AGING, Women

MAN-O-PAUSE

“You definitely need to workout in nature outside, often,” my dear and beloved fitness trainer, Kathy M., said to me after we finished an ass kicking workout yesterday.

We were speaking of menopause. Again. This is the hot, (pun totally intended), topic these days. It seems like every woman I know is talking about menopause. Maybe this is such a hot button issue because we are seeing the benefits of women entering the medical profession over the last twenty years. Finally, we are seeing the results of their influence.

Women are talking about menopause like it is, in fact, something. No kidding. Something indeed. We are actually saying the words, vaginal dryness, out-fucking-loud in daily conversations with other women. Hallelujah!

Nature is my solace for my post menopausal brain. No matter what is happening in my spinning washing machine cycle head, as soon as I go outside and smell the air, I am better. Going through menopause is one thing, but like a mastectomy and reconstruction, it is what happens after the dust settles where the real psycho body and mind shit starts kicking in. This is when we need to be talking and walking. Now.

I don’t mean to keep repeating the obvious, but since my grandmother never said the word, vagina aloud ever, I do so for any woman who lived before me in hot and dry silence. Vaginal dryness, belly bloat, weird crepey, saggy skin that is starting to creep in, cellulite and flab, no matter how many protein shakes and push ups. Seriously, when I smile now, my upper lip seems to stay back before it bounces back. My hair is on speed dial causing a full time date with the morning light and the magnifying mirror I previously vowed complete celibacy to, never mind looking in the rear view car mirror. Wouldn’t matter anyway since I can’t see anymore. I envy when women say, “hair barely grows on my legs anymore.” In my dreams.

Since I now need a magnifying mirror, this comes with its own set of warnings, like the magnification of every brown spot and line that seemed to appear out of nowhere. I just noticed the other day in that unfortunate light that my eye lid is starting to head south, like over my eyeball. Thankfully I have stopped wearing makeup so at least the mascara won’t land on my cheek. My mother taught me good skin care early on, and I actually listened, since moisturizing regularly has certainly paid off. I have pretty good skin, but since this has been my profession, I suppose it better be good.

Then there is the sitting in my beach chair and looking down at my stomach that belongs to some other woman. Where did the rolls come from? And I am not talking rolls because I am overweight. I am just speaking of my skin that now just rolls. How and when did they arrive? I swear, five minutes ago I was strutting around in a bikini, a real bikini, not a tankini, not a skirt, and now I am here at the beach thinking maybe my two piece life is actually really over for good.

I wake up in the middle of the night sometimes with a foot or a leg cramp that jolts me out of bed reminding me that I need to be more regular with the magnesium. Then there are the conversations about all of this happening like we chicks are the first ones to ever experience any of this, (of course writing about all of this doesn’t warrant talk about flowers and shopping, I get that). Well, we are surely not the first, but we may just be the first to actually say it loud and proud, like it is some badge of honor instead of some hysterical Freudian hallucination.

I look at the young mamas with their babies and fifteen hundred dollar strollers prancing around with their latte in the cup holders that now come with said strollers. They walk with their phone in one hand adorned with their athletic wear like having a baby these days is some type of fashion show. I am so happy I am past that point of no return. Way too much technology these days distracting these parents from the present moment. My friends and I can’t help but live in the present moment of hot flashes and night sweats that came without warning taking over our bodies. And our minds.

Sometimes I don’t even know how my brain works each day. I am thankful for nature, meditation, working out, and connection. Connection is what keeps me sane these days. Connection with myself, my body’s new reality, and my friends and family. (And wine, but more on this later.) This is all we have. And we, in our circle of fifty something chicks, seem to be realizing this wholeheartedly.

This is the good part of menopause, it reminds me with each and every flash to wake up, pay attention, that time is moving along and I might want to start that bucket list or project I have on my endless to do list. (To do lists becoming more necessary because of the memory lapsing that I will add here as another end result of menopause.) Better yet, as Arianna Huffington said in a great interview, “You can also just simply take the to do off of the to do list and call it a day.” Amen. Just saying that feels liberating.

