Uncommon Women and Others and Being Amazing

The first time I saw Uncommon Women and Others, I was completely electrified.  I saw it on PBS, shortly after I graduated college and just a few years after it had been written.  I watched it upstairs at my parents in what we called the office on their black and white TV.  We were always behind the times that way. It shocks me now to see old programs in color when  I have vivid recollections of them in black and white.  Uncommon Women resonated with me for several reasons.  Even though it was set at a Seven Sisters school and I went to a sub Ivy, I recognized that type of young woman.  There were lots at Goucher and some even at Hopkins where I attended.  In the play, the women are looking back at their lives from the vantage point of 30.  They had promised when they were 30, they were going to be amazing.  I was still in my 20’s and living with my parents.  I needed to believe that thirty could and would be amazing.

Watch this play and you will see early performances by Meryl Streep, Jill Eikenberry and Swoosie Kurtz.  Amazing.  It also confirmed my longing for strong, female friendships.  I had gone to what was essentially an all boys school.  I had rebelled against my mother who saw me at Vassar or Radcliffe.  I did want Bennington but she vetoed that because – shock- a women’s college with a woman president!  In many ways, she was a product of her era.

I did develop those strong female friendships along the way.  I am still in contact with my college roommate over 40 years later.  I have reconnected with some of the girls of my youth.  I have other women I have picked up along the way that have given me an incredible safety net, strength, support and love.  But sitting watching that black and white TV, I knew none of that.

I remember thinking as I watched that I wish there was a way to keep this, like a book, so I could take it out and look at it whenever I wanted.  A few years passed.  It came back on PBS.  By then, I was over 30 with a color television of my own and a VCR to record it.  The world was moving.  I wasn’t amazing but I was doing alright.  I was making crap money; had a glamorous job; and was not working up to my potential.  I was, however, known as a person with friends.  I had a therapist at that time who told me I defined myself as a friend.  I did not think it was a bad thing.

 

I, like the women in the play, began to believe at 40, I would be amazing.  Forty came and went and I was so not amazing.  I no longer had the glamorous job and was back with my parents.  Volunteering saved me.  I was lucky to have a volunteer position that involved raising money to support and advance women’s rights.  New York, my state, was never ever going to be able to compete against California.  There is just too much money there.  However, Uncommon Women and Others continued to resonate with me.  I used it in my stump speech all the time.  I believed that as a state, we could raise our fundraising and be amazing.  We, as women, could and would be amazing. Was this uncommon?

 

Time advanced.  I was ecstatic to discover Uncommon Women and Others on DVD.  I bought a handful and gave them to my important women friends one Christmas.  Technology was amazing.

 

Wendy Wasserstein wrote other, wonderful powerful plays about women.  I have been blessed to be able to see them.  These plays grew along with me. Women of a certain age will relate to The Heidi Chronicles. She became an iconic voice for women. Wendy Wasserstein was truly amazing and she died.

I passed 50 and was still waiting to be amazing, then 60.  I still aspire to be amazing.  As the years have passed, my concept of amazing has changed.  In my 20’s, I wanted the job, the car, the man, the friends.  It didn’t change much for my 30’s.  I did have all of that but somehow it wasn’t amazing enough.  My 40’s found me rebuilding – a broken marriage,  broken relationships, a different career, better friends and moments to be amazing.  I am very proud of the work I did for that organization and hoped I have helped other women find their “amazing”. 50’s – almost there.  I had created a sort of life that became blown up by disease.  I fought and continue to fight.  60? Still standing and literally that is remarkable and amazing.  I was filled with more fortitude than I thought possible.

 

Amazing changes through time and space.  Can I say now when I reach 70, I am going to be amazing?  Seventy sounds like a foreign country, unexplored and unimagined but closer.  I thought when I graduated college that I would go for my PhD in my 60’s.  Well, that ship sailed.  I still have the curiosity and the interest.  However, time and money have become finite.  I consider myself amazing sometimes because I have been able to find and hold uncommon women and “others” in my life.  I never could have imagined that or its importance when I first experienced the play. Sometimes, when I consider what life has thrown at me, I may be amazing.  I still keep on trying.  I try to walk.  I miss the feeling of speed and air when I am walking.  Sometimes, I miss working yet still I tick on. What makes us uncommon women and what makes us amazing?  I consider my uncommon women friends amazing.  Each in her own way is unique yet the same.  They are intelligent, curious, courageous, inspiring.  They lead.  They share.  They never stop changing.  They are principled.  They have style and substance whether they acknowledge it or not. I have fulfilled one of my wishes from when I first saw “Uncommon Women and Others”, I have those close female friends for decades, uncommon women each and everyone of them, and that is AMAZING!

