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.

self love, Women

LOVELY MID-FIFTIES BADASS MANIFESTO

I am getting closer to my mid-fifties by the minute and I thought it would be fun to start a #lovelybadass manifesto. I want more loving and kind manifestos in this wacky world of hate and violence I have found myself in. If you want to add anything, send along, maybe we will end up with something so powerful we will rule the world with our badass goodness. I would like to add that my heroine, Doreen Wiggins, the loveliest bad ass ass I know is the one who bestowed this phrase upon me. THANK YOU D.

#LOVELYBADASSMANIFESTO

I will as often as possible lean into the good parts of myself. My shape, my skin, my wrinkles and age spots, right down to the hairs sprouting from every orifice EXCEPT my brows and eyelashes, the only hairs sprouting there are the grey wiry ones.

I will drink the fucking glass of wine or two or three or the whole damn bottle and enjoy it. I will cease and desist the perpetual blithering that happens before and after said glass of wine and just enjoy the need for some release.

I will as often as possible commit to loving my health by nurturing it with goodness. Good food, good thoughts, and good silence. And when I don’t do this perfectly as I know this is absolutely impossible to keep up, I will have a blast taking the deep dive down the rabbit hole and trusting that maybe this is just what my body and mind needs at the time.

I will continue to celebrate my life the way I want despite what every blog post screams at me from my unsolicited algorithms telling the algorithms to spew back on a daily basis. 10 WAYS TO SAVE MORE MONEY, 7 WAYS TO GET FIT IN 7 DAYS, 8 STEPS TO BE A HEALTHIER YOU can go fuck themselves. I going forward and sometimes backwards will make my own lists and follow them the way I want.

I will buy more typewriters with abandon no matter how crazy it is, I will celebrate my own crazy and people can come for the wild ride or not.

I will live and over commit to everything and either make it all happen or none of it because life feels urgent and messy and glorious to be in the muck. I will celebrate that this is just who I am no matter how many times I hear words like, Slow down, just say no and all of the other rules and regs from outside forces.

I will continue to have a love hate relationship with technology knowing that like football, I will never understand it because I don’t want to. THAT SIMPLE.

I will continue to surround myself with only people, places and things that bring me joy. This is something I have complete control over and I will move into my mid fifties knowing it is my right to choose each time, every time.

I will look affectionately at every tight assed gorgeous twenty year old who has the confidence of a young #lovelybadass. I will smile at them and not wish their age on anyone because no matter how tight their ass is in a thong at the beach, no matter how smooth their youthful glowing skin is, if they are lucky to make it to my age and beyond, they too will be me on the beach looking at them. Admiration is a lovely gesture and I bestow it on them with happiness thinking also, this too will pass.

I will smile at everyone. Strangers and babies and dogs. Even if I don’t get a smile in return. Even if they are not smiling at me first. I will do this because I enjoy smiling at people.

I will cut flowers and give them to random people because I have a killer garden and why not share some of it with strangers and friends. Like a thank you note, flowers spread love.

I will come up with a billion ideas and likely only execute less than 1% of them. This is just how my brain works. I accept this despite how many of my friends likely roll their eyes every time I share a new idea.

I will talk to anyone and everyone, who wants me to, about my mastectomy, my breast implants from my mastectomy, and all of the boob conversation that happens. Because what lies in front of me in the mirror every day is my luck that it was caught early, that I have a sense of perpetual urgency to live with wild abandon that at times gets me in trouble, and an upright and almost perfect set of tatas that deserves low cut dresses. (Thank you Dr. Michaud).

I KNOW, RIGHT?

I will always work out. Of all the healthy lifestyle choices I make, exercising is the most important for my mental health and my physical health. And if I don’t get to the gym, I will go outside and walk even if it is around the block. Nature is youth and happiness serum. No question it is what has rebounded my body into the speedy recovery from three breast cancer surgeries, surgical menopause and crazy brain.

I will blow off working out too.

While I am working out with loud music and my lovely trainer telling me to squat and then jump to a burpee and do a bicep curl like this is something normal, I will stop critiquing my hips and my flabby arms as I do this with the mirror staring me back. I will blame my flabby arms on breast cancer surgery. Why not? Free pass, right?

I will offer with wild and joyous abandon my help to anyone starting their own businesses. Pay it forward helps propel success. Success helps people pay it forward. Simple pleasures.

I will continue to say the word, fuck, because there is nothing like this word to get a point across. And there is nothing like fucking. And yes I will say this too.

I will say I love you to friends and family often. Maybe too much. Why not? I will continue to work on my five favorite relationship words, THE FIVE A’S from the incredible David Richo, who wrote a book that could easily be the only wedding gift for a new couple or anyone for that matter. This book changed my life, How to Be An Adult in a Relationship. ATTENTION. ACCEPTANCE. APPRECIATION. AFFECTION. ALLOWING.

