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Why the hell I am flying to Buffalo and back next Monday:
Those are clinical trials, if you don’t speak Google self-doctor. And they are giving me hope as I struggle out of this setback.
One strange synergistic detail here is that for someone who can’t even go to a single damn supermarket without two children in tow I’ve somehow managed to go away on trips by myself three Februaries in a row. Two years ago I went to triathlon camp in Florida. Last year I went on a press junket to a five star luxury hotel and spa with gourmet meals and oceanfront suites and a massage. This year I’m going to Buffalo, New York to see a doctor. Do you see a meaning here?!?!?
And in more fun self-doctoring, I apparently overdosed on blood thinning vitamins in my attempts to take every supplement ever speculated to help concussion recovery. I got a nose bleed, a broken blood vessel in my eye and then a microscopic cut on my chin was like profusely bleeding for no reason. So the moral of the story is don’t take lots of fish pills AND turmeric AND Choline CDP because they all interact to essentially become a prescription blood thinner I never needed. So I stopped all vitamins. I can be pretty dumb sometimes. Vitamins!
My plan to correct my over-correction is to drink a lot of kale smoothies. What could go wrong? Last night in an attempt to assuage my panic (it’s hard being a borderline hypochondriac) I microwaved an entire family-sized bag of spinach, threw some salt and pepper and butter on it, and ate it. I actually brought it upstairs and shoveled it in my gullet as we put the kids to bed, so I was eating a half warm trough of spinach at 9 p.m. off of my daughter’s pink plaid comforter. My husband didn’t even say “I told you so,” with words, he just SMIZED IT AT ME.
He was the original voice of reason when I started my supplement regime. Pshaw, right? Then to make everything exponentially weirder, Henry trundled over and requested a bite of my bitter medicinal meal. I figured he would spit it out, right? He’s 16 months old and all. But, no. He helped me finish that shit right off.
It remains to be seen whether I will survive my next menstrual period. Stay tuned.
I don’t know if anyone still reads my blog. I’m aware that it’s an endless series of posts about my injury and recovery but that’s what it is. That’s my life right now, a circular looping in, back around forward and back again, all around This Thing That Happened To Me.
It’s not quite linear. It’s not November Accident —> Today. It’s more woven and convoluted. I don’t know if it will ever be like, this happened, and now it’s over.
So I was feeling pretty snazzy and doing my twenty minute University of Buffalo plan, and was even into the 140 heart rate. No symptoms were coming back, so I was happy.
Then I was buckling my daughter into her car seat in front of the library, and I stood up, and somehow lightly tapped my forehead into a small tree. I know, it seems weird, like how did it work like that, but somehow there was a tiny tree right next to the curb and I’m not completely used to the height of my new car. It was so light of a bump that it didn’t even hurt so I didn’t think too much of it, yet driving home I noticed my right eyelid was twitching a little again, like it did weeks earlier ever since the original accident. Then then rest of that day I went into a fun concussion brain fog, blurry vision, and symptoms. Even dizziness came back the next day. I couldn’t comprehend the possibility that a light tap could bring my symptoms back and tried to figure out if maybe I had done something else, too much in physical therapy, anything. But as the week went on it was clear I was back into concussion brain and I called the doc I had seen who said he sees it all the time in patients who aren’t totally healed. A minor bump sets them back, for a short period.
I didn’t really think of it as a re-injury, more of a re-aggravation of my original injury. Like if you had a bad wound, it had just recently scabbed over, and then you brushed it across a rough blanket and it bled again. It’s not like the blanket re-cut you, more that the recent fragile scabbing got compromised a bit. Because, honestly, thinking that I had a new, second injury was way too depressing.
It stayed kind of bad for a week or so, but not anywhere near like my original concussion brain situation. Then this past Sunday I had a Much Better Day, and it’s been improving steadily. But this put the brakes on my exercise recovery plan. I will start it again when I feel asymptomatic again. Hopefully soon! I feel mostly okay, but for instance, going to Target felt like someone slipped me a roophie. So I know I’m not all the better yet from my setback.
Having a setback when you’ve been making such great progress is discouraging, as an understatement. But I’m refusing to freak out. Somehow. Also, my neck started bugging me and some of the tingling reappeared in my finger but it’s going away again. I think part of my problem has been the concussion preventing me from really getting into the gym in PT and doing all the strengthening of the posture and neck muscles I need to recover.
