Stifled

Work has been rough lately. I just have more responsibility at the present time. There is a lot going on. And many people seem to be depending on me. I’m pretty much OK with it. But by the time Thursday rolls around, I’m feeling pretty spent. Like it is all sucked out of me. Down to the marrow. That is today. It also doesn’t help if I do not get out of the office at all. When this happens, by the time I get home I feel like I really need to get outdoors. Lately I feel like this a lot if I have been inside for too much of the day. This is exactly how my mom is. She can’t bear the NY winters mostly because she hates being inside so much. It drives her bonkers.

Maybe because I’m older now but lately I’ve begun to feel the same way. Maybe it is just the cumulative years of sitting about inside an office that are catching up with me. Maybe it is because we moved two blocks. Two blocks further from the freeway and closer to the mountains. And just those two blocks make me want to go out in our neighborhood more than before. It is totally psychological. The air seems cleaner. The neighbors quieter. The waking routes not as ghetto. What can I say? This is how I feel.

Tonight I got home and knew that I had to get out. A boot camp friend of mine introduced me to a two mile loop that heads up into the mountain behind our neighborhood. It is a good ways up and if I walk steadily I work up a sweat and feel like I am getting at least a little work out. I generally don’t like walking. It is too slow. And takes too long. But I like this route. Being up on the mountain offers beautiful views of Diamondhead. And the ocean. It is very lovely. Maybe that is why I like this route, aside from the workout. It reminds me that I live in Hawaii. It is easy to forget sometimes.

People think of Hawaii and think, beaches, surfing, hula and grass shacks. While these things are a reality for many people here (well maybe less so the grass shacks), most of the people who live here are focused on living here. We are working and getting our kids to school. We are cooking dinner and cleaning our toilets. We are living our lives just like any place else. And that is kind of sad since we are in a place of great beauty with a unique culture. It is easy to forget that. So my walk, this new walk, reminds me. Reminds me that I live in a place of volcanoes, oceans and mountains. And this remembering helps me forget all the inside stuff. And for that, I am grateful.

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Noncompliant

You know when you see those people on a show like Law & Order and they kill someone because they are mentally ill and have gone off their medications. And they went off of them because they were feeling fine. And they were only feeling fine because of those medications. And then you sit there so smugly, judgingly thinking how silly they are. Clearly the medication was making them better and clearly going off of it would result in their symptoms recurring. So, so silly. Because you would never do such a thing. Until you do.

I have been on hormones since the peri-menopausal monster reared its ugly head causing me to go through fits of depression, anxiety and a general inability to focus. And the hormones totally worked. They ironed me out. No more deep valleys. No more roiling anxiety. And it was good. And it was so good, I decided to stop taking them. Part of it was based on my feeling better. Part of it was based on the unfortunate effects the hormones had on my menstrual cycle. Part of it was to see if I miraculously lost a whole bunch of weight. But, to be truthful, it was really more along the lines of a science experiment. Maybe I am better? Maybe I don’t need them and I just don’t know because I am always on them.

So I stopped. I stopped for months. I stopped and I was OK. Until I wasn’t. Until the day I was at work and had to leave because my brain had a mind of its own and I could not focus enough to do any tasks. Beginning just about a week ago, almost every day my anxiety level was off the charts and my depression so inescapable that at some points I was almost crying at my desk. I kept saying to myself, tomorrow, tomorrow I will start again. And then I finally did. It has been less than a week but I am already more myself. I can still sometimes feel the pull of it all, the slight sadness or a tinge of uneasiness but I am able to function. It is muffled. In the background. And the ability to put that in the background makes me want to do things. Makes me remember that there are still things that I want to do. And that is important.

So now I know that I am just like those people on TV. Those people who stop taking their meds because they are better. That what is seemingly ridiculous to an outsider makes perfect sense to the person doing it. I’m just glad that I finally bit the bullet and went back on my medication. I am relatively certain that I will not be engaging in a like experiment for quite some time.