Sliding on a Sunday Morning and Reflecting

t’s a slightly dreary Sunday, rainy.  We usually sleep till  around 7:30 a.am.  Tom got up at 6 to go to the bathroom, triggering the same in me.  I tried to getup but couldn’t sit up.  I need to pull myself sometimes with sheets.  I asked Tom to give me a push up.  No problem.  Then when  I tried to get out of bed instead of standing, I slid gracefully to the floor.  This is usually not a problem.  I  stand up like a toddler.  I grabbed the edge of the bed.  Not happening.  Tom wanted to help.  Sometimes, when I need to get out of the tub at night, he has to come in and help me bend my right leg so I can stand up.  “I need you to do the same thing as you do in the bath.”  He comes over, pulls my leg up and as soon as I try to pull the other one, the right collapses down.  We do it again and this time it jumps uncontrollably and collapses again.  One more time and the leg is jumping up and down even worse.  The first time this happened was in my neurologist office.  I swore at the time it was something he had done to me.  It happens periodically when I get dressed in the morning.  I usually just put my hand on it and stop it.  Tom says, “Isn’t this why you take the Baclufen?”  No, that’s for the spastic thing I do where my body tenses up and I walk like a Zombie.  It’s been happening more the last few days.  Nerves, I thought.  So, Tom pulls my right leg up again and it’s out of control and he has to press it to stop it.  Think of a tuning fork.

He has to walk me to the bathroom.  It’s only 10 -12 feet.  My issue becomes that sometimes in the morning I have problems getting up in the bathroom.  I don’t want another set of grab bars.  It’s insidious defeat.  Every once in a while which is mortifying I have to ask Tom for help.  This morning we anticipate the worst.

Now, I have to call out to my fellow blogger BBH with MS ’cause she discusses bathroom issues frankly.  Let me describe my situation this way: It’s like I can turn on the faucet and most times I can turn it off but sometimes I can’t tell if the tank is empty.  It pours out of me, that I feel, and then it just keeps on dribbling and dribbling.  Mind you when this started this morning, I was in a cozy sleep.  We had just changed the sheets to the high thread count Egyptian cotton.  It’s like sleeping in a lovely cocoon.  Well, that’s done. Luckily, I can stand up by myself in the bathroom.   Tom helps me get back into bed.  My right leg feels totally numb.  And this is the moment he decides to be amorous!  Are all men adolescent boys?  The only thing I want is to get feeling back in my leg and salvage some sleep.

Which brings me to reflection which may have brought on this whole spell.   Yesterday, I opened Facebook and it let me know I had a memory.  Did we remember before Facebook?  I had posted a picture of Jeremy’s college graduation picture with us five years ago.

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So, a couple of things:  I am relatively tiny in this picture.  I always think of myself as tall and huge.  The next thing that hit me is that this was on a grass field.  We returned early from our vacation to attend.  I had walked on the beach and felt normal.  It was a glorious moment.  Yes, it took me a bit longer to reach our seats on the grass at the graduation but I was walking without a cane and without the spectral leg.  Again, the deterioration has been insidious.  I am told I really haven’t deteriorated.  REALLY?  Ok, so I am grateful that I still can get around but this is so far from alright.  It is not alright!!!   Back to fighting and clawing back, one step at a time.

Lotteries and Windfalls

As with many people in the US a few weeks ago, we caught Lotto fever.  Over 1 billion is worth a flutter.  Overall, I am opposed to the lottery.  Originally in New York it was supposed to fund schools.  Really?  And look at the schools in Detroit.  But enough of that.

We bought a few dollars worth of tickets and began to speculate.  What would we do?  Husband announces that first thing we get the absolutely best doctor in the world for what we call MC (my condition).  Ok, you may say I am in denial but it works for me.  Everyone is different.  And after that we would buy a nice house.  We would pay off the one we currently live in.  I must paraphrase Hyacinth Bucket a.k.a Bouquet – the house that is now next to the used car lot with the massage parlor.  The parlor or message store as the police referred to it in a report I made after I had another flat in my driveway is temporarily gone.  Funny enough, as soon as we returned from police, the big sign in the front was gone.  Do I need to say more?

