Thursday, June 24, 2010

Boys, you might just want to stop here...

Have you heard of a miraculous procedure known as the uterine ablation--codename Novasure? Chances are if you are a woman in your late 30's you have, at least once. Perhaps by someone who said, "I had this procedure, and it's wonderful, and I haven't had a period since!" At least, that was how I heard about it.

Having suffered through crazy cycles, and anemia-inducing heavy periods, on and off for more than 20 years, I checked into it. After examining my issues--at 35, I was down to about a week per month without either pms or a period--my doctor gave me the options of hysterectomy or ablation.

Hysterectomy scared me. Abdominal surgery at 21 was one thing, but at 35, I'd never have a flat stomach again. And, I apologize to anyone who has been through this procedure, as I certainly am not trivializing it. That was just my initial thought.

So I opted for the ablation, after assuring the medical staff I didn't want any more children. Three's good, thank you. Actually two was perfect. Three pushed me dangerously close to the edge. Four would most likely put me in an early grave. I digress. The whole procedure was a breeze. Basically one day of downtime, no pain--actually the uterine biopsy was the most painful part, and that was very mild--and I was free from periods forever!

Or not. My doctor had advised that periods might continue for the first few months. And they did. They were much lighter, mind you, I no longer felt as if I needed a bi-monthly transfusion. But the first few months ran into a year. And the year has now turned into two and a half. Most women would have called the doctor by now. I don't want to rush into anything. After all it's a big improvement, and I am really grateful for that. And I know that the next step is a hysterectomy, which now scares me for reasons beyond the flatness of my stomach.

So for the past two days, I have eaten nearly everything in the house, preparing my burned up uterus for a fetus that won't be moving in. I have downloaded a period tracker app to my iPod and begun carrying "supplies"--always good for an uncomfortable giggle at the baseball field when Lily pulls a tampon out of my purse. I have contemplated calling my doctor but have not. I have listened to the stories of several friends, who had the same procedure with great success and shamefully felt a slight "why didn't it work for me" pang. And now, I have written about it, making it, in fact, real.

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

I'm Mary, and I'm a _____aholic

Insert your word of choice; I have been a lot of them: shopping, nicotine, caffeine, chocolate, Facebook--with all its alluring virtual reality. None of my addictions have been particularly serious. Some may argue about nicotine, but trust me, if you haven't experienced addiction up close and personal as I have, watch a few episodes of Intervention. Smoking ain't that bad.

However, I've often wondered why I don't get addicted to positive things. Have you seen those dedicated runners? They are out there plugging along in inclement weather, defined calf muscles glistening in the rain, snow, sleet, whatever. They are addicted. Not me. I've tried, albeit halfheartedly. Running, as most forms of exercise, holds no appeal for me. Sure I make myself move sometimes, to put off aging, to prevent the backs of my arms from swinging in the breeze, to keep my husband looking at me longingly, to avoid having to buy new clothes, but I do it begrudgingly and as moderately as possible. If I could sit on the couch with a book, a cup of coffee, and a pack of Marlboro Lights and get the same results, you'd know where to find me.

Most recently, my addiction has been self-improvement. My husband said the other day, "You work more on bettering yourself than anyone I know." Never one to take a compliment at face value without turning it around, tearing it apart, and analyzing it from ever possible angle, I began to evaluate the fervor with which I devour self-help books. I'm not really that messed up. Well, we're all messed up in some way or another, but really? I check out books by the dozen to teach me how to face fears, drop baggage, find out my true purpose in life, analyze the hidden meanings of my dreams, build my children's self-esteem, have more patience with my aging parents...get it?

So what do I do about this? I mean all this work isn't bad. I do feel as if I've improved myself in some ways. But at my core, I still am who I've always been with moderate alterations. Is it bad to do this? Is it dangerous? Is it counterproductive? I don't know, but I will definitely try to find a self-help book to figure out if I need to stop helping myself.

Monday, June 21, 2010

In the peaceful still of morning...

The sun creeps through the blinds, and the only audible sound is the steady hum of the ceiling fan or my own limbs rustling quietly against the sheets. In these moments, I sigh, stretch, and check the clock to see just how much time I will have to gather my thoughts, drink my coffee and debrief before the chatter and banter of children explodes down the steps and brings my solitude to an end.

But wait, what is that? Someone else is rustling the sheets. Ahhh, my husband, who has decided to go into work late this morning. Some mornings, I would welcome his loving caresses, happily turn into him without a second thought to my quiet time. But this morning, after a family togetherness filled lovely weekend, I feel invaded and annoyed at his presence. This morning, I was almost giddy at the thought of drinking my coffee and lazily reading about people's weekends on Facebook with no responsibilities but refilling my coffee cup or sliding the purring cat of the keyboard.

