Archive for the 'Aging' Category

Geeks get the Monthlies

I’ve been playing with calendars on my fresh install of SuSE Linux – experimenting with customizing Lightning for Mozilla Thunderbird and trying out kOrganizer. I’ve got all of my calendars (kids here, kids at their dads, Rob’s kid, campus activities, due dates, birthdays, etc) on the home network so that I can see my events no matter which computer I’m on. Rob’s got the same thing going and we (theoretically) can try and keep track of what each of us is doing.

The only calendar I hadn’t set up yet was for my menstrual cycle — currently the data for the past year is sitting in a MozBackup file on a flash drive that I’ve misplaced. I’ve got the last two months sitting on a gmail calendar so by grabbing that and setting a customized 28-day repeat cycle I can predict approximately when I’m likely to be crampy, miserable and/or cysty for the distant future (until of course perimenopause decides to visit).

woman and girl walking on the beach at sunset

This is why it’s better to put the calendars on the network instead of saving only a local copy — I never want to go through setting this up again.

The first thing I checked was how things line up with my family week-long summer vacation to the beach. Go figure, my period is due the first day of vacation. How’s that for timing? No guarantees since it’s still a few months away, but since I’ve been pretty clockwork at 28 days for the last 2 or so years there’s a pretty good chance I’ll continue to be regular. I’m happy with my Diva cup so it’s not the need to pack supplies that annoys me, it’s the thought of packing, driving, and being on holiday — and needing copious amounts of pain medication.

That said, I think this is a great application of organizer-calendars. It definitely beats counting out 28 days over and over again. I wonder if the Mozilla Foundation would like an add-on? What would it need to include?

flickr photo by CaseyLessard

An Idea

I should have thought of this years ago.

When life got busy I quit teaching ballet (and taking lessons and going swing, ballroom, and latin dancing with Rob). Maybe it wasn’t the right decision but I was being torn in too many different directions.

dance instructor with headset mic
flickr photo by www.get-fit-at-home.com

Something had to go and dancing was the piece that didn’t just didn’t belong here.

But yesterday I discovered dance aerobics dvds! Exercise + fun + music + dancing = happy me. I’ve got a bunch requested from the public library (African and Brazilian dance included) and have ordered the New York City Ballet workout, something another dancer I used to know practiced with when she couldn’t make it to classes.

Why didn’t I think of this years ago?

Not Publishing

Over the past three days I’ve written four posts that I’ve decided not to publish. They’re too angsty, too sad, too personal, or contain information that might haunt me someday.

It helps to write because it helps me see just how deep this sadness runs. When a post turns to things thirty years old I see that this pain is old. How I got this old I don’t know.

Writing keeps me from closing down completely, even if it isn’t ever read by anyone. And that is good.

Counsellor, housekeeper, or personal trainer?

I’ve switched from snacking on m&m’s to jumbo organic raisins. I figure the sugar rush is the same (and should help me stay awake) but at least with the raisins I’m getting some iron. If I’m so low on energy the extra iron might help me feel more energized. I also found a coupon for a free trial at a fitness centre. I’m waiting for a call back to make an appointment for a tour.

I’ve realized that I really need to get un-depressed. And that all the ideas I have cost money. That money could go three ways:

  • to a counsellor
  • to a housekeeper
  • to a fitness centre

It takes time to find a good counsellor and I don’t have time. And dealing with problems, as much fun as that is (not), forces you to think about those problems. I’m not interested.

The housekeeper idea is really, really, really tempting. I can pay someone to do the things I cannot manage and this would free up the time I would spend doing them, thinking about doing them, planning to do them, and remembering I didn’t do them yet. And I would have a shiny bathroom and clean floors at least once each week. See how this is tempting? But I’m really not in a position where I feel I can afford this type of luxury. Nobody learns any valuable housekeeping skills or the value of pitching in. I don’t think I’m ready to give up on my family yet.

So that leaves exercising. I don’t think I was this depressed when I was dancing and teaching 3+ days each week. That was about one and a half years ago. I felt good, I looked good, I felt good about myself. This is not how I feel lately. I feel worn out: physically and emotionally. I feel gross. Tired. I’m depressed. It seeps into everything I do, all my relationships, all my activities. I’m sure people around me are tired of it.

I’ve found a gym that’s not too far away that is open 24 hours. (I cannot believe that grad students at Windsor don’t get access to the facilities on campus.) This other gym I’ve found has a variety of classes at a variety of times. I know aerobics is different from ballet or swing dancing but it’s what I’ve found. There is yoga and pilates which I’ve studied as a dancer so I know I like these already. I’d prefer a dance class but there isn’t one available on a night I can attend. I need something with a flexible schedule and I think this is worth a try. If I have somewhere to go, something to do (besides schoolwork) it might motivate me to keep going afterwards and get my academic career back on track.