I really don’t want to end up needing medication or anything and I’m lucky in that my neck is annoying sometimes but it’s not what I would call bad pain in any way. I’m optimistic it’s going to keep improving. I am seeing a spine specialist tomorrow though to see what he says. I’m also doing a lot of chin tucks and McKenzie exercises because I’m nothing if not a believer in exercise cures.
Yesterday was the three month anniversary of the car accident. I have a lot of feels about it. In fact I have all the feels. But I’d rather focus on the next three months, and the good I have today, like finally feeling better since my set back and my neck feeling better and a snow day that means I’m in my pajamas right now.
SO IMMA KEEP GOING. In my pajamas.
I need to write about how I went away for two nights and my kids didn’t even miss me…will do that later this week, and I will also produce photographic evidence of everything yummy I ate and drank. Stay tuned for that.
It’s the last week or so of winter. It’s the last dwindling days of no color and cold.
The knowledge that it’s so close, so almost spring, has rejuvenated me.
Remember when we were kids? The seasons of the year were so long. It took forever for summer vacation to come. Weeks were like years. Summer breaks were entire lifetimes. Kids came back in September and it was like a twenty-year reunion. Girls had new hair. Your best friend had changed. Everyone’s style was brand new. Spring break lasted three months in adult years.
Now we’re old and time has sped up. The year clumsily jerks around, tilting dangerously. The bad news is that summer is over in a flash, fall can be entirely missed if you aren’t careful, but the good news is that winter is always almost over.
Even when it first began, I knew it would be short. I knew it would be my last winter with a newborn, my final three months of tired, homebound, discontent.
And I was right. Here I am. It’s March. It’s warmer. We can go anywhere, do anything. I’m even going to bring the baby to the gym day care. Freedom.
The last two weeks before it all comes into bloom.
It’s time for me to get moving again. I have a lot to do, and I’m glad to do it.
Cinco, five, the boy’s growing up yet somehow he seems too babyish for five months to me. I know that sounds insane, like, hello lady, the baby is a five month old baby! But in my hazy recollection of the last go-round I thought five months would see me happily sleeping at night for a little while, the baby in his crib, close to crawling, napping at regular times.
It’s partly Henry’s lot to be forever compared to an older sibling, and she was a precocious baby. By his age, she was floor swimming, trying to get up on her hands and knees for crawling which she would do in a month. She walked at nine months. Henry despises being on his tummy, still. He only wants to be carried and be propped up under his armpits in a fake stand. Sometimes I hold his hands, all his weight held on his own, and he is so hilariously proud of himself I laugh out loud.
He purses his lips and yells GGGAWOOOooooo! And he pretty much thinks he’s the king of the room. World. I don’t know that I do much to dissaude him from this. He can also rudimentarily grasp the idea of giving me a high five. He ate a Num-Nums. He’s practically driving (to the fast food drive-through, probably).
But in some ways, he’s so…baby. Still napping in a swing, still sleeping in a bassinet, hating his crib, nursing a lot at night. He sits up, but topples over easily. He refuses to roll onto his tummy probably because he hates it.
I’m not trying to be a Tiger Baby Mom, but he’s such a crank at times I’m hoping increased mobility will make him happier. But I can’t imagine him crawling in a month like Anna did. He seems so far away from that. Yet, he seems like a big, healthy, smart bruiser in all other ways.
I know all babies are different. It’s pretty fascinating to see that play out with my own sample size study of two.
When good things happen to you, do you feel lucky? Or that you’re reaping the rewards of your own hard work (mixed with whatever innate talents or strengths you posses, of course)?
I’ve been thinking about this question recently, since a few good breaks have come my way. Nothing major, just a few nice payoffs to some groundwork I’ve been laying over the last couple of years.
There’s a mental tic about good fortune I have that I’m sure others share…It feels too precarious, too precious, too fate-tempting, too big and scary to look at something and say, yeah. I deserve that.
We might pooh-pooh an accomplishment to friends; explain away meaningful project to acquaintances: “oh, that’s just a silly thing I’m doing.” Of course life is the unfairest gig around. It’s not exactly a meritocracy, but it’s not entirely a crapshoot, either.
