Tag Archives: middle-age

New Year’s Intention & Perimenopause

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It has been almost seven months since I last posted here.

I can not say I don’t know where the time has gone, because I actually do know where a great deal of the time / bandwidth has gone.

It has gone toward my new year’s intention: practicing non-attachment. Non-attachment to expectations, to people, to projects, to myself. It’s really hard…  and it’s like a paradox: who says when you’ve achieved non-attachment? Is it ok to be non-attached to your non-attachment? Does that count? And what is the balance? (I’ve likely already failed.)

It has gone toward me applying my best intentions toward practicing detachment from my eldest son’s college experiences. He is doing well, learning lessons that only life can give. Learning academically of course, and doing quite well, but he is learning things in the way that I wanted for him to learn: that you can’t unring a bell.

It has gone toward a near-obsession with the American political landscape. I believe it was around the time that I last posted here that our official presidential candidates were nominated. I won’t go into details or great depth here as this blog is my refuge from those energies, but I will say that I believe I’m finally coming out of the fog from all those days.

It has gone toward a reinvestment of myself into my yoga teaching. I have almost doubled my adult teaching gigs and dropped two children’s yoga gigs. It was both difficult and easy to make those decisions. A part of me wants to help children and teach / inspire them but I have to let go of the notion that I am going to make a difference for some of them. We are all here on this planet in a season which matches our mission(s). I have realized that my mission here is to not try to appeal to all people and those people needn’t appeal to me. The doubling of my teaching time has had an effect on my body: it’s tired. I have learned that I needn’t demonstrate nearly as often as I used to and while I’m physically relieved from wear and tear, I’m a bit bummed about it because some of my teaching cues come from being actually in the pose with the yogis.

It has gone toward hands-on mothering of two sons rather than three. While my eldest still needs me in a philosophical sense, he doesn’t need me to make him dinner, to wake him, to take him for haircuts or dentist appointments. My younger boys still need me for that and believe it or not: the reduction in demand does take some getting used to and head counting. It’s almost the reversal of “Did I leave the baby in the carseat in the front hall?”

It has gone toward not writing. I sure do miss it.

It has not gone toward my laundry practice.

My husband turned 50, and that was a low-key big deal here. I gave him a nifty band for his Apple Watch and took him out to dinner with our younger two sons, his brother and his wife. Connor later snuck home with his girlfriend to surprise his dad with some favorite gelato and a cozy fun time was had by all.

I turned 49. I unfriended some people on Facebook who no longer contribute to the fullness of my life. One is a relative. I am really ok with this decision. The entrenched victim narrative surrounding this person’s every behavior had corrupted our visit over summer to such an extent that when I made the choice, it was not a Newtonian reaction. In fact, I paused for several weeks. I can say confidently though that the distancing from this and the other persons has resulted in stability, actually. I’m tired of feeling as though my every thought was being monitored. And I was tired of monitoring them… (if we are going to be honest here…).  I hope everyone is doing well, but I don’t care enough to ask. Sometimes you just have to close the door, y’know.

I am experiencing shitty perimenopause on a daily basis. This hormonal experience is not for the psychotic… because it already has moments of psychosis and sleep deprivation and knee-jerk reactivity built in. Do you see the middle graph? (Don’t even fucking look at the first one or the last one until you look at the middle one first.) That second / middle graph has been my life for the last 10 years. I started perimenopause when I was 39 and it was all cute and curiosity at first: “Oh, I wonder how long that badger will live in our yard?” but after five years, it has been nothing short of a fucking mystery and I don’t know how much longer I must endure its caprice and coquettish ways.

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This is not my personal pattern, but one from NIH or something like that (I give up trying to divine the exact source and so should you:  I’ve had that graph for at least a year).

Let’s look again at that middle graph which ostensibly covers a six-month period and copy it 20 times and run it linearly (as in a timeline) to cover a 10-year period and then you will have a SNAPSHOT of WHAT MY LIFE HAS BEEN LIKE.

