Getting Unstuck


This baby sparrow, an image I captured months ago, is symbolic of the "spring" I'm feeling in my step today. Also, look at his tiny baby bird tongue.

This baby sparrow, an image I captured months ago, is symbolic of the “spring” I’m feeling in my step today. Also, look at his tiny baby bird tongue sticking out.

I’ve been worried about myself. My weight continues to creep up. I’ve been drinking two to four glasses of wine (or gin and tonics) nearly every evening. Sometimes more on the weekends. Walking, yoga, and meditation have been sporadic. I’ve been sleeping more and am back to needing a hoist to get out of bed in the morning. I’ve neglected myself to the extent that I hadn’t had my teeth cleaned in nearly a year. When I finally forced myself to go for a cleaning a few weeks ago, something happened that has never happened in my life—my blood pressure was high: 143/89. Compare that to one year prior: 106/60.

I’ve been excusing my lack of self-care telling myself I am entitled to fall apart due to the losses I’ve suffered and the tremendous amount of stress to which I’ve been subjected. I’ve written about it ad nauseam and frankly am a bit sick of myself. For the uninitiated, a brief recap:

  • I began this blog five years ago when I was dating, and briefly engaged to, a huge twat—an emotionally abusive narcissist (not my first) I called Mack. In September 2011 I gave him the boot and set upon a course of healing from the damage he’d done. I was making great strides and had rebounded from the depression when…
  • My eldest brother died suddenly in April 2012 from alcohol-related liver disease at age 56. While he’d been drinking himself to death off and on for years, it seemed sudden because he was found dead in his home.
  • As I struggled to cope with the loss of my eldest brother, my father, who had mixed dementia (Alzheimer’s and vascular), was getting worse. In September 2012 he fell out of bed and hit his head on the nightstand due to disorientation. The injury would require emergency brain surgery, following which he would die at age 83 in hospice one month later on October 18, 2012, while I and the hospice nurse held his hands.
  • Once my eldest brother and father had died, I decided my remaining brother, also an alcoholic, wasn’t going to die, too. So, two months after my father died, I arranged an intervention. My brother agreed to go to rehab and got sober. Three months later, in March 2013, he was diagnosed with acute myelogenous leukemia and died at age 52. Eleven months after my eldest brother had died. Five months after my father had died. I call this the death trifecta.
  • During this period I was forced to interact with my sister and her husband, from whom I’d been estranged for several years. The estrangement occurred when I confronted her after learning that her husband, my brother-in-law, had molested their youngest daughter (now an adult), my niece, years before. I demanded that she tell me why, when she found out what her husband had done to their daughter (her daughter had finally told a school counselor), she hadn’t left him. We didn’t speak for many years, until the dying began. Having been forced to interact, we’ve made tentative steps toward reconciliation and healing. Something I had never dreamed was possible. Nor desired.
  • In June 2013, my mother nearly died from deep vein thrombosis following a minor surgery. A vena cava filter inserted after a hip replacement years ago saved her life. She’s recovered and has been living at an assisted living facility, having now accepted she will not return to the home she shared with my father for thirty-five years. In the meantime, she too has been diagnosed with dementia, which is slowly taking its toll. She had a scare in December (possibly a stroke) and spent two weeks in the hospital and rehab. On Christmas Eve I picked her up at the rehab hospital and took her back to AL, where she was reunited with her very charismatic cat.
  • I have been managing my father’s business (run by my brothers and father for the past thirty-five years until their deaths) from afar, which has been kept afloat after the loss of the three principals by two loyal employees. Other than social security, it is my mother’s sole source of income. In light of her depleted savings (assisted living is expensive), it is important that the business remain viable, even if not hugely profitable.
  • I was my father’s executor, and I am my mother’s executor. I’m also her power of attorney. Which means I pay her bills and work with the realtor to sell her beach house in Galveston, and eventually, the home she shared with my father. I put her car on the market. Manage her insurance renewals. I order her incontinence supplies, cat food, and litter. I’m the point of contact for AL, her doctors, and physical therapist. Managing my mother’s affairs is like running yet another small business.
  • As my day job, I practice law as a civil litigator for BigLaw. I abhor it. Since the dying, it is utterly meaningless. Except the money, which is allowing me to plan my escape and begin again.

