Thursday, July 31, 2014

Algernon

For years an internal clock would start ticking  every time I stood up. If you spent any amount of time with me you'd hear me say I had to get off my knee. The pain would become overwhelming fairly quickly. Faster with each passing year. It's been about a month since the Cortisone shot and I am still in much less pain, which is pleasantly surprising. I have never been completely pain free but I have had moments in which my knee has felt almost normal.
I have more range of motion. I can take full steps instead of shuffling. I can stand longer and walk farther. Just now I took the garbage out, stopped to pick up mail and got back to my apartment before the pain began. And it wasn't even that much pain. It isn't a lot of distance but it's been hard for me to do with out stopping to rest the knee.
There is more than one kind of pain. Some of it is in the muscles and tendons around the joint. I've been working with a massage/Rolfer guy who was doing such good work on the knee before the shot. I've seen him once after the shot and it helped so much.
Swimming helps and I am swimming fairly regularly now. My muscles have adjusted and I don't get as wiped out.
One day last week I woke up achy. I figured the shot had worn off. But it was raining and when it stopped I felt better.
The knee has been stiff, achy and weak for the last two or three days but I'm wearing new shoes. My old shoes were very broken down and I am getting much more support, which is good and should help but the alignment of my ankles, my knees, my hips and my back is shifted and I am adjusting. It's always something.
Still. The shot seems to have helped and seems to be lasting way longer that I thought it would. I'd like to get one in every joint I have.
Those moments when the knee felt normal were amazing. One morning I was standing doing something inconsequential and realized there was no ticking. The freedom in that moment is like nothing I've ever felt.
If you haven't read Flowers For Algernon the title of this post will make no sense. I can get three shots a year. How long will they last? Will the swimming and new shoes and the massage help them last longer? The ticking is actually still there. Just sounds a little different.

Monday, July 28, 2014

A Page

I created a Facebook Page for the blog.
Why?
The amount of time I spend on Facebook is curious even to me. I have friends who will have nothing to do with social media and friends who use it to document their lives, or chat. I understand both positions. It's really replaced my blog roll in terms of how I spend my morning. It's not as satisfying in many ways. But it is full of things that keep me scrolling.
I have read that people get their news from Facebook or Twitter. Twitter just confuses and overwhelms me. I keep trying to understand it and spend more time on it but it's just so frenetic. I get some news on Facebook via links to news sources but I would never want to depend on it. One day I saw a link from a very right leaning page dissing the left via some kind of body shaming followed by a post from a left dissing the right with some kind of body shaming.  Not at all useful. Or interesting. Or fun. I'd be interested in what the right has to say but posts about something stupid said by someone trying to make a name for themselves by being extreme aren't how I want to spend my time. I do get news from Facebook. I learn about new babies and new jobs and what my favorite restaurant is serving and even some national/international stuff.
There's no doubt that Facebook has changed the way I use the Internet.
I think Susan made a page for her blog (which I can not find now) a year or so ago and I tried to make a page then but failed. There was a page created but I don't seem to be the administrator. Weird.
Maybe I'll write more now that I have a Facebook Page. Right?
I really have a hard time getting things done these days. I have a lot of theories about why and I push myself but the facts are I just don't do that much. There are reasons that seem to make sense. Emotional issues. Physical limitations. But jeez.
I loved the rhythm of morning blogging. I'd read blogs. My writing might be a reaction. I tried to participate in the big blog world conversation. I don't think it was great writing. I think I fumbled a lot. I remember the first post. I remember being excited and inept with the technical skills. It was kind of thrilling. Blogs have been slagged as narcissism. Elevated as opinion sources. Parleyed into media careers, books and movies. My blogging shut down during the EA years. I've lost the rhythm.    
It matters because it is the work I could do. I could write. I could rewrite the book and self publish. I could build up the blog. I could. I should.Yeah. I could promote the blog on Facebook. I could get lots of likes for my page. Yeah.
So.
I guess we'll see how it goes.

