Tagged with " self-esteem"
Jan 25, 2012 - Physical Ed    11 Comments

Fair Warning

I saw my psychiatrist the other day for my regular check-in. As we went over the list of meds I’m taking, both those prescribed by him and those from other doctors, I said that the anti-depressant I’m on right now is working just fine, and that the only real change since I last saw him was that my pain management docs were having me transition from narcotic pain relievers for my fibromyalgia onto tramadol, a non-narcotic.

He looked up from his notes with a sudden frown, and said, “Oh no. That’s not good.”

Since all I’ve heard from day one of being a fibromyalgia patient is that narcotics are bad, and I’m bad for taking them, and I might as well be a crack addict, his response startled me. “Why isn’t that good?” I asked.

“Have they warned you about serotonin syndrome?”
“No, I’ve never heard of it.”
“Well, it’s a fairly rare thing, but when you take more than one drug that affects your body’s serotonin level, you can get serotonin syndrome. You don’t know you have it until you become symptomatic, and once you’re symptomatic, you’ve reached the point at which there’s a 20% mortality rate.”

“My pharmacist didn’t tell me there were any contra-indications…” I began.

“Oh, no, it wouldn’t show up as a contra-indication because it doesn’t happen all the time. It’s just a possibility,” he replied.

“Yeah, but it’s a possibility that kills 20 percent of the people who get it.”

He nodded, and leaned forward to whisper, somewhat conspiratorially, “Really, the Vicodin is much safer for you to be on.”

I was stunned. Not once in the 12 years I’ve been taking various medications for my fibro and my depression has a single healthcare professional ever even mentioned the existence of this potentially fatal drug interaction.

And when I looked it up, I got even more alarmed, because you don’t even have to be that sick, or taking a bunch of medications, to find yourself at risk for serotonin syndrome. If you take any kind of SSRI or SSNRI anti-depressant or smoking cessation drug, and you take medicine for migraines (the triptans), some pain relievers, even cough syrup containing dextromethorphan, you are at risk. If you take an anti-depressant and anything else–over-the-counter or prescription, regularly or sporadically–I can’t urge you strongly enough to read up on this condition.

If the only way to know you’ve got it is to understand the symptoms when you show up, you kind of need to know the symptoms. If it’s caught early, 80 percent of those who get it survive. But if it’s left untreated for more than 48 hours, you rapidly arrive in that other 20 percent territory.

I don’t expect doctors to know every drug and every symptom and read me chapter and verse on every possible reaction to each drug alone or in conjunction. It’s not like doctors and nurses even have drug books or PDRs sitting around in their offices anymore; the Internet has pretty much put those publications out of the print business. But with drugs as common as the ones I’m talking about, and with a potential reaction with a not-inconsiderable number of deaths attributable to it, you’d think it would’ve come up with at least one of the dozen or so doctors and specialists I’ve seen over the last decade.

And it reminded me, yet again, that some doctors just don’t see a problem with withholding information from their patients. When I started grad school in 1997, I started getting absolutely blinding tension headaches. The doctor who saw me at the student health center prescribed me a tricyclic anti-depressant to manage them; it’s a not-uncommon off-label use. In the six months that followed, I put on somewhere around 45 pounds, at the same time as my husband and I went vegetarian and I was using an elliptical machine every day. I was frustrated and distraught at this inexplicable weight gain, and my self-esteem was devastated.

It wasn’t until two and a half years later when a female CRNP said, “Didn’t the doctor who prescribed it warn you that one of the most common side effects is moderate to severe weight gain?” I gritted out, “No, he most certainly did not.” She sighed sympathetically and asked, “A male doctor?” I nodded. She said, “They do that all the time. They just don’t think it’s a big deal. They don’t understand how women take that sort of thing.”

I’ve never managed to get my weight back down to where it was before I went on that medication, and that struggle takes a daily toll on my feelings toward my body, my self-worth, and my sex life. That a doctor wouldn’t think to warn me of something that major, because he didn’t “think it was a big deal,” makes my head explode. Just like it did the other day, when I was finally been warned of the risk I’ve been exposed to for so long.

I’d like to be able to just brush it off and think that it just didn’t occur to all those professionals that I’d actually be more comforted knowing all of the reasonable risks I’m incurring by following one treatment plan over another. I know it’s not the same for every patient, but it’s probably that way for more patients than they think it is. More and more, information is power, and people believe that doctors aren’t infallible and patients can’t abdicate understanding or control of their conditions.

