Monday, January 30, 2012

A Date With My Husband

Not actually taken on this date.
At my last chorus rehearsal, I found out that Melissa, the pianist who accompanies our group, also works for Opera Providence. She was performing at the Blithewold Mansion in Bristol, RI this past weekend. I suggested it might be a fun way to spend Sunday afternoon, so Larry secured two of the last four seats available. What a great day!

After spending the morning in Providence with my youngest sister, Colleen, watching her youngest daughter, Kelly, perform at a very impressive cheerleading competition at the Convention Center, I got home in time to change into something a little fancy, and head to Bristol with Larry. Neither of us had ever been to the Blithewold Mansion, but it has been on our "list". Checking it off that list, along with getting my very first opera experience, was really exciting.

Before the "Three Tenors" concert, we were treated to fancy cookies and beverages of our choice. We had champagne, because how fun is that! I've never had champagne on a Sunday afternoon, schmoozing with the Providence opera crowd in a lovely historic dining room. We strolled through the rose garden, laying dormant until it comes to life in spring, on our way to the house. I can't wait to go back and see the grounds in full bloom. We were formally greeted by very friendly women, who took my coat and guided us to the dining room, assuring us we'd be informed when the concert started.

The dining room was just lovely with a gorgeous view of Narragansett Bay. This was a summer cottage, as are all the mansions here and in Newport of the state's historic "rich and famous". It is very small compared to those on Bellevue Avenue in Newport, but stunning all the same. The dining rooms' walls were covered in intricately carved wood. Larry thinks it was walnut. The dining table was in the center of the room, set with gorgeous, flowered dishes and matching serving pieces. Each place-setting had a pretty little green-glass wine glass with polished silver cutlery. And, every setting was laid on a lovely cream-colored antique lace placemat with matching napkin. There was a beautiful built-in hutch, and other pretty wood furniture pieces in the room. The plate shelf near the cream-colored ornate ceiling was lined with a beautiful blue-flowered ceramic vase and dish collection. In one corner, was a glass-front hutch with another collection of dishes and glasses; some labeled as brands from England. There was also a lovely fireplace on one wall with an old painting of a woman over it, that looked built-in as well. The painting's colors were dark, and Larry commented that it probably needed cleaning. It was a lovely room with window seats on either end, and the people there were very nice.

When the concert was ready to begin, we were ushered into the living room at the opposite end of the house. It was an all-cream-colored room (walls and ceiling; window treatments and fireplace), with wood furniture, adornments, including an old sailing ship on top of one cabinet, and a gold-framed mirror over the fireplace mantle. There were about eighty chairs set up "audience-style" in front of a wall of windows on two sides: one faced the Bay; the other a covered patio. There were large stone patios on two sides of the house we saw through the windows. On the way to the living room, we passed a billiard room, that was dark and manly-looking, with another model of an old sailing ship owned by Augustus Van Wickle, the original owner. On the other side of the hallway, was a very small "telephone" room. After watching the PBS show, Downton Abbey, and seeing their first experience with telephones, I was charmed to view an actual room just for using this technological wonder-of-the-day.

The tenors' voices were marvelous. My favorite tenor was Giovanni Formisano. His voice was very strong and he was very Italian. Bellisimo! We also enjoyed Ethan Bremner, who gave me my first "Pretty Woman" experience. Remember that scene in the movie, when Julie Roberts' character was dressed in that tight red gown with that gorgeous ruby necklace and sat in the opera-house box? The song that was sung, made her gasp and choke and cry with its beauty. I recognized this song as the last one of the program, sung by all three tenors: "Nessun dorma" from Turandot (music by Giacomo Puccini). Well, Mr. Bremner made me choke and cry with his rendition of "Amor ti vieta" from Fedora (music by Umperto Giordano). I couldn't believe it. It was pure magic. I felt like "Pretty Woman" in that moment, and jumped to applause when he was done, yelling, "Bravo!" I felt like I was in a movie.