So that’s 2011 through 2014 in a nutshell. And here I am, fatter than ever with high blood pressure and probably depression (again). And the drinking, while not technically alcoholism, is not serving me well. It’s time I stopped wallowing and employing coping mechanisms that are negatively impacting my health.

It’s time for Desperate Measures.

  • A few weeks ago, on a lark (even before my blood pressure reading), I signed up for a month of health coaching. This coach is not a diet or weight loss coach, but a HAES (Health At Every Size) coach. My first meeting is on Wednesday.
  • I signed up today for the 100-Day Sober Challenge over on Tired of Thinking About Drinking. (Yes, I buried the lead in this post.) This was an even more impulsive move. Until last night, on January 2, 2015, I had no plans to stop drinking. Cutting back, perhaps. Not drinking during the week, perhaps. But not stopping altogether. It occurred to me this morning, however, as I read a handful of posts on sober blogs I follow, that I’ve been secretly craving what they have for quite some time. It’s not about the not drinking so much as it is about renewal. Rebirth. I want what they’re having.

While I write this post on January 3, 2015, this is not a New Year’s Resolution. It’s just that the stars, and my thinking, have aligned with the calendar. Also, the sun has come out today for the first time in what seems like weeks. Stepping outside and feeling the sun on my face conjures up images of a phoenix rising from the ashes. And so I am off for a walk to my new favorite spot where a family of deer lives. I hope they peep out for a visit.

I’ve gained 48 pounds since my dad died in October 2012. Nearly 50 pounds. Who gains that much weight in what feels like overnight? I suppose 48 pounds in 20 months isn’t overnight; it’s 2.4 pounds per month. A slow, steady, chew-and-swallow. Chew. And swallow. And let’s not forget the alcohol.

Before this morning, I hadn’t been on a scale since November. But of course I knew the pounds were piling on. I was going up in sizes, pulling my biggest jeans out of the back of the closet. Even they have become uncomfortable, and so lately I’ve taken to wearing formless dresses and stretchy skirts. And there’s my car seat. I can feel the sides of it hugging my hips and thighs. The same with my office chair. I am spreading out. And then there was the hike at Orcas Island a few weeks ago. I was huffing and puffing as we were going uphill. Huffing and puffing and sweating. It pissed me off. And I was embarrassed.

For the past several months, I’ve been trying to find a foothold. I’ve been trying to figure out how to get back to equanimity. How to find that sweet spot I was in before all the dying began. I’ve been trying, with little success, to get back to taking good care of myself. I take better care of my cats, in fact. Just this morning I steamed a lovely piece of fresh Atlantic salmon for them. I, in contrast, ate a slice of cherry pie with my coffee. Mind you, I told myself I’m working on making a shift, and so this was a last-supper slice of cherry pie. I’m terribly good at rationalization. Aren’t all addicts?

Oh, yes, this is addictive behavior. In fact, I’m seeing quite a bit of my mother in myself these days. She spent years dismayed by the alcoholism that surrounded her, never once looking at herself and seeing her own coping behavior, eating, was similarly self-destructive. I have, more than once over the past two years, felt anger with my brothers for how they killed themselves with alcohol. And I felt pity on them because they had never learned healthier ways of coping. But I, even having spent decades learning healthier ways of dealing with unpleasant events and emotions, am not coping much better than my brothers did.

It’s not like I lack self-awareness. Or desire. I’m trying. I just can’t seem to get myself going in the right direction again. I can’t get motivated to do consistent exercise. To cut back on the alcohol. And to stop eating everything I want. And I want a lot. How do I stop wanting what isn’t healthy, and start wanting what is?

I turned it into a research project. First, I set out to find the healthiest way of eating. I figured if I found it, I would be motivated to do it. I did my research and settled on the Mediterranean diet. And that might have helped, only I ate way too much of the Mediterranean diet. And I still wasn’t exercising consistently. So next I researched books on willpower. The books were not helpful. They espoused the same old advice that hadn’t been working for me. But there was one pearl of wisdom I kept bumping into: meditate.