Some things are just divine luck. Two perfect, beautiful, healthy children came to/through me. I did nothing. I just received them
Sometimes I feel a bit guilty when I hear others complain about their marriages, or that their husbands don’t help them with their kids, that they’re not partners. Sure, my marriage isn’t perfect but I’m extremely happy and feel that we are a life team. Was I lucky to have met and married him, or was I smart to dump the jerks and pick a good one?
When a professional opportunity comes my way, I want to feel comfortable feeling that I deserved it. That I’ve earned it. That, yes, I have valuable talents, skills, and knowledge and that I’ve proven myself. I have worked hard.
Selfies: I’m sorry not sorry
There’s this quote that’s always floating around from Marianne Williamson. I’m not sure how I feel about it, but it’s certainly provocative:
Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness, that most frightens us. We ask ourselves, who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, and fabulous? Actually, who are you not to be? You are a child of God. Your playing small doesn’t serve the world. There’s nothing enlightened about shrinking so that other people won’t feel insecure around you.
We are all meant to shine, as children do. We are born to make manifest the glory of God that is within us. It’s not just in some of us, it’s in everyone. And as we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same. As we are liberated from our own fear, our presence automatically liberates others.
I went to something called Yoga Trance Dance on Friday night. I was tired, I just wanted to show up, get the material for my story and go home and sleep (for my four hours of blessed uninterrupted sleep.) I knew that the secret hippie part of me might sorta, kinda, love everything about it, though, and I was right.
We danced. A bunch of strangers, hopping around barefoot, swaying to drums. The teacher called out silly things like “Dance because you can!”
“Dance for the world, dance for a cause you believe in.”
And then it wasn’t really silly after all. If you aren’t scared to let others see you dance, achieve, succeed, say what you want, do what you want, you’re just stuck there in a corner. Watching the rest of the world dance because you’re too scared, not that you might look stupid, but that you might look like you believe in the dancing.
I’m getting old, and any embarrassment or wall of irony I may have greeted the world with is just crumbling. I lose patience with people who take themselves so seriously, who are scared to say, or do, within the confines of kindness and appropriateness. I’m going to dance anytime someone lets me. I will talk as long as someone will listen.
And I’m not sorry, or lucky. Just blessed.
So I’ve went and lost my damn fool mind.
A week ago I was nervous about taking both kids to Target. This week I drove them to New Jersey and back and took them on the Long Island RailRoad to Manhattan. My super crank hate the car seat guy has evolved into a relatively chill traveler. In fact, he’s actually been very happy lately.
So, when a modeling agent a friend of mine is linked to on Facebook asked us if we wanted to bring Henry in for a go-see for Babies R Us, I said sure, why not? It would at least be an interesting experience.
So I went, tired and all, on a major metropolitan area traffic baby driving tour. Henry did great, and now we have to go back today for the actual shoot since he booked the job. It’s important to start having your kids earn money for the family at four months old. If this was the 18th century, he would have already been apprenticed to a boot-maker.
Just kidding. It’s just for fun at this point, and if it gets too hassle-y I’m happy to quit. I’ve gotten suddenly really busy with writing assignments (yay) and one involves me traveling to a hotel! and getting spa treatments! and writing about them! I have to finalize the nanny for the two days and I’m going to leave my kids. It’s crazy but I couldn’t say no to the opportunity to get my first travel writing clip in the books. And the perks aren’t bad either. Just me and my hospital grade breast pump. It will be romantic.
One thing I haven’t been busy with is training. I’m going to twice-weekly physical therapy appointments and some light upper body strength work and that’s it. I still haven’t gotten a definitive diagnosis and the PT is actually thinking it’s a problem in my pelvis/lower back area rather than a lower leg compartment issue. Possibly from back labor with a nine pound monster?
I don’t understand any of it at all and all I know is that my leg is still numb around my ankle/tibia bone. I’ve been given pelvic floor strengthening moves to do (sounds familiar, I’ve been doing these since the baby was born) and I’m still on official exercise rest although she seemed to be iffy on biking…maybe, she said.
I also learned an interesting tidbit, that holding a baby places stresses on your front lower leg muscles. So I may just have a good old-fashioned repetitive stress injury from carrying Henry all day. Hopefully he crawls ASAP.
