Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Making my way back to happy

When pulling yourself up from the bottom, when it requires tremendous effort just to face the day, swallow a piece of toast, shop for groceries, there occasionally comes brief flashes of joy - somewhere from deep within, a strength that shows up, feeling empowered for the moment.  You want to put on "I will Survive" by Gloria Gaynor or "Rolling in the Deep" by Adele and just scream out the lyrics.  Music can and does change everything.  If I could just play a continual soundtrack of kick ass Beyonce, "You must not know 'bout me, I can have another you in a minute" - I'd never look back.

So, while in the midst of recovery, (and I am calling it that because I am beginning to wonder if I've been addicted to the drama, pain and excitement of my relationship maybe more so than the love, the actual person), it is the little things, the simple things that bring light back into our world.  Last week I had many glimpses of such simple things, reminding me that  brighter days are in my future.

Simple things such as; upon waking I knew the weather was going to be absolutely beautiful, the week had in store a warm and crisp 78 degrees, tops, the weather man promised.  Now this is what I'm talking about.  This is the Napa weather that I love.  Better yet, I went to throw on something to wear to the dentist, put on my white cotton men's shirt, and lo and behold, my jeans were a bit too baggy.  Into the drawer of  "someday these will fit agains" and with ease, my jeans from last year just slid right over my hips, zipped up with no problem, no horizontal positioning required.  Talk about happy.  Who knew what five pounds could do for a mood, much more effective I'm sure than any mood elevating drug out there.

Then, I went to the dentist for a cleaning, first time in 6 years, - yes I was surprised too when the hygienist said I hadn't been seen by them since 2005 - "Really"?, I exclaimed, shamed and feeling like my dirty laundry had just been exposed to the world, I knew it had been awhile.  "Have you been getting your teeth cleaned elsewhere?", she sternly asked.  No, no, I swear, and even though that was the truth, I felt guilt burning all across my face. After the cleaning and exam, to my surprise and hers, she said my teeth looked like I had just had them cleaned recently, and, no cavities!  "Keep up whatever you are doing", she said as I jumped out and up from the chair, excited, feeling like I could take on the world.  Yes, simple things such as dropping a few pounds or a great dental checkup, can propel you forward, make you feel hopeful, on top of the world, for the moment anyway.

Now my dentist, who I have known now for many years had tried to set me up with a friend of his years ago.  At the time I was already involved in my soon to be Jerry Springer worthy relationship so I had to pass.  One of his first questions during my exam, "You have a man in your life?"  Sadly and under my breath "No, not any more, just recently ended."  My dentist, "Hmm, who do I know that I could set you up with?"  I told him, "Listen Rob, that's the last thing I need right now.  And before you even think about that I have a whole list of requirements, things that I definitely do not want in a relationship."  Shared laughter.  He started to tell me a story about a friend of his whose list was so impossibly unattainable that she had been single for the past 30 years.  I assured him I wasn't that bad, all I was asking was he not be an alcoholic or display any sociopathic behaviors. "Can he at least have a glass of wine?" the dear doctor asked me with a grin, remember, we live in the Napa Valley.  "I can handle a glass of wine or two, that would be fine, its just the finding half empty vodka bottles shoved between the cushions of my sofa instead of the remote or spare change, not so much."  Shared knowing sad smile. He hugged me when I left. And that simple exchange, his kind words and a simple hug, made me feel less alone.

So the bottom line here, if there is a bottom, is that things do start to look up, it's just a matter of how you look at things. It's hard not to go to those dark places, those sad places, regret, wishful thinking, wanting to go back to the way things were, patch up the quilt, because it is what we know, it is comfortable.  It is our life.  It might not be the best life, or the one we are deserving of, but it is ours.

When the tide turns and it sometimes feels like we are left to drown, it is hard to view loss or unwanted change as a blessing, and yet that may very well be what it is.  Sink or swim.  In the really difficult events leading up to this moment in time, what he gave me was my freedom, he took the noose off my neck, or actually he dropped me to the ground and then I took the noose off myself.  I read somewhere to be thankful for our blessings, for all that we have, but to be equally thankful for the things we are denied - we may never know the reason, but we may have very well just dodged a bullet. 

(P.S.- thanks for all the kind comments, and ELL, I appreciate your prayers :) - they all helped immensely

Saturday, June 18, 2011

Brokeback Camel

Relationships are tough.  Just watch episodes of Sex and the City or any Lifetime movie and you'll know it to be true.  More than likely you don't even need to turn on the TV, you have your own front row, first hand experience to go on.

