aging · health · menopause

AARPing

9.23.18.jpgYesterday, I got the chance to continue reading the AARP magazine I’d liberated from my building’s mail slush pile.  One of the major articles was about menopause, and… it gave me pause.

I texted my mom to ask when she’d gone through “the change” (although I’d asked for details before, I can never remember), as it’s generally accepted that whatever your mom experienced, you can anticipate you’ll experience something similar.

She replied that she was 51.  I’m about to turn 37.  That’s 14 more years of ovarian churning; 24 years of their production line have passed.  That’s a lot of years!

And yet, it feels like such a short period (no pun intended!) between now and the anticipated change.

The article went on to report that a vast majority of doctors, even ob-gyns, have little experience or familiarity with how to help a woman going through this utterly predictable and common experience (51% of ALL earthlings!).  They report that most ob-gyns focus on in/fertility and delivery — where the big money is at.  There’s not yet much bank in “the change.”  The article further states that, while the overall cause is the same, women’s experience and symptoms vary wildly so there’s no “one size fits all.”  There’s more of a need to listen, interpret, and adjust one’s approach, which is also not something many doctors like to wade through.

It’s fascinating to me.  There is a gargantuan industry for media and products aimed at anti-aging: the serums I buy for my face, the water I drink for my organs, the sleep I attempt to get for my brain function, and the workouts I try to maintain for my bones.  And yet, I haven’t once read an article aimed toward someone like me looking for ways to improve my experience of menopause, even from this long a landing approach.

What was news to me was the fact that around 30 years old, muscle-loss comes into play, and at about 35 or so, we begin to lose .5 a pound of muscle mass per year, and that can increase to a pound a year as we progress through this life-span thing.

My metabolism, I’ve noticed, began to slow down earlier this year, almost as if it had hit some kind blaring neon mile-marker (our bodies are brilliant time-pieces!).  My night-vision on the road has been on a decline for a few years, the brightness of headlights bothering me much more than it used to (no doubt partly in response to the new LEDs).

Plus, my body has never been one to maintain muscle mass without regular, near-daily (probably daily!) attention to weight-bearing exercise.

This aging thing is such a journey!

But I know, curious cat that I am, that the more I learn, the more prepared I’ll be and the more I can assist this vessel in its continuity, not its “decline.”

(Awed shout-out to my bad-ass, cancer-survivor sisters who’ve had to go through the change way earlier than ever expected.) ❤

 

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addiction · avoidance · health

Bridge and Tunnel

3.27.18

Game of Thrones has eaten my imagination.  You’re probably as tired of hearing about it as I am of reading it.  It’s 5,000 pages of binge.  Even a weekend spent devouring Stranger Things is a shorter time suck!

I bring it up because I notice that my blog post from yesterday was half-assed and scant, but it was also all I had.  I didn’t have much to reflect, relate, or realize because all of my brain cells have been consumed by dragons.

I listen to the audio-book on the way to work; I listen to it on the way home; I listen while I’m organizing my classroom and read the book between classes.  I read it at the breakfast table on weekends.  I read it for 3 hours on the couch every afternoon.

This means that there’s no room or time or breadth for any other thoughts.  Nothing of my own imagination or realization, no time to reflect on anything, no room to plan or make progress on anything… The series has eaten my life.

Before I began these obliviating books, I had a structure for my commute:  Listen to The Success Principles on Hoopla on my drive in and Anna Karenina on my way home.  (I’d tired of NPR, even delightful Kai Ryssdal, and music can be too noisy after a day of children.)

But Karenina grew burdensome and I was enjoying GoT, so I paid for the audiobook and began listening on the way home… then on the way in.  Then during my breaks, moments of pause, moments of zen… now unzenlike.

I reflect on this today because the new meditation challenge from Oprah and Deepak is about “Shedding the Weight,” about using food to drown our feelings or thoughts.  While I don’t generally suffer from overeating, I can assure you that having spent the previous month on the couch after work for 3 hours every day has done nothing for my level of physical energy or esteem around my body.  I am drowning in words.

