Friday, September 21, 2018

SNIPPET BREAK: AN ODE TO SWEET SUMMER


"Girl... bye."  That’s a common saying of mine. I like it because it’s short and sweet and there’s not a lot involved there. It works. Unfortunately, today, summer is telling ME "Girrrlll… bye.” And it stings a little. I’m not done wearing the goofy hats and super big sunglasses. I’m not done laying on the beach turning my skin a deeper shade of brown. And I’m certainly not done sitting in the backyard having a beer with my dogs and husband enjoying the summer sunsets at 8 pm. In fact, I was just getting started! Summer isn’t giving me a choice though. She isn’t mincing words either. She’s always direct and straight to the point. Yep, summer is packing her bags and off to a different hemisphere to party with an entirely new crew. It’s okay summer. I'm not offended.  I know you have things to do, places to be and people to meet. I’ll be fine. We’ve done this 50 times before. And as the crispness of fall and the chill of winter begin to lean against my shoulders and rest upon my bones, I’ll sustain with the memories of your warm embrace. But, know this summer - although I am a spring baby, you have always been my first true love. And as you leave me this day, rest assured that I'll be right here.  In the place that you are leaving me.  Waiting for you just as you left me.  Albeit seasons older, but with the same coy grin and playfulness in my heart. Oh my sweet sweet summer, until we meet again…



"Summer afternoon - summer afternoon; to me those have always been the two most beautiful words in the English language" - HenryJames

Friday, June 22, 2018

I’M MEDICATED AS HELL AND I’M NOT TAKING IT ANYMORE

It has been over a year now that I made the decision to treat my depression, anxiety and periodic panic attacks with prescribed medication. And, it has now officially been a month plus some since I slowly weaned myself off the medication. Why did I do this? Well, it’s going to be kind of a story.  You may want to grab a drink and sit down for this one. But, first, let me explain how hard it is to write about and share mental and emotional issues because they are so singularly personal and subjective. Nothing can ever be generalized. Nor will my experience be your experience, but nonetheless it is still an experience. So while reading this, please keep in mind that the following has only been my personal journey and observations. I have absolutely no medical training and this post strictly comes from my layman’s experience of taking the prescribed medication - Escitalopram (the generic name for Lexipro) to treat my depression and anxiety.  I am sharing this because mental and emotional issues seem to affect everyone either directly or indirectly and I believe that an open truthful dialogue needs to be exchanged from every level. This blog is my diary which is about honesty, sharing my truths and empowerment.  Honesty can be ugly and unkind, yet it isn’t deceitful.  It’s just honesty.  Plain and simple and powerful.  Honest experiences can also often fall short of your expectations as well, but if you work hard and persevere, you’ll come to see the forest through the trees, and when this happens, you’ll learn a lot about yourself.  All of this leads me to where I stand today.

I have always been one for periodic bouts of depression, staggering anxiety, and panic attacks.  After years of fighting an uphill unrelenting battle and being in therapy for decades, I found that I was dogged tired. Tired of fighting. Tired of struggling. Tired of being tired. And having recently turned 50, I was now afraid. Afraid that I would never find happiness or peace of mind again.  After years of discussing the topic with my therapist about the possibility of treating my depression and anxiety with prescribed medication, I decided that perhaps this avenue would be the best to explore at this time in my life. It was a huge decision for me. I had explained many times that I didn’t want a band-aid; I wanted to figure out myself…on my own. So I really struggled with this decision and teetered between the attitude of “Buck Up and stop complaining. You’re the one that is creating all of this drama in your head.” and questioning if I really did have some sort of a chemical imbalance.  Who’s to know, right? At the time, I certainly didn’t. All I knew was that I was truly sick and tired of being sick and tired. And so, I agreed and made an appointment with a psychiatrist to see if I was a candidate for prescribed medication.

I was.

This is where my prescribed medicated journey began. Overall, it was an interesting experience, but there were definite red flags and the road I traveled was quite bumpy.  But because I was so desperate for help, I ignored or made excuses for the warning signs that my physical body was sending. 

Initially, I was prescribed 5 mg. The first couple of weeks, I broke out in severe hives all over my stomach, chest, back and underarms. I called my doctor who suggested that I consider trying another medication which ultimately I decided against.  I can’t tell you why or how I reasoned not switching medication or, just stopping all together, but I didn’t. Eventually, the hives subsided and never returned.

After about a month or so, I felt so incredibly happy and relaxed and had a peace of mind that I hadn’t had since I was teenager. Gone were my fearful thoughts, worries, anger, frustrations… everything. I finally felt like the happy and content person I knew I really was. The very person who I’d lost a very long time ago and had been desperately missing. I was able to think clearly and rationally with patience and tolerance. I felt incredibly good. I couldn’t believe it and thought “If I feel this good, I am going to take this medication for the rest of my life.”

Shortly thereafter I began experiencing disturbing dreams. Like, REALLY disturbing dreams. I also started to experience sleep paralysis. As you can imagine, all of this was very upsetting, and my anxiety and depression began to rear their ugly heads again. Was this because of my chemical makeup or what I had been experiencing lately, I can’t say. After discussing with my doctor what was happening, it was decided that my daily dosage be increased to 10 mg which is still considered a fairly small dosage. 