Or makes us a lot of money in show business so we can all be rich and I can hire someone to hold him all day.
Are you addicted to exercise? Not in a bad, sick way, just: does your brain need a certain daily resetting to normal, via sweating and runners’ high endorphins in order to feel normal? Yeah, me too.
I’ve been thinking about this, since someone just came along and essentially stole my drug stash. I’m cold turkey. I’m cranky.
Once upon a time, I smoked cigarettes. I remember the phenomenon of addicted brain chemistry. No matter what the problem was, the solution was a cigarette.
Feeling tired? Perk up with a smoke. Need to relax? Well, what’s more relaxing than a pre-bed cigarette? Full? Hungry? Sad, celebratory? There’s only one cure! (Hint, it’s not more cowbell.)
Obviously this was a created need in my brain. I had to encourage my brain to develop this addiction in the first place, and then once it had this surge of drugs every hour or so, it stopped creating its own natural happy chemicals. So I needed nicotine to create that normal, baseline-feeling.
I guess creating an addiction to exercise endorphins is similar. But better for my health, of course. In fact, when I was 20 I purposefully started exercising to replace smoking when I decided to quit. Easy swap. I don’t think my brain makes enough endorphins/serotonin/dopamine on its own, maybe genetically, or maybe it broke somewhere along the way. I gotta have something, an outlet, or I’m pretty cranky. Sorry, everyone who knows me, ever.
I was watching this documentary a few weeks ago:
It’s called Happy, and it explores what truly makes people happy, and what research into positive psychology has found. The movie talks a lot about “flow,” a cornerstone of human happiness.
Finding flow is trickier than you think. Only the right kind of activity can elicit flow…it has to be something enjoyable, something that needs your full attention, but in a way that allows you to be “outside” of yourself. Kind of the same result we strive for in meditation, or dancing all night at a club after a few drinks, or Zen Buddhism.
We want to be outside our own self-consciousness.
I tried to think of things in my life that give, or have given me, that feeling of flow. I realized how few and far between these things are. When I was a child and teenager I loved to draw and paint. I was okay at it, but that wasn’t the point. The point was the activity itself. I could put music on, and start painting and literally eight hours could fly by.
I’d realize my eyes were tired, it was quiet and dark outside, my contacts were drying onto my eyeballs, and it was 4 a.m. I had forgotten everything except how to accurately depict a certain shadow, how to delineate an iris, how to position a highlight. It was the purest flow I’ve ever felt.
In the documentary, various subject report experiencing flow from things like engaging in sports they are talented at, working with their hands, or creating something. Flow must have been the daily default for our ancestors, weaving baskets, butchering animals, building a hut. We need to feel this attentive usefulness in the world or we are unmoored, adrift in an alien occupational landscape. As much as I love my children, the bald truth is taking care of them full-time is not a flow-y job. There’s no feeling of concrete satisfaction in a job well done. There’s a lot of drudgery, and physicality, but there isn’t a lot of Flow.
I think the work many of us do (cubicle, office work, high-stakes management or performance-oriented professional work) is antithetical to flow. You’re not creating something of meaning, of substance, something you can see with your eyes. You’re not able to see your own strengths and talents at play in the world. You’re not only still in your own brain, you’re in your own brain magnified by critical eyes…your boss, the audience of that presentation, the evaluator, the critics, the Bobs.
The Bobs are never far away when you’re working without flow. As much as I love writing, it doesn’t give me flow. I’m too conscious of the eventual audience. I can’t get into a zone, I can’t leave the supervisor in my brain behind even as I dance with my Id, an Ego. It’s a Junior High dance, and the teachers are close by, making sure there’s a few inches there, some space between the truth and how the truth will sound to others, a little wiggle room to save face.
Philosophers like Freud have different names for the Bobs in your head. Superego. Learning about superego is what my three year old is doing right now at preschool. She’s learning she’s supposed to sit nicely at pre-ordained times, and not pick her nose in public, and listen to authority figures. She’s growing a mini-version of herself, which will hang out in her front cortex, ever admonishing herself about what’s right.