If I start to go negative about something, I will do my best to change the conversation to gratitude. It never fails me. Not always easy when my brain starts spinning into the oblivion of negative thinking, but when I remember to go to what I am grateful for there is an immediate shift. EVERY TIME.

I will speak my mind when I see both subtle and loud patriarchy. It is the silent killer of feminine energy and I will no longer be silent.

I will say the words vaginal dryness.

I will continue to connect with people and create connections. Supportive, kind connection is what gives me pleasure and I want pleasure.

I will try my hardest to rest, to read in the middle of a day even when there is so much on my to do list it is making my head spin. I will stop. I will stop. I will stop. Clearly, this is not easy.

I will type on my typewriter collection and, snail mail, send more thank you notes I will do this often because typing on a real old school typewriter and writing with an actual pen and paper gives me a sense of calmness, it is almost like meditation. And it is sending kindness and light through the real air waves. No social media can ever replace receiving a real typewritten or hand written thank you note.

I am sure I will think of many more once I hit the send and publish button. Manifestos, when used for goodness, are like this; they invoke more goodness. We need more goodness. We need more kindness. We need more connection. And goodness knows we need more women speaking their truths ALOUD AND LOUD.
#LovelyMIDFIFTIESbadass indeed.

MORE:

I will not talk about food and the consumption of it as good or bad. I’ve been good will no longer exist as a description of my previous day’s history.

I will offer help if I see a stranger struggling with putting groceries in the car. They can say no, but I will offer to help.

I will eat the mother fucking ice cream whenever I want. And if Ben and Jerry’s continues to call their pints, three servings, I will start a boycott because it is not normal to think that a pint should not be eaten in at the most 2 sittings, (ie within an hour of each other)

I will continue to bang and bop my head when Robert Plant sings, “When the juice runs down my leg” Or when ACDC screams some misogynist song realizing completely that this goes against everything I have ever fought for because the beat and the headbanging sounds and the singing at the top of my lungs overrules every modern era #metoo movement. I grew up in the most misogynistic era listening to ads that say things like “boys don’t make passes at girls that wear glasses.” I am confident in my ability to separate. So: For those about to rock, we salute you. 

I love not having to ever wear a bra again. #Goreconstructionafteramastectomygo

Ditto for never having to buy tampons or maxi pads again where I had previously never considered that the tax that has been charged on these as a luxury item shocks me more that I never questioned it all of those years. I shudder to think about how much that adds up to. Shameful. Misogynistic. Way more than ACDC if you ask me.

More to follow I am sure.

 

 

self improvement, WOMEN'S HEALTH

NOT DRINKING TODAY (AGAIN)

OK…. A FEW COCKTAILS HERE. (but it was july 4th in bristol, ri….)

self improvement, Women, WOMEN'S HEALTH

SOUND THE ALARM

These days when I see a group of women at an outdoor event in nice summer dresses talking to each other, I can’t help but think of Margaret Atwood’s book that has become the creepy Hulu series, The Handmaid’s Tale. Once I shake that nightmare of a dystopian visual, that feels closer to reality every day, off, I am quickly brought back to reality. Thankfully, this was not the case yesterday because I was a guest at a very lovely non-dystopian chick event, sponsored by a new Women’s Collaborative called Siren.

I made my way through this book launch and signing event held at Blithewold Mansions and Gardens in Bristol, RI. It was well attended and many of the sixty women in attendance were not on their phones trying to capture every waking minute. They were engaging, listening, looking towards each other and enjoying the brilliant company of other like minded women. Despite the heat, this alone was refreshing.

“Do you have a card?” I had asked a few women, fully realizing that I had forgotten my own. A few women had cards and a few did not.
I will not look at Facebook. I will not look at Facebook, I found myself mumbling to myself when I got home afterwards. Meeting some of these great women, I didn’t want to forget their names and I wanted to continue our connection post event so I had to look them up.

Innocent enough, but many of us likely know now what happens when we attempt a ‘quick’ look at social media. These days between friend requests, comments, new photo uploads, page likes and all of the other mumbo jumbo that happens between people thinking they are connecting with each other, I find myself getting sucked into the vortex of incredible time wasting. Or is it? I don’t know. As I made my way into the search bar so I could friend request them or message them, that little gremlin of a voice murmured, just check the feed, alayne….. Real quick.

Yeah, right. There is nothing quick about social media. Part of the draw is staying connected, not missing something, keeping communication lines flowing so that the very lines of this communication seem like they are doing something. But are they?