I then began gaining a lot of weight and suspected that the medication had slowed my metabolism, but I had been told that this particular medication was considered “weight neutral.”  So what gives?  When I discussed my concerns about my recent and rapid weight gain with other people, I was told that I am now gaining weight because "that’s what happens when you turn 50," "You must be eating too much(for my age), and, "You're not doing the correct exercises(for my age).  I find it so funny that all of my concerns were contributed to how old I am and nothing else. It’s as if when you turn 50, all of sudden, everything begins rapidly declining. Considering all of this and not wanting to stop the medication, I concluded that if weight gain was a price I had to pay in exchange for relief from my depression and anxiety, I was willing to pay it. Again, I didn’t listen to my body.

More time passed and I periodically met with my psychiatrist. We worked together to get the correct dosage so that I could achieve optimum results. Eventually I graduated to 15 mg a day. This dosage was working well until I decided to really hit the gym because my weight had really gotten out of control and I was very unhappy about it.  I also started running again. This is when things got really peculiar and I began noticing just how much the medication was affecting not only my psyche, but my entire body.  There was a marked deficiency in my respiratory, circulatory and skeletal systems, my muscles and joints hurt and felt weak. It’s difficult to describe everything, but let’s just say, physically, I felt horrible.

I couldn’t breathe properly or quite catch my breath. I actually noticed this before I decided to start running and had mentioned to my husband that I was going to go in for a check-up because I was concerned.  I guess the easiest way to explain it is like this:  having been a runner and avid exerciser all my life, with periods of inactivity, I know what it feels like to be out of shape. I am familiar with the difficulties of getting back into it.  This was different though. When you consistently exercise, you progress, which results in achieving a higher fitness level.  Your body adapts the more you exercise and becomes efficient and stronger. Unfortunately, this wasn’t happening.  Not only could I not breathe, but my muscles and bones really hurt, my legs felt heavy and my feet would go numb.  Yet, I kept making excuses and I kept exercising regardless of feeling lousy because I wanted to lose weight. I never did; my weight wouldn't budge.  I also experienced heart palpitations, excessive sweating and had absolutely no libido. Again, when I discussed my suspicions of my physical frailty possibly being attributed to the medication, I was told it was because I am 50 and getting old.  And, that’s just what happens. One particular person told me “It’s because you’re fat and old and things are slowing down.”  Their honest opinion. Ouch! Considering everything that I was feeling, and reading literature about this medication, and not willing to make any more excuses, I finally said, no more.  I’m done.  I’m out. I’m medicated as hell and I’m not taking it anymore! 

So I slowly began weaning myself off of it - by myself.  Huge mistake!  I should have gone to my doctor to let her know what I was experiencing and of my intention to stop taking the medication all together. They say hindsight is 20/20 for a reason. I now know, from first- hand experience, that there is a withdrawal period when you stop taking this particular medication .  It can be very unpleasant and very be dangerous. I would be remiss if I didn’t mention that when this medication was first prescribed to me, I was never told of a withdrawal period that can last months or even years once you stop taking it. I kick myself now about this because I should have known better. I should have done my research and I should have asked questions. In this regard though, I’ll give myself a small pass because at the time I was in a lot of mental and emotional distress. I needed help and the medication seemed to be a good option at that moment. And it was. It worked wonders on my overall mood, depression and anxiety.  It’s just so unfortunate that it also brought a lot of other physical symptoms that my body just wasn’t able to tolerate.

Where does all this leave me?  I don’t really know. On the spectrum of pro v. con regarding treating depression and anxiety with prescribed medications - I’m somewhere in the middle.  I realize that these medications do a lot of good for a lot of people. I also am aware that in a lot of instances they can even save lives. My personal experience though lies somewhere in confusion and maybe was cut too short. True, I could have explored other medications and perhaps things would have worked out differently, but I had had enough. While my mind felt awesome, my body felt not so much. 

It is important to do your due diligence, do your own research and take charge of your health care.  Really listen to what your body is telling you and don’t make excuses.  We all want to feel good, and getting there can sometimes be difficult and complicated, but keep the faith in yourself.  Even when painful moments seem like an eternity and you’re barely hanging on - don’t let go.  Don’t quit on yourself.  Don’t quit on me.  Don’t quit on the world because those moments will eventually pass. If you need to seek medical intervention, then please do so. It’s out there. Remember that I’m out there.  There’s a lot of us out there. Just keep yourself informed.  

Throughout all of this I do have to admit that for me Escitalopram did help me reach the peace of mind that I so desperately needed. It actually did what it was supposed to in this regard.  Ultimately since I am in charge of my body and mind, I have decided that my experience with Escitalopram is over.  I’ll continue working through my depression and anxiety with physical activity, writing, good nutrition and some good ole’ fashion therapy.

So how are things now?  They’re pretty great.  All of those physical symptoms that I was experiencing have disappeared which is very telling.  I’ve since made it through my painful withdrawal and I’m back to working out almost every day, I’m writing again, I’m staying social, I challenge myself, I’ve begun meditating, I’ve joined a run club and have met a lot of nice people, and I even made a new friend.  I feel really strong and I am finally losing weight. Most importantly, I’m managing to get out of my own way and to get out of my own head. This experience has given me a new outlook and I have learned a lot, but when I do find myself struggling… I implement kindness and patience with myself.  I take a minute.  I take a long pause to regroup and find my happiness again because although my happiness may elude me at times, she’ll never leave me and she’ll always wait for me to catch up with her so we can be besties again. This is what I take comfort in.

