Peeking down a path not taken

Years and years and years ago, I had a modeling agent chase me down in the mall and give me her card. It was during a really low point in my life, and I wasn’t sure my self-esteem could handle me being treated like a piece of meat, so I never followed up with her. But I’ve always wondered if I should have.

This past weekend, I went in to have my wedding makeup trial run. And nearly fainted. Just as I did during my wedding dress fitting (and every single other dress fitting I’ve had), many hair appointments, the hair drug test I took for a previous employer, and even some of my doctor appointments. I have never actually fainted during these events, but I have come dangerously close: Greyed vision, sweating bullets, and the inability to sit up without assistance. This time I passed it off as a hot flash (peri-m does have perks), but it wasn’t. I just get faint when people are up in my face, messing with me. It’s like I can’t get enough oxygen or something.

This kind of thing would be catastrophic for a model. Imagine how many callbacks you’d get if you needed three times as long for hair/makeup/wardrobe because you had to keep taking breaks so you wouldn’t faint.

Interestingly enough, a similar incident occurred towards the end of my engagement photo session, when the photographer was taking photos of us individually. Now, that could have just been the heat combined with low blood sugar; I was getting pretty hungry by that point, and downing a juice box rescued me for a bit. But still. Talk about vasovagal don’t-look-at-me. There could be no greater career killer for a model.

So obviously I made the right choice by remaining a wordslinger. Good to know.


Dealing with derailments

Before I even got over my sinus infection, I started my period. And it’s the period I expected to have after 90-some days. (I appreciated being let off easy last month, but I knew I’d pay the piper eventually.) So September’s kind of a wash. At the start of the month, the house was clean, I was on track with all my goals, and everything was running like clockwork. Now it’s just chaos.

I’m working on learning to better deal with derailments such as this. I read an article on the topic earlier this week, something about things like this being the down side of relying on routines. But because of the aforementioned chaos, I have lost the link and cannot find it back. You’ll just have to take my word for it: Sometimes routines fall apart, and they take the whole house of cards with them.

The first thing I’m working on is forgiving myself for the lost progress. So far I am not kicking myself too much for the blow to my workout plan; the fact that I actively miss working out means I will take it back up again just as soon as I am able. And that’s really what I am aiming for with these challenges — not to do some weird stunt for a month and then quit, but train myself to exercise each day, just as I brush and floss and clean my contacts each day. I’ve done it before; I can do it again.

Speaking of brushing, I bought a Quip toothbrush, and it’s got me brushing twice a day. I have been trying for years to get into a morning brushing habit, and never managed to pull it off. But I enjoy brushing with the Quip so much that once a day just isn’t enough. It’s amazing what a comfortable toothbrush can do. It takes some of the sting out of failing in all these other areas to have taken on a habit I’ve been trying to cultivate for over a decade.

Yesterday really drove home the need to practice regular self-care. I had just nursed Kai to sleep when I felt a sharp pain in my chest that quickly moved to my back and radiated out to my side. I ordinarily brush these things off, but I’m 43 and a former smoker with a heart murmur and a rotten cardiac family history. I felt I should rule out heart attack before I grabbed the heating pad.

I was home alone with a sleeping Kai; Anya was with my parents. I debated my options. Ask my father, who can barely walk due to an ankle injury, to bring Mom’s SpO2 meter to me, or to watch Kai so I could go to his house and use it? Wake Kai and take him over there? I didn’t think I could safely carry him. Finally, the obvious occurred to me, and I asked Mom to send Anya over with it. My levels were, as always, stellar, so I did some stretches and got on with my day.

Later on, it became obvious to me that the pain was due to stresses from my current work setup (tablet at the kitchen table) and from carrying Kai’s ever-increasing weight. Yoga and time will fix it. And if I continue doing the yoga after my back feels better, the pain likely won’t recur. But I have to make the time to do the yoga.

At the beginning of this month, I’d decided to do yoga on the days I can’t jog, but then I came down with this sinus infection. Derailed again. However, the stretches I need to do for my back do not require me to hang upside down; I can do them even with a head full of crap. So step two in my derailment management plan is to modify the plan in the face of speed bumps. No, I can’t run, or do downward dog, or do crunches. But I can, and should, do some cobras and cat/cows and half moons.