Yesterday at this Siren event, we were more connected than any Facebook post or Instagram photo could ever be. We stood together in the scorching, unusually hot morning, sipping our sparkling water in our lovely summer dresses and we connected. Eye to eye, person to person. What struck me between the photos being taken was that of all the women there, it seemed most were not there to tag themselves on Instagram and make it a social media extravaganza, but rather to just simply BE together.

Sixty or so women in a beautiful setting on a record breaking heat wave day should have made us all refer to the day, instead, as Hotter Than Ever. We were a force to be reckoned with and not because we were protesting or speaking out against something. We do plenty of that, but instead we were just together, being women. Celebrating our potency, our hearts and minds without even having to say it aloud.

This vapor we share between us was what makes us have that potential bond of pure power when we allow and accept our strengths as a collaborative group. Siren has created this. I immediately fell in love with the intention and its stunning group consciousness yesterday. I was able to, first hand, witness female stories from their own real voices, person to person, chick to chick. I was able to be part of their body language and their core essence. I got to smell their perfume, see their hair color, their makeup or their choice to wear none. I was part of their story just by being in the same space.

I connected with a woman who used to be a therapist and one day, she thought to herself, I can’t do this anymore because I just wanted to say to the woman I was counseling, ‘When are you going to leave the asshole? He is never going to change.’ So as any good therapist would do, she left her career and figured out a different one. Realizing a business opportunity of cleaning vacation homes instead, she is now a successful business owner and had contributed a South African fish recipe to the book being featured. I would have never known this if we hadn’t had the eye to eye contact, the handshake, the conversation.

This quick story that tumbled out of her mouth over recipe sharing would have been lost on social media. She probably would not have even shared the story because it was something that came organically between two women speaking with each other. In person. Live.

I also heard a young woman yesterday who figured out her own compass through the worried eyes of her children and managed to get out of an abusive relationship. She shared her life story giving us the gift of realizing our own vulnerabilities in the throws of power and abusive relationships. She was able to get out and she lived to speak of it with a softness in her voice, an inner strength in her heart and an authentic depth to her story that made us weep. For her. For her children. For the women who never get out right along with the pieces of the puzzles of our own twists and turns.

Siren. Sound the alarm. Code Red. Firetrucks, police cars and ambulances. Women being women with women. In person. It was a morning of surprise for me and I was so grateful to have landed there.

We are in a fragile space right now. We have a deep need for connection and are getting further and further away from the very part of who we are as women who need acceleration in true human connection, not distance from it. I don’t think I even spend that much time on my phone or on social media, but then Apple in all of its wisdom reminds me of how much time I am truly spending by sending me little text updates.

The irony is hard to grapple with. The ease of finding some of these ladies I had the pleasure of meeting yesterday was easier because of social media. But I grapple with this being the easiest way to further my dialogue. Here I am writing this piece, knowing full well that many people will only be able to read it because of social media. In the old days, it would have needed to be published old school somehow in order for it to be received. I am appreciative of what social media has offered me as a former closet writer.

When women are together in these types of female centric events, the word “balance” often comes up. These days there is so much to be balanced I often wonder if there is enough time left for us to figure out what it even means. Balance is bullshit, in my opinion. Social media is a space that takes us from what we need to be doing so we stay healthy in mind, body and spirit. How does social media allow touch and smell? It doesn’t. How do we know if who we are speaking to on it are who they say they are? We don’t. Or with artificial intelligence these days if they even look like they really are.

Yesterday was a wake up call. Sound the alarm to remind us loud and clear that between our busy lives, our running, our texting, our scrolling and time away from authenticity, we need each other. I don’t have any science to proclaim what I say to be true. All I have is the feeling I left with yesterday in being in the presence of sixty women in our own heat. We didn’t need the heat of the sun to make us hot. We had each other and this was just the beginning.

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, 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.

college, Women

THE FEMALE ASPECT TO THIS COLLEGE SCANDAL

The college scandal continues at every corner I have turned this past week since the story broke. With good reason, it is a dire and despicable example of what goes terribly wrong with too much money not used for the right reason. Despite the plane crashes, the school shootings and the massacre in New Zealand, these college scandals are still in front of us. This is serious business, this college outrage. It is indicative of the layers of entitlement and greed that is nothing new in our young country or world for that matter.

