HO HO HO HCKAGGHHCCGGGG HAAACHHHOOO

The week before Christmas I told someone, with a naughty twinkle in my eye, that I may  just spend my whole Christmas vacation in my P.J.’s. I had asked Santa for a pair of extra warm ones and I was looking forward to lounging around.

Be careful what you ask for…or joke about.

I have spent my Christmas break in my jammies. Not because I wanted to…but because I got the flu.

I am not usually superstitious. I may rethink that. I said I wanted to be in my pajamas for a week. I discussed with someone how I never get the flu shot, feeling very superior about my choice. And I just did the blog post about how I used to get sick every 7 years and how I don’t anymore.

I think I jinxed myself.

Tom took me to see our doctor Christmas Eve day. I was touched when they fit me in with an appointment last minute. I am certain they all had places they would rather have been.

I was really sick. The can’t hold your head up; need to concentrate to walk; can’t sit up on the examining table kind of sick.

After my blood pressure and temperature were taken, 150/80, 102.2, Dr. H came in. Dr. H is from Eastern Europe. She has a warm smile, kind eyes and is like a stern mom. Often I resist her firmness. This day I was comforted by it.

“Ywo dun’t lolk goood.” she said, looking over her glasses. She ordered a Flu swab.

Her nurse appeared with two, foot long Q tips. One for each nostril. She said in her best pediatrician-lie-to-the-kid voice, “This won’t hurt, I am just going to tickle your brain.”

“Tickle my brain my ass.”

Unfortunately my body did not respond to the messages of DANGER, RUN, FAST, I was sending it. I simply laid there, passive, limp, defenseless. I compliantly tilted my head back as she tickled my brain. It didn’t tickle. She lied.

The test came back negative. Whew. Just a monster cold.

Dr. H had different thoughts. She repeated how bad I looked, saying she wanted me to go the hospital to get another flu swab. She explained the hospital had a more accurate test than the one they use in the office. This test used 4 Q tips.

Sure. Sure. I’ll go. NOT.

She must have read my mind. She scooted her rolling chair a hair closer. A risky thing to do with someone that, “dun’t lolk goood,” despite the mask she wore and the mask I was given to wear. It’s hard to breath in those masks. Every time I exhaled, my glasses fogged up. I also felt like a leper. Even though I couldn’t see anyone clearly, I could feel their looks. I was the one to stay clear of. I have discovered, in my bouts of every-7-year-sickness’s, that feeling like shit alleviates shame. I was too sick to give a rats ass. A small blessing. So when Dr. H closed the distance between us, laser-locking eyes with me, I didn’t exhale so I could see her.

Over her glasses, with finger her pointed at my nose and she pronounced, “Ywo gho.”

I went.

Thankfully Dr. H had it wrong and it was only one Q Tip. I asked the nurse to be gentle. He agreed saying it would still hurt. I appreciated his honesty.

The test came back positive.

I am in my 5th day of Pajama wearing but I feel much better. Tamiflu is a miracle drug. Today, being in my P.J.’s feels more choice-ful than it did yesterday. My illusion of control is returning. I think tomorrow I will venture into some real clothes and maybe finish my Christmas shopping and cooking.

Or maybe I won’t. Maybe I have enough gifts, food, whatever else I tell myself I need to make our belated Christmas celebration feel like a cherished memory.

Being sick slows life down. Slows me down. Another way to care less. As I feel better I appreciate the gift slower movement, fewer expectations of myself, more grace. It seems I repeatedly forget this…until I get sick. Then I remember again.

I didn’t think I had any New Years Resolutions for this year, but now I do.

Stop fighting, fixing, figuring and just slow down. Do less.

Tom recently described me to someone as a high performer. I was flattered. I don’t know though if he meant it as a compliment. I think sometimes I wear him out. I know sometimes I wear me out.

Maybe I could do less. You know what they say, Less is more…

I know as I write this I won’t do it. It is not me. I will slowly increase speed. But I am sure, when necessary, I will be reminded. Again.

 
waxseal2

 

 

 

I just went for salad and got a life lesson….

