Health, WOMEN'S HEALTH

WASHING MACHINE HEAD

Does your brain ever feel like it is on the spin cycle of a washing machine?
Some people refer to it as “crazy brain,” but I don’t care for that label. My partner refers to it as crawling out of his skin.

There are lots of reasons for this mind twirl. Full moon, mercury retrograde, too much sugar, not enough exercise, too much on my plate, too many lists, too much time on my hands, too much on the computer or on the phone, not enough fresh air, not enough creative output, not enough go within time.

I know myself well. I know that if I miss exercise for a few days, I am not myself and this creates havoc in my thinking. Exercise is the course correction without fail. Every time. An hour at the gym or an hour outside on a brisk walk in the brisk New England November air grounds me like nothing else and it is a habit I seldom break. But when I do, like this past two weeks of over scheduling, I notice fast.

What I notice is that it is hard for me to stay focused, I wake up after going to bed with a concise list and then find myself wandering aimlessly barely able to complete one item. Perhaps this is the result of an entrepreneurial brain; most self starters I know struggle with spinney head. Just too many ideas, too many sticky notes on a wall and this can be a recipe for feelings of overwhelm therefore not getting anything done.

I am the queen of lists and sticky notes. My brain is a busy one and I enjoy its momentum for the most part especially when I use it for the creative force it directs me to. But sometimes, like this past week when I went to a three day conference and I missed exercising for almost a full week with barely a walk, the ramifications are not pretty.

As I drove to the gym for my first 7:00am workout in a few weeks, I already began to feel peaceful. The gym is my therapy space. Not because I am one of those bad ass gym rats pumping iron and walking around with her abs showing, (these days they just show all the time when I sit down and look down and wonder what the hell has happened to my stomach, but more of that in some other self deprecating piece later). Going to the gym is like a community gathering. Most times it is many of the same people, mostly women, but also some men sprinkled throughout, and there is a familiarity, a comfort as we grab our spots on the floor or the cardio equipment.

I have two go to spots I usually take and they are in the front of the room.
I used to be the person who looked for the furthest back corner, the spot completely away from the mirror as I not only didn’t want to see myself in it as I struggled to catch my breath with every screaming beat to the rap music, but I also didn’t want to see everyone else. Back then when I first started dragging myself to the gym, I was always comparing my inadequacy and lack of fitness to all of the other chicks (usually skinny and blonde driving a Range Rover or something) who seemed much more fit than I surely would ever be.

But then something magical happened. I started feeling incredible. Forget about the shape of my body shifting, the discovery of muscles I didn’t know were there, the definition of muscles from the never ending burpees and planks that began rearing their beauty. I had mental clarity like I had never really had before. It was the biggest surprise from the workout and I started to depend on it as my mental equilibrium. And I began making my way to the front of the room, not so much to look in the mirror, but to stand up front and proud of my climb on the fitness confidence ladder.

There is all kinds of proven research on what exercise does for us physically- it lowers cholesterol, blood pressure, diabetes and a multitude of other lifestyle ailments. I wish that the prescription of exercise would be one of the first courses of action for doctors to give to their patients complaining of anxiety and depression because for me, this has been a game changer for the past ten years. It is seldom that exercise becomes the go to remedy for the many people who struggle with this type of bubbling mind.

Washing machine head, my brain on the spin cycle, goes away from one hour of exercise. It never fails me. I always feel better after I exercise. My mind is clearer, my heart is happier. And this doesn’t have to be from an hour at the gym, it can be a walk on the beach with the wind blowing into my lungs; it is just movement, off the couch, away from my computer, my phone, my desk work and up and out.

No matter how much wine I have had or sweet dives into oblivion and all of its effects on my brain with the fogginess it creates, an hour of movement clears the cobwebs. Exercise saved me when I had breast cancer too. I am convinced that because I went to the gym, my recovery was as strong and solid as it was because of my fitness level before hand.
I used to think, “I am the fittest and healthiest I have ever been, why did I get breast cancer twice?” But when I saw my resilience and my fast recovery, I knew I had to shift my thinking to gratitude for the fitness FOR and TOWARDS the recovery.

As a matter of reflection, the gym was part of my recovery because it became a goal for me to get back there as soon as possible. I had missed its silent camaraderie among my fellow gym chicks. We are friendly with each other, saying our morning hellos and our quick goodbyes as we run out to start our days in our sweaty workout clothes, but we don’t spend time chatting. We are all there to feel better. To roll our eyes when Kathy, our fearless trainer, barks another order out at us and says at the same time, “This next move is going to suck.” Yes, she says this and she means it and it does suck. But we all do it because we can.
Because we can. To me this is the significance of exercising regularly.

Because I can.

And as long as I can I will. Missing days makes me miss them now, not the other way around. In the past I would miss them because I didn’t feel like it, these days I only miss them because work or a too jam packed schedule didn’t allow the workout time. I am really going to make a conscious effort to improve that. I may not always be able to get to the actual gym, but there is always a walk on a blustery day to shake the garbled brain to a more serene one, movement is so important as I approach my real life mid fifties.

My partner, who is 72 goes to the gym every day. Every day. I am not kidding. He is my role model and my mentor for gym attendance and its value on the soul. When we went to Quebec a few weeks back, we both didn’t realize the stair factor. If you can’t do stairs, you can’t enjoy Quebec- that should be their tagline because to take the stairs is to really appreciate the landscape. As we blasted up and down the stairs for a solid week, as fit as I am, I still had a quickening of my breath. Not my partner, he flew up the stairs and I didn’t hear one speck of short winded huffing.

If that wasn’t a reminder to me that the gym is fitness security, nothing is. What I love about movement is that there is no time like the present.
All we have is the present.

FUN, travel

BOOB TAPE AND IDENTITY

There are so many odds and ends when you are getting ready to travel out of the country. Besides the packing and the postponing of newspapers and mail, there are the phone calls to the various banks and credit card companies letting them know when a charge comes through that is not your norm, it is ok.

We were headed to Quebec and Canada is such a close neighbor that it is easy to forget it really is not part of the our borders. I forgot to let the banks know I was traveling outside of the US. As soon as I crossed the border and heard lovely French, I remembered instantly, though. Canada is a very different place from USA and a beautiful and easy place to get to when you want to get away and feel like you are traveling someplace with a more European vibe.

