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Highs and Lows

Fair warning: there’s some adult content here!

Stuff that makes me feel good:

  • I’ve been getting into a groove with exercising in the mornings. I found this fitness program that I really like on the local PBS station. It’s a sort of ballet/classical dance based program and each episode is only about 25 minutes long. I went looking for DVDs online and found that in addition to the DVDs you can subscribe to a bigger catalog of streaming programs, so I did that instead. With my employer fitness program subsidy it only costs me about $7 a month. In case anyone wants to try these classes they’re at essentrics.com. At the end of each session I say “Thank you, Miranda Esmonde-White!”
  • One of my close friends from Chicago contacted me a couple days ago and asked if it would work for her to visit me over Labor Day weekend. Yes!! She scored a super cheap flight. We’re going to have so much fun!!
  • I’ve been listening to the Against the Stream podcasts more often and thinking about how I can add meditation into my days. I’ve sat a couple of times for a whole 20 breaths.  Woo hoo!
  • In a totally different vein, I’ve also been amused by listening to the Guys we F****d podcasts (NSFW!), starting with the oldest ones first. I still have quite a few to catch up on, but am finding them intriguing. I admire that these young women are claiming their sexuality so boldly, and find some of their advice to be spot on, yet at the same time I think they still have some things to learn about relationships. But they are stand up comedians, so the podcast isn’t meant to be super serious. A few of the shows have been annoying, but I just skip past those. It will be interesting to see how the podcast continues to develop as I catch up with the current episodes.

Not so good stuff:

  • I cried during a conference call today. I think my colleagues (both women) knew what was happening. One sent me an email message tonight that was really nice. I’ve been working on a project that is really frustrating the hell out of me because I seem to be hitting all sorts of roadblocks. The project team keeps telling me I need to step up and make some progress, and that just is getting to be too much for me because besides this project I have like 5 billion other things I am supposed to be doing. I have 3,500 emails in my inbox. I’m waaaaayyyy behind on just about everything, and I keep getting more piled on. My new boss (yes, I have a new boss and a new organization I’m kinda sorta not quite fully integrated into) says things like “Just speak up when you need help,” so I do and the people he tells me to get help from are also already really busy and help just a tiny bit and then it just bounces right back to me. *sigh* Every Friday I am ECSTATIC that the weekend is nearly here. Every Monday I am hopeful. By Wednesday, I am frequently in the pit of despair. But I have a job, right? I am employed and able to pay my bills and all that. That’s good, right? Right?
  • I am currently in a stand-off with my father and stepmother. When I was back in Chicago for my mother’s 75th birthday my dad was unexpectedly hospitalized. I hadn’t been planning to add a visit to my dad that trip, but I had a rental car and some flexibility in my schedule so I drove out to see him in the hospital. He was released a few days later and has been doing OK, but I apparently made a couple critical errors around that whole event. I didn’t know that he and stepmother don’t want any references to them EVER posted on social media. I had made a reference on my Facebook account to going to the hospital to see him and what his condition was. Big error, apparently. A lurking relative contacted dad and stepmom about his “health scare” which is how they got tipped off. They let me know they did not like that I had posted something about them on Facebook, etc., etc. Fine, I took my lumps and said I wouldn’t ever reference them again on any social media [which I guess I’m sort of breaking right now], but apparently that wasn’t enough and they were still miffed about it. Also, the fact that I had expressed any interest at all in dad’s treatment by asking questions was seen as bad, too. When sister had a visit with dad and stepmom last month, stepmom apparently complained vehemently about how I had not only shared information about dad’s health with all sorts of people who didn’t need to know (and not just mentioning that he had been hospitalized on Facebook, but likely talking to my friends about it, horrors!!) but that I also had tried to give my dad medical advice. ????? I guess by asking questions, I was giving advice. So for the past three weeks I have been in a f*** them mood and refused to call them, and since they refuse to call any of their “kids” (we are expected to call them once a week…yes, EXPECTED, as they have made abundantly clear to me) we are in a stand off. They’re older than me and not in as good health as me, so I’m gonna bet they break first. We’ll see.