Most of the concert, I just closed my eyes and drank in the music. Melissa's performance was magnificent. The music she played was so hard! I watched her hands and her perfect posture at the old, tinny-sounding piano, and was in awe of her talent. I can't wait to see her at chorus on Thursday night and tell her. Larry and I both left there feeling a new urge to experience opera, and look forward to attending the  next Opera Providence concert. The next one will feature the music of Gilbert and Sullivan; Larry's favorite.

Sunset on the Bay painted a gorgeous red and orange sky at the end of the concert, and the entire afternoon was the perfect date. But our date wasn't over yet, because we had a delicious dinner at a restaurant we haven't experienced yet: Le Central. The local oysters were delicious. We enjoyed a lovely Barroso shiraz bottle of wine. He had pork ossobucco, and I had the lightest fried hake I've ever eaten. All the vegetables were perfectly cooked, and it was one of the most flavorful, delicious meals we've eaten so far. The restaurant's ambiance was quiet and we left with a huge smile on our stuffed faces.

It was by far the nicest date we've had in a very long time.

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Out with the old...

Breaking old patterns is hard. Learning new lifestyle behaviours and sticking to them is harder. Nothing is impossible, but that "ole stinkin' thinkin'" is very powerful. So is guilt. I was raised Catholic, so guilt has a strong hold on me. I fight it every day, but that string hangs tough to my psyche. It goes way back.

I have been working hard to exercise most every day, and I eat healthily much of the time. But, my addiction is sugar and chocolate. It IS an addiction. My sister says, "Just stop it!" "Yeah, yeah, yeah", I say. "I know you're right." But, I have to choose in the moment my addiction kicks in. I choose. Not her. Not anyone else. Me. This past weekend I chose my addiction over fruit every time I wanted "something". It ain't easy.

Guilt makes me feel like such a whimp. My sister is fighting cancer for God's sake. If she can do that, I certainly can choose fruit instead of 60% dark chocolate chips on my fat-free vanilla frozen yogurt. One scoop with a few chips would be better than three with lots of chips, that's for sure. But, maybe for right now, I should just forgo the latter all together, and choose the ever-darkening pear sitting in my fruit bowl instead. I can't eat just one chip. Some days, like these days, it is just too hard. Others are much easier. Just not today.

So, learning from my Al-Anon classes, I must choose differently. It isn't so bad. Fruit is healthy, right? And, it tastes good. I know it ain't chocolate, but what is? For now, I will choose the fruit. I will "Just do it!" Thanks, Sistah. I'm off for my walk now.

Friday, January 20, 2012

The First Snow

I know that places north of us got a lot of snow in October, but we only got rain. On the way home from chorus last night, the flakes started falling. This morning there was a coating of icy snow everywhere. After my chiropractor appointment this morning, I rode around Westport, MA on my way home and realized the inland towns got a few more inches of snow than we did. Either way, it is a beautiful winter day in the south coast.
I had an urge to go walking in the snow and cold today. I had the foresight to bring my little camera with me, and once again, thought of my sister, Jeanne, recuperating from her chemo treatment on Wednesday. I decided to take her with me again for a stroll through the snowy woods along the sea marshy coastline. I ride by this wildlife refuge a lot, and always say, "I'll walk through there some day." I decided twenty-nine degrees isn't so bad for a healthy walk outside. I was bundled up enough to handle it. What a blessing! I'm so happy I went.

Walking along the snowy paths, I was struck by how the light caught ice draped on branches, making them look bejeweled. They sparkled and shimmered in the silence of wind murmurs permeating the crisp air. My face felt very cold, so I pulled my hood up over my hat and covered my chin with my scarf. It was just enough to feel comfortable. Each time I took my hands out to take a picture, they got really cold. At one point, I had to keep them in my pockets even though I had warm enough gloves on to protect them.

There were several marked and color-coded paths to choose from: white, yellow, blue, red and orange. The last one is the only one I did not explore. Each one was fairly short, but meandered through the forest. Several of the earlier paths opened out onto the sea marsh. The blue path brought me to a marsh I see whenever I drive along Seapowet Avenue, and the crunching of my boots on the snow scared a beautiful white egret from its foraging haven. It flew out of the marsh and circled around the pond before I could get my camera out of my pocket and snap a shot. I decided this lovely image was just meant for me, so I savored the moment.

