Monday, February 29, 2016

ADDENDUM TO THAT SUCKY POST

OK.  Yes, my post yesterday was a bummer.  I am tempted to take it down.  But not gonna cuz I still think connections get made when we tell the truth.  And that was/is my truth.

But today, things are looking up!  I went to my doctor appointment this afternoon, an Internist I've never met who is relatively new to the clinic I go to.  Mentioning this upcoming appointment to some friends over breakfast last Friday we traded stories about how we of a certain age have begun to feel ignored and dismissed, with providers spending the minimum time with us, on things only marginaly related to our actual ailments (that social welfare checklist and to resuscitate or not) and often rudely at that.  I decided, "Nope!  Not gonna happen again!"

I sat down early this morning and wrote a three page letter to this new doctor introducing myself, my expectations of our health care partnership, listing the things I wanted to address at our appointment and my preferences around health care philosophy.  I was clear, concise, assertive, friendly, funny.  I hand-delivered it 3 hours prior to my appointment with only about a 10% expectation that she'd get it and read it before I was sitting in the exam room.

Turns out she got it AND read it AND genuinely appreciated it!  We were able to zero in quickly on both my physical and mental health issues and create TOGETHER a plan that has me jazzed and hopeful!

My physical issues are real, not emergent, and most importantly not my fault.  I have hereditary factors that are causing some cardiovascular risk factors to creep up with age and I have agreed to a medication that will help mitigate these.  My mental health issues are real and not my fault -- again heredity plays a role when we sat and reviewed family history, going back a couple of generations.  I am not going on meds, but will seek a therapist who specializes in Mindfulness Cognitive Therapies for anxiety and depression.  There is a plan!  Yay!   Feeling hopeful.

Other observations:  Apparently is it no longer necessary for a doctor to actually touch one's body.  At my last two doctor visits I did not disrobe.  My doctors did not touch me or look at my naked body or even pay much attention to listening to my heart.  Blood pressure and pulse, that's it.  Alive and upright?  She's fine!

This is surprising to me, but good news in one way.  I sort of dress up to go to the doctor -- a throwback to a different age, apparently, as I looked around the waiting room at the sweat pants, dirty jeans, team jerseys, and scuffed, dirty, weird footwear.  I take a shower, do my hair, smear on some make-up and put on nice clothes.  This has often felt like a wasted effort since in the olden days the first thing we were asked to do was to don a gown.  But today, my doc and I got to discuss fashion and my cute jacket.  It was sort of a "Hey, girlfriend!  Lookin' good!  How ya feelin'?" exam.

Whatever....I feel better.   And this whole therapy thing is likely to be great blog fodder!

At least, that's the view from here... ©



Sunday, February 28, 2016

IT ALL SUCKS

I don't have any patience today for being politically correct or writing to a specific sensibility or coming up with a lesson or feel-good ending to this post.   I'd just like to rant for a moment....

DEPRESSION AND ANXIETY SUCK!!!  I can't remember a day in the past 6 weeks that I haven't felt miserable for at least part of the day; haven't cried and hated myself; felt frightened and panicked.     It's all so familiar:  I've had anxiety and episodic depression since I was about 4 years old.  These Twin Demons are old enemies who bully and torment me periodically.  It's such a relief when they leave for their Underworld Retreat (likely resting up for the next assault).  But back they come, often out of the blue for no goddamn good reason at all, even though every single goddamn time I try to figure out "why?"

Now don't get yourself all caught up at this point and start recommending I "see somebody".   I've seen many somebodies over the years; have popped the pills and worked my ass off through debilitating withdrawal to get off the pills; have sat in support groups; amassed a huge arsenal of weapons to help ward off the worst of the attacks, but this one has sent me reeling.   Hub is my rock and my support, but even he may be tiring of the whine and tears at this point.  I know I'm sick of me.

So, where did this come from?  Here are the "whys" that are up for me this time:  Seven months ago I lost a community that was central to my life; a community I had devoted my time, talent, and treasure to for many years, with a vision that sustained and motivated me to work my ass off.  It all came tumbling down in a hurtful and ugly way and I left.   I'm not a quitter -- don't think I've ever quit anything before that I'd made a commitment to -- but swimming in a toxic river just cuz I know how to swim doesn't make the water cleaner.  It just pulls me into a dangerous eddy where either I have to fight my way out to survive or surrender to the never-ending swirl of sameness.  Nope. Not gonna do that.  Some think those who left this community have "taken the easy way out".   That opinion couldn't be further off the mark or more hurtful, given the pain some of us have felt over this whole debacle.   I wish them well and actually those there seem to be happy and content; apparently things are as they want them to be.  I just can't be one of them.

