The things I should remember

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I have been thinking about my parents a lot lately.  For a person my age, it is sad I have to talk about how they used to be because they were taken far too early, both victims of the serial killer known as alcoholism.  I have written many heartfelt posts telling the tale of what my perspective was like growing up as a child of alcoholic parents.  But the more I read those posts again, and cried again, I realized I had been doing them a grave injustice.

So, I went back to the beginning – back to the days before that serial killer lurked in the shadows of my house, back to the days when life was great and back to the days when no elephant existed in any room in our home.

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My mom and dad were a lot of fun. My brother and I had many parties at our family home and my parents would remain in their bedroom allowing us full access to the house to host our friends.  But at the end of the night, the number of our friends watching TV with my parents in their room far outweighed the number of our friends in our living room.  Those were my parents.

They played strip ping-pong with the neighbors.  They ran naked from the neighbors’ sauna to roll in the snow and then back to the sauna.  They enjoyed life, they made the most of the good times and they truly loved each other. My mother summed it up completely in the caption of this photo of the four of us, “Happiness is Port Carling”.

When I began to think of what they were like as a couple, I couldn’t help but smile remembering how my dad used to look at my mom.  If my mom was within arm’s length, his hands would make contact with whatever part of her he could reach.  He would pat her bum as she walked by him.  He would kiss her every chance he got.  And when he grabbed her hand, I could see his hand physically squeezing hers several times in a sworn gesture of being smitten by her.  It was all about being able to touch each other, just to remind each other that they were there for the right reasons.

I had long forgotten those moments.  I was so marred by the effects alcohol had on their relationship I failed to remember the beautiful connection they had with each other.

And now that I have blinded myself to the painful memories, I will embrace the images of their fingers intertwined without realizing they were holding hands.  I will cling to the thought of how my dad just wanted to be close to her.  And I will forever hold close the knowledge that a simple touch from someone who means so much can change everything about your day.

After so many daily thoughts about so many things that don’t matter, I finally realized…..these are the things I should remember.

 

The Grandmother Effect

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In the crusade to get my blood pressure back to a normal number, I have been having regular visits with my doctor.  During one of our discussions about why my numbers might be up, I disclosed a few things that have been making me feel anxious, things that never were even a blip on my radar a few years ago but now sound alarms like I am at Defcon 2.   I am nervous about driving at night.  I now take my dog to work as often as I can in the winter because I am paranoid about the heater in my basement catching fire and Callaway being trapped inside the house.  You get the idea.  My doctor merely smiled and nodded, leaned back, laced her fingers together and told me I was experiencing “The Grandmother Effect”.

Never having had children of my own, I was mildly perplexed as to why I would be showing symptoms of a phenomenon that I should not be experiencing.  She went on to tell me that “women of a certain age” begin to worry more about the things that had never bothered them before.  It comes part and parcel with the beginning stages of the dreaded menopause, or as a dear man in my life used to say, “the meno”.

Women’s bodies are finely tuned to develop certain idiosyncrasies as they reach certain ages and their minds are hard-wired to react to those stimuli.  I am certainly at an age where I could be a grandmother and, with an imagination like mine, I could begin to conjure up all kinds of horrific scenarios that may happen to the next generation of my family, had I had children.  Or perhaps I am projecting those fears in regards to my nephews and worrying about them as they navigate their way through this life.  As my doctor explained it further, I could truly comprehend why I was having these irrational feelings and worrying about things that had never bothered me in the past.

The “meno” is coming.  It is inevitable and a necessary step to get to the next plateau of my life.  I have experienced my first full-on hot flash in the middle of the night.  I can only say it was like being on fire but being soaking wet at the same time.  Sadly, the water didn’t extinguish the flames.  I have decided that, from now on, I will refer to any future hot flashes as ‘my personal summer’.

Knowing that my worries are explainable has helped to slightly ease the stress.  Now I can only peer into the opening of the “meno” tunnel and hope it is a quick trip to the other side.

 

 

My doctor took an oath to save lives, but she may kill me

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I have high blood pressure.  It is something I have lived with for a long time and something that runs in my family.  I take pills, I have check ups with my doctor and I am careful about the things I eat so I can moderate my intake of sodium.  So when I went to see my doctor last Friday, I was shocked and appalled by the number that she gave me as my BP reading.

She dutifully asked the questions she needed to ask about the obvious things that could be causing the spike in my blood pressure.  I didn’t have the heart to tell her that part of the reading may be due to the fact that my appointment was for 9:45 am and I finally got in to see her at 11:07 am.  Then there is the “white-coat syndrome” that in itself raises the reading by a few points.  But I was truly perplexed.  Over the last 10 months, I have given up coffee, I have been eating a more plant-based vegetarian diet and I have been walking with my dog on a regular basis, so why the high reading?

Let me take you back a few years  to when I found myself in the same situation.  My reading had been high at a regular appointment and my doctor and I scrutinized my daily habits until we discovered one particular thing I had been doing that was the cause of my high reading – nasal spray.  Yes, a seemingly innocuous nasal spray to relieve my constant congestion was to blame for the spike in my numbers.  However, since that appointment, the nasal spray was discarded and I have learned to live with a stuffy nose.

So for days after my last appointment, I closely examined the things in my life that may be contributing to this high and disturbing number.  It was not my food choices, it was not my exercise habits and it was not my stress level.  As I leaned back one morning to drop my allergy eye drops into the corners of my eyes for the first of many daily doses, I put my cheaters on and looked a little more closely at the label on those drops.  The saving grace for my red, itchy, allergen-filled eyes was a decongestant.  In the world of people with high blood pressure, this is also called a No-No.  Decongestants not only have the potential to increase blood pressure, they prevent the medication I take each morning from doing its job.   DUH!!