At the end of the yellow path, that skirted the backyards of a couple of lovely houses, was another view of the marsh. This time, though, the Sakonnet River was beyond it in the distance. The light was so lovely this morning. I was so happy to be out. At one point, I took a picture with my cell phone and sent it to Jeanne, so I could not only report my walk to my mentor, but share the moment with her first-hand.

There were lots of little birds in the dense brush flitting about, and I didn't spy any other critters. But I did find an adorable set of tracks in the snow. I just had to capture them. Perhaps a racoon? I have no way of knowing. But, it felt very special to share the path with one of the refuge's furry residents.

At the foot of a bridge that crossed a small stream, I caught the sound of trickling. I just stood on the foot and listened. Trickling water and wind moving through the trees was all I heard. There were not even any bird sounds; just silence and peace. I stretched my arms out to either side with my eyes closed and just breathed it all in. The smell of low tide was so clean and filled me up. It was just magic.

On the way home I stopped to visit my horse friends once again. They seemed happy to see me.

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

"If you don't give your heart wings, you'll never fly."

This past weekend was very, very busy. We spent Friday through Sunday with family, but I think I overdid it. We don't usually fill our weekends like this, and probably will try not to do it again anytime soon. By Sunday night, I was exhausted. On Monday, I felt nauseous and headachy, and yes, a little depressed. I rescheduled my training workout until Tuesday, and spent the day napping and cleaning my house. By the time I was done, I felt better that the house was finally clean, but that old "stinkin' thinkin'" crept right back into my head, and I felt weighted down with sadness.

My son's heart is broken because his second baby boy who died mysteriously in-utero was to be born last Friday. He is so angry and sad. Two of my sisters are seriously ill and a sister-in-law "once removed" is back in the hospital. I talked with a friend in South Carolina, and ended that talk feeling like I let her down by telling her we wouldn't be back until May. The clouds just kept filling my head, and I started justifying "bagging" the classes I had just joined so happily the week before. By Tuesday, an hour before I was to meet Eric for another training session, I was in full excuse-mode; trying to find a reason to call and cancel again. I felt so sad, depressed and heavy. Then, a voice broke through in my head, that pushed the others away and yelled, "Shut up and just go! Shut up and go!" So I went.

While I lifted weights over my head, looking at myself in the mirror, I felt so much better. I confessed my transgressions to Eric and told him how happy I was to be there. "It's hard to get out sometimes," he said, "but once you do, you're glad you did!" I have heard this many times, and it is so true. My body was sore last night and I came home tired.

But today, I am lighter. I went for a four-mile walk and texted my sister, Jeanne, that I was going and taking her with me. "Can you feel the sun on your face?" I texted to her. She was sitting in an oncology office getting her second R-CHOP chemotherapy treatment. As I walked, I imagined her next to me pushing me on. It was the music that drove me forward. I "put my hands up, put my hands up" over and over again, pumping my hips from side to side as I did; watching my shadow move on the road and laughing to myself. I sang out loud and laughed some more.

I greeted my friends, the horses, on my way. My good friend, came and licked my palm as I snapped his portrait and laughed again. I saw a cloud in the sky that looked like me running with my two pups running behind me. I laughed some more. I felt  free, light, strong and happy. It is a good day, and I feel totally different than I did when yesterday began.

This process of getting healthy and strong is a long road. But the road is worth travelling, as long as you have good music and the love of a supportive sister. All of these things let laughter fill my heart and make me wanna put my hands up! J Lo is one woman who makes my walks a dance fest. Enjoy!

Thursday, January 12, 2012

"Who's that pretty girl in the mirror there?"

Today was my third session with Eric, the personal trainer. My body has been feeling a little sore, but not anything I can't stretch out. After today, I may be hurting a little bit more. He added more weight and reps to my sessions, and always asks, "How does that feel?" It feels great.