Then after a house for us, one for each of the boys and husband’s sister.  And then?  Well, lots to real charity.  In fact, the other night there was something on the news about local people being displaced and renovations  would have run a few million dollars.   Husband said, “We could have done that in a heartbeat if we had won.”  Well, we didn’t.

Recently, I have undergone significant financial reversals.  No, not the stock markets.  More along the line of no income.  It appears that hopefully after all the belt tightening, this is about to change.  As I anticipate this, another list to make.  Late last summer, a man who saw me commuting, pulled up his pants (nothing lewd here) and showed me a device on his leg.  He thought we had the same condition.  It’s a Walkaid and there’s also another product called Bioness.  They cost a few thousand.  We didn’t have any money when we spoke to the doctor about it and she said it might give me the same results as the Ampyra or it might be better.  It tops my new wish list.  I had to cut back on my traditional donations.  I was an officer at a bank years ago.  One of the first things I did when I received it was write checks to my favorite charities,  My co-worker thought I was odd but it used to give me a kick, almost as good as sex, more like a deep kiss.  Donations to AAUW’s Legal Advocacy fund and the County domestic violence unit.  My two favorites.

So what else have I been thinking about and missing?  Well, as I have said before clothing is my life.  Therefore, I shop.  I love the air in stores, the undercurrent, the lust.  It energizes me.  I remember being in Paris once hungry and tired but in track of a shop I had heard about.  I found it and revived like a flower in water.  Due to my own personal economic downturn I haven’t been able to do it for ages.  I am surprised.  This situation has made me less materialistic.  Clothes and cosmetics aren’t really part of this list. When I received word that things were going to be ok, I admit to flipping through a Smithsonian sales catalog and seeing some Christmas necklaces that would be wonderful for my elves next year.

So what else is on the list?  I want a car.  I wanted one for my milestone birthday.  And not just any car, a “luxury” car.  I am known for saying carwise I am OK with a box, wheels and a radio.  I certainly do not see a car as a reflection of who I am.  My ex-husband and my brother always derided me for that.  I wanna Buick, like the commercial.  It’s cute.  My brother-in-law who is amazing with dealers and dollars couldn’t make it work for me.  The car represents getting something for me and for once not settling.  That’s what it’s about.

This is what I have learned during this setback, downturn, whatever you want to call it.  I no longer want to settle. Not in terms of what I do for a living, not in terms of a car, not in terms of my health.  Oh, right after car on my list I have sliders for Zumba for my sneakers and a personal trainer.

It’s been a huge lesson and one way or another, in my mind, I have won my lottery.

January 2016 Check In and Prior Year

Start of a New Year so it’s time to not only look back at the previous month but also state of being (so much more than health) for the last year.

How did I feel this past Year?

It was definitely a mixed year.  I had some highs and lows.  Getting the Ampyra and being able to walk more was great.  I also was able to get nice “things”.  It was an acknowledgement that I was good enough.  I made my milestone.  I spent it with one of my best friends.  I lost 20 pounds because I ate right, not diet.

I lost my job and that’s what I did, it’s lost. So, maybe that’s a low.  We’ll see

How did I feel this past Month?

It’s the holidays – a bit frazzled.  I am surprised despite being home I didn’t get a lot done for the holidays. It’s like losing in a way.  Overall, a bit calmer.  Still trying to sort out.

What did you do for yourself this year?

Well, I did more exercise and was more mindful of my health.  The biggest thing is that I stood up on the job issue and have not taken it lying down.  I also validated myself  by believing I was good enough.

What did you do for yourself this month?

Well, the Elves Workshop was a blast.  I have more fun than they do.    Spent time with the kids which was great.  Applied for jobs like crazy.  Still trying to reconnect with me.  Restarted my gratitude journal and my journal.  The gym.

What did I eat this year and how did it make me feel

The beginning of the year was better than the end.  I slowly drifted off plan.  It clearly reflects in my health.

What did I eat this month  and how did it make me feel

Uh,  holidays?  Totally lost it.  Last year I didn’t touch the cookies.  This year I ate them all!  Still tried to mitigate when possible.

