Sunday, a smorgasbord

Yesterday was day 1 of my reboot, and I’m declaring it a simple success. Were I to take a more complicated view of the day I would call it so-so, but in those cases where a reboot is so desperately needed, I’m willing to go with the simple tale. It was a simple success. I took my watercolor class, with my friend Deb. I shopped for good, healthy food afterwards, and didn’t succumb to buying anything else. I made my dinner even though I got sidetracked by a 1.5-hour-long conversation with Marc and then felt almost frantic with hunger….but I made my healthy, wonderful dinner. I didn’t walk or do yoga, nor did I drink lots of water all day, but I’m happy. Today is a gorgeous, sunny day. I’ll take a walk, drink water all day, see my super-intelligent book club tonight, it’ll be good.

And as Paul Harvey used to say, here is the rest of the story:

My version — and should you think it’s tacky (I do!), you should know that it’s pretty close to what she did. That’s not a good yellow branch, hers was definitely better, but this is like hers. SIGH.

The watercolor class was a BUST. I was hoping to learn a few techniques that are helpful in painting flowers, blossoms, blooms. Instead, it was a watercolor version of Painting with a Twist. The instructor placed a print that she had made on an easel, and we all had to paint that. It wasn’t a print I would ever buy (or hang, if I’d received it as a gift). It wasn’t attractive in composition or flower choices, and it didn’t even look like she had much talent. So there we all were, being walked through “now make coral tones, like this, and paint this part of the flower exactly like this.” She wasn’t very articulate, and she wasn’t very confident for someone who teaches this very class as often as she does. It

hers!

cost a lot of money out of my super tight budget so I was deeply disappointed. Still, it was nice to do that with Deb, and to go to a part of town I rarely visit (OH the hipster facial hair! My god! Will that trend never stop?), and to play with color. I’m calling it a simple success because I didn’t back out, I didn’t hate myself for my effort, or feel shame, and I just let myself play. Success!

 

I made a chickpea salad for dinner because I was just craving chickpeas for some strange reason. I also bought ingredients for a great-looking Sriracha Rainbow Noodle Salad, which requires an avocado, so I decided to add an avocado to my chickpea salad. Success! Such good food, so healthy every last bit. I went on to eat the whole thing (it should’ve made two meals for me), but I’m calling it a simple success. I didn’t buy Peeps (which are still available), or a beer, or grocery store sushi because I was famished and tired. I cooked for myself, which is something I’d stopped doing and missed terribly. I made a healthy meal, for myself, and it actually worked — which my creative efforts have not been doing since November. I rubbed my eyes with jalapeno-juiced hands, BAD BAD BAD, but otherwise success!

My knitting has been failing BADLY, except for the last thing I made which was a scarf using the wonderful Zauberball that my darling friend Becci sent me. I need to take a photo of it, it’s gorgeous and it worked. (It’s the simplest knitting, but lately I couldn’t even pull that off.) So, emboldened by my successful reboot day and the Zauberball scarf, I cast on a new project using a yarn I’ve got in abundance, a very pale shell pink (tosh merino light, porcelain). I was very disappointed by the color when the yarn arrived in the mail, years ago, so I set it aside. SO pale. Almost just a dirty white, in some light. And pink is complicated — at least it has been for me. It’s too associated with little-girly and I have zero interest in that. But I’m considering a rapprochement with pink, so I cast on a pattern called Yoga Shawl (link for Ravelers), basically a large rectangle, stockinette in the middle, chevrons on both ends, and buttons/holes along all the edges so you can wear it lots of different ways. Last night I got several rows completed while I watched an old Richard Pryor stand-up film on Netflix, from 1971. His brilliance and vulnerability were right at the surface, then, and at times he was almost frightening to watch, always compelling, and just so moving. The last part of the show is essentially a one-man performance of a play with several characters. SO, success there too, a friendliness to pink and my knitting, and time with an old love.

Because pink is beautiful

Isn’t it amazing? Really, stop to think about that. Look at that tree, nothing unusual, a cherry tree in blossom — but TREES bloom out in these delicate FLOWERS. Trees cover themselves in blossoms, just for a while. All the pinks, there. It almost makes me cry.

I guess I offer this post to those of us trying to find our way back. Claim success, even if its imperfect [it is, anyway]. Let the rest go. You can try to add the rest on as you go. Reboot, day 2, I see you waiting for me and I welcome you with a smile.

***

THIS BOOK!!!

Real quick, before I go, let me make a book recommendation! Homegoing by Yaa Gyasi. From the very first sentence I was in it, even though I was exhausted and bleary-eyed and that can be a hard moment to start a new book.

Wow. It’s not like anything else I’ve read. The word most often used for it is astonishing and I think I have to agree. Here is the description from the book’s Amazon page:

“The unforgettable New York Times best seller begins with the story of two half-sisters, separated by forces beyond their control: one sold into slavery, the other married to a British slaver. Written with tremendous sweep and power, Homegoing traces the generations of family who follow, as their destinies lead them through two continents and three hundred years of history, each life indeliably drawn, as the legacy of slavery is fully revealed in light of the present day.

Effia and Esi are born into different villages in eighteenth-century Ghana. Effia is married off to an Englishman and lives in comfort in the palatial rooms of Cape Coast Castle. Unbeknownst to Effia, her sister, Esi, is imprisoned beneath her in the castle’s dungeons, sold with thousands of others into the Gold Coast’s booming slave trade, and shipped off to America, where her children and grandchildren will be raised in slavery. One thread of Homegoing follows Effia’s descendants through centuries of warfare in Ghana, as the Fante and Asante nations wrestle with the slave trade and British colonization. The other thread follows Esi and her children into America. From the plantations of the South to the Civil War and the Great Migration, from the coal mines of Pratt City, Alabama, to the jazz clubs and dope houses of twentieth-century Harlem, right up through the present day, Homegoing makes history visceral, and captures, with singular and stunning immediacy, how the memory of captivity came to be inscribed in the soul of a nation.”

That makes it sound like a history lesson, or like one of those horrible museum dioramas or something, and it’s NOT. It’s so alive (as far as I’ve read, which is only about 5% of the book) and it’s just not a story I’ve read yet. What a gift, when a book does that, when it kind of slaps your face and wakes you up. Unless it’s 3am when it does that, but whatev. 🙂

art and a reboot

OH MY have I been in trouble with myself. Ever since the nightmarish election, I’ve been in trouble. I keep trying to stand up, find myself, breathe, reorient my mindset. I’ll make headway — return to the mat, the street, the vegetable market — and for a moment I am back. But I’m back in that moment, still surrounded by chaos. And it’s a specific kind of chaos that’s my own worst nightmare. The incessant (even when it’s nonsensical) lying and gaslighting, and a country of people who are just fine with it. (Mercifully almost all of my own people see what I see, but not all do.) And that’s not even considering the hideous political stuff he’s doing, the destruction, the looting.

And so I’ll rally and pull it off for a few days: oh yes, yoga, how delicious. A daily walk, hard again at first but after a week getting a little easier. My wonderful food, lots of cool water, clear mind. And I won’t put pressure on myself about it (great! Now I’m completely back! That’s all behind me!) but the constant falling off and then struggling to right myself has been especially awful. I’ve tried being gentle with myself, tweaking expectations, setting low bars, surrounding myself with people who support me, and that’s all gotten me through but I haven’t sustained a reboot.

At this point I’ve gained 22 pounds, from my lowest weight. I’m not quite back where I started a few summers ago (and having sustained my comfortable self for a couple of years, this is hard to take), but I’m in the neighborhood. I was talking to a friend yesterday who asked if I wanted to let HIM have this effect on me — and of course I don’t, of course, but that doesn’t make this stop. It’s actually a thing, the “Trump Effect” — like the ‘freshman 15’ people are eating their misery.

This past week I’ve had a social date every single day, a meal or a drink, and all week I’ve been anticipating today as my next reboot. I’m taking a class this afternoon (watercolor, “bold blooms” — flowers and blossoms, just the perfect medicine) and stopping at the grocery store on my way home to buy fresh, beautiful, healthy food. After dinner I’m either taking a walk or taking a restorative yoga class. It’s not a clear, sunny day here, but I’m filling my day with beauty and color in the hopes that it helps.

Intro to Watercolors: Bold Blooms Workshop
Sriracha Rainbow Noodle Salad!

Fingers crossed, y’all. Is there any worse feeling than just being out of control, unable to stop yourself from doing what you don’t really want to be doing? Unable to start yourself in the direction you really want to go?

How are you?

Well, I deserved that

I think I had a stupid hangover. If that’s what was wrong with me yesterday, I deserved every moment of the misery. If that’s what it was, it was the second hangover of my life, so I’m really not sure because of my inexperience. The first (and only, until now) hangover I had was on January 1, 1980, after a NYE celebration at a wine bar (which was a thing back in the late 70s, chickie babies, along with fern bars). We had flights of wine, small tastes, and I just didn’t realize what was happening. That felt like what I imagined a hangover would feel like: the motes of dust in the air slamming into my head were excruciating, and the voices, oh the loud, loud voices, agony. It was so punishing, I couldn’t understand why anyone would ever put themselves in a position to have to go through that, and ever since, I’ve held myself back from getting anywhere near that experience. I’m a cautious drinker anyway, after growing up with my vicious alcoholic dad, but man, that hangover was bad enough to straighten me right up even without a family history.

Monday evening I had three beers, and then also a lot of really bad food. Too many salted peanuts. A pint of ice cream. A three-pack of coconut Peeps with dark chocolate. A container of guacamole and most of a bag of salty tortilla chips. I was clearly in a hard place, and just cramming as much of everything into my mouth as I could possibly get.

Around 5am I started waking up with a funny, bad headache, and my stomach hurt so bad. What an idiot, eating all that fat! I cursed myself. And thus began the, um, “intestinal distress,” let’s call it. For the next three hours, more or less, really bad business. My head hurt, but it hurt worse when I lay down so I kept moving around, when I wasn’t stuck in the bathroom. I ate something so I could take Excedrin, and drank a lot of water, and cursed myself for having been so stupid.

