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Claire, the refrigerator and the heat

12 May

Robin Wright as Claire Underwood

I started watching “House of Cards” recently, after hearing a lot of positive comments on it and watching a bit of the White House correspondents’ dinner (which included a video with Kevin Spacey, one of the show’s main characters, Congressman Francis Underwood).

Robin Wright plays his wife. She’s so beautiful and a great actress. Like many, I’ve loved watching her since she appeared in “Princess Bride.” Her character in this show is not exactly a princess. That can be a little shocking.

In one of the episodes that I watched, Claire retreats to the kitchen to get more chardonnay for friends who are over for dinner. The female friend follows her into the kitchen, and sees her lean in to absorb the cool air. When I was watching, I thought that she was exhausted because the dinner was work-related and she was hitting this couple up for money to support her company. And they live in D.C., so who doesn’t want some additional cool air, especially if it’s summer time?

But the female friend initiates a conversation about hot flashes, and asks Claire if she is also getting night sweats. Claire changes the subject.

A few episodes later, husband Francis mentions that he has seen her lingering at the fridge. “Does it hurt?” he asks. “It’s not pleasant,” Claire says. He asks her if there’s anything that he can do and she says, “no.” I was intrigued by these exchanges because, as a blogger for Slate penned earlier in the year, you don’t often see scenes about menopause on TV.

I haven’t been lingering at the fridge but I am experiencing those same hot flashes and night sweats. I’m a few years older than my mother was when she went through menopause (which is how clinicians gauge timing) but even that small triumph is not a big consolation.

One of the worst parts of it for me, really over the last year, is interrupted sleep. I had been waking up really early for awhile, couldn’t go back to sleep and wasn’t sure why. I joked with friends about having Bill Clinton eyes. (Thanks for that, Clara S.) Initially, I thought that my bedroom might be too warm. That could have been part of it. But thinking back now, something similar was happening last fall when I spent the night at a friend’s house … kicking off the covers for a bit, and then diving back under the blankets.

The night sweats aren’t horrible. I feel a wave of heat come over my face, really, so I’m a little prepared. And there is just a small amount of moisture that I can easily wipe away. There is often a few drops in the crooks of my arms, too. Earlier this week, when I wasn’t feeling well (summer cold), it was also damp behind my knees.

I started acupuncture a few weeks ago and it slowly seems to be helping. I am now able to go back to sleep when I’m so rudely woken up, and that is a relief. It also seems to help when I don’t drink regularly (and that’s a good thing for me, too, I know). I slept in last weekend one day for the first time … in forever.

The last period that I had was in January of this year, and my nurse practitioner said I’m not officially in menopause until I haven’t had a period in a year. I can still get pregnant until that time, she said. It’s a lot to deal with – being single, not having any kids and now being pushed beyond that point. I know that I could always adopt if I really wanted to have kids, and it’s not like I have ever given up the chance to have children. It just didn’t happen for me.

So there’s all that behind this change I’ve moved into. I had dinner with a friend, Piper, recently and she said another friend of hers was going through the same thing. As she talked about grieving the loss and moving forward, I immediately burst into tears, and she hugged me tightly. “No one has ever talked with me about this,” I said.

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Empathy

28 Apr

ImageI sometimes wish that I didn’t feel things so deeply. A few weeks ago, I was on the bus heading downtown. We stopped on Broadway in front of the QFC and a few riders got on the bus. One was an older man, with several bags. He shuffled slowly to the end of one of the seats on the left and in the front, the ones that face inward.

He was most likely homeless, from his unkempt appearance, shaggy beard and bags. He was looking for his pass or transfer when the bus driver began calling out to him in a loud voice. Sir, sir, come here, he said. The would-be passenger muttered that he was putting down his belongings. The bus driver’s voice became louder, he unhooked himself from his seat and continued to call out to the man in a voice that resonated throughout the vehicle.

When they both were in the doorway, the driver asked him to step outside and to get off of the bus. But my things … the man said. We don’t want to go through this again, the bus driver said, not hiding the scolding tone, as if he was talking to a child. I’m trying to keep you out of jail, man, the bus driver said. It was a bit heart-breaking. Even if this man has had jail troubles, did the bus driver really have to yell that out for all to hear on the bus? And I’ve certainly been on the bus before when I wished the driver had not let someone on due to being drunk or high or obnoxious. This was not one of those riders.

The older man swore at the driver as his bags were placed on the sidewalk and prepared to drive away. That’s what I’m talking about, the bus driver said, as if some harsh words at that moment justified the humiliation we all had just witnessed.

38 to 40 (+1).

10 Mar

Image

I didn’t finish out strong (as planned), but I started anew on day 41 and am doing well as I move beyond the original 40-day commitment.

