What’s Your Story?

More specifically, what’s the story you’re telling yourself? Is it a true story? Does it need to be rewritten? Who helped you write it? Was it a parent? A friend or adversary? The media?

Like a bedtime tale, the stories unfold while we fall asleep until one day we wake up and find they were just faerie tales all along.

O-10nce upon a time I carried a story around into my forties. It said that I am just like my mom. I remember the distinct moment I challenged that story. I was at work, wiping the speckled black countertops liked I’d done every day for a year. Suddenly a thought popped into my head.
I am not my mother.

That’s all. Yet, there it was. It doesn’t sound like much, but it was the tipping of the first domino. Some called it my mid-life crisis. Some called it my late bloom. Knowing what I know now, I can tell you it was the changing of a story; a story I’d been retelling every time I started my diet anew.

We all tell ourselves stories. And once we’ve decided that story is false, we can’t just stop telling ourselves that story. We have to fill it in with a new one. One we can trust.

So when I falsified that story, the new story was . . .

I am me.

Nothing in the universe says I need to face the same challenges my mother faced. Nothing says food has to control me. The new story rang true, and I felt, for the first time in my life, at the age of 45 . . . normal.

I’d always been normal, but for the first time ever, I felt it. Inwardly, I had changed. Outwardly, people noticed. Friends said I glowed. Acquaintances walked by me without realizing they knew me. Yes, I had lost weight, but there was more than that. I had a different story. I am me, and I was not only normal, I was everything I had always wanted to be. I was like Dorothy realizing she had been home all along.
Smithsonian_National_Museum_of_American_History_-_Dorothy_Ruby_Slippers_(6269207855)
So why and how did I find myself back on the diet treadmill, going nowhere fast? It started when I turned 50. It was just a number like any other. If anything, I was gearing myself up for an amazing decade.

And then it happened.

The Change. The Big M. It was more than a ceasing of the monthly cycles. My skin lost its elasticity. My hair lost its sheen. I lost noticeable strength in my hands, back and arms. My shape changed even before I started putting on weight. I didn’t recognize myself. I mean I literally asked out loud, “Who the hell’s body am I in?”

And I fell sleep to a new story . . .

I am old.

I tried to control it in the only way I knew how. I dieted. Okay, you can stop laughing. But I get it . . . it sounds funny as I write it too. Now, where in the world could I ever have gotten that idea?

20 foods that keep you young – Men’s Fitness

25 Foods That’ll Keep You Young Forever | Best Life

The Best Foods To Keep You Young | Prevention

7 Healthy Foods To Keep You Young – Blueberries, Yogurt – AARP

And if you’ve given up hope of actually staying young, you can opt for just looking that way . . .

Foods That Make You Look Younger – Health

Talk about fake news!

The diet industry brings in $20 billion every year, and we’re forking it over like blueberries and yogurt. Do you really want these people writing your story?

So when I woke up and saw the story for what it was — a horrid faerie tale with a bad ending, I needed to write a new one I could trust.

I am aging. Thank goodness I’m aging, because as long as I’m aging, it means I’m still alive. And as long as I’m alive, I have the potential to grow and learn and love. There is no promise of tomorrow. There is only now. And right now . . . life is good.

The_End_Book
No way.

Peace . . .

You may follow my intuitive eating journey from the beginning here:
The View From Here

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I’m Talking Colonoscopy Here

At 16 we get our drivers license, at 18 we receive the right to vote. At 21 they allow us to legally drink. After that it goes downhill. At 26 you’re kicked off your parents insurance and at 50, well, they prod you to get prodded. I’m talking colonoscopy, here. Yes, I did turn fifty some time ago, and my doctor’s been lecturing me ever since. She gave me a pamphlet and presumably sold my number to the gastroenterologist. After they realized I wasn’t picking up, they stopped calling. I held out for five years.

It’s not that I’m afraid of the doctor or the embarrassment or even pain. I delivered four babies vaginally without meds for Christ’s sake. It’s the principle. They aren’t looking for polyps. They’re mining my intestines for gold.

The colonoscopy is the poster child for American healthcare run amok. It’s the most expensive test most of us are prescribed. Like other hospital procedures, a colonoscopy in other developed countries is a fraction of the cost we pay in the US. Here, the procedure accounts for the lion’s share of most gastrointestinal physicians’ income. Using less invasive, less painful, safer procedures would also be less expensive, but who wants that?

Sure other tests may have to be done more often, but at the cost of my prep kit (or less), some of them can be done at home and with no disruption to work or life for those of us who are at low risk.

