectangular grey panels, a gold light gleaming from their top and bottom edges. Panes of glass refract a blurred reflection of the treadmill.

So I’m a slavish devotee enthusiastic fan of the writer KJ Charles. Some months back she posted an update to her blog detailing her use of a treadmill for a desk. This stunned me on a number of levels. First, that a treadmill desk was a thing at all, which then made immediate sense. Second, that it was deeply ironic Charles uses a treadmill, given that she writes gay historical romances quite often set in a period when being gay was a crime and the treadmill was a form of capital punishment. Third, that she writes this sort of shit while walking on a treadmill, and I quote (without permission, but if this doesn’t drive sales I dunno):

Kim pulled back, his movement slowing to nothing but a touch. Will looked down and saw him looking up. His mouth was obscenely open, lips red with friction and beautifully filled with Will’s…

(from ‘Slippery Creatures’ by K. J. Charles)

uggghhhh like does she speed up when she writes those parts? Does she have to hop off the treadmill and lay down for a bit? I can barely read her stuff standing up, which is not a complaint, mind.

I also needed to drastically increase the amount of time I devote to my health. My spouse started running at the start of the pandemic and lost 60 pounds and looks like their high school self and HOT DAMN, those calves. We had already discussed buying a second-hand treadmill, for those days when it’s too hot or cold to run outside. Charles’ blog was the final push*.


I’m that kid on the field trip who makes the bus pull over so they can puke. 

you know, this kid

I can’t read in cars or on buses, barely on trains.  VR equals vertigo, high speed rail makes my soul leave my body, and as for boats, let’s say my personal hell is wet. Treadmills induce constant motion, surprise, surprise.  None of these facts connected in my mind until I tried to edit a document while walking.

So then I laid down until the world got its shit together…

I can however run on the treadmill no problem, while watching videos of, er, running, and have put in good 30 minutes almost every day since we got it in May of ’21, which means I’ve been more deliberately athletic in the past year than I have in my entire life. I’d go so far to say that I’m coming out of the pandemic healthier than when we all started.

Anyone who’s tried to acquire a good habit may wonder what my secret is to sticking with it. It certainly helps that I can see the treadmill from my desk, meaning I have to come up with a really good excuse to avoid using it (and yes, injury qualifies as a really good excuse.) But I must confess there’s a part of me that finds it, well, unbecoming that my spouse, who is more solidly built than I am, should now nearly weigh the same as me. Vanity, thy name is apparently this bitch.

TTYL, gotta run…

*We did not buy a treadmill desk. We bought a lightly used second-hand home gym treadmill and cut a piece of shelving to fit over the handles. Which is a good thing or I’d presently be offering a treadmill desk for sale, lightly used.

The glamorous life of a writer, amirite?

Is there such a thing as a blessed ride on the swings?

For the past few years I have been going to bed so early it’s a problem. I’m missing time with my family, and I’m waking up at 3AM local time for no reason other than I went to bed at 8:30 the night before and I’m a person who does best on 7 hours of sleep.

Why is this interesting?  Because lately I’ve been trying to stay awake longer. So after dinner I walk to a local park and ride on the swings until I can’t bear it, then walk home. this is a peculiar aim, given my tendency to get motion sickness from, like, every conveyance I’m not piloting myself. The big swings at the amusement park? Big ol’ yuck (don’t ask me about the pirate ship, me hearties.)

At any rate, there I was, walking across the park at dusk. As I neared the swings I noticed a woman with a rolling walker, doing laps around the playground with the determination of someone told by their doctor to “use it or lose it to amputation.” Someone struggling to stay active in a world that seems bent on her senescence.

With a smile I passed her to claim a swing, where I sat facing the sunset, pumping my legs, riding aloft on a drum and bass playlist that never fails to energize me. I don’t count it a good go on the swings unless I see over the crossbar. One of my characters whose book has yet to be published wrote a poem about swings. In it he writes:

One day you will let go

At the top of the arch of the swing

In spite of the lake and the cliffs and the sky and the steel

You will let go and she will be there

To catch you

I always swing until I see the sky above the crossbar. It was no different tonight, as I leaned into each swoop of the parabola, kicking my legs to arc higher, squinting into the cotton candy summer sunset. Wanting the wind in my hair, I tossed aside my hat, and as the woman with the walker bent to retrieve it I told her to leave it be, that I didn’t mind, that I’d come back to it.