I have an old friend who is almost 97 at this point, walks every single day, lives on his own with his wife and still drives. He speaks the way an old Italian man who survived WWII gets away with. A few years back as we were walking, he said to me in regards to some scandal involving a politician whose name escapes me, “Anytime there is a scandal it is because of money or a woman.” I cracked up. Such an old-fashioned way to put it because I see it with a slight twist. The money and the women are more often the result of the behavior caused by the person causing it- usually a man and of course I said this aloud. It fell on deaf ears. He really didn’t see it this way at all. Now before you think this essay is headed towards some bra burning male bashing, let me assure you it is not. I love men, the good ones. And there are plenty of women who are as guilty of scandal and bad behavior. This is not male centric by any means. But his notion that scandals were because of the women not symptomatic is part of the reason I write today.

I remember reading The Scarlet Letter in high school and feeling so outraged that Hester had to walk around with the big A, not her lover who she protected with a vengeance. Sure the reverend’s identity wasn’t so obvious, but the female shaming was and continues to be so typical. The #Metoo movement finally brought some men out into the open for the parade that women have been walking for centuries and I think this may be progress? I put the question mark because I am not sure. We have had many feminist movements in the past century, yet we still struggle for equal pay, representation in our government and our boards. We still worry about our reproductive rights and our daughters’ safety if they choose to go out late at night alone. This is a universal problem- the double standard of our gender.

What I have found interesting in this recent college scandal is the female shaming. And we barely notice. Why is it that every news story features photos and names of the two actresses? Any story I have seen or heard says, “A list of people including two actresses.” Then their names, their photos, the photos of their children and the endless parade of their shame walk to and from court.

Where are the rest of the over thirty people and more involved? Why are their names not in the news? I am not protecting the two women and their children. Their example is an embarrassment to parenting, BUT so are the rest of them. If the news is not going to show the lists, the faces of the remaining, why should it just be the two women and their daughters? Women have been doing the walk of shame forever, what we wear, what we eat, how we choose our partners, our sex lives, how we have sex, the way we give birth, feed our children, choose to work or not work, constantly we are under the microscope in such different ways than our male counterparts. In the alanon meetings I have gone to for years, just like AA, the first step is awareness. Until we are even remotely aware of the imbalances that the media portrays us in, nothing will ever change. We women barely notice that there is an imbalance because we are just so friggin use to it, it is our norm.

I refuse to call out the actresses in this essay today until the media starts naming everyone, showing pictures of everyone involved, not just two women. I am not protecting them. All you need to do is google college scandal and see what shows up in the search. Two names, two faces over and over again. Once again, the media doesn’t get it right.

As a woman who takes care of women for a living, who employs almost twenty young women in a female centered business, I write today to remind us to start noticing. Just that first step in paying attention and having conversation about how much this happens. Ads that show women in the kitchen, at the washing machine, taking stains happily out of their children’s clothes with great big smiles, men cutting the grass with their John Deere mowers, fixing their cars, the media loves gender pigeon holing. I just turned 54 and in my lifetime I can recall the first time I saw an ad that showed a female doctor. The first time. What came first? Why aren’t we noticing? Our children are watching. This scandal is shocking and sad, but like all bad choices, there are strong lessons to be learned. Let’s start with simply learning that just showing the two female actresses over and over and not talking about the rest is part of the conversation we could be having with our children too. Teachable moments come in all forms. We are having more conversations about why the obvious is wrong, but there is an undercurrent of bias again that is also part of the conversation. Just google it and you will get my point.

book reviews, books

READING LILAC GIRLS

library or bookstore, this book is worth your time.

The gift of the vigorous writing I have been doing has been the books that have landed on my desk about writing. I have learned when I am on the right path, the exact things show up in my life at the perfect time. This has been a consistent force in my life history and between Anne Tyler, Elizabeth Berg, Stephen King and a few more I can’t think of as I sit at my grandfather’s home in beautiful sunny Florida, these advice on writing books have been helpful.

Some books say, “Write every day without fail.” Others say, “Take a break, walk away, get inspired.” But all of them without fail say, “Read. A lot.” So reading I have been doing.

“How do you have the time?” My friend, Marcia asked me one night at dinner. I thought about this for a moment. When something speaks to your core with a such a force that I feel almost nauseous by not writing, I make the time.  I make the time because writing has become such an integral part of my priority list that everything I am doing right now must support this.

Once I made a commitment to write and write and write, reading became the necessary counter balance. What a gift that reading more books helps writing more stories because now that I am reading a book every three of four days, I am learning much more about the craft of writing. I appreciated great writing before, but now it has taken a hold of me with a fervor.

My favorite genre has always been historical fiction especially when a book takes the place during World War II. Perhaps it is because I am Jewish and because my grandfather was drafted, or because my parents were born a year before the war ended. Maybe it is because I am getting older and the world seems more fragile then ever. All of the historical foreshadowing for the world we seem to be living in pulses around me because I have watched too many episodes of The Handmaid’s Tale, but when I read of a book that takes place during the early 1940s, I am drawn.

