Friday, February 21, 2020

Been a While

It's been a hot mo' since I've put anything down in writing, an even longer mo' since I pushed anything out into the blogosphere...........

Lots of reasons.

Most of them ridiculous.

But...

Back in November I reached the implosion limit for life constriction and finally said I was ready for knee replacement.  I had all my ducks in a row, had the finances in shape, had a new trainee to take care of some of my work, all good to go.  Or so I thought.

The orthopedic surgeon who has been treating me for the past 3 year.  The same person who told me 3 years ago both knees would need replaced.  The same one who told me to wait until "I couldn't stand the pain any more before scheduling surgery."  Yes that one.  Looked me square in the eye and turned off the mechanism that keeps the world spinning when he said -

"Oh, we can't do surgery on you because you weigh too much."

It all went dark and spun apart in fantastic fashion.

Turns out neither the hospital, nor my insurance will cover surgery until I reduce my weight by 100 pounds.  That number felt/feels insurmountable.  The Everest of weight loss.

My hope was gone.
My pain was unbearable.
My life so tiny it felt it might disappear at any moment.

And I was OK with that thought.
Of not being here anymore.

I took a break from life.  Stopped focusing on anything outside myself.  Anything that felt it drained even one joule of energy from me.  Just focused on practicing hygge - a Danish word for coziness. I didn't think about weight, or food, or writing, or family, or science, or the darkness of winter, or the holidays, or much of anything really.  It felt good.

To take my mind off the pain I started making socks again.  The pile is getting so large I had to start giving them away.

In January, I was finally allowed my thoughts to move in problem solving mode.  And I concluded that the task was beyond one person.  I asked my therapist of 3 years to help.  And I scheduled an appointment with the local medical weight loss doc.

And it has been mostly easy (or as easy as this can ever be).  I am down about 35 pounds since that shittastic day in November when the lights went out.

And I am quite content with that.

Monday, March 25, 2019

Monday FW

This weekend I went to visit with my mom.  At this point I go every other weekend minimum. Yes, there is some residual guilt around that, but mostly that feels like how we patterned our lives before Alzheimers.  My mom would not want me to trade my entire life for her - and frankly I would not survive that either. 

At the start, I spent every other day with her for 10-12 hours all while working full time.  I used 7 weeks of vacation one day at a time.  After we moved her to Memory Care, I spent Wednesday evenings with her and all day Saturday.  We played cards, I did her nails, we went to dinner in the dining room.  I dropped Wednesday night and started back up at Women Writing on that night.  And about the time she moved to skilled care nursing, I started with every other week. 

These past years were hard.  But I am so glad to have done that while it still mattered.  Now it mostly matters to me.  I don't think she knows who I am anymore.  And if I get up, walk away and come back, it's like she's seeing me for the first time.  I have had to get OK with all these changes, because the alternative is to quit on her.  Too many people have done that to her....her priest, her friends, her children.  I lost friends who were absolute in their conviction I was making the wrong choice.  Well, not friends really I guess, because real friends would get it. 

My revelation from this weekend was this:  I have made a lot of mistake in my life - things I regret, things I imagine and re-imagine until it's just so.  There aren't as many things I'm sure I have gotten right in my life - or any.  But this - this is one I am sure of. 

I will not abandon her. 

It's not duty.

Or some deathbed promise I made to my dad.

It's because I love her.

And this is what love looks like. 

Monday, March 18, 2019

30 posts in 30 days

I have let myself fall out of the habit of writing over the past year.  Work has gotten busier, my favorite place to hypercaffeinate and write - the one with the perfect ass to table ratio - closed and I have yet to find a suitable substitute.  Yeah - sounds like excuses to me too.

The same ones I make about losing weight, about cleaning the house, about not  laying down for a 3 hour "nap."  Something is deeply off kilter in my head again.  I'm constantly bitchy and tired and work seems to occupy an ever increasing amount of my time and energy.  WTF!?!???  I mean WTF!!!!

I like work.  I know how to operate there.  But honestly, it isn't worth every ounce of energy I have.  And things at work don't need to be constantly double and triple stacked so every minute of every day and more are busy.