Fall is my favorite season, but it’s also the one most likely to disrupt my progress. This fall, I’m going to work on dealing with those setbacks — forgiving myself for not being able to uphold the promises I made to myself, and modifying my goals to accommodate the snags. I may not get where I wanted to go as quickly as I had planned, but so long as I do eventually get there, what does it matter?

On letting go

(I still haven’t done the writing assignment from last week. And my sinus infection is hampering clear thought. So…bloggity blog blog.)

In my goals list is one of those maddeningly vague ones: Let it go. I had something specific in mind when I added it to my list, I’m sure. But that’s gone now. I can, of course, think of things I want to do that fit the goal. But what’s the point?

I don’t mean that in a teenage-angst sort of way. I mean, really, what is the point of letting go? The more I think about it, the more that I see it isn’t what I want to do. I don’t want to let things go; I want to let things in. It’s not that I want to strip my closet down to the bare minimum (though, admittedly, it is a fun exercise to boil my possessions down to only what I need — I enjoy it in much the same way I enjoy Twitter as a writing exercise); it’s that I want to use what’s in there. It’s not that I want to get rid of my old books; it’s that I want to make room for new books. It’s not that I want to cut people out of my life; it’s that I want to fill my life with good people so that there is no room left for the ones who, in some cases years after they left, continue to hurt me.

I’m feeling pretty isolated as of late. And Facebook, which all too often is the sum total of my social interaction, has been irritating me. Again. Which typically puts me in a flush-it-chuck-it-nuke-it mindset.

Please tell me someone remembers this movie.

I let go is because letting go is easier. It is easier to toss it, to walk away, to retreat into myself than to reach out. It’s why I have resigned myself to having very little in the way of social support, as opposed to putting myself on the line and maybe actually making a friend or two. Or, for a less deep example, it’s why I keep patching and wearing these stupid bras that don’t fit rather than subject myself to an actual bra store that sells something small enough to fit my child-sized ribs.

It’s easier. And I don’t have to talk to people. That could be my epitaph.

But I’m not dead yet. Only the horse is dead. Perhaps I should stop smacking it? And, I don’t know, give Meetup another shot. Or at least go buy some new bras.

I see you

The other day, I was in Bed Bath & Beyond, being followed around by one of the more aggressive salespeople I’ve encountered of late. He was trying hard to sell someone — anyone — something. He was even multitasking: While trying to sell one customer on a product (I forget which), he noticed me checking out a chair cushion and paused to give me an in-depth background (plus demonstration!) of the product. The experience was akin to car shopping on a Sunday afternoon; it was quite a pitch. The cushion, unfortunately, wasn’t quite what I’d had in mind (I’m looking for something to make my kitchen chair, which doubles as my office chair most days, a little more comfy; this cushion would have been too unstable on the uneven wood seat), so I thanked him and moved on to the item I’d actually gone in to purchase (a mouthwash dispenser) before quickly exiting stage right.

I hate being sold stuff. If I need a salesperson’s help, I will go find one. (Which happens almost never.) Most of the time, I know exactly what I want, and am not interested in hearing sales pitches. It’s one of the reasons I shop online so much. And why I move so quickly when I must enter a store with salespeople on commission.

But he’s stuck with me. It took me a while to figure out why: He saw me. He saw all of us. He wasn’t just saying what he was supposed to say; he watched us shop, picked up on what held our attention, and tried to provide the information needed to persuade us to buy it.

Since I had the kids, I feel pretty invisible. I am no longer a person in my own right. I am faceless, nameless, nonexistent outside of my function as Anya and Kai’s mother. But to this guy, I was a person. A person he wanted to sell something, sure. But he didn’t treat me as a wallet; I was a woman with a problem to solve.

I feel bad now, because I didn’t tell him why that product didn’t fix it. It wasn’t his fault. He did a great job.

The older I get, the more important it is to me to tell people when they’re doing a good job. I don’t think any of us hear that enough. (No, not even our kids.) And salespeople are people, too.