So, this coming Friday I will, once again, sit in the waiting room of my doctor’s office to see if I get in on time for my appointment.  I have not been using my eye drops since Tuesday morning, so I will wait to see what my reading is to see if those drops are the cause of my high numbers.

As I await my fate, I urge you all to carefully check the labels of any over-the-counter medications you may be using and ask questions about the long-term effects they may have on your body.  You just never know.

The fork in the road

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Everyone is given choices.  For the naysayers that exude denial and say they didn’t have a choice…..they are lying.  Everyone has a choice and sometimes choosing not to make a choice is their choice.

Although choices should be made carefully and given ample thought, they are available for everyone to make.  Many factors should be balanced before you make a choice but ultimately the decision-making comes down to a rational mind with an understanding of the potential conclusions.

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The fork in the road is put there for a specific purpose.  It is a deciding moment that you are able to pause and weigh your options.  Each fork will bring an alternate result and it is that pause that you are given that will help you make the choice that is best for you.  Choices should not be made on a whim because the trickle down effect could cause more people to be affected by your decision.  Take that gift seriously.   If the choice you are making could be detrimental to you or to someone else it is worth putting in a solid effort to weigh the pros and cons before you give your final answer.

Inevitably we will all make some bad choices along the way, but there is always that promise of redemption by making a better choice the next time.  And ultimately choosing to make the better choice is afforded to us by making a choice in the first place.

Put faith in your ability to make that choice wisely and choose to live with its consequences.  At least you will have the benefit of knowing you made the effort and if it wasn’t the right choice, you will get the chance to re-think your next path at that next fork in the road.

May I please go to the bathroom?

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When I was a child, doing dishes was the worst form of torture I could ever imagine.  We didn’t have a dishwasher so dishes were all done by hand and we all took turns washing and drying to make the arduous chore seem more fair.  But it was my least favorite thing to do.  I would have much preferred vacuuming, dusting, cleaning the bathroom, dry-walling, rotating and balancing tires or removing my own spleen….anything but washing those bloody dishes.

I don’t recall if the genius idea came to me in a dream or if I had a sudden flash of brilliance after one particular dinner but, once the meal had been consumed, I asked if I could go to go to the bathroom.  No parent can effectually deny a child the right to heed the call of nature, so off I went.

Once that bathroom door had closed and I had engaged the lock, I became a teenage version of a forensic pathologist.  I carefully opened each cupboard and slowly examined and took stock of its contents.   In essence, I took so much time doing absolutely nothing that by the time I unlocked the door and went back to the kitchen, the dishes were done and nobody had seemed to notice the length of my absence.  The plan was brilliant….until eventually my brother caught on to my shrewd strategy.

After his realization of my great scheme, my trips to the bathroom after dinner were much less regular (pun intended).  The guy that I looked up to, that I thought would battle to the death for me, had thrown me under the bus.  I could only try to tune out the sound of his laughter as he closed the bathroom door before I even got close to that portal of escape that would separate me from the dishes.  Perhaps I should have changed my strategy and just gone to the bathroom right in my chair.  That surely would have resulted in a swift and heady dismissal from the dinner table and a one-way ticket straight to my room!

As fate would have it, I don’t hate doing the dishes anymore.  I learned a very valuable lesson about cleaning as I cook so the pile of dishes at the end of the process is not larger than the house itself.  It is a rare day you will find dirty dishes in a pile in or near my sink but rest assured, they don’t stay there for long.

If I say I’m fine….I’m lying

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Many memes and many jokes (mostly at men’s expense) have skirted around the fact that if a woman says, “I’m fine”, there is an emotional undertone that means something far beyond being fine.  My experience with the phrase ‘I’m fine’ has completely surpassed that, to the point that nobody in my immediate family uses those two words to describe their current state of being.

Both of my parents were alcoholics and suffered through a myriad number of complications through their later years.  It is an ugly disease with ugly consequences.  The worst part of watching the effects of alcoholism deteriorate a human body is having that person tell you that, while they are suffering numerous symptoms and contrary to every doctor’s diagnosis, they are fine.  Fine is no longer a word I use to describe how I feel and for very good reason – it’s bullshit.

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I sent a text to a friend yesterday to ask about their well-being and was given the response “I’m okay”.   Although it was not the tried and hated response of “I’m fine”, it ranked right up there and it made my Spidey senses tingle.  I knew there was more going on but I also knew not to push.

When you get a text message from someone you know on a very personal level, the inflection in their voice is heard loud and clear above the silence of a text message.  The only thing I can do is be here when they need to vent, to be present when they realize that I know they are not “fine” or “okay” and just be ready to listen.

 

Perspective

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“We don’t see things as they are.  We see things as we are.” ~ Anais Nin

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Perspective is an interesting concept.  In an artistic sense, perspective can give a two-dimensional object the look of being three-dimensional.  It gives it depth and it tricks our brain into thinking we are seeing more than the simple lines on that piece of paper or canvas.  In effect, we are seeing a different reality.

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When it comes to the human condition, perspective takes on a whole new role.  Our individual perspective is swayed by our thoughts and beliefs and sometimes those thoughts and beliefs can cloud our judgement.  In a very different way, we are seeing a different reality.

It makes me think, if something seems to good to be true, should you ask yourself, “am I seeing it the way it is….or am I seeing it the way I want to see it?”