Thursday, July 03, 2014

Health

In my adult life I've only had health insurance for three years. I usually worked in small restaurants. Places that could barely keep up with my pay check and the owners didn't have insurance either. I had really great insurance for two of the three years I worked at EA and COBRA for a year after I was laid off.
Oregon has always had a health plan for low income people but it was hard to get into until the Medicaid expansion. Thank you President Obama. And yes I know single payer would be better.
There is also a  really great low income clinic in town so I went for my first insured check up a month or so ago. I am always nervous meeting new doctors. I loved my doctor in SF. And now, I love my doctor in Hood River. She is wonderful!
For the last few years I've been on a low dose blood pressure medication but I'd run out in January. It turns out my blood pressure is "great." She didn't want to put me back on pills. Works for me. I think there are a few reasons for this but I'm blaming Benedict. Pets lower blood pressure and fish are the best at it. My cholesterol numbers have always been good. My blood sugar hovers beneath the defined threshold for diabetes but doesn't change from year to year. That's been true for as long as I remember. So the numbers are good.
She referred me to an orthopedist to see if I could get knee surgery. They did x-rays. I have no cartilage in my right knee and I have a few bone spurs. My left knee is in better shape but not much better. I am the perfect candidate for knee replacement. Cool. Oh but they can't do it in Hood River because it's a small town hospital and not equipped. Huh? Not equipped for what? Because I'm fat I might have un-diagnosed heart disease and if my heart went crazy during surgery there would be no heart doctor available.
Hmmm. Let's review. My blood pressure has gone down. My cholesterol has always been good. My sugar numbers are not too bad for someone with a genetic predisposition for diabetes. I may well have un-diagnosed heart disease. I have a drug history. I have a tobacco history. It's been decades since I did either but still. There is heart disease in my paternal blood line. But...apparently those aren't the concerns. It's about my weight. If I lost a certain amount of weight I could get the surgery. She said a number. I didn't retain it. She is doing some research into hospitals in Portland that are "equipped" but she suspects either they or the insurance will require me to lose weight and possibly do lap band surgery first.
Lap. Band. Surgery.
That's not going to happen.
She gave me a cortisone shot. I can get three a year. I'm not pain free but it did make a difference. I spent my first day of less pain cleaning my bathroom without having to stop and rest my knee every two minutes. It was great! I'm not sure how long it will last. Let's say a month. Three shots a year. Three months a year of less pain.
So, I don't know what's going to happen with the possible Portland thing. Transportation is always an issue. Even the day of my appointment there were transportation problems and that's just in town.
It took me two days of brooding to be able to talk out loud about it. I'm hurt. I'm angry.
It's.
Just.
Not.
Right.
Unrelated to this experience I've thought about if I even could loose weight. I can say with absolute confidence that I have a very healthy diet. There are things I could eliminate but not much. My ageing slowed down digestion doesn't allow for much. I am getting to the pool now and will be getting there as often as possible. At the first check up I discovered that I had lost some weight in the last year. Not sure why but what ever.  
Here's the thing. I have a condition. I have pain and disability. Both can be mediated by technology. And I'm being told I can't have that technology because I'm fat. Everyone who has surgery is at risk for bad things to happen. I'm fairly sure everyone signs off on the possible risks before they lay down on a table and let a doctor cut them open. I imagine there may be people with a higher heart disease risk that get the surgery.
I feel like I need to make someone understand. Just listen to me. But I know there are people who get it and people who never will.
And now I'm going to go clean my kitchen while the pain is at bay.            