I was told it was no big deal. Well, it was a big deal, albeit temporary. And the argument is that cancer is a bigger, potentially more permanent deal, right? And because we all know someone who has suffered and lost to cancer, we let them win that argument.

Here’s the thing. You knew I was going to tell you the thing, right? I have health insurance. It makes it easy to go to the clinic every year whether I need it or not, and order up smears and cultures, and scans and scopes whenever my doctor deems it necessary. I have a primary physician and even a phone app that will tell me the results of every test I’ve had in the last ten years. And while they go to the effort to make it all seem free it indeed is not. Healthcare is costly, and is not getting any cheaper or accessible for millions of good, hard-working Americans. If, by some miracle, they can afford the colonoscopy, it won’t matter because they can’t afford cancer treatment.

Once I booked my appointment, I had to put in for my day off of work. Not only do I have the luxury of taking a day off of work, I know someone else who is also able and willing to take a day off of work to drive me to and from the surgery center.

Four days prior to the procedure I went on a low-fiber diet. Not everyone can indulge in changing their diet for four days on a whim. They access their food from a food shelf once a month, or clean out their cupboards at the close of every week. Heck, I’ve been there — and not so many years ago. They can’t afford the $18 for the prep kit, or the two quarts of electrolyte beverage.

No one told me I should have considered taking the day before the appointment off of work, too. I was disoriented from fasting, couldn’t think or make decisions. I was ill from overdosing on mega-laxatives. When Bubba apologized for eating dinner in front of me, I told him I couldn’t eat if I tried.

However, by the time we arrived at the medical center, the illness of the power-lax had worn off and I was starving. A woman in scrubs took me to a tiny room and instructed me to change into a gown. When she came back she slapped a pressure cuff on me, inserted an IV needle in the back of my hand, and said goodbye before closing the door. That was the last person I saw for an hour and a half.

I sat in that room after not eating any solid food for 36 hours, while the staff talked audibly outside my door about who was going to lunch, and where. When finally someone came to get me, I was just about at the end of my rope. I made her wait while I slooooowly coiled my phone cord and placed it in my bag. I sauntered down the hall at my own pace, watching her surprise at how far behind her I’d fallen. You’re on MY clock now, bitch.

Apparently I get mean when I’m hungry.

No less than four people made conversation out of how to pronounce my last name. Yeah, that never gets old. The nurses complained about how cold it was and that the music had frozen. What kind of music is appropriate for a colonoscopy anyway? Dirty Deeds? Send the Pain Below?

When the doctor asked me where I’d been hiding for five years, I was thinking, “You know what? The faster we do this, the faster I can eat.” But you don’t argue with a guy who’s about to put a 6-foot tube up your backside. Mama did teach me not to say anything if I can’t say something nice, so after an awkward moment of silence he replied, “Okay . . . !”

Thanks to plenty of sedation and pain meds, the memory of the next twenty minutes is dim. I do remember the doctor asking for more Versed and the anesthesiologist telling me if I let go of her she can get me more pain medication. I remember them showing me the monitor, as if it could distract me like an episode of The Handmaid’s Tale.

Okay, okay . . I’m done going over the details of my colonoscopy like Gramma at the Thanksgiving table. In the end (pun intended), I got a clean bill of health, a free ticket to come back in 10 years, pictures — yes, pictures! — and a blue tote bag out of the deal.

Powerade
Hey, be happy I didn’t post pictures of my colon.
Let me be clear. I’m not saying that colon screening is unnecessary. I’m saying our health system needs a good thorough check-up. If they really wanted more people to get screened so that less people would die, they would offer more convenient and less disruptive and less expensive options more readily. Healthcare would be for everyone. But then they wouldn’t have all that fun money, would they?

We are aphids blindly sucking nectar off the tender plant while they farm our backsides for the sweet honeydew.

Also, that metaphor is kind of gross.

Peace . . .

Colon Cancer and Rectal Cancer Screening: What Are the Options?

The $2.7 Trillion Medical Bill
Colonoscopies Explain Why U.S. Leads the World in Health Expenditures

How colonoscopies illustrate America’s cost problem

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Wisdom is Less of a Gift than a Purchase

Personification of wisdom (in Greek, "Σοφ...
Sophia, the Greek personification of wisdom. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Sometimes I’m asked why I blog.

First and foremost, I blog for therapy.  Unlike a diary, it forces me to choose my words wisely.  Where a diary will take any abuse you want to give, my public blog requires I treat my thoughts with respect.  And in doing so, I find an appreciation for “life and all things peaceful, balanced, whole and precious.”