Did I exercise?  What did I do?  How did it feel

I am going to answer for both the month and the year.  I increased it this year.  Partly due to the Ampyra, and part due to what I wanted and needed.  After the job ended, I started the gym more.   However, it’s not like in times past.  I realize it’s because I can’t take classes so miss the social bits.

For whom or what are you grateful?  What matters most in life?

Again, I feel blessed, especially at this time of year.  I can still walk.  I have friends I love and who love me.  Life is still full of possibilities.  I still feel joy.  Friends, health and love are what matter.

Do I have a higher purpose or driving force in my life?   Make a mission statement

Still working on that mission statement.  I am thinking about joy.  Someone commented recently that I have always been smiling since I was a child.  And she should know.  So sharing that joy.    And whilst I don’t want to be a poster child, I am partly out about the MS.  Okay, I still don’t accept it.  However, if coming out prevents people being treated the way I have been jobwise, then so be it.  I guess at the end of the day I want my life to have mattered and changed someone else’s positively

Conventional medicine  Just the Ampyra and Baclufan.  Waiting for coverage for the biotin

Symptoms – Well the stress hasn’t helped.  I am a bit weaker.  My balance is the pits.  My hands are going but I am fighting.

What symptoms are most troublesome  – Walking as always. A bit wobbly too.

Do I blame myself for things – Same as always. Of course! Yes, I am still blaming myself for not being aggressive against this. However, getting back to me, slowly, slowly but surely!

How is stress level?

Moderate.  There are days it peaks for sure.  When I take money out of savings to live and when I have to charge things.  But not commuting is so huge.  This still applies.  Feeling not working but am optimistic.  Stress is down a bit and manageable.

What can I do tomorrow to make it better than today?

So aside from my Christmas pudding, a serious return to the right eating, sticking with the gym, gratitude and attitude.

Make 2016 count!

Politics, Friendship, and Mortality

I just found out a few hours ago that one of my childhood friends passed away in his sleep last night.  Losing anyone so young is hard.  Well young is relative but I still feel relatively young and as my former sister-in-law said earlier this year “anyone dying before 80 is young.”

So, my mother worked with his father and we grew up on the same street.  His dad drank heavily and so did he but that’s what we did then.  He transferred in high school to an exclusive Catholic high.  I went to college with 6 boys from that school.  They told me that his drinking so disgusted them that they themselves threw him off the bus.  We used to drink at the same bar in our late teens and early twenties.

A memory – the New Year’s Eve  I was 21, I ended up at a party at his house with my two best friends.  The other Tress(same name) and I had dates.  Let’s put it this way, she was going out with Donnie and when I was around we used to double with his best friend who was called Hoppy, seriously.  He was far from hoppy but around 6 foot something and a solid 200 pounds plus.  He was a time filler for me.  Our other friend was just along for the ride.  Our original plan was to have a sleepover at my parents and then the guys came up with this party plan.  Somehow towards the end of the evening we ended up at J’s house.  His parents were there and some others too.  Not mine; not only did they no longer go out on New Years anymore but my mother didn’t like his father – read heavy drinker.  And it must have been very heavy as the first time I was drunk in public  was at her boss’s home(same company)  when I was around 16.  Different era, different mores.  Anyway,  Hoppy takes me over to his parents “Ma, Dad, this is the girl I have been telling you about.”  Big shock to me.  I don’t, didn’t do relationships, especially at that age.  So I am doing the drunken nice girl chat with parents and when I get away, M,  my other friend is in Hoppy’s lap, cooing to him “I want it and want it now.”  Different era, stumbled out of the house and walked the two long blocks home including one block that was a ballfield.  And it was a four lane road opposite parkway woods and a parkway.  A drunk 20-something couldn’t do that now.  Went into the house and my parents called out and asked where everyone else was.  The other Tress is with Donnie at J’s house and M?  M is f*cking her brains out with Hoppy”  Now you have to understand that was a big evil word then and I am known for not using “bad” words.  Upshot?  Parents yell at me for the profanity and M  comes in much later.  The other Tress never spoke to her again.  I am more forgiving but have to admit that I saw her in the subway 20 years ago or so and she was completely grey! Revenge is a dish best served cold.