Contrary to what I was told about being old and fat, I’d like to end this post with what someone else told me about all of this. She said, “Laura. You are so much more than this.”  This simple, kind and honest statement resonated with me.  This was a truth that I needed to hear. Throughout my entire journey of depression and anxiety and medicated treatment, I finally realized that, yeah, I am so much more than this. It just took another person’s perspective and a year -long journey to help me realize this. You know what though?  The honest and real palpable beauty in all of this is that I am here today to tell you... that you are too.  You are so much more than you think.

Now that’s a pill that I can swallow.



Monday, March 26, 2018

AN IMPERATIVE ICELANDIC INTERLUDE

The need to get away, break away or momentarily step away, is always a good idea.  Especially for those of us who tend to get stuck in the thick of things and have a hard time making our way through. Regardless if you happen to have a fairly relaxed personality, the importance of stepping away from our daily lives can be renewing. Whether it is a short or long break, an interlude can wake us up, breathe fresh air into our lungs and bring us back to life. Realizing that I had fallen asleep and finding myself uncomfortably comfortable, I turned to my husband and suggested we take a trip to Iceland. Iceland being a completely different habitat especially for a southern California lady who’s not particularly fond of cold weather, I was trepidatious yet excited.  Looking back now at where I was then, at that moment in my life, I was actually in a precarious position of growth and change and didn’t have a clear understanding of just how to harness my energy and uneasiness. So, yeah, a foreign intervening period of time was needed. A sort of time off and take off time out.

A year ago already… time passes so quickly, doesn’t it?

Iceland is stunningly beautiful. It is definitive, indisputable and undeniable that Iceland is untamed, untethered and free. It is also undeveloped, ethereal and a scientific adventurous dream world of nature that is quiet, unassuming, clean, fresh, safe, and… cold! It is unusual and exotic, but yet manageable without being overwhelming. There is a lot of good in Iceland; there is a lot to discover in Iceland, and there is a lot to love about Iceland. And yet, the single most difficult concept for me to grasp was the realization that the Icelandic people trust. Yes, trust!  Remember that noun?  I had become so jaded and forgetful of what trust feels like that it put me off guard while I tried to acclimate myself to an environment where the locals actually trust.  Let me explain. Parents are known to leave their babies outside stores, while in their carriages of course, with or without the family dog, and they trust that their beloved will remain safely where left, completely unmolested. When I actually witnessed this, I stayed and watched the baby from across the street until the parents returned (which wasn’t long). All the while having a conversation with my husband about what was going on and how I found this trusting nature perplexing. You can also pump your gas first and pay after… once you are done. Something that never happens in Los Angeles. Also, women leave their purses outside the bathroom stalls in bars and restaurants with no qualms about having them stolen. When I stepped into the bathroom after having a few drinks at the fabulous Mikkeller Bar in Reykjavik and witnessed this, I was literally taken aback. I asked myself “Are these women crazy?!” Then I realized “Oh yeah. They actually trust here.” Admittedly, all this trusting did create a bit of anxiety for me. It also restored my faith in humanity and made me very happy. Happy that a place still exists on this earth where people trust. It’s a beautiful thing.

I digress.

Of course, this was all before I started this blog and its accompanying Instagram account… and amazingly, I actually followed through and accomplished everything that I set out to since I had some fairly bold ideas of what I wanted to do while standing in the middle of the countryside at about 2:00 a.m., in the freezing cold, listening to the my husband struggle with his camera equipment because the Northern Lights decided to make their grand appearance. Funny thing, in that type of cold climate, camera equipment can and will tend to fail. Unfortunately, my husband never did get those shots. It doesn’t matter though because it was on this magical freezing night that was wrapped in the fluctuating green, blue, and purple undulating lights… that we talked. I talked. I finally admitted that I felt that I was going through some sort of growing pains and that I didn’t know which direction to take. That I was confused and sick and tired of being sick and tired. Frustrated, depressed and anxious. I was now suffering panic attacks and I had somehow and somewhere lost myself. Now an anxious, depressed, introverted and unhappy person, I had stopped doing a lot of things that once brought me joy. And I felt that I was simply existing in my life instead of really living my life. Worse than all this though, I had stopped challenging myself. I knew I had become difficult and that it was hard to give love when you have fallen out of love with yourself. I explained that I wanted to visit Iceland because I needed a clean, quiet, and completely different location than what I was accustomed to figure it all out. I needed to take myself out of my day-to-day environment and wake up and shake this middle age monkey off my back because she was now heavy and I was now tired. Honestly, it was really embarrassing for me to admit that I wasn’t “right in the head,” but at the time, I really wasn’t. I typically do not talk about my feelings and admitting my vulnerability is horrifying, but if I was going to make the changes that I needed to make I had to put it all out there. So, that’s what I did. On that night, I gave all of my fears, insecurities, anger, frustration, confusion… I gave it all… to Iceland on that one spectacular night under the gloriously brilliant Northern Lights because I knew it was now or never. All of that negativity that I had been carrying around for far too long was absconded forever in one of the most beautiful landscapes I had ever seen. Poof! Just like that. Unceremoniously, I walked away from it all. It was the sweetest surrender; a midlife awakening. And Iceland was the perfect destination in which I came full circle and found myself facing my authentic self. So what happened next? I got back into a relationship with myself.