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

Between Them Both

I was at the end of a New Yorker. Back where they have the TV reviews, which I usually skim, or skip. But the review was for a show called: My Mad Fat Diary. It began with a mention of the Louie episode about which I wrote a few weeks ago. Apparently it got a lot of praise for "breaking a TV taboo", which the writer correctly calls false and lists shows that have had fat themes only some of which I've seen and a few of which I hated. The Louie episode was slagged in fat blogger land. After some preamble the reviewer focused on My Mad Fat Diary and peaked my interest enough to go to YouTube and watch it.
I had trouble finding the first season and figured it wouldn't matter if I just jumped in on the second. I was wrong. I later figured out that the first season was available with Spanish subtitles. But starting with the second season meant that I began with Rae's (the fat girl) relationship with Finn (the cute boy) in full swing. I had several confusing reactions. I wasn't comfortable with how easily the relationship seemed to form. Finn didn't seem to have any issues at all about her size. And. They didn't look right to me.
What?
After I watched the first season I felt better about the development of the relationship and I loved so much about the show. It's visually fun. The music is great. It's full of bone ringing realness. I am still filled with reactions and could easily watch the whole thing again.
While Rae is trying to accept that Finn could possibly like her she is haunted by a poster of a woman in a bra that reads: Hello boys. That poster returns later as the impact of it on her best friend (the cute girl) is reveled. Rae daydreams about setting the billboard on fire. It brought back a time when I had feelings for a man with whom I had no chance. And really. I probably didn't want one. But I was so attracted to everything about him, including his remoteness.
Why?
At that time there was a commercial in which women in bras and underwear and wings (wings) (eye roll) were looking into the eyes of the viewer with the "you want this don't you" look and I felt crushed. I felt slain. I felt assaulted. It was about being fat and old and just not airbrushed beautiful with wings. (wings) (jeez) I have the wisdom to call bullshit on it but I am and will always be a thirteen year old girl waking up to desire that felt hopeless.
Those women in those pictures are part of a machine of meanness. It's a machine that rolls over men who don't believe they can have that and women who believe they can't be that and the women who think that's all they have to offer. It distorts the real nature of attraction and longing and connection.
For me, and for Rae, this feeling of not being want-able is also rooted in an absent father. And in the show, when she meets him, he gives her a record player and she forgives his years of distance. Annnnnd. That's exactly what my father did. A record player and Beatles album. So easy.
I could go on and on about the show but it was that "they don't look right together" reaction that startled me. What did I mean? Later in the show when she meets a beefier (also very cute) boy I felt better.
WHAT????
My maternal grandfather was a very tall, very thin man. My maternal grandmother was a shorter fat woman. Remember the nursery rhyme?
Jack Sprat would eat no fat
His wife would eat no lean
So between them both
They licked the platter clean
I remember thinking it was about my grandparents. My Pop-pop's name was Jack, after all. I always thought they were perfect together. Except for all the fighting.
Heh.
The constantly entwined narratives of food, appetite and the sexuality of fat people is frustrating to me but I didn't even get what the nursery rhyme was saying. We all ate the same dinner. My grandmother would have not allowed any food shaming at her table. What I got was a sense of fun and perfection. A sense that people are made for each other in funny ways.
The review ends by focusing on ideas about physical appetite, specifically food. There is a narrative about eating in the show. I'm always a bit confused by eating disorder ideas. I get some of it but not all of it.
The show centers around Rae but develops the lives of all the people around her in strong and perceptive ways.
No one thing about us is the reason for how we feel in the world. Fat. Thin. Fatherless. Smart. Funny. For some reason the music from The Breakfast Club is playing in my head. Which may mean I've lost my own thread. Or it may mean that I've never recovered from being a teenager.                                                
By the end of two seasons I had been moved in my sense that Rae and Finn didn't look right together. It was because of the fantastic character development and personal development arc. It didn't seem like a miracle of love and light that the cute boy liked the fat girl. Size had stopped being central.
While watching all this YouTube I discovered this amazing woman.


I've thought a lot about my initial reaction. I think there was more than one thing going on. Some of own personal developmental arc, some cultural chatter, some desire for the more beefy guy to be the ... one. What? 
             