Once again, I’m reminded and reassured that I really am my own best advocate. Sadly, what I’m most looking for in a physician these days is one who respects my knowledge of my own body, my medical history, and my research skills. It stings to pay someone with a prescription pad to just execute the treatment that I’ve found to be best. The least I can expect is fair warning if something either of us has come up with has potential side effects and risks. And when that warning isn’t given–when you discover the risks on your own or, gods forbid, through a close shave–it erodes your faith in the whole system, and every well-intentioned, well-educated professional who comes after them suffers the consequences of the mistrust that others earned.

Dec 11, 2011 - Psychology    3 Comments

In the Shadow of the Goddess: Reverb Broads 2011 #11

 

Reverb Broads 2011, December 11: In what ways are you like your mother? And if you’re a mother, how is/are your kid(s) like you? (courtesy of ME)

“My God, you’re just like your mother.”

I would be well-set for life, and still raking in nice dividends, if I had a buck for every time someone said that to me. And I’ve always taken that for the compliment it’s intended to be. My mom is one of the kindest, funniest, stubbornest, most frighteningly competent people you will ever meet. So, if I remind people of her so strongly that they exclaim whenever we’re in the same room, I can’t help but be flattered.

To be fair, she’s from a long line of them. My great-grandma moved west when she was eight months pregnant, and when she found that neither house nor job was as established as her deadbeat husband said, she carried my great-aunt Mary into a TENTH MONTH.

My grandma Nell in 1944

My grandma taught Red Cross first aid and swimming, and led inner-city Girl Scout troops for decades. When she came across a kid who’d been trapped with only his face visible in a sinkhole on the cliffs above Lake Michigan, she lay on the ground and gave him mouth-to-mouth until rescue crews arrived, saving his life. From them, my mom got her faith, her vision and drive to do what needs to be done, and her intolerance of bullshit.

So how am I like my mom? We tend to end up in charge of things. We’re both quick, intuitive learners, and we like teaching others what we know. That being said, we both tend to think it’s faster to just do something ourselves, so we’re terrible at delegating. We’re wizards at multitasking, and we’re crafty, so our hands are always busy. We’re unapologetic liberals. We love music, and we love singing, and we love to sing together, whether it’s to oldies on road trips, or duets in church on Christmas Eve. We’re both inclined to see the funny side of things, and we both get the giggles when we’re slappy-tired. We’re both very free and unashamed with our emotions, though I’m not quite as much a watering pot as she is. We both see typos everywhere, instantly and unignorably. We both see the best in everyone, but we’re incredibly unforgiving of ourselves. We’re both social chameleons, and we can adapt to fit into many (sometimes unlikely) groups and settings. We love to take care of other people, and blood ties are the least of our concern when it comes to family. We both snap into “terminator mode” when there’s a crisis, and woe betide anyone who gets in our paths.

And boy oh boy, do I look like her.

We never went through that awkward phase when teenage girls hate their moms. My mom was my best friend and accomplice well into adulthood. Distance and motherhood have undermined some of that closeness, but there’s a new honesty and respect that’s different than before.

I always imagined myself carrying on this amazing matriarchal tradition. When I found out I was having a second boy, I burst out into tears. The ultrasound tech quickly reassured me, “No no, he’s completely fine!” To which I replied, “I’m not worried. It’s just another goddamn boy.” I won’t be having any biological daughters; pregnancy is too rough on me, let alone sleep dep and potty training and all that again. And I’d be lying if I said that wasn’t still a disappointment. But the way I see it, boys are an endangered species, and I’ve been entrusted with two of the precious creatures to strong, smart, confident, non-asshole men.

But I see myself in my kids all the time. Sometimes, that’s awesome. I try so hard not to get irritated when I can’t get Connor’s attention out of a book long enough to answer a simple question, because I know it’s magical being that absorbed in a story. I love that Griffin watches Japanese monster movies with me, and wants to learn how to cook. They’re both born performers, and their imaginations are vast and complex, with galaxies of stories to occupy their every thought (and sometimes, like me, their sleeptalking).

And sometimes, that’s incredibly hard and heartbreaking. I wince when I catch myself yelling at them when insomnia strikes. Griffin can’t be anything but busybusybusy, and I wish we could both slow down and be still, and find joy in it. And if I could save Connor the pain of learning how to get organized, and not procrastinate, and not take every unkind comment like an arrow to the heart, I would.

Things grow differently in the shade than they do in unobstructed sun. And my mom casts a long shadow. As much like her as I am, I know I probably do too. Hopefully, I can be the kind of mom who gives her kids the shelter they need, and who gets out of the way when they’re ready to grow up.