But the worst part — even worse than the bathroom, because the headache was manageable — was the mood. I really think the mood all day and night was part of the hangover! Has that happened to you? I felt cloaked in a too-heavy and too-tight lead skin. Suppressed as much as depressed, but also all the bad things at once. Mad, bitter, prickly, distressed, irritated, down, flat, anxious, all of it at once. No single bad feeling arose as the most pressing, which was kind of confusing, because I couldn’t say what I was feeling. Everything bad, that’s all I could say.

Poetry group met at my house last night, and that’s usually one of my favorite nights of the month. We have a new member, and he’s an extremely good poet. He wrote a poem about an acid trip he had in the 1960s and I could immediately see that it was a masterful poem, but it prompted a lively conversation about all those acid trips members took in the 1960s/1970s. And OH were they lively when they talked about them! They went on and on (at least it felt that way to me), comparing notes, talking about the wild hallucinations, etc., and I wanted to scream and choke them and run out of the room. That’s not my favorite kind of conversation, anyway, because it always feels to me like it’s making light and fun of something that’s actually horrible. I know what it is to live at the hands of an addict, and I know someone very well who was addicted to heroin and his stories are so very terrible — oh sure, it’s all fun UNTIL IT ISN’T and then you’re stuck, and so are all those in your life. My mood made it so hard for me to sit there and listen, and I was trying hard to manage my facial expression so it didn’t betray my real feelings, but I don’t know how well I did it. I’ve never felt so terrible during poetry group, and my hangover mood was largely responsible. Otherwise, I’d have let the conversation go on a little and then I’d have redirected us back to the poetry.

I had no idea that a hangover could be that mental and emotional state, but I do think that’s what yesterday was all about. All morning, when I was walking around managing the headache and running to the bathroom, I kept saying out loud, “Idiot, you brought this on yourself! Jesus, what were you thinking.” Fully deserved, Lori, even if I also have some compassion for the feelings I was having that brought me to that eating and drinking frenzy the night before. And then the rest of the day, as the physical consequences disappeared, I kept saying out loud, “Oh, I feel so bad. I just feel so so bad. And I brought this on myself.”

The only good thing about that experience is that it seems to have slapped me in the psychological face a little bit, a bit of Moonstruck Cher talking to Nicolas Cage: SNAP OUT OF IT!

The sun is shining. I have a bit of work. I started my day the way I wanted to start it, and for my dinner tonight I’m making this gorgeous spinach salad. Doesn’t that look yummy? Ever since I got back to Austin, I have not been cooking for myself, for some reason, and that’s something I love to do, even if it doesn’t reliably work at the moment. In NYC I don’t get the kind of food I love to make, so when I’m here I’m always eager to make it and eat ALL the vegetables. That salad is part of a wonderful “snap out of it!” reboot. I only have a few more days here before I return to NYC and then we go to Indonesia, so I’d better get busy if I want to eat all the vegetables. 🙂 I’m so glad I learned, on my yoga mat, that all of life is like tree pose — wiggling, wobbling, falling out of it on occasion and getting back into it, and seeking the stable point.

And no more beer. Not for a very long time.

three things: 1/7/17

1) I’ll begin with a poem titled “A New National Anthem,” by Ada Limón:

The truth is, I’ve never cared for the National
Anthem. If you think about it, it’s not a good
song. Too high for most of us with “the rockets
red glare” and then there are the bombs.
(Always, always, there is war and bombs.)
Once, I sang it at homecoming and threw
even the tenacious high school band off key.
But the song didn’t mean anything, just a call
to the field, something to get through before
the pummeling of youth. And what of the stanzas
we never sing, the third that mentions “no refuge
could save the hireling and the slave”? Perhaps,
the truth is, every song of this country
has an unsung third stanza, something brutal
snaking underneath us as we blindly sing
the high notes with a beer sloshing in the stands
hoping our team wins. Don’t get me wrong, I do
like the flag, how it undulates in the wind
like water, elemental, and best when it’s humbled,
brought to its knees, clung to by someone who
has lost everything, when it’s not a weapon,
when it flickers, when it folds up so perfectly
you can keep it until it’s needed, until you can
love it again, until the song in your mouth feels
like sustenance, a song where the notes are sung
by even the ageless woods, the short-grass plains,
the Red River Gorge, the fistful of land left
unpoisoned, that song that’s our birthright,
that’s sung in silence when it’s too hard to go on,
that sounds like someone’s rough fingers weaving
into another’s, that sounds like a match being lit
in an endless cave, the song that says my bones
are your bones, and your bones are my bones,
and isn’t that enough?

Our country is breaking, as was inevitable, and our time is passing. I just hope we don’t do too much damage to the world before it’s all over. One thing I loved about the poem so much were the lines, “best when it’s humbled, / brought to its knees, clung to by someone who / has lost everything, when it’s not a weapon, / when it flickers”.

2)  One of my favorite paintings is by an artist named Helen Frankthaler. She was born in Manhattan in 1928, and began exhibiting her work in the 1950s. This one is titled Eve, and I must have somehow seen it the year it was painted (1995), because I think I’ve loved it that long. I remember having it as my computer wallpaper in 1996, for a full year. I find it so hard to stop looking at it. That exquisite yellow-orange, the shapes above it that certainly suggest a hanging apple. The thin, wavery line, the watery blue.

1995
Medium: Prints and multiples, color screenprint on woven paper
Edition of 108
44 x 29 7/8 inches (full margins)
Catalogue: Ann Kendall Richards, Inc. Inventory Catalogue

I only just learned that she was married to Robert Motherwell, another of my favorite artists! Wow, what a home theirs must have been.

3) Such a terrible feeling, the feeling of being out of control of yourself. Of deciding you’re going to start (or stop) doing a thing, swearing to yourself you are, and then to do it. Again. And again. And then the renewed vow. Even though I have never suffered an addiction, I do know this feeling from a more ordinary position, from getting back on a sugar/eating binge (I’ve been eating my fear and despair since before the election and it feels terrible) or getting out of the healthy habits that make me feel so good, and struggling to return to them as my norm. I remember my dad vowing at night as he was poured into bed, by me for a long time, that tomorrow would be different, tomorrow he wouldn’t drink, but then the next morning he couldn’t get out of bed without a big tumbler full of straight vodka, and the cycle would begin again. That cycle leads to such intense self-loathing, so common among addicts, and I’m grateful not to have that part of it, the self-loathing. I’m grateful to be kinder to myself, gentler to myself, to instead try to help myself in manageable ways. Today, just drink lots of good water, that’s all you need to do. And take a yin yoga class, so nourishing and manageable, and let tomorrow be whatever tomorrow will be. Just today, drink water and take a yin class.

Be kind to yourself, that’s the most important place to start — it really is. If you are kind to yourself, it’s so easy to be kind to other people. It’s so easy to have a bit of yourself to give, then, to send out into the world. Open your phone and look through your text messages — pick one and just send a kind note, a quick text, a surprise bit of kindness. Texts require no time commitment, just a few thumb strokes, and a click. Make yourself or someone else a beautiful meal. Pick or buy a flower, for you or someone else. Little things, quick things, kindnesses — and start with yourself. Just for today. xoxoxoxo

three things: 1/3/17

1)  I started reading Underground Airlines by Ben Winters, following on the heels of The Underground Railroad, and so far it’s spectacular. Honestly, I don’t know why the black people in the United States aren’t raging and fighting white America all the time. (And we women, too.) They (we) have every right to be doing that, and every single time some white American says something about slavery being a long time ago just get over it . . . well hell, even want to punch those people in the throat. This country. We arrived and right off the bat started killing people and stealing their land, and just kept doing that (through to today). And then we stole people from another continent and brutalized them in unimaginable ways to enrich ourselves, and then enacted laws to keep them from getting anywhere (through to today). One horrible thing I learned when a friend did my ancestry is that someone in my history owned slaves in Georgia. She shrugged a little, it’s the thing you learn, and yet it’s horrifying to imagine. And so I too deserve the rage. In the second episode of The OA, a new series on Netflix, a voice-over read the Emma Lazarus poem on the Statue of Liberty (“The New Colossus”) and vomit came up in my throat, it’s such a lie.

Not like the brazen giant of Greek fame,
With conquering limbs astride from land to land;
Here at our sea-washed, sunset gates shall stand
A mighty woman with a torch, whose flame
Is the imprisoned lightning, and her name
Mother of Exiles. From her beacon-hand
Glows world-wide welcome; her mild eyes command
The air-bridged harbor that twin cities frame.
“Keep, ancient lands, your storied pomp!” cries she
With silent lips. “Give me your tired, your poor,
Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,
The wretched refuse of your teeming shore.
Send these, the homeless, tempest-tost to me,
I lift my lamp beside the golden door!

The world is going mad and it’s so scary. And the United States is the engine of so much of it. How does a person work with that? (I’ll say more about Underground Airlines after I finish it….)

2) Depression status stable. Not feeling better but not feeling worse, and when you deal with depression you know that’s a good enough report. One thing I’m trying (among many things) is a daily inoculation of art, and today I’m rolling my eyeballs around in this glorious color — great thanks to my beautiful friend Anne for posting the painting on FB a couple of days ago:

Max Kurzweil (Austrian; Art Nouveau, Vienna Secession; 1867-1916): Lady in Yellow, 1899. Oil on canvas. Vienna Museum at Karlsplatz, Vienna, Austria.

That color! I would really like to take my eyeballs out of my head and just roll them around in it, coat them like you do a sugar cookie, and then pop them back so that color can seep into me. It’s so glorious, especially in these very gray NYC days. Tomorrow I’m going to a special event at MoMA, 1.5 hours of silence on the 4th and 5th floor galleries, ending in a guided meditation (in front of Monet’s “Water Lilies,” I think). That ought to help too.

My dear sister-friend Peggy gave me the suggestion to make a long list (25 items on mine) of small things I could do, simple things, nourishing things, and you know, when you’re mentally flat and blank the problem is that nothing feels do-able anyway, much less thinking up a list of things. But with her help I did, and daily art is doable. If you are prone to depression, make your list when you’re not depressed, it’s much easier.