Not sure if good or bad:

  • Last weekend I did some social media “gardening” (such as removing some “friends,” etc.). One of the things I did was update my Google profile photo. I don’t use Google +, although I do have an account, but I use Gmail and comment on Blogspot blogs and had noticed that my photo was very old (like, at least 14 years old!). So I changed it out for a more recent one. Ever since then I’ve been getting notifications that men I do not know (they are all men) had added me to their circles. I have checked my G+ privacy settings and strangers should not be able to add me to their circles, so I’m very confused by this development. And a little creeped out by it, too. Is G+ now some sort of clandestine dating site where guys troll for women? WTH?!
  • I had a very odd, but very sexual dream about an old boyfriend last night. The boyfriend in my dream was someone I dated a very long time (like nearly 30 years) ago. I had ended the relationship because he had become very disrespectful of me (by cheating a couple times, and essentially raping me once) and then proceeded to creepily stalk me for a while afterwards. So it disturbs me that I had this dream about him and it involved sexual stuff. Certainly I’m feeling healthier these days because I’m having…ahem…cravings, but to dream about this particular guy in this particular way…ewww. Maybe I need to listen to less Guys we F****d podcasts.

In my last post I made a reference to my loneliness. Because of my recent dramatic move across the country, I think that my reference to loneliness conjured up images of me sitting alone and dejected day after day, night after night, but that is far from the truth. I actually have a fairly busy social calendar.

Just a couple of months ago, a friend emailed me and asked me “What are you doing to “find friends?” I wrote her a very long response and am copying it here. In my original email, I referenced a friend who I had helped move from Chicago to the South Bay Area a few years ago, and I also named my employer. Here I’ve disguised those names, but it is otherwise word for word the same.

“How does one find friends?” Well, working solo that becomes more challenging.

When my friend R moved to Santa Clara a few years ago to take a new job, the culture of the organization emphasized going to the office every day, so she did make some friends at work. I tried the “going to the office” route for just over a month and found that I was actually being encouraged by my boss and colleagues to just telecommute, so that approach wasn’t going to work for me. (Besides, the working model at my employer is different, and I wasn’t meeting many people in the office that were local to me or with whom I had many other interests.)
I tend to think of myself as being fairly introverted, but I do want to have friends in the area and I know I need to develop a local social and support network. As an independent woman, I’ve been saving for my old age, but social capital is just as important as monetary capital, and I have to build that social capital from scratch here.
I’m in a small town (population is under 80k here) which sort of works in my favor. One thing I did was make opportunities to meet my neighbors. I walked the dog twice a day and would smile and greet people whenever I could. I’d tell them I was new and ask them questions like “Is this typical weather?” or “What are you doing?” That last one was asked of a young woman I saw standing on a truck using an umbrella handle to pull down fruit from a tree. I learned about a new fruit, got a taste, and learned how to say it in Spanish (misperos) so I could look it up when I got home.
I dropped off jars of homemade sour cherry jam with my closest neighbors and chatted with them. I received a couple of dinner invitations that way and made sure I brought some good stuff to share with the meal. A woman around the corner from me is apparently the neighborhood fixture who keeps an eye on everything and “loves to feed,” as her adult daughter once told me. I’ve swapped more of my preserves and homegrown garlic (one of my last “crops” from my old Chicago garden) with her for Meyer lemons from her tree (which I used to make marmalade for future gifts!) and goodwill gifts she leaves me like her homemade pesto and frittata. She also now has a key to the house “just in case.”
Shortly after arriving I looked up the local knitting group on Ravelry, and I go to knit night almost every week. I joined Meetup.com (very big in this area) and joined a few groups devoted to hiking and/or social pursuits in my local area. I went to the local Unitarian Universalist church for services (UUs are open to every type of faith, and atheists/humanists, too, so they’re usually pretty cool), and met some nice people that way.
I talk to everybody: the postal workers, the grocery clerks, the people walking dogs past my house.
The way I think of it, I can get as much alone time as I want/need since I live alone and work remotely, but face time with people is much harder for me, so I make the extra effort. I now have swapped mobile numbers with a few of the neighbors and some of the people I hike with so we can reach out to each other outside of Meetup times.
Since I wrote that email, I’ve also added volunteering with a local animal rescue charity to my list of social activities. My weekly schedule is now pretty packed, and I find myself being more selective about my time commitments.
My schedule this week is a great example of how much social time I get:
  • Sunday — went to the beach with a new friend for a picnic and some walking and wading in the cool waters
  • Tuesday — knit night at a big public market
  • Wednesday — dinner with the neighbor
  • Thursday — hiking with a local Meetup group; dinner out after the hike
  • Saturday or Sunday — on one of these days I’ll be going kayaking with a friend, but haven’t confirmed which one yet

