Empty Nest (Phase 2) Monologue – Debunking the Advice for Empty Nesters

My youngest just graduated college but she hasn’t left home as of yet but the act of her graduating is like slamming a door closed on a major part of my life. Most of my life due to dysfunctional family circumstances, I have been taking care of someone. Now for the first time, I have no one to take care of except my two pets. I’m not complaining, but it’s a bit of a shock when you reach this point especially when it has been a major part of your life and you have no clue how to live for yourself. My youngest graduating college is like turning the last page of a good book (with it’s ups/downs in the story) and shutting the back cover. You hug the book to your chest, shed a few tears and put it gently on the bookshelf with your other treasured tomes.

For eight years since my oldest moved away to college, I’ve been preparing for this moment by reading books and articles, while pondering “what next?” What I want to be when I grown up and so on. I’m going to be honest here, the books and advice I found on ’empty nest’ which I prefer to call ‘Phase 2′ (pick whatever number feels right to you – Phase 3 or 4 even) , to be bullshit to an extent. Patronizing crap like “get a new hobby’ or ‘go back to school’ or ‘find a new career’. Granted this may help other people and maybe I am just the crabby exception but I bet many of us have already developed our hobbies or are in the career they worked for and so on. I know there are people who do this, go back to school, start a business and so on that they didn’t have time for when they were raising kids. I just am not in that demographic. Here’s how I feel about all the advice I read in no particular order:

1. Go back to school, start a new career. I went to school off and on for ten years while raising my kids and finally finished my degree two years ago. I was on campus with all three of my daughters at the local branch of OSU at some point or the other. I could go back to school now and go into a new career path but none appeal to me because I already followed what I wanted. It took longer than if I had not had kids and a sick mother at times, but I finished my college education. I wish I was one of those people who had a great passion they never fulfilled. Outside of publishing a best seller (which really isn’t a goal of mine), I’ve done everything I set out to do just in different ways than planned. Again, raising kids was the most rewarding job I’ve found, I have yet to find something that sparks me. Seems a bit unfair though. This job had early retirement with no promise of a promotion into a new just as rewarding field. Maybe I just haven’t found it yet but I’ve been looking for 8 years.

2. Dedicate more time to your hobby or find a new one. Here are my hobbies: writing, blogging, travel blogging, cycling (road and mountain), hiking, swimming, yoga, going to the movies, dining out, reading, gardening, wildflowers, bird watching, photography (mostly landscape), charcoal drawing, watercolors, baking, cooking new recipes, travel, our Corvettes, the arts (museums, concerts, exhibitions etc), refinishing furniture, antiquing (though more looking than buying), outdoors in general, flower arranging, and so on. I don’t know if I need a new hobby honestly. I have plenty of hobbies or interests to keep me busy. I’m not adverse to learning new things and probably will keep involved in workshops or classes when something interests me but I didn’t neglect my interests while raising kids. If I found something I loved, I dedicated what time and money I could. I didn’t immerse myself into just being a parent, helicoptering over them 24/7. So this isn’t much help.

3. Volunteer. This is a great option but it doesn’t replace the affection, love and hugs/kisses I got from my kids. I miss that. Helping others is a great way to fill your time if you find it rewarding. Right now, I’m more likely to volunteer for one time things rather than tying myself down to doing it all the time. The beauty of this time in my life is more freedom. Not having every minute of every day planned out for you. Maybe I will feel different when I get older but for now, I’ll stick to occasionally volunteering unless I find something that really speaks to me and I want to tie myself down to it on a regular basis. Maybe that sounds selfish but damn, this is the first time in my life I can focus on me for more than an hour at a time.

4. Join a fun group. (I’m rolling my eyes). I’m an introvert – not a fan of groups. Groups don’t ease me missing the people I love the most. Having other people around me doesn’t ease my missing them. Groups feel like a commitment. To others who are socially inclined, this is a great option. For me it’s a bit of hell I’d rather pass on. No offense to those extroverts but I really just feel drained after most group things. This isn’t an option for me.

5. Meet new people and make new friends. But I like the friends I already have and people drain me. I’m not closed to this option but I’m not jonesing for more people time. I don’t mind meeting new people but I may not bring them fully into my life. New perspectives and ways of looking at things always interest me but I don’t see myself adding much to my small but wonderful friend group.

