104 Days to the End of this Wretched Year

Coping with change is not easy.  Coping with change that involves every aspect of your life, from health to finances to family and friends is almost life threatening.

I started this year on an up note… I was going to attack my health problems head on, starting with an exercise program I could live with.  As usual that fell through about a month into the process.  Partly it was my own damn fault because I could have/should have chosen to go ahead and keep swimming on my own when Joe became unable to go swimming because of his problem with his foot.  But I didn’t because it had been one of the few things we did together out side of sitting at home watching TV or going to the doctor.  So the first resolution to take care of myself went out the window so early in the year it was hardly a memory when along about the 1st of March, I thought I was having a heart attack.

Yep.  That is what I thought.  Chest pain — like an elephant foot pressing into my chest… shooting pains down my left arm.  Jaw pain and neck pain that didn’t want to quit.  I put up with it silently and then one day some talking head on TV in a red dress said “You might be having a heart attack if…” so I made an appointment to see a doctor.  Now this in and of itself was a horrible decision to make.  You see, I have no health insurance.  I have not had health insurance since my husband became disabled in 2009.  We had to give it up at the beginning of 2010 when I was no longer covered by the University’s health insurance policy that we had to pay for to keep Joe alive.  Had I wanted it, the price would have doubled and at the time I thought 57 and more or less healthy — I’ll be fine.

Don’t believe you will be fine without health insurance — especially if you are in your late 50s.  Your chances are not good.  Even if you are relatively healthy, anything can happen.

I blithely went to the doctor, thinking that I was probably going to get an EKG and a scolding for being too fat.  No.  When I walked in and told them my symptoms the Nurse Practitioner, who had started her nursing career in our local hospital’s  Emergency Room, turned me right around and said “Go, NOW to the ER. Do not go home and get your husband, do not go anywhere else, go straight there and tell them what you told me.”  So I did.

I spent the next two days in the hospital having tests on what is called a “step down unit”.  This unit is a one-off from the Intensive Care… your telemetry can be transferred immediately to the Intensive Care unit (conveniently located on the same hall, within steps of your room) if need be.   Ultimately they decided that I had some coronary blockage but not bad enough for bypass just yet, and, worse, anxiety. Severe anxiety.  No kidding… And just to make me more anxious, they sent the social worker by to talk to me about the bill… one that has after a second hospitalization for more chest pains in June, has now risen to the $35000 range.  Hell, if you had my life you’d be anxious too.  But then everyone with anxiety feels that way, or we wouldn’t be anxious, right?

And we’re only up to June.

Why am I anxious?  Well, I am unemployed since September 14, 2009.  I have applied for 97 jobs since then and I have 97 form letter rejections to go with each of those earnestly written cover letters for each of those 97 positions.  With each rejection comes just another tightening of the throat, a little more pressure on the chest and pushes me just a little closer to the acceptance of the inevitable.

What, you may ask in this case is “inevitable”.  Now, this is something I must accept and yet, the first time I wrote these sentences, I used conditionals like “most likely” and “probably”.  I have edited those words out… Here is the inevitable truth that I must accept before I can move on to the next phase of my life:

The inevitable truth of my condition of unemployment is that it is permanent.  I will never work for another person again as long as I live.

Not because I don’t want to, but, because of the length of time the economy will take to recover from the depression that the main stream media and the powers that be refuse to call anything but a “recession” and then only on the darkest days.  This, combined with my age and education makes me the least desirable possible employee.  Another inevitable truth that is coming out of this “depression/recession/downturn” is:

Someone who is old, over-educated and unemployed for over 2 years is UNDESIRABLE.

Recently I read about a petition being circulated to urge Monster.com (and other job websites) to ban advertisements that tell applicants not to apply if they are currently unemployed.  It would seem that some employers have an interesting “policy” that if one has been unemployed for 6 months that one may not apply for the jobs being offered to the general public.  Some how this seems discriminatory — but of course isn’t because “unemployed” is not a protected class.

So what does one do when one finds that she must give up the idea of being an employee and become what? Self-employed? (because I love to work at nothin’ all day?) With all due respect to Bachman Turner Overdrive, I liked going to work…even when I was annoyed.  I find it annoying that there is no work for me, a well educated, hard working, literate human being who actually wants to be in an office or somewhere, productively creating for the good of humankind and receiving remuneration for same.

But, I’m told, I must learn to cope with this change.  The inevitables that aren’t going away.  The lemons that must be made into lemonade.

I used to work for a corporation that arrogantly published the “core values” and then made us all wear them on our name tags so that we could remember what the corporation was trying to accomplish.