At that point in time,  J was getting his life back together.  We used to hang in the same bar and have drinks. He was working at the local grocery store stocking frozen food.  He was going back to school.  He was very, very smart.  We had always been in the advanced class.  Then he said he made a girl pregnant that he didn’t even really like (it may have been the alcohol talking) and that was it.

Fast forward years and the advent of FB.  He was mad crazy about his grandson and was a successful guy.  Our high school always has a picnic and three years ago, I went.  Topic for another day.  There’s a candid shot of the two of us jabbering away.

 

But and there is always a but, he was far right and I am far left.  I grew up in Levittown and far right is the way most people lean but back in the day things didn’t seem as absolute.  I always knew that my views were not held by most.  J and I had a teacher in 7th grade who on reflection probably was in the John Birch society.  I vaguely reflect an argument over my not saying the Pledge of Allegiance with J.  Still, see above, we drank together.  However, I just couldn’t take it on FB.  As we and society have aged, we have become more polarized.  I hate hate speech.  Uh, yeah Levittown – 99.6 or 99.7 white when I was growing up.  I was at a high school dinner in Levittown a few summers ago and they were talking about how Nixon was right with Watergate not ‘Nam but Watergate.  Put Obama into the picture and just imagine.  I have only unfriended one person on FB and it was another elementary school onwards person with racist hate.  So, I hid J.  I only saw innocuous likes.

I knew he had moved back onto the Island from a neighboring state.  Today,  I see that he was right here in my town.  He was truly a part of my growing up.  Because I hid him, I didn’t know.  We could have and should have been able to move beyond politics to that common childhood.

When did we as a society become so divisive?  I recently read that people are deciding where to move based on the overall political makeup of an area.  What happened to us?  Where is the veneer of tolerance?  Fake it till ya make it works sometimes.  We are cutting off discourse and therefore growth.  I am guilty.  I am thinking of what I missed the last few years by cutting J off.  It makes this loss huger.

We don’t know what Fate holds for us, why waste time.

I mourn for J and for missteps.

Carpe Diem.  RIP J and I’ll be lifting a glass to Auld Lang Syne.

Style and Grace and holding on to cry at home

I can’t tell you how many times I have said to myself hang on until you can get home and cry.  I was brought up not to cry in front of people, not my family particularly, but certainly the outside.  I have tried to live my life, especially when confronting obstacles and difficult situations, with style and grace.  It’s like a mantra for me.  Big girls don’t cry.  I have said “Style and Grace” every time I have been let go on a job.  I use it all the time, most recently in the situations I have been confronting on my job.  Okay lately,   I also take a bubble bath the night before potentially contentious meetings with Not Soap Radio – Bathing with Sharks.

I am getting tired of all of this.  I am hanging on.

So, I was not supposed to cry.  I didn’t receive my diploma on graduation day.  This was huge.  Additionally,  I never thought I would get married or have a wedding so this was going to be my day.  I was tapped on the shoulder and told I wasn’t graduating as we started the processional.  No one understood why I didn’t have my usual smile.  As we dispersed and I saw my parents, I started to cry.  My mother slapped me and covered my eyes with huge dark glasses.  I was out of work for ages and got a job.  I went in to have lunch with the owner.  He told me I didn’t have one; he had changed his mind.  Yes, here it comes another smack and dark glasses.  My husband was arrested and in jail right after my father died and I couldn’t get him out,  I sobbed on my sister-in-law till I wet her clothes.  Came home and started to sob.  My mother looked at me and said ” I thought I raised a grown up”.  And no, of course I didn’t cry when my parents died.  I gave both eulogies, no tears.  This comes at enormous cost. Yes,  I cry,  I gush rivers, just not publicly.  When I was diagnosed, no tears.  When the first physician’s assistant said “I think you have MS” I sobbed in the parking lot, not in front of her.  Maybe three times since 2008.

I am tired of holding on.

I had a meeting with the other ugly stepsister (work)  three weeks ago.  I thought I was being let go.  Stood outside and repeated Style and Grace, style and grace.  Summoned my grandmother’s spirit.  Walked into the room with my head held high and  SMILED.  Bathing with sharks.

So, this week:

I find out on my birthday that my health insurance company is closing.  Do you know how many years I had to wait to get covered for this drug?  It truly helps me walk longer and better.  If you saw me on the street you wouldn’t think so but it is better.  My new normal.  What happens with new insurance?  Scared.