It’s inevitable, it’s necessary, she needs to do it (I’m not pulling her out of school to frolic in a field and be homeschooled/unschooled by me, as we visit museums and paint all day, as much as in an ideal world, I’d love to). But it’s sad. It’s a sad moment in her life, and for me as her mother. She’s no longer the free, feral little creature who knows nothing about herself beyond what she feels and experiences. Her ego grew a superego and now she’s got to grow up and find her flow.
So what about running? Does running give us flow? I don’t think it does. I think it gives us feel-good stuff like endorphins and dopamine, but there’s no process, there’s no creation, there’s no craft or skill happening. It’s just pure mood-alteration. I think many of us need both flow and pure mood alteration. Running is a better option than heroin, but what is it it’s giving me?
Serotonin, endorphins, dopamine, and even epinephrine (the fight or flight stress response). It makes sense that we need an outlet for that. When your boss yells at you, you can’t either punch him out or run away. You have to swallow that stress response, and then go home and pound away at a treadmill.
It’s hard to identify the exact workings of neurotransmitters in our brain. You know you feel good, or bad, but what’s doing what is hard to say. Even scientists and pharmaceutical designers don’t really know what’s happening for sure. But I’ve had the opportunity to feel the very distinct feeling of dopamine, or at least it’s absence.
In breastfeeding there’s a thing called Dysphoric Milk Ejection Reflex (D-MER for short). It’s a very specific feeling some women get at the moment their milk lets down. It’s a short little feeling that passes in moments or minutes. But research has shown it’s a lowering of dopamine in the brain (the hormones responsible for milk production need a suppression of dopamine to work). It’s such a weird, very specific feeling. I’ve read that women describe it as homesickness.
It feels like this song:
Not a song I particularly like, or have strong feelings about, but this is the best way I can describe the feeling. In fact, when I heard this song on the radio as a kid, it gave me that feeling. It’s a churning in the stomach, it’s a pang of sadness, or wistfulness, but stronger. It feels like everything in the world is just bad, and alien, and scary, and the opposite of Home.
I guess the inverse of dopamine is the opposite of everything I just described. So when we run, and look for dopamine happiness…we are just trying to forget Don Henley.
Or we’re just looking for a feeling of being home, with everything being just fine. Who knew a run in the woods could bring us that? I guess we all knew that. But what can you do when your life circumstances don’t allow for flow, or the regular creation of these feel-good chemicals? I’m not really sure, but I’m guessing there have to be some creative solutions to finding these essential components of happiness.
My medical mystery leg case continues. I saw the PA at the orthopedist practice on Wednesday, and he diagnosed me with a vague “Shin splints/compartment syndrome,” with the RX of rest and physical therapy.
I had my first physical therapy appointment today, but he said he didn’t think I was presenting with either, because I have no pain (none during exertion OR rest) and because compartment syndrome shouldn’t cause numbness that lasts for so long. He thinks it’s a result of some post-partum/breastfeeding/relaxin/dehydration/over-exertion/body shenanigans. I agree, and I hope this will magically disappear on its own, never to return again.
My shin is still numb, over a week later. It’s kind of scary, but everyone is assuring me it’s no big deal. Somehow.
I’m on total exercise rest, because anything might exacerbate this at this point. So that’s a total bummer, and bad for my mood. I’m trying to find the bright side to exercise rest…
Don’t have to worry about how to fit in workouts
Chance to focus on other things, like work, or just hanging with the chilluns. We’ve been doing a lot of baking and cooking, so I’ll be nice and fat when this recovery is over
Umm, I can’t think of any more.
Can anyone help me out and give me some positives to having enforced rest? An excuse to get deep tissue massages to help my recovery, maybe?
How do you maintain your mood when you can’t exercise? Can you think of any good things that come out of a week or more off from working out?
So I’ve been watching (or, in some cases, rewatching) Ken Burns’ entire oeuvre on Netflix while I nurse Henny Penny to sleep, in little twenty minute segments before bed and I just started Not for Ourselves Alone: The Story of Elizabeth Cady Stanton & Susan B. Anthony. I know, it’s pretty wild and crazy up in here. It’s like a regular Ke$sha song.
Both women are fascinating, but I’m particularly obsessed with Elizabeth Cady Stanton right now. She was the wife and mother of the pair, with seven kids and a burning desire to not only have full freedoms and political equality, but also to have a happy home life and a bunch of kids.