Exciting morning, I know. But I long for the few stolen moments of solitude to refuel my soul and silence the chatter in my head or at least focus long enough to hear what the chatter is about. Instead, here I am beating myself up. Who wouldn't be thrilled for a few extra, unexpected moments with the man of their dreams? Me. So instead of being welcoming and tender, I am cold, withdrawn, pouty, and he leaves for work sullen and disappointed. And I sit here in the deafening silence of my longed-for quiet time drinking my guilt-filled coffee, reading my uninteresting book, listening to the clamor of the cats knocking various and sundry objects off the needing-to-be-cleaned counters, waiting anxiously for the increasingly urgent calls of, "mmmaaaama...MaaaaMa...MAMA!!!" and wishing I had snuggled up with my husband and enjoyed the few moments of we time rather than fighting for this unsettling me time.

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Divine Guidance

Years ago, my sister taught me the technique of asking for divine guidance in choosing books at the library. She said, "Simply pray as you are walking in for God to lead you to the books you need." Since then I have practiced this with surprising results. Once I was led to a book called Farm Sanctuary. Though I couldn't imagine why I would need to read a book about factory farming, trusting my intuition, I picked it up and read it. It spurred my decision to become a vegan, which has made me much more compassionate--not to mention healthier.

So a few weeks ago when I was drawn to the book Falling Apart in One Piece, one woman's memoir of her struggle through divorce, again I questioned, "Why?" And on that trip to the library, I picked it up and put it back down, thinking, "My marriage is good; why do I want to read about someone's divorce?"

However, on my next trip to the library, again I was drawn to this book. Trusting intuition instead of logic, I got the book and read it. It's not too often that I feel "Aha!" moments, but literally halfway through the book, I did. The author says that when she began telling people about her husband's leaving her, they peppered her with questions, "Is he having an affair?" "Did you see this coming?" "Were there any signs?" Eventually, she wrote, she realized that these questions were not related to her crumbling marriage, but to people's desire to protect their own marriages from a similar fate. Instinctively, people withdrew from her, she says, as if divorce were a contagious disease.

In reading that passage I realized that I was doing just that to a dear friend, who was experiencing marital problems. She had confided her issues to me, and I had listened, advised, shared my own issues with her, and finally withdrawn feeling complicit in the knowledge I had and afraid to be a partner in her crumbling marriage. For days, I avoided her because I felt guilty. However, in reading this book, I realized that her marriage is not my responsibility. My role in her life is as a friend--to listen to non-judgementally and to offer unconditional compassion and love.

While no one's marriage is perfect, and yes, divorce is hard not only on the couple, but also on everyone around them, it is not contagious. Their marital issues are not ours, and by showing her sympathy, I am not jeopardizing my own happiness. Although it is always my initial reaction to withdraw from conflict into the safety of my own family, I realized in doing so I was withdrawing a potential lifeline from a friend adrift in the sea. And that...well, that just is not who I want to be.

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Be Still...

In times of chaos, my natural instinct is to retreat into what I like to think of as the stillness of my mind. Unfortunately, there is nothing still about my mind. Reckless, chaotic, spontaneous, devoid of stillness might be better words to describe it. Definitely not still.

But there I go, to the familiar voices questioning, thinking, analyzing, judging, criticizing. And there is comfort in that familiarity. All the books I read about centering, listening to your intuition, calming your mind, and so forth refer to quieting the voices in your mind. I think that sometimes the voices whisper instead of shout, but they are never quiet.

When you are meditating, imagine the thoughts that come into your head as being wrapped in a bubble and floating away. I read that. I tried it. My thoughts, however, fight back. They try to pop the bubble with pins. They want to be heard. They are very self-important.

So my retreat is anything but restful. My escape is not a sanctuary of stillness and calm but rather a loud rock concert. I put nature sounds and meditation music on my iPod, but the voices creep around the restful sounds. They vie for attention, each speaking over the other like toddlers, "LOOK AT ME; LISTEN TO ME."

Yet, I continue to add Feng Shui elements to my home. Make myself physical sanctuaries. Practice the simplest of meditation techniques. Breathe. Count. Be. And sometimes, for a moment or two, I think my mind is quiet. And then I realize that I'm thinking about it being quiet. And I realize my mind sounds like a bunch of little kids who have been reprimanded at a slumber party. The voices are shhhhh'ing each other.

I guess that's progress.

Saturday, June 5, 2010

impermanence

could the beauty of things be in their impermanence? surely that's a crazy thought. since i was a little girl, i have experienced many blissful moments. moments that i wished could last forever. moments that my catholic upbringing made me wonder, "is this what eternity will be like?" a warm embrace, a kiss, a soft baby head sleeping on my shoulder, a tiny infant nuzzling, suckling at my breast. peaceful, quiet, each and every moment. capture it. freeze it. make it last forever.

but what if it did? surely its beauty would fade. as a fabulous new pair of shoes loses its luster after the 4th, maybe 5th wearing. so try not to cling, try not to hold on, try not to capture it and freeze it and make it last forever. that seems to work against everything i find logical. if we are enjoying something, why not try to make it last or at the very least try to recapture it at every possible opportunity?

because it's impossible. that moment, that experience, that nanosecond of life is beautiful because of its fleetingness. because of its spontaneity and uniqueness. recapturing it, freezing it, capturing it...well, all of those things minimize it. take away from it. even strip it of the beauty and specialness it originally brought.

so what? what to do? i don't know. enjoy it? live in it? thank it for being? be blessed for the experience? i guess. but don't try to hold on to it.