3)  Another bit of art stolen from a friend’s FB (this time from beautiful Kathy, who understands so much):

This is not an age of beauty,
I say to the Rite-Aid as I pass a knee-high plastic witch
whose speaker-box laugh is tripped by my calf
breaking the invisible line cast by her motion
sensor. My heart believes it is a muscle

of love, so how do I tell it it is a muscle of blood?

This morning, I found myself
awake before my alarm & felt I’d been betrayed

by someone. My sleep is as thin as a paper bill
backed by black bars of coal that iridesce
indigo in the federal reserve of

dreams. Look, I said to the horse’s
head I saw severed & then set on the ground, the soft
tissue of the cheek & crown cleaved with a necropsy
knife until the skull was visible. You look more
horse than the horses

with names & quilted coats in the pasture, grazing unbothered

by your body in pieces, steaming

against the drizzle. You once had a name
that filled your ears like amphitheaters,
that caused an electrical

spark to bead to your brain. My grief was born
in the wrong time, my grief an old soul, grief re-
incarnate. My grief, once a black-winged

beetle. How I find every excuse to indulge it, like a child
given quarters. In the restaurant, eating alone,

instead of interrogating my own
solitude, I’m nearly undone by the old
woman on her own. The window so filthy,

it won’t even reflect her face, which must not be the same
face she sees when she dreams

of herself in the third person.

– “Age of Beauty” by Emilia Phillips

What a wonder art is. Thank you to everyone who puts it into the world.

three things: 12/27/16

1) Headaches, of which I am the chief taxonomist, the God of Knowing, the Linneaus, the Webster. My dad was a headache-haver, I am the inheritor of that misery, and my daughter Katie carries it on another generation. I have a headache nearly every single day, and know the specifics and instigator of so many. There’s the one that exists in the top of my left eyeball (and the very different one that dominates my right eyeball). The one that sits on the top center of my head. The one that presses on my right temple. The one that wraps like a belt. The one that comes from a low pressure system. The one that arises from smells in the environment. The one that comes from specific bad sleep. The different one that comes from insufficient sleep. The one that comes from perfume or cologne worn by others. The one that I get when it’s too cold. Etc. Etc. Etc. The one that’s treated with hot, wet cloths. The one that’s treated with Sumatriptan. The one that’s helped by beer and a Sudafed (only if both at once). The one that’s helped by massage. The one that’s helped by sleep. The one that is helped by nothing. And all combinations of all.

People want to help, and I inevitably hear that I should go to a doctor. But the issue is that I am a headache-haver, and that isn’t treatable. I know how to identify and treat the different ones, so what would a doctor say? You have sinus headaches, tension headaches, sleep-related headaches, you’re sensitive to volatile organic compounds, all of which I already know. It’s a terrible thing, being a headache-haver, because my day can be derailed so easily and often there is nothing to do but wait for the next day in the hope that it’ll be better. This part of the post brought to you by today’s low-heavy-shaggy-gray-sky-headache. I was in my mid-20s when I learned that not everyone has a headache every single day, and it blew me away. Lucky you, if you don’t!

I have 953 pictures of just him, and only 6 of those are from the past 13 years. I always loved this one, he is so beautiful.

2) My son is breaking my heart anew. I got a message from his ex-boyfriend about a box of Will’s stuff — did I want it, or should he throw it away? It’s filled with pictures from Will’s childhood, mementos, gifts I gave him, an album his sister assembled with pictures and letters from us all when she was trying to lead him back to our family, all just abandoned by him. I’m honestly not sure I can bear to collect them, but I know I can’t bear for them just to be tossed in the dump on Staten Island and so I will collect them. They will smell like Will. He told me that Will lost his job in the spring and he doesn’t know if/where he’s working, and that he doesn’t have the same phone number. He knows he is (at the moment) staying with a friend in Sunnyside, Queens, but nothing more specific than that. The thread is getting so weak that allows me to tug him, frayed down to a single twist. Will knows he is hurting me, and that doesn’t make my pain any less, it doesn’t allow me to just reside in anger at him. I still fill the weight of him in my arms, smell the smell of his baby head, smell the smell of his teenage years, hear the sound of his boy voice and his deep man voice. I still remember his humor, his pleasure in beating me at Scrabble, the way he called me Ma just to crack me up. The way he said I’d be Granma Pete instead of just Pete, to make me laugh. It’s holding the full complexity of it all that breaks my heart. If I could simply be furious with him, or let him go, or just feel all the love, it would be so much easier.

3) I’ve been trying to sit very still and quiet with this terrible feeling in order to understand it. I set aside the headache as its own thing, and focus instead on the heartache. Why is it so painful? What, exactly, is the feeling of it? I realized that I feel chaotic and not whole, that this feeling is one of fragmentation, and an inability to cohere. It might cohere if I had a simple story I could tell, if I had more answers (whatever they might be) than questions, if I had a simple set of feelings. Just grief, for example. My mind feels like threads exploded outwards, my body doesn’t feel whole and comfortable, and my feelings are all over the place, changing with my breath. I’m doing my best just to let this all be, to be present with it and not try to force it into one category, one thing, and to notice that I can do that. Super hard, y’all. Super, super, super hard. I keep suddenly standing up and preparing to walk somewhere, but I just take a few steps, turn around, hold my head, and sit down again. This is just part of life, it’s just part of my life, it just is, and it will not always be like this.

Another happy birthday for me

Where I started. Graham Texas, Thursday, 11/6/58. Someone really should've put a blanket over me!
Where I started. Graham, TX, Thursday, 11/6/58. Someone really should’ve put a blanket over me!

 

This was such a spectacular year in my life, it boggles my mind. How can my life just keep getting better and better? And yet it does. These aren’t the best pictures from my year, or of each place, but they’re the ones I labeled “happy Lori” when I filed them away; this year,

 

We went back to Vietnam, and to a tiny fishing village on the coast of Thailand.

happy me, in Tam Coc
happy me, in Tam Coc Vietnam, in one of my favorite places: on a little boat in a gorgeous landscape

We went to southern China.

happy me, in the countryside around Yangshuo
happy me, in the countryside around Yangshuo — I was drunk on those karst mountains, man.

We went to the Upper Peninsula of Michigan.

happy, flying around Manistique Lake
happy, flying around Manistique Lake, getting to be part of a place that was important in Marc’s life.

Next week we’re off to Laos again, and back to that same tiny fishing village in Thailand.….so only the happy anticipation of that trip properly belongs with this year of my life.

My family grew so much this year!

Last Christmas, with my daughters and their families. We already knew Ilan was coming (obviously, look at Marnie!), but we didn't know Lucy would be coming, too.
Last Christmas, with my daughters and their families. We already knew Ilan was coming (obviously, look at Marnie!), but we didn’t know Lucy would be coming, too.

My grandson Ilan was born in March, and I got to be with Marnie and Tom in Chicago for a month, to welcome him to the world and to take care of their sweet family. Tom reached out to me this year in a way I will never, ever, ever forget (my eyes instantly fill with the hottest tears every time I think about it), and Marnie’s regular weekly phone calls to me are an ongoing treasure, more than she knows.

happy Pete, during a very quiet morning in the first couple of days of Ilan's life
happy Pete, during a very quiet morning in the first couple of days of Ilan’s life
And I got to go back and see him again when he was a few months old. ADORE.
And I got to go back and see him again when he was a few months old. ADORE.

My granddaughter Lucy was born in Austin in September, and I got to stay with sweet Oliver so Katie and Trey didn’t have to worry about any of that, and then I got to welcome Lucy home. The easy chances I have to see Katie, opportunities to spend time with her (which I love, she’s so sweet and funny and smart), opportunities to help out a little and be their regular old Pete, those moments are the real stuff of life and are a big glory in my heart.

so happy to hold my sweet little Lucy girl
so happy to hold my sweet little Lucy girl, applet of my eye
so happy dancing with Oliver, and swimming, and walking our very slow walks together
so happy dancing with Oliver, and swimming, and walking our very slow walks together, and listening to him call me Pete.

The BEST Halloween costumes — their mamas are so creative.

I got to cast my vote for a woman, for president. Two heroes entered my psychological world this year: Hillary, for the way she just keeps moving forward, she never gives up EVER, you knock her down and she gets right back up, ready to work as she has for at least 30 years; and John Lewis for his quiet persistence for 40 years. When I feel like giving up, I always think of them both, now. This year they joined Mister Rogers in my own personal pantheon.

happy and crying, my steady companion combo
happy and crying, my steady companion combo, but especially present as I voted.

I read so many wonderful books this year; especially, I found Vivian Gornick, Lidia Yuknavitch, Irene Nemirovsky, and Lucia Berlin, new favorites; Nemirovsky died in the Holocaust and Berlin is also gone, so I can only cherish the books they left behind — but Gornick and Yuknavitch (the latter most especially) are still writing, and on my forever watch list, now. My beloved poetry group continued meeting at my place throughout the year, and they shared so much extraordinary poetry with me, and taught me so many things I can never repay them. Our monthly meetings focused simply on reading and talking about poetry, all of us hyper-thrilled about that, what a pinch-me gift, man.

I spent time with so many beautiful friends in Austin and New York — and made new friends, too, an ongoing source of joy, to make new friends at this stage of my life. I’m so lucky to have friends who take me as I am. And I’m also lucky to have friends all over the world (shouting out especially to my antipodean beloveds, whose love I feel this far away, but also to friends in England and France and Canada. I fear this makes me seem like an extremely old person going on and on about these new-fangled devices called telephones, but I was once again blown away by Laura, calling me from Perth to sing Happy Birthday to me).

I’m always shy about getting a picture of us together, and I don’t know why — I so love having your pictures.

cindy
getting mehndi with my Cindy; I thought about using the photo of us celebrating my birthday together, but I liked the rhyme of “mehndi with my Cindy.”
don
my darling, precious friend Don, who calls himself (and is, in my life) my Jewish father.
girls
A subset of the “book club” women, my dear friends. Some are missing from this picture, (Anne, Diane, Jen….) but always with me otherwise.
nancy
Nancy, my boon companion and quirt-wielder and I don’t know what I’d do without her.
sherlock
Sherlock, one of my oldest, dearest friends. I wish I had a picture with Peggy.