On my way to work I stopped at the grocery store, heading directly to the salad bar, my habituated lunch choice. Once there, I noticed a woman standing a few feet from the earth-friendly paper boxes I needed. It looked as though she was simply waiting for her friend, who was a few feet from her at the bread counter.

I said, “Excuse me,” to her, paused momentarily, and then stepped between her and the much needed salad box. As I pulled the top box from the stack, she said, “Well, pardon me.” Accent on the WELL.

I felt the agitation in her voice. She was telling me I had rudely moved into her space. I held my breath and felt my own irritation with her as I recognized this as a choice point. How do I choose to respond? Do I apologize for my perceived affront or do I assert my intention? I took a moment.

I often base my decision, in these awkward moments, on my mood at the time. I am not proud of this method of determining my next move. I know I should base it on the highest good for all man and woman-kind. I should engage with her and explain myself. I should be nice. I should be relational. I should. I should.

Instead of what I should have done, I went with my tired, pissy and in-a-hurry mood. I responded with equal exasperation. I spoke over my shoulder to her, “I said excuse me.” Accent on the SAID.

She responded,”Well, I didn’t hear you.” Accent on the WELL, I DIDN’T HEAR YOU.

By this time I was half way down the first side of the salad bar. I had my spring mix, grapeimages tomatoes, peas and was scooping-up some chick peas, answering her in my head, “Well, is it my job to make sure you hear me? How am I supposed to know you didn’t? Why didn’t you just move when you saw me headed for the salad boxes?”

I was working myself into a fit. How dare she!!!

Another choice point. Do I say any of this to her? Do I share my grumpy disposition further? Or do I save it for later when I need to I argue with Verizon about this months’ bill? I wasn’t sure I wanted to unload on a random woman at the salad bar.

As I was contemplating my next move and heaping coals on my defense, her friend came quietly up beside me. “Please let me apologize for my friends behavior,” she said, “she has dementia and this is not a good day for her.”

I was mortified with myself.

I looked this woman in the eye and told her it was really okay, I understood and thanked her for telling me.

I was ashamed. I was also extremely grateful I kept my indignation to myself; fully aware that my silence was not due to my niceness but to my indecisiveness.

I finished making my salad. Quietly. Humbly. I began to judge myself, telling myself what an awful person I am for being mean to a woman with dementia. Why couldn’t I just be nice? What was the big deal? So she said something snarky, couldn’t I have just risen above it, been my higher self?

As I moved toward the 10-items-or-less check out line, I stopped at the baked goods to bag a chocolate chip, pecan cookie, not that I deserved dessert after my bad behavior, and found myself standing next to the same two women. I overheard their loving interaction with each other. I was touched. I noticed how the woman that that approached me took care of her friend. They, too, were after something sweet.

In that moment of feeding our mutual sweet tooth’s, I felt our mutual humanness and fragility. I recognized how our humanity is sometimes the good news and other times the bad news.

I realized I can, or will, be my highest self…unless I am not. But, it is my job to take responsibility for both. Most of us are really trying doing our best. Everyday. Sometimes our best is lovely. Sometimes our best is not so great.

If I keep that in mind, I will be gentler with your humanness…as well as my own.

Humbly Yours,

waxseal2

 

 

 

Mr. Volvo

The other morning Tom and I were headed to work.  We have been riding together since Tom’s car was totaled, Halloween morning, by a young kid who ran a red light. Since then we have been a one car family. At first this was very difficult for me. Truth be told, I hated it. I liked my time in the car alone. I could drive in silence, listen to music, a book or a conference on CD. My choice. I usually used the time to think, take stock. With Tom in the car it wasn’t my space anymore. However, during some of our morning commutes we had great conversation, caught up on things with each other, or made plans for the evening or week. Sometimes it was really nice. I enjoyed our company. So both experiences were true for me.

