Mary: December 2007 Archives

Merry Christmas


Merry Christmas Everyone

We are tech-crazed this Christmas. Mike bought me a new computer monitor--a 22" wide-screen flat panel. The picture is so beautiful I can't tear myself away from it. We bought a new HD-DVD player and have spent two days trying to get it to work with our surround-sound system. No luck so far. We got so much food from the relatives that we could feed an army. I outfitted Mike for job interviews: a new suit, shirts, ties, and shoes. I also bought him a bottle of Jack Daniels, heh, his favorite (WHAT KIND OF MOTHER AM I???) and a gag gift I picked up at the office White Elephant gift exchange: a US Gov't issue MRE, a Meal Ready to Eat, #8: grilled beef patty.

Nothing of interest here, move along…


Just whining. Pathetic self-indulgent self-pity. Bitching and moaning about something women have probably been going through since the emergence of Homo sapiens. Why can’t evolution have selected for symptom-free menopause? Oh, wait.

It's always about sleep, for me. Last night was another night of two two-hour sleeps. I went to bed at about 10:30, woke up at 12:30, broke out in a sweat, threw off the covers. Twenty minutes later I was cold, pulled the covers back over me, fell asleep, woke up at 2:30, and broke out in a sweat again. I never went back to sleep. This has been going on for about three years now. They say that people who sleep with a dog on the bed sleep poorly because the dog disturbs their sleep. In our case the opposite is true: my dog sleeps poorly because I disturb him.

It’s a cliché to say “I don’t know how much more of this I can take,” and it would also be a lie, because I know I "can take" whatever menopause throws at me, which is to say, I don’t think it’ll kill me. But I do feel as though I’m witness to my own enfrailment. I know that’s not a word; I’m inventing it. I’ve always been remarkably healthy and reasonably fit. I work out on a treadmill, although only once a week. My BP is around 110/70, cholesterol 180, BMI 20.3. All the numbers suggest I’m in good health. Amazingly, my liver function is still normal(!), and as of this past April, so was my bone density.

And yet, back in August I attended the International Balloon Fiesta in Albuquerque, and I got sick. I’d been told to be out on the field at 5:30 am, and I’d been warned that it “might be chilly.” It was downright cold—in the forties—and the grass was wet. Within minutes my thin tennis shoes were soaked, as were the bottom six inches of my jeans. I was still cold long after the sun came up; I didn’t dry out or warm up until about 11:00 am. In the afternoon I had to excuse myself from a meeting due to a scratchiness in my throat that brought on an uncontrollable urge to cough. The cold of day one was nothing compared to the cold I felt the next morning, when I rode in the back of a pickup truck that chased one of the balloons. By afternoon I was hitting the Afrin hard. I came home with a sinus infection, and it was the first time in my life that I’d gotten sick as a direct result of being cold.

But that's not the worst of it. After a night like last night, there are times during the day when my heart thumps irregularly. I feel exhausted and trembly, and the trembling seems to start in the middle of my chest and radiate outward. I tell myself everyone’s heart thumps funny from time to time. There’s no discomfort, no dizziness, no shortness of breath. I had an EKG in April and was told that my heart was “good for another million miles.” And yet, I feel as though every night of two two-hour sleeps chips away at my resilience, and during the day every heart-thumping sweat takes its toll on me, draining me of energy, wearing me down. As though by the time I get through this, if it ever ends, my health will be fragile, my heart frayed. As though the next bad cold could be the death of me.

I don't talk about any of this to anyone. I may joke about my sleepless nights, but I've never mentioned my occasional irregular heartbeat to anyone. I have a horror of sympathy. My brother had serious health problems when we were kids. In some situations, that can lead to Munchausen Syndrome in a healthy family member, but it had the opposite effect on me. What my brother was going through was no fun, and I was, at every age, profoundly relieved that I wasn't getting the attention he was getting. So, I'm fine, I'm a rock, and if I'm not fine it's none of your business...::chirp::...thanks for asking. That, combined with a dread of dentists and doctors, resulted in my suffering in silence through some serious pain at various times in my youth. When I was 13 a molar decayed under a badly done filling, and I had toothaches that I remember now with awe. My parents could only have noticed something was wrong if they'd been paying close attention to the speed at which I was turning the pages of whatever book I was reading. I didn't even mention it to the dentist when my father took me in for a checkup, but he found it. Not realizing how bad it was, he drilled away the old filling and found a hollowed out tooth below it. He scooped leathery decay out with a tiny spatula, held it in front of my eyes and said "Didn't it hurt? Didn't you have toothaches?" He pulled the tooth. Something about his accusatory voice, and my father's on the car ride home, had me believing for years that tooth decay was a moral failure. The absence of such an important tooth was probably the cause of years of TMJ pain—I couldn't eat anything like carrots and there were times when I couldn't chew steak—which I never mentioned to anyone. It stopped abruptly when I broke a molar on the opposite side of my mouth at about age 23. Late in my teens I suffered in silence through an abscessed tooth, which eventually found a drainage path on its own, after which the root and bone recalcified, to the amazement of a dentist who detected the damage in x-rays years later.

So why am I writing this now? I think it's because I'm afraid, now. Because I'm afraid I soon won't have the stamina to do things I’ve never done and still want to do. What concessions to fragility will I have to make by the time I have time to ride a camel across the desert? I used to want to ride a camel to the pyramids in Egypt—who hasn't at some point?—but not anymore. Now, I'd rather see the Negev. I want to do one of these and also this; I want to see Petra.

I can't bring myself to say any of this to anyone I know. Did I say I have a horror of sympathy? Instead I come here, to my own place in the internet universe, the echo-less dark space between the stars, and shout to the emptiness around me: I'm not fine; I'm not a rock; I can't sleep for more than two hours at a time, and my heart sometimes feels like an alien in my chest, doing its own thing.

July 2012

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