I had a meditation practice several years back when I was heavy into yoga. But when I quit Kundalini yoga teacher training mid-course (having decided it was a cult), I threw the baby out with the bath water. No more meditation. No more yoga. Not even hatha. (I don’t do anything by halves, you see. A definite fault of mine.) So here we are, five years later, and all these books are pointing me back to meditation. Because I don’t have anything to lose, other than 50 pounds or so, I decided to give it a shot. I know my problem isn’t with eating, per se. My problem is with life. I needed something to help me cope with it. And, if I’m being ambitious, to help me find an interest in my existence here on this earth.

Just Breathe

Just Breathe

I’ve been doing a daily meditation practice for a little more than a month, now. At first my efforts were not consistent. But slowly I’ve begun to find some flow. As of today, I’ve got 14 consecutive days under my belt. (A belt that doesn’t fit.) I’ve found a terrific app called “Insight Timer.” You can program different timers, for varying lengths, with different chimes. You can do the offered guided meditations. (In addition to my mindfulness meditation, I’ve been doing a daily body scan.) You can join groups and connect with meditators all over the world. According to my app, there are 352 people meditating worldwide, right now. In addition to the app, I’ve started reading about mindfulness. I’m reading Jon Kabat-Zinn’s, Full Catastrophe Living. I think I’ve finally hit upon the necessary tools to undergo a tectonic shift. Meditation. Mindfulness. And yeah, pulling the yoga out of the dirty bath water, as well. (Although I still won’t go near the Kundalini.)

I’ve been living mindlessly, sleepwalking, for 20 months now. 50 pounds was the result. What will be the fruits of mindfulness?

I received an email from Mack the other day telling me he’d sent me the final payment. But instead of just telling me he’d sent the final payment, he continued with a long drawn-out emotional message about various and sundry things; things I don’t feel compelled to spend typing strokes on here. He did say we have no need to contact one another again. Ever. So I guess that means he’ll stop trying to hook me with emotional emails. Oh wait. Maybe not. What was the next thing in my inbox? You got it: another email from Mack. This one included a song he recorded. Apparently about me. I’m not sure though, because I didn’t listen to it.

So how did this final spate of emails make me feel?

I didn’t feel sad. I didn’t feel angry. I didn’t feel regret. I did feel a slight bit of irritation, but not enough to color my day. And I felt relief.

Dare I say it?

After a fabulous vacation in Tuscany, I am back to the mundanities of life. I’ve spent the past week and a half digging out at work (and getting behind on my blogging). I traveled to Chicago for meetings this week, and while I love Chicago in the summertime, the last thing I wanted to do was get back on a plane. My reward was accepting my neighbor’s invitation to drink bubbles by the pool last night. (Much to my chagrin, I think I may actually feel the stirrings of a requited crush.) The combo of the bubbles and all the recent travel finally hit me, and this morning I stayed in bed until 11:00 a.m. catching up on sleep and recharging.

Okay, okay. I won’t skip over the requited crush topic. My neighbor has been crushing on me for years. The trouble is, he’s nearly fifteen years younger, and wants babies. (“But not tonight,” he said, the last time he made a pass at me.) Despite the fact that he’s charming, sophisticated, well-traveled, single, stable, and has a job (the opposite of my last foray into romance), not to mention a sexy Latin accent, there’s just no point in going down that road. And then there’s the fact that it’s a terrible idea to have a fling with a neighbor. So I shall keep it as a flirtation, and enjoy that. But still, there is a stirring in my girl loins that I haven’t felt in months.

All in all, I’m feeling pretty good these days. But the anticlimactic feeling that often comes at the end of a great vacation has me looking for something more. The something more that comes to mind is getting back to my running. But I’m having trouble running in the heat on the antidepressants. The Abilify warnings state that it’s easier to become overheated while exercising, and cautions against strenuous exercise. I live in Austin. I exercise outdoors in the heat. I refuse to spend my life on my elliptical (sheer freakin’ drudgery). So I’ve made the decision to see how I do quitting one of the trifecta (Ability, Deplin, and  Wellbutrin). I called Dr. McEnroe yesterday to get his input on my plan to quit the Abilify, but he hasn’t yet returned the call. Nevertheless, I’ve decided to go ahead and stop it, cold turkey. I’m sure there will be those who protest, but I’m going to do it anyway. When I’ve made up my mind to quit something, I don’t do it by halves. Including relationships and cigarettes. And besides, having quit smoking cold turkey some years ago, I can’t imagine this could be any worse. Just rip the band-aid off and get through it. It’s the best way. In quitting drugs, and men.