Simultaneously, my brother endured a seven month relapse and ugly decline due to cancer.  He died a little over a month ago.   I am the only living member of my original family and I am sad and scared as I look in the mirror and see the wrinkles, the sags, the gray hairs.   Every twitch and twinge gets self-diagnosed as cancer or a heart attack (the killers in my family), and every forgotten name is evidence of dementia (another scourge I watched my dear, strong, capable, rock of a mother succumb to).   The list of feared ailments grows by the minute.  And there is always in the back of my mind those episodes of unexplained fainting I had a few years ago.  If they couldn't tell me why and fix it, I know only too well it could happen again as it did then out of the blue.  What if...I'm home alone with my grandbaby?  Driving my car?  Walking down a flight of stairs?  Oh, I can "what if" myself into oblivion, but my greatest fear is that some harm would come to my little Jewel while she is in my care.  I almost can't breathe just thinking of it.

So, what to do?  I've got a doctor appt tomorrow and will likely be referred to Behavioral Health where I will sit and yammer on to a therapist who will want to put me on meds again and I will refuse and then s/he will be frustrated at my lack of "compliance".  Screw that.  I've also been Googling "mindfulness meditation" classes in the area, believing that form of meditation to be best suited to this malaise.  I just need more direction and training and a firm commitment to "just do it".   I'm motivated and found one class about 6 blocks from my house.  Never knew that.  Thank you, Jesus.  (Or was it Buddha?)  Will keep up the Yoga and treadmill commitments, take a week off from Granny Nannying to get a bit of a break from that responsibility, spend time with my supportive, funny, compassionate friends who remind me who I am when I forget.  I will try to be gentle and compassionate with myself, but really a hallmark of the disease is a marked lack of self-compassion.

This is all so ugly to admit. A goal I always set for myself when the Twin Demons aim to beat the crap out of me (so I don't devolve into a bedridden bundle of angst and soggy tissues) is to do "one brave and courageous" thing a week.  This week it's to hit "publish" on this post.   I guess by revealing this struggle I hope to demonstrate commonality with someone out there who might feel better in their own battle with the bullies, knowing they at least are not so alone in the shit-storm.   If the Twin Demons haunt you too, you know how all-consuming and crazy-making it feels and how much you hate it.   Yep, this sucks.

Now, wasn't that fun?  Oh gosh...Don't worry!  Be happy!

At least, that's the view from here... ©

Sunday, February 21, 2016

IT WAS INEVITABLE -- POLITICS 2016

I've been steering clear of political discussions this election season.   So contentious!  And demoralizing!  But it was inevitable that at some point I'd start to write about it.  (Stop Reading Now if You Are a Conservative Republican...you won't like this post.)

I'm not going to deconstruct what has happened with the parties and their standard-bearers so far.  I'm actually not all that well-informed about the minutia, as I may have been in past Presidential election years.   I've been watching mostly from the sidelines, reading the occasional article, catching most of the the so-called "debates" and Town Hall Meetings, and seeing the ubiquitous partisan Facebook posts.  I do believe I have the main talking points for each candidate down.

God knows I won't be supporting any of the Republican candidates who I find to be mostly terrifying and diametrically opposed to all I hold dear.  Our values do not align.  At all.  Plus, what can one say about The Donald?  His seemingly successful candidacy as the R frontrunner is such a demoralizing degradation of our political system that I fear for the health of the Republic.  (See?  I told you you wouldn't like this.)

That leaves me with either "Feel the Bern" or "Hill Yes!" which, in turn, leaves me in an unfamiliar and rather squirmy position.  I have never been a true-blue Hillary gal.  Like many, I often have found her to be too politically cautious, too politically expedient.  I parted company with my feminist cadre of friends in 2008 and jumped early and completely into the Obama camp and never looked back.  If he could run again, my response would be the same.  But he can't, so here we are.

Bernie is the Progressive darling of the political left and according to many of my friends, the Second Coming of the Christ, he is so pure of spirit and intention.  Never mind that he hasn't even been a Democrat until relatively recently, having been mostly a local boy done good as an Independent from a chilly and homogeneous Northeastern state which prides itself on irascibility.  The thing is, his "revolution" talk has caught fire  with the "kids" and idealistic left-leaners of all ages.  Plus, he does seem to display a consistency of values and has "walking the talk" to his credit.  I like that.  A lot.

And yet....I don't know how this will play out nationally when push comes to shove in Ohio and Pennsylvania and Michigan and the like.  I'm a Midwest girl from a conservative mostly rural area of northern Illinois.  I KNOW those folks.  They are mostly Republicans or moderate Democrats.  Bernie is not Moderate.  I just don't believe his Progressive momentum will carry the day in areas where people are more than a little skeptical of his list of Liberal bonafides.  Moderate Dems will lean right, not left.