       

Monday, June 16, 2014

Year One

A year ago I walked into the nest. I was exhausted from the move. Dazed. Struggling to believe that after failing at everything I've ever done and never making much money I was going to live in such a perfect place.
It's only been recently that I have had feelings of at home-ness. Familiarity. Familiarity is not the same as taking things for granted. I still find myself staring at the ceiling, or the paint, or the floors and smiling. I still feel almost joyous when I toss in a load of laundry. Grateful isn't even a big enough word.
Leaving San Francisco was excruciating. Knowing how much better this would be didn't help. Experiencing how much better it is doesn't make it better. But I do know that San Francisco has changed. Changed in ways that felt bad. I try to hammer on that fact when I feel sad about not being there. Because I do wish I was still there.
And.
Yet.
Also.
I like Hood River. A lot. It's beautiful. Autumn was red and orange and yellow. The snow was beautiful. The spring was an explosion of blossoms. And, so far, summer is warm and interesting. Interesting because the town fills up with people who want the wind and the water.
There's lots of locally produced food and great markets. There is art and culture although I haven't been able to participate yet.I found a place to swim. It's a challenge getting there but I am making it more often. I found a doctor who I love. I have a friend who I've known for more than half my life and very cool neighbors.
I grew up in my grandparents house. That's how we said it. We didn't say "our house". It was good for them to have us there as they got older. It was good for Mom to have them for child care while she worked. But there was this sense of obligation and things being temporary. And when Mom and I moved out things fell apart in many ways. It kind of hard wired a feeling of alienation and loss connected to the idea of home.
I had settled into my life in SF and even though it wasn't really working any more because of my increased disability leaving rattled all that wiring and it's been hard to relax. It still is. But I see it all for what it is and try to just notice and not get bogged down. I'm not always successful.
We all want the people we love to be happy. I think it's hard for the people who love me to accept that I still get wiped out by sadness and anger and frustration. But I do. It doesn't mean that I'm not aware that I landed in an almost miraculous circumstance. Terrible things might happen but the probability is that I will not be homeless. I have this place. I have my wall of windows and my view of Oak Street. I have books. I have food and health care and a place to swim. I have my plants and my fish. It's very good. But even as I type that I fill with tension. I feel like if I relax too much it will all fall apart. It's just old wiring.
There are things I'd like to do to the nest. Back splash in the kitchen. Better flooring in the bedroom and library. But if I never do any of those things are really comfortable and good.
A year.
It really just blows my mind.    

Friday, June 13, 2014

Ordinary Dancers

When I was eight, or nine, or maybe ten, Mom gave me a Hawaiian themed birthday party. I'm not sure why. Ken painstakingly hollowed out pineapples from which we drank sherbet punch. We all wore plastic leis. I think I had a straw hat. I vaguely remember being disappointed that coconut didn't taste like the inside of a Mounds bar. And we danced the hula. Or we danced our understanding of the hula. Mom said something to me, which I can only paraphrase. She said I didn't move like a fat person. She would never have said it in those words. I remember not being sure if she was saying something good, or bad. It was not the only time I was given that particular ... um ... compliment.
Daniel wondered what I might write about this. It's a wonderful video of a man dancing.
I remember watching Susan Boyle singing and Simon Cowell's (who I find loathsome) jaw dropping with disbelief. Tears well up just thinking about it. She's a very good singer but it was the busting of expectations that made it so emotional.    
There are so many of these talent shows now. And there are so many videos that surface on Facebook titled in a way that frames the performance of an individual in terms of surprise. Maybe they're missing a limb or, they're very young, or they're different in some way. When you think about how narrow the cultural idea of coolness and beauty is the numbers of people seen as unlikely are overwhelming. I don't really like these shows. I rarely click on the videos any more. I just find myself weary of tired ideas about talent. I did check out this video of a woman dancing the other day. Made me smile. You have to have strength and stamina to do that.
So when I checked out the video that Daniel sent me I was  a bit braced. And. Oh. Wow. What a great, sweet, fun, heart opening thing it is. The guy is dancing from the top of his head to the tips of his fingers and toes. His face is dancing. He is having fun. He is playing. And he has moves, baby. I loved it.
Of course. "No one saw" his performance coming because, I suppose, he's fat.
I wonder if we will ever just be open. Just see people and think ... oh. What are you about? Who are you? Do you dance? Do you sing? Are you funny? Are you smart? Just be open to truly get who any one is and what they're capable of and what they might bring. When will we just be delighted by the possibility of  another person?
The narrative of unexpected or unseen talent is the base of so many great stories. It's not always about physicality, or difference. Jennifer Beals in Flash Dance is the unlikely story of a working class girl trying to get into ballet school with street moves. I was rooting for her. I get the appeal of the unexpected winner. Maybe there's just too much of it now.
And, specifically when it comes to fat people I get cranky. Men who can rock the floor like the man in the video, or hang upside down on a pole like the woman in the other video are great fun. They are delight-full. And for every fat dancer who doesn't try because they don't think they can, these people are encouragement. Amber Riley ripped up Dancing with the Stars. Everyone claps and smiles and then a minute later they all nod in agreement about how impossible it is to be healthy and be fat.
So.
What.
Ever.
I guess I want to celebrate how great these people are and I also want the fact of them to be ordinary.
I loved dancing. Every Friday when I was a tween I was a at the rec center dancing. For hours. As I got older I danced less. I became more armored. And then I had a band and I was dancing again. And now. I feel it in my bones. I might not be able but I still feel it. I have always moved like a fat person.  