My partner and I roamed the cobblestones streets, learning how to navigate a new city. We ate poutine which should be illegal and I am grateful it has not found its way down to Rhode Island or it could very well be my caloric demise. 

We went to the Musee national des beaux-arts du Quebec and came upon an exhibit by contemporary artists, Cozic whose description read, COZIC is a two-headed visual artist with four hands made up of Yvon Cozic and Monic Brassard. And it was there I was struck by the question of what is art anyway, and who gets to claim and define that question? 

I appreciate when art does this. When it makes you read every single description card next to it its piece on the wall. We spent three hours looking at this exhibit. Odd, unusual and at the same time, captivating. The art was, at some points, interactive clearly inviting the visitors to be more than voyeurs. Touching, smelling even, being part of their work making me consider that art is more than just staring and feeling. I hadn’t really thought about this before.

What also struck my feminist radar was the description of who they are in their work. This wife and husband team prefer to be described as one artist. It is certainly a brilliant marketing element to their work, but what I noticed is that it is the Cozic name used as the signature of the show and I kept feeling, Where is Monic? 

She gets her due because when they are both written about, she is part of the story in all of the pieces, but where is her name on the art? They have been together since the sixties and I just wanted one piece that said, Monic Brassard. This all could have been her choice from the beginning and I don’t know anything more than my first impression of an exhibit that got me to really think during and afterwards. Art is like this; it gets me thinking about life- feminism, culture, marketing, politics and identity. 

Identity. Who owns it? Who gets to claim it? How is it remembered after the artist passes- in this case after Monic passes? I began wondering who decided to use his name, Cozic, instead of her name, Brassard? In the sixties, would her name have had the success if it he had been attached to her name instead of the other? Doubtful. 

As I made my way through the museum I began counting the number of female artists represented versus the male artists. Before long, I became too distracted by this and stopped as it was deterring me from appreciating the art. If this latest wave of feminism of #Metoo did something beyond its intention, it made me hyper aware of the lack of female representation in mostly everything. It has a long way to go before I walk into a museum and start thinking about counting the number of male artists as a minority compared to female artists as a majority. 

This all means that Cozic accomplished something. Cozic made me think. Two-headed visual artist with four hands made me feel. It made me frustrated and pissed off and smile all at the same time. Mission accomplished.

We made our way out of the museum and to the market, then headed to The Old City where we went on a walking tour. As I made my way into the tourist center to pay for the tour, my debit card was declined and it was there I remembered I forgot to call the bank. Thankfully, I had my partner along to pay while I called my bank to rectify the situation when I learned that the card was on a fraud alert and I would have to call the fraud department. Highly inconvenient. The tour was about to begin and I would have to address this problem later. This is another benefit about vacation, super chilled out. I did not get all wound up, just turned my phone off and said, I will deal with this later. 

After the tour, we walked back to our temporary air b+b home. I called the fraud department where I learned that my card was not declined because I was trying to use it in Quebec, but because someone else had been using it online and the charges seemed suspect. I’d say. Capricurves, Fashionnova, Boobtape and Petco. Four mysterious charges online and in Great Britain. 

When the kind woman at fraud alert asked me if I had charged anything on the website, Boobtape, I laughed. Boobtape is one thing I, for sure, don’t need. I have boobs that are straight out wonder woman- no bra needed- these days thanks to the good old reconstruction. Whoever had decided that they needed Capricurves and boobtape on my credit card at least was considerate enough to buy some pet food for their dog at Petco too. 

I began thinking about identity and how these fraudulent charges caused me to piece together my version of the person who tried to use mine. Maybe the person was struggling with their own identity, trying to add curves and lift their boobs. Perhaps they were down and out and just needed some new clothes to feel better or to go on an interview. I don’t know. But identity and culture are part of this story for sure. 


These days it is not that hard to get misuse taken care of promptly. My card was closed immediately and even though this was highly inconvenient while I was traveling, it wasn’t the worst thing that could have happened. I had planned on changing my debit card to get a more accurate handle on how many automatic charges come out of my account on a monthly basis and to get a new card to start fresh when I got home, anyway. In some ways starting a new identity. 

Art got me thinking about identity and this got me thinking about how important art is for thinking. Traveling also gets me thinking about identity. How people live, where people live, how people interact with each other and with strangers and tourists like we have been this week. 

Language, pride, patriotism are all a part of who we identify with and more importantly how we identify with each other. The Cozic exhibit was like looking into a keyhole to see what was on the other side of the door. This past week in Quebec got me to see that there is so much more on the other side of our border and I can’t wait to come back.

interacting with the Cozic exhibit.
Identity in trying to read this delicious menu at L’affoire est Ketchup, one of the best meals I have ever had in my life, no exaggeration.
grief, life lessons

I WILL REMEMBER YOU

Mom, my head is killing me, the text said at 6:00am after I responded to the preceding text of, Are you awake? 

My son, Michael, never really calls about things like this so I sit here trying not to go to the dark side. 

But it is hard for me. As much as everyone says how much he looks like his father, David, and as much as I see this, I also see my brother in him more and more as he gets older. His voice, his mannerisms, even his handwriting is similar. Maybe it is just wishful thinking that he resembles my beautiful brother. 

He is my brother’s namesake, Michael. 

My brother was a seemingly healthy, strapping young man when he was diagnosed with a rare form of lung cancer three months before his twenty-fourth birthday. He died just one month after he turned twenty-five. Needless to say, the loss was unbearable and almost twenty-five years later, as I sit with that loss, it shows up in my worry about my son. 

There is this lingering vapor that surrounds me and as much as I try not to give it my attention, it is there. My son is going to be twenty two in almost two months. And that is almost twenty three. Then I have two more years to be reminded of the deep crevices left from my brother’s death as I watch my son enter into the realm of his age. 

There is no positive affirming this away. I am not the type of person who projects bad things. This is just a trauma that is here. Death of a young person is like this. 

It sits there. 

And waits. 

And we can go through our days and our lives and have moments where it is not such a prominent thought, but it is always there. And when it decides to remind you of the pain, the dark feelings are real. 