And if I’m energized enough I might be able to look at housework without being overwhelmed. And if I feel better about myself maybe I won’t need counselling after all.

It’s worth a try at least. It could be just the solution to All My Problems.

Now I just hope that phone call comes before I change my mind.

Time for a schedule, time for a list

Life will be okay even if it’s not how I’d imagined. I keep telling myself this and focusing on the wonderful things in my life — and there truly are many of these.

girl and chalk drawing girl

But I’m bogged down by the unfinished, the overwhelming, the physical and mental clutter surrounding me. It’s time to make a plan to manage these things. Life is always going to be chaos — such is life with kids, blended families, and an insane ex. I cannot prevent things from being overturned again and again in front of and underneath me. All I can do is find some peace in my life so that when bad stuff goes down I have a store of energy I can draw from.

So I’ve decided to make a list of the things that are costing me energy/giving me grief. These are the things that run through my mind at least once a day and I think, “yeah, I should do something about that.”

So… where to start?

I figure my life has three major categories that make me anxious: school, family, and housework. Each of these has subcategories and of course there’s plenty of overlap. If I can feel caught up (or ahead even) in one area it spills into the others and I feel good. Of course, if I put “me” up there as a category it might help me feel good more often. (:wink:) But then that’s never been my strong point. One goal of this exercise is to figure out where the self care is going to fit in.

So looking at each category there are things that have needed doing for a long time and things that require attention on a regular basis.

School:

  • papers for school – 6 this semester that I need to do
  • a research topic for this semester’s directed study
  • figure out what the heck I’m going to do after the MA
  • small things related to my major research project

If I can get all these things done I’ll feel much better about where I sit in terms of school work. It actually doesn’t look so bad now.

Family:
I’m actually feeling pretty good about this today. It’s birthday time and I’m keeping up pretty well with that. One kid had a great party two weeks ago and another one is coming up in two weeks. Trick-or-treating last night went well and I think we might be through with daughter bombshells for the moment. Rob is good and we seem to have settled down from the move. We’ve got some routines going and things are getting a bit easier. That said, there are still things that should be better organized:

  • a plan to make school mornings easier
  • sharing responsibilities
  • time for doing fun things in the community like hikes in the park or trips to the pool

No really clear answers pop out on these. Hmmm. At least now I know what I need to think about.

Housework:
This is where I’m overwhelmed. There are so many loose ends from the move. Construction isn’t done yet. Stuff from my house is in a big pile in the middle of the basement. The kids need help organizing their rooms. Our bedroom is full of boxes of stuff. My office space is disorganized. Rob’s office space is brimming and he still has lots of his stuff spread out around the house.

birds in the air

I hate living in the clutter. When I moved this summer I threw so much stuff in the trash — I lined the curb again and again with garbage bags. How can I still have so much stuff that passed the cut? I know I have to go through it again and get rid of more…but it takes a lot of time. And I can only do it with my own stuff. Eventually my stuff will be under control but will it be enough? My kids have too many toys and clothes they don’t wear but we don’t have enough time to get to it. And Rob and his daughter are pack rats. I grew up passing toys and outgrown clothes to shelters. My parents live in a very tidy home partly because they’re both really good at cleaning but also because they keep the contents down and are always cutting back. Clothes that aren’t worn get passed on. Books that are old are passed on. Dishes that don’t stack well or are a pain to clean or take up too much space are passed on. If it’s not in use and/or adding to joy in the house, and is not likely to be in use again soon it goes.

My old place was a mess of clutter. I know it. It was small and had stuff from way to many ages and stages (baby stuff to teenager stuff, sewing supplies from when I used to sew for a living, ballet stuff from when I taught, school stuff that I still use, and activist materials from every cause I’ve ever been involved in). Everything was important. But this big move prompted a huge purge. It was a chance for me to start fresh. And Rob’s house is so nice. I want it to stay that way.

I know with my collecting of important papers (which I go through later and usually end up tossing) and Rob’s attachment to anything that enters the house, we’re in grave danger of living in a fire trap. And I know that the daily cleaning is going to get harder still if we keep on this way.

So, in list form here’s what I need:

  • clear out the clutter from living spaces
  • create a routine for the regular chores like cleaning the bathroom, vacuuming, dusting
  • a menu plan so that I don’t have to go to the grocery store 3 times in a week like I did this week
  • a special bonus would be to hang some pictures, paint, and any other types of personalizing the space so that it’s clear that “special people live here.”
  • dividing some of this up so that each person has something they’re in charge of. Asking someone to do something is like setting up for battle sometimes. If it were automatic I’d have a lot of energy left over.

