I Stand for Women’s Health.

(Fair warning: This post is about women’s health issues. Accordingly, it talks about female reproductive health. If you’re squeamish about this kind of stuff, feel free to click away.)

I’ve been struggling, emotionally, the past few months.

Even with regular exercise, having quit caffeine, daily meditation and journaling, consistent therapy sessions, cultivating healthy diet and sleep habits, and even quitting alcohol for a bit, I’ve had trouble sleeping, waking up sweaty in the middle of the night, then having an awful time getting back to sleep. I’ve been moody and irritated and angry a lot.

And then I had a week where I felt an utter and abject hopelessness. I felt numb, and deeply sad. It felt like joy was something other people felt, that I’d never find it myself. It was terrifying and awful and I had no idea what to do. I waited it out, hoping that it was something that would wane.

Thankfully, it DID wane. The day I got my period, I slept a full 8 hours without waking once, and that day, my mood lifted and I felt a billion times better.

I started putting two and two together: night sweats, insomnia, irritability, anxiety, depression… correlated with my cycles.

These were symptoms of menopause. It couldn’t be a coincidence.

So I made an appointment with a new gynecologist whose special interest was menopause symptoms, who told me that it was actually normal to have menopause symptoms in your early 40s. She confirmed for me that yes, it seemed like I was experiencing them. I had multiple options to ease my symptoms, which included both medication and/or hormones. We talked through them all, the pros and cons, and I left the office with a prescription for medication, which, as of today, seems to be helping.

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All’s well that ends well, right?

For me, yes.

I live in Massachusetts, one of the states that actually cares about making sure that its constituents have access to health care; Mitt Romney’s 2006 health care reform bill was the basis for the national law to allow access to affordable healthcare for all.

And I am watching what our new administration is doing to try and resurrect the dead ACA repeal (also known as the AHCA) bill with anger at what they are trying to do.

Because yes, I live in a state where I will likely always have access to healthcare. (I mean, seriously – the governor of Massachusetts even pledged state funding to Planned Parenthood had the AHCA passed.)

One of my best friends who lives in Kentucky, though, has a different story.

As does my sister in North Carolina.

And my mom in Texas.

And my girlfriends who live in in Georgia. Or Alabama. Or Nebraska. Or Michigan. Or Pennsylvania.

You get the picture, right?

Women will suffer under the new administration’s version of the AHCA.

Prior to Obamacare, only 12% of insurance plans covered maternity care.

Prior to Obamacare, less than half of the states in the US had mandates requiring coverage of mental health treatment.

The new AHCA strips out the mandate to provide preventative health care for women: mammograms and pap smears. And also mental health services, which, based on my recent personal experience, actually kind of go hand in hand with physical health.

The new AHCA will not allow for organizations like Planned Parenthood to be reimbursed by Medicare and Medicaid for birth control and preventative care for women. And since Planned Parenthood operates its centers in mostly low income and rural areas, it means that women in low income and rural areas will lose access to women’s reproductive care.

I feel like, ever since November, I’ve been sitting here, watching what’s going on in politics and shaking my head, saying, This is NOT OKAY.

This is not SO not okay.

So this week, I called Seth Moulton – my US Rep* – and told him that I stand for women’s health**.

We need to make our voices heard. Still. Now. Until we ALL have access to the kind of healthcare that we all need.

*Need to know who your rep is? Click here and enter your zip code.

**Don’t know what to say? Click here for a sample script.

 

 

 

 

 

Posted in #FindingMyHappy, #ThingsIHaveLearned, Challenges, Milestones, Wellness | 4 Comments

#MicroblogMondays: Insomniac.

Microblog_Mondays

Not sure what #MicroblogMondays is? Read the inaugural post which explains the idea and how you can participate too.

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For a couple years now, I’ve had periods of insomnia here and there. Worst was during the summer a couple years ago, where I spent two months not sleeping. That was awful.

So I was super excited when giving up caffeine seemed to help my sleep issues.

It was GREAT for the first couple weeks.

But for the last month, I have had stubborn insomnia which I cannot seem to overcome.