The real question is why?  Why have I allowed it to get this way?  Used to be mom took up more space, but that hasn't been so for over a year.  I just never did anything in the time I reaquired.  No I take that back,  I slept.  Long glorious fit free sleep that my body needed.  And never one to do things in half measures, sleep became a thing of its own.

Because it's the time of year when I make room for what's coming and plan in so much as I ever do, I am working toward the following:

To move out of the apt, out of Ft. Thomas and into a house?  Part of me is a hell yes on this.  Part is still um  FUCK no!  I am afraid that moments after I move I will retire and now be stuck in a house with a 30 year mortgage and no equity.

Monday, September 11, 2017

Mean Girls Are Never Pretty

Mom's sojourn in Memory Care ended when she could no longer stand and became what they term a 2-assist.  She transitioned to Skilled Care much more easily than I thought she would.  I was the one who struggled.  Mostly because I had never bothered to visit that part of the facility.  It is really beautiful and there is a covered patio and some outdoor sighing space.  It's not quite the MC garden, but it will do.

Yesterday was beautiful warm with cool breezes that whispered of fall.  In the sun it was glorious and I finally coaxed mom out onto the patio and into the sun where she promptly fell asleep.  I sat with her eyes closed, holding her hand there in the sun.  It was an amazing day I will remember a long time.  Two residents sitting behind me were engaged in a very loud conversation.  They were criticizing the facility, the staff, and the other residents.  I tried to tune them out.  But they started talking smack about my mama's friend and fellow AD resident Mary C whose condition has deteriorated considerably.  I tried harder to tune them out, but they just kept talking louder.

Soon they had worked their way through all the people in the facility and started talking about my mom who is sitting just a few feet away.  They are saying really snarky things and I want to bitch slap them both into next month.  I curb that, but I take mom inside.  I don't know what she can take in or remember, but she (and I) shouldn't have to sit and listen to this kind of awful talk.  I really want to go back out and try to explain to these women how mean they are, how grateful they should be to still have their mental capacity, how as Christian women they are instructed not to judge.

When mom was in MC, there were people who would pop off with all sorts of comments.  But you forgave them because they were dementia patients and not really in good control of their filters.  I learned to laugh at Harry when he called me fat and just say "Yup."  It was like hearing someone's internal dialogue and it was most interesting.  It had been a long time since I had to deal with someone deliberately cruel - like these two old biddies.

Unlike the residents of MC, these two were in full control of their minds and their mouths.  And THIS was how they chose to pass their day?  Not comforting another resident or reading or just enjoying the weather, but criticizing the shit out of their entire world.  When I got home, I was stewing about it, knew there would be a blog post to vent it out.

In the whole process of my mama's decline my mantra has become PLEASENOTMEPLEASENOTMEPLEASENOTME.  I chant it near constantly whenever my thoughts turn to Alzheimer's and the genetic possibility of it in my own future.  Yesterday was the first day I looked at it a bit more kindly as I shifted the mantra to ANYTHINGBUTTHAT.  I do not want to be like these old women - even if it means I have to deal with Alzheimers.

THAT was an interesting place to find myself.  No longer resisting it, but understanding there are worse ways to be in the world than old and forgetful, there is deliberately cruel and hateful.  I choose the former.

Sunday, September 10, 2017

Hidden Figure

Last night I watched Hidden Figures and today I stood for a moment looking at the moon in the morning sky, remember someone stood there.

We all know the story of John Glenn and Neil Armstrong.  How glad I am someone dug a little deeper to find and tell this gem of a story.  It resonated for me on every level.  As a woman in science there is still residual sexist overlay, still racial overlays as well.  Although I do not experience the latter.  The courage of the women in the movie inspired me, inspires me.  And it gives me hope.

I may be a hidden figure, but what I do matters.  The success of all those PhD's is not possible without technical staff.  We work ridiculous hours.  We receive mediocre compensation.  We receive no glory.  Why are we here?  I can only answer for myself.

Because this is where my passion lies.