What I like is that his candidacy has pushed Hillary to the left a bit.  She has had to ditch her knee-jerk caution and come out with some positions she might have considered too risky without his nudge.  Is she just being politically savvy?  I don't think so.  I think she says what she believes and not all of it is popular with either side of the Left/Right divide.  Do I agree with everything she says?  No.  But, I'm with Hillary this time.

Unfortunately, being with Hillary puts me on the outs with people I love, many, if not most of whom, are completely enamored with Bernie and truly believe he is the inspired leader of the Uprising of the People.  I believe he has said some very important things and has pointed out some very ingrained problems and hypocracies.  I just don't think shouting about it and being able to fix it are the same thing.  What we will all need to do is clean house in Congress to really get anything to change.  How many Bernie or Hillary supporters are willing to work their butts off for down-ticket races that will put new faces in the Capital building?  Remains to be seen.

Hillary is pragmatic and that's where she and I align.  I am a realist when it comes to the glacial pace of change.  And I have learned in my own life that the person in leadership can't do anything unless those further down the pecking order are with him/her.  One can hold a vision all day long of how things "should" be.  How they are, however, takes a cool-headed pragmatist to admit and then start to chip away at what can be changed little by little over over a long, long time.   Compromises must be made -- not always palatable and not always successfully -- to move the behemoth that is our government forward.

Am I being a pessimist or a realist?  Have I lost my youthful enthusiasms for movements?  Have I become a cynical and jaundiced old fart?  Well, I don't know.  I'm just trusting my gut on this one and I will be happy to be proved wrong if Bernie gets the nomination and wins the Presidency.  I just doubt that will happen.

The other thing I have to admit, but by no means is this the reason I support her -- it's just a happy add-on -- is that Hillary, in spite of having to play like the boys in a good old boys sport, is a woman.  I don't have that many election cycles left to see a woman president.  I'd like to see one -- one from my party.  And I do admit my feminist ire has been raised by the double standard that she is up against.  I admire her gumption to just keep fighting her way to holding an office that is so masculine-centric that for some people the very thought of a woman in the Oval is anathema to Americana.  Sheesh!  Get over it!

I'm watching a lecture series on the 2016 election that is available online presented by the Chair of the Communications Department of the University of Washington.  http://www.washington.edu/alumni/election16/    His last installment was a discussion of Politics and Gender and he outlines very clearly that candidates in presidential campaigns are in the business of emasculating their opponents.   Hillary has a double whammy, since she starts out with those scary girl-parts already and must prove her "masculine mettle" while still demonstrating her feminine side which should be at all times compassionate and comforting and sort of nice (and not shrill -- girls can't yell and flail their arms around like boys can.)  That she should have to walk that tightrope at all just makes me hopping mad.

Well, I'll stop now because I can imagine I might write more political posts between now and November.  So, like I say, if you don't like the Dems, I know you won't like my politics.  But I hope you might still like me.  I'm really nice; I don't yell.

At least, that's the view from here....©



Sunday, February 14, 2016

WHAT IS ROMANTIC LOVE?

It’s Valentine’s Day.  So, I will now define romantic love!

How about Love is a Drug?

  • More than a metaphor, being in love really does cause a drug-induced euphoria when  “love crazed” endorphins  flood the brain with a “feel good” rush.   But we eventually suffer a rebound effect when the drug wears off and to quote from a Jackson Browne song: “your perfect lover just looks like a perfect fool”.
Or do we go with the Soul-Mate idea?
  • One perfect love in one perfect universe and how amazing to have found each other!  Really?  I’m a little too cynical for that concept.
Or we could examine the Psychological Shadow.
  • The need to “marry our mother or father” so we can continue to heal the psychic wounds of childhood…unbeknownst to each other, of course. 
Or could love be a connection to our Best Friend?
  • Someone who knows us better than we know ourselves and always has our back, until they don’t…
As for me, All of the Above.


I fell into infatuation at 17 with the high school quarterback, star pitcher, straight-A student, and all around cool guy.  I wore his class ring and told my girlfriends this was a wonderful insurance policy because he would at least have to see me one more time to get his ring back if he ever decided to break up with me.   Thus began (in my pre-feminist years) our first lifetime together.

We eventually married, that boy and I.  And before long I resented his seeming perfection, his perceived judgments, his ability to ignore my very considerable need to be reassured almost constantly of my desirability and worth.  For goodness sakes, he was acting just like my mother!!!

So we entered the rough seas of our second lifetime together… joined in a perfect storm of immaturity, curiosity, exploration, a year-long separation,  and the general craziness of the 1970’s….most of which I remember through a fog…but I know it was a time of great turmoil, some regret, and in retrospect, gratitude. 

Once that craziness was past, I was relieved when I realized we’d weathered the storms of societal and psychological upheavals and were still standing.  Side by side.  Soul Mates!   I was so glad the hard part was over! (HA!)