This year I tried oysters and now cannot get enough. If I had a million dollars I would eat a million oysters. Thanks, Sherlock, for showing me how to eat them. And thanks, Nancy, for eating them with me too.

from the first batch, eaten with Sherlock
the first dozen, eaten with Sherlock
Also, I kept eating donuts. Because OBVIOUSLY.
Also, I kept eating donuts. Because OBVIOUSLY.
Marc's surprise for my early birthday celebration. He knows me. :)
Marc’s surprise for my early birthday celebration. 🙂
I got to make lots of delicious food for loved ones throughout the year, and even when the cake stuck, it was still MIGHTY GOOD.
I got to make lots of delicious food for loved ones throughout the year, and even when the cake stuck, it was still MIGHTY GOOD.

I went back and forth to New York City, and while that’s also quite hard and wearing, I never fail to also feel so lucky, like I get the best of two very different worlds. Marc and I continue to find our way to make things work for us, and I’m so grateful for that. When I’m in Austin, his morning texts start my day off with great joy (and usually mystery), and when I’m in NYC I delight in his delight in making food for me, and in the way he always takes my hand. We both grew this year in ways that were good for us individually, and definitely that were good for us together. Would I have dreamed any of this was possible in late 2012? NO. Even though I love every gritty, urban street and curb and subway platform (well, almost), I never get tired of walking in Riverside Park, ever.

park-snow
my beautiful park during the epic snowstorm
parksummer
and on any day in the spring, summer, or fall
Marc and I walk in the park every day, at least once
Marc and I walk in the park every day, at least once

I survived a few very hard things — in largest part because of my own strength, forged and honed over my 58 years of sometimes-difficult life, and in critical part because I have the best friends, who check on me all the time, like Dixie inevitably does and always at the right moment; who say my name to me over and over when I’m lost, like Nancy did when I was despairing one night; who call me darling, like Anne does when I’m in deep need; who sit next to me at parties or anywhere else when I’m barely there and help me through, like Lynn did at a big happy birthday party; who reach their hands out to me in ways immediate and virtual (oh gosh, all of you), and who also laugh with me, and share themselves, which is my favorite thing. The violent reappearance of my brother, after decades, and with scary threats, was probably my worst trouble this year, in ways most people can’t understand. That one nearly done the old girl in…..but I’m still here, blowing and going. And speaking of that, a book was dedicated to me this year:

I cry no matter how many times I read it.
I cry no matter how many times I read it.

I didn’t have nearly enough work all year; another year has passed without my son, an ongoing pain I’m not always sure I can bear; I caught the flu a couple of times, the worst on our terribly long travel day from Can Tho to Ho Chi Minh City to Bangkok to Trat to Mairood; the Republican candidate for president has left me feeling terrorized all year and I am praying so hard that goodness prevails; and as stressful as those things might be in moments, they pale in comparison to all the rest. Yep, being 57 was amazing. I’m the luckiest person in the whole world, with the best life, far better than I ever dreamed it could be, it would be.

Fifty-eight. Amazing.
Fifty-eight. Amazing.

Let me tell you this. It’s really a privilege getting to be 58. I’m proud of it! It’s a privilege to have lived so many years, to have seen the wonders and survived the pain; it’s a privilege to learn and grow; it’s a privilege to soften and open. My hair has more bright silver in it — so beautiful! Why would I want to pretend that isn’t true? When I smile, now, you can see the evidence of all the years I’ve smiled. My skin is changing, my memory isn’t the same, and that’s OK because it’s part of it, and I’m grateful to have the chance to have every part of it, every last bit.

Thank you for being in my life with me, in whatever form you’re here. Thank you for the words, the touches, the drinks and breakfasts and lunches and dinners, the happy hours, the notes, the calls, the many, many ways you hold our connection. Your presence, your words, your friendship, and your faithfulness mean the world to me, and I count myself so lucky to you know. Happy birthday to me, and now on to the next! oxoxoxoxox

the nature of it all

pushmepullyouRemember the Pushmi-Pullyu? It came to my mind this morning when I was reflecting on something I have been thinking about the last few days, which means it also comes up in conversation (with Nancy, yesterday) and in the way I think about various things I see. When the same kind of thought arises from such a wide and varying range of things, I notice.

  • My friend Cindy posted something on Facebook, a reminder to lower your shoulders, relax your jaw, breathe in and out — and this is a reminder I make to myself dozens of times each and every day. Dozens, literally. Every single day, without fail. Why don’t my bodily habits ever get it?
  • I keep finding myself drawn into an eddy of big worry about one thing or another . . . my lack of work, different details and concerns in my kids’ lives . . . and have to stop myself. Again and again and again.
  • Beautifully arranged sketchbooks like this fly past in my Instagram feed and I want to stop everything and just draw . . . but I remember that I don’t have this specific kind of talent, even as I have learned how to draw.

drawing

What pulls these things together? It’s an underlying pull toward finality, toward stasis, toward a sense that the fact that I have to revisit the same thing over and over means I haven’t “got it” yet. (And I’m not missing the humor in my frustration over not “getting it” that I don’t “get it.”)

This IS getting it. You learn things as many times as you need to learn them, and I think an essential part of human experience is this pushing-pulling experience. It’s like the lesson I learn every time I practice tree pose: Balance is not a static state. OH what an incredible lesson. When I’m in tree pose, my standing foot and my body are negotiating tiny shifts to stay in balance. This does not mean I’m doing it wrong, this is the nature of balance.

And so I resist my still-there impulse toward little concrete boxes:

  • “What’s wrong with me that I still raise my shoulders and clench my jaw all the time? STOP IT!”
    • My shoulders rise and my jaw clenches and I notice and make a shift.
  • Must fix these problems so I quit worrying about them! Or else just quit worrying!
    • It’s OK. Breathe, and open my hands. Do what’s possible.
  • I’ll never be a ‘real’ artist so don’t waste any time on it!
    • I don’t have to be. If I make myself happy that’s enough.

Perhaps this isn’t human nature so much as it’s just my nature, a built-in tendency toward, and expectation of, finality and certainty. It does seem central to my nature, to my temperament, or maybe it isn’t but struggling against it doesn’t help. Opening my hands, accepting, letting it be, and not running off into stories about it does help. It’s OK, Lori. Breathe, lower your shoulders, relax your jaw. Draw, if you want to draw; knit, if you want to knit; bake, if that’s what you want to do. Seek solutions to the worries that keep returning, and remember that a problem-solving stance usually helps. Welcome those little muscle shifts in foot and body, they are the thing itself.

And remember this, too: it’s not all lost. It’s never all lost, as long as your heart beats. Over the last few months I’ve once again lost the thread of my happiest way of living my life. Through the stress of the end of Katie’s pregnancy and Lucy’s arrival, through the terror of the political cycle we’re in, and through my ongoing efforts to find a way to hold onto consistency in my TX-NY life, I’ve lost my daily commitment to yoga, to meditation, to my kind of eating (especially that), to daily walking, to openness. It’s not just that my body is heavier, that my clothes are too tight, though those things are true; it’s that I’ve lost my connection to being present in the moment. So? I’ve fallen out of tree pose. OK.

Today I recommit myself to my mindfulness practice. To silence around me, to doing one thing at a time, to my beautiful food, to my nightly walk, to my yoga practice. Shoulders down, honey. Turn up the corners of your mouth, sweetheart. Open those hands, with the long, beautiful fingers. And take a deep, deep breath.

 

on the misnomer of “mentally ill”

meBefore I say anything else, I’ll claim it: I deal with mental illness. I’m not embarrassed by that, or ashamed of it, and I don’t think it means I’m weak, or broken, or less-than anyone in the world. This simply is, in the same way that I am tall, I have blue eyes, and my smile is gummy. All that simply is. (That doesn’t mean I’ve always been accepting of and happy about those things, except the blue eyes, but they’re all true whether I am happy and accepting of them or not. They simply are true of me.)

But I do very much take issue with two things: the idea that this relates to weakness or brokenness, and the terminology. I assume this was first termed “mental” illness to contrast it with “physical” illness — as if those are discrete, non-overlapping islands of experience — but my own experience, and the experiences of others I know, relate more to a framing as an emotional or psychological illness. I’m not sure what bugs me so much about framing all these struggles as mental illness, exactly, but I do think it’s the apparent separation from physical, which is mystifying, and also that it just drifts too far away from the experience, which then means people are on the wrong track when they try to understand others.

If I told you I suffer with an emotional illness, what would you ask me? Are you sad? Are you anxious? Are you scared? Do you feel despair? Do you feel like it’s too hard? Those questions get right at the nub of it, don’t they? Yes, when my depression is with me again, I am sad, and scared, and I feel despair, and like it’s too hard. When I answer those questions you understand something about me. I could also tell you that my brain chemicals are wacky, but what do you do with that, exactly? That’s a potential treatment approach that a doctor might help me with, but it doesn’t tell anyone anything.

And then there are other kinds of emotional/psychological illness, some of which I also deal with but have learned to keep closer to my chest because they are too frequently misunderstood. I’m not being cagey about them, and again I don’t think they mean I am broken or weak or less-than anyone, but they require more careful language and much more careful listening (and frankly, it’s the more-careful listening that’s the biggest problem). I’m talking here about different kinds of psychosis, for example, some of which are transient, some of which are nevertheless understood by the person in the midst of the experience, and some of which are devastating and debilitating, like the real tragedy of schizophrenia. People are starting to talk more openly about psychosis, and if you don’t know her already, Elyn Saks is an extraordinary woman with schizophrenia that roared forward while she was a student at Yale. Her memoir, The Center Cannot Hold, is exceptionally good at letting you see that illness from the inside, and her TED talk will leave you amazed. I saw her speak in NYC and with the rest of the audience, listened with my mouth open, in amazement.

But even more than my wish that these experiences were called “emotional illness” instead of “mental illnesses,” I wish they were conceptualized differently. They do not mean that we are broken. They do not mean that we are weak. They certainly don’t mean we are less than anyone else who does not have these experiences. Having these experiences simply means that we have these struggles, these painful experiences, these difficulties to deal with. Maybe they become so debilitating that it’s hard to keep a job, but much more often they simply mean that we suffer, and we too often feel all alone with that suffering. I hate that. I won’t draw the kinds of parallels that people usually draw with a physical illness (most often to diabetes or cancer, both of which people are also blamed for, at times….), but I will say that the suffering is real. If you know that someone you love is suffering and you dismiss it, well, you might want to examine that a little bit.