Sometimes, it’s important for me to “dig to the bottom” of my self-harming behaviors, to really get to the root and suss out what’s going on.  I don’t think this is one of them.  Whether I’m using words to drown out feelings from my self-inquiry work, shame around delayed work-work (e.g. grading papers), mourning my relationship, discomfort from my living situation as my ex- still lives here, or simple avoidance of any number of projects I have in the pipeline…

It does not matter!  It is likely all of those, and a host of other sh*t.  But the point for me, the action, the antidote remains the same: Get back to my positive habits!  GET SOME NEW INPUT.

Listen to The Success Principles.  Use my commute home to start recording songs, as I’d promised my Goals Group.  Use my gym membership.  WALK in the afternoons now that it’s light out.  Listen to The Year of Yes.

Find more nourishing input.

GoT is fine; it is.  (It’s pretty brilliant world-building…and clearly engaging!)  But it’s also junk food for me.  I’ve been binging and drowning and crowding out all other awareness.  And it’s time to chain it up between the hours of 8pm and 830pm as I tuck into bed, like a normal, literate person.  (Please dear god amen.)

(Yes, I go to bed at 830; I wake up at 445 to do all this!);)

 

determination · fortitude · health · life · recovery · spirituality · surrender

Snookered.

See, the thing about being saved is that it’s not an
absolution.  You aren’t swept back from
the cliff’s edge and wrapped in a cosmic swaddling, rocked into unseeing bliss.  What you are is placed back firmly onto a
path.  A long one.  Back from the edge, back from the place of
giving up on the work of this lifetime, you are nudged—not so gently, but not
without compassion—onto a path that will require of you work for the rest of
your lifetime.
The cliff’s edge, the leap from it, the ultimate sacrifice
as it might be called is the choice to give up all the work that will ever be
asked of you.  It is to say, Forget it,
too hard, too much, there’s no help, no hope. 
To be placed back onto the path you had made some kind of decision—by
omission or commission—to leave means that you are now responsible to take up
the work you’d abandoned.  It is to look
up from your crumpled knees and see winding before you the path of your
lifetime, the work that will surely be needed to accomplish it, and the
knowledge that to be alive is to do that work.
To be alive is to agree. 
To be alive is to sign an agreement daily that you will, however
falteringly, place one foot before the other. 
To be alive is to agree that you yourself and your life are more
worthwhile than eliminating all the possibilities it holds, all the better and
all the worse. 

And so, pulled back from the edge, “saved” as it were, you
walk with a grim humor, knowing that somewhere you have chosen this.

career · clarity · exhaustion · fear · health · work

Numbers, Indignation, Holding Patterns: i.e. the Usual.