I FALL asleep just fine, no trouble there – I’m usually asleep within seconds of my head hitting the pillow.

But between 1:30 and 3:00 each night, it’s like I have this little alarm in my head that goes off. My eyes pop open and I’m wide awake, as if it were the middle of the day. I shuffle to the bathroom, get a drink of water, then get back in bed and start my evening fall-asleep process all over again.

And then my brain goes, Oh HAI! I’m not sleepy at ALL! Come on, let’s play!

If I were thinking back over long-gone embarrassments, or worries about the future, I think I’d be able to handle the insomnia better. THAT I can handle, I can take deep breaths and tell myself to work with what I have right now, that I’m the moment and there’s nothing I can do about the past or future.

But no. That’s not what my brain wants to talk about.

No, it wants to work out every plot line of EVERY MOVIE I HAVE EVER WATCHED.

Which, ironically, are few and far between. I’m not what you would call a “movie person.” I was a bookworm when I was younger and never got into the habit of watching movies, always preferring the library or a bookstore. I haven’t seen Back to the Future or Goonies or any of the Rat Pack kid movies like Breakfast Club. A friend of mine actually somewhat forcibly held me in his apartment until I watched all three Star Wars movies during winter break in college, horrified that I had never seen them. And I can’t tell you how many times Jeff has asked me, Have you seen… with the name of some movie I probably SHOULD have seen in the 80s. My answer is always, Nope!

Yet that’s what my brain wants to do right now in the middle of the night: go over all the movies I have seen and try and figure out the things I can’t remember.

A couple weeks ago, I spent a riveting hour at 3am thinking about the plot line between Natalie and the Prime Minister in Love Actually.

So he fired her because of her thing with the US President, right? Or did she quit? And then she sent him a Christmas card and he HAS to go find her because she was apologizing for her part in the whole thing? Wait, is that even true? He’s kind of a dick to fire her (wait, Karen, DID he fire her? Or did he just let her quit?) for THAT. Billy Bob Thornton made a good creepy American president there.

So wait, did she quit, or did he fire her?

And the whole time I’m laying there, I was trying to tell my chattering brain, Yo. We don’t need to figure this out now! Can we PLEASE just go to sleep?

If it would STOP OBSESSING FOR ONE MOMENT to answer, it would have said, Yes, yes, of course! In a tone that is agreeable and eager. It’s just that I NEED to figure this out first!

A few nights ago it was Sleepless in Seattle. I have NO idea why that movie popped into my head; I saw it once, a long time after it came out, and I didn’t really understand the appeal. But there I was, trying to figure it all out. Why did they meet at the Empire State Building? Wait DID they meet there, or did they cross paths and meet elsewhere? Shit, how did that go again?

I legitimately sit awake most every night, obsessing over movie plot lines. I’m aware of it while I’m doing it, but I literally CANNOT STOP THINKING. And so I’m awake for 2-3 hours a night while my brain turns over every tiny detail I can possibly remember about a movie, until finally, it tires itself out, and I fitfully sleep until my alarm rings at 5am.

It reminds me of what Anne Lamott says about her brain in Plan B: Further Thoughts on Faith:

“Still, my mind chattered on, as if the spider monkey had taken acid. My mind is my main problem almost all of the time. I wish I could leave it in the fridge when I go out, but it likes to come with me.”

At 3 in the morning I wish I could take my insomniac movie-obsessed spider monkey on acid mind and give it a bunch of pot, some valium and maybe a glass of wine or two and then stuff it under my pillow, holding it tightly until it passes out and leaves me alone for a few hours.

I need an unbroken night of sleep.

Soon.

Have you ever struggled with insomnia?

Posted in Uncategorized | 2 Comments

Attachment.

Our oven, which is built into a wall in our kitchen, stopped working a few weeks ago; it would run and run and never get hot.

I called a GE repair person, who came today. It’s fixable, but it will require two people, because they have to take the oven – which is 10 years old – out of the wall. With parts and labor, it’ll cost $700.

A new oven is $1400. We’ve already replaced the control panel for this particular model, so if we spend the money on fixing it, we’re nearly at the cost of a new oven.