I do suffer. Partly I suffer even without emotional illness because I feel everything so intensely, and because I truly think that to live my life the best way I possibly can, that’s what I’m here to do. I’m not here just to deeply experience the “happy” bits, and to shunt off all the rest as quickly as I can. I’m definitely not here to take the position that well, that doesn’t serve me so I won’t feel it. I think it all serves us, and deepens us, and allows us to grow and learn more about who we are. And so I suffer when my experience is painful. AND I suffer quite terribly from periodic and chronic depression, and sometimes from suicidality. AND I suffer from PTSD, which also includes some strange experiences I’ll write about one of these days. And you know what? Not only do I reject anyone’s notion that therefore I’m weak, I instead say (with a bit of a fuck-you attitude) that actually, I’m stronger than most people I know. I’m strong enough to go there. I’m strong enough to come back. I’m strong enough to stand there and look at it in the face. I’m strong enough to go from here to there:

Yep. Strong enough to go from there to there and back again, strong enough to endure and get richer, and sometimes just strong enough to survive it. Strong enough not to be broken by the pain and sorrow and struggle. It’s the opposite of weak to sit inside that suffering, man, and anyone who has ever been there will give a very loud AMEN to that.

Can I get an amen on that up in here?
Can I get an AMEN on that up in here?

bringing it back

FOR ME, the best thing about meditation is the direction provided to new meditators: Just bring it back. Notice your mind is wandering? Just bring it back to your breath. Notice you’re lost in thought or emotion? Just bring it back.

I love that because it says “all is not lost!” I love that because it makes clear that ‘bringing it back’ IS the work, that ‘bringing it back’ must be said because mind-wandering is the most common thing. If not, they wouldn’t need to say that . . . and so you aren’t doing it wrong when your mind wanders, that’s exactly what minds do.

treeAnd for me, the very best thing about that saying is the application of it to life off the mat, which is where you spend almost all your life, right? It’s about recognizing that balance is not a steady state, it’s not the absence of stillness, it’s the effort of finding stillness. Standing in tree pose, the movements in your standing foot are the pose, they are the small adjustments you make to stay in balance. Tree pose is the adjustments, not some never-attained complete absence of need for adjustment.

And gosh, this is so helpful for me as I work to right the caboose and seek the balance I’ve temporarily lost. All I have to do is bring it back. That’s all. It doesn’t matter where I am, or how far I’ve slipped away from balance, all that matters is that I bring it back. That’s all.

And so I am back to the following, with compassion:

  • When I wake up, I drink 24 ounces of water and lie in bed thinking what I want from my day in human terms, not in “to-do-list” terms. What I want today is to be good to myself. What I want today is to eat well. What I want today is to be present with Nancy when I see her in an hour, to enter that space with her of trying to see and hear her, and share myself.
  • I plan good food for myself — my wonderful, delicious green smoothie for breakfast. An apple and almonds for lunch. A yummy dinner of the most colorful vegetables I have, with an egg or tofu. Plenty of water throughout the day.
  • Yoga before I go to bed, a nourishing yin class since my afternoon and early evening will be spent helping Katie with Oliver while she prepares for their week away. Being truly there with Oliver, and with my daughter.
  • Gentleness with myself about my many worries.

That’s it, I can do that today. I can just bring myself back to this kind of care. I can just bring my life back into balance, even if I’m in a different place than I was before I lost my balance. Even if I don’t have the upper body strength and degree of endurance I had on the mat . . . just bring the practice back. Even if my clothes don’t fit as comfortably. Even if I have to sit with some of the cravings I have after eating so badly in NY. Just bring it back, that’s all. Just today, which of course is the only time I can do this.

And I have to say that it helps SO MUCH to have encouragement and support from friends. I asked a group of friends to help me, and I am so grateful for their words and energy. All is not lost. I’m grateful to have lived long enough to have learned that! For most of my years I’d throw up my hands and think ah well, it’s all ruined now and that would be that. I’m glad to have learned differently.

I think this is so important, because I do not think my redirected life has failed! For two years I’ve been stable in my body and self-care, and recently I haven’t. And? So? That’s life as a human being, and boy am I a human being. xoxoxox

tilted caboose

off trackTHAT is me — that little caboose tipped on its side, fallen off the rails. But it’s not all the way on its side, it’s not unrightable, it’s just slipped off the tracks a bit and it’ll take a lot of effort and maybe some help to get it going again.

I do love a good metaphor.

This year has been . . . well, I don’t know how to characterize it. It’s been good! Such wonderful things have happened. Marnie had Ilan, one of the top five most beautiful babies ever born in this world. I got to spend a month there, helping her pass time during the two weeks before the birth, and helping them ease into life with their new boy. Lucky me! We went to China, surely the most foreign place we’ve been (which is so weird, because on the surface of things it was the least foreign). Katie is pregnant with a daughter, who will be born mid-September. Our sweet little Oliver continues to make us all so happy with his gentle nature and easy delight. I have my beautiful little home that I love so dearly, with Nancy right next door and friends nearby, and I have done my ordinary routine of life in two great cities.

But it has simultaneously made it hard on me in ways that I haven’t dealt with as I’d like. I’ve put on TEN pounds. Ten. I feel every last ounce, too, and it doesn’t feel good. I’ve gotten out of the rhythm of doing yoga, completely. The month in Chicago was tough — I’m allergic to cats and they have two, and it was freezing, and etcetcetc. Meditation? Nope. Walking? On rare occasion. Usually I walk a lot in New York, like 10 or 20 times as much as I do in Austin (miles-wise), but the tree pollen has been so awful here the whole time that I’ve stayed indoors, sneezing and coughing and battling sinus headaches. So almost no walking, even.

I miss myself.

I miss morning green smoothies. I miss feeling great in my body. I miss the luxurious feeling of movement in yoga. I miss my super healthy, yummy dinners. I miss walking and listening to a podcast. I miss feeling mindful, and the clarity and slowness of time that it brings. I miss feeling present.

These things must (and have been, for the last two years) be part of myself, whatever the external circumstances! It needs to not matter where I am, the circumstances of my daily life need to not be an excuse or explanation for why I don’t do life my way. AARGH. I feel so much better in every way when I do those things.

So today I recommit myself to myself. I’m in New York one last day, which means certain things (no morning green smoothie, no super healthy dinner, no walk given the pollen I literally see blowing in the wind through my watery, itchy eyes), and tomorrow I fly back to Austin, but today I recommit myself to mindfulness. I recommit myself to yoga, and plan to do at least half an hour of yoga this evening while Marc sees patients. I recommit myself to drinking lots of water. Just that, just for today.

If you’re off track too, in whatever way that matters to you, get on track with me. Think in the big picture way and start gently. I am not caring about what the scale says — I recommit myself to eating mindfully. We can do this together, or I could sure use your encouragement, if you are on track with yourself and have some to spare.

xx

strange (for me) stability

stabilityOn June 27, 2014, I started something new. What I really mean is that once again, I decided to do something new — even though it was the same old “new” thing I’d been trying to do my whole adult life: lose weight. I always accompanied that with the little thought and keep it off, but I never even put that into my decision as a real thing because I didn’t think it was possible. Because this has been my life-long M.O.:

  • Lose 50 pounds by starving myself
  • Several weeks later, “slip” and decide what the hell I’ve ruined it now.
  • Gain 50 pounds because I don’t know how to lose 5 or 10, but I sure know how to lose 50!
  • A couple of years (or more) later, repeat.

When I took yet another stab at it in the summer of 2014, I had a different mindset. I had a longer view; I was thinking about what I wanted my life to be in this next stage, so it was a whole-cloth, decades-long (hopefully!) view. I wanted to take excellent care of myself because I do want a decades-long stage, and I’m 57. I wanted to feel differently inside, and that was the umbrella over everything else. Strangely, I didn’t decide to start “on Monday,” or “at the beginning of the month,” I decided to start right at that moment, 4pm on a Wednesday, I think. I’d already been eating mostly vegetarian, by which I mean completely vegetarian when it’s my cooking, and doing the very best I can when others cook for me.

Because of who I am, I needed to monitor my “gains” (which means my losses), so I weighed every single morning. My day drifted into a rhythm: green smoothie for breakfast, nuts and fruit mid-day, an hour of yoga at 4, a beautiful dinner made for myself, an hour-long walk after dinner, and meditation before bed (and work in all those long spaces in between). I liked it! A lot! It was easy and it fit me. And the weight fell off, which surprised me.

But really, my biggest fear and concern came then, when I lost the weight. Losing weight, know how to do that, check. Keeping it off, complete mystery. And then my friend Megan said, “Decide you can do it! You can.” As silly as it may sound, that was transformative. Something shifted.

I’ve weighed myself every morning I could ever since, and that slight monitoring feels important. The coolest thing is that there were times I gained weight! During my month in Chicago, I gained 10 pounds; no surprise, given the kind of cooking and baking I was doing, and IPAs I drank. But the big surprise is that I shrugged, meh, who cares — because I enjoyed my time eating with the kids, and it felt like comfort and care. And I knew that I’d just get it off and get back to myself. When we travel to Southeast Asia, I want to enjoy the foods we eat and not be worrying, so when we return I always have a few pounds to lose so I can get back to myself.

Get back to myself. It’s just become “myself” now. There are times I can’t do yoga for a variety of reasons and I really miss it, so when I can do it again, it’s a sigh of return. Aah, back to myself. The weight slips away and I feel myself again. It’s a version of myself that never existed, a dreamed-of, elusive version, and now it’s just ME. And the best part is that I feel present in my life in a way I didn’t before, which brings the stillness I wanted.