This all has got me thinking about the other good employees I’ve encountered — at doctors’ offices, in shops and restaurants, banks and post offices. Those people who take an extra five seconds to treat me as a person, not a widget on the assembly line of their day. I want to start acknowledging these people. Thank them for seeing me, and let them know that I see them, too.

This may or may not happen; I am me, after all. But I see them. I hope others see them, as well.

Wishful pausing?

I’m beginning to wonder if I really am in perimenopause, or if my body is simply confused by all this breastfeeding. I haven’t had much in the way of hot flashes these past few weeks, and the rest of my symptoms could simply be related to breastfeeding. Or stress. Or endometriosis.

Let’s be honest: My body never did figure this menstruation thing out, and it’s far too late to worry about that now.

I’ve always assumed, based on my mother’s experience, that I would go through menopause early. There’s no firm basis for this belief; my maternal grandmother died at the age of 49 without having gone through The Change. But as my menstrual experience has closely mirrored my mother’s (we even started at the same age — 4 months before our 14th birthdays), I figured my end would also come at roughly the same age as hers.

But then I threw a curve: Two late pregnancies, and one extended breastfeeding experience. Even if I were close to menopause, I might have altered the end date by continuing to nurse Kai.

It also occurs to me that my interpretation of my symptoms might all be so much wishful thinking. I want to go through menopause. I love being a mom, don’t get me wrong, and it wouldn’t be awful (thought it would be rather inconvenient at this point) to have another child. But I am done with endometriosis. Done with the pain. Done with the swelling, the bloating, the mood swings. Done with wearing a panty liner day after day for months on end, just in case I might start, for fear of ruining my clothing. (Also done with ruining my clothing.) Done with periods that last 10-14 days, draining me emotionally as well as physically. Done with scheduling my life around a natural bodily function. But really — it’s the pain. The constant, unrelievable, never-ending pain. The pain that, at best, makes my entire abdomen feel like a hand that’s been slammed in a car door. The pain that feels like a spike in my tailbone. The pain that makes it hard to bathe, dress, walk, hold my children, think, breathe, be. The pain steals my hours, days, weeks.

I’m ready for the next stage. The stage in which I can produce something other than children and blood and pain.

The media bombards us with women who fight time. Who resist aging both inside and out. Women who turn to science to produce children when their bodies are past the age at which they can do so naturally. The women who nip this and tuck that. What of the women who accept it, embrace it, and move into their new role with grace — with enthusiasm?

Because there is a place for women who can’t reproduce. In the animal world, and in the human world, too. (What, you didn’t think animals went through menopause? Honestly, neither did I.)

I want the time and space to create. I find myself brimming with more creative energy than I’ve had in years, and I want to feel well enough to use it. I want to write, make jewelry, paint, garden. This morning, as I lay awake in the predawn hours, I found myself planning sewing projects — me, who barely knows how to use my own sewing machine. I want to try my hand at cooking new dishes, take up new hobbies, learn. I want to put more time and effort into the Etsy store I created with my daughter.

If I weren’t laid up in agonizing pain for great portions of my life, just think of what I could do with all that time. It could be the start of a whole new life for me.

Is it any wonder I’m ready to begin?

Oh Discardia!

For the longest time, I’ve thought of Discardia as a method of simplification. The less stuff I have, the less I have to take care of. I’ve been thinking of possessions in terms of tenants, and determining whether they were good roommates who paid their rent on time and helped with their share of the housework. (All figuratively speaking, of course. I’m not that far gone.)

However, I’m noticing some areas where this mindset fails me, and nowhere is it more evident than my bathroom cabinet. There lies the Gallery of Makeup Missteps. The stuff I bought, tried once, and decided didn’t suit me. The stuff I wore for a while, lost interest in, and tucked away “for later.” The cheap stuff I bought to wear for Halloween. The stuff that makes my eyes burn. I keep it all.

Why? Well, probably because I feel they were frivolous purchases to begin with, and it makes me feel twice as guilty to toss them out barely used.