I look at that graph, like it’s yearbook. And I suppose it is to a certain exent…

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Those premenopause years: from BIRTH to my 39th year, were all: Let’s go to the beach, then the movie and then dancing and frolic all in light-colored and white clothing, go to camp, learn to swim, play an instrument, have a crush, lose a friend, gain a friend, watch your parents fight … then one day in puberty do those things in those clothes except for XYZ days… and then let’s learn to drive, go on a trip, play some soccer, go for a run, fall in love, dance in the rain… pause….. then let’s have some friends over, and go to a mall, fall out of love, lose a friend again, gain another friend, stare at cute guys, go to college, apply for a job ….buy a car… get a place …. pause….. then let’s take a cooking course, stare at more cute guys … maybe date one… then marry one and then buy a house, have kids …. pause…. another kid (or years go by) ….

Then in my 39th year, this….

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I’m flying without radar here and as you can see, from that graph above, that flight plan is fucked up. Would you get on that plane? Go ahead, look at it again… it’s worth the laugh. And that’s what most of this has shown me: that I have to laugh. That’s not to say that I can’t cry (because I do, believe me) but crying over this (that image above) is unnecessary.

I’m not looking for a trophy or a badge or a pat on the back. I’m looking for an end to this stage of my life.

My mother is dead, and she was the only woman (just like her paternal aunt was the only woman in two generations) in her sibling pool, so I don’t have an aunt. And her being gone means there’s no soft-focus “Summer’s Eve” moment for me when I could walk down a misty, dusky beach with her (not that there ever was that kind of vibe to our relationship) and gently query her for finite honesty about her cycles and her reproductive history… that would require things she could not deliver.

The fun part about all this is that in order to be considered a member in the postmenopausal populace:

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you must be without a period (that bleeding stage) for at least a year. I have to say, I can’t help but see all those flat lines as… shitty. The very hormones that I’ve grown accustomed to, estrogen and progesterone, are leaving me at the party. No, they are taking the party away and leaving me there to clean up after the party.

But I’m nowhere near that, yet the eggs I’m spitting out are likely capable of creating life that would not be sustainable. I like to think my eggs, if they could be an emoji, would be this one:

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Let’s see… what else… I learned that I have two basal cell carcinomas scheduled for removal in a couple months. It’s the glorious results of misspent younger days under the sun with my then bestie whose parents were Puerto Rican and Greek. I am 71% Irish (thanks, big bro for getting the Ancestry.com DNA test). This friend would invite me over to her house and I’d go. I’d wear my royal blue with black piping one-piece LaBlanca swimsuit. We would “lay out” under the Virginia sun, in July, covered in baby oil and USE A SPRAY MISTER TO KEEP US SHINY! and she’d walk away like a Bain de Soliel model and I’d need paramedics to carry me away on a stretcher because I could not move my smooth muscle tissue beneath the exoskeleton I’d created in those four short hours in her backyard.

I joined a new studio to teach yoga (I touched on this earlier) and I’m really enjoying it. The owner feels like someone I’ve known all my life and I’m grateful to help her further her dream of providing a haven in the community to practice yoga, learn pilates, build strength and sometimes, just sit and be.

I directed a 660-boat rowing regatta the first weekend in November. The weather was sublime and glorious. I was in my element of serving people as well as protecting and reestablishing the brand of our rowing club after a couple years of inconsistency. I have offered to do it again for this fall. People think I’m crazy, but they’re right. But I’m really good at it — I am in a zone when I’m managing chaos with a smile on my face. (That was a scary sentence.)  I walked almost nine miles that first day. The second day was almost six. I was utterly wiped out. But I was really gratified too because it was such a rewarding experience. I bought myself some expensive Adidas shoes a week later.

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I do need a megaphone sometimes; it didn’t cut through the fog, but it helped me keep the coxswain’s attention.