I look in the mirror, and I feel strong. I ignore the roll around my middle and the flab hanging under my triceps. Instead I focus on my  little bulging biceps that I see as being solid; making my arms so much more useful. That they aren't there yet is irrelevant at this point. That I can visualize how they can look, is. I'm not looking for bulging muscles by any means. I just want to be toned, and stronger.  I want to reduce that hanging flab under my arms, so that in the warm weather when I prop my elbow on the passenger side window of our truck, I won't have to look in the side mirror anymore and say, "Who's old-lady arm is that? Not mine. It can't be." But it is.

When I sat on the machines that tone the inside and outside of my thighs, I remembered how that bulge just below my hip on my upper outside thigh was less after four years working out at Curves. I visualized those bumps being gone and a smoother line from my hip down my outside thigh. I also imagined my entire leg being more toned, so that my knees fit together more closely when I put my feet together. My whole life I had skinny legs. I don't even recognize my legs anymore. When Eric added ten more pounds, I felt good about it. I forgot how much I like feeling stronger. It was a huge confidence boost.

When I was making appointments with Eric for next week's workouts, I mentioned that I wanted to try to get Larry to join me in Tai Chi next Monday morning. The owner of the place, Steve, immediately told me that a Tai Chi class was just starting next door. That he provided that class, and I could just drop in and see if I liked it. The woman he was working with affirmed that Paul, the instructor, was great and I wouldn't regret going. So I did. It was wonderful. I got stretched out, calmed down, learned that I have a "natural stance" which really boosted my ego, and I met a few very nice people. I signed up for ten classes.

After a difficult couple of years, I am once again thinking about how hard my body works for me, and beginning to treat it with the respect it deserves. By respecting my body, instead of abusing it, I am also showing more respect for my Self. I do not respect myself as much as I respect other people. I do not treat myself honorably. I can be my own worst enemy. For once, I am becoming my own best friend. I am honoring who I truly am inside, by working on the outside. I am making a shift in my mind to change my lifestyle just enough to feel good about myself. I am not a purist by any means. I like my wine and martinis, and can't live without chocolate. But, I am learning to control the portions I eat and drink. Like everything else in my life, this control is also a process. I get that...finally.

And, not only do I acknowledge that I get it; I am finally acting on it. I am investing in it. I feel a little guilty about the money I am spending all at once on my trainer, the Tai Chi class, the chakra class and all my alternative medicine people that aren't covered by insurance. But, I said a prayer on the way out of Four Corners Fitness this morning: "Dear God, please send me all the money I need to do the things that will make me healthy and happy. Amen." I have proven to myself over time, that if I just believe I will get what I need, I will. And, I have. I just believe it and dive in.

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Flapping and Circling

The other morning while enjoying coffee with my husband, I watched a seagull circling the river in front of our house and flapping as if its life depended on it: flapping and circling; flapping and circling several times until it headed down river. Most times the sea birds and hawks just coast on the winds without a care in the world. At least that's how they make me feel when I watch them. They just gracefully soar hither and thither; so gently and easily. I watched the tips of a hawk's wings that look like spread-out yoga fingers; moving one then another to maneuver in the breeze, changing direction ever so slightly. Watching the birds here by the water is so calming and relaxing for the most part.

But, the other morning when I watched the gull flapping and circling, it reminded me of my life right now while I explore what retirement means to me. Instead of gently gliding on the breeze and just "being", I feel like I'm flapping my virtual wings for all I'm worth while circling the options laid out below and in front of me. What should I be doing in retirement? Does it really matter? When I left work, I said I was going to write and publish a book. I asked for self-publishing software for my computer as a parting gift. Part of the reason I avoid going back to visit my old colleagues is to avoid the question, "So, did you publish that book?" Blogging seems to satisfy my need to be published right now. And, it satisfies my need for immediate gratification. I can't deal with rejection, so my blogs also help me feel successful.

My life really is idyllic, but I still have a nagging voice inside that says I'm not being productive enough. I need more stimulation. I'm bored with sitting around doing whatever I feel like in the moment. Really? Some of my sisters would tell me I'm spoiled. Well, maybe I am. But what does that have to do with the fact that my life choices thus far brought me to this place. It's a great place to be. A dream come true. What do I have to complain about then; spoiled brat that I am? I found myself saying to my husband recently, "I used to be this really big person; out there and living large. Now, I've shrunk down to someone I don't recognize." Could this feeling be merely a self-perception, or driven by outside influences and expectations? I'm not really sure.