The next day we went for a 10-mile hike up and over and across and back differing landscapes, crossing creeks and over a glacial debris plain created by retreating glaciers and hundreds of years of floods. During this 10-mile hike, we never said one word to each other. It was completely and utterly blissful. Hiking in silence over a challenging landscape, under a beautiful sky, and for a time under a majestic rainbow, we never uttered a word. It was in my silence that I came to appreciate my life, my husband, my job, my family, my friends… my existence. And as I went from hot and sweating to cold and wet and back that I decided to start this blog and share my midlife diary because I knew that I wasn’t the only middle-age person who felt this way. And that if I could connect and reach one person that felt as horrible as I had been feeling, then my writing would not only be a creative expression for me, it would be a lifeline. I also decided to step out of my comfort zone and open an Instagram account because it was time that I start being me. Share a bit of me and put myself out there in hopes of finding other like-minded individuals who have fear, but aren’t afraid of their fear. Nothing fancy. Just me. Because I still mattered. Same as the wind, rain, earth, water, birds, trees. No matter how fleeting my life may be in this existence, I still mattered.  I matter because I exist.

So back to Iceland; I highly recommend and not just for an existential crisis/awakening. Visit Iceland because of the food, the natural habitat, the waterfalls, the caves, the art, the music. Visit Iceland because it is unusual, pristine and unspoiled. There is so much to explore! So much I left there and so much I took home. I went to Iceland comfortably complacent, asleep, unchallenged, unfulfilled and unhappy. I came back a woman on the verge of renewal, reinvention and reawakened.

A year ago was when I left for an imperative Icelandic interlude.

A year ago, I left as a caterpillar and came back a butterfly. And I’ve been happily fluttering around ever since.

Special Note: making all of the changes that I set out to hasn’t been easy. Actually, it’s been a lot of work. Letting it all go was only the first step. The second, third and fourth steps were scary, demanding and sometimes overwhelming, but I am persevering and thriving. The first thing I did when I returned home was I finally took my therapist’s advice and went on a low dosage of anti-anxiety and depression medication. This has worked wonders for me and has allowed me to think clearly and express my creativity without the burden of anxiety and depression. Although, this medication did cause me to gain weight, I am finally free of the fog these states can cause. And I still slightly cringe every time I post a picture on Instagram because I am so far out of my comfort zone there, but, again, I love it because I am expressing myself. And I am clean and free, just like Iceland, and to me it just doesn’t get any better than that.








Friday, March 2, 2018

THE SKIN CHRONICLES - AN ONGOING JOURNEY PART 1: A CAUTIONARY TALE

Who doesn’t want good, if not, perfect skin?  Right?  I certainly do.  And I’m quite certain a lot of you out there do too, but attaining this epidermis ambition can be tricky, expensive and exhaustive.  Especially so if you are a lifetime skincare junkie like myself.  I am a person that has consistently taken good care of my skin.  It has always been sort of a hobby with me.  And my persistence in practicing a good skincare routine has actually paid off.  Although, I suppose my genetics has a lot to do with it as well. Especially considering that I’ve grown up in sunny California, have been a long distance runner for most of my life, sunbathed during a time when the benefits of sunscreen wasn’t touted and was optional, and that I am quite fond of staying up late and definitely enjoy my fair share of cocktails.  So, yeah, I’d say, for the most part, my skin as fared fairly well.  Historically, my experience in skincare goes deep; I’ve tried it all.  Lasers, acids, peels, topicals, facials, electric currents, massage, oils, lotions, potions, Botox, fillers, gadgets… you name it and I have probably dabbled.  So now that I find myself closer to 50 than not, I began taking close, if not, obsessive observation of my skin to determine just how much I show my age.  A bit neurotic about it all, really. You know the drill.  Wondering if I actually look my age.  How I’m holding up.  It’s pure vanity for sure.  Counting every fine line, agonizing over my sagging jowls, distressed about my upper lip lines (I’m not a smoker so what gives with those anyway?), and perturbed about my double chin.  Yes, the long reach of the cliché “I’d like to look the age that I feel” had a strong grasp of me and down the rabbit hole I went with my latest middle age crisis.  What brought this on… I haven’t a clue.  Perhaps it’s all part of growing older pains, maybe the social marketing got to me; or, perhaps, I really am just that vain!  All could be true.  As if I couldn’t be superficial enough, this lead me to my next journey in my skin chronicles… the medium-grade chemical peel.