 

The next night I taught yoga and two days later, still riding the regatta wave, we all woke to some really historic news: a woman was NOT elected president of the United States and instead, a man who strategically went after the electoral college (so: with an actual plan to win, not a hope to win) votes, attained more of them than the other people running for office. That was an ASTONISHING DAY for me. The night before, we had my brother and his wife and kids over. My dad too, to watch the election and just sort of huddle as if preparing for an apocalypse. We used the hot tub and had a really lovely night. My brother left around 10:30, glued to his iPhone. I decided at 11 that I was going to bed; I had to teach yoga the next morning. Some of the results weren’t in yet and the west coast had only recently begun to get later tallies. I remember clearly still that my husband came up to me to gently wake me the next morning in the pre-dawn darkness. He said, “It’s unbelievable. Trump won.” I was mildly shocked. I didn’t like Clinton, but I honestly thought she would win. I voted for Johnson.

I taught three yoga classes, as I always do on Wednesdays, and I witnessed a three-generational fog in those classes. In the morning, I teach women my age and they were all … quiet, sort of blown away. In the early afternoon, I teach mostly seniors or people older than I am and they were all subdued. The children I usually teach on the afternoons were simply stoic. Little girls openly cried in front of me, “My mother said a bad man is going to be our president…”

I felt as though I HAD to openly discuss the election because they were so affected and because they are children and are not savvy to the nuances I employed in my earlier classes. One of the little girls, who is usually a game show host in my classes, who likes to co-opt what I teach and preempt me as much as possible asked to stay in “child’s pose” the ENTIRE class. She didn’t even want to play “musical mats” (which can usually get any kiddo out of a funk).

I don’t have an inflated sense of who I am to these people, but in a sense, especially for the first class, this was likely the first social gathering of their day. I didn’t feel compelled to speak to the election, but I also wasn’t ok with ignoring it. I can’t remember what pearls of wisdom I may have imparted other than to suggest what I always do: “Whatever you’re feeling is OK.”

On Christmas Eve, we went to dinner at a restaurant in Georgetown. The buildings are historic and their floors are uneven. I slipped down the steps but managed to stop my fall by grasping one of the spindles on the landing I was escaping. I had just taught a power vinyasa that morning, so I was still “worked” from that but I did hear a snap. I didn’t tear my rotator cuff, but I definitely strained it. I believe the “snap” was from the heel of one of my brand-new Frye Boots smacking the riser as I stopped my fall.

When I returned to the table, after announcing to the numerous wide-eyed diners and the freaked-out expression of the maitre’d rushing to my aid, “I’m good, I’m a yoga instructor!” (I do NOT know why I said that other than to spare myself some embarrassment [it didn’t work] but more likely shame [ditto] and more likely to spare any discomfort on the part of the restaurant staff), I had immediate tingling in my arm, and almost near-immediate numbness. I raised my arm above my head, I did some classy yoga moves with it at the table (with some wincing, so I knew the nerve was OK) and the sensation returned within five minutes. I could move my arm on its own.

That night was the last time I colored my hair. (Nice transition, huh?) I’d been dancing around the concept for awhile, but I’d like to see how I look with my natural hair color and I’d like to spend the rest of my life not sweating my roots coming in. So far, so good. I don’t have the chutzpah that some people have: going cold turkey, so that’s not happening. I am getting a chemically assisted transition or detox. My tactic has been to wear my hair pulled off my face as often as possible because it shows people what’s coming in and what to expect. It also helps me deal with the choice, which if I can say so myself, is pretty damned gutsy. I don’t believe that I need to adhere to an unattainable standard based on artifice. I’ve long struggled with my own “lie” of coloring my hair while being someone who is SO WHOLLY INTERESTED and devoted to alignment and truth.

To spur me on, I joined a Facebook group “Gray and Proud” which is a supportive and empowering collection of humans (mostly women) who know that this choice “to be the way we were born” can be hard. I do not mean to imply that I know the struggles of those who’ve chosen to live a cloistered life because of fear of coming out as their true selves, but I do believe I share a kinship with them. We are all afraid of being judged and sometimes, truth scares people. Sometimes, people like to live their lives and their narratives. I’m cool with that. Sometimes other peoples’ truths upset another person’s narrative. Well, that’s not the other person’s problem.

The previous time I tried to go gray I was 36 (I’ve been coloring since I was 20) and it didn’t look right. I wasn’t feeling quite as confident and as “fuck it” as I have been lately. Don’t get me wrong, “fuck it” does not mean I’m “letting myself go”; “fuck it” means I’m letting you and your standards go.

