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On dust clouds and mid-life

24 Jun

12:29 pm

So, we live in the vicinity of the Godzilla dust cloud from the Sahara, and um, it is making things almost hilariously apocalyptic. As if we didn’t have enough to deal with, considering the pandemic, the BLM protests/riots, and now, one of the worst dust seasons (it is a seasonal thing) in history! I tried jogging the other day and felt like I just had to stop after two miles, I was so…heavy all over. Yesterday, we went to the beach and I almost fell asleep in my chair; this dust makes me tired, which seems like a really strange reaction to me. Sure, I can feel it in my lungs, a tight burning when I breathe; in my eyes, which burn; it gives me a headache; but, falling-asleep-tired? Stranger things have happened, and at this point, I have become sort of used to taking things as they come, in stride, and moving along.

I thought about whether I wanted to write this post, about my mid-life transition, and I am posting a truncated version of what I wrote yesterday. Yes, I want to share, but eh, not in THAT much detail.

Suffice it to say, I was finally able to follow up with my gynecologist and get all that woman stuff taken care of, including blood work to test my hormone levels. As I suspected–things changed this year, and I sort of knew, somehow, in my body/mind that things had changed–I am now menopausal (versus perimenopausal). At the ripe old age of just-turned-46. Haha. It’s all good, and I knew it was coming early for me. Actually, I feel better than I have in almost two years. My night heat (I guess my version of hot flashes will have been this intense burning up at night along with dry chills) has improved and I don’t have insomnia nearly as often as I used to.

The past two or three months, as the night heat has gotten better, I’ve found myself letting go of caring about making it better or controlling it or just worrying about it. It sucks, but I have found ways to cope (cooling showers, deep breathing–yeah, that really does work). Maybe it’s partly a sense of relief and hope–this shit actually DOES get better. When you’re going through it, and can’t find a damn thing online that matches what you’re experiencing, there isn’t a light at the end of the tunnel.

In general, I feel like I care less about everything, am more willing to just let things go, to stop trying to control everything. Maybe it’s the series of events this year that has made me go, you know, you just cannot control everything/anything, and your reaction–and chain reaction to your reaction–is key to staying sane, at least for me (I don’t have clinical depression or anxiety, so I am not talking about people for whom it’s not as easy as “think positive”). I mean, maybe it’s what our move back to the island taught me recently–there is only so much you have control of here, and so much you can care about or try to change. Maybe it’s the changing nature of our friendships; when you “go home again,” they have changed, and you have to change your expectations (otherwise, you’re just going to be irritated all the time by expectations being not met!).

Mabye it’s the coronavirus, these protests, the fact that I was furloughed from my job. I don’t know, but I am holding on less and less to the idea that I have control or even should care–and that has done wonders for my mood! I am focusing more on the life in front of me, on the “now,” mostly because I don’t have a clear view of the past or the future anymore–I am forgetting/letting go of the past, and the future is way too uncertain to make any predictions.

On the “menopause” (in quotes, because there is no rule book) front, I think I’m relieved to have finally gotten some “answers” (my hormone tests came back showing much different readouts than last year). I am no longer in this limbo, in a way, searching for information, for some kind of absolute truth–it does not exist, and frankly, most of the information out there is conflicting. I chose a gynecologist who seems current in her knowledge and is very pro-treatment/hormone therapy. Others might choose to not take hormones. Both are OK.

The maddening search has ended, mainly because I am through the worst of it (I guess?) but also because I just gave up trying to find what I was looking for, which was my experience! I literally found zero information on my version of “hot flashes,” which are that I burn up at night, have dry chills, but as far as I know, have never had the kind of hot flash that you think of when you think of menopause (drenched in sweat, red, panicky) during the day; I have never had that kind of hot flash, actually…unless it was so slight that I didn’t distinguish it from just being hot.

Anyway, the point is that, it’s gotten better, and as it’s gotten better, I’ve started to care less and hold onto EVERYTHING less, to let things roll off me more–in all aspects of my life, it seems.