6. Travel. Already do. Thanks anyway.

7. Adopt a pet. My husband will mutiny if I wanted to bring home another animal.

8. Blah blah blah. I’m going to stop here. The rest of the advice is on the same vein. Nothing clicks and nothing seems particularly helpful for me at least.

Frankly, I find the advice given out to the Phase 2 crowd to be overly obvious. Don’t we already know that we will have more time to do what we want? I didn’t need a book to tell me what to do in this phase of my life. Seriously, it doesn’t take a genius to figure out no kids at home = more free time. Really? You can’t be serious (yes I’m being sarcastic).

I needed a book that told me it was okay to feel what I feel. That it’s okay to cry and feel sad about the parting of Phase 1, not to fill it with a bunch of stuff you might already be doing or planning on doing. It’s normal to miss your kids a ton but still don’t want them to move back home. It’s normal to feel lost when you find this extra time to be a bit overwhelming. It’s normal to miss these people you created, nurtured and loved. It’s normal to be unsettled when your life returns or for the first time gets to be more about you. It’s okay to enjoy this “you” time of your life and you don’t have to be doing something productive or helpful every moment of your life. It’s okay to be selfish and spend the night eating crap and watching horrible movies. It’s okay to be blissfully joyous that you don’t have to go to one more high school football game or boring parents meeting. It’s okay if you don’t know what you want to do with all this time. It’s okay. It’s all okay. Don’t stress it so much (note to self).

It’s all okay. I will find my way. Actually I’m not lost, just figuring out some things. I just don’t want to sleepwalk through these last years of my life. The average life expectancy of a US citizen is 78 years old. I’m 48. If I live to life expectancy, lucky enough to live that long, that’s only 30 years left. That is a sobering thought. You only get one life and how you spend your time starts seeming more critical when you realize there isn’t as much left, not that any of us have a guarantee of tomorrow.

Bottom line. It’s okay how we feel. We don’t have to always be brave and straight-faced. It’s okay to cry, it’s okay to then jump for joy because the house is clean all the time, it’s all okay. Unless you find yourself depressed and having difficulty moving on, then seek some help. That’s okay too. Take care of yourself, you actually have the time now. Grieve if you need to grieve. This is a mixed time in your life. We will find our way.

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Food Peace Journal – Empowerment & Self-Discovery

I can’t believe I’m already 9 weeks into this journey. Have I lost weight? I have no freaking idea! Not knowing what I weigh, not caring about what I weight, is like shrugging off heavy log chains that have been wrapped around my body. The empowerment and freedom that comes with not caring anymore about what I weigh, policing what I eat and giving up diet culture completely, is so amazing. I feel happier in general. I’m not thinner, my clothes fit about the same, but no one goes to a funeral and says, “Oh, I really admired her for her weight”. In the grand scheme of living, weight doesn’t matter. Body size doesn’t matter. F all that.

Occasionally, I have what I call a check-in session with my therapist. The recent appointment was spurred when I thought I wanted to go to this writer’s group meeting and at the last minute changed my mind. The group looks fun, it is very supportive and it’s not a critique group. Instead, I ended up at my fave coffee shop in the opposite direction writing in my journal alone. So I started to wonder, is there something wrong with me? I asked this of my therapist and she peppered me with questions. Then she sat back in her chair and said, “I just don’t think you enjoy group things. That you are a private person who enjoys her own company.” Bam! I sat back and let that sink in. Why didn’t I think of that? Why did I think I was weird because I don’t want to do what everyone else does?

I’ve always been a bit of an outsider. Sometimes pushed there because I didn’t fit in but mostly because I am very private. When I think back, I have never stuck with group activities very long. I would sign up for classes at the Y to only go a few times. When I mention this, she said you don’t like all your time structured. You are very creative and this just isn’t your jam more or less. Well she used better terms than ‘jam’ but you get my point. Then to solidify her deductions, a memory popped up in FaceBook where I had taken the Jung-Briggs personality test. I took it again just out of curiosity that it may have changed. Nope. INFJ-A – The Advocate. Less than 1% of the population has my personality type according to the test. Well no wonder I felt a bit of an outsider. The description is very much me – creative, private, sensitive, perfectionist (not as much now), definitive, passionate about things I love, and so on. The private thing hadn’t clicked with me last year though.