So when my son calls me at six in the morning, not usually a complainer, I take the call seriously. We go to the doctor, the walkin because these days unless you have some boutique doctor that you have decided to pay an annual fee for the “privilege” of being able to actually see them without an appointment, you slog along to the walkin with the majority of the population. 

We sit and wait and as luck would have it, my own doctor happens to walk by and we start talking about why we are there. In a nanosecond she figures out the problem and in a nano second we are both semi relieved. When he was called for his appointment, it was weird to not go in to the office with him, it was one of those funny mom transitional moments. The kid is almost twenty two for goodness sake; I was traveling for a month alone through Paris with only one thousand dollars in my pocket and no credit cards when I was this age. 

He would have to fend for himself or else the likely eye rolls from the medical team of helicopter mom would prevail. Thankfully, the prognosis was that he had a past sinus issue that decided to keep residence in his head causing this severe headache. It wasn’t a brain tumor, it wasn’t an eye tumor. He wasn’t going to have to have chemo and radiation and lie dying while his body wilted away to nothing.  

This language sounds extreme; I fully realize how dramatic this sounds. The funny thing is that when he was a little boy and even into his teens, I was never the worrying parent. As a matter of reflection, I was about the only parent I knew who was elated at the prospect of him obtaining his driver’s license and getting his own car. 

Michael always showed up when he said he would, he would text me if he was going to be late, which was hardly ever. He was who parents would call a good kid. He still is. Responsible, kind, considerate. My brother was like this too, but the difference was that he died when he was only twenty five. My maternal worry has started this year and I can’t shake it. When most parents are breathing a sigh of relief that their children are almost across the finish line to graduate college, I am in a slightly unnerved state. 

This is trauma. Waiting like a patient tiger for its prey, ready to jump at just the right moment. October is like that tiger because it is the start of many defining moments. October 20. My brother’s birthday. Born in 1970, it is strange when I meet someone who is was born the same year. When I hear or see someone’s birth year as 1970, I look at them and am immediately struck by their normal aging face. 

Losing a twenty five year old makes time stand still because I only remember my brother young. He said this to me before he died as being the only benefit- like there could be any benefit- to dying young- that people would always remember him young. 

As time keeps ticking, I am struck by the fragility of life as I recall the birthdays of the people I love who have passed. October 24, my Grandmother Kitsie, the grandmother who always had a typewriter in her bedroom where she typed hundreds of recipes for me for my twenty first birthday. November 1st my Grandmother Isabelle, who encouraged my writing always telling me what a great writer I was. She kept all of my letters and writings discovered on the day of her funeral when all of the grandchildren found a three tiered storage box where all memories of us were kept. We had such a good time reveling in her love of each of us by what she kept all of the years.

November 10th, Lesa Turillo, a young woman who was an active part of my adolescence because she was the daughter of my first love when I was only a child myself. She died from an overdose almost two years ago. 

Then there are the birthdays of the people I love who are still here. My former husband, Dave, November 11th who I spent twenty years of my life  and the most positive end result being our son. And of course my Grandfather, Herbie, who at almost 102 is still going as strong as a 102 year old man who has seen much death in the last twenty five years can be. November 20th fast approaching is the anniversary of Michael’s death, the last year he will have been alive more than he will be gone. I remember wondering about that when he died, the feeling that would come to me when he would be gone longer than he was alive. And here we are.

Time travel. October 20th comes and goes each year and each year I sit alone with my memory. My mother struggles to speak of her loss and I get that -so I respectfully don’t mention it. My father has passed away so I don’t have him to just say, Hi Dad, I’m thinking of Michael today on what would have been his 49th birthday. Who will remember as time marches forth? Death is easy to remember. We memorialize death with plaques and Yahrzeit services but I remember your birthday. The day you were born. I will remember your life on this day. I will always remember you. You can count on that. 

life lessons

FALLING DOWN, GETTING UP

Meeting a new friend for lunch yesterday on a lovely Friday afternoon, the only stress I had was trying to find a parking space in Providence on a busy noon time slot. After circling the restaurant, Plant City, a new very hip and incredibly delicious vegan food fest, about six times, I decided that life is short and paid eight outrageous dollars for the mere convenience of removing stress from my already late self.

As I made my way into this food mecca of delight, I found my friend and we made our way to the Italian section of the restaurant and bellied up to the bar for conversation and pizza. Oh, and vegan raw lasagna which may sound awful to Italian food purists, but the taste sensation is really special. I am not a vegan at all, I love meat, but what I really love is food and its ability to bring out the most creative cooking among the brilliant chefs in our little state.

New friends are such a treasure and I have the luxury of meeting many cool chicks simply because I am in the beauty business and female energy abounds. I like that I am open to carving time to dive in to the Yes, Let’s make time for lunch answer when asked. I am even luckier that I am asked. More often than not, it is time well spent and yesterday was no exception as we inhaled the truffle pizza and had an indulgent mid afternoon glass of wine.

In my casual life I lead, I have also become more casual in my daily wardrobe, so yesterday I had decided to get it together and actually dress up a bit. These days, this means jeans, my favorite shoes I bought in Israel that I wished I had bought ten pairs of, and a nice top with some jewels- a little more than the typical athleisure (yes this apparently is a real word used to describe my daily uniform these days). I find myself clinging to comfort as my go to closet grab most days and I mostly don’t care about shoes and clothes anymore like I used to. Like I used to when the outside was more important than the inside.

I had one errand before heading home and that was to drop off my rent check around the corner. I had picked some flowers from my still very zinnia packed garden to bring with the check to my landlord’s receptionist I had gotten to know over the past twelve years. As I made my way up the stairs, I could hear the familiar sounds of the television he kindly allows them to keep on the reception desk to occupy their time when it is slow.

I walked in to his second floor office to find, not the familiar receptionist, but instead, a very pregnant one, whom I had never met before. I made my introductions, passed on the flowers and check and said goodbye. I was not rushing, I didn’t have anything in my hands besides my car keys and as I made my way out, I took a mint from the bowl and said good bye.