Then along came a baby.  Then another.  He had a demanding career. I was a stay at home mom trying to figure out what my identity was.  We had a big house and a big mortgage.  

We made commitments to committees… saving the world from nuclear holocaust, reforming the education system, electing a slew of Democrats. 

We moved through a spiritual quest that took us from Lutheranism, to Congregationalism, to Unitarian Universalism with side trips to several other isms.  

We discovered a form of personal growth work that led us to involvement in men’s and women’s circles that may have saved our marriage and our lives… and which took a lot of our time and energy.

I found a career, we faced the challenges of teenagers, and cared for aging parents.  

Thus, our third lifetime together was a blur of years that caught us up in a cyclonic swirl of busyness, exhaustion, joy, grief, and the nearly non-stop seeking of some sort of peace.  

Did we remain Soul Mates through all of this?  What is a Soul Mate anyway?  At times we barely saw each other!

And then there is now (note: circa 2010) -- a transition time. Children grown and almost launched, careers mostly behind us, downsizing the big house on the horizon…we even went to the RV show the other day.  We are discovering who we are all over again.

And what about love?   I’ve learned that the magic of “love” is no easy parlor trick.  Love is listening, supporting, forgiving, paying attention, and just being there.  It is being open to change, setting aside defensiveness and ego, talking until understanding dawns, and never losing sight of the other as a person of value, worth, and dignity.

So today I reflect on the daily mutual commitment that has resulted in the many lifetimes I share with my partner…

…filled with gratitude for the infatuation that brought us together, for the psychological growth that helped us know who are, separately and together,  for the best friend who reminds me who I am when I lose my way,  and for the soul who has joined with mine on this particular path in this particular life.


At least that's the view from here....

(This essay was presented at a 2010 Valentine's Day Service at the church I used to attend regularly.  I was asked on occasion to write and present a "personal testimonial" on the topic of the day.   This one still rings true, although six years further down the line we find ourselves savoring with even greater gratitude our 43 years and counting marriage, more committed to family and close friends over anything else, and completely in love with our granddaughters, who have come along since then, in a way neither of us would have predicted.  And so it goes....)

Sunday, February 7, 2016

BABIES AND BELTS: BOTH CHALLENGING

I've been up nearly all night.  Long story, but the gist of it is an almost one-year-old little girl having a sleepover at Grandma and Grandpa's house, but being fairly unaware of the part about "sleeping".

She went to bed at 9:00, got up at 12:45, refused to settle back down in spite of me pulling out all the stops with all the tricks I know about how to soothe babies in the middle of the night (dry diaper, warm bottle, rocking, walking, singing, allowing a bit of fussing -- but not so much as to wake her sister!, more walking, more swaying, not interacting, finding darkest corners of the house to reduce stimuli...)  All to no avail: she was ready to party!

So at 2:00 I gave up and carried her downstairs to the TV room, where I could close the door, and allowed her to toddle around, jabber away, and give the remotes a good going over while I sat dazed and exhausted, not daring to actually turn the TV on and stimulate her further!  I noticed a few yawns at about 3:30 and she finally lay on the floor and feel asleep.  At that point I decided to let sleeping babies lie.

So, I tried to find comfort lying down on the love seat, but mostly kept focusing on my sore kinked neck and cramped legs and the tick, tick, tick of the clock on the wall.  So here I sit with baby at my feet,  wondering when her 6-year-old sister will be up and ready for those promised blueberry pancakes.  Soon, no doubt.

Which brings me to ruminating about my waistline.  Of course I've been scrolling through late night posts on Facebook and happened upon a sponsored ad from a local women's clothing store.  Here's what I saw:

Breathe Life into Your Wardrobe with a Fabulous Belt


I thought about my wardrobe, consisting almost exclusively of yoga pants and hoodies these days, when Granny Nanny care takes up 30 hours a week, my yoga classes about 3-9 hours a week, then  writing, housework, errands, and coffee with friends thrown in.  In the evenings Hub and I relax in what we jokingly call our "nursing home clothes" -- basically "jammie pants" and fleece pullovers.  Since I quit working and going to church, I see that my wardrobe has taken a turn to the ultra-casual.  No need for a belt.

But even when I used to actually get dressed, belts were never my friend.  For one thing, take a look at the waistline in the graphic above.  I've never, ever had that waistline.  Even in my 20s when I weighed about 120 pounds, I carried any excess weight right about where that belt sits.  And now, at 65 and fighting to nudge the scale below 140, one side profile look in the mirror shows EXACTLY where those extra pounds have settled.  Right at the buckle.  Trying to reign that mess in just accentuates my "problem area".  

A belt may breathe life into some skinny lady's wardrobe, but as for me, I just want to breathe.  

And sleep.

At least, that's the view from here...©