Last Saturday morning I volunteered with the animal rescue charity at the local farmers market, and I’ve committed to doing a volunteer activity with them once or twice a month on Saturdays.

So, my loneliness isn’t about missing social time with other people. My loneliness is felt because of this desire I have for a partner in my life and my sadness around having to end relationships with people that I thought would be that long term partner. Lately I’ve been thinking that I really didn’t get to the “feeling sad” part of the grief process around the end of my marriage. I think that’s where all this sadness comes from sometimes, and so maybe it is a good sign that I’m nearing the end of processing through most of that experience.

There’s no doubt that while I am building friendships, I do lack very close friends here. I’m regularly in touch with my closest friend back in the Chicago area, and my closest local friend (R, who I helped moved to Santa Clara) has been someone I regularly connect with, too. R will be moving up to Oregon, though, so I won’t be able to see her as often. Perhaps that’s another reason I’ve been feeling sad and teary at times.

It’s perhaps becoming more clear that I really am not yet completely in touch with what is going through my head a lot of the time. Maybe that’s not simply my experience, though. Maybe it’s fairly common for it to take months or years for the penny to drop and realization to dawn.

When I downsized before moving west I got rid of a lot of books, but there were a select few that I saved and brought with me. One of those keepers is Pema Chodron’s When Things Fall Apart. For such a slender book, it packs quite a punch for me, and while I first purchased it way back in 2009 after my divorce I still have yet to finish it.

The chapter on loneliness has pulled me back again and again, and I’ve written on it twice before, here and here. Since I’ve had some feelings of sadness and loneliness lately, I thought I’d pull out the book again and remind myself why the feeling of loneliness is not a horrible thing to be avoided but one to be embraced.

After some reviewing and underlining of passages, I moved to another chapter in the book, and — wham! — just like that, I have another set of resonating concepts to consider and process through. (This is why I like this book so much; I’m always finding something to which I relate and on which I can reflect.)

Chapter 11 on the four maras is my new work, I think. The first mara, devaputra mara, is when “we react with this tragically human habit of seeking pleasure and trying to avoid pain.” I’ve done my share of that over the years, but I think I’m doing well with recognizing this tendency in myself and accepting that pain and pleasure are two sides of the same coin.

Skanda mara “has to do with how we always try to re-create ourselves, to try to get some ground back, try to be who we think we are.” This one bears more thinking about. “Instead of struggling to regain our concept of who we are, we can touch in to that mind of simply not knowing, which is basic wisdom mind.” This one isn’t coming to me easily, so it needs more reflection.

Klesha mara is about how we use our emotions.

We use them to to try to deny that in fact no one has ever known or will ever know what’s happening. We use them to try to make everything secure and predictable and real again, to fool ourselves about what is really true. We could just sit with the emotional energy and let it pass….Instead, we throw kerosene on the emotion so it will feel more real.

