Each Covid-ing in Their Own Way

SpringPaysCovidNoMind

Here we are at forty-something days into social distancing and doing pretty much the same. (I am better from my stupid cold from hell though!) I feel bad posting photos of us doing well and enjoying the nice spring weather when so many others are cooped up indoors and doing badly.  Things could be so so so much worse. But I thought I should check in anyway with a catch-up for my own documenting posterity.

The weather has been extremely nice. Spring is here with a flourish. Flowers are exploding and birds are going bananas. I’m just waiting for the other foot to fall and the bugs start coming out. So far, so good.

I’ve taken to walking the dogs in the early morning and chatting with my dad through our earbuds. We both have been remarking at how much we notice the bird sounds that we can hear from each other’s ambient sound. Earbuds are amazing. That’s one thing that this pandemic has really helped. We are all learning new ways to stay in touch with new technology and it is awesome.

My dad has discovered Zoom and is the new self-designated AV guy for his church, bringing God’s word to all the shut-ins (of which there are many, naturally). It’s just as awesome as it sounds. I think he’s found his calling.

quarantine-styles-differentiate

The girls are managing through long-distance learning with ease. Again, we are stupidly lucky compared to so many and I feel guilty. (Is this a thing? That I constantly feel like I should be suffering more? I should just shut up and enjoy it but I do constantly feel guilty.) The girls are both self-motivated and get good grades without much antagonization from us.  It’s great. They are not taking advantage of all the links to extended learning that their uncles are sending them neither are they visiting virtual museums. They are not helping around the house or sewing masks for the homeless. They are becoming really good at gaming, binge-watching Netflix and occasionally baking.

To each their own.

many-faces-of-covid

We are getting used to masks. I need to step up my sewing game but I am severely side-tracked because I started sewing some wide-legged trousers out of some old sheets. The project is going very slowly and I am hating it. I have never followed a pattern before (outside of that one dress in home-ec in 7th grade) so I thought I’d take this time to teach myself. It’s taken a few facetime calls to my mom and I’m stuck at the bias tape stage. I should finish soon but I don’t let myself work on them during work hours so it’s slow-going.

recycled-postcards-corona-mail

I’m getting really good at snail mail though. I’ve added it to my daily routine with my daily coffee.  I need more routines like a hole in my head. I spend probably half of my day doing little routines and rituals and never really getting down to work. I doodle and glue and tape and send off little messages of love to whoever wants one. I’m not sure if it brings me more joy or the recipients. Right now I’m focusing on creating art with recycled cardboard and bits. I never look at a cereal or pasta box or cardboard from a pack of sparkling seltzer water without thinking about how many postcards I can cut out of it. It’s kind of silly but fun. I mean, why not, right? Who needs to be buying chip board right now when our recycling bins are over-flowing?

colors-of-quarantine

We have fallen off the Die-t wagon pretty bad. There may have been a few nights where pizza was ordered and chips and salsa were devoured. I am feeling pretty crappy about it. But I’m vowing to get back to it. It’s a marathon, right? Not a sprint. Slip-ups happen and we have to not give-up. I love making up meals ahead of time. I make big batches of lentils and coleslaw and pack them away in individual serving containers. It definitely helps with lunches and dinners when the kids just want mac and cheese or worse, take-out.

fun-trip-to-backyardia

The other night we actually barbequed outside and it felt like a field trip. I miss traveling and planning camping trips. It’s terrible that my Little Hoo Goes Camping book is coming out soon and I can’t even promote it because it just doesn’t make sense right now. But when this is over I am throwing the most fun camping-themed book party EVER!

hope-peace-covid-not-cool

How long will this be the new normal? One year, two years? I miss the old normal.

Woman of a Thousand Worries

woman-of-a-thousand-worries-1

When summer hit this year I started studying about Menopause. I had a blood test done earlier in Spring that pretty much confirmed my worst fear: I am menopausal. Not even peri-menopausal but menopausal.  It was hard news to take at 46. I thought this was something that happened in your fifties. It’s not like I’m looking to hold onto the “young mom” label and have more kids or anything but I wasn’t officially over that stage of my life yet.  It was kind of rude that my hormones decided this for me. Much like getting your period when you are twelve. You don’t ask for these things, they just happen.

I admit I grieved. It was really hard to look at middle age right in the face and realize that it’s only going to go by faster and faster. Old age will be here sooner than I ever thought. All those dreams of living happily ever after? That’s right now. I am living my happily ever after and it’s changing every minute.

A few months went by and I adjusted. I found my optimism. I looked to older women I admire and dreamed up what a fabulous older lady I would be. Grandma style here I come! I yelled. I’m gonna rock it I decided.

And then summer hit and the hot flashes rained down upon me like clouds of heavy dragon breath every fifteen minutes. When they hit I feel almost like a panic attack is starting. No heart palpitations or tightness… just a sense of heavy claustrophobic heat and a desperate need to get outside to cooler air (or inside to cooler air) right away. It’s been awful.

When I talked with my OB about these recent changes she said their usual plan of attack is to do nothing unless symptoms are unbearable. I hate taking any kind of medication so I decided to grin and bear it. Surely there was a way I could manage this holistically. And so my research began…

woman-of-a-thousand-worries-2

Unfortunately for me research turned into anxiety. I never knew how many more things I could worry about until I listened to “Menopause Confidential” on audiobook while I walked my dogs. Micro-fractures! Osteoporosis! Vitamin D deficiencies! Skin cancer!  (I was already worrying about that one) Drooping Eyelids! Dry Vaginas! Ack! I thought puberty was bad. Is it all bad news? I wondered.