I asked him straight out what his opinion was. If we fix this part, would the oven continue to work just fine, did he think?

He stopped and considered. Well, maybe. But this oven is 10 years old, which is the standard life on appliances nowadays.

I don’t want to buy a new oven.

I want this one to work.

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A few weeks ago, I noticed that my favorite long sleeved pullover is looking a little stretched. The fabric is thin on the elbows, and the shirt is stretchy in odd ways. No holes yet, but it’s only a matter of time.

I’m wearing it anyway, because usually I just layer it over a t shirt and under my zipped hooded sweatshirt.  Plus, it’s my daily uniform.

And yes, I’ve been looking for new shirts to replace this one, but this one is so perfect – fitted, but not too tight, and not too loose. I can’t seem to find anything will work in its place.

I don’t want a new shirt.

I want this one to stay as comfortable as it’s been.

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Owen has been getting up for the past few weeks, getting dressed, going downstairs, making himself breakfast on his own, and then cleaning up after himself. This is mostly because he knows he’s allowed his iPad/computer time before bus only if he’s taken care of business first. But also, well, he’ll be 9 next month (next MONTH!), so I feel like a little responsibility is a good thing.

It’s actually quite nice; I’m able to get my bike workout in some mornings and not have to worry that he won’t be ready for school. But, too, it’s bittersweet, because wasn’t it just yesterday that he was my baby and I had to allow him to wake him up slowly, by taking him out of his crib and rocking with him and Bear in the glider in his room?

As he grows, it gets harder and harder to mother him. That’s how it works: your child is always leaving you, every moment of every day, growing into their own person with their own lives and hopes and dreams. It’s right that it happens that way.

I will not be that mom that won’t let her son grow up.

I just wish it wasn’t so hard to let go.

Posted in #BrainDump, Wellness | Leave a comment

#MicroblogMondays: Snow Days.

Not sure what #MicroblogMondays is? Read the inaugural post which explains the idea and how you can participate too.

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Old Man Winter decided to show up last week, in the form of what feels like nonstop snow since last Tuesday. And three snowdays and two two-hour delays later, I am sitting at home in my pajamas, writing this, longing for a regular, normal, usual day.

Not going to happen – today at least. Snow Day.

Owen loves it, of course. Third grade has been a bit of an adjustment for him; he’s been telling me lately that he doesn’t like school and he hates homework, and he’s even asked if he could be homeschooled. He’s come home from the after school program a few days this month with headaches so bad they’ve made him throw up.

My theory is that he’s reacting to the structure and maybe his teacher and then the chaos inside at the afterschool program, but I was also his age when school went south for me as well. So I worry. His teacher hasn’t reached out to me, though, and when I’ve asked Owen straight out if he wants me to talk with her, he’s said no, so I’ve just been sitting with it and hoping it resolves. Sometimes you just get a teacher you don’t really click with; I hope that’s the case here.

So it’s nice, in a way, to cocoon at home, no school, no homework fights, work in my pajamas, be there when Owen wants to come up for a hug, snuggle under a warm blanket, and go outside with our goofy dog who ADORES the snow.

Plus, it’s kind of pretty.

(That said, PLEASE LET THERE BE SCHOOL TOMORROW. Thank you.)

Posted in #MicroblogMonday, My Cute Kid, Other Stuff, Out of My Head | 3 Comments

Saturation and Self-Care.

sat·u·ra·tion

saCHəˈrāSH(ə)n/
noun
  1. the state or process that occurs when no more of something can be absorbed, combined with, or added.
    1. the degree or extent to which something is dissolved or absorbed compared with the maximum possible, usually expressed as a percentage.
    2. to a very full extent, especially beyond the point regarded as necessary or desirable.

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The morning after the Super Bowl, I logged into Facebook. I wanted to see what people thought of the game… and I wanted to see replays of Lady Gaga’s halftime show as well as the Hamilton ladies singing before the game.