Well, I have core values too:

I expect to perform meaningful work for the betterment of humans.

I expect a living wage for the performance of that work.

I expect high quality medical care that keeps me alive and healthy and will not send me to bankruptcy court.

I expect decent housing that is affordable, manageable and maintainable.

I expect city/county/state/federal services that provide sanitation, good roads, clean water and air, and ensures my safety in times of danger.

I expect to pay for these services with reasonable taxes.

I expect honesty from all levels of government.

I want to go on, write a manifesto, a constitution, a declaration… but the very interesting thing is that those things have been written.  We don’t need new ones we need to respect the old ones.

Oooops.  Did I use that word “old” as in “too old” or “outdated” or “unemployed for more than 6 months” … Our world is a dangerous place.  Is it any wonder I am….

ANXIOUS?

 

©2011

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Fit or Fat – Part two of Weight Loss Season and I have Something to Say!

My first 18 years were the formative years of my fitness… I was indeed a chubby kid after about 8-1/2.  My Mom first tried to help me lose weight on our own but, she was as clueless as I about what to feed me.  Obviously I was chubbing up on the same food that she and the rest of the family were eating and they weren’t having problems.  As I said in yesterday’s blog entry, she finally reached the conclusion that somehow my metabolism was slower than hers, my Dad’s and my brother’s.

Easter 1960 - me at the ripe old age of 8-1/2 - a short 50 years ago. Note the chubby cheeks - I was less than 18 months away from my first menses. The curly perm didn't help either.

The sad thing was that no one gave me the tools to be “fit”.  My mother couldn’t – she didn’t understand.  She was naturally thin, she was naturally energetic – she mowed her own lawn until she was 70.  She jumped off of a 30 foot high platform in the middle of her brother’s East Texas woods on a rope swing at 73 and at 74, one year before she died, she went parasailing.  My father, a salesman, worked hard, ate pie and coffee for lunch and when he gained 10 pounds he cut the sugar out of his coffee – he also died at 54 so I am feeling lucky since I’m now 58, I made it 4 years longer than he did – and counting.  My brother was an athlete and even now, at 53, he’s maybe 20 pounds over weight but nothing close to “fat”.

All through high school I had to take physical education (PE) classes – wearing those vile uniforms with the pleated shirt and bloomer drawers.  ugh.  And then they wanted us to play softball or basketball or volleyball  – awful having to take something like a bat or your hand and hit the ball or put the ball in a hoop hung on the wall.  Even worse, calisthenics – jumping jacks and lunges – squats and crunches – double ugh.  One year they offered archery for 3 weeks.  I loved it but they never offered it again — who knows why — probably too dangerous.  Dance? Again it was fun but short-lived – three weeks max during the coldest months because, well there was also basketball that we could play inside and the PE teachers weren’t really dancers.  Swimming? I could swim but I was afraid of the water – they, of course wanted us to swim long laps, competing against each other, in an Olympic sized pool that went from 4 feet to 15 feet — along about 6 feet, I would start to tense up because I could see the bottom of the pool dropping away below me — terror!!!  By 10 feet, I couldn’t get to the side of the pool fast enough – thought I was going to drown. Tennis? OK but I still had the hand-eye coordination problem I couldn’t hit the broad side of a barn with the astigmatism I had in my right eye, that, though corrected aesthetically, caused depth perception problems.

Flash forward to now.  Well, actually about 4 months ago.  Almost exactly 40 years since the night I lay in bed in deep heart pain over my agonizingly thin body. I was feeling my body.  The convex belly that I had to poke through to even feel the barest tips of the hip bone – the sheath of fat over my ribs – the ribs are still there – but well padded.  I thought about the night so long ago when I had decided to become this.  Not exactly, but had just decided to give up the 500 calorie diet and the amphetamines.  I lay there wondering “I wonder what it is like to be fit?”  I wonder.

After I gave up the prescribed drugs, I needed to eat more food – without the tools to get fit – in spite of trying to teach myself how to eat properly and even sporadically exercising – mostly the hated calisthenics – I gained weight.  For a while I looked “normal” but then by the time I was in my mid twenties, I was “heavy” and by the time I was in my early 30s, I was “fat” and by the time I was in my late 30s, I was “obese”.

About 13 years ago, I started taking water aerobics classes.  As exercises go, water aerobics is pure magic.  If “they” back “then” had only combined the hated calisthenics with the fear-inducing swimming, “they” might have taught me to be fit.  It combines the benefits of calisthenics with the ease of being in the water and eliminates the fear factor of swimming because you can either touch the bottom or use a flotation device.  I actually love it.   I became so enamored of water aerobics I took classes in teaching it, although my fear of teaching it because I am “still” fat keeps me from teaching.  I have worked up WA routines using dance moves, sports moves, and of course, calisthenics.