As I gathered my beach books for my trip, I came across a book called Lilac Girls that had found its way to my house around Hanukkah. I was between library books waiting to hear that the ones I had placed on hold were available for pickup so I began reading this debut novel by Martha Hall Kelly with a vengeance. As I made my way through yet another story about a female Holocaust experience, I couldn’t put this book down.

The Holocaust trauma is usually about Jewish people, six million children, women, men just because of their beliefs, but Lilac Girls reminded me of the many others who were put in concentration camps. People we seldom hear about and in this case a group of Polish women put in a concentration camp for women only called Ravensbrück in Germany, many because of their resistance work.

I had the pleasure of taking a course at Rhode Island College called Women’s Resistance in the Holocaust. It was here that I really began understanding the importance of resistance and how many layers there are to this response to a political movement gone terribly wrong. Lilac Girls reminded me of the varying ways one can resist and fight and the way that women do this or not is shown beautifully in this book. These women were held as prisoners not even knowing what the charge was. I never knew that there was only one concentration camp just for women. This fact alone makes the book a lesson in history. Even though it is a fictional account, the author does a brilliant job in giving us the factual details that a great historical fiction novel can do.

We so often hear of the Jewish resistance movement during the war, occasionally we hear of non-Jews who helped hide and save Jews, but besides the famed Schindler, so many heroes and heroines go unnoticed the further away from the time we move. This book introduces us to a real-life character who was doing her own resistance work in New York, a socialite with many connections named Caroline Ferriday and how she came to know about the prisoners at Ravensbrück.

Along with Caroline, we learn of the Polish women prisoners who suffered brutal surgical experiments on their legs, causing the women who actually survived this torture to hop around the camp because of the disfigurement and pain the surgeries caused. This gave them the nickname Rabbits and Martha Hall Kelly brought them back to life in her first novel. The women’s stories are only a part of this mind opening first novel. I highly suggest this book if you are looking for a poignant read that also gives you a time travel back to a time in history we must force ourselves to keep in our consciousness.

The glory of writing is that more reading helps more writing. A break from writing also helps writing and both are part of this week of solo vacation for me. I only hope that as I march forth with my own research for my first historical fiction novel, I do the same justice that Martha Hall Kelly did for hers. She is writing her next novel called a prequel to this one and I can hardly wait.

Breast cancer, Health, Women

MY BOOBS IN HINDSIGHT

“You know this is elective surgery,” Dr. Hottie said to me over two years ago. I love Dr. M almost as much as I love Dr. W. Almost. But let’s face it, Dr. M. is a male doctor and no matter how progressive, how much of a male feminist he may (or may not) be, he is not sitting in the chair across from me with having to make the painful choice of no breasts or reconstructed ones. He is a man. He is also a plastic surgeon and that alone should create a bias in the arena of female body parts.

Though I appreciated his candor at the time, I had four doors to choose from, two of which did not seem like options at all.

DOOR # 1 Do Nothing and Die at some point.

DOOR #2. Have a single breast mastectomy and wear a prosthetic like my grandmother.

DOOR #3. Have double mastectomy with no reconstruction.

DOOR #4. Have a double mastectomy and have reconstruction, (the “elective” surgery Dr. M. referred to back at paragraph one.)

I am guessing if he were about to face having his penis cut off and having no penis or one put on so that when he looked down at himself in the shower he wouldn’t look so different, maybe he would choose to omit the word “elective.” The word elective should not be a choice word anyway, though I appreciate the intent reminding me that if I really consider this as elective perhaps I may choose to be totally flat chested and remove all traces of the very female part of who I am. Call me vain, I don’t care, as I have said on more than one occassion, I like my breasts, I like the shape, the form, the wonder woman activation that a proud set of pointed boobs give me. 

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maybe this shirt will read, yeah their fake the real ones tried to kill me and the fake ones are too. I hope not.

I fully understand what he meant now that I am facing the two year mark and though I am not facing the horror show of what I may find if I typed in bad breast reconstruction in the Google search bar, my experience is much more subtle. Subtle in the way I would imagine that my comments would invoke maybe an eye roll or maybe the thought that wouldn’t be said aloud, It’s all in your head.

In the recommendations of drinking celery juice on a daily basis  (SEE IS CELERY JUICE THE NEW KALE?  for clarity if you are scratching your head here) I found the medical intuitive, Anthony William. Now before you start to want to punch me for even taking the word of someone who calls himself a Medical Intuitive, hear me out. He was recommended by a really credible and incredible Doctor I know and his advice, though not conventional in the least, has some legs because of his vast success. Believe what you want, but last I checked, the medical community as it relates to credible scientific research doesn’t always get it right. Think DDT, smoking, low fat, eggs, dairy, food pyramid, opiates just to name a few pesky mistakes. I like to think I am open to all possibilities when it comes to health, but more often than not, it is the knowledge of my body as my own personal science experiment that informs me.