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Tea Ceremony

After school class selection has become a battle at my house. Ever since our son started school, we tried to keep him in on choosing the classes. One of the other parents told me that they never even let their kid know that there was a selection. They just made it for him. I thought that was mean and undemocratic. In hindsight, they may have been brilliant. They just pick whatever they want their son to do. No choices. No debates. No arguments. Divine.

We have a very different process. It involves cajoling. And give and take. I usually want some type of sports activity. My son usually wants to sit in the cafeteria. I lobby for drama. He wants to sit in the cafeteria. We argue and bicker. We negotiate. And ultimately I usually pick a class and he picks a class. I was going really strong for JV Volleyball this year. It is the first year he is old enough to do it. The school is really small so the sports activities on behalf of the school are limited to volleyball and basketball. I thought that it would be good for him and that he would like it. We were at the office before school started to register for classes and he adamantly refused to sign up for it. He even started getting a little teary eyed. I gave in. I didn’t want to but I did. So in the place of volleyball, I got tennis. And his choice, my son’s selection, was Japanese Tea Ceremony class. I continue to be fascinated by this choice. My first thought was that it would be all girls which he would not like. He tolerates girls and is sort of friends with some of them but generally speaking, he wouldn’t choose to spend an afternoon with roomful of them. And I almost said that he might be the only boy that day we were registering. I almost said that he might be surrounded by girls. And then I didn’t. I felt like, first of all, I was bringing my own gender bias into it by thinking that it would be all girls. And if I did say this, was I then saying that only girls should take the class? That seemed wrong. And if I did say it, there was a strong likelihood that he would change his mind. So I just shut it. I said nothing.

He has been in Japanese Tea Ceremony class for about two weeks now. He is one of two boys in the class and he loves it. They wear kimonos during the class. They start out by having Japanese candy and then partake in some tea drinking. Grape, unsweetened tea apparently. His only complaint is that there are too many girls and not enough boys. But it is a small complaint. And I feel good that I didn’t make some comment to change his
mind. And that my thoughts were not his thoughts. I hope that it stays that way. That he doesn’t choose to do things or not do things because they are labeled as “girl” things. Maybe that will happen as long as I continue to keep my mouth shut.

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Unstill

I hate the weather that we are having right now. Ever since we have returned from NY it has been so still and humid. When I go out for a run at lunch time, yes lunch time in Honolulu, I get out of the elevator, fresh from my vacuum packed chilly-to-the-point-of-wearing-a-scarf cubicle and my first thought is “ugh, it is hot.” I wonder if it is because I have yet to reacclimate to Hawaii weather. I wonder if it is because I am denial that I am back. Or maybe it is really just hot. I suppose that could be the case.

Since the weather is so still, I feel like the bugs are more active. I know that this is the case when it comes to termites. When it is still they swarm and are attracted to light. There was one crawling on my son’s ceiling the other night. I also feel like the roaches are really enjoying this weather as well. We have seen a few in random spots in our apartment and have managed to terminate them. But the stillness, it just makes you lethargic, sweaty and grumpy.

I think I was particularly grumpy today because I had too many meetings. For quite some time, I have been left alone. It is really spectacular and I highly recommend it. I sit at my desk and I answer questions from people throughout my building regarding health care reform. I am like the Dear Abby of the ACA. And I like it. I like trying to find the answer to a policy question. I like researching the rules and going through the 500 pages of FAQs and searching IRS Bulletins. I know, this mostly makes other people want to run and hide. But this is why my job is good for me. Except when I have to go to meetings. I feel like meetings distract from my work.
Today, in the midst of my meetings, on my schedule there was a bridal workout. Now, I am not getting married but my co-worker is. She invited me to attend her bridal workouts at the fitness center onsite. And I have been going. And it is so fun. I have used more fitness related equipment in the past few weeks than in my entire life. I love it. I feel tired and sore afterwards. But in a really good way. Plus my coworker and I laugh so much while doing our workouts. They are hard. Our trainer is young enough to be my son and we have decided that he thinks of us as the crazy old ladies that he trains. He is always laughing with us and keeps our workouts interesting. We even finally got him to put on the alternative punk rock station for us.