I blog for posterity.  It’s something to leave behind.  I don’t believe in a supernatural afterlife.  Even if I could, I wouldn’t want to hang around watching over my loved ones eternally.  In a recent mishap, I accidentally and unavoidably caught a glimpse of all the pictures on the Rebel’s phone.  Trust me when I say I don’t want to watch over them from above.

I blog to pass along a wisdom.  Ancient cultures sat around the fire listening to lore from their elders.  While I do have plenty of advice to share around the fire, most of it involves the perfect toasted marshmallow or the dangers of wielding hot pokers.  Besides, who has time to sit around a fire listening to their elders anymore?  Anything like that gets shared here as “Lore” for those who find it valuable enough to read.

Lady wisdom (2)
Lady wisdom (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I’m not sure at what age one becomes an elder, but I think I’m growing into it as gracefully as possible.  That is, kicking and screaming, my brittle nails shredding on the door frame of old age.  My daughter, the Romantic, reminded me that I once announced I was going to age naturally and embrace it — gray hair, wrinkles, and all.  Yeah . . . I was thirty-something and knew nothing of disappearing collagen or finding coarse, white eyebrows reaching out like odd antennae over the tops of my bifocals.  And so this thing of wisdom that comes with age is less of a gift than a purchase, dearly paid for with my declining condition.

Perhaps there is a responsibility to share what has been so expensive to attain.  Maybe I want to spare my children and readers the pain I’ve born.  After all, the suffering of my children is two-fold; once for their pain and another for the remembrance of my own mistakes.  Or maybe I just want to give you a shortcut, a life hack, so you can surpass where I have been and finish farther ahead.  Whatever the reason, sharing lore is clearly a primal need, present since men acquired the ability to speak.

English: The Seven Pillars of Wisdom rock form...
The Seven Pillars of Wisdom rock formation in Wadi Rum, Jordan (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The elders of my youth have all passed away.  They, too, shared the experience of their years.  Some of it I remember, most of it has probably been forgotten.  The truth is, I gained less of my wisdom in listening than I found in living.  The toddler learns more from touching a hot oven than from being told it is hot.  Riding a bicycle can only be mastered after falling.  We learn to guard our heart once we know how deeply it can hurt.

I’m told there is occasionally wisdom in my words.  If you find it here, it is yours.  If you want to keep it, however, it’s going to cost you a couple of wrinkles and maybe a white antenna eyebrow.  But I guarantee it will be worth it.

Peace . . .

 

The Expectations of My Inner Child, or lack thereof

sc001a13aeIt’s that time of year again when I look at where I’ve come and where I’m headed.  When I think of the tumbling towhead of my youth, it seems impossible that I am the same person.  I sometimes think of her and wonder if I’ve become the person she had hoped I would.

The girl I was held high hopes for humanity.  She rescued injured birds from the middle of roads, and abandoned kittens, despite her severe allergy to cats.  She believed that everyone possessed a beauty and a kindness if you looked hard enough.  She appalled an unjust world that would deliver babies into poverty while others flaunted wealth.  She believed in the abundance of love, peace, and food, if only the obstacles could be removed.

She was no saint, and neither am I.  She had plenty of lesser values and unlearned lessons.  She had fears, and pride, and selfishness that all abide in the adult she became.  And as I look, I realize how much I am still her — for better or for worse. Bark

If she had known where we would be today, I’m not sure if she would have chosen a shorter path or ambled along the one I’ve taken.  Yet, this is the place in which we find ourselves, my little inner child and me, and we are quite happy.

I’m glad she held so few expectations.  It allowed me to stop and contemplate a bug along the way, or touch the bark of a tree.  Had she held me fast to some appointed destination, I’d have taken such a wider, paved road and missed the little things along the way.

The future is a mystery — like trying to depict a figure in the shadows.  But the little towhead I take with me suggests I hold no expectations for the crone I’ll someday be.  Together we will mosey down our untrod trail looking for the tiniest of creatures to share our time.  And someday I can say I found my way to an older age, and I’ll be so much richer for it.

bumble

Happy birthday to me, and of course,

Peace . . .

Like having forgotten why you went in . . .

Gray PrairieIt was like walking into a room having forgotten why you went in.  Life gets like that sometimes.  You come to a place and all you see ahead of you is work, pain, and decline.  Of course there would be good days, moments, funny stories.  But there comes a point where colors are just words and everything looks grey.

Then one day I emailed a story to a friend.  She really enjoyed it and asked if she could post it on her blog.  She wondered if I had ever considered blogging.  She thought I might be good at it.  Maybe it was just the lure of something new, but I felt a thing I hadn’t felt for much too long.  I felt excitement.