Immediately, I wanted to log back out. The Patriot Nation memes and celebration here felt too much like gloating, the Brady and Belichick haters were still posting about how much they hated the Patriots, the pictures of Tom Brady with his family and sick mom both warmed and hurt my heart, and a friend of mine – an Atlanta fan – posted that the game felt like Election Night all over again – and the Pats fans were commenting things like LOL!

For the past few months now, I’ve felt the same way when I spend any amount of time on social media (which for me is Facebook, that’s my main social platform): irritated. Not in the sense of annoyed, but irritated in the sense of this definition: roughened, reddened, or inflamed by an irritant. I have come away from my social media time hurt and hopeless, wondering why people can’t seem to see that there are other people on the other side of their screen. Which, of course, leads into fear of the future and the question what is this world coming to?

And it completely flared up on Monday morning. Over a sports game.

I pride myself on being a person who can see an issue from someone else’s viewpoint and provide empathy and encouragement when they need it. I took this on as a responsibility after my cousin died more than two decades ago, when I had the shocking realization that my actions (and inaction) affect other people. Even a hopeful word or two can give someone who’s having a bad day a lift. It’s been the way I’ve approached my life since then; I believe we have a responsibility to listen and thoughtfully consider other people’s views as part of how we come to our own opinions and beliefs.

And until Monday, I thought I was doing a good job at it.

A good friend of mine has a theory about social media. She believes our brains haven’t evolved to be able to handle the pervasiveness of it. We, as a species, are wired for hunting and gathering and farming and DOING things with our hands, and therefore we can’t handle the barrage of messages and opinions being streamed at us at all times.

It’s just saturation, Karen, she told me.

That’s exactly what it is. I’m saturated and depleted, too likely to lose my footing and get swept away in what everyone is saying. And with Facebook right now, I feel like I’m being tossed around by everybody’s thoughts and opinions.

It’s time for self-care.

So I’m unplugging from Facebook and online news sources for a bit until I feel more grounded. It’s the best idea I can come up with – for now anyway.

How do you manage the barrage of messages through social media?

Posted in #BrainDump, #FindingMyHappy, #ThingsIHaveLearned, Out of My Head, Rants, Wellness | Leave a comment

#Microblog Mondays: Kicking The Caffeine.

Microblog_Mondays

Not sure what #MicroblogMondays is? Read the inaugural post which explains the idea and how you can participate too.

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As surprising as it still is to me to say that I sometimes struggle with anxiety (I swear, I was NEVER an anxious kid!), over the past few years I’ve had to accept the reality that I do, in fact, struggle with anxiety.

And I will also admit that the past few months have been particularly bad. There are myriad reasons why, mostly having to do with all the words I see which I’m trying hard to navigate as well as the sometimes overwhelming BUSY of my days.

Trying to keep space for it all is really, really hard.

A couple weeks ago, I had a couple days that were so bad, anxiety-wise, that I considered calling my doctor and making an appointment to discuss medication. I have a personal policy to put as little medicine into my body as possible, so it was kind of a big deal to even consider it.

But then a friend of mine told me he gave up caffeine a few years ago because he had been struggling with anxiety as well. He said it was really helpful. I didn’t think I drank a lot of coffee – just a travel mug first thing in the morning. And it was my happy place, my morning meditation. It’s rich and comforting and warm and I love it. Jeff jokes that it’s the coffee that makes me human in the morning, which is really only partially a joke.

But I have noticed that some mornings that it’s only really been after my coffee that I’ve felt the buzzing of the anxiety grow in my stomach and the bands start to tighten around my chest and my mind start to run away with the obsessing.

So I decided to try an experiment. I’d wean myself off caffeine and see how I felt after a couple of weeks.

The first week I had a small cup of caffeinated black tea every day, the second week I allowed myself three days of green tea, then went completely caffeine free with a decaf coffee I found online that is nearly as good as our regular favorite kind.

I’m a little shocked to report that I feel SO MUCH BETTER. Grounded, more balanced, calmer. I’m a lot more sleepy during the day, which sucks, but my body isn’t buzzing and racing in the morning anymore without any reason, and I’m sleeping better at night.

I had no idea how much it was affecting me.