One habit I have added to my movement is to always lightly place my hand on any stair railing. My aunt had fallen and broken her ankle several years back, and it was a good reminder to be cautious on stairs. With the keys and the mint in my left hand, I placed my right hand on the railing and made my way down the stairs. Wait rewind. I thought this was what I did, but I don’t really know because within a split second, my Israeli shoed heels slipped out from under me and I slid down six or seven hard stairs to the hard landing. My tailbone, mid back and neck followed. I yelled, you know the type of uncontrolled yell like you do when you are on a roller coaster. The mint flew out of its wrapper and the keys went flying and I was in shock that this just happened.

The mint flying out of its wrapper was a clue that maybe I was trying to open it as I stepped on to the front stair which would mean that I didn’t put my hand on the railing before taking the first step. It is all a blur and doesn’t really matter because the end result was me on my ass and three people running to the unusual sound they heard. The sound of the full weight of me and the scream in the middle of a Friday afternoon was concerning. The pregnant woman whose name escapes me, the landlord and a lovely massage therapist from the first floor offices, who had been interrupted in the middle of her service because of the noise, all came rushing out to see what the commotion was.They found it alright, along with the mint and my keys, sitting breathless but, thankfully, conscious at the bottom of the stairs trying to determine if I should bounce up and brush it off or if I should take this more seriously.

Questions came flying out, Can I get you some water, are you dizzy, where does it hurt, can you breathe, I’ll get you some water, here is some water. I just kept saying, I just need to sit for a few minutes to catch my breath. Everyone was so kind, helpful, caring and concerned and I just sat patiently for a few minutes to evaluate how I landed on my ass in a split second. I knew enough than to berate myself because I didn’t do anything wrong. I wasn’t being careless. I wasn’t rushing. I was calm and happy, but I fell anyway. It felt like my heels slipped from under me, that is the only thing I can distinctly remember.

The textured rubberized stairs clearly designed for not falling were not wet, nor were my shoes. It was a freak fall. I slid down the stairs like a child on a newly wax papered metal playground slide from yesteryear. My tailbone took my entire weight, then my mid back then my neck then my head. My hands instinctively braced for the fall, causing my wrists to take some of the brunt. I could already feel the bruises forming. Was this all because of a fucking mint? The only reason I took the mint was because the lingering garlic from my lunch was so potent I was trying to defuse its aftermath.

No- I did not think I needed to go the hospital, no- I didn’t think I had a concussion. I would be fine. I was just trying to determine if I should drive or not so I sat and weighed my thoughts for a few more moments. I was sore but I felt fine enough. I would be bruised, both my body and my ego. As I find myself approaching fifty five along with my dear friends, our conversations are naturally starting to turn to ailments and health. We find ourselves laughing at this surprising turn of how did we get here conversation. A fall was just one of those things that is bound to happen. But for me the question was WHY? There always has to be a why for me. Just helps me understand and gives me direction.

I got up. Because this is just what I do. I get back up. I brushed myself off and made my way home. I packed up some clothes and made my way to my partner’s house. Just in case I did have a concussion and died in my sleep, I didn’t want to be alone. Yes, this dramatic thought ran through my head; who knows, I had never hit my head before. I didn’t play sports when I was a kid, I played the flute, hardly a chance to bang my head doing that. This was unfamiliar territory and as much as I minimize life coming at me, I was also pragmatic enough not to be foolish.

My lovely landlord reached out, obviously concerned, I jokingly told him that my fall got me out of my seven am workout the following day. As I laid on the couch tending to my very sore backside, I had a strange vision occur. The maybe answer to my why this happened.

I had never seen the receptionist who had been in the office yesterday. Maybe my fall was to create a hyper awareness in her pregnant self to be careful on the stairs. That fall I took yesterday could have been a fall she may have taken if she had been rushing like so many young moms. Maybe my fall was a guardian angel looking out for that little super being in her belly. Maybe this baby she is about to have has an added layer of protection as he or she makes her grand entrance into this chaotic world.

Yes- that is why I fell yesterday, for a higher purpose other than myself. It makes the fall worth it thinking about it in this light. We fall down, we get up, we start again and perhaps the lessons in our falls have nothing to do with us at all.

I thought I was going to wake up beyond sore, beyond bruised; in fact, I slept beautifully, and though I am a bit sore and a bit bruised today, I do think shifting the way I considered my accident yesterday healed me faster. I feel astonishingly good today.

To quote two of my favorites, ee cummings, “Thank you G-d for this most amazing day…. “ and Wayne Dyer, “When you change the way you look at things, the things you look at change.”

Indeed.

AGING, life lessons

FROM A DREAM

Before I closed my eyes last night, after a good and hardy unexpected romp, I took several deep and grateful breaths. Flat out on my back, supremely satisfied with all my life is and has become, (I swear, no pun intended) I breathed in, saying my personal mantra that I rely on for a deep calm sense of peace,

I am in the divine right place at the right time, and I am always divinely protected and cared for.

Faith. I am so happy I have it as my secret weapon. Not the faith of a religious kind, but one of a spiritual one. The kind that stops me in my tracks when I spot a hummingbird in my garden on a bright pink zinnia. The faith that happens when I unabashedly use my scissors to cut the stems of my purple coned anise-hyssop plant as a swarm of bees drink their nectar. They seem unmoved by my presence, almost like they recognize me as their compadre, not their enemy, happy we live in a co existence both sharing the pleasures of their flowers in our own way.

I am not afraid. Clients and friends waiting for their luscious bouquets I happily donate to their kitchen counters, see me reach into the stems and comment, Oohh, Alayne, lots of bees…
Yes, I say with a slight touch of bravado, They are not interested in me, they only want the flowers. I know this because this has been my experience every season since I planted these flowers. I haven’t been stung yet. Don’t plan on it. We have an understanding, it seems.

Faith is a superpower for me. Anytime I have felt startled or dismantled in some way, I go to those two familiar lines and breathe them in. Even when I am not afraid, even when I am deeply satisfied in my life, I say them.
I am always divinely protected. Hey, whatever works as we spin through our short days in this life. I have learned that head speak is an important stress reducer and if a one line phrase can muster some good old fashioned peace and tranquility, it just has to be good for your soul.