This was the first time I had walked out of my therapist’s office feeling excited and happy. Free and empowered again. She’s always been helpful but this really clicked. I’m okay as I am. I am no longer dieting. I don’t have to keep trying to change myself to fit in, to be what I think society wants me to be. I can keep learning about myself and whatever I find is okay. I don’t have to join groups, I don’t have to lose 50 lbs, I don’t have to let snarky people upset me, or morons ruin my day with their crap. I can live my life the way I want it for the most part. Granted, we all have responsiblities but for the first time in my life, mine are minimal compared to five years ago. I have the opportunity to figure out myself some more, try out new hats, have new adventures and learn to fully relax.

I have been ‘on’ so much in my life, I find it hard to relax. This is the next thing I am going to work on. Case in point, I had time to take a nap after work yesterday as I haven’t been sleeping well for the longest time (hot flashes at night). I laid there but couldn’t relax enough to sleep. Time to fix that. Not sure how but I’ll figure it out. I think I have to give myself permission to not always be doing something, accomplishing something, cleaning something.

It’s empowering to be able to eat what you want as well. I find the longer I practice intuitive eating, the less I am overeating. I leave food on my plate more often. I will only eat half an orange then put the other half in the frig for later. I have never just eaten half an orange at least as an adult. I’d finish it even if I didn’t want it all. Why? Because I was raised you had to eat everything you take or were served. But that is bullshit. I have a half of a fudge bar in a freezer baggie in there too. If it’s still good when I go to eat it, then fine and if not, I’ll throw it away. The world will not end if I throw away a half of a fudge bar. Giving yourself permission to eat what you want, only as much as you truly want is powerful stuff. It’s like getting out of jail free. Food jail that is.

The more I let my body tell me what it wants, the more I find I don’t eat the same anymore. Some nights I barely eat at all. Other nights, I eat as if I came out of the jungle after 40 days. All I do is listen and pay attention to my hunger cues. Your body doesn’t necessarily want 3 meals a day with a few snacks. It may not want 6 small meals. It may want a shit ton of food at breakfast and a little here and there the rest of the day. I know my daily caloric intake fluctuates quite a bit. So following a specific calorie count each day probably isn’t as healthy as they want you to believe. Unless you have a specific medical condition that requires such intake. Each day your body has specific needs and it will tell you if you listen.

Speaking of listening to hunger cues, my body is telling me it’s time to wrap up this post and go find some sustenance. Life is short… eat the cake! Or whatever your body wants.

Flying Blind – Update – Creatures of Habit

Just a quick follow-up to my previous post in which I proclaimed "A Year of Me" and that I was going to stop measuring everything in my life that isn't necessary to see if I enjoy my life more.

Habits, they are as hard to break as it is to form them at times. I've spent the rest of the week getting out of the compulsion to pick up my phone and enter data into the apps I was using. Or make sure I had my phone on me every time I moved around to count steps since the Fit Bit didn't work for me at all. Essentially I was grading myself in many aspects of my life rather than living it. I didn't realize how much I was doing this until I had to force myself to stop. Leaving my phone sitting rather than dragging it everywhere with me is freeing. You don't realize it but you can become a slave to that thing. You think you are doing something good for yourself but in a way you're creating a little prison all its own for you to stay within those four walls.

I still take my phone when I ride, but only to listen to my music, have a map handy if I would happen to wander out of my usual cycling area and of course to call in case of an emergency. Taking the cyclocomputer off my handlebars has helped me focus on the ride and the beauty I'm passing around me plus I also pay more attention to how my body is performing. Just feeling the muscles working in unison can be an amazing thing when you think about it. I am almost 50 and everything is still working fine, even better than I was in my 20's because I am much more active now.

Recently I read an article by Mark Manson who wrote The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F*ck entitled What's the Point of Self-Improvement Anyway? I wouldn't call myself a self-improvement junkie as he defined in the article but more the self-improvement 'tourist' who delves into this arena when something isn't working in their life or something bad happens, though I may edge on the junkie part because I feel like I always need to be working on myself, getting better. Maybe it is in my German genes or just growing up in a family that was always pushing you to do better, do more. Either way, it doesn't matter because the only thing that matters is how I live today.

Manson points out that all this self-improvement is self-defeating. I don't agree 100% with all Manson spouts but he is pretty close on most of his points. He at least got me thinking in a different way and reconsidering how I look at life. His point is that if we are alway pursing improvement, is you are trying to reach a goal where you don't have to think about increasing productivity, or pursuing happiness until you not longer have to think about being happy, etc.