I do realize, though, that I truly need a bit more stimulation, so I will explore singing in the community chorus. I negotiated with Larry to shift our schedule in order for me to explore engaging in music. And I enrolled in a course studying my throat chakra: "Speaking your truth with responsibility and compassion" is the title of the workshop. It will incorporate meditation, visualization, movement and creating artwork. I haven't taken a course like this in a long time, and I also see it as a way to meet like-minded "new agey" spiritual women in town. The music will also hopefully get me to take the cover off my keyboard and learn to play it once and for all. So, instead of beating myself up, acupuncture is helping calm my anxiety and allowing me to pursue other goals I set for myself in retirement. I am creating my support network, and am getting ready to head down river into an interesting creative new adventure. Isn't that what retirement is all about?

Saturday, January 7, 2012

Shift Happens

Forcing myself to push outside my comfort zone is hard. This week I did just that, though, on several levels. My week began with a second treatment from my new acupuncturist. I've decided he's fine. He makes me laugh, and that laughter is healing in and of itself. The pain I've had for a year in the top of my left foot is now gone after one laser treatment. I am very impressed with that. When I walked in and relayed my physical ills to him, I followed-up with, "My chocolate addiction is out of control!" He treated that too, and I haven't craved or eaten chocolate or anything more than honey all week. Not eating sugar or chocolate feels really good for a change.

The only break here is that Larry and I tried a new restaurant (for us) in Westport, MA called Marguerite's last night. The food was fabulous. It was very simply prepared; seemed pretty low-fat, and tasted fresh and healthy. We shared steamed mussels in broth with garlic. He had salmon and I had Sole Piccata (Panko breaded and lightly fried with a lemon sauce and capers -- delish!). The asparagus was perfectly cooked with just the perfect little crunch. He liked the mashed potatoes and I liked the rice pilaf. The "piese-de-resistance", however, was the grapenut custard that tasted just like Gummy (my maternal grandmother) made. I felt like I died and went to Heaven. We will definitely go there again.

Thursday night I went to the first "open sing" of the spring season for the Tiverton Community Chorus. I was scared to death to go, but forced myself there. Larry volunteered to go with me for support, but I said, "No, you don't have to. I'm a big girl now." We laughed and I trudged out the door. I couldn't find my way into the church building until I walked around to the back. Then I couldn't get up to where a gentleman told me I should go because there was tape across the steps leading to the main Sanctuary with the strong smell of stain permeating the air inside the entrance. He ushered me downstairs and I followed the "registration" signs with arrows through the kitchen and up the other side; picked one of the three closed doors following singing and found a packed church. I was embarrassed to be the last one to arrive, and I thought they had just started. Later I learned the sing started at 7:00pm; not 7:30. Oh well. It must have been my nerves that read the newspaper wrong.

A woman from the back row at the farthest corner of the Sanctuary came to greet me; signed me in; gave me a packet of music that I was instructed I was only "borrowing"; was not to write in, and had to return it to her at the end of the night. I sat where I was directed, and saw a neighbor in the row in front of me who lived four houses down. Seeing her friendly face made me feel a lot better. The music director seemed to be more friendly when she was performing than when I called her at home last season about joining. I realized that night that she was just a professional, and I was approaching this as a "fun" activity. Although I let people around me know at the break how intimidated I was, they all assured me there was no need. "I lip sync when I lose my place," my neighbor said. Don't worry. And, the music director assured the five to six of us "newbies" that if we thought everyone in the room just read that last piece of music easily, we were sadly mistaken. I lightened up a little more.