Sometimes dreams have messages like this, too, and I had some beautiful dreams last night involving my dear friend, Jane. I woke up today happy to have remembered them so clearly. Sometimes dreams are like this, they create a vivid experience, so much so, that you question if they really happened. That was this morning.

I dreamed we were at her birthday party and our friend, Jen, was bringing in plastic sand toys, laying them on the floor as Jane sat at the head of the table with her head in her hands anticipating the surprise looming. Jen brought in three stacks of white boxes for Jane to have to open, the kind where there is a smaller one inside the next one and so on. They were wrapped with a satin bow and I knew that there was a gift of a trip to some place warm in the smallest one.

For some reason, in the dream, I felt the need to type a message and I quickly went over to my typewriter to type a note to put on the smallest box. As I went to type, I realized that the paper had already been typed on, so I took another piece of paper and realized that too had been typed on. I was trying to type this quickly so I could get it on the gift before she opened it, so I crumpled up those two pieces and woke up before finishing the note to these two phrases,

You are enough. You have enough. This is what I was intending to write before I woke up. That is what I woke up with as sharp as if someone was standing over me and saying it. Like Glinda the Good Witch or someone.

Whoa. What a way to wake up this morning.

You are enough. You have enough. I wanted to text Jane immediately to tell her I had this detailed dream, but she sleeps in, especially on a Saturday, and no matter how great this message is, she wouldn’t have been so elated to receive a six am text message. Instead, I decided to write this piece today to get it out of me so I wouldn’t forget.

You are enough. You have enough. Talk about a new mantra. Dreams are powerful. Like faith. They have those lovely messages sometimes that just sum up life in a neat little box with a pretty bow. Like the boxes Jane was going to open in my dream.

As I made my way downstairs to make some coffee and watch the sun rise I realized that there is a lot going on this weekend for me. This past week has been a week of leaning into allowing myself permission to give myself a break from my incessant need to accomplish tasks.As I opened the paper, I read a lovely essay by Jennifer Weiner, The Primal Thrill of a Cherry Tomato. I didn’t even really need to read the essay because the title was so aptly named, it said it all. But there was a perfect nugget of a paragraph I must share. She wrote:

These days with my 50th birthday looming, I think a lot about where the surprises are going to come from. Not the satisfaction, not the joy, but the unexpected delights — the didn’t-see-it-coming thrill you get from learning that your bid on the house was accepted or that you got the job offer or that you’re having a baby. At my age life doesn’t offer many firsts. It’s short on surprises, and the ones on offer aren’t pleasant. Instead of ‘congratulations, you’re pregnant,’ it’s more like ‘bad news, you need to get a gum graft.’
Which isn’t to say there aren’t upsides to being settled down. Chances are you’ve gained some wisdom. You’ve fallen in love and learned that no one dies of a broken heart, you’ve fallen on your face and you can almost always get back up.

There is that odd moment I can relate to she speaks of as I am in the in between space of my son just getting ready to graduate college this year, I am settled into my home, my career, my life, my partnership, my friendships are stable and life long, weeding out the ones that no longer serve. I sometimes find myself thinking with a micro speck of cynicism, What’s next? Where did the time go?

This week I learned, from my glorious and lovely bad ass Dr. W, that I no longer have to go for six month check ups for my previous breast cancer diagnosis and am now on one year check ups. I found out I have to have the entire duct work in my house cleaned and the only date they could do is on the first day of Rosh Hashanah which to some may seem blasphemous, but for me seems divinely appropriate for some reason. It’s like a full throttle house enema.

It’s like Jennifer Weiner said in her piece about surprises, but for me they don’t need to be the big ones. I am lucky I have experienced the big ones. I think aging is recognizing they don’t need to be exceptionally large and in your face. They can show up in your garden, in a one line essay title or in an unexpected lovely romp on Friday evening after a long day. They can show up in an abundance of monarchs on the result of fifty zinnia seed packets I basically threw with wild abandon this past May challenging them to prove the fittest survive theory (and it seemed like there were no weak ones this season).

This weekend my mother is visiting my son. We haven’t seen each other in five years and we just recently started speaking with each other again. And it feels redemptive and like part of the circle of life that is not a comma, but a solid semi colon that confirms there is a second part of what I am trying to say, but doesn’t need its own sentence, but also doesn’t need a gentle pause. We are in the early stages of accepting each other for who we are and more importantly forgiving each other for who we are no longer.

Surprises can be waking up from a dream with two beautiful phrases that I can take with me on my journey this weekend as I see my mother for the first time in too long of a time and know that healing stems from forgiveness and forgiveness and amends is exactly the calling of the Jewish New Year. Whether I go to High Holy Day services or go to dinner with my mother and my son, synagogue is what’s in my heart, not in a building, at least in my humble opinion.

You are enough. You have enough. Its message says loud and clear to accept myself and accept yourself. If this isn’t the simplest of surprises for this fifty five year old chick, I don’t know how it could be any better or bigger or more surprising than this.

Health, WOMEN'S HEALTH

OUT OF MY CONTROL

“Does that make you crazy?” My partner’s niece, Ashley, asked me as we were discussing her new nursing career and I was telling her that I had been diagnosed with Hashimoto Thyroiditis when I turned forty.

Her lovely and young thirty year old self said it so matter of factly, I brushed it off and replied that it didn’t and that I really had no side effects from this diagnosis fifteen years later.

“I have heard some people really get manic crazy with that diagnosis,” she said.

Mmmmm. Manic. Crazy. Not me, I thought.

But a week later, I started really thinking about this whisper of a comment that I dismissed so quickly. First off the word “crazy” and “manic” are not the first two words I personally want to associate with as descriptions of myself. I pride myself on doing “the work” and knowing how I tick. I understand the sugar and alcohol roller coaster rides I have taken and still take knowing full well that a few days later I will be off the rails. But it is my own choice, I say to myself as I can’t get her comment out of my head.

I have been loosely seeing a thyroid doctor since that initial diagnosis when I was a mere forty and since my bloodwork always comes back normal and my thyroid hasn’t taken over my neck like some hideous goiter, we just watch. I have never had to go on synthroid, the thyroid replacement medicine. In fact, the last time I was at the doctor’s I asked him how he even determined the diagnosis and if he could reconfirm it since I never really had any symptoms.

