Like Words Together Reflections from the deep end of Practice.

10Aug/200

Headache Day

It was with me all day. Aching, throbbing behind my ears. Temple spikes. Sinus aches. It occurred to me by the afternoon that I had both a tension and sinus headaches.

Ibuprofen and a nap didn't help much. Hoping tomorrow is better.

I'm grateful we're getting takeout. I'm feeling a little extravagant this past week, but I'm glad I got wok bowls for us.

9Aug/200

Stay or Go

During my doctor's appointment she confirmed what I'd believed:

I am high risk for COVID.

CK is VERY high risk. Our physician said to me, "CK can't get this. I don't think she'd die, but it would be very bad."

It's good to just have it out and clear. I feel justified in all my caution and my willingness to set boundaries with people.

I go out, with lots of precautions. She stays home unless she needs to be out.

Today we had our first physically distant visitors. Christie's sister and her two partners stopped by. They were all nearby, having hiked at a nearby park. I set up folding chairs in the driveway. We showed off the veggie garden.

6Aug/200

Genetics and Destiny

I was so relived after my doctor's appointment I had potato chips.

"Genetics isn't always destiny.", she said to me.

While I've got significant family history of cardiovascular disease, I have done a really good job keeping the risks down.

My doctor was looking at seven markers, cholesterol, diabetes, hypertension, inflammation, and others I'm not recalling clearly. I have over risk factor, high LDL cholesterol.

In that risk, the shape of my LDL particles is the least likely to accumulate. Big, fluffy LDL is good, if you've got it.

I've done everything I can do with dietary changes. I'm dealing with my lousy genetics on both sides. Entering into post-menopause life flipped me over after keeping it low through diet for over 12 years.

I could just say I don't want to do anything else at this time. My doctor backs this up because the good numbers in my tests after very good.

However, I feel like it's a moral obligation to not ignore it. So I'm going to be getting a test at OHSU that will measure any build up in my carotid artery. If that's really low, I'm further reassured that I'm controlling risk factors well.

If it's high, we'll discuss.

I'm also going to try taking a supplement made from red rice yeast that contains naturally occurring statins. It might not cause the usual side effects associated with this class of drugs, muscle pain and brain fog. If I get side effects, I don't take it any more.

We test again in 6 months.

She's delighted I'm boxing on our Switch. Doing cardio exercise daily is "extra credit". Not required, but might help my LDL. Definitely will help the rage I've been dealing with.

We even talked through what "cardio" looks like for someone who's asthma is triggered by usual cardio.

Talked about Intuitive Eating, I'm to stick with it. She's in agreement that I'm lucky to not have a full blown eating disorder. I'm to be work at not skipping meals even though food isn't always appealing.

I'm so grateful.

30Jul/200

Good News, Anxiety

I heard back from my doctor this morning in response to my letter. I have her permission to continue to explore Intuitive Eating and stop reading, and obsessing about, the saturated fat numbers on all food I consume.

I realized after reading her response that I'd be holding my breath with anxiety this whole time. I was giddy with relief as I started to teach, so I shared that and then did a meditation on the sensations of gratitude and relief in the body.

I've spent much of the day feeling anxious. Being seen, valued, and having my needs met in this way feels good, but also leaves me feeling unsettled. As though my brain can't distinguish between happy excitement and certain dread.

Tomorrow I'll practice really celebrating that I have more good happening with my health even if I've lousy genetics. I'm really grateful for our doctor.

23Jul/200

My Needs

Still trying to convince my critical self that I deserve rest, movement that isn't a household task, make at, and play on my own.

It is when I center myself that I get stuck. I don't put my own needs first on the list. I was trained not to and was still told I was selfish when I would try to do my own thing.

I then had spouses who took advantage of this. Which further pushed me into the habit of not caring for myself.

CK actively appreciates that I put her first, but also reminds me that I have to take care of me. We've lived through my not taking care of myself.

I'm not yet ready to say, "Me first!", but I'm accepting I need to be in the top 3.

We've been playing a bowling game! Exploring more things we can do at home together with more movement! CK ordered a set of controller for me, they won't get here until next month because I'm waiting for a set that are purple and orange!

22Jul/200

Cardio & Cholesterol

For most of my adult life I've been chasing a lower cholesterol number. For over a decade following a vegan diet and doing yoga has done the trick. Now at 50 it's not working so well. My doctor tested my blood at the beginning of the year and the numbers were high.

This month she tested again, an expanded panel on lipids, and the numbers are still high. Better than January, after months of student cookie gifts, donuts, and fried potatoes of all kinds. We hoped we'd see a significant change since the pandemic has kept us from eating out as much and I don't see students anymore.