 

 

Anyway, this particular morning, as we headed up Bigelow Blvd traffic began to slow. It was still moving but slower than usual. Ahead of us I noticed an older Volvo, changing lanes, speeding up only to have to brake because both lanes were moving slowly, and honking his horn. At one point he was waving his arms in the air above his head. I wondered who was steering his car. He was clearly upset. Being the well trained defensive driver(thank you Mr Anderson) that I am, I tried to determine what had Mr Volvo so upset. Was he seeing something dangerous I wasn’t aware of? My assessment of the situation was that everyone was going slower, but at a constant rate of speed. Odd for this stretch of the road, but not dangerous to me.

 

I commented to Tom, “This guy is really upset.” Continue reading

The Queen of England

Today I got a massage and facial. As I relaxed; steam opening my pores, Audra’s fairy fingers making gentle circles around my eyes; I began to count my blessings. When I left the house this morning our housekeeper was pulling into the driveway. Last night I ordered a great pair of shoes from the Travel Smith catalogue. Tomorrow I have an acupuncture appointment. Next week I have a manicure and pedicure scheduled. I am the luckiest woman alive!

 

Then it hit. My gratitude turned to shame, “Who do I think I am? Really? Who? The Queen of England? I don’t dare tell anyone about all this.” I felt terrible, indulgent, spoiled, after all, there are children starving in Africa. Continue reading

And We All Fall Down

I try not to, but still do. In Mexico, this fall (no pun intended), I missed a step down walking into a courtyard. I did my best to catch myself, hopping on one foot, while forward momentum propelled me into the legs of an unsuspecting Mexican man. He did his best to catch me while saving himself from being knocked over. I did my best to right myself to save what little pride I still had. “Perdon,” I gasped leaning against his legs.

 

This past December, for my 54th birthday, I was given The Book of Awakening by Mark Nepo by 2 different friends. (I pay attention when the same gift comes from multiple people. I assume I must need it.) It is a daily meditation book. I highly recommend it.

 

Yesterday, adhering to my new spiritual practice/new years resolution, I read the entry for the day. It was about letting go so we don’t fall down. The line I was drawn to was, “…in a moment of ego we refuse to put down what we carry in order to open the door.” The author was referring to a friend of his who refused to put down two opened gallons of paint, drop cloths, mixing sticks, and paint brush to open a door. As a result he lost his balance and fell. You can imagine the mess. It was red paint. Continue reading

Schooch down and put your feet in the stirrups

I always do. Seemingly willingly, as gracefully as I can, I schooch down the table and put my feet in the stirrups.  I don’t want to, I hate to, I know what iscoming…but I do as I am told,  I am  cooperative. A good girl??? I hear my mothers voice, “Patti”, she’d say, “be a good girl.” Or if I did something she liked , “Patti, you a such a good girl.” She also said this to our dog as she forced worm medication down the dogs throat, “Noowwww, beeee a gooood girrrrl”.  The dog always swallowed the pill. She was a good girl, too.                                                        

This fall, friends invited us to join them at the local Renaissance faire. The invitation included attending in costume.  Tim and Lisa were members of a well known acting troupe when they lived in California. They have racks of costumes, handmade by Tim, that are exquisitely authentic. I was thrilled with the invitation; I love Renaissance Faire’s. I love the language, the clothes, the castles, the knights in shining armor. Me thinks I was a poorly wench in a past life or mayhaps the queen. I felt like I had manifested a personal fantasy, dressed and playing the part.What fun, I couldn’t wait!!

So, prior to the scheduled event, Tom and I went over to Tim and Lisa’s. We went into the basement room, not closet, of costumes. Now, I don’t know what size Lisa wears, I thought we seemed somewhat close, but each ensemble she unwrapped looked extremely tiny. I held them up to my hips, my chest and would say, “Oh this is too small, this will never fit.” Lisa explained, “We will be corseted, so they will fit.” Oh good, I was getting worried I wouldn’t fit into one of these amazing costumes.