Hopefully once the Abilify is out of my system, I’ll be able to run without feeling like I’m going to keel over from the heat. And just to get it out there, I really want to be drug-free within the next several months. I’m feeling better. And with proper sleep, exercise, and Vitamin D (and staying away from abusive jackasses), maybe I’ll be successful in managing the depression without the drugs.

I think I’ve got this now.

Today is my 49th birthday. My last birthday with a 4 in front of it. I awoke this morning at the Hotel Bernini in Florence. Last night, I had a four-course dinner at a wonderful restaurant, including too much wine. The meal was so fabulous, I’m not even going to try to top it. I’ve also grown a bit weary of getting lost. Florence is a maze! But since I was out the door at 7:30 this morning, I made it to the Uffizi and didn’t wait in line for long. The museum was spectacular. After I meandered amongst the statutes and busts and Botticelli paintings, including the Birth of Venus, I spent the next five hours wandering through the maze of streets that is Florence. I’ve finished being lost, and now I’m sitting in the hotel bar.  It’s lovely, decorated in traditional Tuscan furninishings of purple and gold.  I’m sipping on a delicious chianti and watching people. Not a bad way to spend a birthday.

Ive got lots of photographs left to post, including those from my favorite day of all:  Cinque Terre, the Italian Riveria. The coast was spectacular. As was our cliff-side lunch.

This has been such a fabulous trip. I’m not sure how I’m going to top it next year: 50.  Any recommendations?

 

We have at least one cooking class a day at the villa with Valentino. The food has been spectacular. Here are some shots of making grilled veggies and pork roast, lasagna, osso bucco (melt in your mouth!), and tiramisu. And, mustn’t forget the wine tasting!

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Two weeks ago, I gave up teevee on weeknights. http://wp.me/p1jL9y-aQ The first week I caved and watched a movie Friday night (North by Northwest). Week two, this past week, I again cheated one night. Monday. I watched one hour of DVRd teevee. I’d had a bad day. I can’t recall now why. But I wanted to zone out. And so I did. I also watched Notorious with a friend on Saturday night. It seems I’m on an Alfred Hitchcock bent. 

So the first two weeks were fairly successful. I watched teevee a total of two nights out of seven, both weeks. And I learned from my infractions. It’s odd how teevee-watching is a go to mind-number for me. It’s similar in effect to alcohol or chain-smoking. (The latter of which I stopped doing years ago.) So just as I did when quitting cigarettes, it’s time to make a list of go-tos when I feel like turning on the tube.

 

 

  • Write/Blog
  • Read a book
  • Take a bath
  • Go for a walk/run
  • Pull weeds
  • Get on my elliptical
  • Do some yoga
  • Catch up on email (being careful not to get drawn into internet mind-numbing)
  • Organize a room, or maybe just a closet for starters (okay, a drawer?)
  • Listen to music

Sometimes, listening to music is difficult for me. I’d stop listening to music entirely when I was in the throes of the depression. (I’d also stopped reading and doing most exercise.) I’ve never quite understood why it’s so difficult to listen to music when I’m flattened out by depression. Perhaps it’s because music is about feeling, and when I’m depressed, I don’t feel much of anything. Except hopeless.

Alcohol is not a substitute for teevee. Although last night, it was. I went to a rubber-chicken work-related function. Only it was rice enchiladas instead of rubber chicken. (Have you even heard of rice enchiladas? No? There’s a good reason for that.) They had complimentary wine and beer, and cash margaritas. The wine was crap so I paid for a margarita. And I had the bartender make me a double. How else can you get through one of those awards ceremonies? At dinner, I switched to the crap wine. To go with my rice enchilada. (Who in the hell ever heard of a rice enchilada?) Today, I’m suffering the effects of a double margarita and too much crap wine. And two rice enchiladas. My head hurts. I’m tired. I slept terribly for the first time in weeks. I haven’t had a hangover since the days of Mack. The days of wine and narcissists.

No. Alcohol is no substitute for teevee.

If anyone has other ideas to add to my list of teevee substitutions, I’d be delighted to hear them.

 

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