How? Why? Truly, I think these are elements:

  1. I started immediately instead of waiting, even for the next day. Kinda caught me off guard! Oh, I’m already in it! One thing about that, I think, is that I’d already “blown” the early part of the day, surely, eating more or differently, which helped me think about those experiences differently.
  2. My perspective — the rest of my life was the whole point, instead of right now.
  3. A whole-life approach instead of just diet and exercise. And in fact, not even approaching it as “diet and exercise” but instead mindful eating that made me happy, and moving my body in ways that feel so good. I wanted to be calmer inside. Still inside. I saw all the changes I made as contributing to that goal, because that was my real, centering goal.
  4. Daily monitoring. For me, I really believe that’s important. It doesn’t come with inner nastiness, or critique at all! And my weight fluctuates, too — not just the big fluctuation of Chicago, or the semi-big fluctuations of vacation (which are usually 5 pounds), but up 2 down 1, etc. It just gives me a general awareness. I also have a number in mind that is my outer limit of gain, and if I hit that, I am just a little more careful with my dinners until I drop below it. More vegetables.

I love the way you can keep surprising yourself, even at 57. Once in a while I realize, with deep surprise, that I’m wearing the same size I’ve been wearing for more than a year. I don’t care what that size is, although I’m happy with it, but I do like that it’s the same size. And the stillness inside me, the way I more easily address the world and myself — not always, but more often and more easily — surprises me too. I am able to be present much more often, now. All that also feels like me now.

Today I’m flying to NYC and then we’ll be off to China at the end of the week. I hope it’s a good Tuesday in your life! xoxoxoxoxoxo

funky little heart/sweet little heart

It makes so much sense for our bodies to hold our hurts and experiences. How could it not — there’s no separation, even though some people talk as if mind and body are different things. My body has been through all the moments and events of my life, and my emotions have been felt by my body as physical, visceral things. I also know that experiences can be associated with specific physical consequences in a heartbreakingly (I’ll come back to that) metaphorical way. Women who have experienced sexual trauma are significantly more likely to experience IBS and cancers of the pelvic region. (Be careful: that doesn’t mean that someone who has IBS was necessarily sexually traumatized.) How profoundly apt and sad that a woman who already had to endure trauma in that part of her body then also has to experience something else terrible in a linked way. If I were Queen of the Universe, instead of just Queen of the Pillbugs, this whole deal would run very differently. As the benevolent queen I’ve always been, I would issue an edict: You were already hurt there, you don’t have to be hurt there ever again.

heartAnd so to me, the author of this blog. I can never talk about this without crying, but it is such a part of my life and has been since I was a little girl. My heart hurts, a lot. It gives me crushing pain, searing pain, penetrating pain. I have felt like I was impaled through my heart, for weeks after my father’s suicide. Surprisingly, I have had no trouble in my pelvic region, though the association would suggest I should; instead, I have these heart troubles.

A friend of mine had a heart transplant after his otherwise-perfectly healthy heart was attacked by a virus, so he has thought a lot about the metaphor of illness and heart, and he and I talked about it for so many hours when we were both in graduate school. It’s so poignant and evocative, and after talking about it with my friend, I realized that getting a donor’s heart is orders of magnitude different from getting a donor’s kidney or corneas, and not just because the donor always must die first. Always. Every time. That’s likely true with corneas too, but I’m unaware of any deep association with corneas, as fabulous and desirable as they are.

But a change of heart, wow. And heartache, not just a word or idea, literal heart ache. Pain, real pain in the chest where the heart is. And broken heart, how that hurts. Some broken hearts feel like you truly might not survive. Sometimes it really mimics a full-blown heart attack (Takotsuba cardiomyopathy, “broken-heart syndrome;” with immediate treatment, most people survive with no long-term damage). (If you, like me, enjoy this kind of thing, you may enjoy this academic article analyzing cross-cultural heart metaphors.)

And so my heart hurts, a lot. And frequently. I have a slightly insufficient aorta (not enough to be worried about, just monitored, and it doesn’t hurt at all; the only problem is that I feel insulted by being insufficient 😉 ). I also have this thing called paroxysmal tachycardia, diagnosed for me in Manhattan, and while it’s horrible to experience, it’s perfectly harmless. It doesn’t even have a long-term effect on the heart. Basically, I will just be doing something ordinary (sitting my chair, for example, or cooking) and all of a sudden my heart jumps to an extremely fast rate — it can go up to 220, but mine usually jumps to 160-180. It stops as suddenly as it starts, and can last from minutes to hours. There are different types, as a function of where it originates, but here’s the wiki page for the ventricular type. There’s a way to stop it (you hold your breath and bear down), but it leaves me feeling terrible, with a headache, with exhaustion, with a feeling of breathlessness. It seems to happen to me in big clumps, and I’m in one now so that sucks. SUCKS. When the first person arrived at poetry group Tuesday night, she looked at me and gasped, and asked what was wrong and said I looked pale and drawn. I’m telling you, it sucks.

Aside from the physical consequences, it also makes me feel like my heart is broken. It leaves me feeling the same pain I felt so many times when I was growing up, and those times were always while something terrible was happening, or had happened, so the feeling drags those associations along, even though I know that’s all old news and don’t even have to remind myself of that. So I’m left with a headache, a slightly elevated heart rate, and a reminder of old feelings. Sucks. Not good at all.

Of course I could be wrong, but I think if all this stuff was going on with my knee, it would be a very different experience. It’s definitely something about the heart, and all that signifies and carries. In New York I had one of the most wonderful doctors I’ve ever had, and once while I was lying on the table during an exam, after a bunch of cardiac tests, she looked down at me with soft eyes and stroked a clump of hair off my forehead and said, gently, “You have a broken heart, I know.” It was the most loving and maternal action that I’ve ever experienced. After palpating my abdomen, she stopped and did it more carefully and then turned to me with moist eyes: “You were kicked in the stomach a lot, weren’t you.” She was truly extraordinary, and I still can’t believe that I got to have her for my doctor.

I will be so glad when all this stops, which it will. Each instance stops, and the run of it will stop. And I am fine, and will be fine, and in my life I have had a terribly broken heart, even if it’s not broken now. Funky little heart, sweet and beautiful little heart, holder of so much.

xo

2016, whoa.

my darling family
my darling family

Well, happy new year, y’all! I used to do a year end/beginning post looking back at the year, and thinking ahead to the future. But then I started doing the looking back on my birthday (here’s that post for 2015), and the whole looking ahead thing came to make me laugh so hard because how the hell do I know what the year will bring! As soon as I make a prediction, I’m in fantasy land. That said, here are the things I think will happen this year:

  • My new grandson will be born at the tail end of February. Will he be a Leap Day baby? Will he arrive on his mama’s birthday (March 3), which I have superstitious reason to think he will? We will all be so glad to see that little face, that shayna punim.
  • Shortly after that, my darling Oliver will turn two. Two years as the apple of Pete’s eye, and as the love of his mommy and daddy’s lives.
  • In April we’re going to Southern China — the Guangxi province, and the Yunnan province, and a couple of days in Hong Kong at the end. The blog is set up but only barely. I just hope I don’t accidentally eat rat, that’s my big hope there.
  • We were going to Alaska around July 4, but all the places we can find are already booked. So maybe somewhere in Canada? Northern Michigan? No idea.
  • In late Nov/early Dec we’ll return to SEAsia, but no specific ideas just yet. Bali, maybe, which would make my heart sing.

Otherwise, I hope friends who faced difficult challenges with their health last year get clean bills this year. Friends who faced loss, I hope your hearts find ease. Friends who are dealing with fear around something, work perhaps, I hope you find resolution. Friends with money woes, cash all around! (Me too, please!)

I hope I read a lot of wonderful books. I hope I see sustaining movies and TV. I know I’ll spend as much time as possible with dear friends, either in coffee breaks or happy hours or over meals, or over poetry. I hope to see friends I didn’t get to see last year — Peggy and Tammy in CT, for sure, and anyone else I can! I know I will spend time with my family, and I know it’ll feel like not nearly enough, however much it is. I will continue my back-and-forthing between Austin and New York City. I have the same hope I’ve had the last two years: more of the same as last year, please.

One thing that has changed, the older I get, is a letting-go of making resolutions. For a couple of years I tried that deal where you adopt a word for your year, but I don’t seem to have what it takes to deal with that. I love the two resolutions my friend Kathy made (her blog is great, here’s her post from which I stole these two):

  • Less fear, more authenticity.
  • Say both Yes AND No more, but to different things than usual.

Man. Those are great, right? More authenticity, right on. I pretty consciously work at being authentic, which doesn’t mean I always succeed but it does mean that I value it, and work toward it. Less fear, boy I’d love that. For me, fear is less focused on specific things and more a general undercurrent, like anxiety. I would love to lose that too-easy fear. Swapping my overuse of yes and no seems like a brilliant idea. Otherwise, in addition to those two great ideas/formulations, I look forward to getting back to my daily yoga practice (highly irregular ever since our vacation to Vietnam and Thailand), my morning smoothies (ditto) and wonderful healthy dinners (ditto), my daily walking (ditto, though much more often while Marc has been here).

Whatever happens for me, and for you, I look forward to making my way through another year of my beautiful little life, and I am glad you come along with me. <3

Happy birthday to me!

“Still, there are times I am bewildered by each mile I have traveled, each meal I have eaten, each person I have known, each room in which I have slept. As ordinary as it all appears, there are times when it is beyond my imagination.” ― Jhumpa Lahiri, Interpreter of Maladies

Today I turn 57. In the last year, I had truly extraordinary times, so many joyous times, easy happiness for months on end, one deeply painful issue that still hurts and in fact hurts more than I think I can bear sometimes, and one dark period and one deep dark black period. This is long, but I have so very much to be grateful for, and you’re in here, I promise you. I learned a lot about myself this year; what a treat, that you can keep surprising yourself for so long. I kept my promise to myself this whole year in terms of eating well and mindfully, and doing near-daily yoga and meditating and walking. I celebrated our precious and happy Oliver turning 1, and the news of my darling Marnie’s pregnancy with a boy, arriving at the end of February. Two grandsons, what gifts, as I watch my family, the little family I tried so hard to make, grow into the future.

Since my last birthday I traveled a lot. I went to NYC every month, except the two months Marc came here. I went to Chicago on Mother’s Day to see Marnie and loved sitting in her booth at Zine Fest and seeing people respond to her beautiful work. Right after my birthday last year we went to Laos and Cambodia; in March I went to Colombia; in July I went to Norway and saw the midnight sun; in 13 days I return to Vietnam for the fifth time. Seeing the world, a treasure I never thought would happen to me, but it has for the last 10 years.