Yes, the good ole chemical peel.  It’s been around for years, right?  Fairly safe, right?  Capable of exfoliating the outer, middle and/or deeper levels of the skin.  Sounds pretty good, right?  Seeing that I have had past dalliances with all sorts of facial rejuvenations, including many lighter-grade chemical peels, I hadn’t yet had a medium-grade chemical peel.  Recalling that my past peels always garnered pleasant results and knowing that peels not only treat hyperpigmentation, but they treat fine lines and a variety of texture concerns too, I thought at my age I was probably due for a more intense one.  So when I learned about the latest and greatest medium-grade chemical peel being offered at my doctor’s office, I thought, “Heck ya!  I’m in.”  Since lately I had been combating my aging skin concerns with micro-needling, or more commonly known as the “Vampire Facial,” which I really love, but its progress is slow (and costly) and I am impetuous.  I wanted to finally combat my concerns in one fell swoop, so I was definitely game and quickly made an appointment. 

A chemical peel is promoted as being effective for acne scars, hyperpigmentation, reducing fine lines and wrinkles, reversing sun damage, and generally can improve the texture, clarity and appearance of your skin.  It is also known to be safe to use for all skin complexions and the low-grade peels are fairly painless with a minimum amount of down time.  I was confident of its effectiveness, but still maintained a degree of realistic expectations.  I was aware of the risks involved which can include redness, changes in skin color, additional hyperpigmentation, scarring, infection and even heart, kidney or liver damage.  Yet, knowing all of this, I still decided to move forward with it. 

Well let’s just say things didn’t quite go as expected.  Granted, they could have gone a lot worse, but they also could have gone a lot better. 

Right After Peel
The first application of the chemical peel burned with intense stinging.  Knowing that some discomfort was to be expected and having a high tolerance for pain, I tried to maintain a semblance of comfort, but I quickly had to stop to take a break.  Using a fan, I cooled my skin off and waited for the Lidocaine to kick in (Lidocaine is a numbing agent that is actually in the chemical peel).  After a brief break, we continued with the second application.  Unfortunately, the second application was even more uncomfortable than the first.  I literally found myself cringing away from my esthetician with each pass.  We finished shortly thereafter.  The experience was unpleasant, painful and near intolerable.  I had never before experienced that degree of stinging and burning and so I was a bit confused and anxious about it all.  When I left my doctor’s office and got into my car I discovered that I was actually trembling from the pain and had to pacify myself thinking.. “Let’s just get home and calm down.  It’ll be okay.”  Making it home, I quickly changed into my pajamas and made a stiff drink.  Then, looking into the mirror I was mortified to see a bit of a severe sight looking back.  Not only was I bright orange, but the peel had actually foamed in different places all over my face.  Little down time, right?  Fairly painless, right?  Wrong.  It was at this moment that I realized that I probably wasn’t going to make it out of the house for the next few days.  The severity of the skin discoloration and shedding was so disconcerting and jarring that I actually didn’t leave the house until four days later.  This simple procedure quickly turned complex and unsettling.
14 Days Later

Seven days later, I still had discoloration, redness, and peeling.  Although the peeling was subsiding, it was unsightly and just kind of gross. 

Fourteen days later, I still had patches of discoloration, dryness, flakiness with crepe texture.

Thirty days later, I called my doctor’s office about the remaining discoloration. I even sent pictures.  I was told that this was “normal,” but to come in for an exam and Microdermabrasion.  My reply:  “Umm, no thanks.”

So am I disappointed?  Of course.  I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t.  The results rendered from this particular medium-grade chemical peel are patchy and it caused even more discoloration and hyperpigmentation that I had to begin with.  Now, instead of being steps ahead in my skin care journey, this put me leaps back.  Although, I know a lot of these issues will resolve themselves in time, I have now turned to a strictly organic treatment plan to treat the residual effects of this peel.

Thinking about how I’d feel if the peel had been a positive experience, I discovered that I felt really bad that I had self-harmed all in the name of vanity.  Shame on me because that’s really not who I am.  I was impatient, impetulant, narcissistic and casual about it all which brings me to my latest middle age lesson:  be happy with what you have and be careful with what you think you need. 

In retrospect, there was absolutely nothing wrong with my skin to begin with.  It’s just aging.  Aging gracefully, that is.  While there are an innumerable amount of procedures these days to stave off the sands of time, I think it’s about time that I let go of those youthful dreams that I’ve been holding onto so tightly.  My youth was good to me, but I have faith that middle age will be just as good to me, if not better.  And, honestly, I don’t want to fight Mother Nature.  I’d rather walk straight into her loving arms instead of trying to pull away.

So if you find yourself in a middle age neurosis and are considering an “anti-aging” procedure of a certain type, you may want to consider this first:  do you really need a procedure to cure you of aging?  Aging is not a disease, it’s a rite of passage.  Perhaps if we hold onto this attitude as tightly as some of us have been trying to hold onto our youth, we can find ourselves walking into middle age with forgiveness, peace, clarity and self-acceptance.

Although, I will never relinquish my quest of looking my best, I guess you could say that instead of looking at myself through judgmental colored glasses, I’m now looking at myself through rose colored spectacles.  And that’s huge for me.