It’s been almost a year, which seems like a good time to reminisce, doesn’t it?  That first post was frightening, and I’m not sure it’s gotten much easier.  I put a little bit of myself out there on the internet every week, and wait to see if anyone else relates.  The curious thing is that every week someone does.

Most of my posts include images.  I dream in color, and to post without it would be deceiving.  Whether I am using my Nikon Coolpix S220 or my Motorola Droid Razr, I like to illustrate my own story if I am able.  Toting a camera has caused me to start looking for the things I’d forgotten were there.

Humans crave surprises.  It’s what makes our heart soar when a melody changes key.  It’s why we hop on a haunted hay ride.  It’s why the best films don’t end like you thought they would.  As I looked through my lens, wonderful surprises came into focus in the most routine of places.

There are friends I have met along the way.  And I remind myself they are not real friends, but friends who know me only through what I share on the pages.  Yet, when one of them shares some humor, I laugh.  When one hurts, I shed tears.  When there is bad news, I worry.  If there is another definition of friendship, I do not know it.

Even more curious is this relationship I’ve reignited with myself.  Like taking a step onto the yellow brick road, color seeped into ordinary things.  Everyday tasks became metaphors.  It took me only minutes to come up with the tag-line, “Seeking all things peaceful, balanced, whole and precious,” after deciding I needed one.  Of course!  It was not that these things did not exist.  It was that I had failed to keep looking for them.

And this is the moment, after having forgotten, that I remembered why I had gone into the room.

Peace . . .

My Week of PTO, Part 3

Wednesday Weather
Wednesday Weather

Wednesday, Day 3:

Wide awake at 2:00 a.m.  It happens, especially at a certain age, as I am told.  At least I don’t have to go to work today.  On work days I usually get back to sleep within 20 minutes of my alarm going off.  But on this morning I wandered out to my computer to plan some menus until sleep once again requested my presence.

I planned some healthy breakfasts that sounded really great until I was ready to eat.  By that time, all I wanted to do was snack.  If I ever retire, this grazing at home will kill me in a month.  Nuts.  Dried Fruit.  Yogurt.  Berries.  Granola.  Oh sure, it’s all healthy, but you can’t eat it ALL!

Reading and writing took up most of the morning.  Then I ventured outside at noon.  The sun was shining and the last of the snow was melting.  I was finally feeling comfortable setting up my straw bale garden.  There were hopes of getting it going about 15 days ago, but I’m glad I waited.  This has been some spring, eh?

The back yard is a muddy mess right now.  My neighborhood is on a hill.  I am in the middle.  My first inclination was to build a trench through my yard so that all the water that comes from my neighbors up the hill would drain through to the neighbors down the hill.  But then I had a revelation.

The clouds opened up and the angels sang.

cloud

Well, it was almost like that.

I realized this is the same stinking thinking that all the people up the hill have which leads to the mud lake in my back yard.  I decided that I would like to make a rain garden to keep the water from flowing downhill and into the lakes and streams.  It is still just a mud lake, but someday I will make it into a rainwater garden.

Plus the little pup runs for Frisbees back there, and she is ripping it up good!  I almost took a couple spills out there — which actually would have been pretty funny!

The afternoon was spent streaming movies and surfing the internet until my youngest called asking if we were still going out for coffee.  At about that time Bubba came home and I realized I was un-showered and looking like I had wandered in off the street.  Ah . . . this is what PTO looks like!

I met my daughter at the local bookstore/coffee shop where I used to work.  The staff has almost completely turned over since I was employed there, and we were left alone to chat all evening.  Life.  Love.  Money.  School.  Peace . . .

Me:  After I divorced your dad, people would ask me if I was happier.  And I would tell them I didn’t know if I was happier, but I was more at peace.
Her:  Oh.
Me:  That’s all I really want for you kids.  Right now you are under a lot of stress.  Money is tight, and you’ve made some bad choices.
Her:  Yeah.
Me:  My hopes for you — for any of you kids — is not to make money, or get married, or have children.  You make your own brand of happiness.  All I want for you is to be at peace.
Her:  Yeah.
Me:  The hippies were on to something.
Her:  (Smiling) Yeah.  They were.
Me:  You know, happiness isn’t everything.  Peace is huge.  And actually, money might not buy happiness, but it can buy a certain amount of peace.
Her:  I’m going to post that on Facebook.

I guess this is how the modern parent knows their kids are listening.  If it shows up on Facebook, you said something worth hearing.

Peace . . .