The good news is that I still get my morning cup of comfort – just in decaf form. I am SO happy I was willing to give it up.

Would you ever give up coffee?

 

Posted in #FindingMyHappy, #MicroblogMonday, About Me, Challenges, Uncategorized | 7 Comments

#MicroblogMondays: Words.

Microblog_Mondays

Not sure what #MicroblogMondays is? Read the inaugural post which explains the idea and how you can participate too.

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I promised in one of my posts that I rarely talk politics on this blog, and I’m holding to that – you will not hear how I feel about current events (though if you know me, you can probably guess how I’m feeling).

But I need to talk about words today.

We live in a day and age where it’s incredibly easy to communicate in words. We write it down opinions in Facebook posts, which start arguments discussions with our friends. We post pictures on Instagram, we tweet whatever it is we’re thinking. It’s instant: we have an opinion or thought, we post a picture and/or write words into some social media site. Then we move on with our day, feeling better, like we accomplished something. Our words are out there – people know how we feel. Awesome.

Except.

Right now, for me, the words that people are putting on social media feel like incessant buzz of pain and heartbreak and anger and judgment. Sometimes funny, sometimes not, there are so many words and opinions about politics that I’m having a hard time finding my center. I see intolerance on all sides – an unwillingness to listen and try and understand where each side might be coming from, each side vilifying the other, talking about how wrong everyone else is.

Angry words, sad words, judgmental words, screamy LISTEN TO MEEEEEE! words. Maybe it’s because, as a writer, I love words and want to read and consider all of them… but right now I’m drowning and lost.

And the thing about words: If they aren’t followed up by actions… they’re just words, cluttering up social media sites.

So.

If you feel strongly about what’s going on in politics right now, put those words to work.

Take action.

If you are in the United States, then join a daily action group like this one. Donate time or money to a group that does good things for immigrants and women and the Earth and children and refugees. Make telephone calls to your representatives and senators and national organizations.

Get out. Make calls. DO something. Put your words to USE.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Posted in Uncategorized | 1 Comment

Do It Anyway.

I think what scares me the most about TIME right now is how quickly it is flowing. It started when Owen was born, and the days were long with sleep deprivation and anxiety.. but then the weeks seemed to fly by.  As he’s grown, time has seemed to pick up speed, going faster and faster.

I often just want to scream WAIT, SLOW DOWN! I can’t keep up!

Two nights ago, I had an amazing and completely exhausting swim workout. When I got home, I was physically depleted, to the point where I considered sleeping in my car in the garage, because idea of walking into the house was a monumental effort. But I was also ravenous, so I made it inside to our kitchen table, where I collapsed, with cold leftovers. (Which, as an aside, were AMAZING. Food is SO good.)

Owen had just gotten home from a soccer game, was also ravenous and wanted leftovers. So he and I sat there and ate our dinners – mine cold, his warm- at almost 9pm.

Unlike me, he was NOT depleted from his soccer game; he was energized and had a lot to say.

And in this one moment, as he was talking, I saw both the chatty 9 month old baby with the chubby cheeks who would have a conversation with me (which sounded like Maaa ma ma mamamama MA MA MAAAA!)… and a flash of the man he is going to become.

Forward and backward, past and future, all wrapped up in the bubbling energy of my 8 year old son. I saw it so clearly in one moment, and I was left feeling full of love and gratefulness and wonder.

I can’t stop time.

I can’t slow it down.

Frankly, I can’t keep up.

But I can record my stories and the moments where I see.

So. I signed up for the writing class.

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

The Not Enough Demons. (Or: Why I Need Hope.)

I woke up Not Enough this morning.

Well, maybe it’s truer to say that I went to bed Not Enough last night. Sleep doesn’t erase Not Enough; instead it seems to amplify it.

And so I woke up this morning, on a Tuesday, already Failing.

There are lots of reasons why I feel I’m Not Enough.

Someone I respect and admire disagreed with me on something I feel is important but can’t justify beyond saying It’s important. And because I can’t justify it, I can’t argue. If I can’t argue it, then maybe that means I’m wrong. If I’m wrong, then my life feels both hard… and pointless.