My relationship came with many red flags, actually they were more like giant red banners flapping in the wind and even presented themselves on occasion as huge red blimps, flying overhead.  Unfortunately for me, my squinted eyes viewed these red flags with curiosity, mystery and above all, flags that could be removed, or with the help of the DIY network, bleached out and dyed a nice loving shade of pink.

It is unpredictable and often baffling to determine what will be the "straw that breaks the camel's back" in a rocky relationship.  When you have so many straws, entire hay bales at times, added to the overall burden you've been carrying, it seems you always think you can attempt to take on one more.  Testing our own limits?  Resting in our own fear?  Not wanting to fail, give up, let go, to start over again? As in all matters of the heart, it remains a mystery. I remember years ago telling my brother that I felt that this relationship could destroy me, that I would be hurt, that it was as if  I was tying myself to the railroad tracks and just waiting for the train to run over me.  His response was "then why don't you get up?"  Good question.  But one I couldn't answer.

From the outside looking in, which is where I have been for many others, I have too often been the one that just can't understand how someone could stay in an unhealthy relationship. I have offered my flip remarks, such as "dump the bastard" to "get rid of the loser."  Thinking it a no-brainer, a matter of logic, removing the heart from the picture completely.  Like a surgeon, a job to be done, don't get emotionally attached, give the patient a number instead of a name. But when you are the patient and it is your heart, the strings pulled can be excruciatingly painful, ripping at your love, your history, your hopes, your dreams.  And as humans, we do whatever we need to do to avoid pain, all you need to do is visit a pharmacy to see that.  So at times it is a matter of which pain you want to deal with.  Stay or leave, they both have their side effects.

Battling my own mental war here, my mind won't settle and jumps back and forth between the right and the left brain, strong, determined, and logical to the weak, confused and emotional (insert whiny, "but I love him").  When our insides hurt, it is often times more painful that any physical pain we have endured.  This makes things difficult because the world doesn't slow down or make allowances for a beaten up, wounded heart that is bleeding to death.  There are no broken heart hospitals. People want you to move on, go out more, get a grip, meet someone.  Then we will be better.

So how do you heal a broken heart?  I tried finding how others that have been betrayed have dealt with it, Googling Sandra Bullock and Shania Twain, to name a couple, thinking this could be a short cut I could take.  But broken hearts are like weight loss, there is no magic pill.  We are a nation of "now" - we want immediate results, speedier speed, we'd rather replace than repair.  Well, you can't replace the heart, well not true, I guess you can, but it takes a while to get on the list.  And repairs can sometimes be lengthy and come at a great cost.  But time is the only solution.  We want it to rush by, or wish we could hibernate for a few months, come out of our cave to see everything new, green, in bloom and possibly ten pounds lighter.  But that isn't what we get.  We get long agonizing days that we just want to end, just want it to end so we can sleep, and more often than not that sleep is disturbed and restless, only to begin another long day of thinking, feeling and dissecting our way to an emotional meltdown.  How can the heart overtake us like this, be such a powerful force?

Well my camel's back broke the other day. My endurance ran out and I collapsed.  So now I have to play the miserable waiting game, and as anyone who knows me knows, I am not a game player.  Hate games. Please don't ask me to play scrabble with you. And I'm not that great at waiting either, patience isn't my strongest suit.  But lucky for me, what I do have is a very strong supportive back brace, in the shape of my friends and family, who will hold me up, make me see the humor in it all, and I know they will help me, remove the straw, one stick at a time.

Thursday, June 9, 2011

99 bottles of wine on the wall

I had the most pleasant surprise last week.  I went to a friends over in Corte Madera (that is in Marin County, only 35 miles from where I live in Napa, and yet a world away).  When I arrived at her house she had made us a light lunch and then offered me a drink.  A glass of ginger minted iced tea.  How utterly refreshing!

You'd have to live here to understand.  Where?  Ah, here in the Napa Valley.  The perfect place for the "wine lover" to blend into the landscape, the vineyards, into the "grapeness" of it all.  The longer I live here, and I've lived here over 20 years, I am still amazed how wine, the area's biggest industry, permeates everything about the valley.  There isn't an event you will attend, a street fair, ladies luncheon, an art opening, a school fundraiser, where wine is not being served and celebrated.  It isn't so much that there is wine present, it's just
that there is nothing else offered.  Recently we attended an unveiling for one of our artists at an up valley winery.  Well of course they are serving their wine, and only their wine, but when I asked for water, the server seem baffled and said she had to go "search" for hopefully a hidden stash in some back room, probably in the employee refrigerator.