As the evening went on, I realized how difficult the pieces were. I have not really read music since I was in the All Newton Chorus in middle school. This season's music will be hymns from all types of composers. There are several songs from Broadway: Godspell and Children of Eden (not produced), and Shaker songs. It was very interesting and not the kind of music I would be exposed to in any other context. I found that I had trouble following along because I was always a soprano (top line). I now designated my self an alto, and by the end of the night confirmed this was the correct choice for me now. But that means I have to sing the second line, and quickly finding it for each stanza down the page and turning pages is hard. By the end of the night, I decided I really wanted to do this for the challenge, for the brain exercise, for the social experience and for the wonderful music. I had forgotten how beautiful singing harmony with a hundred or so people in a room is. My soul filled up with the music and I got emotional at one point. I really wanted to do this.

Then I realized that the concerts are May 5th and 6th, and Larry and I had been casually talking about going to the lake house in South Carolina for the month of April. I invited my sister to come and a girlfriend. I can't join this chorus and not only go away for the month of April, but take another two weeks off when we go to Hawaii for ten days on March 7th. I was devastated to realize this scheduling conflict once again, and to also realize this would always be the case. I couldn't join last season for the Christmas concert because of a planned trip south. I realized later that I could have been part of it, since our trip got cancelled for multiple reasons. Then I got mad and yelled to myself, "This just sucks!"

I dumped all over Larry the next morning when he said, "My family will be disappointed," if we don't go in April when we said we would. I yelled, "I can't spend my life pleasing everyone. It's MY life!" It got uglier from there, so I won't humiliate myself or my husband by expounding it here. Suffice it to say I stormed out of the house to go meet my personal trainer for the first time and we talked in a calmer tone at dinner.

My trainer is a handsome young man, who was very chatty and very nice. He eased me into free weights and the machines. He stayed with me and counted as I did the exercises, "Two more now, then...that's it. Good job." We got to know each other a little as I worked out, and he was very conscious and considerate of my bad knees and made sure I let him know if anything hurt when I did it. We talked about my expectations of a trainer and he assured me that's what he did: push me when I don't want to and challenge me when I fight it. The time flew by, and it felt really good. I appreciated the one-on-one attention, the conversation that made the time fly by, and the small (a little too intimate) atmosphere. I didn't chat it up when others came to work out; just when the two trainers were in the room. I was alone to start and it helped with the "getting to know you" part of my experience. I signed up for ten sessions and have two scheduled for next week. I feel pretty good today. Nothing hurts. I just have to discuss the lack of stretching space there with my trainer. I didn't stretch at all when I was done. I know this is not a good thing.

I felt a little nausea when I was done working out, but happily I remembered to bring a TLC granola bar to nibble on with my water before heading home for a sandwich. After lunch, I went to meet my new massage therapist. She was just what I had hoped for: a hippy-dippy young women after my own heart. We both knew in our first telephone conversation that we'd hit it off, so our conversation was just right. She gave me a wonderful deep-tissue massage, and my body so needed it. She also alerted me to two ribs being "out" just below my clavacle, so next week, I'll have those addressed. She thinks they are contributing to my shoulder pain.

I also talked with her about connecting with a "spiritual" group in town, and she let me know her mother did holistic workshops. She shared a flyer for a women's workshop starting next week focused on the second chakra that sounds great. I'll probably call and sign up. I'm not sure what will happen with the chorus yet. I really want to do it and go to South Carolina in May. This will probably happen. I will probably also take the workshop that will end the day we leave for Hawaii. I need to call my neighbor and talk more about the chorus. We exchanged numbers that night. Another good thing.

Everything falls into place as it should, and time will tell how this all plays out.  I'll keep y'all posted. Thanks for listening.

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

Getting Moving

Outside Amicable Congregational Church
I read in the Sakonnet Times this morning that the Tiverton Community Chorus is starting up again. I wanted to join this chorus last season.  I thought I'd be away for five weeks during it, and the music director encouraged me not to come because I'd miss too many rehearsals. Even though the invitation in the newspaper seemed open and welcoming, she seemed strict and rigid. She reminded me of the nuns at St. Catherine's elementary school in Norwood, Massachusetts. I was afraid of them, but couldn't wait to carry the bag of my favorite each morning as we anxiously waited for them to come down the hill towards the school from the adjoining convent.