I went through a period of mourning, years ago, actually, for my fertility, for my youth; I came to the, gasp, “shocking” realization that I am going to age and die, like everyone else! (Actually, I am glad I had to confront this early on, and not wait until my 50s.) The thing that still makes me a bit sad is that I never shared this experience with anyone. For the most part, I kept it to myself. Sure, my boo knows every detail–thank Goddess, he is cool about it all and offered as much advice and support as he could. However, I’ve never told my mom (a different post, but she would just make it worse), rarely talked about it with close girlfriends, never revealed the emotional aspects to my gynecologist (she was too busy and not interested in that angle). No one seemed to care–moreso, I didn’t want to talk about it myself, actually. I just wanted it to pass so that I could move on with my life.

Yet, it was a HUGE part of the past few years and in some ways, all-consuming: What is happening to my body, why am I burning up every night, will I ever feel normal again?

I’m just glad I’m through it, knock wood. Glad my only symptoms are/were mild, relatively speaking. If there is more to come, I can keep on keepin’ on; no one is going to die, as a hilarious coworker of mine used to say in the face of the extreme–and ridiculous–concern over the building of the company’s website pages. Haha.

I have to say, being an active alcoholic for at least a decade has definitely made my tolerance for pain much higher than the average woman’s! I mean, pfft, a little burning up at night, chills, and waking up after four hours is NOTHING compared to being blackout drunk for 12 hours and then hungover for another 48 (and all the mental anguish, the suicidal thinking, that ensues). NOTHING can be worse than that except maybe paranoid delusions or drug-induced psychosis, in my opinion. So, another silver lining to having been a drunk!

On a different note: I am still off social media–since mid-April–and it feels great. It’s really working for me; literally, it’s doing wonders for my sense of calm, peace of mind, ability to focus on what I need to do, which is stay focused on a job search. And, as for our pup, she is still fighting; she doesn’t have much control anymore over her hind legs, but she is a fighter and has a strong will to live. She has always been a happy dog, a dog who loves life; so, when she lets me know that her pain (so to speak; I think she is more numb back there than in pain) is greater than her will to live, then we’ll think about next steps.

Happy week, all! Thanks for reading this post…

Our bear passed on…

21 Mar

10:58 am

On Saturday, March 17th, our “son” (beagle mix, almost 10 years old) passed on to the next realm, or whatever you believe exists after our brain turns off and we take our last breath.  We were beside him on the bed as the house-call vet (who happened to have gone to vet school in the islands, which was actually quite comforting–we just moved here, and it still feels quite foreign) stabbed some “feel good” drugs into his heaving frame, and then followed that with barbiturate.  I have had people and pets die, of course, but I have never been in the room as the creature took its last breath.

I almost took my last breath as, a moment later, our dog stopped breathing and his eyes went glassy and still.  It was heart-wrenching, and it was seared into my brain.

As I’ve written, he was such an intimate part of my island life, and was everything to me for the 6 years that I knew him:  coworker (I work from home), confidant, best friend, higher power.  Once, when I was still drinking and had just arrived on island to visit the man who is now my fiance, I drank and blacked out and yelled; and our boy was so scared he hid outside under the truck.  That was before I knew what a gentle, sweet soul he was, apt to cower at even the slightest expression of frustration, the smallest rise in voice.  I vowed never again to scare him like that, and it was that memory, along with so many nights of love, comfort, and simply his presence that kept me from uncorking a bottle of red wine.

As my mind, however, begins to do what I could not imagine a few days ago–accept the unacceptable, normalize the horrific, move on from death–all I’m left with is a sense of awe and anger:  the mind is an amazing, if not entirely effed up, place.  Haha.

As we moved through the first hours without our little man, I couldn’t help but recognize in my actions the similarities between coping with death and dealing with a hangover!  I spent the day clinging to “micro-goals,” like, breathing, like thinking about my next breath without having a panic attack; putting some food down my throat; paying my bill; rearranging the pillows on the couch; forcing a smile just to know that my face was still there.

And I gasped when I suddenly realized that EVERY one of my hangovers was a small death–a little death, but a death all the same.  And, of all the horrific events of the last few days, that realization was kind of the most horrifying–that we, as alcoholics, put ourselves through a death every single day, for months, years, decades.  How cruel are we to ourselves!  Our bodies, minds, and souls deserve so much more; we deserve to be sober, we deserve to live.

I have wanted to smoke a cigarette the past few days, when my heart has felt so tight I could barely think; but not drink.  I can’t imagine going through this trauma and being drunk or hungover.  I still think about my old drinking buddies, some of whom are still using booze to coat, soothe, forget; and I wonder, how is it that I got here, that I GET to be free, to actually live through this pain alcohol-free–such that I can, again, transform it to something else, something positive, something light?