Now
“You have to sit down and take a good look at yourself, particularly as you grow older and your face changes.  People are afraid of changing; that they’re losing something.  They don’t understand that they are also gaining something.” - Sharon Stone

Friday, December 8, 2017

KNOWING WHEN TO HOLD 'EM AND KNOWING WHEN TO FOLD 'EM - THE FRIENDSHIP DIVORCE

Relationships.  Where do I start?  I know it is the holiday season and it is supposed to be peace on earth, good cheer, and good will to all (and all that soppiness), but disappointments don’t respect the holidays.  Neither do inconsideration, rejection and selfishness.  At least in my life they don’t.  And, unfortunately, all three have recently left an indelible and profound mark upon me so I now find myself compelled and saddened to make this next post about… relationships.  Relationships that fail to fulfill expectations, dishearten and disillusion.  Yep, I am speaking of The Friendship Divorce.  Being somewhat of a tolerant, hopeful and forgiving person, I don’t handle Friendship Divorces well nor do I have much experience in this department and, as such, I find this topic to be an unsavory and arduous task to share and write about.  I am also going to keep this post nonspecific in the details of exactly what brought me to this point because it is unimportant.  The damage has been done.  What IS important is how I move on from here, what I learn from it all, and how walking away from a relationship that is no longer working for me is actually tantamount to trusting, investing and caring for myself.  If there is anything that you take away from this blog post, it should be this:  when we choose to walk away from a toxic relationship it is trusting, investing and caring for ourselves.

Admittedly, I am an incredibly hard egg to crack and am hard to get to know.  Although, I am not hard to get along with and I exceed at the superficiality of small talk and getting to know someone whom I may never see again, but getting to know me is quite a different story.  It is rare that you will find me speaking about myself because, quite frankly, I don’t like talking about myself.  I never have.  I am just not a histrionic person who craves to be the center of anyone’s attention and so I find sharing of myself to be laborious and unpleasant - but, that’s just me.  I am also an extremely private person and very calculated in what I choose to share.  So, when considering a friendship, it takes me a minute to warm up because I have never been one for brief relationships.  It has always been my preference that when I offer my friendship and bring you into my world, and put you on my shelf, so to speak, it is a pledge.  And I expect the same.  I suppose this is how I have managed to keep many friends for decades.  Although it sounds like it, it really isn’t that serious.  I am actually a very outgoing, friendly and personable person.  And lest we forget those wonderful moments where you meet a certain someone and it is like you’ve known each other all your life; just picking up from the moment you met.  Those are great, aren’t they?  Yet, it is one thing if we spend time together, and quite another, if I invite you over to my home and/or invite you to meet my husband, my dogs, my family, my friends, and my world.

I also realize that there are those times that certain people come in and out of your life for short periods of time; however, in this instance, I am speaking of something more meaningful and less superficial.  A real connection, a genuine comfortable relatability, reciprocated interests and kindness with no pretense or fakery or competitiveness, insecurity or harbored unspoken jealousies.  A true palpable and genuine love and support wanting nothing more for each other than to be happy and successful.

I explain all this so that you will have an understanding as to why my circle of friends is a very tough and exclusive space to gain access to.  And, that it is almost unheard of for me to walk away from a friendship simply because I am invested in my friendships.  That is, until the time is reached when I finally realize that perhaps I having been projecting my idealism and philosophy upon someone who doesn’t feel the same or is incapable of giving back.  Now whether that’s because of insecurity, immaturity or fear, I have no idea nor do I care.  It is what it is, but when I have reached that “ick” part of a friendship then it is time for me to start asking myself some serious questions about why I keep working at something that I know will never change.

Not all friendships are going to be easy and some are definitely worth fighting for, and some take a lot of work.  The difference here is that a healthy relationship will grow and flourish as opposed to a failing relationship that will do nothing but remain stagnant and stuck.  And you’ll be stuck finding yourself 5, 10, 15, 25 years later dealing with the same drama you thought you were finished with.  Drama experienced over and over again.  Drama that perhaps you have kept quiet about, been tolerant, forgiving, generous, and supportive all for the sake of keeping the peace.  Until the time comes when you find yourself feeling compromised and resentful.  Those are not good feelings and they can really leave a bitter taste.  I, for one, am ashamed that I have let myself get to this point and can only presume that sometimes a good hard slap in the face or a strong punch in the gut is needed to wake up and realize that it may be time to peacefully walk away.  Divorcing entangled feelings and take a very heavy heart to a space of healing.  At midlife, I have learned a very important lesson:  not every relationship is capable of going the distance and that’s okay.  I have been wearing a disingenuous poker face for far too long and now I find myself uncomfortable, angry, hurt, and sad.  I’ll be okay though because, ultimately, my life is all about me!  And that includes feeling good about myself as well as the people I choose to share it with. 

Yet, I can’t help but think that this is where middle age has placed me.  It has given me the courage, tenacity, wisdom and wherewithal to throw my cards in and recognize the difference between friendships worth saving and friendships that have run their course.  That is, knowing when to hold ‘em and knowing when to fold ‘em. And through it all, I’ll be okay, and you’ll be okay, we will all be okay.  Actually, we will all be better than okay; we’ll be simply fabulous because we are the ones holding all our own cards.


"When there is nothing left to say, lift your head up high, smile, and walk away." - Unknown

Friday, October 6, 2017

IS THE TROUBLE REALLY WITH 50? OR, IS THE TROUBLE REALLY WITH US? A RANT.