He goes on to say the only way to achieve one's potential is to become fully fulfilled or "self-actualize" – essentially stop trying to be all of those things. Essentially, I feel it is not be able to enjoy where you are today. That continuing to trying to self-improve actually creates unhappiness because you never reach that point of contentment with yourself. You don't step back and look at yourself and think, hey I'm really in a good place in my life because we always feel we need to fix or change something about yourself. See how that works? You work really hard to get to point X and instead of feeling happy about your achievement, you set a goal of getting to point Y because then things really will be better. We don't stop spinning in the self-improvement circles long enough to see what we have achieved or just maybe, we are amazing and awesome just the way we are.

That's a hard concept for me to wrap my mind around. What if I stop trying to diet and lose weight? Would the world end? What if I put that scale and measuring tape up and just enjoy what I eat? What if I just say fuck it and if I get bigger just buy a different size or if I get smaller, then again just buy a different size? Not that I don't want to be healthy, I do. But the thing is, I am. Other than a genetic thyroid problem, my blood work and everything except my weight is considered healthy. There are people out there that are at their "healthy" weight but they can't walk 5 miles with a pack or ride 40 miles in the heat. I can. I'm strong, I can work outside like a farm hand in my yard and I don't seem to slow down much as I age. Sure, my body needs a little more time to recover but much of this stuff, I couldn't do in my 20's.

This is one of my biggest self-improvement hang-ups as it is a lot of women. Our size. It's like a prison. Trying to live up to some expectation of thinness or perfection. So what if I actually get down to that size 12? Would my life be perfect? Um, no. I'd still make mistakes, fall down and so on. That's just part of life. Why do we have such a hard time accepting ourselves? Yeah it could be the 10000000000 ads pointed at making us 'better' via weight loss, clothes, makeup, etc. What if we just focused on what made us feel good and made us happy?

Like, I eat a big salad with avocados, grilled chipotle chicken and hard-boiled eggs because I just love those foods. Or wear that new eye sparkly eye shadow because it's so pretty? Or no make up at all if that's how i feel that day. The world won't end if we walk out without no makeup. It's a vehicle to make us feel especially pretty as well if we use it for that reason. For us. My youngest makes makeup into a a creative art. And other days she doesn't wear any at all. It makes her feel good. That's the reason to use it. Not OMG, what will people think if I go out without my 'face'? Be authentic, don't hide behind it. Fuck those people, you won't care about them when you're dead.

What's wrong with my body right now? Nothing. Yeah I'm carrying around some extra but I'm also hypo-thyroid and going into menopause. My body is just doing its own thing. Why ride my bike just to exercise and burn calories? I should ride it because I love the freedom of riding, the feeling of power it gives me to be able to move from point A to point B by my own physical power. I hike because I love to be in nature and the woods. It is an avenue to add adventure into my life. I do yoga because it keeps me from getting too stiff, it counteracts my days of sitting at a desk, its spiritual/meditative and it also helps my body move better. At this age, it's critical to keep moving. Moving keeps me feeling amazing and younger than my 47 years. Google Ernestine Shepherd and see that aging doesn't have to be a walker and rocking chair.

After several days giving up all my metrics I use to judge myself, I feel better. Happier. I find myself noticing the world around me so much more when I'm not shackled to my electronics. I think giving up self-improvement and measuring anything is going to be something I'm going to have really work on, but I have this suspicion that it will be so worth it. Letting go of this, will be like dropping the shackles of unhappiness and walking away from them.

Thanks for all the comments about my posts. I love you guys!  You're awesome and amazing just as you are today.  Till next time.

Flying Blind (Sorta)

Recently, I decided to spend a year revamping how I live a bit. I have tongue-in cheek named this the "Year of Me" as I question different beliefs about myself, etc. More on that later on down the road.

Today I sat down and wrote down specific things I wanted to do over the next year. Under the "Stop It!" Heading, I decided that I need to quit measuring everything I do against some sort of benchmark. Like weighing myself or counting calories or measuring my body parts as well as not feeling like I have to be doing something productive every moment of every day. Essentially, I want to remember how it is to be a kid without all these measurements of how successful (or unsuccessful) I am.