It was interesting to watch our other dog sniff at death and then immediately move away; it was saddening but also interesting to watch myself caress my boy’s corpse right after he stopped breathing, check his eyes (I was like, Is he definitely gone?) a couple times, and then…move away.  We instinctively move away from death.  Likewise, eventually, we instinctively move away from drinking alcoholically; drinking alcoholically is death, and we move away from it to life, to light, to clarity, to actually processing our reality.

I miss him, but I know I have to be grateful for all the life he gave me, the love he allowed me to see in myself, the thing that we conjured together by loving each other–that lives on, I have a strong sense.  And for that I am grateful.

Life is too sweet to be bitter

25 Jul

4:52 pm

I came across a story today that about Kris Carr, and it totally inspired me. Here’s her final quote of the piece:

I think that life is just too sweet to be bitter. Once I was able to change my focus, desperation led to inspiration. I made so many changes, and I thought: This is an awesome life. I mean, honestly, I don’t think anyone has a better life than me. How can you live with the knowledge of cancer? I might not ever be able to get rid of it, but I can’t let that ruin my life. . . . I think: Just go for it. Life is a terminal condition. We’re all going to die. Cancer patients just have more information, but we all, in some ways, wait for permission to live.

For many reasons, this struck me as relevant to sobriety. It strikes at the core of what we avoid as drinkers: we wait for permission to live, we live in fear, we don’t just Go For It. Once we change our focus, we can go from desperate to not drink to inspired to live life.

Today, I’m reconfirming my commitment to running more, embracing the challenge of developing balance in my life, and giving up (trying to) the Diet Coke. If there are small things I can do (juicing might come soon, why not?), then let’s DO THIS.

I wonder, how long was I running on fumes?

6 May

5:37 pm

Cuz these days, I have no motivation. Sure, I do stuff, I’m planning stuff, but only if charged on sugar and caffeine. And, I could be doing SO much more. The natural spring of ambition I had in college? Good Jesus, that’s over. The kind I had in my mid-20s, when I was spending 12 hours a day working for startups in the Valley? Man, I can’t remember that girl. In my late 20s and early 30s, planning my “escape” to the Big Apple, where I’d then spend 5 more years running around, going to grad school, becoming a new career? I’d be amazed to summon the ghost of that person, let alone an ounce of that sort of oomph.

I just don’t care, is how I feel right now. None of it really matters. I will go, one day, and so will you. And likely, there is no benevolent consciousness waiting to engulf me. I wish there was, but considering how many people believe this, it’s almost a sure bet that it’s going to be nothing like that in the “afterlife.”

I don’t know. It’s almost like, when I gave up drinkin’, I lost my recklessness–a large amount of which HELPED me. Helped me to get jazzed about life. About change. About movement, and action. Helped me in ways big and small to do the job of a journalist, that’s for sure.

I’m waiting, and nothing’s happening. I want another “big adventure,” but honestly, I don’t have much desire to look into it, plan it, and go for it. No reckless energy to fuel an insane sort of curiosity. Maybe it’s called getting old? Middle age?

This…inertia…has been with me all my life, though. This darkness–psychological and physical in symptoms–it’s a constant companion, and all I can say is, some people know it better than others. I’ve learned to deal with the twitchy mind: It doesn’t get better the next day; you MAKE it better. You get through, grit your teeth, hoping that you appear “normal” enough to get by in the outside world. It’s partly why I drank. For me, though, it’s always there, looming WAY louder than wolfie’s “I want wine” voice. I want wine to quiet the booming wind tunnels blowing inside me.

Sigh. I guess I can keep waiting for it to get better, but…man, it’s been a year, and I feel the same as I always did, only with more acceptance around this mentality when it strikes (which seems to be often, to varying degrees, these days).

The dogs have it easy, I assume; maybe, though, they, too, are bored with life? As an old friend once said to me, “Well, it’s a good thing life is short.” Isn’t it.

Healing is boring

21 Jan

2:42 am

Or, maybe I’ve just let it bore me, and therefore, define me as “bored.” Who knows, but I’m ready to rock and roll on out of this “thinkin’ about drinkin'” phase.