After a while, 12 years or so ago, I calculated that I had lost approximately 20 pounds of body fat in a relatively short period of time – about 3 months. “Weight” lost was not 20 pounds because I’d gained muscle mass, but I was on a road to “fitness”.  And then (here comes an excuse) my beloved Mom died.  Gone.  Left the planet. This set me back so far it was astounding.  All the comfort eating came back in a rush and I didn’t have to sneak eat because I lived by myself so all the food was mine.

Since then, sporadically, I have done my water aerobics thing.  I still love it and, up until August of last year, my spouse and I were regular visitors at the indoor therapy pool near our home.  Did I say I love water aerobics?  Well I’ll say it again.  I do… but I also love being in water.  It is so incredibly relaxing.

The pool we use has a couple of different jetted areas – the standard “hot tub” but also a jetted area of the swimming pool where extra hard jets of water come out.  Sometimes I arrange myself where the water just beats hard against my shoulders – massaging all the tension and stress away – other times I float in the bubbles a distance away from the jets – feet hooked into the side rails of the pool – like floating in a glass of champagne. It becomes almost a sensory deprivation kind of relaxation – except there is the sensory stimulation of the bubbles and the lovely sound of rushing water.

This morning, we are planning our first trip back to the pool.  Funds have been so short for so long and we were unable to afford the fees until now – now we’re just making it happen – choosing fitness over something else – it really isn’t much money for both of us – and we received a little Christmas money from our family, so it is the perfect use.  Pool time.

Today.  January 4, 2011. I choose to be fit. The beginning is the return to the pool.  After that – better food choices. No silly diets, no has-been stars trying to convince me that their diet plan that got them back into a bikini is the right one – I don’t need or want to wear a bikini again.  I am not planning on a flat stomach – and certainly not a concave stomach.  I don’t really even care if I never change dress sizes again . . . I just want to be fit.

I allow my image of me as a fat, overeating, sneak eater – that my former doctor so casually created for me during my formative years – I allow her the formal death that she deserves.  She really doesn’t exist – then or now.  She was created in that tension-filled, sterile exam room that smelled of antiseptic.

1/8/2011

This was hard to write and I have removed the parts that I “can’t stand” – sorry.  If you read the parts I edited out, thanks.

© 2011

It is Weight-loss Season, and I Have Something to Say . . . Part 1

Back when I was a nearly anorexic girl of 18, now over 40 years ago, one night as I was trying to go to sleep – see I had a doctor back then, that thought that the way to keep a prone-to-fat girl slim was to give her amphetamines – anyway, I was laying there – feeling my hip bones, poking toward the ceiling – my stomach concave – my ribs, countable and feeling … horrified.

Today, occasionally, I think of the fashion models and wonder if they ever lay in bed at night feeling their hip bones, ribs and concave stomachs and I wonder… do they feel the way I felt that night?  Horrified?

I was horrified. I didn’t have a “flat stomach” that all the various diet drinks, gyms, and magazines “encouraged” me to have.  I had a concave stomach.  CONCAVE.

Best I can tell, no one tells you that you should have a concave stomach, pointy hip-bones and countable ribs.  Back then, the doctor wanted to get my weight in line with the then current insurance chart.

See, I was a fat pre-teen.  I gained weight just prior to puberty (which was at 10 years old)  – prior to that I had been a skinny kid – so much so that my doting Mom worried I was too thin.  She was “too thin” all her life and knew how hurtful that was to a young girl – of the 1930s and 1940s anyway.

You tell me - are these two "too thin"? Maybe in 1956... and that's the problem!

But then her too-thin child became fat – quickly.

She took me to my pediatrician.  This was the first visit to him since I’d hit puberty and he told her that he would no longer treat me.  I needed an “adult” doctor.  So she took me to the doctor she believed in – the doctor who had saved her life from breast cancer.  She took me to her doctor and told him she believed there to be something wrong with me – that I gained the weight so quickly and she was worried there was something wrong – that my metabolism was slow, was it glands? hormones?

Now, doctors in the 1960s – even more than doctors now, if you can believe it – believed they were smarter, faster, better than the average person and I suppose that in many ways the docs then were “smarter” than the average person – we now have the internet to look up our symptoms and read about our ailments – doctors hate that, but do seem to tolerate it somewhat better because they somehow acknowledge that all this information can help them diagnose a person.  Back in the 1960s though, medical information was a closely held secret, making doctors like wizards doing magic.  Trying to “help” the doctor diagnose someone – yourself – your kid – was not acceptable.