I went to yoga on day 41, and Steve talked about positive v. negative vibrations. Yes, it sounds a little woo woo, but it also makes a lot of sense.  I’ve found that I can make a difference even in my dreams. It’s easy to dwell on the past, and I’m not saying that I don’t think about things that have happened, but it’s just as easy to decide to dwell on something positive, or shift your mind in that way. Having thoughts about the ex? Well, let’s shift to another topic that is just as easily navigated via dreams. It works. It’s helpful to me even if today, I’m not feeling so much like moving on and away from times that I thought were really happy.

In the 41 + days of late, I hit yoga, did a stair climb and then went back to yoga today. Today, Liz talked about the glass being half empty, or half full and focusing on the half-full and trying to fill it up even more with thoughts of family, friends and other positivity. Sounds kind of like the positive v. negative vibrations, eh?

I’m not sure yet what I’ll aim for tomorrow. The plan had been to do yoga, but it might be nice to do cardio instead. Or I could hit the pool for some laps. My legs are still sore from the stair climb, so a bike ride could be good if the weather cooperates. Daylight savings time means more hours of light in the evening here in the Pacific Northwest and that felt helpful already today.

My thoughts this weekend were with Zoom, a woman I met and worked with in Seattle while spearheading a great event called Chicks Play Hard. Zoom worked at Miller Community Center, and she was so supportive of our event. I worked with her for several years, until she left Miller and moved on to Montlake Community Center.

She told me how she’d take regular trips to Canada with senior citizens to get prescription drugs that they could afford. She was a truly giving and kind soul, from all that I saw. Then, something changed. She is now accused of shooting a Parks & Rec supervisor. When I saw her name pop up via Twitter on Friday, I had an omg kind of moment. Her nephew was quoted in the news, and said that something had changed last July when her home was broken into and her dog was killed. I’m so sorry that she didn’t get the help that she needed, and my thoughts go out to the victim, his family, and to Zoom and her family. Yes, I’m switching gears here from the 40 days but my gosh, what happened on Friday is a reminder of how quickly life can change. Here’s to positivity and working through painful things in life in the best way that we all can.

Days 26 to 37 of 40: Walking in sunshine

3 Mar

Lake Union in Seattle

Today’s walk – two hours, around Lake Union. The sun was shining and my legs are sore. I’ve not been doing well at keeping up with daily thoughts or even slightly less frequent thoughts during the last of these 40 days. And I’m only feeling some slight Catholic guilt about that.

Since I last reported in, I’ve hit yoga and also did a few rounds of aqua aerobics (!). I haven’t hit my bicycle yet, though the time is coming soon. I jotted down some thoughts or a few words about the recent chant from yoga: Shiva shiva shiva shambo. According to a site that I found online, Shiva is pure consciousness and the realization of our nature as infinite or immortal, never born or dying. Thoughts that I take away from yoga, in general, are to try and not let things affect me as much. I’ve got a ways to go in mastering that concept. And while I’d love to not let the thoughts that bring me down get to me as much, the thoughts that send me in a more ecstatic direction also come to mind. How could I not be excited at seeing a celebrity in class, as an example? I get as giddy as a teenager and it feels wonderful and silly for days. The dilemma of being more zen.

The pool at my gym is being repaired and it’s shut down for a few more days. But I was happy to get in a few more aerobics classes there before the repairs began. The last time I hit class, I swam laps for about 10 minutes before class. The Saturday class could be a new favorite, and was more intense than the first class I hit during the holiday weekend. The music was more modern, too, and included Adele and the Lumineers along with some Train. No more sweating in the water to the Oldies.

There’s now only three more days left in this challenge. A real work-out will be challenging in the next few days because of plans after work, but it’s entirely possible that I can finish out strong on the 40th day.

And I’ve got other non-40 day thoughts on my mind after watching Girls tonight and thinking about what I really want to do in life. And feeling more inspired than I was earlier today, after reading several depressing stories in the New York Times.

Days 24 & 25 of 40: Swimming to the oldies

19 Feb

ImageI got two … count ’em … two workouts in yesterday, on a day off from work. And it felt pretty fabulous. I decided to hit an aqua aerobics class at the gym (photo example left, of course) because I was curious and also thought it could be a good workout. It had been years since I took that type of a class; the last time was at my parent’s condo pool with my mom and some of her neighbor friends.

I was one of two younger-ish women in a class of 25 to 30 students. At 11 a.m. on a Monday, I didn’t expect a lot of younger people. We aqua’d to the oldies, if you will, doing sprints, lunges and twists to dance-ified versions of “Under the Boardwalk” and “Jailhouse Rock.”  I could barely hear the  music during most of the class, but the instructor was great in providing encouragement and keeping us going during the 60 minutes of class. She stayed on the deck the entire time and I know she’s the teacher, but she was pretty impressive in mixing it up and even providing some in-water stretching at the end. The heater was broken, which made for a chilly entry into the pool but I and others obviously survived.

I hadn’t then planned on going to yoga, but my friend, L, wanted to meet up because she didn’t get her workout in earlier in the day. 90 minutes with Steve, who shared thoughts about equanimity at the start of class. It sounds like a tricky thing to strive for though it’s been discussed before in class in different terms – not letting either pain or pleasure really rattle you. It seems like the ultimate in reaching a zen and Buddhist state, too.