My mom and my boys, this Thanksgiving

Me and my boys, circa 2010

Dec 3, 2011 - Psychology, Uncategorized    1 Comment

Straight On ‘Til Morning: Reverb Broads 2011 #3

Art by Roy Best

Reverb Broads 2011, December 3:

How did you become more of a grown-up this year? Or did you pull a Peter Pan and stubbornly remain childlike? (courtesy of Bethany at http://bethanyactually.com/)

I did two pretty adult things this year, though no one who knows me would ever respond in a lightning round with the word “grown-up.” The first may not seem like much to all you gorgeous fellow wage slaves out there, but I’ve actually held down a real, non-academic job for the last 12 months.

I’ve been doing that since I was 15, you scoff? No big deal, you say?

Perhaps it is no big deal. Perhaps you think I’m a spoiled ivory tower wimp who’s never done an honest day’s work in her life. I think you’d be less likely to say that if you’d ever graded 75 blue book essay exams in 36 hours, or written a 2.5 hour multimedia-enhanced lecture in an afternoon, while bouncing a baby basket with your foot.

Academia, with a side of substitute teaching in two school districts, has been all I could manage in the years of fibromyalgia plus non-school-age children minus child care subsidies. I’m not complaining — teaching has allowed me to be there more for my boys (all three of them) than I ever dreamed I’d be able to. And, simply put, teaching is my vocation, in the old, spiritual-calling sense of the word.

But I really, deeply, truly adore the job I have at Atlas Games these days, and both my responsibilities and my hours have expanded since I started last November. I started out just handling customer service requests from the website, and managing the packing and shipping of orders to our distributors. I still have these duties, and I enjoy them, but I’ve been entrusted with the first pass of edits on our RPGs, and I’ve done art direction for the last two books, both of which really make the most of that part of my skill set.

All this is made both possible by my fabulous bosses, John and Michelle Nephew. I respect the hell out of both of them for their many talents, but more than that, they’re good people and good friends. They let me keep flexible hours, so I can be Connor and Griffin’s Mom (my other job title) and do fun things like chaperoning field trips, and so I can take it easier on the days when the spirit is willing but the flesh is weakweakweak. I’m bemused to find myself in the same industry as my Darling Husband, but I couldn’t be happier in a non-teaching job than I am right now.

The second grown-up thing I’ve done this year is starting to take care of myself. I’m still not any good at putting myself first, but all the fabulous coaching from the excellent folks at Fairview Pain Management Center has taught me many reasons and many ways to look after myself better than I have in the past. So now, when I recognize that I’m on sensory overload, I don’t hesitate to just step out for a few minutes. I take mini-breaks, even if only for five mindful breaths, throughout the day, which helps me better evaluate the messages my body is sending. I’ve adjusted the way I do my jobs as worker, wife, and mother to incorporate body mechanics that keep me able to work longer and smarter. And at the end of this year, I’m managing my pain with 25-50% less medication, the least I’ve been on in almost nine years.

So that’s how I’ve matured this year. Everything else? Peter Pan all the way, baby.

Dear previous me … : Reverb Broads 2011 #1

I don’t have many reasons to write creatively (or any other way) in the course of everyday life. That’s no criticism of my work or my family life, just a statement of fact, similar to my frequent lament that intellectual conversation can be hard to come by as well. And NaNoWriMo isn’t my deal, because while I very much enjoy writing descriptions and dialogue, my plotting skills are woefully inadequate.

I’ve been really enjoying the mental and spiritual exercise of writing this blog, and only the lack of regular direction has kept me from writing even more entries. So you can imagine my delight when my friend Dana Carlisle Kletchka pointed her fellow blogifying females at Reverb Broads 2011. The organizers have assembled a fun and daunting set of prompts, and an impressive list of clever women to write on them.

So, today it begins with the first prompt: If the you of today could go back in time and give advice to any of the previous yous, which age would you visit and what would you tell them?

I maintain that I wouldn’t change anything in my life, because I’ve ended up almost exactly where I want to be. But there are just two points where a bit of perspective might have helped me endure, or not endure, as the case may be.

I would tell my 15 year old self that, though leaving the faith of my mother and her mother would be a scary thing to do, Christianity was not the world view that would feed my soul or bear me up in the darkest moments of my life. I would tell her that the lessons of faith that I’d observed in those women my whole life would actually inform my search, and that I would recognize the ring of truth when I heard it. Most importantly in all of this, I would tell her that setting out to find our way wouldn’t mean a life without spiritual community — there are so many more people on that road, who will love and support your search, than you ever dreamt. In fact, there’s a whole religion devoted to that free and responsible inquiry.