Work is busy and my knowledge of what I’m doing is tenuous at best because it’s my first year end, yet I cannot work the kind of hours I need to work, because life is crazy… and they can’t afford for me to work those hours. Besides, I shouldn’t NEED to work those kind of hours, because I am a CPA with nearly 15 years of experience.

I made a mistake with the woman we hired to help out at home; I gave her a key to our house despite my misgivings about her commitment – the day before she disappeared and stopped responding to my calls and texts.

For years I swore I’d never get a dog if we couldn’t give him what he needs. We are not giving Finley what he needs right now. We don’t have the time to give him exercise every day. And so EVERY. TIME. I try and leave the house, he comes over and looks at me expectantly, then hangs his head whenever I tell him that he’s not coming with me, I’ll be back soon. It’s an awful way to leave my house, and I do it every day, sometimes multiple times a day.

Yesterday I found a 6-week writing seminar in a town next over that I really, really, really want to do. Except I am pretty sure I can’t swing it, because committing to six Thursday nights in a row this winter- for something that’s my HOBBY- is too much, and now that the woman we thought we hired is no longer an option, I don’t have the help I was hoping to have in order to have the time to do it.

I have friends who are grieving and suffering right now, and there’s literally nothing I can do to help them.

And I don’t need to tell you what’s going on in the world right now, whenever I look at the news. I’m so, so, SO tired of feeling afraid. But I’m really afraid.

The Not Enough demons are strong today. I feel small. Powerless. Exhausted. Low on hope.

And how it manifests in me: I’m grumpy and quiet and clipped and snappish. I have no tolerance for questions – especially ones which require me to make more plans or figure out a schedule. Everything in my being screams JUST LEAVE ME ALONE. I want to escape and run away.

You guys, I have a family.

This is not okay.

So the thing is: I have this idea.

Maybe if I can find hope – even if it’s infinitesimal right now- I can spend my time working hard to foster those tiny moments of happiness and gratitude inside me. If I do that, then maybe they can grow, and get bigger. And when they do that, maybe, just maybe, I can live from a place where I don’t wake up on a Tuesday morning feeling Not Enough.

I need hope.

So this morning, when I was driving to work, crying, because oh my god do I feel Not Enough right now, and it’s only Tuesday, and all the days I need to get through are stretched in front of me, weeks and months and years and decades full of tasks and To Dos, and I’m so scared I’m always going to be To Doing and my heart will never feel full… I looked up and saw this gorgeous sunrise.

And even though I was crying, I stopped and took a picture.

It’s not the greatest picture ever, not filtered and instagrammed and perfected like some kind of postcard. It’s just the sky.

But I took this picture this morning, when I was feeling scared and exhausted and feeling hopeless.

For today, that’s Enough.

 

Posted in #BrainDump, Out of My Head, Rants | 1 Comment

#MicroblogMondays: Cultivating Hope.

Microblog_Mondays

(Not sure what #MicroblogMondays is? Read the inaugural post which explains the idea and how you can participate too.)

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I just discovered this Washington Post article, even though it’s been out for a few weeks. In it, a DC-area unitarian minister talks about three different ways to cultivate hope in a the new year.

I’ve actually been struggling with this for a few years now; balancing a need to be aware of current events with the hopelessness I feel every. time. I. read. the news.

So I really love this idea that hope is an intentional practice, like lighting a candle in the dark. It fits really well with my goal this year to be more intentional about where I spend my energy, too.

One of the biggest things I’m working on right now is actively changing my perspective. Because I’ve found that I have a pretty damn negative, mean, and judgy voice inside my head who’s been allowed to manage my thoughts and worldview for wayyyyyyyy too long.

It’s a hell of a lot easier to be hopeful when you’re focusing on more of the positive and feeling grateful.

(Also, it’s pretty eye opening to realize that negative and hopeless was my default setting.)

Does this idea of cultivating hope resonate with you? How do you practice hope?

Posted in Challenges, Goals, Meditation, Strategies | 4 Comments