Wednesday, May 28, 2014

And A World To Carry On

Woke up. Picked up the phone. Saw the headline that Maya was gone.
Checked email. A friend and his wife had a baby boy.
Checked Facebook. Saw a picture of them both. Remembered holding him when he was the age his son is now.
Pretty existential way to start the day.
The mommy is the same age Maya was. Physically she is very healthy but her mind is slipping. Every day I wonder how she's going to be and if there is something I need to do. I know she will die. I just want her to have what she needs and wants until that day. And she pretty much does.
I don't have a belief about what happens after we die. I believe something happens. The heaven/hell thing makes no sense to me. Eternity is a long time and both places would be pretty full by now. Eternal bliss sounds boring. Eternal misery sounds like it would just become ... numbness.
Reincarnation? Maybe. But everyone was Cleopatra, or Plato, or someone famous. And the math is bad. Too many people now compared to how many people there have been.
So.
I just dunno.
It doesn't make sense to me that this awareness I experience as me will just go dark. Energy is always changing form. A great mystery awaits. Or maybe not. Maybe the remaining synapse firing will whisper a tale of light and love and then ...
The mommy likes to talk about her family sitting on the clouds waiting for her.
Maybe.
Maya knows. And a boy in Colorado might have something to tell us. Once he learns to speak our language. I had just begun to wind down from the loss of the boy from the bus. I mean. Really. He was lost to me years ago. And yet he has been so present in the last few days.
I know what I hope. I hope for a moment of lucidity. A sort of Frank Capra summing up in which it all makes sense. And then. What ever.
I am remembering how we were back when the babies who are now fathers were born. I am imaging the family that is now beginning and how they will be. We all just make this shit up as we go along. We read some stuff. We talk to some experts. We make agreements and commitments and we hurl ourselves forward. But we're really stumbling along.
Maya was really good at something I've never been good at. She loved her life. She embraced it. She owned it. I'm so easily laid low by the ... oh ... I don't know. The this. And the that. I am full of resentments and complaints.
I do know one thing. Or I feel it with such unequivocal certainty that it feels like knowing. I've seen the love. I've seen the new dad in the arms of his own father. And his mother. And my own. So much love. You can't really do anything but yield. You can't be judgy and peckish when you're in that moment. Looking into those little eyes. You can get back to judgy and peckish after you put them down and face what ever is happening next. Or at least I can. But in those moments you have to yield.
Maybe we imagine all things we come to believe. So this is what I am imagining. Maya found out about our new boy and stopped by to smile at him. And then. She was on her way.