And I have not been feeling right. Tightness in my upper body, bloating that has changed my lovely flat stomach into something I no longer recognize, weight gain, intense headaches out of the blue, gas, indigestion, joint ache and a racing heart, a little dizziness, a little nausea, sharp pain like cramps that come out of nowhere on the left side of my fake boob and lastly if this is all not enough, washing machine head on the spin cycle, not symptoms I regularly identify with, well maybe the last one.  If I had to draw a figure of myself on paper, I would draw a scarlet red rectangle from my upper chest to my belly button. When I am meditating, the image that continues to appear is the middle of my chest opening up and red cardinals flying out of it. Is this all in my head? And more importantly what are my options, medically? I suppose I could beg for MRIs and body scans and go digging for problems. Who wants to live like that? Not me for sure.

I decided to look up to see if Anthony William had any podcasts and no surprise here, of course he did. Lots of them. And as “luck” would have it, I landed on one called “Breast Implant Illness.” I did hesitate albeit briefly before I hit play, yet being a glutton for punishment, I proceeded. Probably not the best idea because Anthony, who by the way readily admits that the information he is sharing is not even discovered by science yet, and claims he is being informed by Spirit, a guide who speaks to him regularly. Roll your eyes here, I know, but you can also see my predicament of having to bring my new information to any doctor. He said something that struck me though so be patient with me and hopefully keep reading.

When there is a foreign object made out of synthetic material such as silicone, your liver sends out an army of enzymes to see what the hell is going on. The enzymes make their way to the implants and latch on looking to protect and get to the bottom of the enemy invader. Because the silicone is encased in some type of material, (I find it amusing that I don’t know the answer to this off the top of my head), the enzymes stay on the shell and this energy coupled with my body heat over time creates a slow porosity in the impants slowly seeping gasses from the silicone into my unsuspecting body. Now for you scientists out there- I have not a clue if there is any medical evidence out there that supports or denies this, but what I do know is that ever since these new additions have been placed in my upper half, I have had under the radar symptoms hard to put my finger on. Coincidence?

When it comes to history as it relates to science and the female body, I am not overly confident in our past. Though birth control has revolutionized a woman’s control of family planning, why is it that it is one of the top three questions I was asked after we discovered the breast cancer the first time? Women have been short changed in the health research department compared to our male counterparts for sure, yet we are so accepting of the words, They are totally safe, when it comes to the due diligence we think we are giving ourselves by timidly asking the question. When Anthony William said this on his podcast, it struck a chord with me and frankly it kind of makes sense.

Boobs are one of those body parts that seem to get a lot of press. When I did a quick google search the CDC only had leading causes of death since 2014, but the number 1 was heart disease and the number 2 was cancer, not breast cancer, but cancer. That is a lot of cancer. Heart disease isn’t sexy, it doesn’t sell lingerie, it is not as innocent and traditionally female as the color pink. Breast cancer gives permission to let the talk about tits and breasts and tatas and boobs out of the bag. When my son was at La Salle, a Catholic school in Providence RI, the kids were all wearing pink rubber bracelets that said I LOVE BOOBIES. This is the same school that took down the picture of our current Governor Gina Raimondo for allowing Planned Parenthood to support her. Mixed messages? I’d say.

Call me crazy, call me hysterical, call me an alarmist, but there can’t be a coincidence that I am having these subtle symptoms. And that when I bring them up, I feel guilty because frankly I am one of the lucky ones, I chose to have implants and I am alive. I didn’t have chemo, didn’t lose my hair, didn’t really worry about dying unless I had chosen Door #1 at the beginning of this party. 

I am not a scientist, I have never done research in my life, the last biology class I took was in high school. I fully realize the frustration that real scientists must have when they read these assumptions by lay people like me, unfounded in their own profession. I also know that by looking up regulatory history of breast implants in the U.S. on go to Google, some worrisome history came up relating to long term studies of silicone implants. More interesting is that the silicone implant doesn’t seem to have been studied for any length of time. When I say length of time, I am speaking what I would consider reasonable, more than ten years surely. This timeline in particular and the panels and votes raise my eyebrows. 2005 wasn’t that long ago. Though the implants were introduced well over 20 years ago, is that really enough time to develop a what if this happens, what could happen in the future? What is in silicone anyway? Who are on these panels anyway? Men, women, doctors, pharmaceutical executives? What informs them? All worriesome. 