Next,  I return to work and one of the ugly stepsisters wants a meeting with me to discuss what I do.  This is the woman that I reported to briefly.  I was like coyote ugly trying to chew my leg off when I was working with her.  So, once again we go through  “What do you do, how do you do it?” And  she is going to have someone who uses the word “wordsmith” to write something for me!  I can read the handwriting on the wall.

Husband has had a slip or several so I am back to being tense when I get home.  No real safe haven.

I had an appointment to discuss possible options yesterday.  Between the two meetings I literally couldn’t walk and was collapsing, bent over.

Today, I still felt still weak. Lots of training, walking, meetings.  Ran into guy who brought me back to this place. He’s been trying to save my job.  Calls me into a room so I thought I was finally getting the move and recognition.  NOT!!  My agent who handles my billing is going out of business.  No one else wants to take me on.  Essentially, this means I am out.  What do I do?  Go back to my desk and frigging smile!  Ok so I contact the trifecta- my doctor, lawyer, accountant.  In addition to my smile, I am known as a survivor.  Keep on murmuring style and grace.  My body is channeling all the stress and I lurch to the train.  They change the track and the escalator and elevator are broken.  Nearly fell going upstairs.  I do make it to the car.  My whole plan this afternoon was to get home like a pigeon and cry.  I started to cry close to home on the phone with my husband.  His response?  “Don’t be such a girl”.

No tears but my stress pattern is reverting to two I had years ago.  I used to have pre-fainting – pre hyposyncopia (sp).  I turn grey and my eyeballs roll  up in my head but I don’t faint.  Later years, I got palpitations.  Tonight both.  I know it’s holding the anger and the tears.  Now with this condition it goes through my body.

And tomorrow – style and grace.

October Warrior Check In

How do I feel today  -Better than I have in awhile.  I am going back to work tomorrow after a week off and I am dreading it for numerous reasons.  However, it appears the hurricane has passed us by, the sun is shining and I am focusing on the positive.  I have so much to be grateful for. I also feel that I am back on track.

What did you do for yourself today?

I read the Sunday Times, most of it, on Sunday!  I cooked something healthy and good.  I was indulgent and bought nail polish

What did I eat today and how did it make me feel – Eating right except for dinner tonight – will have small steak.  On holiday I did OK and tried to be in balance

Did I exercise?  What did I do?  How did it feel – Ah, every month there is a weak spot, still trying to calibrate Jawbone but I definitely have not walked nearly enough in the last week.  I feel weak but determined.

For whom or what are you grateful?  What matters most in life?

Friends and family.  Last night the boys and their girlfriends joined the nieces and I at a mystery dinner at the church.  The table read Reserved – “X – Family of 8″  It made me feel warm.  The fiancee declared in 10 months, I will really be a part of this family.  I was given beautiful presents for my birthday and a beautiful card.  I spent 4 days with one of my best friends on vacation last week.  It was restorative. I had all kinds of birthday wishes from near and far.  And as someone once said ” You know Santa and the Easter Bunny?!!!”  What more could I or should I want out of life.

Do I have a higher purpose or driving force in my life?   Make a mission statement

Ok, still a problem. Still believe deeply in joy.  In the last few weeks due to the situation at work where  I am no longer being allowed my medical accommodation,  I am planning legal action.  I have been told this will benefit other people.  So, there you go.

How long have I been treated with conventional medicine Ampyra since April.  On my birthday, I read in the Times that my medical insurance company is closing so we are scared that I will lose this drug.

The first time I had a symptom – June 2004 walking on the beach boardwalk.  Lately,  I have been using the cane which I am going to rename a stick more and more each week.

What symptoms are most troublesome  -still hung up on the ugly shoes!  And my hands seem to be weakening.  Same as last month.  Getting a little wobbly.

Do I blame myself for things –  Of course!Yes, I am still blaming myself for not being aggressive against this. However, getting back to me, slowly, slowly but surely!

How is stress level? Middling, as I have not been at the office Sept 23 but have to go back tomorrow and face the music.  I know I will survicw

What can I do tomorrow to make it better than today?   Continue to take positive steps in eating, exercise and most importantly the pursuit of balance.

Until next month.