So there I was in the middle of my very grumpy day jetting down to the fitness center. I did not want to. I didn’t feel like it. But I went anyway. I had a meeting immediately after our workout. I think that I had some endorphins going or something because I was a little wired. Someone even asked if I was hopped up on caffeine. And then I realized that I felt so much better after the workout. And then I started thinking about people who just don’t work out and how much better they might feel if they actually did something. How they are just stuck with their stillness. And I was so thankful for the ability and opportunity to work out. To run and jump. Lift weights. Go for a walk. And that is how I want to be. The opposite of still. Unstill.

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Back Where We Belong

We leave to go and fetch our son from NY this week. I marvel at how long we have been without him. I remember our trepidation as we took him and my friend Annie, his traveling companion, to the airport. We were very nervous during the traveling times and were so happy when we received pictures of the JFK meetup with my NY family.

And then we started having this life. This weird temporary child free life. For some reason, I had thought that I would begin staying at work all the time. That since I didn’t have to come home and cook dinner, that I would just work late every night. I would get every large project that was lingering at the bottom of the list done. But it was just the opposite. Instead I joined a two night a week boot camp group and every Thursday I would go walking with LKY around Ala Moana Park before partaking in Taco Bell Thursday (it’s a thing). I blocked off time during my day for running and I joined my soon to be married co-worker for her bridal workouts at the fitness center at work. After all of this working out, you’d think I’d have lost ten pounds. Unfortunately, due to all the drinking and my lack of cooking which led to too much eating out, my weight remained pretty static.

And while I have drank too much over the past few months and eaten on the wild side, I’ve done good things too like hiking on Saturday mornings with one of the boot camp gals (Gigi). She somehow continues to talk us into getting up and being at her house by 7:00 a.m. every Saturday. We hate getting up. We complain and moan but when we are done with our hike and it is before 10:00 a.m. we are loving it. She thinks like a lobbyist because she always exacts our commitment to go the following week when we are in the warm hiking afterglow. That feeling you get from just being outside, walking around and trying not to fall in the mud or break any bones.

One of the best parts of all of our adventures has been the camaraderie we have with the women who participate with and run the Try Fitness boot camp. LKY has become almost like a mascot to the group and has even earned himself a nickname. This was based on a comment he made to Coach Suz when she asked him if we had looked like we were getting a good workout out in the lagoon as he watched us from the beach. His response, “you guys just looked like you were drifting around.” So now water workout is “drifting” and he is “the drifter”. And of course, boot camp would not be boot camp without Coach KC’s workouts, encouragement and good-natured chiding (especially about eating fruit). We really feel blessed to have come to know these women.

But, the kid is coming home. And our lives right now are not our real lives. So when I am asked to do something or go somewhere or commit to something. I can’t. I have yet to determine how, or if, the new fake life can work with my real life. I figure I can make parts of it come together but I just don’t know how yet. So for now, we are in vacation mode and plan on figuring it all out when we return.

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For the Love of Shoes

I have wide feet. This is what happens when you have wide feet and you go shoe shopping. You walk into say, Macy’s. Their shoe section stretches out in front of you, acres of cute, high and colorful shoes. It is spectacular. You pick up a pair and they look suspiciously narrow. You try it on and can basically squeeze in your big toe and that’s about it. So then you ask one of the hovering salespeople if they have anything in a wide width and you are directed to the shoe wasteland way at the other end. I don’t feel the need to disparage any of the brands in that area of the store since I own some. Generally speaking though, they are black. They are not in fun colors. They have low heels if any. They sometimes have Velcro. Sometimes these brands try to be cool. I appreciate that. I own some of these attempts.

 

If I am not being depressed at the mall shoe section, I can be found on Zappo’s where the wide width section is abundant. I even own a pretty comfortable pair of high heels (high for me) that is cute and came in a comfy width. Thing is that, I always feel like I am settling when it comes to shoes. I never get to select from the entirety of the selection. And yes, I know that folks with small feet have the same kind of problem and folks with bigger feet do as well. I acknowledge that I am not alone.

