Saturday, May 26, 2007

Where to Begin?

There are several things I could write about, at length. I can't choose. I refuse to choose! I will give them all to you, in smaller portions, a three-dish buffet.

1. My old friend, L~, who is forty-one years old and a yoga teacher and massage therapist in Colorado, is pregnant. "It's the first time we tried, I mean really tried." She told me on the phone last night. She is over the moon happy, and I am thrilled for her. In my heart, it feels like a train engine roaring to life. As the big iron hulk eases into motion, gaining momentum, picking up speed, my friend is inside, waving, setting off on a grand adventure. I stand on the platform, excited by all the noise, touched that it is me she is waving and smiling at, but all the same, watching her disappear. What I mean to say is that it was exciting at first, and then it was sad.

2. I have an appointment with my most trusted doc for next Wednesday, to confront the question I have been afraid to ask myself, afraid to admit is even in the cards. Do I need to have a colonoscopy? This is reason number three from my last entry, which is really a subset of reason number two, if you want to be technical. The point is, I'm doing something about it now, so I feel a little less ashamed. But I'm still scared.

3. B~'s mother is a terrible flake. (B~ is my stepson, if you didn't know.) I prefer to be more sympathetic than this, but right now, I'm angry, and I'm hurting for B~, who has is heart set on the private school she's been talking up. She wants him to live with her. This "wonderful school" has been her angle for a year and a half. And the truth is, the angle worked. If it wasn't for the school, which, as it turns out, is indeed wonderful, J~ would never have gone along with the plan. B~ has visited twice, started to get to know the kids. Application forms have been painstakingly filled out. J~ missed work to see the place, has poured over the web site, cried multiple times about his son moving away (on our honeymoon, no less), and taken B~ for the requisite physical exam. B~ said to me the other day, "I'd start there tomorrow, if I could." (However, on the subject of living with his mother, he is not as gung-ho. When asked if he could really picture living with her, he said, "Not without both of us going to therapy.")

Oh, why didn't we see this coming? Last night when Ex-wife called to talk to J~ about the instability and dysfunction in her marriage, J~ asked her, point blank, "Are you rethinking having B~ come live with you?" She answered, "Yes. I guess I am."

This is one big fat nasty red flag, drawing our attention to all the others we've been trying to dismiss. When J~ told me about the call, it was clear to us both: If she doesn't pull the plug, we will.

Boy is this one going to hurt.

Sunday, May 20, 2007

Confession, part 1

Okay, brace yourself:

There is something wrong with my butt.

I mean, there's something wrong inside my butt, or my gut, I don't know for sure.

I haven't wanted to tell you this for three big reasons, the first of which being: how could you possibly want to know? Then again, this is a tell-all blog. How can I not tell you?

I'm not in any pain, though sometimes there's a slight discomfort. What's most disturbing is what is coming out of me. Don't worry, I'll spare you the gory details,though I will tell you this: it's been happening for two years now. Or possibly more - I've been in denial. Which brings me to reason number two: I'm ashamed to admit I didn't do anything about this sooner. Please don't judge me. First of all, I haven't had dependable health insurance for very long. Nor a supportive partner. Nor the guts to face this on my own. (Oh, ha ha, no pun intended.) The point is, when it comes to medical stuff, I can be kind of a wimp.

My naturopath suggested I may have celiac disease. The digestive tract of a person with celiac disease (aka celiac sprue) is literally beaten up from the inside by gluten, a protein in wheat and several other grains. Therefore, digestion is compromised. This might account for my unmentionable symptoms, my uncommonly low iron stores (for someone who eats as well as I do), and the fact that I'm struggling to get and stay pregnant.

"I thought celiacs were always skinny!" I told my doctor. I've never in my life been skinny.

She wagged her head, emphatically. "Sometimes infertility is the only symptom!"

She (and another doctor I've seen) have run a battery of tests (so far, inconclusively) and prescribed an arsenal of supplements (which I take, conscientiously), and a gluten-free, dairy-free (just in case) diet. Since January, I've avoided the foods that might be causing my troubles, which is quite a few foods, actually, because, if you haven't noticed, wheat and its derivatives are in everything. "Modified food starch" for instance? Wheat. "Natural flavors" too. Even oats are off limits, unless I get them from Ireland, because in this country, oats are contaminated by wheat in the fields and in the mills. Don't even get my started on dairy products!

I've been increasingly vigilant about this, the incentive being: Which do I want more, a bagel? or a baby? Chinese food? -- there's wheat in the soy sauce -- Or maybe a child? Ice cream? Don't even think about it. The result: After two months, my symptoms actually cleared. I felt great, triumphant.

Then, I ate yogurt twice in a day, to see what would happen. Symptoms immediately returned. No more dairy for me. The ship righted itself. I haven't dared test gluten in this way.

My symptom-free period lasted two weeks. Then I went on my honeymoon, got sick from a Costa Rican parasite, recovered, was fine for a couple weeks. But now, and all of this week, to my dismay, I'm pretty much back where I started.