I have the delightful learned ability to read a health insurance coverage summary with a hawk’s eye. 
Post-cancer, I have become acutely aware of watch-words like “after deductible,” “co-insurance,” and particularly, “lab fees.”
Last week, I met with two of the 3 HR ladies I have worked with at the retail company I now work for. The first, Heidi, I met on the day I waltzed into the HR department with no plan and asked if they were hiring. I then had a wonderful impromptu interview and was subsequently hired. She’s great, personable, real. And someone with whom I can be honest. 
To finish up the health insurance thought, I met with another of the HR ladies last week to sign the “permanent hire” paperwork, and to get the particular HR documents I’ll need, and information on eventual benefits. 
I’d assumed, working for a large conglomerate corporation, that my health benefit coverage would be fantastic. More people = less $ from me, right? Wrong. 
This morning, I logged in to see what my options are, as I have to stay with the Kaiser health insurance, since that’s where all my cancer records and doctors are, plus it’s in walking distance of my house. 
I looked at the plan they offered. I saw many watch-words, including all those above. And then I brought out the plan that I’m currently under via COBRA through my old synagogue employer. 
My lord. What a better plan. 
As someone who needs to get lab tests done fairly regularly, I know that I now pay $10 for them to look and see if my blood is still blood, or if some of it has reverted to cancer. 
With the new plan I saw this morning, I’d have to meet a $4,000 deductible… and then I’ll still pay a 20% copay. Besides the hundred or so they’ll take out of my paycheck each month, just to have the plan. 
Now, this may all be boring to you. But, number-cruncher that I now am, COBRA costs me $400 a month = $4800 a year. 
So they’re kinda similar, now, ain’t they? 
How much is a lab test before deductible? I don’t know. A hundred, maybe? How ‘bout the other things I get checked through-out the year that the new plan says, “After deductible” next to. 
Knowing that the plan I currently have is a phenomenal one (having done the health exchange comparison, too), I asked the HR woman last week if they could do something about my pay if I keep my own health insurance. 
She’d never heard of such a thing. ??! 
It is common that if someone is covered by outside insurance, if the company is not paying for it, the employee can get a boost in salary, since the company would be paying insurance, but now can pay the employee instead. 
Again, she’d never heard of such a thing. And said, no, that would not be the case here. 
Enter the second HR conversation I had last week. It was post-holidays, post-working on New Year’s Day, and I was exhausted, upset, not happy. 
This retail, commission, fighting for customers with the other girls on the sales floor thing is not for me. 
I walked upstairs to see Heidi. I told her as much, in quite cushioned, complimentary, grateful words. 
And she said: I figured that wouldn’t be for you. 
But, we love you, you’re one of 2 of 70 employees kept on past the seasonal period. “Give me a week,” she said. 
Give me a week to think of another role for you here. We want to keep you, and let me think about where we can utilize you. I have some ideas already, but I have to check them out.
She knows me, sort of. She got one of those hand-made collage holiday cards. I’d gone in to talk to her previously about expectations for the sales positions, and how much hustle one has to do in that role in order to make a living. A living which would equal the paycheck I left at my non-profit desk job. 
She said last week that she could see I was someone who thought about the good of the whole, that one’s success is all’s success, and that cut-throat retail floors don’t allow for that. 
I later said to a friend, it’s like she called me a communist! But, funnily and astute observed, she’s right. For the good of all! And other Marxist ideologies!
It’s coming to the end of the week she’d asked me for. She was nearly plaintive in her asking me to give her the time to think of something.  — They really like me. 
In addition, I wrote her an email early this week saying that she needed to have all the information: I do theater. And that means nights and weekends. And if we can keep that in mind as we seek out a new role for me there, that’d be great
We’ll see what she comes up with. If anything. 
If I land back in front of a desk so I can get to theater rehearsals, so be it. As long as I’m earning more than I was at the non-profit. 
I mean, come on people. You’re an international corporation. I’m not 23 anymore. I have skills. 
Again, we’ll see. Before I go charging off to look for alternative companies, I’ve invested a lot in them already, as they’ve invested in me. 
But, should it look like I’ll be a salaried lady again — I’m asking for the health insurance off-set increase. 
Because screw that noise. 
balance · fun · health · joy · love · responsibility · self-care · theater

In Training

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Dear Blogosphere,
Apologies for the sporadic posts these few weeks. First
there was sickness, then my mom in town, and then, of course, the Monday 5 a.m.
shift at my gym.
And in thinking about the structure of the next few weeks, I
don’t know that I can promise you anything more than a few pixels.
This Sunday began the first full week of rehearsals. 4 hours
Sunday, 3 each night this week. And assumedly, each weeknight until opening
night on September 19. It really is like a part-time job!
And so, I’ve come to think of my approach to this time as
though I’m training for a marathon. To the best of my ability, I am going to
aim to be completely conscious of the food I eat, the breaks I force myself to
take from my desk at work, the sleep I manage to slip in between rehearsals and a
day job.
I have this phrase I wrote down a hundred years ago that is
taped to my closet wall and has taken me as long to come to understand and
believe: Treating myself like a precious object will make me strong.
And I believe this is the perfect time to begin to implement
“acting as if” that’s true (because, I somewhere believe it is). The body is a cautious and delicate scale. In these few weeks and months, I’ve gotten to see that my own scale is
particularly sensitive (liver trouble, K.O.’d by a virus, my acupuncturist saying my body was ripe with signs of stress).
So, balance, intentionality. Vigilance. Yes, it’s the
absolute busiest season of my work year – like a retailer between Black Friday
and Christmas. But, as we’ve seen, I can’t show up to work if I’m not healthy,
and I’m not healthy if I’m not intentional. So, I have to be my own trainer,
stopping the clock to take a walk outside. Deciding, No, I won’t have 4 cups of
coffee to power through my day. Yes, guy at the store who watched me put the apple
back and reach for the organic one that’s a dollar more expensive, yes, I do
need to eat this instead.
I’ve set up a “crash-pad” at my friend’s house who lives
between work and the rehearsal theater so that I can go and chill out a few
hours after work without having to either rush home and back or sit at a café
and spend money or be interactive with anyone.
I’m going to begin going back to my gym a few mornings a week,
instead of the once I’ve been doing. I’ve been meditating almost every morning
for 10 – 20 minutes. And, we’ll see where the blog falls on the self-care
scale, considering the few moments of sleep it ticks away.
Finally, I’d like to make sure that I get time in with my
“brain drain” crew, spending an hour with people who normalize my experience
and help my thinking to turn down in decibels.
“Meetings, Movement, and Meditation” has arisen as my
prescription for health, and I am hoping to treat myself as the worthy
patient and doctor of such self-care, which will enable me to show up fully,
mind, body, spirit.
Because… I gotta tell ya, This shit is So.Much.Fun. !