So much emphasis is placed upon age isn’t it?  This is especially true as you creep up in years.  And, frankly, the popular opinion about growing old and getting older is hardly ever positive. This is especially true when one is in the neighborhood of the number 50. Why is that?  Why is everyone so touchy about 50?  Is 50 really that big and scary? I have found that it’s those ominous numbers like 40, 45, 50 and so on that often strike fear in people's hearts and are likened to a deranged specter hiding in a closet ready to strike you down with grey hair, wrinkles, extra pounds, and aches and pains. I have never understood the feigned importance or the attitude of encroaching doom people entertain when they speak of these so called “milestone” birthdays. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve heard people shriek, gasp and shrug their shoulders, shaking their heads in disbelief when speaking of becoming 50. “I’m so old!” I often hear. Actually, I have also witnessed this same reaction for 40 and 45 as well, but there is definitely something about 50 that freaks people out. 50 is midlife and it often lends itself to stereotypical cliches such as younger arm-candy “trophy” wives, that little red Corvette, or even salacious affairs. Why is everyone so discontent with 50 and midlife? These reactions, gestures of disapproval, and fool hardy cliches of what people think define 50 are perplexing, disheartening and damaging to the joy of actually growing old. When we were younger, birthdays were a celebration of life, right?  We couldn’t wait to celebrate being another year older and we looked forward to our special day with gumption, gusto and gaiety. It was an accomplishment to reach our birthdays; another feather in our caps so to speak. So why should becoming 50 be any different?  When did reaching our middle age birthdays become such a drag? When did they become something to dread and fear instead of something to celebrate? And what is it that we are trying to hold onto? Youth is fleeting, but growing old is divine, as the adage goes. And we should all be so fortunate to grow old and older and older, right? 

I am 49 and will be turning 50 in 6 short months. When I tell people this, assuredly their next question is “Oh! How do you feel about that?” in a sympathetic tone as if something bad is about to occur. Or, the super sensitive exclamation is made “Damn, you’re old!” Gotta love that one. So my response for good measure is always “How do I feel about what? The weather?” Or, “Yeah, I guess I’m older, but at least I’m not stupid.” Yeah, both responses are sarcastic, but I’ve had enough of all this silliness. What do you mean how do I feel about turning 50? I’m happy! Why would anyone presume otherwise? In fact, becoming 50 is not the beginning of the end. Hardly. Turning 50 is a new beginning; same as when you wake every morning. A fresh start to make yourself and this world a better place. Listen, I am just as immature and young at heart as I was at 18, 25 and 35. I still like to have fun and I still have a lot to offer. So it is my belief that with each passing birthday we should consider ourselves successful or to simplify it to its lowest denominator, we should be congratulated for literally living half our lifespan. Now that’s what I call an accomplishment to be proud of! Indeed, our 50th birthday cakes should state “I am successful at aging!” and we stop questioning how we arrived at this age in an entanglement of worry, concern and disbelief. 

I often tell people that I am literally half-dead and that I now walk with one foot in my grave.  I don’t mean to be crude, but I am a very forthcoming and curt person who doesn’t mince or sugarcoat words (if you follow my blog you’ll know this already). What I mean by this is that I simply don’t have time to waste. Let me correct that. It’s not that I don’t have time to waste; I don’t WANT to waste any more time. Actually, I think that’s what my twenties were for.  Keeping this in mind, I have finally reached the point where I am confident and secure enough to live my authentic life and live it by my rules. So, with that being said, if I want to start an Instagram account documenting my midlife fashion follies, I’m going to… and I did. If I want to go to rock concerts on Thursday and Sunday nights and drink Tequila highballs, I am going to… and I often do. If I want to dye part of my hair blond I will… and I did. And if I get a chance to jump in with both feet, chances are I’m going to take it. And I do all this because of that encroaching number 50. That scary BIG number 50. My midlife has brought me back around to who I truly am, but without the constraints of youthful anxiety, insecurity and doubt. Honestly, I have never been happier. 

And while I do understand that midlife may bring up a multitude of multi-faceted emotions of pastimes, losses and regrets, it is important to remember that those times were mere moments in a lifetime that has contributed to the fabric of our middle age experiences. The "good ole days" are not over. Alas, you still have plenty of time to make new "good ole days." Is this what scares people? Does 50 remind many that their days are numbered? Realistically, our days were numbered the day we were born. And if we are still moving and shaking at 50, well then honey, it's time to celebrate. It's time to make some noise. Although I do frequently remind myself that nothing is ever perfect, and that we all have our moments of missed opportunities and repentance, but perfection is overrated. Perfection doesn’t make a beautiful person, experience does. We have fought and persevered through life’s greatest and lowest moments and have come out the other side in glory and moxie. There is a freedom in 50 that 20, 30 and even 40 didn’t offer. “Freedom” - what a wonderful state of being. Our bodies are changing, our faces are changing, our lives are changing, are feelings are changing; this is all a rebirth. A rebirth and evolution of change. Let’s travel the road maps of our stories and flourish in this season of our lives and welcome 50 because it is an arrival. So don’t shriek, don’t gasp and don’t shrug your shoulders at it. Find comfort in it and familiarize yourself with all its nuances and know that you have nothing to prove to 50. Make peace with midlife, don’t continue to stir the pot in ageism. We already have enough of that.

Well, I guess that concludes this month's rant; thanks for listening. I feel much better. I hope you do too. So, if you happen to see me on the street, please don’t take pity on me because I'll soon be turning 50. And certainly don’t ask me how I feel about it. Guaranteed, you probably won’t like my response because the trouble is not with 50; the trouble is with the world that persist on asking me about it.