She refused to opt entirely out of what was then a pretty oppressive existence as a married woman (no birth control, i.e. a baby every two years, no ability to work outside the home, just pure domestic drudgery for life) and instead, demanded to have it all, but remade in her idealistic image. Susan B., on the other hand, decided to stay single to keep her life her own. I was struck by Stanton’s words, though, about that uneasy attempt to achieve everything she wanted, while constrained by the biological, societal, reality, that, no matter how big she thought, how wide-ranging the scope of her goals and dreams, when you have babies and young children, you are an indentured servant to their needs:
Imagine me, day in and day out, watching, bathing, nursing, and promenading the precious contents of a little crib in the corner of my room. I pace up and down these two chambers like a caged lion, longing to bring nursing and housekeeping cares to a close. I have other work at hand.
But she didn’t stop having her babies, and by all accounts, she loved being a mother and strove to be an excellent one, loving, caring, encouraging freedom and responsibility and learning in her children. She didn’t accept that she couldn’t both be a loving mother and be free, in a way that intense early mothering just isn’t.
I feel that lately. I mean, what other human condition can essentially lock up a segment of the population in a domestic state, tied to their bodily functions simply due to their innate biological state, like motherhood? Of course we are legally free to come and go, to hire nannies and feed formula or use hospital-grade breast pumps and marry equal parenting husbands. But there’s no denying the reality…your life in early motherhood is not quite your own. It’s not FOR you. You’re not the point, you’re not the afterthought. You’re a vehicle. It’s a lovely drudgery, the recipients your children, the beings you’d do anything for, and with, and to, and from.
If you are used to expending relentless energy. If you’re a lion. You feel caged. You have ideas. They bounce around your brain and go nowhere. They meet no one. Your body may wither, turn to veal. You wear circles in the carpet, step on your own footsteps on the wood floor, from kitchen to bed, to crib, to kitchen. You step out to feel air, to see friends, but it’s the outing of a prisoner. It’s officially mandated Rest and Relaxation. It’s a turnabout in the prison yard. It’s not yet freedom.
I like to imagine that I would have been a 19th-century reformer, if I had lived then. I’d have been a Puritan radically reading the Bible in my own living room; I’d have been an abolitionist, a vegetarian eating proto-Corn Flakes with Nathanial Hawthorne. But would I have been? How can you see what the progress needed is, the injustice of your own time, without the 20-20 hindsight glasses on?
Some people see gay marriage rights, fat acceptance, and other causes as the natural descendants of this tradition. And of course the long slow women’s movement has shown that one is never quite over. Women still do more work than men in a week, with less to show for it. Stanton was wild and radical because she looked at the entirety of the female condition at the time, everything from birth control to divorce, unpopularly, as part of the struggle for equal rights. Our social lives, our family lives, even our biological lives. These are the things ethics and self-determination movements must contend with. That’s why we need to say things. Things about ourselves, and our less than lovely feelings, things about what goes on, even in our homes. Because that’s where our lives are, as new mothers. That’s where the lion lives.
I think postpartum issues are a feminist issue. I’m not sure how to enunciate this position beyond that, yet, and of course I’m not the only woman who is making that connection. It’s not a coincidence that the best website on postpartum depression is called Postpartum Progress.
We were probably never meant to birth and raise babies all alone in our nuclear isolation. We were never meant to live geographic miles or emotional miles from mothers, aunts, grandmothers, cousins, friends. We were never meant to so separate out our Life from our Work. Husbands were never meant to board trains or highway on ramps every day
Here I am, in my house, with my deep thoughts that just rattle and crash in my brain. I’d like to take a road trip. I’d like to get peoples’ brains piqued toward collective improvement through carefully chosen words. I’d like to hike the Appalachian Trial. I’d like to volunteer for a phone service to answer 4 a.m. calls from lonely, desperately tired mothers, who want to know…will this ever get better
I believe it will, for her as an individual, and for us as a whole. It just takes a while, is what I will say. It will just take longer than you’d like. Longer than you think you can take, is what I’d tell me of three years ago, exhausted, lonely, uncomprehending in the face of my staggering new life as a mother. But you will make it
But for now I just write, and sit, and pace, and foment. One day I will explode out into the world, with all I’ve learned during this time.