Saturday, December 17, 2016

Journey Dream 12.17.16


 I am walking on the beach.  The tide is out and the beach is a flat shelf.  The sun is shining, the sky cobalt.  Trailing along with me is a small apricot colored cocker spaniel puppy.  I am carrying an old fashioned lantern made of sea glass and rose gold in one hand and a piece of Himalayan salt in the other.  It’s midday and the ocean is full of salt, so I’m not sure why I need either.  But they feel good in my hands. 

The pup and I sit to take a rest.  I put the chunk of salt and the lantern on the beach at my feet.  A man walks by and say, “What a fabulous idea.”  He begins walking down the beach and driving in rose gold hooked poles and small rose gold pedestals.  They extend to the horizon in organic clumps.  He walks back toward me and encourages me to get a move on, “it has to be completed by sundown.”

I stand up, dust the sand off my butt.  The dog looks up at me quizzically.  I shrug and say, “You know as much as I do, Shorty.”  But I go down the beach with the man where we begin hanging rose-colored lanterns on the poles and setting bodacious chunks of Himalayan salt onto the pedestals.  The ones I have been carrying are the last to be installed.  “Hurry.  Hurry.  It’s almost time,” he says as he places my items. 

We turn together, the man, the pup and me just in time to see the sun fall out of the sky and night come.  “Wait for it,” he tells me.  And just as the sky loses all of its day, the lanterns light up and the salt crystals begin to hum.  I am transported. 


We walk back in the glow of the lanterns.  “Such a great idea you had,” he tells me.  “Next time think bigger,” he says and walks off. 

Sunday, November 27, 2016

Lineage #1

"Here are the bits where I am broken," she says and shoves a shoe box into my stomach.

I see what she means.  Inside are bitty bits and pieces.   I poke through them with a finger - delft bone china handle to something, torn sari scraps red-gold and fraying, bits of beach glass, shooter marbles, a Barbie shoe, a strangely shaped acorn, a triangular pebble, puzzle pieces and a red Sorry game marker.

"Can you fix me?"

I shake my head and shove the box back into her hands.  Her box of broken scares me.

********************

I pull out the Sorry man, "Tell me about this."

"Is that a Sorry game piece?"

"You tell me.  It's your box of broken."

"What the fuck is a Sorry man doing in there?"

I say nothing.  I uncross and recross my legs.  I can't put the words in her mouth.  I know eventually she will begin.

"I used to love that game, yunno?"

I nod.  "What did you love about it?"

"I loved being able to slam someone else's man back into start just as they were about to make it home."

"Hmmmmm," is all I say.  We sit in the long silence that follows before I goose her again.  "Why do you think there is a Sorry man in your broken box?"

She sighs and blows the hair up out of her eyes.  For the first time since we began, I can see into them.  They are a warm honey brown, but they are so distant, so closed off.

"My family was always fighting.  Even when they weren't, they were.  People were always fighting.  Fighting to be seen.  Fighting to be heard.  Fighting to be loved.  Until fighting became a thing, became the only thing."  She stops and tears into an already shredded cuticle before continuing.  "I don't like fighting and I could never get them to stop."

"How did you deal with that?"

She shrugs, "I learned early on that I could make it stops sometimes if I apologized, said I was sorry."  She grabs the Sorry man from the box and flings him across the room.  "I spent my whole life apologizing.  I apologized for everything.  I apologized to boyfriends when they broke up with me for not being a better girlfriend.  I apologized to my mother for not being perfect, for not being pretty, for not being born a boy, for fucking being born at all.  I apologized at work for not working around the clock to get funding.  I apologized for every hurt - real and imagined.  I even apologized for being silent.  Can you imagine?  My whole life has been a big fucking apology."

"Have your apologies changed any of those things?  Did a boyfriend decide to stay?  Did you mother love you more?  Did you keep your job?"

"No."  She thinks for a while.  "The words are just that.  Empty words said to make it stop."

"To make what stop?"

"The feeling of losing everything."

"You aren't going to save anything with empty apologies."

"Then why can't I stop apologizing for the world?"

"It's a habit.  Like biting your nails."

She jerks her fingers from her mouth where she has been worrying the nail and hides them under her leg.

"You have to exercise it, like a muscle."

She looks at me crookedly.  "One of my friends just told me the same thing."