We gathered the bodices, shirts, skirts and corsets, and traipsed upstairs to their bedroom to try them on. First the corset. As we struggled; Lisa- loosening the lacing, me -trying to fasten hooks, not quite sure what to do with my breasts, and both of us trying to be respectful of the intimacy of the moment;  I am  catapulted to the  scene from Gone With the Wind when Mame is corseting Scarlett.  Scarlet is holding onto the the four poster bed as Mame yanks her into a 24 inch waist. Just then Lisa says, “Hold onto the the bed posts.” I look and there in the center of the room is a huge four poster bed. I take hold and Lisa yanks….HARD. When I am fully corseted in I can’t bend, can barely breathe and I think I may have a broken rib. Next comes the loose blouse, then the skirt, which by the way now fits my cinched in waist and finally the outer corset. Seriously, another corset. Okay, this is the one that will make my breasts look really big, like the Queen Elizabeth movies, so I say to Lisa, “Lets go for it.” I take hold of the bed post once again. When I am completely tucked into this amazingly accurate and beautiful Elizabethan costume I look like I have been transported to another era, another life time, but  I feel like I am about to pass out!

I carefully walk down the stairs to show myself off to Tom and Tim. They like what they see. I can’t really sit to join them-since I can’t bend, I don’t dare grab a piece of the delicious bread and cheese LIsa has put out- I don’t think I can swallow, so I stand there, feeling what now may be internal injuries. I ask Tom what he has picked out to wear, and he holds up a luscious jacket of velvet tapestries. Tim says, “Yeah, he’ll be comfortable in this.”  I am not sure I can make it back up the stairs to get this outfit off, “Oh” I say, “Are we supposed to be comfortable?”

When I am finally unhooked, unlaced, and un-doubled corseted, I take my first full breath of air. I notice my lungs don’t quite fully inflate-it hurts to breath. I make a mental note to take a smaller breath the next time. I think of my yoga class tomorrow and wonder if I should skip it. I slip into my Victoria Secrets bra, now more comfortable than it has ever been and my panties that tend to crawl up my butt, but who is complaining. On the ride home I feel my sadness. I image all the women of the castles, the Victorian mansions, the Southern belles, cinched in, unable to breathe, bend, eat, be comfortable. I speak into the darkness of the car, “It is in my genes to tolerate the the intolerable, to make good of bad. My ancestors did.” I was so moved by the physical brutality women endured to wear the fashion of the day. I hurt, literally and emotionally.

I think about the ways I am good,  nice so I get along, cooperative. I am not saying this is wrong or bad, but it is sometimes a pain in the ass-like when we slide down the table and put our feet in the stirrups. We know what is coming, and without complaint we do it. Now, in the event of a gynecological exam (or ridding oneself of worms), it is probably medically smart to schooch down. But the corset heightened my awareness of the many ways and places I schooch when I it is not smart to do so. When I accept the unacceptable or at least tolerate it in order to be loved, fit in, not left, or not make anyone mad at me. I corset myself. I yank myself into a shape that is unnatural and I keep smiling.

I know I am not alone in this. As women we have learned to sub-optimize. A concept I learned while attending the Gestalt Institute of Cleveland. I was a member of the Institutes first, and the last, exclusively female class. As a class we were taught to sub-optimize; which means to put personal wants and needs in the background so to move the “others” needs and wants to the foreground. Well, I knew I excelled at this and I suspected my class mates were equally as talented. The problems ensued because we were tired of sub-optimizing. Amazingly, this all women class of therapists, doctors, nurses, and social workers wanted the floor, all 18 of us, at the same time. We had stopped caring so much about each other and more about ourselves. There was chaos. And pain.

I think, ladies, we have some questions to consider. When do I choose myself and when do to I choose the other? What do I choose to tolerate and what do I choose to refuse? And how do I make these decisions in our relationship with one another?  Not easy questions and ofttimes hard to answer.  But…the next time you are schooching down the table, headed for the stirrups, it is something to think about.

I will post weekly, so stay tuned for next weeks Off the Couch. To have it sent to you simply hit the subscribe button.