I feel a lot like my old self, now that I’m well past 90 days–made it to 100 last night. I’ve been having some GREAT days, with lots of coffee, running, swimming, dog walking, cooking, rastafarian food fair-going… What I mean is, I’m not sure how others feel, but quitting drinking has allowed me to literally go back to who I was. Where I left off, so to speak. Ready work, to play, to run around like a chicken with my head cut off again.

Really?, I secretly dig at myself. Or, is it the opposite? I don’t know, and that’s where I’m going to simply have to say, I don’t know myself right now and I’m going to have to live around that fact. Live anyway, y’know? Work, dream, plan, move forward, minute to minute, day to day.

See, I used to have a lot of well-defined needs, wants, and goals. Now, however, I feel like I’m not sure which, if any, of those needs, wants, and goals are even of any value! I think quitting drinking, actually, is but ONE SYMPTOM of the transition that is staring me in the face, like a disease: the disease of mid-life, of mortality. I could not both survive this disease and its symptoms AND drink, so I had to quit. And, now that I’ve quit, I see this crisis for what it is–a lot of work to do, a lot of information to parse. Sigh. I don’t even know if I’m making any sense, which is why I haven’t written in a few days.

All I know is, I’m feeling my way forward, with blinders on, and it’s NOT because I’m drunk and confused. And, I’m starting to feel like my old self, and it doesn’t mean that I want to down two bottles of wine. I might, if given the chance, though; but that’s MY CHOICE.

(Yes, this is the problem of having to go to bed sober; thoughts are still whirring, a lot of them negative, but only YOU can turn them off because you realize they’re meaningless; you can’t use The Wine, and it never did a good job anyway.)

Am I punishing myself by staying sober?

6 Dec

1:21 am

Uh, talk about a heavy question. Then again, AA is heavy, and that’s where I heard someone pose this question recently in response to a death in her immediate circle.

Hmm…

Yes, in a sense, you are punishing yourself. You don’t get to obliviate, and that sucks. It’s a choice to live through the pain, or at least not circumvent it at will. However, in the grand scheme of things, you and us both know that you aren’t. Learning to cope with death–with pain and with grief–is necessary to live. Avoiding moving through it to the other side is escapism, not reward. Sobriety is the reward, as without it, you just keep going back to square one; you keep yourself in the pain, instead of moving past it. You cry, you drink, you cry because you drank. You wake up and wonder why the pain is still there. That sounds like punishment to me! (Easier said than done, especially when I’m not the one grieving a death, *especially* while sober.)

My first experience with grief came after the [beautiful island] [natural disaster]. I had times there–amazing, life-changing times. I had friends there, and some of those friends were crushed to death. After the [natural disaster], I had horrible sadness, confusion, and bouts of frantic anxiety–usually at night, in my bed. What would happen to me when I died? Would I float off into endless black nothingness? How could life be considered so precious when it was made of such a frail mold? If it could be taken so easily, how could (can) it really be so valuable? I couldn’t fall asleep at night, and would sometimes wake with feelings of being smothered.

I got through it, and for better or for worse, I don’t really think of death as bad anymore. Sure, it freaks me out, but death is. Death just is. I will die; the question is, will I accept this and then, how will I live my life? As a friend told me years ago, when I was in my early 20s and feeling bogged down by my first-world choices to the point of being depressed about life: Good thing it’s short, eh? Right, thanks.

In other words, drinking stalls your process and wastes your time. And, considering how few moments we have here, and how difficult it can be to learn to grasp and cherish them while sober…even if you want to drink, can you really, truly afford to? Life is short, and learning its lessons takes time. Why not start now, end quicker, and get out of class while the sun is still shining?

Going on 8 weeks tomorrow, and then (my second time around) 60 days this coming Monday! And, I’m NOT stopping this train. Drinking is simply not in my cards these days; sure, I’d like to, but when I re-think it, I don’t want to waste the hours drinking and being hung over. I have better things to do, things that provide me with much longer-term and substantial buzz than wine. Plus, I know that drinking wine after this long of being sober–I fell off ye olde wagon, remember?–will not feel good; the buzz’ll feel weird, and I likely won’t have a good time, mentally (static brain) and emotionally (downs for the first two glasses, blunted ups for however long it’ll take me to black out, which won’t be more than 2-4 more glasses). It’s not worth my valuable time anymore. Go, me.

(Still, wouldn’t it be nice…NO! Down, wolf, down.) 😉

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