So I went on and deleted all the apps I use to track anything from food to steps to miles. I want to just live and not make everything into a 'job' or 'chore' or 'goal'. I want to live better, enjoy the moments of my life more. Anyone who cycle knows there are many ways of measuring what you are doing from cyclocomputers, to Strava (GPS power) and so on. You can get pretty technical in weights in everything on your bike and what you wear (in grams) and so on. I decided today when I went out to my bike to remove my computer from the handlebars. I wouldn't be able to see my speed, distance, fastest speed, etc. a all. i had deleted my ride tracking app. Simply I got on my bike and rode my fave short route, to the end of my road and back.

Other than grumbling because they tarred and chipped the last section of my road, I had a very enjoyable ride. I know I rode about 13 miles but that's just from memory. I don't know how fast I rode, or how many minutes it took me to do five miles. What I did notice was many things I ignore on this ride. I saw the flowers blooming in the ditch, I found a natural pace without worrying about if I was going fast enough. I just rode for the sheer enjoyment of it. You know, like when you're a kid and you just get on your bike to ride to a friend's house or go on an adventure you dream up. Fun. Without worrying about mph or distance.

I am not training for any events, I simply ride for exercise and the fact I love riding. Today I found dropping all the gauges and metric associated with road riding, I had much more fun and it didn't seem like work at all. That's what we seem to do as we get older, make everything 'work'. Or a goal or a part of achieving something more. We forget to just be in the moment and have fun. And the distractions of all the gadgetry adds to missing whole parts of the experience.

Today instead of relying on the miles per hour displayed on my cyclocomputer, I simply listened to what my body wanted to do. Maybe I even rode faster, I don't know. And it doesn't mater. I'm outside, in the fresh air and working my cardio though it just felt like play.. That's how more things in my life need to be. Play, fun. I need to quit sucking the fun out of the simplest things because that's what I am 'supposed' to do as an adult.

This next year is learning how to enjoy my life more and take much better care of myself. I'm not great at that. i tend to push myself past my limits when I shouldn't. Just like forcing myself to ride 50 miles just to say I rode 50 miles. I'm not training for anything, then why do it? It's time to rethink the way I approach things in life. It's the perfect year to regroup, rethink and explore. And remember what pure joy a simple act like riding my bike can be. To rediscover childlike wonder with the world.

Maybe I'll get some sparkly streamers too!

Keeping the Line- 29 Wk Food Journal Check In/ Cancer Scare

In April, I received the news that I had a small patch of basal cell carcinoma (skin cancer) on my face by my right nostril.  A small pustule had been bleeding off and on and my wise husband said “You better go get that looked at.”  Though he had to nudge me several times before I made an appointment.  The dermatologist biopsied it along with doing a full body check for other possible skin cancers.  Considering I’m covered in freckles from my Irish side, everything looks like cancer to me.  I was sitting in my home office working the morning when the doctor called and said the dreaded words “It’s cancer.”

My mother died of metastasized colon cancer after an 8 year battle not only with colon but lung cancer.  To say this traumatized me watching her suffer so much is an understatement.  Aside from something tragic happening to my family, my biggest fear has been to get cancer.  Any kind of cancer.  I have nightmares about it and I’m always getting check or tested as much as I possibly can for different types such as getting a mammogram, colonoscopy, etc.  I do not want to die like my mother did, slowly wasting away, cancer taking over her bones where she was in constant pain.  We wouldn’t let our pets die this way, I’m not sure why we do our humans.  But that’s another blog post altogether.

I remember ending the call with the doctor and just staring out the window as my biggest fear had just come to life.  Logically, I knew it was a minor type of cancer, non life-threatening.  If I was going to have any kind of cancer, this was highly curable.  My unlogical emotional and fearful side just swelled and took over, stealing away my logic for about an hour or two.  I cried, I felt doomed, I was thinking but I used sunscreen at least from my mid-twenties when skin cancer advocates preached prevention.  Would I have a huge scar on my face?  Would that matter if it’s removed.  I just wanted that cancer out of my body and knew I would not hear from the skin cancer surgeon for a few days.

Then my brain kicked in and I calmed myself down.  Stop overreacting, I told myself firmly.  You’ve got this, you know people going through way worse than you, stop being a damned pussy about it.   Grow up, get a grip and get back focused with your life. The surgery was scheduled for the end of May, almost a month away.  I am an emotional eater.  I use food to comfort me and make me feel better.  Now that my mom is gone, I gravitate more toward food.  During this month, I was not as diligent about entering what I ate in the food journal, finally just giving it up until after the surgery.  Then I just let it sit until I weighed myself last weekend and realized I had indeed gained a few pounds back.  Nothing major but obviously left to my own devices, I don’t really pay attention as closely as I believe to what I eat.