She circled me again, two or three times, before she brought her walker over to the handicapped swing. Then got on the swing and swung along with me.

Was this something she did all the time?  Or did my swinging somehow give her permission? I couldn’t have asked.  My heart was too full.  From her complexion I might guess she wasn’t born in my country, but to say a word about what we were doing felt wholly unnecessary. We swung, me kicking myself as high as I dared, her reclined in a seat made for comfort, made for those to whom swinging might otherwise be a luxury, an impossibility.

When she’d had her fill of the swing, she resumed her circuit round me. When she reached my fallen hat, she bent to pick it up, then tossed it to me.

I just about caught it.

a minor procedure

she asks the ages of my children

(one day apart and six years

something to talk about while their fingers are inside me)

The funny thing is, I wasn’t actually sick when I let doctors make a hole in me and take something away. Minor surgery, of the sort on reality shows, and so I was awake for the procedure. Let me say, does surrealism ever make a heck of a lot more sense. Speaking with someone who’s in the midst of prying open your skin is a singular experience, and one that evokes more body horror than I like on a Monday morning.

And I’d just posted that poem On Convalescence, not considering the fact that I was about to experience it.  I was mainly thinking of an essay by Woolf, quoted in Reading Like a Writer by Francine Prose as an example of a perfectly valid run-on sentence.  Writing on illness, on its relative absence from the novels of her time despite all the ways that sickness and recovery impinge on our psychic and physical selves, Woolf’s rambling thoughts follow an indirect path ending at ourselves, the first and last locus of one’s consciousness, the very place where one experiences illness and convalescence.

I wasn’t sick. I was only on holiday (see below), but I have the work ethic of a consumptive viscount and a moral opposition to hustle culture, so I haven’t obliged myself to post much of anything in the last two weeks.  Add to that being still in a bit of a cocoon from my peculiar spring and from two years of you-know-what, and y’all going to have to bear with me.

On Convalescence

Not enough is said

the long tail curled around your spine

all approaches softened

the surfaces blurring into


Commanding silence,

the restless walls slide inward 

as you bend gasping

the farcical ceiling tenting overhead 

raining your own sweat back upon you

drops wrung from the stone which is yourself


even when invisible 

is there 

is tangible

is a beginning without end

only a Before and After

separating you from those who were not sick

A buzzing fly

pinned between the window pane and screen 

smelling petrichor

doubting the rain


A quick trip to Stepford, and what I learned there.

I recently went through ADHD diagnosis.  After hearing horror stories by the score from women who had every one of their health issues dismissed as a bitchy complaint, of doctors scorning any self-assessment and insisting that the patients’ chronic suffering was an illusion, it felt marvelous to have the doctor confirm my beliefs and attribute to me the very condition I was afraid I had.

I spoke and a doctor listened. It seemed remarkable. And yet…

Now, here’s where I get all disclosure-y, because this is in no way, shape, or form meant to dissuade anyone from medical care. In a lot of neuro-divergent conditions, you won’t know what will bring relief until you try it, and I would hate for anyone to talk themselves out of healing. This is just what happened to me.

Because the “and yet…” is that the standard medication for ADHD is more or less exactly what they used to give distressed housewives in the 1950s and 60s. A kinder, gentler form, perhaps, but still at its heart methamphetamine.

And I fucking hate speed.  I know I do, and my friends would by and large agree, having seen the outcome of me ingesting any drugs from that class (which includes MDMA, for those of you just joining our broadcast.)  I gamely went for it regardless.  Despite some encouraging moments early in the experiment, within a few days I was having more trouble concentrating, if for no other reason than the side effects of appetite suppression meant I’d stopped eating lunch.  I lost the will to do anything besides clean and shop, everything else seeming futile. Evenings became bleak endurance tests, a prayer for oblivion.  Two weeks in, I was catatonic under my desk, sobbing because my hands were shaking so badly I couldn’t hold a cross-stitch needle. The next day I quit the medication.