So the doctor told my mother “Yes, there’s something wrong: she’s fat because she eats too much.”  My mother had the audacity to argue with him.  She was a feisty one.  She’d argue with anyone.  She shot back at him, “No she doesn’t.  She doesn’t eat any differently than I do or than my husband or my son … none of the three of us are fat … she eats the same food we do but she has a different metabolism … she gains weight, we don’t.  Why is that?”  She thought she had him there – and she probably did, but he retorts, “She sneak eats.”  Mom: “She does not.” Doc: “You overfeed her – you give her cake and candy and Kool-aid.” Mom: “I do not.  We have healthy fruit and vegetable choices for snacks, I don’t bake or buy trash food. And as for Kool-aid, it is not in my house. We have fruit juice or milk.”

Please bear in mind that this little “adult” drama is being played out in front of my 12-year-old eyes and it was not an argument my mother was going to win.

To review:  I had just been called a fat, overeating, sneak eater by the supreme authority figure of most people’s lives – a doctor.

His solution to my overeating/sneak eating was to put me on a 500 calorie diet (yes, five hundred) and give me an Rx for little black-and-white amphetamines and threw in a 5 mg Valium Rx as well.  Gawd.  All this happened between the 6th and 7th grade.  The beginning of the summer of 1965, I was on the following diet:

  • 1/2 grapefruit or 1 orange for breakfast
  • 1 bowl of soup for lunch (this amounted to about 1/2 can of soup)
  • 4 oz of meat, 2-2oz servings of vegetables and 1 cup of lettuce (no dressing) for dinner
  • Snack:  unsweetened iced tea

I was not allowed to eat bananas, milk or any type of bread products.  I had to limit my fluid intake. I also could not have any added salt to my food. I was actually lucky if the above amount of food actually totalled up to 500 calories.  I don’t know about you, but ANYONE would lose weight QUICKLY on the above diet.

At first, I lost so much weight that we thought the little yellow pill (Valium) he’d given me was a diuretic.  Then my Mom asked the pharmacist what it was and he told her it was a tranquilizer.  When she asked the doc about this, he said “It is so she can sleep.”  That summer I went to Girl Scout Day Camp (in South Texas 100 degree heat) and summer school and my parents moved to a new house and at 12, I had my own set of duties during that move as well as household chores. Thanks, I could sleep just fine – with so little food, I was exhausted.

One of my aunts was so impressed with the weight loss, she went to the same doctor and he put her on the same diet, only her amphetamines were triple the strength of mine – after all – she was an adult.  Sheesh.

That summer, my aunt and I lost weight together – I lost about 40 pounds – she lost 75 pounds.  We both looked like walking skeletons.  But remember, this was 1965 – the heyday of Jean Shrimpton and Twiggy.

Twiggy (from the Wikipedia entry) doesn't look great here - she looks tired and hungry - just like me and my aunt Marlene. But we all could wear tiny clothes!

For the next 6 years, I was able to maintain the weight loss – I could actually eat some more food but I took my amphetamines every morning so that, instead of food energy I had drug energy.  By the time I was 18 I had also become the sneak eater that my doctor had originally accused me of.  But I was SKINNY!

On my way to my Senior Prom with my date, Dennis, in my Vogue Pattern, Givenchy-designed gown handmade by my mother in about a week because Dennis was a procrastinator. Check out those collar bones!

The gown was tiny – I still have it – sizes then were different than they are now – this would probably be somewhere around a size 2 or maybe 4 now.  I haven’t gotten it out to measure it.  At the time it was an 11.  In the above picture of my Mom in 1956, she wore a size 12 — but those were in the days when Marilyn Monroe wore a size 16.

So back to that night in 1971, when I was laying in bed, feeling my bones, my concave stomach, I thought, “Enough.  I am not going through this any more – I am not starving or taking pills.  I don’t want to feel this way anymore.”  And that was that.  By the end of that year, I’d gained about 20 pounds – went from 115 in the May prom picture to about 135 in December – I am 5’6″ tall, so 135 wasn’t bad – Somewhere in there “they” changed the clothing sizing and we went to the “new sizing” and my size 11 became a size 9 so when I gained that 20 pounds I was actually still wearing a size 11.  Go figure.  Thanks New Sizing!  But that is a whole other blog entry!

There’s much more to this story, and I will tell it in part 2, but now, since we’re over 1300 words… I’ll just say – watch for Part 2.

© 2011