Sunday, March 29, 2015

Tears, and ...... Timers?

Nobody told me about this part.

I fully realize at this point that every woman's peri-menopause experience is unique.  As women, we listen to older women warning us about "the change" in ominous tones of voice.  The focus of the warnings are usually on hot flashes and weight gain.  My mother had hot flashes for years, but her emotions never seemed to get off-keel.  I had night sweats for about a year, followed by off the charts hot flashes for about 9 months.

Then, I launched into crazy world.

I view 2014 as the lost year.  Lost because when I wasn't insane from hot flashes, I was just plain insane.  I feel like it was a non-stop series of crisises that blurred together.  Absolutely everything felt like the end of the world to me.  I was in reactionary mode every minute of every day.   Looking back on that time, I think that the worst part of it was that I knew how I was acting and sounding, but I was like some sort of addict who just could not stop the bad behavior even though I desperately wanted to.   When I wasn't acting crazy, I was profoundly sad and depressed because I felt so out of control.   I finally gave in and asked for hormone therapy.  Hallelujah!  I started to regain my real life.  I still sometimes feel twinges of insanity, but I think (hope.... pray...) that the crazy anger is gone.

STOP!  Not so fast.  That was NOT the end.  I'm now dealing with a new issue which, I'm sure, will be seen as a welcome relief comparatively, but it is, nonetheless, baffling and sometimes downright embarrassing.

Tears.   As children, we received the message loud and clear.  Grownups don't cry.  I think I saw my Mom cry once - and it was not even when my Dad died.  So what happens when you suddenly develop this feeling that you are on the verge of bursting into tears, and you feel this way pretty much all the time.  It started with me about two months ago.  See, I should have known that the "feeling normal" stuff was too good to be true.

They talk about hair loss.  Receding gums.  Nobody talks about tears.  I don't know - is this the opposite of what I was experiencing last year?

Don't get me wrong - I am so beyond relieved to have gotten a grip on my anger insanity. Comparatively speaking, this is nothing.   But, it can definitely be embarrassing, which is why it took me two months to even write about it.  I was hoping that it would go away.  Not yet, I'm afraid.

By now, you're probably wondering where the timer comes in.   I had a particular exercise in my piano book that was giving me fits.  I finally thought I'd mastered it.  I was really anxious to play it at my lesson (for about fifth and hopefully final time, I hoped!) and was proud of myself for not giving up on it.  Well, one of the pitfalls of taking lessons with your best friend as the instructor is that you occasionally start talking and end up talking the lesson away.   I think we have both gotten used to it as just an unavoidable fact of life,  and I often told her that having me as a student was never going to make her rich.  On this particular day, as I said, I really wanted to play this pesky exercise, but ... alas .... it turned out to be one of those days somehow ....  and when I heard her timer go off signifying the end of our lesson time .......  well.... you guessed it.   I remember staring straight ahead at the music and taking very deep breaths.  I was afraid to even look at her.    Somehow I regained my composure, but I drove home with tears rolling down my face.  Now really... what a stupid thing to cry about!!  I mean, really????  Really???  That may be the point at which I realized that this was the next "phase" of "the change" for me.

As I said, I am not complaining, because overall, I feel so much better than I did 8 or 10 or 12 months ago.  I guess I am just sort of bewildered by it and, yes, afraid of embarrassing myself.   Who knows how long THIS phase will last?   I guess I'd better avoid K-Mart like the plague.  There's no telling what the blue light specials could do to me.

Monday, March 23, 2015

The Will To Live

Next month will mark the second anniversary of my mother's death.   It's pretty amazing that two years has passed already.  A couple of things have happened in the past week that has made me ponder her life, as well as my place in it.

We visited my cousin - our annual visit so that Bill could prepare her tax return.  She is 16 years older than me.  Many years ago, we were very close.  She was especially close to my mother, and last weekend, we were reminiscing  about her.    All of my older cousins thought that my mother was the best Aunt since, oh I don't know .... Auntie Mame, maybe?  I've had difficulty connecting this woman with the person I knew as my mother, but it finally dawned on me that she was not so different from me.  I love my daughter and wouldn't trade her for the world, but I knew enough to stop at one child, because I knew in my heart of hearts that one child was as much as I could handle, as a mother.  I do not get all mushy with maternal instinct every time I see a baby or toddler.  Babies, much like dogs and cats, seem to sense this in people, and rarely have I held someone else's baby that it hasn't started crying almost immediately.  Conversely, strange dogs and cats are drawn to me like bees to flowers. I do enjoy playing the role of the "fun Aunt" though.  Actually, I love it.  So, in this respect it seems that I am my mother's daughter.

I was in an emergency room today for the first time since my mother passed.  It felt entirely different than the countless times I'd been in the emergency room with her.  Why?  Bill commented to my sweet friend that she should feel honored that I went into the room to be with her, since I dislike emergency rooms so much.  Hmmmm.... well, this got me to thinking.

I suspect that my mother started losing her will to live when our family started fragmenting and drifting apart from one another.  She retreated to the couch in front of the TV and rarely left the house except for church and grocery shopping.  The falls started happening about 5 years before she passed - so many times that I lost count.  It occurred to me today that with the exception of her final fall in the nursing home when she broke her hip, all she ever injured when she fell was her head.  Every single time.  Wouldn't you think she might have sprained or broken something else at least once?  It was like she never had the instinct to break her fall or protect herself in any way.  Of course, this leads inevitably to the question of could I, her only child, have done more for her in her final years?  What could I have done so that she might have felt that she had more to live for?  Well, I'm not sure I could have done much in a different way.  As she so famously told me in a voice mail message once, I needed to "get my head out of my ass, stop living in my own little world, and worry about something besides myself for a change."  Nobody would ever accuse my mother of being a modern parent, that's for sure.

No, today was different, because my best friend wants to live and be healthy and whole.   Since I've known her, any time she has tripped or fallen, her instinct has been to protect herself from a truly serious injury.  I don't know if this is a conscious action or not, but either way, I am grateful for it.  And when I found out which emergency room she was in, that emergency room was the only place I wanted to be.  It was so unlike my past experiences that it was almost a relief or a validation of some sort.

I wonder what my mother thinks of me, now that she is looking down at me from the afterworld?  I no longer feel the burden of trying to gain her approval, and in an odd way, I think that has helped me become someone she would have approved of.  Someone who rushes to the emergency room out of genuine concern rather than dread, fear and obligation.  Perhaps I've almost succeeded in "getting my head out of my ass".      Thank God for giving us free will.    The will to let go of past demons.  The will to learn new skills that end up enhancing our existing skills in ways we never thought possible.  The will to shrivel up and die when we think we have nothing left worth living for.  And, the will to live when we know for certain that we have everything to live for.