Instead of calling it menopause, maybe we should call it, Man, do I pause. Because if menopause has taught me anything, it is to pause. It is to take notice and realize that these hot flashes, that have finally slowed down, are to remind me that I am ready for the next phase. No more babies, no more adolescents, college graduation looms large this upcoming year for my only child and I am realizing that have my whole life ahead of me.

Man, do I pause, because the only person left standing is me. I get to choose the next part. I have my man, sure, but I am solo by choice in the sense of decision making, life ahead and wonder and creativity abounds. This is a great time to pause. I am done here, but not there. The there is next. Let’s just hope for a little moisture in the there, is that too much to ask?

Lines, greying hair, white hair in my eyebrows, man-do- I-PAUSE.
AGING, NATURE

THE MAGIC HOUR

“No, I will not look at my phone. I will not look at Facebook,” I said to myself on this early morning. I use my phone to listen to podcasts before I go to bed and for the clock when I arise. It seems as if everywhere I look these days word is out that keeping a phone charging by the bed or anywhere in the bedroom should be off limits as it impedes sleep.

My sleep is seldom impeded unless there is a full moon or I have a crazy dream. The phone is always turned over so there is no blinking blue light getting into my pattern. I also never have my phone on for sound, so consequently, I never hear a ring, a bing, or a swish or any other cell phone sound that is part of what seems to be a fully accepted surround sound wherever we are.

Today, though, I woke up with a circling brain- scattered thoughts, hard time concentrating. Maybe the phone by my bed is causing this and I should buy an old school clock. Maybe I don’t even need a clock anymore since I wake up with a, no pun intended, alarming regularity. Five, five thirty, sometimes four, occasionally six, seldom seven. For my whole life, since I was in ninth grade, I have never been a late sleeper.

The morning is my magic hour.

Without my morning time, I lose my balance. As a matter of fact, now that I think about this, I have unconsciously designed my entire life around keeping my mornings sacred. I am fortunate- lucky, some people would say, that I have this glorious option when I wake up.

Should I work out, go for a bike ride, write, tinker in the garden, sit, or listen and stare at the world? This is not luck, this is choice. I have built a business to support my life and my lifestyle. Owning my own company for almost twenty years has given me this ability to control my own way I spend my time.

This is ironic in some ways because being a business owner usually means that work is 24/7. No question. I am always working. At least my brain is- there is no luxury of locking up at the end of a day, walking away and not thinking about the job. But even when I had “a job” I thought about work. I always had owner brain which is why I likely turned into a business owner.

But this writing today is not about work; it is about the morning, that magic hour of five — seven am. When sounds are just nature, not traffic, only car doors opening and the truck engine of my neighbor starting so he can leave for work. The morning is the routine of my day which is about the only stable routine I follow. Wake up, take some slow deep breaths, open the curtains to take a peek at the weather, head to the bathroom for some teeth brushing, face splashing and moisturizing, throw on my old lady clothes consisting of a gardening dress, a Life is Good tee shirt, socks and Ugg clogs, no fashion show here, but pure fifty four year old, live alone comfort. I then make my way to the kitchen to start the coffee. Most mornings these days I make myself sit on the pillow and meditate while the coffee perks, but today, the sounds of my yard were calling me.

I poured my coffee in my new favorite mug given to me by a new favorite friend and made my way to my garden to greet the new blooms with a big happy “Welcome!” I talk to my entire garden. “Hello!” I joyfully exclaim to each of the plants that are my old friends. “Good Morning!” to any plant that decided to bloom for my personal pleasure. I walk around the garden noting what is in need of some assistance. Some of the lavender and thyme I planted last year is struggling. “I must trim the dead wood,” I say to myself, always having a checklist popping like rice crispies. Owning a magic kingdom from 1865 commands a perpetual checklist. Worth every bother most days, though, when I am able to allow patience to prevail, a constant source of work and pleasure.

The fragrance of the morning blossoming honeysuckle puts me in a trance. The rose bush each year that, according to my eight four year old neighbor, was planted over sixty years ago, is blooming like it is coming of age and just discovered its own beauty. My forty packets of zinnias and cosmos I threw cares to the wind and sprinkled like fairy dust are popping up everywhere. No systemic gardening design now, just wild color everywhere is my hope for August if all goes as planned.