change · fear · growth · health · voice

Slings and Arrows

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Hamlet questions whether it is better to “suffer the slings
and arrows of outrageous fortune,” or to “take arms against a sea of troubles”
and end them (with suicide).
Outrageous fortune. Could be good, could be “bad,” but we have to show up to find out.
In Louise Hay’s book on the relationship between emotions
and body symptoms, the throat is listed as the “avenue of expression.” Troubles
with the throat are interpreted as a fear of expressing oneself and stifled
creativity.
I’ve felt it coming on this week, and today, my throat is
officially red and sore. Color me not surprised.
As I’ve been mentioning this week, the idea of being loud,
louder, more full, more powerful has been a hard one for me to grapple with.
And so, this morning, tender in my throat, I went into meditation to “ask”
what’s going on here, and how I can help.
Forgive me if this gets too “woo-woo” for you, but…
It was like Fantastic Voyage – I “went” inside my throat, to my tonsils, to my
vocal cords, and inside there on both sides, at each tonsil, someone, a
girl, a child choking them, shushing them. Telling them to
Be Quiet!
I went and asked her what she was really trying to
accomplish here, what is the objective, why be quiet?
Because then you’ll be safe, she railed. I’m trying to keep you safe.
I told her that I already am, that I am safe without this
strangling. I put my arms around her, and told her she was safe, and in real
life I began to tear up a little. With relief, with grief, with acknowledgment of
pain long suffered and finally being addressed and hopefully cleared – in
time.
With a mother with chronic migraines and a father apt to
turn rageful, I learned very early that to be quiet, unseen, simple, need-less,
and self-sufficient was to be safe. I aroused negative emotions in others when I
expressed the needs a child might have, and so I learned to deny them.
This hasn’t worked out too well as I’ve grown up, and at
another deeper level, I’m again being called to address the fallacy of these
childhood interpretations. Someone not able to care for my needs is not the same as “my needs are too much.”
The important change here is to allow myself to understand,
feel, acknowledge, and melt into the present, into the changes that I have made
around and within myself to establish a life that is safe, loving, encouraging
and open.
It is hard to remember these things in my throat.
I remember them in my head, but it is going to take time for
the little girl who strangles and shushes me to understand, like most children,
that something has changed.
It is safe to be heard. It is safe to speak up for myself.
It is safe to be creative.
I have a host of supporters, internal and external, who tell
me that indeed, Yes, it is better to suffer the slings and arrows than to shut
down. That it is better to show up and be seen and find out what outrageous
fortune has to offer than to escape.
I am safe, I am heard.
These are not mutually exclusive. 

career · clarity · health · progress · self-care · theater

Round and Round She Goes!

Waking at 5 am to do work-trade at my workout studio doesn’t make for a lyrical blog, so I figure I’ll just give you a “state of the union” update on a few things I’ve been writing about here recently.

Yesterday, I had my first vocal rehearsal for The Addams Family. It’s sooo low, this range, so I’ll do the best I can! Which, I think will be alright! I also took my first voice lesson last week in over a year, and I really like the woman I met with. She’s in SF, but I think, for now, at least through the play (Opening Sept 19), I’m not in a position to shop around at the moment.