I tried to get into Sephora; at least I could return that stuff. And I may yet go back to shopping there, when I have more time and money. But I can never carve out enough kidless time to shop there, and don’t know enough about makeup to shop online. Also, the prices intimidate the heck out of me. Big box it is.

I am, at this moment, wearing a gorgeous navy eyeliner that stings my eyes. Last week, I determined that my greige eyeliner does the same. Both are still sitting in my makeup bin, along with half a dozen eye shadows that do nada for me. Earlier this month, I struck a compromise: I gave my daughter a palette of four lovely purple eyeshadows that don’t really work for me. She was overjoyed at the prospect of her very own makeup, and I could rest easy knowing the purchase hadn’t been “wasted.” But I can’t do that with everything. She’d never wear brown eyeshadow, for instance. And we are not entering eyeliner territory just yet. I just need to suck it up and toss that stuff.

Makeup isn’t my only issue. I’m scratching like I’m lice infested after one washing with Neutrogena shampoo. I swore by it in the 90s to degoop my hair, and was thrilled to find a bottle recently. But apparently my skin has decided in the intervening decades that this stuff includes poison ivy as an ingredient. Toss it? I know I will; it’s too harsh for R and the kids, and using it for handwashing (what I usually do with shampoos that don’t work for me) is out given the itch factor. But it galls me to do so.

And don’t even get me started on the nail polish. I could paint a car with that crap.

I don’t mind tossing expired health and beauty products. In fact, my former method of dealing with unsuitable products was to tuck it away in the depths of my bathroom cabinet until they expire, at which point I would happily throw them out. Now I’d like to move that time frame up a bit. Allow myself to make mistakes. Forgive myself when I do. And let go of what doesn’t work for me.

Good advice for all areas of my life, but especially for my poor overcrowded cabinet.


Hashtag momfilter

Change is the watchword.

And me, being me, am packing as many changes as I can into a short period of time. Like how I went through college — signing up for summer classes almost every year so that even though I changed my major in the second semester of my junior year, I still graduated on time.

I kind of regret that now. I wish I’d taken a little more time, explored a bit more, not pushed myself to burnout at the age of 22. But it’s my nature, I guess.

After looking pretty much exactly the same from the age of 20 onward, sometimes I look in the mirror and wonder who the hell is looking back. I’ve given birth to two children, breastfed one of them for an extended period of time, and plunged into perimenopause in little more than 5 years. Most women spread these events out over 10 or 20 years, but like everything else, I’m doing this on the fast track.

The person in the mirror is a bit more recognizable now that I’m back to my normal weight, but life has edited my body into something both familiar and all together foreign. The obvious changes — how I dress, how I wear my hair and makeup — were brought about by the fact that instead of working in an office, I spend a great deal of time wrangling squirmy, tantrumy, gooey children. I’m down two moles, but have picked up more freckles and a tan. If I tighten my abs, my belly looks as it always did, but if I relax, it becomes a mom pooch even on my thinnest days. My face, hands, and arms are more lined than they used to be — partly age, partly sun damage.

All of this is to be expected, I know. It’s the speed with which it’s all come about that is sometimes disconcerting.

I see my mother, my grandmother, and other women in my body. Plus my advancing years. Fat has left the places it used to hang out and shacked up with other body parts; my boobs now think my lower back is a great place to be, for instance. My calves and arms, once slender sticks, bear the small but sculpted muscles I failed to build with 15 years of concerted exercise.

But I’m still in here, you know? I see me, beneath all these alterations. Me at 20, 25, 30, 35. It’s like someone slapped a Snapchat filter on me — a Mom filter. All I need to complete the image is a pair of mom jeans. (Which, I’m old enough to know, used to be just jeans until the people who wore them became mothers).

An exchange that took place between me and my offspring this weekend:

Kai: Mommy! Mommy! Mommy!

Me: Why are you chanting my name? Am I a rock star?

Anya: No, you not been a rock star in 20 years.

Me: I’m not a rock star?

Anya: No.

Me: I’m a has-been?

Anya: No, you cool.

Me: What am I, then?

Anya: A mom!

Too right.