I knew the time between the call telling me I had cancer until the surgery, I was eating when I wasn’t hungry.  I’ve read all sorts of books on emotional eating, I’ve tried the listen to what you really want and eat it only those things type of instruction they give you from that book.  I’m sure that works for some people.  But me, I always think I want chocolate or something not good for me or to eat when I am bored, upset but not hungry.  The problem is, I’m so good at lying to myself and excusing what I eat, that I am not a reliable source of recollection and tracking just in my mind alone.  My mind covers up my extra portions and little treats I think, oh those calories won’t count much.  Except they do.  Every single one of those little bastards add up and total much more than the 1800 calorie limit I set for myself daily.

To know your limitations is to know thineself.  My limitation is that I have spent so many years lying to myself about what I eat because I was in this binge/purge/overeating/under eating/dieting cycle that I still carry around my old habits.   Though this May, I quietly acknowledged my emotional overeating without coming down on myself.  I just noted that it was a rough period I was going through, I was eating to comfort myself and it’s not the best for me but I’m okay.  Several years back, I would beat myself up and then eat even more because I felt worse.  It’s an odd cycle, emotional overeating.   I also said things to myself like, well at least it’s a little extra food and not crack or heroin.  You could be self-medicating with way worse substances.  So I have come a long way but I’m still not quite in the zen of ony eating when I’m hungry mindset.

So the solution?  A simple one.  Back at the food journal 24/7, full time, recording every thing I shove into my pie hole.  That’s a lovely mental image isn’t it?  It’s been working and when I go off the journal, I regain a bit because even though I would like to believe that I am acutely aware of what I eat, I still tend to use food for comfort at times or I don’t remember things I’ve eaten.  Having the calories consumed in black and white on my phone is a continual reminder to adjust my eating habits.  I was hoping by the time six months had come and gone into this food journal experiment, that I would have the knowledge and wisdom to eat without the food journal.  While I have improved, I’m not quite there yet.  I have some old, latent issues to resolve.  Which is good news because now I can pinpoint them and work on them more specifically.  It took me years to get to where I am, it won’t be overnight for me to correct them.   It’s a journey like anything else.

Since I have been back on the food journal wagon, keeping the line, I’ve lost a few of the five pounds I gained.  Two steps forward and one step back.  The important thing is to keep going forward and learning along the way.  I could easily get pissed off and discouraged so I quit but that doesn’t do me any good nor does it fix the problem.  If I give up, then I lose.  I fail myself.  I’m not doing that.  I’ve done it enough in the past.  It’s time to keep the line, keep going.  Keep using that annoying app and record every little dang thing I eat.  Mostly it’s annoying because I want to think I eat better than I really do and having that pointed out to me pisses me off.  It really isn’t the app’s fault.

Food journals work, if you use them.  Kindness to yourself works as well.  I could be ranting at myself that I am a failure for my weight gain but I am not.  I’m just getting back on the horse and back into the food journal groove.

With the manta – Keep the line, keep the line.  I’m not even sure what that means but it sure sounds good.  Ciao!

PS – The surgery went well, it was a tiny spot and I only ended up with minor scarring.  I was being a big weenie about it all because of my fear of getting cancer.

 

Meno-Blog (Part 1): An Extreme Lesson in Self Care

Peri-menopause.  The wonderful time in a woman’s life which transitions her into menopause (the cessation of menstruation for one year).  Every woman experiences it differently.  Some have little to no symptoms (grrrrr) and some woman have extreme symptoms requiring hormone replacement therapy (HRT) (awwwwwe) and me, I think I fall somewhere in the middle.

Mostly inability to sleep because at 2 and 4 and other intervals during the night, hot flashes wake me up with a pounding heart and racing mind as adrenaline tries to restart my ovaries.  I am not sure why my body wants to fight this but I imagine it has something to do with long-ago coded survival of the species in my ancestors.  I go to bed and my external body temperature = inferno so I’m hot & cold all at the same time.  My husband installed a wifi capable thermostat so I can switch from heat to air conditioning in the matter of moments.  Thank god for thoughtful husbands and technology.