…By becoming aware of how we do this silly thing again and again because we don’t want to dwell in the uncertainty and awkwardness and pain of not knowing, we begin to develop true compassion for ourselves and everyone else, because we see what happens and how we react when things fall apart.

Oh, yes! Over the past few weeks I’ve been experiencing a lot of emotion and just letting it happen. It can be a challenge when the emotions surge during inconvenient times, like while I’m working or when I’m around other people who I still don’t know very well. It’s not looked upon well when you show a lot of emotion at work, especially if you’re a woman.

And then there is yama mara, which Pema describes as having to do with the fear of death.

The essence of life is that it’s challenging. Sometimes it is sweet, and sometimes it is bitter. Sometimes your body tenses, and sometimes it relaxes or opens…From an awakened perspective, trying to tie up all the loose ends and finally get it together is death, because it involves rejecting a lot of your basic experience. There is something aggressive about that approach to life, trying to flatten out all the rough spots and imperfections into a nice, smooth ride.

To be fully alive, fully human, and completely awake is to be continually thrown out of the nest. To live fully is to be always in no-man’s land, to experience each moment as completely new and fresh. To live is to be willing to die over and over again. From the awakened point of view, that’s life. Death is wanting to hold on to what you have and to have every experience confirm you and congratulate you and make you feel completely together. So even though we say the yama mara is fear of death, it’s actually fear of life.

Yes, plenty to think about and plenty to process here. This is why it’s been taking me years to get through this book.

Crazy times with mom

Right now, we (my sister and I) are going through some crazy times with our mother. This shouldn’t be a surprise to me, since mom and crazy go together hand in hand.

Mom hasn’t taken proper care of herself in many years. She currently has several health conditions: asthma, diabetes, and high blood pressure for sure, and possibly GERD and sleep apnea, too.

Shortly after I moved to California, it became apparent that mom was having trouble remembering things. Conversations could be circular, where she’d ask the same questions over the course of a conversation. We all noticed this: my sister, me, and my stepfather who lives with her and experiences it perhaps more than any of us. He asked for our help because he was at a loss for what to do, so sister and I stepped in to do what we could.

What started out as some brainstorming and organizing of mom’s medications and health care has turned into what feels like complete abdication of any responsibility for mom’s care. OK, this is an exaggeration, but not by much.

Mom doesn’t seem to be inclined to do the most basic things for herself, such as eat regular meals, take her medications, and get a bit of exercise. Left to herself (as she has been for six days a week while stepfather goes to work) she naps, watches TV, lets the dogs in and out of the house, and occasionally snacks on things like Triscuits. She is supposed to use an insulin pen four times a day — once with each meal, and a final time just before bed — but rarely does so. Stepfather says he reminds her to take a shot before bed and often tried to get her to do it in the morning, but he failed to get her to eat breakfast, too, and insulin without food is not a good thing.

Stepfather is a kind man with a big heart, but he is way out of his depth. He is barely literate (this is fact and not just a mean thing to say; he readily admits that he can’t read very much) and doesn’t understand mom’s doctors most of the time he takes her to appointments. He prefers sister take mom because she understands the doctors better and can ask good questions.

Sister works a full time and demanding professional job that involves business travel, too. In order to take mom to doctors she has to take a day off of work because just getting to mom’s house in a rural area outside Chicago, taking her to the appointment, dropping mom back at her house, and then returning home takes at least five hours.

While I’m not present to take mom to the doctors, etc, I am helping out by researching and organizing details about her care, as well as making phone calls to insurance companies and to follow up with doctors. Sister and I talk several times a week about mom care details.

One of my recent trips was back to Chicago to see my mom on her 75th birthday. She is a different person than she used to be, and I don’t just mean because she has more grey hair. She has no spark anymore. She just doesn’t seem to care about anything and has commented many times that she never thought she’d live to be this old.