The thing about your thyroid though is that it is like the main controller of your entire being. Picture Captain Kirk in Star Trek in his Captain’s chair looking out from the Enterprise at the entire galaxy and think about him as your thyroid gland. At least this is the way I understand it. The thyroid needs fuel to produce the thyroid hormone. Like the Enterprise needs fuel to maneuver through space, the thyroid needs direction and it gets this from your pituitary gland, often referred to as a Master Gland. Think of Kirk as the pituitary. The Enterprise can be completely fueled, ready for its bad ass launch into the galaxy, but without the supreme direction of Captain Kirk, it sits there waiting.

As Ashley’s random comment sat in my brain this past week I started to consider my up and down behaviors over my lifetime. Full throttle into some things and then at a moment’s notice, not interested. I have often equated this with full moons, my birth sign, mercury in retrograde among other reasons I have written about endlessly. Spending money buying cars impulsively, not to mention my latest typewriter obsession all started to roll like the credits at the end of a movie.

I was diagnosed with Hashimoto fifteen years ago, but I wonder if this is something you develop or if you are just born with it. I can’t believe I never have asked this question. I also can’t believe that the emotional ups and downs I have spent my life in therapy with could partially be attributed to Hashimoto? Maybe all of this wackiness is OUT OF MY CONTROL. And to think that I can master it with food and meditation practice is only partly the solution. I also can’t believe that my doctor never asked me about this.

A random comment from a brand new nurse offered more to me than the endocrinologist I have been seeing for fifteen years. For the love of nurses, surely. They are often the brilliance so underrated behind the scenes. What are the options though? I certainly don’t want to go on Big Pharm to regulate. Maybe just knowing that it isn’t me all the time, but instead a physiological malfunction causing all of this mayhem in my brain all these years is enough.

How convenient. Disturbing too, but I must admit it is nice to think in terms of releasing myself from the constant battle in my brain that I just don’t have the willpower necessary to overcome some of these ups and downs. There is so much we don’t know about our bodies and what kinds of mind fucks different problems cause. Our minds are still the wild frontier of so much to be discovered. Star Trek was way ahead of its time “boldly going where no man has gone before,” and if we think about the galaxy as our brains, we still have so much to discover.

grief, life lessons

BUILDING A WALL

I had no idea what to expect when I found out that my partner would be volunteering at the building of the wall. Not “The Wall,” the one that lights up every talk show, radio, podcast and television news channel, but the other one, the one that was forced into its creation because of the incredible loss of over 58,000 American lives.

The Moving Wall is a traveling memorial wall to make sure that this country remembers the Vietnam War and its over 58, 000 American lives lost and 304,000 wounded. Over two million Vietnam civilians and over one million Vietnam fighters died in this tragedy as well.

I am certainly not here to give a history lesson, for sure I need one myself since I was born right in the midst of its escalation, 1965. My father had been in college at the time, married my mother a year earlier, and likely because of his own fortunate socio economic position in life, avoided the draft. I am not sure if this is why he got married at twenty in 1964, but I am guessing that it must have been on his mind. I will never know since he passed away in 2011.

What I do know is that the Moving Wall must be named both literally and figuratively; it is moving to say the least.

Right now its resting place is Touro Park in Newport, RI and even if you have seen the Vietnam Memorial in Washington DC, this replica takes your breath away, wets your eyes and causes a great question in your heart, Why? As a mother of a twenty one year old son, my heart cracked open as I considered that most of the men on that wall were his age.

When I asked the Google question whether there were any women on the wall, the number that came up was eight, but I need to confirm this. This was a different time, our boys were drafted and the women who served were mostly in the traditional roles of nurses and caregivers, left to pick up the literal pieces of our boys. They were significant, but like the wars before seldom celebrated and memorialized.

Over two million of our boys were drafted. Over two million of a twenty-seven million pool. I can’t imagine what happened to the communities and the families during this time in our nation’s dark history.

When I went for the vigil this past Friday night, I had no idea what to expect; there were the rough and tumbled Vietnam Vets arriving on their motorcycles, leather vests, tattooed, long white ponytails well into their seventies now. There were the men and their families who managed to survive the war, return home in one bodily piece and get on with their lives. There were the families of the fallen searching for the name. Everyone had a story, everyone knew someone. Everyone cried.

My young world was not affected by the Vietnam War. I don’t recall anyone in my neighborhood drafted, or much discussion about the war other than its presence on dinner time television. I was only four years old when my partner, eighteen years my senior, was drafted. A neighborhood only ten or so miles away and miles apart with its impact on community. I may not have even gone if it hadn’t been for my partner. Micheal was drafted in 1968 and served in Vietnam for one year. His friends from his Federal Hill neighborhood were drafted too as their community fell into that unfortunate category my father had the luxury of avoiding.

These vets were not celebrated on their return, but booed, insulted and it was a double travesty. Vietnam vets suffered emotional wounds that if they are alive today still deal with, not to mention the long term effects of agent orange on their health and life. This wall commemorates not only the ones who didn’t make it, but the ones who were forced by our government to fight a war based on ego and abuse of government’s power. The ones who made it back, like my partner, his friends, my uncle in law are lucky to be alive. We are lucky they are still here to tell the stories and to share their grief as they open up to finally release theirs.

Michael and I looked for the name of one of his friends who didn’t make it back, we looked for the name of one of our friend’s cousins. We were asked if we wanted to do an etching, but we didn’t need to because once you see a name of someone it is etched in your spirit immediately. They are remembered. This is the truest memorial.

our friend, David’s Cousin, Wayland J. Batson

As I sat at the Vigil with my candle burning, I listened to the 203 Rhode Island names read, some still M.I.A. and wept. This wall is an important part of our American history so that we never forget what can go terribly wrong when decisions are made for the very wrong reasons. Every twenty something should bear witness to the possibilities of their own good fortune they don’t live in the time of a draft, for now anyway. We gratefully rely on volunteers to enlist and for now this is enough for our country. I hold my breath, though, because we just never know.

This wall is at the park until September 23rd and is headed to Attleboro, Mass Sept 26-30.