This year I celebrated the birthdays of my dearest daughters Katie and Marnie, and their families, and my friends. With my book club boon companions, we read books, we ate good food, we laughed so much, we went to happy hours together, we saved each other in one way or another, and our friendships deepened even more. With friends near and far, I enjoyed love and friendship and laughs and commiseration. With Traci I had two lunches each month in NYC and hours of sharing ourselves with each other, such a treasure. Dinners with Craig in New York, though not nearly enough of those, always rich in laughter and feeling seen and known. I even got to see Sherlock this year, but not my darling Peggy. Dear friends in Austin, in other states, in Europe and Canada, and even on the other side of the world, down under — all very real to me, very important, dear friends. Although I already knew this, I learned even more about how critical friends are to a full and happy life, and sometimes to life itself. My friends saved me last month in a very real way. So many walked right into that deep, dark hole and held my hands gently and brought me back into the light, friends in Austin and New York and Connecticut and Pennsylvania and France and Australia, just staggering. Friends, riches beyond compare. Daughters, wealth beyond compare.

a friend interlude -- my book club women, so much love
a friend interlude — book club women, so much love. missing Dee.

kandoI have a chosen family that carries me gently and with so much love, and I feel the same. Sherlock and Craig, my brothers. Peggy and Dixie, my sisters. Don, my Jewish father. Nancy, my….no idea, just my dearly loved family. I feel like there is so much more to say there, but I don’t know the words. I’ve done without a mother for 57 years, so I guess it’ll go that way, but I have a big enough family to hold and enfold me. And then of course my birthed family, Katie and Marnie, who I simply could not do without. Their husbands, always so good to me and to my daughters. I’m so grateful for my sweet family.

Since my last birthday I read so many books, mostly for work, but some for pleasure: Did You Ever Have a Family; A Little Life; Do No Harm; four of the Karl Ove Knausgaard volumes titled  My Struggle; On the Move, Oliver Sacks’ memoir; A House in the Sky; The End of Your Life Book Club; The Empathy Exams; We Are All Completely Beside Ourselves; The Unspeakable; Kafka on the Shore; She Weeps Each Time You’re Born; Norwegian Wood; Colorless Tsukuru Tazaki and His Years of Pilgrimage; Station Eleven; Dept. of Speculation; The Laughing Monsters; West of Sunset; The Children Act; The Sleepwalker’s Guide to Dancing; Loitering; The Bone Clocks; Everything I Never Told Youand Cutting for Stone. Of these, my very favorites were the four giant Knausgaards, A Little Life, She Weeps Each Time You’re Born, Station Eleven, Loiteringand Dept. of Speculation. And then there were so many I reread for the remembered pleasure, including the one I’m rereading for the 5th(?) time, Blood Meridian by Cormac McCarthy. That always feels like an autumn book to me for some strange reason. So many I reread, I can’t even remember. The gift of literature, my oldest and most consistent love, I guess.

Every month but one, I think, poetry group met in my house and we shared truly wonderful evenings together, nearly all of the poetry beautiful and expansive and moving. Those friends taught me so much about poetry, and I’m so grateful for their generosity. I learned some new poets to follow, like Frank Bidart, and two of my friendships in that group deepened a lot. I found new music thanks to my very dear friend Val, who sent me an album of Imagine Dragons because she thought I would enjoy it, and at just the perfect time, and added a lot of Iris Dement to my library, thanks to my beautiful Traci. Around Austin and New York, and around the world, I ate a lot of fabulous food and will be drinking a whole lot of amazing tea (thank you Sherlock and Peggy). And I cooked a lot of fabulous food too, including this buttermilk biscuit jag I’ve been on and can’t seem to stop—especially since I discovered Tasmanian Leatherwood honey, and received some of Karyn’s delicious honey from her bees. Books, poetry, music, food, so many riches.

And the ordinaries, the moments throughout the days and weeks that give me peace and ease, or simple happiness, or even joy and bliss, which I am grateful to experience on a regular basis. My morning coffee routine, a deep pleasure never taken for granted. Weekly coffee breaks with Nancy, communion in the deepest, real meaning of that word. The real pleasure of my sweet little home, and the way I get to welcome people into it. Drawing, which I learned how to do this year, a regular joy and wonder. Nightly walks and stories in my ear, meditative pleasures. Sitting on my patio in the cool moments of a day, feeling the soft air on my face and the quiet joy of having my own space. My so-cozy bed, my refuge at the end of each day, crisp white sheets and a soft comforter.

Of course Facebook makes it easy for people — far-flung people — to wish you a happy birthday, but it’s always so surprising to get the emails, cards, gifts, and notes from people who remember. Like Kty in Paris, who remembered — how? how did she remember this? — that I love yellow flowers. People who remind me about Big Daddy or Mister Rogers just when I need to remember them — how do you do that? Little interpersonal touches that show me that somehow I live in the hearts of people in so many places. It doesn’t feel like there is a big enough gratitude for touches like these.

OandP090215No one ever knows what the coming year will bring, me least of all. I’ve noticed that the things I worry about most tend not to happen, and I never once imagined the dreadfulest things that happened. I guess, if it’s not too greedy, I’d like another year like this past year: daughters and their sons and husbands, friends far and wide, books, art, poetry, good food, travel, continued good health for me and Marc and everyone I know please. Gee, that looks like a whole lot to ask for. I expect and hope to travel to Chicago in February for the birth of Marnie’s and Tom’s son, and I expect I won’t get nearly my fill of my kids and grandsons, even little Oliver who lives up the road a ways.

I’m damn glad to be here and I couldn’t have done it without you. Thank you for being here with me, and for celebrating my birthday with me if you do. Thank you for living this life with me, for the ways you keep me going, the ways you share yourself with me, and the ways you encourage me with so much love. Thank you for the times you let me love you. I’m so grateful for this past year, which was an absolutely wonderful year in almost every way. Even the dark times mattered, even though I did not like the suffering. So happy birthday to me, and many more! On to 58!

p.s. I’ll bet you knew that I cried while writing every single word. xoxoxox

Let’s moai together

Maybe I’m the last person to find out about this, but do you know about moais, as part of the Blue Zone Project? Generally speaking, a moai is a group of people who commit to each other, who count on each other for a common purpose. In Okinawa, one of the five places in the world where people live an extraordinarily long time, people have 5-person moais that they commit to for life.

“Okinawans create moais—groups of five friends that commit to each other for life. Research shows that smoking, obesity, happiness, and even loneliness are contagious. By contrast, social networks of long-lived people favorably shape their health behaviors.”

handsThis feels like a very big thing to me, and something I’m interested in pursuing. I have a bunch of very good friends and we all support each other, pull for each other, encourage each other, but this feels like something different. This is focused and pointedly committed. I love the idea of commitment for life; that’s automatically a different frame. It’s like a friend-marriage. Through thick and thin, through difficult times, the commitment means you stick it out.

There are Blue Zone moais in a range of places; you can even join a walking moai in Ft Worth on Meetup, for heaven’s sake. That seems less like a moai and more like a Meetup, but what do I know. Because the Blue Zone concept is all about health (of all kinds, physical, emotional, spiritual), the point of these moais takes that form.

I don’t quite know what I’m thinking of here, but I’d sure like to explore it. Would you? I doubt we’d have to all live in the same place, although having at least a person or two in the same place seems critical. We could have a private place online — a secret Facebook group — that could be our virtual shared space. My thoughts are that we would rely on each other for support, encouragement, tough talk if it comes to that, and time together. I am especially interested in the commitment aspect, and would like to commit for life. Not just hope that it works out that way, but commit. I imagine our personal friendships would deepen dramatically, but that isn’t the pointed mission for itself. I don’t think there’s anything magical about the number five, but I do suspect that it can’t be a huge, huge group and work the same way.

If you are interested in talking about this with me, even if you aren’t at all sure you want to do it, please email me! pillbugqueen [at] gmail [dot] com will get me. At this point we’re just talking and figuring things out.

“be a person who”

Zoolander always makes me think of my son
Zoolander always makes me think of my son

I know this is a regular theme of mine, but it amazes me so much I keep finding my way to a surprised reflection on it: I hardly recognize myself.

  • I exercise every single day, at least once — yoga and/or walking and/or strength training.
  • I am a vegetarian (though when I’m in NYC and my husband cooks, it’s hard hard hard).
  • I have a tan. (The least important of these changes, but the most remarkable for eternally lily-white me. This is mostly due to my ease with my body, now, so my willingness to be outside in a bathing suit.) (Plus, I think the daily dose of sun has been great for my spirits.)
  • I start every day with a green smoothie, and now I also have a juicer.
  • I meditate regularly.
  • And then these two, which are in a different category but all of a piece with the whole:
    • I’m not motivated to hide my smarts any more.
    • I have more friends than I have time to be with, and a rich social life.

NONE of that was ever true for me, ever. Ever. Not once in my 56 years of life. In fact, the inverse of those things has been true. It’s so weird, and since I think a lot about change, I’m kind of fascinated by how it has happened — especially since it has stuck for an uninterrupted year, and the changes are expanding, and my very sense of myself has changed.

Jeff, my VERY sweet and deeply thoughtful health coach
Jeff, my VERY sweet and deeply thoughtful health coach

It’s easy to say that my food-related shifts are due to working with Jeff, my health coach, but he would insist — and I’d have to agree, now — that he facilitated something I was really ready to do. I’d become so overwhelmed and frustrated and anxious about everything having to do with food, I had no idea how to eat any more, and I was tired of yo-yoing. Up 50 lbs, down 50 lbs, repeat. Just so tired of that. And with eight little words from him, everything changed: You can eat ALL the fruits and vegetables. Of course it was more than that, it was having him to talk to about it, and even just deciding to pay someone to help me with it, but that eight-word sentence started a shift.