I still want to join the chorus, but I realized I am afraid. What could I possibly be afraid of? I love to sing. I used to be able to read music. If someone asked me to sing a "C" note, I couldn't, but I can follow a music sheet if given the starting note. I know what a whole note is, a half note and a sliding note. I can follow along quite well, and I would be part of a chorus after all. I can follow along with the section to which I become assigned: soprano or alto. I think now I am more comfortable as a alto, even though I spent my life as a soprano.

This is the display every Christmas.

And, joining the chorus would be an excellent opportunity to meet new people and make new friends in my town. The Amicable Congregational Church is not very far. It's just on the edge of Four Corners. I could walk there in nice weather. It meets every Thursday night from 7:30 to 9:30. Not bad. Is it that I don't want to make a commitment? Is television so important to me that I can't leave the house? That was the case periodically in my life. I want to move on from that reality in my retirement. Of course, my greatest wish remains to find something Larry and I can do together. But, other than attending plays through our subscription at the Huntington Theater in Boston and bowling every Tuesday night, that was the last time we had something fun to do together that brought us out. We stopped doing both because of the distance, and can't seem to find anything else right now.

I think the "chainsaw" artist did these.
I remain hopeful that I'll succeed in finding something eventually. Doing the chorus alone just reminds me of all the times I did things alone as a single woman. One of the reasons I got married was to not do everything alone again: chorus, exercise; whatever. We go to the movies occasionally. We had a movie date on New Year's Eve. We saw the latest Sherlock Holmes movie and it was fun. I guess I need more than the occasional outing, and feel a little guilty saying that out loud over and over again. Sorry, Larry,

Our social needs are just different I guess. I used to be such a "social butterfly". Now, my life is much more isolated. Country living is wonderful, but unless one gets one's butt out of the house, one spends way too much time alone. The problem is home is very comfortable, and I have gotten very lazy. It all seems like work, and I can't even get myself to clean. I just feel lazy. How long will I allow myself to stay home like this? I don't know. But now, Thursday night, the first night of Open Sing of the Chorus is looming large and weighing heavy.

Doing something I enjoy and getting out should be a light and enjoyable experience. Maybe I just have to shift my thinking and get my butt out the door at 7:15pm on Thursday. Maybe I have to make that call to get an hour with a personal trainer. More exercise would help elevate my energy level. Yadda, yadda, yadda.

Monday, January 2, 2012

Stickin' Up for Me

It is very difficult finding new medical people I can trust. It is especially hard finding new "alternative" medical support. It is important to find someone who will allow me to feel safe and nurtured, while trusting their professionalism in order to be truly vulnerable, willing and able to receive the benefits of said treatment. I am mainly referring to acupuncture and chiropractic treatments.

I was introduced to both modalities by my physical therapist turned therapeutic massage therapist many years ago. I fought her gentle prods towards opening up to these treatments "tooth and nail". They were weird. They could hurt me. They were foreign. They had a bad "rep". They weren't covered by medical insurance. They were expensive. I was afraid. I talked with her over and over again about various styles of treatment. In chiropractic, it was "the crackers" versus "the healers".

I met my first chiropractor on a "singles" web site and had a couple of dates with him. After getting lots of information about chiropractic from him, I became his patient for about a year, and we stopped dating. His style of cracking me was a little off-putting at the time. I particularly didn't like when he crossed my arms over my chest while I laid flat, and he pounced on me with his full body weight to crack a difficult area between "my wings" in my middle back. I have since learned from other practicioners that this style has different forms: standing up or beginning in a sitting position and having him lean me back slowly to a lying position before applying pressure. The treatment works best if my muscles are not tight. At that time, they were extremely tight. I was not receiving regular massage therapy to help loosen me up and I was not stretching. Over time I discovered that the majority of my physical pain and headaches was/is due to tight muscles.