I haven’t really talked about having anxiety here because I thought it was something that I should keep private. I’m sure most of my readers already surmised that I’m a bit of a nutcase. I’m sure it leaks through my words and in between sentences. I am a master worrier. When I turned 46 I started anti-anxiety medication. I had to. I was having so much anxiety I was starting to have suicidal thoughts. I thought I was losing my creativity and had no value anymore. I know that seems preposterous since I have a pretty great life but somehow the darkness crept and told me lies. My very own brain lied to me.

I am very thankful to Payam (and Isabel from alpha mom) for comforting me through this and finally convincing me to get help. I thought I was tough. I wasn’t. I thought I could muscle through. I couldn’t. I didn’t want to have some privileged white woman’s disease. I figured I could just force myself through it one step in front of the other but it got to a point where I couldn’t even socialize because I cried too much. It wasn’t until I was bawling my eyes out on a psychiatrist couch that I finally realized that maybe not everyone saw the world the way I did. Maybe I needed meds. Maybe it was okay to finally give up on being tough and cheat a little. I resisted them my whole life but at 46 finally gave in.

At first it was great! I snapped back to my happy self in a few weeks. I was amazed. Having a new base-level of serotonin was bomb! My creativity came back, my enthusiasm for adventure came back, I was more organized with work, I got more done, I was more calm with the kids, I was better at everything! It was great.

Until June Gloom hit and my anxiety came back. The crying came back. I went back to my doctor and she upped my meds by half a pill and told me not to worry, this happens to everyone this time of year. It wasn’t quite enough though. I was better but still a mad list-making fiend who was constantly yelling at myself inside my head for not juggling all of life’s responsibilities better. I should work out earlier, I should work more hours, I should diet more, I should have better relationships, I should cook better food for my kids that they actually like, I should have better kids…. the lectures at myself we’re relentless. It got so bad that I started forgetting things. I became absent minded and huge patches of my memory were lost.

Add to this the fact that my relationship with Bug has changed. She’s still a great kid but I can’t really blog about her anymore. Her life is her own and she documents it herself now. It makes me sad (because who doesn’t want to take pictures of a cute teenager doing amazing things) but I respect her wishes. Things are ever-changing.

Some of those changes are hard. Another tearful doctor’s visit was in order and now I’m up to two pills. It’s still a relatively low dose but I feel so much better. The nagging voices in my head have stopped. I don’t get mad at myself (as much) anymore. I don’t get mad at my kids (as much) and if I do, I keep the anger out of my voice. It’s amazing. I feel a sense of calm I have never felt before. I didn’t know I was broken until I got fixed.

I’ve learned that taking medicine to manage your serotonin levels is more of an art than a science. I know my hormones are all over the place and I will probably have a lot more ups and downs but I’m really happy that I have a really super sweet doctor who really listens. I really like feeling calm.

I was so afraid that “fixing me” would make me not creative anymore but it hasn’t at all. If anything I feel more creative with better direction. I don’t feel as overwhelmed. I’m not chasing my tail. I’m still coming up with great ideas but now I’m actually executing them better. I’m really relieved about that part.

It’s still a little early to be claiming I’ve solved of my life’s mysteries but I wanted to share anyway. I’m sure there are other people out there fighting the menopause blues with me.

woman-of-a-thousand-worries-3

And speaking of menopause blues… let’s talk about going to LA in the super hot summer! Hah! Can you feel the hot flash creeping up your neck?

I feel super silly posting a picture of me sipping on a margarita right after I talk about my mental health. We all know sweet alcoholic drinks are very bad for you, especially when you are battling hot flashes. But I wanted to share some photos of my trip to LA this weekend with Payam and I think my sweaty face pretty much sums it up.

It was a total whim trip. I love total whim adventures.  We hopped on the train and headed for downtown. Only problem is, it was HOT. Hot and sweaty and full of hot flashes. So here I am in a Mexican restaurant having the best chips and salsa and sipping a super sour and delicious skinny margarita, though between you and me it didn’t taste all that skinny.

woman-of-a-thousand-worries-4

Then we rode Angel’s Flight, which is also super sweaty and hot flashy on a hot day. Not a good idea for the menopausasaurus. Phew!

woman-of-a-thousand-worries-5

As the angry, relentless sun crept slowly behind the buildings, giving us glimpses of shade and relief, I remembered the glass slide experience I’d seen on instagram so I looked it up and we headed on over. We were just in time too! Golden hour is the best time to ride up 70 floors to an observation deck to watch the sunset. It was amazing. Except for maybe the 200 other tourists doing the exact same thing. Thankfully, the crowds were restless and we managed to find a seat by the glass for some sighing and photo-taking. It was really lovely.

woman-of-a-thousand-worries-6

I should mention the slide too. It was meh. It’s a really cool idea but the slide itself is only one floor and it goes by so fast you don’t even get a chance to look down. This is good for me since I’m afraid of heights but I did feel a little bit gypped since it cost $33. We didn’t even have drinks in the bar either or it could have been hundreds of dollars. So do visit because the view is amazing and you’ll probably want to try the slide too (it’s $10 worth of the $33) but don’t get your hopes up for any great thrill.

woman-of-a-thousand-worries-7

After that we hustled back to the train station and headed home. It was a good day. Which was really nice after a few weeks of bad days.

woman-of-a-thousand-worries-8

In other news: I am working on a web design for brendaponnay.com. Right now it’s home to my invitation business that is very badly neglected. I’m excited to make secret-agent-josephine a little more personal (ie: talking about anti-anxiety medication) and move all my professional book-related business to a new site. I’ve always been averse to having two websites (something along the lines of loving one master and hating the other) but I think it’s time. I’m excited too. Lots of great things happening on the books front. I will definitely keep you posted as that gets closer.

In the meantime, thank you dear readers. Thank you for being with me all these years. I have no idea what is coming next.