It means I’m trying to walk my intention for the year. I’ll post pics on my progress, but not yet; there’s really not much to see here.

The dogs are doing great: Charlie, now three, and mellowing a bit is a sweet and loyal boy. He still barks at things that are not there and tries to take down Murphy at every chance he has when Murphy is standing up (which isn’t terribly frequent these days as he’s now nine, AND he’s a dog).

Well, there is always lots more to say, but I’m at almost 2900 words and I’m a little tired. It’s nice to be back. I’ll come back sooner, I promise. Feel free to drop me a line in the comments and let me know how you’re doing.

Thank you.

Tuesday Morning Press 22 — Mid-Life, Presbyterian? No, Presbyopia & Grateful for Age

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I didn’t do a Tuesday Morning Press last week. I didn’t feel like posting the content I wrote. It wasn’t ready, so rather than turn myself inside out, I decided to take my own advice: don’t over perform, don’t force, don’t exhaust the law of diminishing returns and just chill. Post content when I feel like it; after all, it’s not like I have an editorial desk waiting for me. Plus, the healthcare benefits of this blogging gig aren’t exactly like a pair of golden handcuffs.

Yesterday I hit 45.5 years old. Based on my genetics, it’s unlikely I’ll live much past 90. If her TV isn’t blaring in the background when she calls, my mother likes to remind me of my 91-y.o. “aunt” (we’re related but it’s really nuts to explain it so I won’t) so who knows, maybe I’ll make it to the mid-90s.

No matter… Conversations with my mom are hard for me. It’s not that she’s old and sort of losing it, it’s that she’s always been on her own wavelength. Conversations with her are usually about Ellen DeGeneres’ hair, Molière, Dr. Phil or Tom Cruise. She likes to talk about things I understand least in this world. So I listen, then I hit a point where I can’t anymore. She really likes to talk, but about the things she wants to talk about. When I try to get off the phone with her, it usually goes like this:

Me: Ok, well I’m ready now. I’d like to get off the phone.

Mom: Mipsy Klaustahaler thinks you’re smart…

Me: Mom, I can’t talk anymore; I have things to do and when you start to get like this, my blood boils. I am trying to hang up.

Mom: Your wedding was a happy time…

So she plays her own tape; she always has. It’s not an age thing; it’s a Molly’s Mom Thing. I said to her one day, “I can’t relate to you in these conversations. Every time I talk about something real, you call it ‘maudlin,’ or ‘negative,’ or ‘dramatic’ and so it becomes crazy-making for me. You want to talk about my wedding but not the bright turquoise suit and gigantic hat you wore [click the link for photo] and how your appeals for attention that day hurt me.” My entreaties are ignored. She does not respond to what I say ever. The conversations are circular.

Truth be told, I’m trying to have a meaningful conversation with her, and I feel this urgency — there’s so much to say, I want to work things out with her, but it’s like fighting a tsunami, so I try to let it go. Genetically, she could live for another 12 years. I will likely live those from a mental hospital if this keeps up. So I give in, say a little prayer to St. Francis, and try to be a channel for peace. I need to save my energy for myself and my children, but I’m sacked with this Catholic guilt about not being a good kid. And around we go again. It’s hard.

 . . . . . .

Last week, I posted an 11-year-old NASA photo taken by the Hubble telescope of a light echo of the formerly brightest in the Milky Way shining even brighter and then immediately dying (this is known as a supernova). ‘Light echo’? Did you know there are more than 200 billion stars in our own galaxy? I won’t talk about how many galaxies there are. It was a great relief to me to know that even that star, our system’s brightest, couldn’t keep it up anymore. She hit her maximum output.

We will all die. Ninety? That’s plenty old for me, however, it’s important to maintain what I have.

I twisted my ankle almost two months ago on the steps at IKEA. I thought about suing them for making me choose to use the steps and wear the clogs I wore (I was thinking Swedish an’ all; when I go to REI, I wear a kayak; when I go to Home Depot, I wear a chain saw, doesn’t everyone?) and decide to go to IKEA that day when I could’ve just stayed home. Instead, I leaned on my son, rubbed my ankle, flexed it a bit to make sure it was OK, told my son to close his eyes, I flipped the bird to the security camera, and moved on.