I would go back to my 18 year old self and tell her that I’m worth better treatment in relationships than I’d received so far. I already had a fairly warped view of what I should expect from significant others — I had experienced the wildly romantic, but I also thought I would never be enough for anyone, and I’d put up with some pretty egregious and thoughtless exploitation. I would tell 18 year old me that she isn’t wrong in thinking she would have to go to the ends of the earth to find the person who would complete us, but not to worry — the Internet would turn out to be a much bigger thing that any of us thought in 1992.

And I would tell my 24 year old self not to tell my History department that I was considering a semester of medical leave to deal with my fibromyalgia. She didn’t know that they would take “considering” to mean “had decided to,” and that they would screw things up in ways that would never be repaired. I would tell her that fibromyalgia has its ups and downs, that it’s not always going to be as bad as it was right then. It lasts longer than grad school, but grad school has an end, and you can outlast anything finite.

Also, when people ask you to rate your pain, and you tell them that you’re leaving 9 and 10 on the scale for childbirth? You’re totally right.

Finally, I would tell 30 year old me that the odd things about her beautiful, hilarious son aren’t her fault. Sure, he’s been doomed to geekdom since before his conception — that will only enrich his life. But all those strange, inexplicable, seemingly unconnected things? They’re real, they’re something, and they’re not caused by bad parenting. And finding out about the Asperger’s Syndrome that underpins them all will reveal a piece of our own self that we never imagined existed, lighting up connections that have dwelled in dark mystery since our earliest days. I would tell her to be kind and patient to him, and to herself, even at those most frustrating moments when it looks like he’ll have to fight the same battles we’ve already struggled through.

And to all the previous mes: be easy with yourself. People will love and value you, not just despite all your weirdness — they’ll love and value you for it.

Nov 5, 2011 - Physical Ed, Psychology    6 Comments

Queen of Pain

Pain and I are old friends. We go way back. I know pain’s facets and variations; pain doesn’t have too many surprises up its sleeve for me anymore.

And, as much as anyone can make this claim, I’m pretty good at pain. For years before I gave birth to my kids, I refused to claim 9 or 10 on that happy-face scale doctors use to have you rate your pain, saying I was reserving those two notches for childbirth. And as labor with my first son ramped up slowly and steadily over 12 hours, my midwife thought it was funny how I announced that yes, in fact, I had scaled my estimation of pain perfectly. That perspective helped me get through that delivery without any interventions, which is still a point of pride for me.

I was diagnosed with fibromyalgia in July 1999, possibly stemming from soft tissue damage caused by a car crash ten days before my wedding in 1996. I’d been prescribed amytriptaline for severe tension headaches that showed up when I started grad school in 1997 — tension? grad school? astonishing! — but apparently that’s a drug that occasionally just stops working. It’s also a drug that’s frequently used to treat fibro, and it seemed to have been masking the development of the syndrome’s symptoms, which all came tumbling out in an untidy pile that spring.

But without getting into all the problems of treating a disorder that nobody understands or knows how to treat, the long and short of it is that I’ve lived with all-day, every-day pain for well over a decade now. That means I’ve become quite a connoisseur. I know the nuances of it, from the flu-ache-like muscle weariness that characterizes fibro, to the silvery stabs that shake my whole body with convulsive spasms. I carry around the heavy, grinding knots that drag on my lower back, and lean away from the bright streaky pain that twists in the triangle from my temples to my jaw to my shoulders.

The irony is that, as good as I am at tolerating a daily level of pain that drives many people into the ER for relief, I can be a total wimp about new, unexpected pain. Sunburn? Toothache? Gallbladder attack? A fresh injury? I produce as much whine as the south of France. Imagine a baseball umpire who’s put up with the vicious insults and recriminations of players, coaches, and fans, only to burst into tears when a schoolkid calls him fat. It’s almost as if I’m only capable of managing steady, stable pain. The unpredictable spikes of acute pain seem to upset the delicate balance of tolerance and management I’ve established over the years.