I also wonder if I should begin auditioning again, too. As I once heard, “You’re only as good as your next play”! Which is a great discouraging mantra!! But, perhaps instead, I’ll look at audition lessons or acting lessons, too. It’s not that I have the finances for that at the moment, since

I’ve begun acupuncture again, following all the medical upswing of the last few months with my liver, et al. But things have calmed down. Medically and emotionally. I had an ultrasound of my liver about a week or more ago. They found that, indeed, there were fatty or scarred areas on my liver which were likely causing the elevated liver enzymes that incited the doctors to panic in the first place. They can’t tell from the ultrasound if it’s fat or scarring, but in either case, the dr. said that we don’t have to do anything except watch it. That there were just small spots on the image. Nothing seriously damaged at all. Or even moderately damaged. Thank god. The irony of a sober person developing cirrhosis was just too galling.

In the meantime, I’ve begun again with the acupuncturist I used to see (who’s also in SF, so I try to stack my time there), and I think she’s been influential in helping my system calm down and regulate. Granted, I see and have been seeing my chiropractor/naturopath, (who, using muscle testing, was able to diagnose liver scarring!) but I wanted some additional support, since things were “showing up” in my ovaries, and I know that the chemo may have knocked those ladies out of alignment. The acupuncturist, I began seeing for fertility/womanly issues about 7 or 8 years ago. She’s known me for a good long while, though I haven’t seen her in a few years. It’s nice to have that long-term relationship, and she remembers things about my life and my progression that I’m surprised she does!

Next in Team Molly accrual, I met with a woman yesterday about a “fulcrum”related topic. I want to find a way to work less and earn more, so that I can actually not live paycheck-to-paycheck and dawn-to-dusk for the rest of my life. I believe it’s possible, and have been reaching out to people to ask for their suggestions on this.

She, this friend of a friend, suggested something that I’ve had suggested twice before: Teach writing to kids.

Bu- But, B, B…. but I don’t know how. But it’ll be hard.

Mainly, I don’t know how, and that means that I throw up all kinds of barriers to mask that vulnerability, like “it’s hard,” it’s competitive, I don’t have experience, etc etc etc.

These are not very true. That I don’t know how to go about it is. But that’s why I reach out for HELP! The same woman I met with yesterday said that she just paid… wait for it… $200 for a 4-hour class for her child.

I’m sorry, what?

In a class of 6.

She said that, in this area, you can charge at least $30 per kid per hour, and have a small class. She said that the teachers also offered help with personal organization for the kids, helping them clean out their backpack, organize their homework schedule, organize their life, because, if you haven’t figured this out — not all parents know how to model this for their kids.

Point is. This is the 3rd time in as many years that the suggestion has been made to me about doing supplemental education for kids. And I would love to do that. I have the passion, and the good intention (despite my practicality about the numbers), and the acumen with kids. I just do. And I don’t want to be a “classroom teacher;” I just have watched and am continuing to watch too many of my friends work really hard for a diminished ROI.

Fulcrum, man.

Good for me for reaching out and being open to ideas. Now, the work will be to create a curriculum, a program. Eek.

And that’s where the help will need to come in. But I know plenty of people who can, and the things that I don’t know, I have the wherewithal to find help for that. She sent me the links to several programs in this area that offer similar services/classes that I could model my work after. It’s exciting, nerve-inducing… and I hope I do it!!

Lastly, for fun, I’ll tell you that my “Great Caffeine Reduction Experiment” is going well! I’ve moved from 4-5 cups of coffee a day to 1-2! Granted, I went to bed at 8, then 9 pm for about 2 weeks, and am still tired by 10pm! But I think a) that’s more normal, and b) might pass. In any case, I think it also helps my body, and my energy, which I’ll need. Not to mention my voice, since coffee is dehydrating.

So, things continue to move. … And the Tarot card I pulled recently is the one about intense rest and reserving of energies. So, I cancelled one of my coffee dates this weekend (with a girlfriend, don’t get excited!) to fulfill that need. But I think there’s more rest to come.

As someone once said, “On most days, I meditate 30 minutes. On days that I’m very busy, I meditate an hour.” (and I say this soooo metaphorically at the moment!!)