What shocks me here is I never thought to ask. Perhaps knowing all of this would have made me make a different decision, I will never know. But even when I did ask, these subtle symptoms wouldn’t have been given much credence anyway because first of all, I don’t think many women are as in touch with the way their bodies tick and even if they were, there are so many factors that could explain this away. Menopause, empty nesting, emotional changes due to life events, death, divorce, previous thyroid issues, family history, not enough exercise, too much exercise etc. I could also add here the radiation dose I had from my first surgery, goodness knows what that did to my upper insides. After signing away my life in some hospital document that said that radiation could cause heart lung problems later on in life due to its close proximity, I am sure we can add this to the list as well. 

a-study-shows-breast-implants-can-cause-nausea-and-dizziness-from-all-the-free-drinks-quote-1-1249660792-1549212899749.jpg
a chick has to laugh, right?

Breast cancer is big business. For profit hospitals, for profit pharma, for profit doctor’s offices, what a woman is willing to do to keep the wo in woman is pretty shocking now that I have made that choice. What defines woman anyway. Breasts are certainly only one part of the recipe, but clearly they have been significant enough to warrant all of this writing. I am not sure where this will all take me and frankly I had never considered the possibility of their voluntary removal until I listened to this podcast. For now, I will continue to write and talk and see who writes and talks back. First step is awareness. And for sure these tatas have done nothing except made me aware.

 

2005 – April The FDA held an Advisory Panel meeting to review Allergan’s updated PMA and Mentor’s PMA. In a 5 to 4 vote, the panel did not recommend approval of Allergan’s PMA (due to a concern with one style in the application). In a 7 to 2 vote, the panel recommended approvable with conditions for Mentor’s PMA. The panel recommended that FDA require conditions including a minimum age requirement for augmentation and Post-Approval Studies. 
2006 – November The FDA approved Allergan and Mentor’s PMAs for silicone gel-filled breast implants.  This was the first time silicone gel-filled breast implants were available for augmentation, in addition to reconstruction and revision, since the moratorium was established in 1992.  As conditions of approval, each manufacturer was required to conduct 6 post-approval studies to further characterize the safety and effectiveness of their silicone gel-filled breast implants and to answer scientific questions that the premarket clinical trials were not designed to answer.
2011 – January The FDA issued a Safety Communication on anaplastic large cell lymphoma (ALCL) in women with breast implants.  Based on a review of the scientific literature, the FDA believes that women with breast implants may have a very small but increased risk of developing this disease in the scar capsule adjacent to the implant.
2011 – June The FDA issued an Update on the Safety of Silicone Gel-Filled Breast Implants. It included preliminary results of the post approval studies Allergan and Mentor were required to perform as conditions of their silicone gel-filled breast implant 2006 approval.
2011 – August The FDA held an Advisory Panel meeting to discuss and receive recommendations on postmarketing issues related to silicone gel-filled breast implants. Also discussed at this meeting were innovative methodological approaches to postmarket studies regarding silicone gel breast implants, as well as key long-term safety issues associated with silicone gel breast implants in the real-world setting.

 

 

 

 

 

Breast cancer, grief

A LONG STRANGE TRIP

Surrender- Giving up what we think should be happening for what is actually happening.

-McCall Erickson

When my insides used to feel discombobulated on occasion, I would run through the usual suspects and review from the day before. How much wine did I have? What sugar did I consume? Is it a full moon? Is mercury retrograde? Am I getting my period? Though the latter no longer applies (at least there is one good gift of breast cancer and preventative surgery, there has to be something good from all of this hell). Once I would run through this dictionary of possibilities, there it would be. I could check off at least one if not two or three of the list that summarized alayne’s brain and feel at peace immediately knowing that the frizzle in my brain would calm down when the items listed passed. Sugar and alcohol would leave my body, the full moon would move on and mercury’s retrograde I would just have to suffer with.

Knowing my body and my mind and what makes it all tick has been a major science experiment for most of my adult life, but even more in the last ten years. I enjoy exploring all of the different forks in the road that cause my mind to wander and dart at a perpetual one hundred yard dash. This is all part of the creativity and entrepreneurial spirit of who I am and after fifty-four years, I finally understand and embrace its strong force of power. More apparent in my on again off again drinking or not drinking daily date with a big glass of red something or other, is the off again. When I am off, all of the shit that delightful glass of Barolo edged out comes raring out as if a damn just broke loose.