I started a pain management program at the University of Minnesota. It follows the interdisciplinary mindfulness-based curriculum developed by Jon Kabat-Zinn and his colleagues. I didn’t have high hopes for the program, but I’ve been pleasantly surprised by all the ways it’s defied my expectations. I’ve learned a lot about the physiology of pain, some of which I’m pretty shocked to have been hearing for the very first time, this far into the process. And I’ve worked with the pain psychologist there to start unraveling the messy relationship between pain, guilt, self-worth, and unreasonable standards. There’s a lot of work left to do, but I’m better now at staying in the moment with pain, rather than shoving it down and away to keep pushing through with what I think “needs to get done.”

Because of a snag with renewal, we’re currently uninsured, and that’s causing all sorts of problems, including having to go off all of my maintenance meds rather abruptly. While I’m very anxious about the potential for a depression relapse, one thing I feared hasn’t really happened: I’m not in a ton more pain. It’s still more than I can manage with just heat packs and ibuprofen, but I’m not laid up the way I have been in similar circumstances in the past.

This prompts a question: do I remember who I am when I’m not hurting? I’m not the same person I was before that car accident and all the things it precipitated. I haven’t been a married woman without pain. I haven’t been a mother without pain. I can’t say I’m afraid to step out from behind it, like a person who’s worn glasses their whole life faced with the option of corrective surgery. But it’s intimidating to realize that most of the important people in my life haven’t known me without pain. How would any of them treat me if it just weren’t there anymore? Would they be as forgiving, as willing to accept it when I have to say no to something? Would they require more of me, to make up for the years when pain gave them short shrift? Will they be disappointed in how many problems don’t go away, how many weaknesses turn out just to be me, not the pain?

It would be the biggest surprise of all if turns out that I’m more comfortable with my pain than I am with my true self.

Oct 11, 2011 - Sex Ed    17 Comments

Cycles, Noculars, and Me

This may rank as the least important and dramatic statement of its kind in the history of National Coming Out Day, but here goes:

Folks, I’m bisexual.

For those of you who’ve only recently gotten to know me through this blog or some other social medium, this just makes one more wing on the BizarroLand Barbie Dream House of my personality. And for those of you who’ve known me for a very long time, you know how completely and wholeheartedly I’m committed to Cam, darling husband of 15 years and previously posted fame. In either case, you’re probably both asking the same question: so what?

The short answer is: so absolutely nothing. I’ve defined myself as about a 2 or 3 on the Kinsey Scale for almost two decades now, but I never felt the need to share this very widely. I don’t feel any urge to experiment or anything — I’ve already put on the metaphorical sweatpants. Much more importantly, Cam is my love, my soul mate, and my bonded life partner. I made vows; I take them seriously. We’re in this for keeps. My evolving understanding of my own sexuality has zero impact on that commitment, so nobody go freaking out.

As for the other relationships in my life, I expect just as little impact. My oldest kid really doesn’t care, and my youngest is too young to care, but we’ve raised them since day one to believe that love is love, and as long as they know that Mom and Dad are the same as they ever were, I figure I’ll get as much attention as a pile of broccoli. My parents’ only concern was fidelity, which was immediately allayed. My place of work is supportive and EOE and all that. The school where I serve as PTO president is home to a number of same-sex couples who are very active in its politics and activities. And we’re Unitarian Universalists, one of the very first denominations (if not the first) to openly welcome GLBT members and ordained clergy.

The long answer has to do with the “why bother?” side of the equation. Several months back, columnist Dan Savage wrote an article in which he tried to defend himself against perennial accusations of bi-phobia. It gives an interesting insight into the internal politics which plague any group with factions — in this way, the GLBT movement is hardly different from any geeky fanbase fraught with edition wars.

He makes a strong case for the fact that part of the absence of good press about bisexuals in the mainstream media stems from the fact that the majority of bisexuals tend to settle down in hetero relationships, for some reason, and then shut up about their identity: “…it would be great if more bisexuals in opposite-sex relationships were out to their friends, families, and coworkers. More out bisexuals would mean less of that bisexual invisibility that bisexuals are always complaining about. If more bisexuals were out, more straight people would know they actually know and love sexual minorities, which would lead to less anti-LGBT bigotry generally, which would be better for everyone.” I felt that indictment pretty keenly. Between that, and an absolutely amazing experience of love and acceptance having nothing at all to do with sexuality at Twin Cities Pride this summer, I decided it was time to join the visible minority.