The numbers did improve, but not as much as we'd hoped. Also not as much as expected, given my diet. I am not fat free and do get a fair bit of saturated fat from things like nuts, avocados, coconut milk in stuff, chips, and chocolate. Even then, I don't eat those things daily or excessively.

My doctor said she's wondering about a genetic issue.

I really don't want to have to go on a long search for a statin that doesn't cause joint pain, something I already live with, and doesn't cause brain fog. Something I also live with since C-PTSD causes me enough Trauma Brain fog already.

Today I sent my doctor some more family history, my concerns about statins, and a couple of questions of things I haven't done yet. The big one question I have is around exercise that raises my heart rate. The yoga I do has helped reduce my cortisol levels, but it doesn't really get my heart rate up.

My therapist and I discussed this too, I noted that in these pandemic days the only way my heart rate is getting up there is rage. While this is a good joke, we both agreed that some amount of time each day with my heart rate up will help with the rage and anxiety I'm experiencing, even if it doesn't help my LDL cholesterol!

I jumped right into it after that discussion. The past couple of nights I've done a very brisk, twenty minute walk on the treadmill. Today I also explored the Fitness Boxing game on the Switch, it's got a 3 day trial. I was surprised to find I really enjoy the boxing, so we're going to buy it and more controllers so we can both play it together.

I'm not actually getting my heart rate up to true "cardio" range, but high enough that I'm sweating and a little winded. Our treadmill gives some heart rate details, so I know I'm not staying up very high. My asthma doesn't do great at a high rate, it never has. I mentioned all this to my doctor in my letter today and asked if I have to be at a high burn for a long time to make any difference or is just getting it up higher for 20-30 minutes a day enough to potentially help?

I got to sleep faster last night. Tonight my mind's going fast, so I'm just writing this all out on my laptop to get it out! Now onto a little down dog and meditation.

30Oct/170

Flexible Schedule Gratitude

Right now I have my schedule set up so that I don't have to rush on Monday or Friday mornings. I also only work 3 evenings a week now, teaching at the same place on Monday, Wednesday, and Friday evening. I gave up a class that was doing fairly well on a Tuesday night because I was so tired all the time. Having the ability to have a slow start some mornings, not be out in the thick of traffic trying to get somewhere, really helps me a lot.

I am teaching 12 classes a week these days, usually seeing one client as well. I've added back in appointments with a new therapist and that's gone well so far. I feel like I'm getting to a good balance of teaching, seeing clients, caring for my own health, and household stuff like errands, grocery shopping, etc. Ideally I'd like to be where I'm seeing a client one day each week, I could add that many in and not feel too overwhelmed.

Having a schedule that's relatively flexible means that I have opportunity to do things like write, do business planning tasks, and rest if I need to. As my training wrapped up, I have found myself having more energy to tackle more things.

24Oct/170

Autumn Sunshine Gratitude

Really trying to get into the practice of writing a gratitude without judgement. I wrote my one about Whimsy recently and felt so cranky and judgmental about it! There will be days where it feels like I'm reaching and there will be days I repeat the same gratitude. The practice and reflection is the whole meaning for doing it.

I was about to tell myself I wasn't allowed to write another gratitude for October, having already done that. Silly how rules get in the way of practice, the way the busy mind makes up obstacles instead of just writing.

Today I've been most grateful for the brilliant sun against a blue sky. Occasional white, streaky clouds for added drama here and there. This brilliant combination, lighting up all the leaves turning brilliant as the days grow shorter. Everywhere I looked today trees seemed to be glowing with brilliance, this last burst of color as they die.

Despite not really wanting to go for a walk today, having had an on-and-off again headache on top of poor sleep, I'm grateful I went out. Spending even 20 minutes walking briskly does the dogs good and being out amidst the brilliant sun and bright trees did me good as well.

4Nov/130

Pause

After a lot of thinking and talking, and frankly quite a lot of reassuring by CK, I've decided to take off most of November to recover somewhat from the past nearly 18 months of unrelenting yak-shaving, missed lunches, canceled yoga class, and late nights at work. The Project from Hell lurches ever onward, only it will do so without me for a little pause.

CK has been calling it my sabbatical. Her goal is that I start to sleep more regularly, more often, and get some rest from the intensity that took off in January 2011 with all the Mom Drama and has really not let up since. I'm also on hand to coordinate meetings, visits, etc. for Mom to transition to a different living environment.

I hope I might actually make a little art. Another casualty of the past months is art as a kind of practice. I've joined the Portland Collage Artists Guild group which meets once a month to learn about techniques and work on projects. The December meeting includes a blind gift exchange of personally made artwork. So I have a goal and a deadline for that!