Welcome to the Napa Valley
Glorious hillside

The Napa Valley, the wine country, with it's celebrity chef restaurants, glorious vine studded hillsides reminiscent of a dreamy Italian landscape, is a fantasy lifestyle that many dream of.  New wineries seem to pop up more frequently than a pimple on the face of a high school freshman.  For me, wineries do remind me of high school, they are all about name, reputation, competition, and all of the other things that I hated, they are all wanting you to vote them Prom Queen (aka good review from Robert Parker).  But if you aren't already a wine lover, here you will have the opportunity to grow and mature into a functioning alcoholic that is accepted by all, loved by everyone, with a lifestyle to envy, a glorified street wino, driving the streets in a Range Rover instead of walking the streets with a paper bag.  It can happen so fast you won't even see the bottle that hit you over the head.

I realize there is a lot of wine drinking in other parts of the world, on a regular basis, even children drink their wine at lunch.  It is a part of life, part of the celebrated dining experience. But over there wine is usually diluted.  And because grape sugar content tends to be higher in California, our wines often have a higher alcohol content (up to 14%, compared with French wines' usual 12%), translation, quicker buzz.  Our children here in the valley are denied any alcohol of course, which makes it all the more appealing and desirable, but what must they be thinking when all they see are their parents and their parent's friends drinking on a regular basis?  Drinking a lot, I might add.  It sure looks like good times ahead, children learn what they see, hear and live.

I guess it is the double standard again that gets on my nerves, that civil rights activist that lives deep inside of me.  In the local paper all the DUI's are printed every month.  The name of every poor SOB that unfortunately had the bad luck of getting caught.  And most everyone of those names is a Hispanic surname. Well from the looks of it, you would think that the Hispanics are the only drunk drivers in the valley.  Shame on them.  Disgusted and placing blame, it is just one more stereotypical negative we can add to the list. Well, I happen to know from experience, having a friend who received a DUI, that if you are lucky enough to be able to hire yourself an attorney to appear with you in court, one of the requests that attorney will make is to keep your name out of the paper.  Oh well, now it is making so much sense.  There are just as many white "upstanding" citizens in this community, and you know who you are Dr. XYZ, driving with a blood alcohol level that would make you shiver at the though of them sharing the same road as you.  They get away with it.  I wonder if they get away with the court ordered classes, court fines and all of the other disgrace bestowed upon a person who has received a DUI as well.  The real truth of the matter is, almost everyone I know has at one time or another, taken that risk of driving after having a bit too much to drink.  And this valley makes it easy.

I like a glass of a full-bodied Cabernet or a crisp Sauvignon Blanc as much as the next guy, but here in Napa, it is easy for a person to hide behind the hundreds of wine labels, tasting, enjoying, drinking to excess, denying that there might be some kind of problem, .i.e., alcoholism, and instead substituting the word wine connoisseur.  No different from opening a bottle of gin or vodka, if people were drinking it everyday, at every opportunity, and in the same quantity, I believe we would be whispering behind those people's backs. Rich wine drinker or a poor paper bag wine drinker, a drunk is a drunk is a drunk.  Bottom line, we are all drinking way too much - maybe it's time to call a spade a spade and put a cork in it.

Saturday, June 4, 2011

I'm turning Veganese

I'm sick of hearing myself complain about everything - from the weather, bad drivers, politicians and their "secret" children, to my own health woes.  Ah, I'm too fat, my knees ache, my head hurts, my eyes burn, I'm guessing your sick of hearing me too.  So today I'm taking the bull by the horns - I intend to make some changes.  First things first, I need to get healthy again, mind, body and soul.  I will first attempt the body.  If I look better I believe it is natural that feeling better soon follows.

A very do-able taking the bull by the horns

Last night as I was mindlessly flipping through the TV channels, I came upon the last few minutes of a PBS special, Kickstart your health with Dr. Barnard.  I didn't get to see much, but what he was touting was a Vegan Diet.  And not just to lose weight.  The benefits were much more impressive than just being able to slip into that old pair of "skinny jeans" we all keep stashed away in the closet.  He talked about how it can reduce your blood pressure, reverse heart disease, tame your diabetes, reduce or rid joint pain.  I felt like I had just slipped and fell into the big fountain of youth.  Too good to be true?  I'm not sure but I want to try this one. In the past I've never wanted to entertain a vegan diet (no cheese, yogurt, eggs?), but my aching joints and squeaky knees are begging me, "please, please, please?"

Instead of pledging $100 to obtain the book and also do a great service by supporting public television, I jumped on the computer, pulled up Amazon, and purchased the book for $9.99.  Do I feel good about myself?  No, not at all. But I will get over it.  One thing at a time, body, then mind and soul.