It’s a lot harder doing these things here, in the new house, all blended-family-style, than it was in my own house, on my own, with my own kids. I’m hoping that it will get easier with time. For one thing my house was a lot smaller. Another was that my house was in rough shape so anything I did made an improvement. Here I feel responsible for keeping the house in good condition. There are a lot more people here now (me and my kids) and things can go downhill pretty quickly if they’re not looked after. Things are further complicated by the kids’ different and complicated schedules. Every-other-weekend-ness (for my kids) and skating-gymnastics-piano-piles o’ homework (Rob’s kid) doesn’t make it easy to divide responsibilities. And the fact that Rob and I have different expectations re: bedmaking, clean bedrooms, helping etc. turns into a chorus of “why do I/we have to if she/they don’t have to?” Rather than pushing the issue I tend to just do as much as I can. Since it’s my issue.

So right. If I can look back at the list and see the things that are under my control I can do something about them. It’s a good place to start at least. And who knows, maybe the rest of the family can make lists of what they’d like to take care of and we can all help each other. It could happen!

How many rainbows does it take?

Happy Birthday to me. I have a bit of a cold but I’m dosing with mega-Vitamin C and echinacea-goldenseal tincture. I wrote my last exam today, I proctored the exam for the last class as TA for the semester and I’m about halfway through the marking. Later Rob is taking me for dinner and there will be Buffy the Vampire Slayer before the night is through. My father called and sang me the hb song — at a wrong number unfortunately, but still, cute story.

All these good things — so why does one shitty thing bring it all crashing down?

Dropping off the lunch bags for my kids at their dad’s, I’m on the porch, the kids are in the doorway saying hi and happy birthday to me. My youngest tells me that I can come to the school tonight and see his art, that there’s an open house of sorts. As he’s telling me, dad grabs a note, hands it to me and shuts the door saying “the note just came today”. Boom goes the door. No goodbyes, nothing.

Doesn’t matter that it’s my birthday, doesn’t matter that I have so many great things in my life. It doesn’t seem like there’s ever enough sunshine to make a rainbow when I leave there.

If you feel the urge to wish me an hb in the comments, I’ve turned off the captcha because I heard it was giving people a rough time. I’m going to try and forget about this and enjoy my night — goddess knows I’ve let that man make me miserable enough for one lifetime.

My kids come home tomorrow and we’ll have a good time. I just hate that I let him get me down and that the kids watch people get treated this way.

In another life

In another life I wanted to be an aerospace engineer. This was back in grade 11 physics, which I loved. My teacher recognized that and talked to me about engineering, and I was drawn in to aerospace. I wanted to make rockets. I was sure that this is what I would do until I discovered art and teenage angst the next year and it was downhill more or less from there. Over the next year and a half I took every visual art and music class my school offered. I started working for a semi-pro theatre company and after graduation I ended up in a BFA dance program in Toronto for a few months. I dropped out of that after midterms first semester, got married, was a starving artist for a few years, had some babies, got divorced, and am now almost done a Women’s Studies degree.

I hate how much I’ve forgotten. I work peripherally now in all these tech capacities without much grasp of the foundations. There is so much backbone work that I can’t do. I took computer science in high school and programmed in BASIC (wooooahhh, time warp) and was good at it – enjoyed it even, but I’m no coder now – not a hope.

Next semester I take a basic C programming course to finish an IT minor – and I both dread it and am nervously anticipating it. The anxiety comes from realizing it’s been over 15 years since I’ve done any type of programming/math – and I’m scared. I know I don’t remember how to think that way and I worry how hard I’ll have to work to catch up. My application to grad school (still undecided there) is also dependent on my last semester marks. If I blow my GPA now, there’s no making it up.

But on the other hand, I remember the thrill of an elegant proof and the excitement of geometry – I really loved this stuff. How can a brain forget how to do this? How do we just let a part of our brain fall dormant? Is it dead? Can it come back? How far could I go?

I don’t know that I can look at this the way I did in highschool. Now my time is finite. If I don’t finish something in an hour there often isn’t another hour later when I can come back to it. I don’t have the luxury of closing my bedroom door and working on problems all night – what if I can’t do it anymore? What if I lost my chance?

I wonder about doing a CS degree now, after my women’s studies is done. I don’t have the prereqs. Once I discovered ‘art’ I had to forego calculus. To get into the program I’d have to catch up the highschool credits I missed – even that makes me wonder. It would be wild to spin my brain in those circles again, but at what cost?