All goes as planned…. What does that even mean? Planning is all I have ever done. I never tire of planning and crafting ideas and parties in my head. But nature is the counter balance for this busy spirit. Without it, I would be way off the rails instead of just partially a little wacky.

I stand in my gravel driveway after inspecting my pots of zinnia sprouting like magic. I look up to find the song sparrow singing to me again as she does every single day like clockwork, happy to have her serenading me. I listen for my familiar cardinals and as I look up, I see five or six seagulls headed towards the sound of a motor boat on the bay likely a quahoger out on the water at his job, hoping for some free breakfast. (Not the quahog, the seagulls). I look towards my bright fiery pink roses starting to wind down, wishing I had planted more, and notice out of the corner of my eye, one of the two baby bunnies that now reside on my property.

I stand as still as a mannequin. I watch, thinking for a brief moment that if anyone saw me at this moment, they may think I have lost my marbles in the get up I have the balls to stand outside in. I notice the petals of the roses that have fallen to the ground and watch the bunny sniffing them. She then takes one in her mouth where I am sure she will realize it is not the food she was looking for and spit it out, but to my luscious surprise, she eats the entire petal. Then another and another. My thoughts are this. “She likes the taste of rose as much as I do!” followed by, “I am so happy I didn’t let Mike, my landscaper to spray round up in my driveway.”

This is what i call self confidence.

I watched for a few more minutes appreciating the stillness of this magic moment and thought how happy I am that the honeysuckle’s aroma this morning traveled like the swirl of a magic Genie coming out of her bottle the way Barbara Eden used to in I Dream of Jeannie back in what seemed like a simpler time in life.

Nature in the morning is gift that so many pass by and take for granted. Just a brief stop to smell a rose blooming or taste the smallest drop of the sweet honeysuckle on the way to the car to work can be a day changer. We are running and running. Nature is our excuse to stop and smell the roses. Let’s do this. #Timetolookupindeed.

6am. yep.
AGING, Breast cancer, Women

THE AGING PROCESS

“Never get old,” the lovely woman with the kindest eyes and smile announced to me as we both found ourselves in the bra section of Target this past week. I was not really in the bra section, but the pajama bottoms I was looking for happened to be neighbors with the bras and underwear. A double mastectomy and reconstruction removes the need for the bra section.
The woman was one of those older women who was sprite and active, but as I watched her stand in front of the rows and rows of bras looking overwhelmed, she gave me pause.

“I’m ninety-five.” She said this as so many aging people do, stating their age to get the desired reply of, Wow, you look amazing. This woman did look incredible; in fact any woman out shopping alone at the age of ninety-five, as spry and together as she was, deserved the compliment. 
“Too bad you don’t live in Florida,” I said jokingly, “I could fix you up with my 102 year old grandfather.” She didn’t hear me and had already moved on to the sales girl who was trying to help her with the utmost patience and kindness. Go target sales girl, go.

I was reminded of the old time place my grandmother used to go to called Jean Belson in Boston back in the day when women actually got fitted for bras as a normal part of their lives. Before pushups and wireless took hold of our breasts and rib cages. This lovely lady looked like the type of woman who would have used stores like that, but now realized that this was a thing of the past for the most part and found herself in Target. Why she would even be buying a bra from my hippie chick perspective as I watched her astonished me. Ninety-five should be a free pass to go bra-less always, but this woman wasn’t that type of woman who would even consider this, I imagined. I was guessing she had outlived her husband as so many women her age have and was just trying to keep herself active and busy. Buying bras on a random day was another thing to do to occupy her time and have a purpose for her day. She looked like she was there solo, so I am also guessing that she is still driving.

The aging process comes out of nowhere. One minute you can’t imagine ever talking about aches and pains and the next minute you find yourself talking about your next doctor’s visit for some test they want you to have because of indigestion. These kind of discussions used to drive both of my grandmothers crazy. I can still hear my grandmother Isabelle telling her brother Eddie, “When someone asks you, Eddie, ‘How are you,’ you just say, ‘Fine;’ people don’t want to hear your belly aching.” Isabelle could not tolerate going out with her peers if they only spoke of their next doctor’s visit. She used to say that there were so many world events to discuss, why would people want to complain about their health issues all the time?