"That is a wise friend," I say.  "And this," I hand her back the game piece, "is just a Sorry man."

Thursday, November 24, 2016

Thanksgiving 2016

It's Thanksgiving.  I'm at work.  My choice.  It will be a short day and I will go home to lounge in my penguin pants, watch movies and eat chicken risotto.  I will not eat turkey or watch football or fall asleep on the couch (OK maybe I will do that).  I most certainly will not be spending it with my family.

It isn't that I don't have anywhere to go.  I had at least five stellar offers from people I adore.

I turned them all down.

 If you are one of the kind people who invited me to join you.  Big thanks.

I used to do the BIG family Thanksgiving.  For 50+ years I did that because it was what was expected.  I endured conversations (term used loosely as no one really listened) at decibel levels equivalent to a Boeing 747 taxiing down the runway.  I endured political diatribes against everything I believe in and hold most dear.  I endured judgment oozing from every dish on the table that felt like poison in my mouth.  I endured pity for my eternally single life.  Mostly I endured sitting at the same table as my abuser and pretending we were one happy family.

I endured - until I couldn't.

Those were a mockery of Thanksgiving.  I was not grateful for a single one.  And every time I had to say what I WAS grateful for - I lied.  There was NOTHING to be thankful for in any part of this day from hell.  (I will make an exception for the invention of the broccoli-pault which was sheer genius).

In truth, I am so scarred up by those past 50 or so Thanksgivings, it's better for me to look at it as just another day.  Less crap gets stirred up.

Some year I may go back to celebrating with friends, but for now I choose to celebrate alone.  I celebrate me.  I celebrate all the things I have to be grateful for.  Including the bad grammar of the previous sentence.  I will be as happy as a hog in slops padding around in my slippers all by myself.  It will be the perfect Thanksgiving.  And it will work its magic to make me hate this day a little less.

Everyone's Thanksgiving should be what they need it to be.  I am finally making mine what suits me best.  I hope yours does likewise.



Tuesday, November 15, 2016

Trippin' with Shel

This is a journey from back in August.  Shel is one of my writing peeps.
It takes some time.  More than usual.  I am out of practice, out of breath, too much about breath. 

Shel meets me.  We are climbing up a granite face using ancient hand and foot holds carved into the vertical face.  I lean into the mountain.  Cool stone beneath my cheek.  Breathing.  Shel urges me on.  I am not afraid.  As we approach the summit, a curving set of narrow stairs winds around the peak.  At the summit, we stand hand-in-hand.

“So.  What’s up?” I ask.

Shel says nothing.

“What am I supposed to see?”

Nothing.

“Why did you drag me up here?”

“Is it not enough that it’s beautiful?”

He’s right.  It is beautiful.  Rolling emerald hills unfurl below us alternately lit and shadowed as the sun ducks behind scudding clouds.  Still I am restless, fidgety.

Shel sighs.  “We are here to call back the pieces you have lost.”

Now it’s my turn to sigh.  Finally, I think. 

“Where do you think they might be?” he asks.

“At work,” I answer. 

He nods, reaches out as a barn owl swoops in and lands on his hand.  He turns and presses the owl into my chest.  There is discomfort as though wings flapped about in the cage of my ribs, but this feeling settles as things shift inside me to make room. 

“Where else?”

“My mom.”

He gestures again and a pelican glides in to his hand and then into my chest.  I name other people, other events other places where I have lost myself, let my energy go.  One by one the pieces wing back to me in bird form.  At some point Shel stops receiving them.  Instead they fly directly into my chest, into my heart.  Each one lands and rocks me back on my heels, threatens to tumble me off the mountain. 

I am not frightened.  Shel is always there to catch me if I fall. 

After the last arrives, I turn toward Shel and ask, “Where are they?  I know there are more.”

“That is enough for today,” he states. 


We stand hand-in-hand once more.  He’s right.  It is beautiful.  And it is enough. 

Monday, October 31, 2016

Crone

I have been taking an online class.  One of the exercises has been to cruise Pinterest or some other visual heavy website and lift out images that deeply resonate for us.  So, I have been doing that as prescribed.