I'm going to try and write about each day.

Today I woke up a bit later than I normally would and took care of the morning routine without the usual rush of needing to get out to my office. I then went over to the Southwest Community Center for a deep water exercise class. I've not done one of these in well over a year and in the year+ we've lived in our new neighborhood, I hadn't been the community center. I was careful and very mindful of my shoulders and neck, which felt a little sore by 3pm. My lower back felt better immediately.

I've ran an errand and did several chores around the house. In the evening I went to a concert with a friend. We went to see Richard Thompson opening up for Emmylou Harris and Rodney Crowell. I somehow thought "doors at 7" meant the seating doors, and rushed to get to the venue before 6:45. My friend had just arrived too. We then realized the error and reminded ourselves that this show had assigned seats and went next door for a cocktail.

Gorge Tumbler - Portland, Oregon - November 4, 2013

Although there's really nothing on the menu I can eat at the Heathman Hotel, aside from olives and nuts, one of the sections of the hotel is this posh, grand old lounge with comfy chairs. I first went there in my early 20s and really was charmed. CK took me there for pre-birthday-dinner cocktails a few years ago and I was reminded how lovely and elegant I find it. Getting to pop in unplanned was a nice treat; we toasted my month of respite.

The whole show was very good. Richard Thompson, who we both really went to see, was fantastic. I left wishing the whole show had been just his music. I've been a fan since college but have never seen him perform live. Next time he's in town, as the headline, I'm going to make sure I don't miss getting tickets like I did earlier this year.

17Jun/120

Father’s Day 2012

I don't talk about my Dad much here, or my biological father. In 11 months, from December 2000 to November 2001, I'd lost them both.

My Mom was married to my step-father for nearly 25 years, so he's really the person I think of when I say "Dad". He died in December 2000. I was outside, fixing his reindeer lawn ornament, when he actually died. I held his hand for several minutes when I came in before taking off his wedding ring and putting it on my own hand.

I wore it for a few years until I'd lost so much weight I was afraid I'd lose it. I still have it and a small handful of his other things. I continue to miss him, including his inability to express his emotions well.

When I was 24 my biological father got back in touch with me and we had a strained, uneasy relationship for about 6 years before he died in November 2001. I have his discharge papers, some slides and a handful of photographs. Mostly all from before I was even born.

Both of them died because they wouldn't give up the things that were killing them. Both of them were alcoholic smokers. Dad was a Seagram's drinker and he went from unfiltered Pall Mall cigarettes to filtered Camels. My biological father was a vodka man and I can't recall what brand he smoked, but a cigarette was never far. I'm sure also had an addiction to the array of prescription pain medications he took.

My Dad felt a real sense of entitlement about his addiction, particularly to alcohol. He felt like he worked hard and he paid the majority of all the household bills, so he deserved that bedtime drink. As the size of that drink grew, the Seagram's nearly filling the glass and the 7-Up just floating over the top, he told us he just needed it to relax so he could get a good night's sleep before working hard the following day. He never tried to excuse the cigarettes this way, but in the end he was hiding them and sneaking around for a smoke as CPOD raced with cirrhosis to kill him. The coroner's statement said his liver "won" the race to the end.

My biological father had similar ways of excusing his drinking. His drinking was actually far worse than my Dad's, who was a bedtime and weekend drunk. My Father often nursed a vodka all day long, took his Oxycotin with it. Once I realized this, I stopped riding in a vehicle with him. He would wax poetic on being a vet. Vietnam was his entitlement to his addiction. A massive coronary in his sleep would take him out.

These men play into my life tremendously. If you ask me about becoming a vegan and choosing health for myself, my Dad and my Father are certainly behind it. They left me in this world feeling like I wasn't important enough.

Yeah, they loved me in their own flawed, dysfunctional ways. I know that. I also know that when it came down to choosing health and being a part of my life, they turned again and again to the things that were clearly killing them. Sure, quitting is hard, I get that, but if you don't even try what kind of message do you send to the people who love you, particularly your kid?

The lesson they taught me is that the best thing you give to your family is your life. You do the hard work to make sure you're here for them. Sure, sometimes we get caught unawares and no healthy choice we make can fix it. That said, if you're out there choosing something that's killing you and not even trying, well there's a good chance that when you're gone there will be someone feeling like they weren't worth the effort.

I never want to leave my wife, my kid, my friends, my mother, or anyone who loves me feeling like I didn't care enough to do the hard work for them. It is what we should do. We show up, we do the hard work so those people know that they're worth the effort of living for them.