Throughout my childhood mom acted “crazy” a lot. She would get angry and start yelling, screaming, and sometimes throwing things. (And apparently she still does; stepfather told sister he sometimes just retires to the bedroom when she is in the midst of a “tantrum” because he told her to take her meds.) She would threaten to kill herself. I’m not sure exactly how she would do this with sister because we avoid talking about the details, but with me she did things like swallow handfuls of pills, or threaten to drive us off the expressway into a deep quarry.

We all realize mom did these “crazy” things to get attention when she wanted or needed it. Instead of asking, she just acted out. I’m left wondering if her current behavior is just another way to get attention, or if it is an attempt to will herself to die.

Mom’s past behavior has left its mark on sister and I. Enough that I frequently wonder these days: why not just let her continue to court a stroke or cardiac arrest? Why keep trying to get through to her that she must eat and take her insulin and high blood pressure medication? Why am I now on the hook for paying to get her out of the house and into activities at the local senior center? Why must sister and I give up time during the work day to wrangle an adult acting like a willful child?

Yes, this is the person who birthed me, potty-trained me, taught me to talk and walk. She’s said she loves me. She’s also the person who scared me to the point that I learned it was safest to stay away from her as much as possible, and so I hid in my bedroom or stayed away from the house when I was old enough to drive. I’ve often described my mom as an emotional vampire with me because she seemed to want to live her life through me. I moved out at 18, and while I did spend a few months under her roof after college. I was very happy to get into my own place as soon as possible, and this has had a lasting effect on my own emotional well-being.

I can’t fix mom’s issues with self-esteem or coach her on good emotional and mental health practices. All I can do is try to balance my own needs with helping as much as I can with her care. I often feel like I’m losing that balancing act.

There was someone I loved who grew old and ill.
One by one I watched the fires go out.
There was nothing I could do.

except to remember
that we receive
then we give back.

— from At the River Clarion, Mary Oliver

Breaking the silence

Work has been exhausting and challenging.

I traveled a lot in June: four days for work, three days for vacation, seven days for a mix of both.

I went through another round of diverticulitis and have now lined up a visit with a gastroenterologist.

Here and there I’ve fit in some fun things to do in the area.

In the spaces in between work and practicing basic self care, I’ve been processing through a lot. There are are a lot of feelings stirred up by family issues and by having time to think and not simply react. I’ve been delving into Mary Oliver’s poetry quite a bit because so many of her poems just resonate for me now. Like this one.

The Journey
One day you finally knew
what you had to do, and began,
though the voices around you
kept shouting
their bad advice–
though the whole house
began to tremble
and you felt the old tug
at your ankles.
“Mend my life!”
each voice cried.
But you didn’t stop.
You knew what you had to do,
though the wind pried
with its stiff fingers
at the very foundations,
though their melancholy
was terrible.
It was already late
enough, and a wild night,
and the road full of fallen
branches and stones.
But little by little,
as you left their voices behind,
the stars began to burn
through the sheets of clouds,
and there was a new voice
which you slowly
recognized as your own,
that kept you company
as you strode deeper and deeper
into the world,
determined to do
the only thing you could do–
determined to save
the only life you could save.

After reading this post by Revanche at A Gai Shan Life my first thought was that I’ve never loaned money to family, so I can’t comment on the experience. Then I realized that wasn’t true at all, and that I could write a fairly lengthy comment in response to her post. Since I’ve been trying to get myself to write more blog posts, I decided that my response was better done here.

My one experience with loaning money to family didn’t turn out so well for me. When I was 15, my father asked me to loan him the contents of my savings account. As a minor, he probably could have taken the money out of my account without checking with me, so it was nice to have him ask me first. Of course I said yes because this was my Dad, after all. My hazy memory pegs the amount he borrowed at $6,000.