As usual with Pinterest, I fell down a rabbit hole this morning looking for images of strong women - especially strong large sized ones.  I never did stumble across that.  What I did get lost in was the sea of portraits of old women.  I find them spell-binding and incredibly beautiful.  Every line, every wrinkle a story of where she has been and what she has done.  I fell in love over and over and over.  I'm not talking about the former models or super pampered Westerners with their long silver-white hair and unlined faces.  I'm talking about women who have lived and scrounged and had a life - a life that shows in their faces.

My mom's face now looks like these and I wondered if this affinity is because they remind me of her or has it been around a long time.  I can distinctly remember loving my grandmother and her sister's faces.  I can remember fingers tracing photos of really amazing older women in Nat Geo.  Seems, I have always found them beautiful.

So, I toddle off to look at photos of younger women, of moms, of young girls.  They are beautiful, too but in a different way that doesn't sing to me.  The are beautiful the way an empty page is beautiful, or unbroken snow.  Everyone finds beauty there.  Anyone can be beautiful, is beautiful, at that stage of their life.  But, once the story is writ upon the page, how many still find beauty?  How many will write a sonnet about slush?  about wrinkles?

I am not interested in the part of a woman's life between childhood and retirement.  I am specifically drawn to women in their cronehood.  I am and always have been a crone.  The same way some people will never grow up and mature beyond childhood.  Maybe I was a child once, but I have been a crone so long, I can't remember.

Thursday, October 27, 2016

FW 10.27.16

DI

Yesterday, I took the ferry from DI to Fort Morgan/Gulf Shores.  It takes about 30 minutes to cross the mouth of Mobile Bay here at it's narrowest.  Somehow my Midwestern head struggles to reconcile the size of the Bay on a map versus the oceanic-like reality I experienced.

During my trip, I finished the last of Stephen King's Mr Mercedes on audio book.  I passed by Lulu's and the Florabama and my Buffet loving heart was happy.  (Hey, don't judge).  I scored a new state in my letterboxing quest - FL.  I drove through Orange Beach, Perdido Key, and Gulf Shores - a swirly carnival feeling series of towns that reminded me of spring break in Daytona, and not in a good way.  The energy of these places was awful and I wanted to scurry back to my tiny island where none of this exists.  But I stuck it out and scored my box.  WHEW!

What I really wanted to write about today was the ferry ride over.  I had a lot of misgivings about putting my car on a boat.  They are all irrational.  I wonder where they came from.  I loved this trip.  The steady wind whipped my hair into rollercoaster knots, my shirt flapped up revealing my fish-white belly or tattooed back.  It made me laugh.  One of the reasons I come to DI is I love wind.  It's been really calm (weirdly calm) the last few days, so having the wind spin around me like a flamenco dancer lit me up.  I don't know why I like wind.  I just do.

There are dolphins leaping and spinning OUT OF THE WATER.  I have seen them feed and ride the wake of a boat.  But I have never seen them do this.  Leap all the way out of the water and spin like a battle top.  I am a goner.  They seem so excited, so joyful.  And so am I.  I am having one of those transcendent moments where I feel one with my surroundings.  I BELONG out here on the water.  Not in it.  ON IT.  I am whole here.  How once I was the water.  How that was stolen from me.  And the joy is extinguished.  I am crying (Yes, on the public ferry).  How dare someone do that?  Now I am sad and furious.  Eventually the joy returns, but it is not the same for having been tainted by the anger-sorrow.  It is less pure.  It is more guarded, more afraid.  And I can see that the theft of joy has happened in my life over and over until I no longer recognize it.  I certainly don't expect it any more.  And in the rare case where the stars align and I am in it, I am terrified the joy will be taken away again.  Sometimes in that terror, I am the saboteur of my own loss.

This is the piece of my life that needs healing most, this separation from source, from who I was supposed to be.  There is still time to be her.  I want that more than anything.  I want to let go of old worn out fears, fears that have no meaning anymore.  I want to embrace the wind.  I want to be the dolphin.

Been a While

It's been a hot mo' since I've put anything down in writing, an even longer mo' since I pushed anything out into the blogosp...