Spread ‘em

There may be too much information here but just know that you’ve been warned…

I’ve been having irregular, unexplained pain in and around the area of my ovaries and uterus – completely incapacitating pain to the point of tears – for the past ten months or so. It used to only last a few hours so I’ve managed it with ibuprofen and ice and sleep. I talked to my nurse practitioner (NP) and we were both willing to call it dysmenorrhea – painful periods – and I was just going to eat better, sleep better, and get more exercise and it would go away. This month it came two days after my period ended so I can’t call it dysmenorrhea anymore.

I went for a pelvic exam last week and the nurse practitioner really blew it. It didn’t start well from the time I got to the clinic, where I’ve been going for six or seven years; I wasn’t on the day’s schedule. Then they couldn’t find my chart. Then they couldn’t find the NP. Finally I was called and while the registered nurse was bringing me back to the exam rooms and starting to steer me into the first empty one the NP says, “No – we need #4 [room] – we need to do a [in a Very LouD WhisPER] PAP SMEAR And EverYThING.” Good grief. Why announce this in this way? Surely the NP does them all the time, the reg. nurse has certainly seen them, I’ve had babies, the staff in the office all know they happen there regularly – what’s the big deal? It’s not like the NP was keeping it confidential to protect my privacy – a loud whisper attracts a lot of looks – everyone in the office this time as a matter of fact. I just thought, ‘whatever’ and proceeded to say no thank you to a weigh-in and also declined the yucky gown since I’d worn a skirt just for the occasion. I remember reading this waaaay long ago, probably in Our Bodies, Our Selves and think keeping on her own clothes is the least a woman needs when she’s going to be in such a powerless situation.

So it wasn’t long before I was opening wide for the exam (no stirrups at least) and the NP is getting ready for the pap. I am covered from waist to thighs with a white sheet and have a pretty good view of what’s going on – including the look of disgust on the NP’s face. If ever a woman has been sensitive or insecure of her sexuality, or the ‘normalcy’ of her genitals, or the skid marks from childbirth three times over, a look of disgust on the face of the NP is not what she needs. I asked what the face was for and the response was “Some women have more mucous than others.” Then I see the swab come out of me (indeed covered with what I recognize as egg whitey highly fertile mucous – not yeasty or anything) and the NP drops it in the waste basket with a shudder.

Honestly, a NP shouldn’t be doing pelvic exams if they can’t do it neutrally. Wanna know how sexual/desirable I feel these days? Besides the worry of what’s wrong with me, which is tied to the whole aging fear, which is tied to the ‘what do I want to do when I grow up’ anxiety now I’m having flashbacks to how ‘gross’ I am.

The rest of the exam was uneventful except that there were some areas of concern from the visible exam. The NP told me this after I sat waiting for 30 minutes in the exam room – I’d been forgotten. Luckily I had Feminism in Twentieth-Century Science, Technology, and Medicine to study for school while I was waiting. How completely ironic. Another nurse found me and asked why I was there, then went to find the NP again. It’s a busy place and I don’t begrudge anyone this but the combination of circumstances of the afternoon left me feeling kind of worthless.

I’ll definitely be talking to the NP for the sake of the women who might follow me, and I’ll request a different NP for next time. And maybe I’ve happened upon a project for my research class – improving conditions for pelvic exams.

Tired and old

I’m so tired. Again. I’ve spent the past 12 hours marking papers online. I’m sure my eyes are going to bug out if I sit here any longer. 28 done, 110 to go. At this rate I’ll be done sometime Thursday.

I’m too tired to play WoW, too tired to clean or do dishes. Too tired to drive, too tired to crawl to my bed – or even the couch. I don’t know how I’ll get the papers done, not to mention my Monday and Tuesday jobs and class. I’m back to being crippled by the unknown.

I looked in the mirror today and considered growing out the fringe that masquerades as my bangs. I noticed my forehead – the one that lives buried beneath said fringe. The worry lines that my ballet teacher always had to tell me to relax have gotten much deeper since I last looked at them. Guess I’ll be keeping the bangs.

I need that crystal ball, the one that tells me which of the many things I’m trying to do is actually worth it, the one that tells me that somehow I get it all done, that it all pays off and that someday I’ll get to take a break. Could someone send one by please?

Old Women

I’m getting older… single mom, couple of kids…I’m relatively casual, a jeans and t-shirt person predominantly although on a hot day I’ll wear a long loose skirt. I don’t wear make-up, I have a practical shoulder length haircut which I tie in a ponytail when I’m teaching dance classes. My hair is string straight and I have freckles. I’m pretty ordinary.