 

But there I was, this weekend, at the mall where the Fourth of July sales were in full swing. We walked through a major department store’s shoe section on our way out into the fray. I looked at some 15% off shoes and felt like they kind of fit and they were pretty reasonable. So after trolling through the mall, we headed back. I planted my significant other on a couch and headed out to pick out some shoes to try on. A very friendly local girl ended up chatting with me and she brought out the shoes I requested plus a couple of suggestions. I had told her of the wide problem. She confided back that she wore a size eleven.

 

While I waited for her to bring shoes to me, I happened to look up and (cue angelic music) saw a fabulous pair of shoes. They were a strappy green wedge. And on a whim, I tried them on. And shockingly, they fit. They did not only fit, they were comfortable. I was in love. It was a feeling that I never have with shoes. I buy shoes because I can’t wear my slippers to work. I buy shoes because they have to be black, or flat or, tan. Not because they are cute. Or because I like them. I was having a moment. And then there was the price. They were outside of my price point for shoes (which is in reality is around forty dollars) but I felt like I could not not buy them. I knew that if I didn’t, I would regret it. I would think about them and think about them until I finally went back to actually get them.

 

So I just did it. Bought the cute green strappy shoes along with a salesgirl recommended wacky, flat, oddly smelling pair of jelly shoes. And then at the register the cute-I-love-you-shoes rang up for sixty dollars, actually cheaper than the other pair. It was like winning the lottery. I wondered if the salesgirl had played me. Did she know that they were on sale? And then I decided that I did not even care. I had that shoe love moment, one that I never get to have. So the fact that it came on sale, was just a bonus. And I wore them as soon as I got home yesterday, while I did my housework.

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Running Through the Cloud

I often run during lunch at work. Everyone asks if it is too hot. Sometimes it is. Like yesterday. But most times it is fine. I like to get out. To get away from the office for a bit. When I am running my mind empties out. Sometimes a random song will pop into my head, out of nowhere. My own subconscious Pandora. A lot of times I get really good ideas when I am out running. Maybe there is something at work that needs to get done but I’m not sure how to go about it and then, while out running, I get the solution.

When I run, always go the same route. Most people who run at work tend to head down to the ocean. Maybe go in for a swim and then run back to the office. Running at Ala Moana is unappealing to me. That was where I ran right after I gave birth to my son. I was overweight. Clunky. Running was not fun. So I don’t like to run there anymore. Instead I run towards downtown and then up the big hill at Ward. If it wasn’t for that big hill my time would be killer but I have yet to be able to truly conquer it. Some days I feel like a runner but I never feel like kill that hill.

Part of my route takes me past the Honolulu Design Center. It is an architecturally interesting building that sells furniture which is generally out of my price range. It also houses a café, a restaurant and a wine bar. There are tables out front with umbrellas right off the street. For the past couple of days this week there has been an older gentleman sitting out front smoking a pipe. And each time, part of me wants to stop and sit down with him. Or near him. To smell that pipe smell.

When I was a child my great grandfather on my mother’s side of the family was a wizened old man who ultimately lived to be over 100. I remember him being short and bald with a prominent nose. His name was Earl. He purchased the house that my mother lives in now but back then it was only a summer house. It had no insulation and no heat. My grandmother would take him out there for the summer. I would sometimes stay with them. My great grandfather smoked a pipe. The smell of a pipe is nothing like cigarette smoke or the smell of a cigar. It is juicy and prominent with no hint of unhealthiness. I loved it as a child and I still do. I think that air fresheners should come in pipe scented smells. So there I am running and then out of the blue I run through this big pipe scented cloud of memories. I can see my great grandfather sitting on the chair in the house. I remember having to shout for him to hear. I remember that he slept on the bunk bed in what is now my sister’s room. And that he was always reading. And as quickly as this smell has stimulated these thoughts, they are gone. It is all so fast. And that is why I want to sit down next to the man with the pipe. Because running through the cloud is just not enough. I want to steep in it. Bask in it. Let it soak into my pores. To have more than a moment to live in the past when so much was still yet to be.

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