Aging sneaks up on you. One health scare, one surgery, and you are catapulted into the world of mortality. Life becomes shorter, more urgent, and you find yourself thinking Life is short with a vengeance. It starts with your eyesight. You need reading glasses all of a sudden. Next thing you are at the doctor’s office for a routine exam and your blood pressure is a little higher than normal or your blood tests came back with your cholesterol or sugar a little peaked. “We’ll keep an eye on this,” you hear your doctor say in the follow up phone call. This, of course, is code word for if you don’t get your shit together, it’s pharmaceutical time. There seems to be a pill for everything these days and many of the people I know are taking them with barely a question about the long term effects.

To each their own, though. Diet and exercise are barely talked about as a remedy for anything these days and even if one finds themselves in a doctor’s office where the doctor is recommending this, the patient would have to listen and take action where a pill seems so much more convenient. I get the temptation and another great part of aging is I have removed myself from the high horse I used to ride in lecturing people about the alternatives. Who the hell am I anyway? I was diagnosed with breast cancer twice in four years, so I surely have no credibility when it comes to preaching health and wellness equaling health and wellness.

The aging that is happening to me, as this fifty-four year old chick, is more subtle. I can hear my sixty-nine year old friends saying, “54? You are just a babe in the woods, just wait.” But the subtleties are making their way, inviting themselves to my body without being asked and the process is an interesting one. Frankly, this all started with my surgeries. Surgical menopause at fifty to remove my ovaries and fallopian tubes as preventative measures created symptoms of rapid fire hot flashes. I got through those, but now four years later they have turned into accelerated hair growth, not on my head, and bloating that is no joke. Everyone said it would happen, but I never thought it would. Besides the physical (and, I realize, completely cosmetic and superficial), there is the psychological whirlwind that has made me reconsider my life going forward.

What do I want? What do I need? What do I care about? What is important? And toggling between blowing all cares to the wind thinking that maybe my life is shorter than most and the what if I do live as long as my grandfather? When I meditate which has become almost a daily occurrence these days, the still small voice is getting louder with all kinds of messages about my future plans. Louder and louder giving me ideas about minimizing all my accumulations, like do I really need two shelves filled with Wonder Woman paraphernalia? Marie Kondo would have a field day with me as recently she seems to be the go to gal for all things declutter. I know what I need to do and it is extreme. This is how I roll though, all or nothing. I fantasize about not only removing half of my crap, but more so lately all social and technology. I was going to make a list of all of the technological distractions both mentally and financially, but part of me simply doesn’t want to know how much money and time I am wasting my life away on.

My precious life. My iPhone recently has gotten in the habit of letting me know at weeks end how much time I spent on all things phone and it is pretty frightening especially if I add it up over a life time. Time wasting used to be television time, but these days the world has their heads down and there doesn’t seem to be any going back to the ‘good old days.’

Aging is part uphill, part downhill and for the most part it is thrilling. The days, recently, that it hasn’t been is when I look down and see a bloating stomach and can’t attribute it to anything, or the rush to the bathroom because holding it isn’t what it used to be. Damn I wish I had listened to the Kegel advice from the old Cosmopolitan magazines when I was in my twenties before babies. The hairs sprouting, the wrinkles appearing, the interesting things happening to my neck all make for the best part. Looking at the young girls and knowing that that lovely ass and smooth wrinkle free skin is a fleeting moment in time for everyone. No one gets out alive, no one doesn’t age unless they don’t get out alive. I enjoy watching youth as much as I enjoy watching aging. Both give great gifts of reminders of the past and the time travel to the future.

For the most part, I am great. These new boobs have been mostly smooth sailing as I haven’t had the challenges so many women who decided to reconstruct have had. The horror stories are abundant, but in my case I had a perfect experience. The downside is that they are here with me and I know they are not part of my organic makeup. This makes them constant reminders of the past keeping that inner voice talking to me about plans of action for what and who I want to be when I grow up. This time though, growing up isn’t as far away as it used to be.