MY PARTNER, Michael, so happy her made it out in one piece. #luckyindeed
FUN, WRITING

WHY I TYPE

There she was, that beauty of a black Royal, sitting there, dusty, keys barely visible.

Forty Dollars, the price tag said as it was marked down to it’s final lowest price at the consignment store I visit with my aunt when she treks down from Boston.

I quietly walked up to the black metal machine weighing in at what seemed like twenty pounds and placed my finger on a random key, maybe it was the H or the G or the A, irrelevant now. Click, like the sound of the hard snap of the tip of my tongue up against the roof of my mouth, I was brought back to a familiar time, but one I couldn’t quite recall just yet.

I firmly pressed my fingers on the keys with a much stronger touch than the laptop keyboard my fingers have grown accustomed to. I waited to hear the “ding,” hoping the warning bell to pay attention to my word choice of how many letters I have left still worked on this old beauty of a machine.

I was not disappointed.

Ding! And just like that I was brought back to my grandmother’s bedroom where she had always kept her typewriter for correspondence, recipes and anything else she needed to legibly communicate what her messy handwriting could not.

My aunt, who was shopping with me that day, confirmed what I couldn’t place at first sight.

Yes Alayne, dear, this was indeed the same type of typewriter Grandma had.

For some reason, at that exact moment, I felt a strange calling to rescue what I now fondly call, Dear Old Gal. And just like that, I became a collector of typewriters.

It is hard to believe that was a little over a year ago, but in one year’s time I have amassed thirty typewriters. YES- 30. I realize to the average person, this may seem excessive, but it occurred to me shortly after that first purchase of this 1940’s Royal, these gems are not being made anymore. Typewriters from the twentieth century, pre-electric, are the end of an era. They are glorious pieces of machinery all needing each part to make them their beautiful whole. The mechanisms are visible to the eye for the most part and their simplicity is a thing of the past. Our children and their children will only get to see them at museums and antique stores.

I am in love with the notion of using a typewriter. My heart is full when I open one from their portable case and set it up on my front porch to make my thoughts appear, mistakes and all, on the white paper I have rolled in. I am elated when I watch a child instinctively drawn to the keys and smile ear to ear realizing that they can create words that will not allow deletion. I am in my happy place when they ask, “Where is the exclamation point? (you have to make it with a period, backspace, apostrophe) Or the number 1?(it is the capital L) How do I erase a mistake? (you don’t) What is the ding for?”

My heart is in pure heaven when I can send a typed note on specialty 100% cotton paper I found from Germany to say thank you to someone who least expects to receive a typewritten note. Or to send my condolences to someone who has lost a loved one. Or just because.

There is something about typing. I can’t explain the feeling so instead of doing so, I do events and open my doors to let people in to feel what I mean. More than even the actual action of typing, typewriters invoke story after story from people every time they see one and even more when they hear one.

Beauty comes in all shapes and sizes, all flavors. This is beauty to me. Sharing something from the past with people to engage and connect. In our new face down in the phone paradigms we seem to find ourselves in and our children in, I am finding it harder and harder to escape from this technology that has made us all think of as connection. What I have learned is that it is the exact opposite.

So I offer a new way to disconnect. This is why I type. Typewritingisbeauty. Enjoy them; they love their salvation.

Please join me on Saturday September 14th for The State Street Fair in Bristol, RI. I will be there with the typewriters. Stop by and type something, bring the kids, bring your smiles.

Words Matter.

AGING, Women

DOES THIS MIRROR MAKE ME LOOK FAT?

Is it just me or are there fat mirrors and skinny mirrors? And here is my question for all the mirror makers out there, which one is the right one? What do we all really look like? And why do I even care anymore, other than when I get dressed in the morning and look at myself for a brief check and then that pesky bubble shows up over my head and says, omg what has happened to me?

I write a lot about self talk, perfectionism, self image and spin cycle brain. I am constantly at work on the never ending dialogue between my head and my core belief system. This wisdom and self awareness keeps me in check with my mostly happy existence I am mostly grateful for. Relatively speaking, this piece today is what people would refer to as first world problems. Every day I open the paper, I read about death, destruction and the rise of antisemitism that makes me feel like I am living in a real life version of The Handmaid’s Tale. Writing about fat and skinny mirrors doesn’t seem to be a newsworthy commentary.

This is embarrassing to write, but I forge ahead anyway. I know this conversation is one that makes me not alone in my thinking. Years and years of female speak by the line leading ladies in my family always discussing body size, the latest Weight Watchers recipe and the dreaded workouts at Gloria Stevens have left their mark no matter how much positive patty talk I give myself.

When I was in seventh grade, I clearly remember an eighth grade boy saying to me, Alayne, your face on Eva’s body…. Wow. And as he said this he closed his eyes and turned his head with a slightly upturn of his lips letting the fantasy of this hormonal boy designed girl simmer in his loins (apparently, Eva was the desired go to body of the moment and she was a year older than me). I remember thinking at that particular moment that I was not good enough. Rather than saying, go fuck yourself, what about your face and body? I took it like it was a directive. Boys had that power over young girls back then, at least over this boy crazy girl, who for some reason allowed them to decide my self worth fate for most of my adolescence.

Hopefully all of this chick power and positive self talk commentary we have been feeding our girls for the past twenty years has helped them define themselves on their own terms so they don’t have to be guided down the path of negative. But it seems that body image and negative body talk is still a problem with our young girls, the very ones we have been trying to teach to just own it.

Just when I think we are making headway by actually saying negative body talk as a phrase aloud, I see some wacky diet plan being thrown at an eight year old. This is not really some new phenomenon. In my possession, I have a book written by a doctor named Ruth West from the 1950s called, The Teenage Diet Book, given to me my one of my best friend’s moms when we were in 7th grade. I don’t know why or how I still have this book, but it is significant in relation to the blithering bubbles over my head as well as the conversations I have had with members of my female tribe for the last forty years.

this book by Dr. Ruth West written in the 1950’s. Clearly, throwing diets at our young children is nothing new.

I have always had issues with the way I have seen my body even when the way I should have seen it should have been with degrees of worship. I look back at the pictures from my earlier years when I used to use language like, I am so fat, as my perpetual inner dialogue. Then I look at the picture now and my mouth drops open. What a waste of a perfectly good body. Good body? What does that even mean? Shouldn’t it mean, healthy, able to breathe when walking up the stairs or hiking for six hours? Shouldn’t it equate with the word, alive?