Once I have a spike, I’m ready to run a race.  After working with my OB/GYN, I’ve only been able to use Zquil which at least helps me go back to sleep after the spikes.  It is not a medication you are supposed to take long-term but my choice is falling asleep driving to work and getting into an accident where I kill myself or someone else or taking my chances with an OTC medication.  Yes, it’s that bad, the sleep deprivation.  Yes, I’ve tried about everything else.  This is what works the best so far.  I am hoping once into menopause, I can sleep without the medication even if I wake up a few times a night and then fall back asleep immediately.   I don’t think I will ever sleep like the dead again until I am actually dead.

The mood swings are particularly annoying.  I liken this to aliens (hormones) taking over your body and you have such little control over being happy one moment and ready to kill someone the next.  I have to work very hard in recognizing what is a mood swing and an actual true emotion.  My family and close friends have learned when I warn them I am feeling off or moody that they don’t poke the bear.  I’m trying, people, I really am but someone else has control of my emotions and moods at times and there is so little I can do outside of HRT which ups my chance of cancer (which you read mixed studies on this evidence but there are estrogen-fed breast cancers so I am erring on the side of caution).

I spend more time alone especially when I’m feeling like this.  I’ve realized that I have to let the fiery anger, deep sadness, etc. just settle for a bit because it feels like I have issues and problems in my life I need to fix when really it’s just a hormone shift.  It is hard to tell at times , you can have nothing negative going on in your life and suddenly it feels like the world is ending for no reason at all except the emotions you experience seem legit and very real.  It is why teenagers seem so irrational at times.  Some of it is immaturity and some of it is their hormones.  People don’t understand how swiftly and strongly a hormone shift can affect you.  Perimenopause is essentially backwards puberty except we can’t usually dress all in back with dark makeup and hide in our bedrooms to muse about life’s indignities.

I’ve made a discovery about this lovely time in my life, you have to really push self-care.  Perimenopause forces you to start taking better care of yourself and your body.  After years of taking care of everything and everybody, a woman has to stop and start focusing on her own needs more.  I’m tired much of the time right now.  My life has changed somewhat because I just can’t (I hope temporarily) do all that I once did.  I was beating myself up because I fell short of my yearly cycling mileage goal by 200 miles.

Then I realized that I was just too exhausted to spend all the time it requires getting ready to ride my bike, even from my own driveway.  I have to gear up: helmet, padded diaper shorts, cycling shoes, gloves, sweat band, jersey, fills water bottles, snack for longer rides, sunscreen, dog spray, pump up my tires, check bike mechanical, grease chain, and check weather to see the wind direction to determine my route.  A year ago, all this preparation  didn’t phase me.  Today, though, by the time I get ready to ride, I just want to go crawl into bed. I’m too tired to really care about riding more than ten miles.

So I focused more on walking which requires maybe some sunscreen and my running shoes.  A water bottle if it’s hot and I’m going on a longer walk.  It’s easy, it’s simple and it takes much less preparation and gear.  Exercise is really essential for this time because at least for me, it seems to keep the moodiness at bay, plus it helps keep your healthy.  You just have to give yourself some slack and do what you feel you can.  I walk 3-4 miles rather than ride 30-50 miles.  It’s a big difference but I don’t have the energy to ride much over 20 miles.

Eating better.  I can tell when I eat crap because my hot flashes get worse.  Alcohol makes them worse as well (dammit!).  Resting when I am tired.  My family is used to seeing me up and going all the time as something always has to be done.  At first they thought I was sick but I told them no, I’m tired, I’m going to rest for a bit.  No, I’m not suddenly lazy, I am freaking exhausted.  When my oldest two daughters move out, I am taking one of their bedrooms for my office which will include a day bed for naps where I am out of everyone’s way.

Saying no to things you don’t want to do and don’t have to do.  Giving yourself a break, treating yourself like you would your best friend if she was going through the same thing.  Taking vitamins, eating more fruits and veggies, drink more water.  It all seems elementary but I have noticed it does help.  The better you care for yourself, at least in my case, the better I feel.  Just not pushing myself so hard has been a big help because I don’t get as frustrated.  I just keep telling myself this is a phase and it will pass.  My mom went through raging hot flashes but eventually she quit having them and she slept better after menopause came.  Her moods settled back down.