I know people whose appearances matter much more to them it seems. People who’ve had cosmetic surgeries, who diet and restrict their meals. People who work out incessantly. Friends who read Cosmo, while I read Bust.

Conversations with my friends come around more often to our bodies. There’s a general sense of “our bodies are falling apart.” People seem to think I don’t struggle the same way or to the same degree. Maybe this is true…I’ve been giving it some thought and I’ve come up with a few ideas.

I don’t think I’ve built up a dependence on my appearance. The way I look has little impact on the work I do. I (try to) live off my brain and talents and know that any relationship that is based on superficial shells is fleeting so not worth the effort. I grew up teased for my freckles, and the kids, cruel as they are, called me chicken legs (and I know now that my legs are/were no different than anyone else’s!)

I was tall at a young age so in grade nine gym class when we were all weighed on a scale (hunh? what was that for anyway?) and I was 115 lbs I felt like a fat cow. Today, many years later, I know that I was a healthy weight for my height. Just because I was more than 6 inches taller than all the tiny girls who were under 100 lbs did not mean I was fat! Ridiculous. The point is that I never had a period where I was really happy or excited about my body. I never thought to myself “I have a great legs/abs/breasts/eyes/whatever.” I mostly ignored my body. Sure this caused other issues but it’s giving me a good perspective for this aging stuff.

When I was in my late teens/early twenties I had two older women in my life. I don’t know their ages in years but both had older children/teenagers at the time. One had beautiful long flowing grey-white hair and was a gardener. She spoke gently and thoughtfully and was intelligent and exceptionally insightful. She made a wonderful impression on me and I thought that someday I wanted to be just like her. The other woman was small and incredibly strong. She was the mother of 3 girls who were all incredibly smart, talented, and beautiful young women. I wanted to feel supported like her kids did. I wanted to support my kids the way she supported hers. I wanted to be confidant like her, to be able to see things clearly like she did, to understand like she did. She had a way of making me be honest with myself about things I didn’t even realize were problems. She was the first one to point out to me that the problems in my marriage were problems – that other people were happy and that maybe I might want to be happy too. I remember the way she made me feel more than I remember the way she looked but when I saw her just a few years ago she was covered in wrinkles and her hair was a soft grey. She was bustling, involved in work, volunteering, spending time with her grown kids – she was beautiful. I wanted to be just like her too.

I think the fact that I have these role models/heroines – these admirable women in my life and that I met them when I was young and impressionable is significant. Without someone to show that with age comes good things how can we know that growing older can be good? Having these women to look up to and remember eases the transitions that our bodies and lives go through.

Aging in our society is hard for both men and women. Our culture is tied to youth and beauty and age is equated with uselessness. It’s hard to resist the advertising for wrinkle creams and hair dyes and all the other products and procedures that promise youth, i.e. value. For women though, I think it’s an added challenge that there are so few older women to call ‘successfull’. Women who are currently 60+ were less involved in public life when they were younger than women are now, and so there are fewer popular examples of ‘success’. The older women that tend to come to mind are from show biz and are known for the numbers of cosmetic surgeries they’ve had.

Older women also make up one of the largest groups of people living in poverty. This is another reason why we don’t have a lot of positive role models for growing older. Without enough money to live it’s hard to inspire the next generation. I think though, that some people are more afraid of wrinkles than poverty stats.

So what is it that these bodies are doing that make us feel like they’re falling apart? Well, thinning, greying hair, abs not so tight anymore, skin isn’t the same as it was when we were younger. All I can say is that yeah, change is hard and try to point out that it’s just change. If we could change the perception would we have an easier time of dealing with it? Does the language we use (i.e. “falling apart”) make it that much harder to adjust ( la Sapir-Whorf)? Can people change a perception that is so ingrained?

I’d like to lose some weight and work out more but I wouldn’t change my grey hair or trade in my baby stretch marks. I’m sure most people harbour a desire to be pleasing on the eyes but I would never want to be so dependent on my appearance that I’d be crippled by body changes.

I look forward to getting older. There are so many good things to look forward to. I feel like I’ve been waiting a long time to be old, that this will be the best part of my life. My confidence is beginning to grow and I’m just starting to get the hang of how to live. I also think (maybe naively) that with age will come more understanding and certainty. I’m getting old enough to see that the more I learn, the more questions there are. I’m starting to doubt the correlation of wisdom and age – but I don’t worry specifically about body changes anymore. Our wrinkles are the proof that we’re survivors. But I’m not sure women will ever be convinced to look at it that way.

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