“Maybe you’re finally grieving,” my beloved Dr. W. said as I was pouring my heart out to her last week at my check up. I had just told her that I was exercising regularly, meditating every day without fail, writing like Charlotte Perkins Gilman as if I was locked in a room with Yellow Wallpaper. I am living closer to my insides and my truth as I have in my entire life. So why do I feel fragmented and lacking elation as I normally do? And as I was pouring said heart, I was feeling almost a tad embarrassed about what seemed to be my personal pity party. After all, I am alive. There are so many worse cases. I felt almost guilty loading on her. I may have even apologized. Yep.fullsizeoutput_e7

Ahhh blasted Grief. Grief is that vaporous trouble that permeates your heart without ringing the doorbell.  As I considered her comment for a moment, I realized that this question was likely the answer. My personal experience with breast cancer as I told her is that I was lucky in the overall collective of possibility. I compared the emotional part of my experience to a classroom. Let’s say there are twenty kids, two or three who are completely self-sufficient, smart, get their work done on time and the remainder of the kids need lots of extra attention. There is one teacher so she usually, human nature here, lets the ones that are ok do their thing and focuses on the outcomes of the class as a whole. Naturally, she will lean toward helping the underlings.

In my case, I was the self-sufficient one. My experience was physically OK. So I marched forth as I do, as most of us do. Checking tasks off of my list, crossing the t’s dotting the i’s and relying on my resilience to get through the emotional scars that were planted. Despite the fact that the physical part of this experience healed and I didn’t need as much support from the powers that be, the emotional and mental scars stayed behind simmering in wait unbeknownst to me. Until I was ready to let them open up and begin the healing process, trauma and grief don’t know the difference between a lot of pain and a little pain. They still cause the same stressors on our emotional selves. When the locomotive train of moving forth slows down, and it definitely needs to at some point, this is when the opportunities for healing arrives. And as the wisdom of hind site as taught me over and over again that there are opportunities in the awareness, I still forget that I must go through, not step around, not ignore, but return to the rink and wait for my opponent to arrive.

WAKE UP! The conductor bellows out as the train arrives at the station reminding the sleepy traveler it is time to depart from the long trip. And what a long strange trip it has been. There is the DURING part. The part when you are trying to get to appointments, learn as much as you can about this new life challenge you are about to embark on. There are the conversations, the hospital, the after of everything. While the physical is out in the open getting better every day, the emotions are left unchecked because frankly the Doctors who were in your ring during the fight are thinking you won so they are on to the next fighter getting them ready for their battle. Besides, your outward appearance is strength, toughness, marching forth. You are the kid in the classroom who doesn’t want to bother the teacher with double checking your spelling because spelling comes naturally for you or you can just look the word up in the dictionary.

Mental health, as we are learning more and more, can be a silent destroyer if left unchecked and uncared for. Thankfully, I have resources I can reach for, and I unabashedly do. Writing about this helps me and I hope it allows people who land on these pages to realize they are not alone. They are not selfish or being a baby by recognizing that they have pain. Inside. On their hearts. We all do. Just when I think I have “it” figured out, it’s like the universe says, “Oh yeah, Alayne, you think? Let’s see what you have figured out.” And some small drip barely noticeable turns into an emotional puddle suddenly expanding and needs a basin to catch the fall. Sometimes I can hear my grandmother saying, “Enough with the crying already,” like I am purposely opening up a wound rather than giving it the time it needs to heal, once again judging my feelings as good or bad, positive or negative, right or wrong.

Perhaps for my own experience are the triggers that this time of year presents as my birthday fast approaches. My birthday twice has given me negative news. I like symbolism of numbers and the way they tell a story. First diagnosis- 2015 (odd year) when I turned 50 (even year). Second diagnosis- 2017 (odd year) when I turned 52 (even year). So here we go. 2019, I will be 54. Just went for my check up- all good. Why worry? I am not really worried, I think I am just more triggered and perhaps this is the year that I really deal with the mending of the physical trauma I continue to heal from.

I am such a crazy checklist person that I likely (foolishly in retrospect) thought I would be done with by now. Diagnosis. Check. Genetic testing. Check. Surgery. Check, Surgical menopause. Check. Recovery. Check. Up and about. Check. Scars healed. Check. New Boobs. Interested in sex again. Check. Feeling like myself again. This is where it gets murky because that ‘self’ is no longer. Perhaps she is who I grieve. Our lives are long strange trips when we have the blessed fortune to have long ones. Maybe the rough current I have been feeling in my insides is the reminder that the shake up I have gone through for the past four years is my new self. I know I can’t fight the waves for sure, when there is a riptide, panic and struggle are not helpful, instead leaning back and allowing the wave to just take you where you are supposed to go is often the saving grace. This is hard for me, the release of working on the project rather than the surrender to it. But as I write this last word, Surrender, I know that this is my work. I surrender. This feels like the best way to take a trip so I lie on my back and let floatation carry me where it is supposed to. Let’s see what that feels like for a while.