Many of you know I’ve been a dedicated activist for LGBT causes since 1992, because every human deserves the exact same opportunities for love, dignity, and fulfillment. Ironically, I think it’s my long history as a “straight ally” that kept me from allowing myself access to the bisexual identity. I haven’t suffered in silence. I haven’t struggled for acceptance. I haven’t been oppressed on the basis of my sexual orientation. I haven’t been personally vested in the rights I’ve worked to secure. And I’m incredibly fortunate to have been able to marry (and secure the immigration status!) of my chosen life partner without so much as a second thought. So where do I get off investing myself with an identity which others have borne and bought with blood and tears? It seems like it depends on so much more than just sexual orientation.

But then we’re right back around to the short answer again: it IS that simple. I’m bisexual. I’m also happily married, so that’s as far as it goes. But for all my family and friends, here’s why it should matter to you: if you didn’t know and love a bisexual person before, you do now. You have for a long time. And it didn’t kill you, or damn you, or give you cooties. And I’m not evil, or unfaithful, or a bad mother. I’m still me, no better, no worse.

Just like everyone.

Oct 2, 2011 - Physical Ed    2 Comments

Why I Have Pink Hair

There’s a girl in my building who’s completely baffled by my hair.

“So, your hair’s pink now,” she says.

“Yup,” I reply happily.

“But before that, it was blonde for a little while,” she says, frowning.

“Uh-huh. I bleached it so the pink would be brighter,” I explain.

“Right. But before that, you just had pink streaks,” she says, growing uncertain.

“Yup,” I confirm.

“And before *that*, it was sort of red,” she says, her voice becoming more faint with each color on the list.

“Yup. I like red too.”

“But your real color is sort of brown.”

“Yeah, but it hasn’t been that in the longest time,” I say, smiling and wrinkling my nose.

“But…” she trails off into silence for a moment, before resuming, “… *why*?”

“Honey, my hair exists to amuse me. So it all goes horribly wrong. So what? It grows. I’ll get over it.”

To this, she can say nothing at all.

I’ve been doing strange things to my appearance since I was in high school. By my sophomore year, I’d been neatly enfolded into the clique known as The Squids, so called for the ever-so-’80s practice of shaving off all but a small, tangly, black-dyed mop a la The Cure/Siouxie and the Banshees. The apocryphal story goes that someone said it looked like dead squids on their heads. In the way of all good insults, we eventually reclaimed it as our own moniker, so The Squids we were.

The Squids were the punks, the skaters, the music geeks, the drama club, the yearbook kids, and the weirdos. We were also the intelligentsia. When the school administration threatened some of the guys with suspension if they didn’t take off the cannibalized t-shirt sleeves they wore as headbands, we responded by threatening to sue them under Title IX for gender discrimination, since girls were free to wear the very same headbands with no restrictions. We may have been weirdos, but we were smart weirdos not to be messed with.

Over the years, my hair’s been almost every color in the Crayola box. Ironically, the only color I’ve never dyed it is black, the color of choice for teenage rebels and college hipsters everywhere. It always seemed too (get this) extreme. A nice grass green suited me quite nicely, but bright magenta pink seems to be my true element. A friend who helped me attain that hue when my hair was down to my waist several years back once said, “I’d have never believed it if someone had told me, but you actually make me think pink is your natural hair color.”

And it makes me happy, which is the whole point. That’s not easy to accomplish, appearance-wise, these days. The most common comment by adults is, “You’re so brave! I could never do something so drastic!” But when chronic pain keeps me from transforming my body with exercise, and the medications that keep that pain from being even worse keep the very limited diet I stick to from making any difference either, you take your drastic effects where you can find them.

I spend so many minutes of each day cursing almost every quadrant of my body for non-cooperation. It really adds up. The 20 minutes in the morning it takes for the pain meds to kick in so I can start moving; the 20 it takes to find clothes that fit and don’t make me feel like a cow; the 15-minute bargains I make and renew again and again to stretch the time between breaks and naps and more pain meds; the 20- and 30-minute pieces I’m having to scare up for walks and meditation as part of the pain management curriculum I’m in. And then there are the unscheduled, unmeasured moments of despair, when the folds and bulges and sags and curves, and the energy and range of motion and lift capacity and standing strength, don’t match the person you remember being, and you get sucked down until all you can do is sit on the side of your bed, in your bra and panties, and be tired and worry and cry.

So if dyeing my hair pink, or whatever color strikes my fancy, every few months costs $20 and 2 hours, and confuses my kids’ school principal and the girl in my building, but lifts my heart when I pull it back in a rushed ponytail in the morning? It’s just paid for itself.

And every kid who calls down from the top of the monkey bars as I walk across the playground, “Mrs. Banks! Cool hairdo!”?

That’s pure profit.

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