I think if I’d just “decided to become a vegetarian,” I might’ve done that for a while and then drifted back to unhealthy eating, my life-long M.O. But then, once that change was underway, I was a vegetarian who also started each day with a green smoothie. A person who bought a VitaMix. A person who stopped at JuiceLand for a treat, instead of the grocery store for a pint of ice cream. (Though on occasion it’s still a treat!) In talking with Jeff about health in general, I started moving more, I got off the couch. I finally listened to my own self — Lori, you love yoga, just do some damn yoga. And after a bit, I bought myself a very nice yoga mat and some blocks. And after a few weeks of using a free app on my phone for yoga routines, I signed up for YogaGlo, an inexpensive monthly subscription to hundreds of online classes. Well, by this time I was a person who ate all the fruits and vegetables, started the day with a green smoothie, did yoga, and then I started walking more regularly.

All those incremental shifts accumulated and settled into place, and became habit. I grew into a person who did those things. A person whose life held those habits. And when you’re a person with those habits, other habits make great sense and fall into place more easily. Now I’m also a person who owns a juicer! I’m about to become a person who bicycles, as soon as I find a bike. Now I’m a person who lives a healthy, conscious, engaged life.

And so I’m wondering about this construct, “being a person who….”. I wonder if change happens more deeply if we have a different view of ourselves as a person, so perhaps a kind of top-down shift. (Although my shift was definitely bottom-up, beginning with one tiny change that collected others in the neighborhood.) Maybe the issue is that once that top-down understanding has arrived, the rest is easy and the change is permanent. I no longer feel like I’m resisting my old self — a feeling I had for several months as I started making these small changes.

Maybe you want to be “a person who makes a difference in the world.” Maybe you want to be “a person whose life is creative.” Or “a person who draws people together for art/music/poetry.” I don’t know, I’m just brainstorming. But I wonder about this; would it be different if you signed up to volunteer somewhere as opposed to wanting to be “a person who makes a difference in the world” — and then perhaps signs up to volunteer somewhere? Maybe your own understanding of what you’re doing would matter, would help you persist through disappointment or frustration.

If you aren’t all that happy with the way you’re living your life — and let’s just say in this general domain, for the sake of discussion — what would it mean to you to be a person who lived a healthy life? It might look very different from my version. I wonder if starting with that question and then just plucking different elements to work with would be helpful? Hmmm. I think I’ll do that with myself on another topic, now that I think about it. So I think this becomes less about change, and more about growth.

I remember when I was staying at home with baby Katie, and one day as I was making the beds and planning to clean bathrooms, I thought, so this is my life, making beds and cleaning bathrooms — but immediately after that I realized no, my life is making a cozy home for my dear family. The big-picture view instead of the foot-level view.

Anyway. If you live in Austin and know someone who wants to sell a bike, I’m all ears.

riches

Last night we celebrated the birthday of one amazing woman in our book club. We gathered at a cool Indian restaurant near downtown; the last time I ate there it was a food truck. This happens a lot in Austin.

friends
my wonderful book club (minus Karyn, who was traveling) and various husbands, friends, sons, daughters, sisters.

It was an exceptionally joyous evening, I thought; we love celebrating together, and we make a point of celebrating birthdays, but there seemed to be something a little extra special about last night’s celebration. It was also a lovely evening, early spring, soft.

While we were there last night I realized all this, but it was in looking at this picture this morning that I felt washed over with gratitude. This group of people, this welcoming, loving, warm, intelligent, loving group of people represent so much of my beautiful life in Austin. The beating heart of it is Katie and Oliver, of course, but when I think about what makes my life so large and textured and beautiful, it’s big: it’s Katie’s little family, these beautiful people, my poetry group, Nancy who I still cannot believe my great good luck to know and love and live next door to, Cindy who crosses so easily into my honest heart, other friends I care about and simply don’t get enough time to see on a regular basis. My beautiful, sweet home. This place, Austin, that is the most deeply familiar place I’ve ever lived — two of my children were born here. Bluebonnets. Deep Eddy. Great food. Live music.

I’m so healthy it’s amazing. How lucky is that?! I’m strong and look pretty good for an old gal and have enough work and get to see the world but I have my solid base here.

I look at that picture and easily remember the last time I was at that restaurant a couple of years ago. It’s where I first met two of the women in the picture, actually, but I barely remember because I was in such terrible shape that I’d forced myself out the door and couldn’t wait to hurry home and crawl back into my bed to cry. Two years ago. Then I had Katie and Trey, horrible grief over losing everything, and the house I’m renting. And now, just look. Everything is as different as it possibly could be. I’ve been sitting here trying to see if there’s anything that isn’t different, and the answer is no, not really. It’s all so different. Even our grief over Gracie has found a level that allows us to live with it.

Dang, y’all. Life can pull a 180 and even though you think it’ll always be dark, it really isn’t. Lucky, lucky me.

well OK then.

I’m flying this morning to New York, but I just have to say a little more about this truly (to me) shocking thing that happened on Wednesday. One way I am not a very good adult is that there are ways I should take care of myself, but I don’t — and one is that I just won’t go to the doctor. I hate going to the doctor, partly because I’m just so healthy I imagine either it’ll just be money spent to learn that I’m healthy, or because I think they’ll spin something out into a worry that really isn’t a worry. I’m stupidly healthy with stupid good blood pressure — 112/78, my most reliable number. I’m from long-lived healthy people who live into their late 90s, if they aren’t alcoholics. I also don’t go to the dentist, but I make up for it by taking super good care of my teeth.

My husband, on the other hand, goes to the doctor all the time. All the time. For very understandable reasons, he also expects the absolute worst to happen, so every little strange thing that happens in his body he imagines to be something fatal. It drives him crazy that I don’t go for regular check-ups, and he got outright mad at me when he was here, because I haven’t seen a doctor at all for ~3 years, maybe more, so I went ahead and made an appointment. The only real problem I have is a slightly insufficient aorta, and osteoporosis, and I have not been careful about taking extra calcium. In 2011 I crossed from osteopenia into osteoporosis, worst in my hips and a little less bad in my spine. But all the numbers had crossed that magical mark from -penia into -osis. I truly thought that that was a direct path, one-way only, into worse and worse -osis. I was curious about how much worse it had gotten, and that was really my only concern going in.

I have been working around the edges of it. I consistently do yoga sessions that focus on balance, to help me not fall. On flexibility, to help me catch myself and not fall. On strength so I’m less likely to fall. I carry my cell phone with me at all times, and put it next to the tub every morning when I take a shower, in case I fall so I can get help immediately. I don’t rush and am mindful in situations that might be risky, like stepping around the dishwasher in my small kitchen. Instead of doing a long extended reach-around, I just step around (and carefully). The consequences of broken hips are more often fatal for women than heart disease. It’s serious. I was having dinner with a friend earlier this week and we talked about our real horror of falling, and how almost obsessed we both are about helping ourselves not fall. It was a funny moment to share.

SO. Exam: check, absolutely no problems anywhere, healthy as a horse. Blood work: absolutely great in every way. Cholesterol ratio better than the nurse sees, outstanding. Liver, kidney, thyroid, check check check. Healthy as a horse. Like every single person I’ve ever heard of, I’m Vit-D deficient, which I wouldn’t worry about except it facilitates calcium absorption into bones. Mammogram scheduled when I’m back from NYC but it all looks good, her exam showed healthy tissue. Bone density scan: SHOCKING. I moved backwards in my spine, back into -penia! My left hip? Back into -penia! The right hip ratio? Back into -penia, although the neck of that hip is still in -osis. (That’s the narrow part in the picture on the right, and it’s where breaks are most likely to occur.)

bones

Maybe you knew this was possible without taking drugs or supplements so this isn’t at all surprising to you, but I had no idea it was possible. I thought the best I could do was to keep it from getting worse, I truly did.

My greatest improvement was in my spine, and the radiologist said that my yoga practice (and my diet) is responsible for that. Yoga is especially good for the spine, and since many of the poses are weight-bearing, you get that aspect too. Walking and running are especially good for the hip bones, so now my mission is to walk more and try to get that right hip neck down into -penia too. I just had no idea this could happen, and it feels thrilling, like the biggest news I’ve heard in so very long.

Of course I can’t know for sure, but I’ll bet the news — especially about my bones — would’ve been quite different if I lived the way I always used to. Not too great a concern for healthy eating, a too-great focus on sweets, and zero (by which I truly do mean zero) exercise. Do yoga, especially if you’re a woman in or approaching my stage of life. Just do it. Walk regularly. And while going vegetarian has been so great for me just because it liberated me and made eating so simple, I do think that the more you can add vegetarian food into your diet — even if you don’t just eat vegetarian — the better your health will be. Turns out I have been getting more than my daily requirement of calcium just from the food I eat! A cup of almond milk — the liquid in my morning smoothie — has 600mg, and my daily requirement is 1200mg. Halfway there, and the spinach I include adds 60mg more.

I have a Pinterest board filled with vegetarian recipes I’ve collected, and I haven’t found a bum one in the mix yet. I haven’t made them all (I have 1,057 recipes pinned), but the ones I have made have been wonderful. If you want to check out the board and save any recipes that look good to you, just click the picture below:

pinterest

And once more with feeling, a hearty recommendation for YogaGlo. My favorite teachers are Jason Crandell, Stephanie Snyder, Amy Ippoliti, Jo Tastula, and Felicia Tomasko. They offer a free 15-day trial period, and I was so hungry for that 16th day I signed right up. It’s $15/month, and if you look at the cost of yoga classes you see what a deal this is. New classes all the time, classes for any reason, various times of day, different needs. Being able to do it at home means I actually do it. (And if I want to be more social, I can always go take a real life class.) If you’re worried about not doing the poses correctly and using poor alignment, let me show you this:

YogaForce Mat
YogaForce Mat

You can find that on Amazon, but it’s expensive — $89 usually, on sale right now for $73. BUT! You can also draw these lines on your own yoga mat with a fat sharpie! I refer to the lines all the time and use them to ensure proper alignment. Of course be sure they’re perfectly parallel and the cross lines are perfectly perpendicular to the long line, but there you go.

Shocked. I’m just so so shocked. I feel so powerful — I changed my bones, did that myself! A condition that felt inevitable turns out to be just a little bit evitable. 🙂 That is amazing. Taking care of your health doesn’t just hold off trouble, it can even reverse something as solid (or not) as your BONES. I remain shocked by this, and return to the mat with a new kind of gratitude. Take care of yourself.