I walked through the rest of IKEA and didn’t find what I was looking for. That, I should sue them for.

If it weren’t for the yoga and my general state of good health, I likely could’ve broken something. It hurt a lot and it’s still achey today, but I can run on it, practice yoga (although it’s weaker) and chase my children up the stairs when they don’t go to bed on time. I suspect I’ll need a hip replacement one day.

I’ve got laugh lines, and I love them. If you have read every single syllable I’ve ever written here, you know that I’ve said the quickest facelift is a smile; I catch myself consciously grinning as I type this. It’s true. Go ahead, try it. I’ll wait.

I know! Right? Just smile all the time, it makes people nervous.

. . . . . .

Saturday night I went to a mini high school reunion at a friend’s house. It was so great to see everyone. We are all “in there” — I recognized everyone and to me we are just wider, wiser, less-haired, crow’s footed, worry-lined versions of ourselves. People lied remarked that I haven’t changed a bit. The lighting helped and there was alcohol served.

The joke of the night? Presbyopia: Our whacked-out eyesight and our short arms. How is it that I went to bed with my 20/20 contact lens -aided vision and all of a sudden the next morning (well, it felt like that) I couldn’t read anything within an arm’s length of my face? So because we all have smartphones or cameras, we’re snapping pics and it was hilarious. We’re all squinting and “Wha-? Who is that? Me?” -ing ourselves and our friends in the photos, moving the image away and in and closing one eye or the other, blaming it on the lighting, “I can’t see it in this light…” (and that’s true, some displays are terribly dark) but the wonderful part of it all is that we’re all doing this together. What I’m waiting for is the Nikon CoolPix Whatever ad of Ashton Kutcher crashing an event and running like an old man, then snapping shots and holding his camera three feet from his face to see what he’s taken and what’ll even be funnier is the gals who will hang on him when he takes the pics. They’ll be REGULAR PEOPLE — in my mind they would be.

So far no one has married someone half their age. A lot of us have bangs now. As I looked around at our assemblage I felt a lot of pride. It was a really nice feeling to have been included in this group and blessed by its company. We were all at our (mostly) natural (save for hair color, contact lenses, maybe even some anti-wrinkle cream here or there) states.

Back to the eyes. Lasik won’t work; presbyopia affects the muscles and the lens. Apparently the muscles and the lens starts to stiffen around age 40 and around age 60 they stay permanently stiff. Sounds like if we could swap out Viagra needs for men around 60 with our presbyopia stiffness we might be on to something…

Of all the things surgery can address: boobs, fat, hair, turning you into Barbie or Ken, it seems that there still is no surgical way to fix the presbyopia. It’s probably easier to get arm-lengthening surgery. I noticed this first when I went out for a run and tried to set my GPS watch and I couldn’t read a damned thing on the screen. Then I couldn’t set my iPod because the font was too small and my arms were too far away, but up close, I couldn’t read a thing. So now I just yell a lot.

I’ve sort of worn my age like a champ, there are parts of myself that I’ve never been thrilled with, but I’ve gotten over that. I am proud of how old I am and I am coming (finally) to terms with being OK with how I got here: crazy, Ripley’s-Believe-it-or-Not -esque childhood, my therapist’s lumpy couch and all. The truth is: it’s up to me to decide how to deal with it all. I’ve chosen to recall, assess, process and integrate my past into my life. This way there’s no denial and there’s no shame. It’s just life and I’m proof it can mostly work out. My therapist credits my great aunt Alshee, God rest her soul, with helping us out as kids.

Being on the other side of the slope doesn’t mean I’m going to kick up my feet and take it easy; it just allows me to keep things in perspective. I can trust my gut and my decisions and be OK with where I am. I don’t have to second-guess myself anymore. I’ve made it through the first half of my life fairly well, I’m sure the second half will be just as fine. The key is to keep the drama at bay. So, the next time my mom calls, I’m gonna let it go to voicemail.

Thank you.