Perimenopause is a natural event in a woman’s life.  For me it has been tough at times but it has also pushed me to take better care of myself.   As in most things in life, this too shall pass.  Be kind to yourself.

Don’t Talk Yourself Out of Your Dreams

September 1989, I was 19 years old, living in Dayton with my future husband and working for a doctor part time with the plan to finish my college degree.  During this month, I adjusted to living in a new city, got engaged and bought a newer car. A 1986 Nissan 300ZX in a deep burgundy paint with matching leather interior, a five-speed transmission, smoky T-tops and black louvers over the hatch window which I thought was the coolest thing ever.  I loved this car even though it was only a two-seater and it certainly wasn’t the fastest thing on the road but it was fun to drive.  And I love to drive.  

Like my Z


I used to dream off driving when I was kid.  While other girls were dreaming of becoming nurses, teachers or mothers, I wanted to be a race car driver.  I started driving young around my grandparents farm but mostly tractors and not fast cars just out of the necessity of farm work needs every pair of able hands to get completed especially on their small, cash-poor farm.  Driving felt like it was in my blood, I love to drive, fast.  

I never became a race car driver but I loved zooming around in my Z.  The car drew attention because it was pretty snazzy back in the day but I didn’t buy it for attention, I bought it because it was an adrenaline rush on four wheels.  But like life can be when you make poor decisions (marrying the wrong man), your dreams can get hijacked and your life goes a different direction.  

Over the years I have become the practical person who has watched her finances and tamped down a lot of my dreams and desires until the last few years. Several months ago, my husband and I got to talking about our future plans and finances as we will be turning 50 in 4-6 years (he is two years younger so I hit the milestone first).  Did we want to buy another camper?  Motorcycles?  Travel to Europe?  We mulled around the possiblities.  We ended up decided on buying a Corvette.  I imagined one that was a few years old but all souped up and super fast.  We would save up and splurge on one.  My husband grew up around Corvettes as his father was an engineer for GM.  I don’t have a particular alliance to any sports car so I was fine with the selection.  

My husband, however, started doing research into what he wanted.  I’ll make a long story short, we ended up buying one now rather than 4-6 years later.  Instead of a super expensive high end model, we got an 8-year old base model with low miles that was one-owner and still smelled new inside.  I hadn’t driven a manual transmission since the early 2000’s so I test drove it twice just to get the feel back.  Wow, it was fast and powerful even as the base model.  The car is silver without racing stripes or anything that really stands out except for the fact that it is a Corvette.  I preferred it that way.  There aren’t a lot of options on the car but we both own optioned out daily drivers and really we were busying something fun to drive that won’t even see winter roads and salt.  It is actually cheaper than both our vehicles though most people wouldn’t guess it. 

We went with a hard top coupe which you can remove the top and it’s similiar to a convertible.  The first weekend was gorgeous weather and we spent both days driving around in it and exploring places I haven’t been in years.   I think we were smiling ear to ear the entire weekend because my face muscles hurt Monday morning and I was a bit sunburnt.  My husband went back to work Monday but I didn’t drive it again until Tuesday evening after work when no one was home, my first time driving it solo.  The sun was starting to set and fall was definitely in the air.  I drove down my road and along some other back roads, feeling the thrill and adrenaline rush of feeling so much power.  

It dawned on me as I drove back home that I had long locked away my dream of owning a sports car when I had to give up my Z back in 1990.  I had literally talked myself out of it and told myself that it was no longer important.  I had my sportscar and I should be happy that I once owned one.  I settled.  I’ve done that a lot in my life.  Let the fire just be squashed right out of me by life.  Or by ex husbands, failed marriages, etc.  I think you reach a point where you are tired and worn down.  A ‘valley’ of sorts.  Where you regather your strength and try and reignite the fire you lost.  Slowly mine is coming back.  According to my therapist, it happens often to middle-aged people.  Makes sense.

So now, I’m enjoying zipping around in our Corvette, my husband is on Cloud 9 with our new car.  It gives us something to bond over, enjoy and travel around in as a couple (two-seater).  We are planning our anniversary road trip at the end of October now as we speak.  

Now I am going to dig deeper to see what other dreams I may have squashed.  Don’t talk yourself out of your dream, you might just need to make a few adjustments or just believe again.  Even if it seems frivolous or useless, remember life is really short and waiting until you retire, etc. when you can do something now might not be the best thing.  Tomorrow is never promised.