Since that first doctor, I have received treatment from at least a half-dozen more. Only one was female. I realized I prefer cracking with deep tissue massage or Active Release Techniques (ART) to "the activator" solely. My current new chiropractic doctor uses the former and the activator. He knows about ART, but I don't think he practices it. My former chiropractor did regularly perform ART on me, and I found this in addition to regular cracking (vertibral manipulation) works best for me. Now that we are living full-time in Rhode Island, travelling an hour and a half for an hour's treatment or fifteen minutes for chiropractic, just does not make sense anymore, especially with gas prices as high as they are. I like my new chiropractor and he seems to be doing a good job stabilizing my crackly, weak-feeling knees. My headaches are gone and my sinuses feel better. Chiropractic is now covered by insurance, and I only have a small co-pay.

It took me much longer to open to acupuncture. My last acupuncturist became my good friend. She has treated me for several years and became an emotional/spiritual counsellor as well. She has such a healing, nurturing, calming nature that I feel better just walking in her treatment room. I miss her dearly, even though she's a friend on Facebook, so finding a replacement for her will be much harder. I found a man with a practice I drive by a lot. My intuition kept his sign in my mind, and after calling around to practitioners from the Blue Cross web site with only one call-back (who was a woman who moved too far away for me), I found my car turning into his driveway last week on a whim. I got an appointment the next day and the treatment was very different. I have to pay $50 per treatment after the $75 initial treatment, but I will be filing forms to try and get some reimbursement from insurance. My ultimate goal is to find treatments that are mostly covered by insurance. Larry and I already pay over $800 per month for health insurance. I can no longer afford to pay huge amounts above this for my healthcare.

First of all, I am not used to being treated by a male for acupuncture. My whole orientation to it has been female. His style is more brusque, but he is very funny. We are of similar age, and talked about being from the same generation a lot. Without telling me ahead of time, after putting in the needles, he added a low-level laser block that he taped to the top of my left foot. I have a joint that has been bothering me for a year now, and nothing so far has helped the pain. It is difficult to walk with foot pain. It is best if one does not move after needles have been inserted, but I needed to see what was on my foot. Not only did he tape the block to my foot, assuring me that with two to three treatments, my foot would be so much better, he added electro-stimulation to one of the needles in my shoulder.

I looked to see what was causing my shoulder to jerk up and down more violently than I cared for. It was more like a strong muscle jerking motion, that I found disconcerting. It was an electrical clamp on the needle. I never saw what it was connected to, but I didn't like it very much. When I asked him what he was doing, he didn't give me information. It felt like he was pulling a male/female power trip: "You don't need to know. I know what's best for you." I don't deal with this behavior well anymore. I also picked up on what appeared to be a little arrogance when he said, "I am published. You can look me up on the web later for my work on "Naeser's laser" to relieve carpal tunnel pain." I thought he was making a joke with the "Naeser's laser" thing, but I did: I need to find out more about the electro-stimulation he did to me before I allow it again. I have to admit, though, that both my shoulder and my foot feel much better.

I am seeing him again tomorrow. I will have a discussion with him about his non-communicative style. If I don't get a satisfactory reaction from him, i.e., he acknowledges it and gives me more information when I ask for it; thereby showing me more respect, I will just leave and look for another practicioner. I asked my old acupuncturist friend if she thought this behavior was a male/female power-trip thing or just a style difference, and she thinks it's the latter. I think the jury is still out on this one, but I'm opening to exploring it further. I have learned over time that acupuncture works for me. It removes pain and anxiety. It helps me sleep better and sweat less during the night. Often times, I am reminded of this fact when I stop going and the symptoms I forgot I had return. Acupuncture and herbs is how I successfully got through menopause without hormones.

Combining Eastern and Western medicine alternatives are key to my continued good health. Of this I am certain. I just have to add regular massage therapy and get it all mostly covered by insurance. The latter will require more research. These alternative medical options are focused on my body healing itself. I like the whole idea of that. I hate taking medication. I don't like the side effects, or the long-term implications of powerful chemicals' affects on my body. If I have to take them, I will. I'm taking Simvastatin for my high cholesterol now, after fighting the idea of it. It's no big deal. I still think of the long-term ramifications of the drug on my liver, for example, but for now I take it and shut up about it.

At least I am finding my health support system locally now, and I feel really good about that.