Sunday, February 24, 2008

Seasonal Slump

It's been a chaotic few months, and something about the waning of winter is encouraging me to pull myself together and get things in order a bit.

I don't feel like I suffer from seasonal affective disorder, exactly, but I do feel like there's a part of me that just doesn't cope well with the dark and cold of winter. All I want to do is eat and sleep, and I find that I'm draggy and tired all the time. This is probably pretty par for the course around here, as our winters (and this one in particular) take a lot of fortitude to endure. But I don't make it easier on myself; when I'm low in energy and/or mood I tend to indulge myself with lots of tasty carbohydrates, which just make me more draggy and tired.

Last weekend I decided to cook. I made a pork loin marinated in citrus juice, garlic, cumin and oregano, and it was really nice. I also made an egg casserole kind of a thing that was good but very, very rich. I've been taking these things for lunch all week, and lo and behold...I'm feeling a little better. A little more in control. And thank goodness.

I was sitting with a cup of tea this morning and thinking about what I really want for myself. I realized that it's more complicated than just lookin' hot and feelin' groovy. That's a part of it, sure, but it's also about feeling calm and in control, and about respecting myself. And about having a body that's functional, so I don't have to worry about being able to go on a hike or climb several flights of stairs, or...well, you get the idea.

So often I just feel like a cork bobbing on the open sea, with very little to say about what happens to me, food-wise. I totally lose sight of the fact that I have a choice about what I eat, and not to choose is still a choice. It all just feels so thoughtless and automatic. I go to the cafeteria at work, and I pick what to eat based on where the shortest line is. Oh, and I get something for dessert, because the Little Debbie rack is right by the cashier, and I like those, and why not? And I drift through the grocery store, just impulse shopping.

So I think the trick for me will be to live a little more intentionally. I'm headed over to the grocery in a bit, and I'll go with a list. Winter's over yet, but it feels good to be thinking these thoughts and planning for the sunshine and warmer weather.

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Adventures in Feminine Hygiene: The Sequel

So, I'm finishing up my second cycle with the menstrual cup (aka the CooterCap), which I first wrote about here. I have to say, I LOVE this thing. For me it is absolutely leak-proof, and surprisingly it's less messy than tampons as well. I also love the idea that I'm not putting bleached and otherwise chemically-processed fibers into or in close proximity to my body, and then I'm not throwing them out where they can sit in a landfill or the bottom of a lake forever. Oh, and the one-time investment? That too. It's all good.

The accounts I read prior to trying it out all talked about a learning curve, and there's definitely been one. I'm just now getting comfortable enough with insertion and removal that it's not a bit of a production, as it was when I first used it. And I can imagine that for anyone not used to having fairly...uh, intimate contact with her body, it might take a bit longer to get really in the swing of the whole thing. But for me, keeping at it has paid off. It's become easy, convenient and comfortable. I wish I'd gotten one 20 years ago.

So. I highly recommend the cup--it's a nice thing to do for your body, your wallet and the environment.

Thursday, February 7, 2008

Visit with Dad

I went out to visit my father this weekend. He's been having cardiac issues and isn't taking very good care of himself, which landed him in the hospital last week. It was scary. My relationship with my father has always been complicated, and it's no less so now. It was so difficult to see him looking frail and scared; as someone who's never been seriously ill, I can only imagine how frightening that is. He is 81 and has never made healthy choices--he smoked until he was about 55, never exercised after about age 30 and is a perfect Type A personality. Oh, and eating habits? Red meat all the way, baby, with some pasta and bread now and again. But vegetables? Ha. If it grows in the dirt, it's not going in his mouth.

So years of hard livin' have caught up with him. He needs a valve replacement and is beginning to suffer from congestive heart failure, as well as arthritis that is beginning to create some mobility issues. My angry, temperamental, larger-that-life father has become a frail, vulnerable little old man who doesn't make great choices for himself, and I just don't know how to be with him.