As it turn out, the almond milk I've been pouring over my gluten-free corn flakes had "natural flavors" as an additive. I knew this. At first, I avoided this brand. But somewhere along the line, I've gotten my brands inverted. Could this be the only reason? My naturopath says maybe, but wants me cut out corn and soy also.


Reason number three, next time.

Monday, May 14, 2007

Lemons and Sugar

You know that expression, When life hands you lemons, make lemonade? I think that's a lovely idea. I think I'm tremendously good at it. Most of us are. We've had plenty of disappointments from which we must wring positives.

The harder thing is to recognize whose hand life is employing to bring this sour fruit into our days. I mean, come on! How long should a person stand under the lemon tree, making the best of it, before setting out in search of something a little sweeter?

I wish I understood this when I was with A~. I would've walked away a long time ago, sparing us both (or at least sparing me) a lot of pain. Thank goodness I found such a peach of a man to take his place.

This is not to say I don't have disappointments. Loyal readers, I think you know what I'm referring to here.

Every month I get the message, loud and clear, that a baby is not in the cards. It might be, at some point, but right now, at least so far, it is not.

The upshot is that I've become overly focused on my more-than-half-grown stepson, B~, and how his parents let him down in ways I imagine I never would've, given the chance to start from scratch with my own. It's tough on J~ to live with my hyper-criticism. It's tough on me to recognize just how little control I have of the situation. It's tough on B~, I'm sure, in ways I can't fathom at all.

It's time to refocus my energy, to consider all the other possible adventures life might hold. In short: I'm standing under a lemon tree again, and it's time to move on.

And so, I'm filling out applications for art shows. I'm working my way through the lessons in Julia Cameron's The Artist's Way: A Spiritual Path to Higher CreativityI'm writing, I'm painting, I'm taking photographs. I'm looking into grad schools, embracing new clients, considering teaching again, and reading through a stack of good books. If things keep going this way, I might even pick up my guitar.

I'm also planting this season's garden. And picking up where I left off last fall, digging the footing for a backyard patio. I've enlisted a friend and neighbor and landscaping expert to help with the trickier parts.

Also, we're talking about moving. Though our home is lovely, living closer to J~'s work would open up professional possibilities for me, and drastically shorten his commute. If B~ ends up staying with us, there would be new opportunities for him, as well. Therefore, we have other home-improvement projects in the works, for our own pleasure and also to make the house more market-ready. Just in case.

"We need a bigger life than this," I said to J~ as we lay in bed this morning, processing our busy weekend, the challenges that the work week inevitably presents.

The dim blue light of dawn had given way to bright day. Through the bedroom windows, it is undeniable: the maples and hemlocks are leafing out, the apple tree is afroth with blossoms. Spring has sprung. Life is moving on. With fifteen minutes before J~ had to be up, rousing B~ for school, beginning the week-long grind, we did what any red-blooded, potentially still-fertile couple in our situation would do: We had sex.

It's that crucial time in my cycle and we aren't giving up our subscription to the Fruit of the Month Club just yet. Who knows. Maybe this time it won't be a lemon after all.

Sunday, May 06, 2007

Life, Death, and Nightsweats

Lately I wake up in the middle of the night with a collumn of heat radiating up my spine, sweat puddling on my chest, at the small of my back, lathering my forehead and the nape of my neck. The sheets are soaked, my pillow is damp, and I must toss blankets aside, find a dry towel to spread underneath me. It doesn't happen every night, and, so far, it's never happened during the day (thank goodness). But the night sweats strike often enough that I can't ignore it.

I'm thirty-seven. Aren't I too young for this?

Apparently not.

While driving the other day, I searched the radio dial for anything that wasn't a commercial, and found only one thing: a country song that repeats the line, "Live like you were dying." Chalk it up to peri-menopausal mood swings (or pre-menstrual mood swings - yes, once again, honeymoon not withstanding, I'm not pregnant), but this is where my mind went: I am dying. We all are. Even if I ignore all the physical, body-change evidence, it's hard to discount the fact that, sooner or later, everyone else dies. Why should I be any different?

What would I do if death were imminent?

Two people come to mind: my ex-husband, who keeps his distance, as do I, and my ex-best friend, who dropped out of my life after fifteen years, claiming disinterest in the direction my life was going (re-marriage, parenthood), and one-sided-relationship burnout. Granted, I was not the best ever friend or partner to either of these people. Obviously. But... (oh, there are a million buts!) The point is, I thought of them because I feel unresolved about them both, and I realized, if death were imminent, I would do something about it.

It seems like I should follow this with something brave and inspiring, a plan of action, a firm resolution.

Here's my cop-out thought: Good thing death isn't imminent.

Of course, one never knows.

Another thing I might decide to do, if I were to die soon, would be to let myself off the hook of all the shoulds crowding my brain. No plans of action, no firm resolutions. Instead: pleasure and appreciation of the incomplete, inconvenient, imperfect present.

In fact, maybe I'll do that anyway.