As I write today, I am aware that it sounds like I lack the self worth and acceptance I espouse in so much of my writing. Though it may appear this way, I just think it is helpful to say aloud what the bubble over my head occasionally says in its uninvited phrases. The food down turns I have taken in my previous day or week start their yipping in my head labeling themselves as wrong, bad, dumb. I fully realize that this is not helpful. But it is hard to stop the train. And I consider that the years of being surrounded with constant discussion and commentary on body size not just from my own family, but in every piece of literature, magazine cover, and now the algorithms of social media and the internet have planted themselves like an innocent single stem of mint in the garden.

Dieting of yesteryear has turned into softer words, like wellness, clean eating, and it has created a tornado of advice from experts and self described gurus that has left me and my over thinking brain on overload. And almost every woman I know. What to believe? What to eat? What not to eat? Is it even possible to lose weight past fifty five? Then there is the discussion of “set weight” which if you haven’t heard that phrase, you may as well throw in the towel because whatever weight you lose, your body, biologically, won’t stay there as it will work hard to climb back to the old weight for some scientific reason I can’t possibly explain.

Why bother? Well for one, when I have gained ten pounds, I feel like shit. I feel bloated. Every outfit I put on feels like it shrunk and as I actually think this, I realize, oh shit, no the dryer is not expediting heat mysteriously shrinking my clothes, but rather the extra weight is making my clothes feel snug. Darn it. I was ready to call Gils Appliance and buy a new dryer. Then I look in the mirror and that bubble shows up and the voice starts its scolding, Why did I eat that ….. yesterday? I was supposed to start the Whole 30 for the thirtieth time. Come on Alayne, you are going to Florida in a few months….you better get ready.
So I do as Whole 30 commands, stop looking in the mirror. Don’t get on the scale. Just stop the madness. This always helps. And I come back to the beginning of this piece about the fat and skinny mirrors. I know they exist, they are in every dressing room that sells women’s clothing. They are definitely in bathing suit stores and lingerie stores. They are in my gym. And it gets me thinking about perception as reality. And my own reality of aging and the way my body is changing just because of aging.

I realize that I am lucky to be able to write this slightly self-deprecating piece. I am alive and anyone reading this is too. Fat mirrors, skinny mirrors aside, life is a process, and there is never likely going to be a time where I can 100% say good enough. This is the most ironic part of aging, this self-awareness in the midst of the bubbles over my head. Self acceptance is part of the evolution of aging and the more aging women I speak to, the more honest conversations we are having about this process. Honest conversations are the best part of aging with like minded women I surround myself with. Mirrors and extra ten pounds aside, truth is beauty and if aging is truth serum, then bring it on.

Health, life lessons

ON A BENDER

A slight bump in the road occurs, occasionally, when I go off the deep end and slide into sugar and wine oblivion. Sometimes it is just a slight curve and I put my hands on the wheel and do a quick course correction. Then there are the times when I head straight down the bank and end up in a ditch hoping someone will find me before it is too late.

This sounds dire. I sound like there is a cause for an intervention. It is not that bad. Really. Because the one thing I know about me better than anyone is my own slippery slope. I used to blame it on PMS, but I can’t do that anymore since there is no more of that. There is definitely a time limit on using the C word too, coming up on two and half years already, I think I have used that excuse for going off the deep end enough. “Enough already,” I can hear my grandmother’s voice in my head say.

So what is it? Why do I have this constant yo-yo where I can feel so incredible and unstoppable, not drinking any wine or eating any sugar that it causes me to almost self-sabotage, like there is some force greater than me saying, “Oh yeah? You feel this good? We’ll fix that.” I know every time I break my flow with “just one glass of wine” or “just one brownie,” I am off and running. Before I know it, I have eaten like an entire cake and drank way too many bottles of wine on the front porch.

Why does this happen? A normal person (if there is such a thing) would say, “Well, Alayne, if you know this is your pattern, then why must you incessantly rewind, repeat?” Sounds so simple. I am a smart successful and generous entrepreneur. I “live life to the fullest” following my brother’s instructions from his death bed like there is no tomorrow. I know better. But yet, I slide.
I have worked incessantly on myself for years trying to understand this pattern of mine.

The funny thing about twists and turns is that I only realize the ‘why’ part after the deep dive. During the dive, when it would be most advantageous to catch myself, is too late. I am ALL in. Whipping up blueberry cake, chocolate babka and cheese-ladened Mexican lasagna filled with dairy that surely would make my breast cancer doctor wince with estrogenic pain.

What I have realized with this last wild ride is that this happens when I am stressed. It is not some self sabotage at all. In fact, I like myself, I am happy with my world, why the hell would I need to sabotage this life I have made with my own two hands? But yet here I am. The weekend after too much wine and too much babka.
Stress.

Cortisol.

High stress=High Cortisol levels.

High cortisol levels=constant fight or flight mode. But there is no fight and there is no flight except to the refrigerator and thus the fatigue subsides as soon as the first sip of wine or the first bite of cake.

It is immediate. And it is satisfying- this temporary fix that no amount of self talk can persuade otherwise. Cortisol is pure power. It is what has made humanity sustain itself. But humanity, these days, is not the same as it was when survival was literal. Survival these days is dealing with the stressors that our bodies and minds could never be prepared for. On top of this, there is the constant brain workings of my mind with thousands of ideas and trying to execute many at the same time.

My mind holds the ideas, but what I lack is the reality of how much time each idea is really going to take. This is where my stressors are. So much work, SO little time. I am convinced that as much as we talk about nutrition as being a precursor to cancer, my gut tells me it is cortisol’s constant production in my system. This is why I exercise and meditate- to attempt to create tools to wind down this overactive brain of mine. And it really helps.

But sometimes I just need to eat cake and drink wine. This really helps too. Except that after a few days of it, my heart starts to race and my head starts to think negative thoughts that were definitely not there before I did my deep dive. The effects of meditation and exercise and healthy eating are cumulative. The effects of wine and cake are immediate and sometimes I just need immediate.