Dr. Barnard's book

The Kickstart your Health plan is a vegan diet.  He has you try it for 3 weeks, 21 days, and see how it affects you.  I think I can handle 21 days.  Of course, there will be interruptions.  Next weekend I will be in Portland and it might be difficult to avoid some of my favorites.  Oh wait, Voodoo Donuts make vegan donuts!  I'm in heaven.  And between all of those food trucks I'm sure there are many that dish up a delicious vegan speciality or two.  The following week I have a wine and cheese tasting that I need to attend.  Maybe I can just lick the cheese between swishing and spitting my wine.

The Flavour Spot food cart Portland - Vegan maple sausage waffle!!!

Vegan donuts at Voodoo Donuts in Portland

I don't have my book yet but I wanted to start this morning so I just went ahead and Googled "vegan diet".  So far so good.  I just got through one meal.  Banishing my half and half to the back of the refrigerator, I had my coffee with almond milk, it was fabulous.  Made some oatmeal, added sliced almonds and 1/2 a banana, a little agave nectar and a splash of almond milk. Wow, breakfast was easy.  Hmm, now, the hard part, what to have for lunch?

(FYI -  Noting or commenting on the state of affairs of the world, of others, or of ourselves does not necessarily constitute "complaining" - it is mere observation- thank goodness for that, otherwise I'd have nothing to blog about)

Thursday, June 2, 2011

Procrastination Fascination

I like to make to-do lists.  It isn't so much that I need the daily reminders, I think it is more the satisfaction I get from being able to cross things off, to see all that I have accomplished in a day.  I have been known to add things to my list that I inherently forgot to add, even though they have already been completed, just so I can feel more productive.  Get gas, cross off list, get a coffee at Starbucks, cross of list, ridiculously simple and stupid feats I might add.  It's like the more things on the list, the more busy I must be; and busy translates to important.  We are a nation of "doers" - we do not like to admit when we are doing nothing.  Phone rings, "Hi Kim, what are you up to?" Me, "Oh, just finishing up some _____, (you can fill in the blanks), work, errands, cleaning, etc.  But really, I am on the couch, sitting, thinking, closing my eyes, resting.  Resting is something but it falls into that category of "doing nothing", along with the likes of watching daytime TV or petting your cat. 

My days don't always include a rest period, but they do seem to have an abundance of distractions.  Self-induced distractions.  I sit down to work or plan to attack my list one task at a time, but I can't.  I don't know why the road blocks, don't know why the stubborn resistance.  But because of this, at the end of the day some things get transferred to the next days list, and this roll-over can go on for months.  For example, call Comcast to inquire about simple basic cable.  A simple phone call, find out some details, decide if I should switch plans.  But I keep putting if off.  There are things on my list, like, renew passport, make dental appointment, visit Jeremy's in San Francisco, check into new Mac computer, exercise, things that just keep getting passed on to the next day and then on to the next month's list.

My to-do list

I know it's not just me, but the agony of the lingering undone is much more painful than the rip it off band aid zinger that lasts only seconds and then it is done, feeling so much better.  The worry and internal nagging related to things unfinished or not even started is much more damaging.  It all adds up, this mental clutter that we have stashed away, thinking it is neatly folded and stored away in some compartmentalized closet, when really it is strewn all over the room.  We keep tripping on it.

Whether it is a relationship that needs our attention, phone calls or emails we still have to return, bills that need to be paid, repairs that need to be done, appointments that we need to make, why don't we just do it?  What is the advantage of procrastination, that old "manana" mentality?  Tomorrow does come, in the form of today, and the list still has the same old reminders of all we couldn't complete or little things that must have much bigger meanings.  It's really not the dental appointment I don't want to make, it is the actual appointment I don't want to go to.  How many root canals this time?  A new crown?  You've got to be kidding!$$$? Is it just because these items on my to-do list fall into the "should" category of life, the one I try to avoid at all costs? 

Now today, I received via email a "to-do financial planning list" from Real Simple Magazine.  It is giving me advice for the entire month of June and sets deadlines for all of these "to do" projects -if you'd like to add it to your own list, here you go, you can download it too   http://www.learnvest.com/wp-content/uploads/2011/06/June-ToDos.pdf
Then just moments later I hear a friendly "you've got mail" and received a "must do" travel guide from Sunset Magazine.  Okay, so now I have my own to do list, my financial planning to do list and my "must do" road trips list from Sunset Magazine.  Wow, my list is like an ever expanding waistline.  Try to make a dent in it, but it is downright difficult.  Might not get all this done during the month of June or even by the end of summer, but then again, before you know it, manana becomes 2012 - and that gives me plenty of time.