Photo by SPACEDEZERT on Unsplash. Image treatment by The Fixer

So what the fuck happened? Could this have been avoided? What could a doctor have done differently? Not spoken to me straight off, to start with.

What I mean is that a preliminary ten minutes with a screening therapist (not a psychiatrist but a behavioural and/or cognitive therapist) could have saved all of us a lot of trouble. I lost two weeks of my life. I’m a fucking author, and I couldn’t write.  I am, if I had to pick a feeling, a little bit angry.  Because if someone had asked a few more questions like these, I might never have been prescribed a drug I physically cannot take.

When was the last major life upheaval?  

Divorce, death in the family, accident or injury or long-term illness, change of job, moving house: any one of these is a big enough change that it will disrupt any but the most doggedly self-aware individual.  The more recent the chaos, the more it should soften your score.  I for example am dead smack in the middle of completely restructuring my career path.  Add a deadly globe-spanning pandemic that upends the economy, slays millions, and creates more political division than you thought possible in a civilized world, it’s little wonder I can’t remember to call the dentist.  This begs the question, did I need medication in the first place? Or just time and permission to flail as I muddle through a difficult life passage? 

How often do you exercise?  

And I don’t mean getting your steps in, I mean break-a-sweat, raise-your-heartbeat, vigorous movement.  Is the answer never?  If so, that probably needs to change.

For those of us with irregular supplies of dopamine, physical exertion is unparalleled for delivering it.  I cannot overemphasize the benefit of exercise as a way to channel all that wild energy into something healthy and productive.  Running fast on a treadmill is the closest I get to meditating, but dang is it ever effective at keeping my mood up, and at the very least giving me a daily sense of achievement.  I might have forgotten fifty things, but I remembered to run.

Have you used any type of these drugs in the past, and how did it affect you? 

Because I’ve taken drugs.  I’ve taken MDMA that was poorly made and not quite chemically pure and hence speedy as fuck and it was appalling.  Even blissfully pure trips tend to lead to emotionally catastrophic come-downs.  Chemically stimulating the release of that much dopamine all at once doesn’t seem to be something my body likes.  That a doctor gave this to me expecting it to help has left me feeling vaguely betrayed. If it had been a street drug, I’d have told my friends not to buy from that dealer.  

How much coffee do you drink a day?

Do not underestimate caffeine.  I was averaging four strong coffees a day. I switched three of those to decaf.  Game changed.  Enough said.

Again, don’t let anything keep you from seeking care.  But when you’re talking to your care provider, oblige them to learn these things about you even if they don’t manage to ask.  Doctors are under immense pressure at all times to see more patients, get more outcomes. They will not always have the capacity to think this broadly. A psychiatrist is trained to provide medical solutions for mental problems, but medication is not always the best response. Ten minutes spent knowing more things about a patient can change how that patient is treated.  Tell your doctor everything, even if they don’t ask, because your whole life is relevant to who you are now. If you’re draining six coffees every day as you sit there doom-scrolling current events, it’s little wonder you might not have much focus for boring shit like your job.  

And maybe drink a little less coffee.

“All at once those frozen hours…”

…melt through the nervous system and seep out the pores.”

(Withnail & I)

There are a few things in the world that some people enjoy and I can’t stand, to the point my body rejects them with violence.  A very particular shade of almost-but-not-quite-greenish yellow. Cucumbers that haven’t been pickled. Blue cheese in all its forms. Methamphetamines, also in all their forms.

You can thank a doctor for that last discovery. I’ve been taking a prescribed ADHD medication for two weeks and aside from one really thrilling achievement on the treadmill and a possibly clever idea, I’ve hated nearly every minute of it.  So I quit. Not immediately, but gradually, like you’re supposed to* but I kid you not, I can’t imagine the withdrawal could make me feel any worse than being on the medication.

I should know whether or not that’s true by the end of the day.

More to the point, I want those two weeks back. That’s not an option so I’ll just take the learning experience for what it was and carry on.  We aren’t all of us built for speed.

*Disclosure of patently obvious information, but this is only my personal experience. PLEASE FOLLOW YOUR DOCTOR’S ADVICE.  There.  Now don’t fucking sue me.