And now, on to today. 30-ish minutes of walking, including a nice long walk in the middle of the day, when the sun was shining here in Seattle despite the cold. 10 minutes of the walk today came at the end o’ day, walking with D. from the office to vehicles parked offsite. Here’s hoping we’ll have more sunny days during the rest of the week. I’m pretty psyched about the way I’m closing out this second half of the 40 days.

Days 17 to 23 of 40: Back on track

17 Feb

Half moon pose from Yoga Journal

My real work outs began again this weekend, one week after gum graft surgery. (Yes, this is a funny video and no, I didn’t find it completely accurate. There is not any gum in the roof of your mouth; it’s tissue.)

Yoga yesterday, and today – 90 minutes each class. I feel great. My torso is sore in a good way from the twisting and core work (thank you, Liz).

Earlier in the week, I made sure to walk every day. Of the highlights, on Monday, I took a walk to the University District to pick up a prescription. 40 minutes round trip. I was still feeling the effects of the surgery, and while peeking gently at the gum graft sites, I worried a bit about whether I might have an infection. Turns out, now that it’s healing up even more, it was just the sutures on the left side of my mouth that looked like an infected wound. Gross, I know. And I also figured out that if I really did have an infection, it would have been hurting and not just looking like something was wrong.

My periodontist said right before the surgery that it was great to see a patient that had so much saliva flowing. She said that most of her patients are on so many medications, it dries up the saliva. Not something I’ve always thought about being thankful for, but it was a nice reminder that I am healthy and not on a bunch of meds.

On Monday, during that long walk, I took a cue from a scene in Liberal Arts. The main character walks around listening to opera, and he comments on how it has changed the way he views the city. In that scene, everyone looks at him and smiles (the scene takes place in New York City). I was listening to Mozart arias performed by Cecelia Bartoli. It’s a favorite disc of mine though I haven’t listened to it for awhile. Sorry to report that the music did not have the same effect on the people that I passed. Maybe one or two smiled, but one guy gave me a pretty quizzical look and a lot of people ignored me. So – interesting experiment but not quite the same results.

My horoscopes have been strange and somewhat dark this week on Astro.com. On Tuesday, Feb. 12 the subject line was: Something is wrong. Yikes. On the one hand, some of what was in there is true – you’ll separate yourself from persons or circumstances that are doing you no good. But then it went on to say in the process, I’ll experience a considerable amount of tension, and that I may be confused for awhile. “You would be well advised to go off by yourself for awhile, because other people’s advice will be of little value, unless you select your advisors with great care.” The horoscope went on to say feelings of restlessness and uncertainty would be strong. I actually do feel some of that.

Looking more on the bright side, the subject line for today is Soft lights. But, wait – tomorrow is A new tack. More thoughts on this change in direction for my life. “Keep working, for your efforts to expand and liberate your life are not finished.”

Days 15 & 16 of 40: Fog

10 Feb

Dense fog in Seattle from Wikipedia

This is how I felt this a.m. when I woke up: Foggy. After having gum graft surgery on Friday (my second go-around with the procedure), I woke up this morning a bit disoriented and hazy. I had a surprisingly hard time falling asleep last night, and was concerned that any teeth grinding might disrupt the new tissue waiting to bind. And I say “surprisingly hard” because I went to a friend’s b-day gathering and stayed up later than the night before.

My periodontist had said to wear my night guard, but I wasn’t sure if that would be enough to prevent damage. My mind was wandering, too. I took some ibuprofen to get rid of the slight ache in my lower jaw and ended up popping a pain pill that did help put me to sleep. Hence, the fog, I suppose.

I watched a great movie yesterday with a wonderful soundtrack: Liberal Arts. The movie is set in both New York and Kenyon College in Ohio (though un-named in the movie), and it’s got a couple of really great quotes, including: “The purpose of fiction is to combat loneliness” (David Foster Wallace) and “Everything is okay,” from none other than Zac Efron, in a (unexpectedly) funny hippie role. The Kaiser Cartel plays a cool tune in the closing credits, and I now need to dig up my CD of theirs that a friend gave to me a few years ago.

Yesterday, I slept in and went downtown to do a little shopping. My initial plan was to walk downtown (45 minutes, but I decided that it would be better later to do a 30-minute walk instead). I got a bit overheated and was concerned that I was fever-ish during the shopping trip, so I made my purchases at the Gap (new work bag, scarf and throwing out the old, worn ones) and headed home.

I have higher hopes for today and plans to walk with a friend. I’ve lost 4 pounds already due to the “soft food only” diet. These were pounds that I really needed to lose, so this is all good stuff.

The sun is coming out, too, and the fog is burning off. Coffee is kicking in, and the Hoosiers are on TV, up on Ohio State at the moment. I feel like I hit another slight and extended bump in the road in my 40 days with this surgery but also know today is another day, and I’ll get done what I’m able to. Everything is okay.