The only reason I had any money in my savings account at that time was because of my maternal grandfather. Every year he gave me and my sister a savings bond for Christmas with the stipulation that we could use the money for either a wedding or college. As the bonds matured, the funds needed to go somewhere, so my parents created savings accounts for us at my father’s credit union and put the money there. In today’s dollars, that $6,000 would be worth about $15,000, so it was a pretty substantial amount for me to have in savings at a time when I wasn’t even old enough to be earning a real paycheck.

Dad wanted to borrow the money so he could do a little real estate investing and flip a house or two. He got the idea in his head that he could do this pretty easily by pooling funds with another neighbor and doing the labor on fixing up the house themselves. I don’t know the details of why he didn’t make the profit they had projected, or even if there was any loss involved, but the payback to me didn’t work the way it was supposed to. There wasn’t any documentation of this loan or even a timeline for repayment discussed, but it was understood that I’d get the money back PLUS interest in time for me to use it for college, so he had about three years to pay me back. At this time (1982-1985), interest rates for savings accounts were around 8%, so I should have been reimbursed about $7,500 in 1985 dollars (nearly $18,000 in today’s dollars).

In those three years, our family life disintegrated, though. Dad and I started clashing on typical teenage stuff; I wanted to date boys and Dad wanted me to stay away from them until I was 18, apparently. The close, warm relationship I had with my dad as a child vaporized. My parent’s marriage — which had never been very happy or close from my recollection — disintegrated completely to the point where Dad moved out in my last year of high school, and I was left living with my Mom. (Because my mother is not the most emotionally stable person this was a very stressful time for me, but that’s not something to go into here).

So there I was at 17, wanting to get my money back so I could head off to college, and Mom and Dad in the midst of divorce negotiations. Dear reader, I think you can see where this is going: Dad tried to default on the loan.

Actually, the loan would have been considered a marital debt that both of my parents needed to document during their divorce. Whether my parents had the money to pay me back or not wasn’t material, apparently, since they were still in the early stages of negotiations at the point where I needed my money, and both attorneys were counseling that this was not something that could be addressed at the time.

Mom insisted that I needed my money, and actually lost her attorney over this issue since she continued to push on the issue at every meeting despite the attorney telling her to stop. I did eventually get SOME of the money back by the time I needed it for college. I didn’t get all of my capital back, much less any interest, but I was told that was the best I could expect and to just accept it. So that’s my story about lending money to family: I got screwed.

On the other hand, I have lent money to close friends twice in the past 10 years or so and been paid back in full. For both of those loans we talked about expectations for repayment and a promissory note was signed.

I also invested money in a friend’s business a few years ago and recently learned that the business has folded. At the time I invested the money I knew I was taking a risk, though. The lost investment is going to be a capital loss on my taxes over the next few years, so it’s going to be put to use, in a way.

I think what is more important to me is the fact that my own father has never once apologized for not paying me back, or for not recognizing how his actions impacted me.

Dad did another shameful money grab at the time of the divorce, too. A few years prior, he had set up an account at his credit union that he held jointly with my mother’s uncle as a way to pay back a personal loan great-uncle gave to my parents. During the divorce negotiations, Mom documented the loan in their joint debts, and the savings account in their joint assets. She had no access to the records for that savings account since her name was never on it and Dad denied its existence. When great-uncle (whose name was on the account) tried to access it he was advised it had been closed. The best estimate was that there was roughly $10,000 in the account at the time.

So Dad not only screwed me over, he also screwed great-uncle over, and my mother, too, since she was held responsible for half of those debts while he hid away the money to repay them from his asset statement. Is it any wonder I often say that my parents are best dealt with from a distance?

To end on a somewhat positive note, though, I have come to understand that my parents are only human, so any disappointments I have in their past or present behavior is tempered with this mindset. Nonetheless, I will never trust my father with my money or my mother with my deepest emotions.

You know what’s worse than waking up several times a night from hot flashes? Waking up from wrenching pains in your lower abdomen, too. This happened to me about three weeks ago, started a flurry of doctor visits, and ended in the ER.