What happened last week was that his kidneys temporarily quit working (the dye from a CAT scan he had was toxic enough to shut them down) and he ended up with fluid collecting in his lungs. He got more and more short of breath, to the point that he was having trouble walking from his bedroom to the kitchen. Finally a friend of his came by and saw the shape he was in, and he bundled my father up and took him to the hospital. A week of oxygen, balanced meals and diuretics in the hospital, and he was feeling much better by the time I got there this past Friday.

During my weekend there, my brother and I tried to get some more support for him around the house, which he's always been resistant to. He has finally agreed to have home health people come in three times a week to do a little cooking, help him run errands and make sure he's not sitting in front of the TV with his lungs filling up again. I repeatedly found myself lecturing him about needing to make better choices about his health, be proactive about some of these changes that need to get made, etc.

And that made me feel like a big hypocrite. I mean, how proactive am I? How healthy are my choices? The only difference between us is that I'm 41 instead of 81. Well, that and the smoking, and the personality variables, and...OK, so there are plenty of differences. But I see myself in him too--a person with a demanding life who just wants to come home from work and eat tasty, comforting food that she doesn't have to think about. Who doesn't want to have to motivate herself to go to the damned gym after working all day. Who is good at ignoring the signs that her body sends that it would like to be healthier and fitter.

All this has also been strangely motivating. In the last few weeks, whenever I've been dragging my feet about getting to the gym, I picture my father, with his bad joints and poor cardiac health, and it gets me there. I'd prefer not to be coping with these issues when I get older, obviously. I'd like to be one of those 80 year old ladies who's able to work in her garden, walk her dog, travel and generally feel energetic and engaged in the world. And that's not going to happen for me if I just sit here and ignore the fact that my knees hurt and I get short of breath easily even now, at 41.

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

What I did on my Winter Vacation

Well, I’m back. I made it through the holidays and through a surprisingly pleasant week-long visit with my father. Since I’ve been back in my own space and my own life I’ve been coping with the January blahs…it’s UNBELIEVABLY cold here, and gray, and I’ve struggled with the desire to eat nothing but carbs, drink like a fish and sleep too much. Actually, I’ve managed to keep the drinking and sleeping under control, but as usual, it’s the demon carbs that have proved irresistible.

Here’s a funny thing. I ate a lot around the holidays and gained about five pounds. I’m up to about where I was when I started this blog, which I’m not thrilled about. Interestingly, though, I’ve had several people in the last few weeks say “Hey, have you lost some weight?” I’m really not at all sure how to understand this…at first I was thinking it was due to Pilates, but I only went three times before my gym-buddy and I abandoned it for the holidays. So I don’t think it’s that. I don’t have an answer, but it makes me feel as if all is not lost.

I do, however, feel like most of the momentum I had throughout the fall is just gone. I’ve been completely unable to get myself to the gym, despite knowing full well that I’ll feel better, sleep better, have more energy, feel prouder of myself, etc. if I do. I’ve been playing games with myself, like telling myself that I can’t listen to any of the music on my iPod unless I do it at the gym. And like the stubborn child I am inside, I reply “Fine.” And the iPod sits on m desk, while I sit on the couch and watch TV.

Life is fairly stressful these days…my father continues to have health problems that appear to be getting worse, and I feel unsure of how to help. More to the point, I feel unsure of how to be close to him and how to be supportive while he’s feeling worried and scared. I know that I would feel more in control if I were to eat better and exercise. I also know that that control would be an illusion, but it’s one I’d welcome at this point.

Thank you to those of you who have sent me holiday greetings or otherwise left kind comments. Squilla, I was happy to hear that you’re alive and well in Australia, and your man is there with you now. *S*, thank you for your regular presence here—it’s always nice to hear from you. You too, Meegan, and Erin. I’ve been reading all of your blogs, even though I’ve been commenting only sporadically. Maybe what I need to do to to foster some re-engagement in the process of caring for my physical self is to blog more frequently and to get back in the habit of thinking about my physical self. That I can do.

Here’s wishing you all a wonderful 2008, with much happiness, good health and inner peace.