I don’t believe in aging. I believe in forever altering one’s aspect to the sun.” - Virginia Woolf

Thursday, August 3, 2017

COUNTING SHEEP, COUNTING STARS AND LOSING SLEEP

My sleep has gone missing.  I’ve looked everywhere for it and I just can’t seem to find it.  I’ve looked for it at 2:00 a.m.  I’ve looked for it at 3:00 a.m.  I’ve even looked for it at 4:00 a.m. and it is nowhere to be found.  Have you seen it?  I really miss my sleep and I hope that I find it soon because going without it has left me less than wide-eyed and bushy-tailed. On any given day in any given week during the wee hours of the morning, I can often be found staring straight up into space, eyes wide open, thinking about how I’d like to be asleep.  And so I try. I try willing it. I try coaxing it. And then when all else fails, I admonish it. I try and I try, but there I lay or there I stand, looking up at the early morning sky through my bedroom window pondering.  Pondering the state of my life, the state of the world, what I am going to wear, which book I want to read, or… “Hey, what’s that guy outside doing walking at this time?!”  You know, just the typical random and often wacky thoughts one has when sleep deprived with one foot in reality and the other lost in space.  Counting sheep, counting stars and losing sleep.

Historically, I have always been a person who slept a minimum of 8-9 hours per night so you can imagine how hard this has been for me.  So many changes during this time of midlife, but losing my sleep has proven to be quite a conundrum. Just how does one get their sleep back?  As I usually do, I turned to the people in my life and asked them this very question.  Here are some of their suggestions, in no particular order:  take Ambien (for the rest of my life?), have a nightly cocktail (again, for the rest of my life?), smoke a joint (what?), meditate (that takes a lot of practice), take liquid cannabis (no thanks), just stay up later (getting warmer), and have more sex (insert crickets here). I was literally dumbstruck by that last suggestion, so I simply walked away. With that said, and for the mere fact that this blog is all about perseverance, I have managed to implement a few strategic coping mechanisms to help me deal with my existence as a creature of the night. Hopefully, this will also prevent me from falling into that late night/early morning Amazon trap. You know, when you’re up at 3 a.m. making what you think at the time is an awesome purchase, but when you’ve actually slept on it you then realize “What the hell was I thinking?  Yes, that Amazon trap.

The importance of establishing a nighttime routine has been discussed to death and for good reason… because it works.  Thanks to my fairly lengthy nighttime skincare routine, I found that I was already ahead of the game and including a few more steps wasn’t problematic. Foregoing the suggested nightly cocktail, I have instead opted for a nightly cup of Chamomile Tea. I have also downloaded a free app called “Relax Melodies.”  Using this app, I can listen to all types of sleep sounds and white noise. My current favorite is ocean waves, but I also really like the frogs with running water. This app offers a bevy of sounds to lull one into sleep. My sister also introduced me to a number of storytelling podcasts which I enjoy listening to. And, lastly, the piece de resistance, is my diffuser which I use every night with Lavender oil. Now, all of this sounds pretty good, right?  Like I’m off to a great start?  “Start” actually being the key word here. While I have been quite successful at falling asleep, it is when I find myself awake after about 4-5 hours that has been the bane of my existence. Losing my sleep has been a twofold challenge. So, when I find myself awake in the early morning hours, I reach for my journal which now rests beside my bed. And, when I am done staring out the window pondering my state of affairs, I write down whatever comes into my head. Or, if I find myself awake anywhere near the 5 a.m. hour I get up, I quickly get dressed (keeping a set of workout clothes next to my bed as well) and I either do a 30 minute workout in my garage or I go out for a walk/run.  Now, I am not going to sugarcoat this, actually accomplishing a very early morning workout is very difficult for me because I really like being in bed. For me, mustering up the moxie to get up, get dressed, and work out is formidable and laborious and involves jumping through a lot of mental hoops. I overcome this by keeping in mind the payout that comes after which is that great mood and mental high that follows a workout making me feel large and in charge and ready for anything. Concentrating on this aspect is what really gets me out and “Sweatin’ to the Oldies.”  (If you recognize that reference, kudos to you my 80's friend).

I have found a knew outlook in my midlife and instead of getting mad and frustrated with myself and my aging body, I am getting even. I am getting even in the best way possible. By taking care of myself with a lot of forgiveness, acceptance and tenacity.  Navigating and learning this new way of life and dealing with a new existence is profound. In many ways, I am getting to know an entirely new me and although it is definitely different and sometimes a drag, it is never boring. Aging is a trip, isn’t it?  Literally and figuratively. A trip worth reaching because I am worth it.  And so are all of you. With small changes and an open and forgiving mindset we can find ways of managing and accepting what a lot would consider to be midlife calamities. Ha! Midlife calamities… more like midlife marvels. I have to admit though, I still do very much miss my sleep. I hope that someday it will return so that I can finally put these sheep safely back into their barn where they belong and leave the stars safely in their sky where they belong, and tuck myself safely back into my bed…where I belong.  

"In the end, it's not the years in your life that count, it's the life in your years." 
Abraham Lincoln