Since I arrived here in December I’ve had lots of settling in to do. I had yet to get around to securing a primary care doctor because my most immediate issues (I thought) were gynecological. Turns out that my lower abdominal/pelvic area pains that started that night had nothing to do with my reproductive system, but were instead caused by another bout of diverticulitis.

I don’t feel like writing down a summary of all the doctor visits I’ve had in the past month and I doubt anyone wants to read that much detail anyway. The only way to definitively diagnose what was going on was to do an abdominal CT scan, so after a week of progressive pain increase and the eventual onset of fever I went to the ER and walked out a few hours later with two prescriptions for some heavy-duty antibiotics.

The worrisome issue for me is that I had diverticulitis two years ago, too, and according to both the new primary care doctor here and the gastroenterologist back in Chicago it’s likely I’ll need surgery to remove a troublesome section of my colon in the next two years. I’ve been doing everything the medical establishment tells you to do to minimize the risk of a recurrence — drinking a lot of water, consuming high fiber, and exercising — but that doesn’t seem to be enough. Apparently I’m one of those people who just has a tendency for recurrent infections in that area of my body.

The pelvic ultrasound ordered by the gynecologist showed all was fine with the exception of a small ovarian cyst that should go away over time. The hot flashes are manageable for now, so I’ll just continue with my new sleep habits — layers of bedding to toss off/pull on as needed, a remote-controlled fan, and an early bedtime — to deal with the hormonal fluctuations. And hopefully the waves of fatigue that have showed up recently are more related to my body fighting off a major infection.

Honestly, with the exception of that tiredness that sometimes overtakes me in the afternoon I’m feeling better than I have in a few months. I’m more clear-headed and I have more energy and enthusiasm for work. These are all good things!

Now I just need to get myself slowly back on track with a normal diet. When the hospital released me I was sent home with some information on low-residue diets. Until my gut is healed, I need to cut out all high fiber foods. The day after release I saw my primary care doctor for follow-up and he amended the diet guidelines even more. He wanted me to eat only a liquid diet until I was pain-free. Then I was to gradually add the low-residue foods, and finally get back into my normal high fiber diet.

Since I had no food in my house that was suitable to consume following these guidelines I’ve had to make several trips to the market for stuff I never buy: fruit juice (and no puree, pulp, or pineapple juice in the mix), regular noodles or pasta, white bread, baking potatoes, and rice pudding. I was only on the liquids for about two days (that’s all I could stand before the headaches and icky feeling from consuming nothing but broth and juice got to me), and have slowly worked my way up through the hierarchy of allowable foods. Just yesterday I started adding some low residue vegetables: a piece of lettuce on my white bread and ham sandwich, and some thoroughly cooked green beans with my baked potato (no skin allowed!) dinner last night.

I haven’t been walking very much or hiking at all during this entire ordeal. I took Hannah dog out to a park yesterday for a lesson with the dog trainer and had to pause at the top of every hill we walked up. I think next week I’ll try to join one of the hiking groups that has members with a variety of fitness levels and hang out with the folks near the back of the pack because I miss the social connections and not just the exercise.

One good thing about this mess: I lost about 4-5 pounds and am fitting into some shorts I had saved from a few years ago. So at least I won’t have to pick up new shorts.

Actually, that’s not the only good thing that came out of this experience. When I returned home from the ER, I laid down in the hammock outside for a few minutes, stared at the brilliant blue sky, and felt immensely thankful that I’m here now. There’s nothing like a health scare to make me realize how important it is to build a happy life for myself. I’m very glad I moved to California, and that I made the opportunity to do it at this point in my life while I still have enough health to enjoy all the benefits it brings to my life. My fledgling support network of kind neighbors and friends is building, and if and when I have another need to be in the hospital for any length of time I’m putting in place safeguards to ensure that Hannah dog is well cared for during my absence.

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