MORNING SPOILER

I usually workout on Monday mornings, sweating on the treadmill for twenty-five minutes.  This activity improves my mood, even if not my body.  I used to look forward to walking to the gym in our condo, looking at the moon and stars, and preparing to exercise.  I even felt virtuous.

But now everything, or at least something big has ruined my routine.  There are two televisions in the room, but when alone, I watch neither.  I prefer the solitude of my own thoughts and fantasies to old news about the latest local horror.

The etiquette of the gym follows the guidelines of the first person present sets the stage for whoever follows.  In other words, if the earliest  exerciser turns on the TV, it stays on even if the next resident wants silence.  So it goes for me now.

For many months, I had the gym to myself.  I felt a special serenity thinking I was awake and alert when the other people in the condo were sleeping.  What arrogance!  But, now, I face a rabid Fox when I open the gym door with my key card and see a man already there with the TV blaring.

He has the channel set to Fox News, which I abhor.  And which in recent times has become increasingly hostile to women and free, independent thinkers.  I am so tired of hearing the familiar, but unwelcome rhetoric of the hosts-men dressed for casual Friday, and women wearing clothes better suited to a cocktail party.

The Brett Kavanaugh saga has only intensified my misery.  I can no longer relax while walking the miles on the treadmill until I reach the welcome time when I am finished.

I can’t escape Fox-it fills the room, and I am a captive to their “fake” news.  I hate having to watch the channel, but there is no place to hide.  If I want to use the treadmill, I am a captive of the conservative channel.  It is none of my business, really, what the nice man chooses to watch, but I am angry nonetheless.

So, today, I skipped my workout, and soothed my frayed nerves and growing anger by eating a big chocolate-chip cookie at Barnes & Noble.  I needed to soothe my soul.  And it worked, and I am happy I missed the nasty news channel.

I guess I could buy ear plugs, but the sight of Fox would still be evident.  The answer for me is to tolerate what I despise and get on with my workout.

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HOPE CHEST

October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month.  On the first day of the month, the Today Show honored this occasion with almost non-stop attention paid to the disease and their efforts to support those coping with the illness.  Escaping the monthly tribute is impossible.

It would be difficult for me to forget the struggle anyway, as I am a brest cancer survivor.  In the fall of 1995, I had recently moved to Columbia, MD and was beginning a new chapter in the book of my life, when a routine mammogram showed calcification in my right breast.  The radiologist examining the film told me I could wait six months to follow-up on the finding.  Since, I was living in a new city, I had no familiar doctors.

But, my mother died of breast cancer, and I knew I had better attend to my problem rapidly.  So, I consulted a surgeon, recommended by my gynecologist, who performed a biopsy and informed me that, indeed, I had early-stage breast cancer.  When I asked him what the next step would be, he told me to go the library, conduct research, and tell him how to proceed.

I had been a health writer for The Baltimore Sun, and the physician assumed I could decide between a lumpectomy and a mastectomy.  The following days and the intervening weekend seemed to last forever.

My choice was an easy one, a mastectomy and reconstruction.  I didn’t tell anyone other than a therapist about my impending surgery before the fact.  I chose not to enlighten my father or sister with the news.  I am a rather private person, and don’t like much attention when events are good or bad.

The day of the surgery was fairly simple, as my boyfriend at the time accompanied me to the hospital and stayed by my side as long as possible.  Fortunately, the operation went well, and I was minus my right brest, but alive.

Recovery was rapid, and I invented my own form of physical therapy to regain strength in my right arm, where all the lymph nodes had been removed.  The plastic surgeon performing the reconstruction was excellent in proficiency and temperament.   I even looked forward to my monthly visits when he added saline to the tissue expander.  Too much information?  I apologize.

I think G-d played a part in my treatment and survival, as I was seamlessly led from one new doctor to the next.  I also occasionally bristle at the word”survivor.” Through luck and good medical care, I am alive all these years later, but don’t feel any more special than my Mom who didn’t make it.

I get scared each year, when the time arrives for my yearly mammogram.  This month is that time.  So, I will show up shaky and praying and try to be able to surrender to whatever the films show.  But it is a yearly struggle.

So, welcome October, and the constant reminders of the disease, and please G-d give me the strength to keep taking good care of myself.

TRUTH?

Yesterday morning, I met a man for coffee.  We had found each other online and arranged a short date.  I don’t have a full-length photo on my profile, just a part of my face.  Technologically a moron, I have no idea how to take or send pictures.

Anyway, I thought I looked pretty cute-flesh-colored tights, and a nice long lacy tunic. I also wore the new wine-colored boots I just bought at Macy’s.

We greeted each other and had Frappacinno’s and good conversation.  He was smart, so the talk was interesting.  I am not certain how I felt about him during our brief get-together.  He quickly told me how he felt about me.

He asked if I had always been overweight.  I was stunned.  I used to be skinny, and now have a more rounded shape-but not fat.  I felt obese when he posed the question.  Wasn’t it out-of-bounds for him to pose such a query? I experienced shame and humiliation at his question and began to doubt how I looked.  I hated him for asking such a strange question.

But, I didn’t cry or get up and storm out of the Starbucks, just quietly finished my cold drink.  I was still stunned that he lacked the courtesy to refrain from asking such a personal, bad-taste question.

On the way to our separate cars, he announced that he was not attracted to me and felt no romantic interest.  Another statement which could have been omitted, but was not.  No man has ever spoken to me the way this gent did, and I hope they never do.

Let me reiterate, I did not let his poor taste ruin my day.  I still like myself and the way I look, and  can only hope I never have a similar experience.

PHANTOM HOLIDAYS

Tomorrow, September 22 would be my mother’s birthday.  But she died in 1985, so there will be no celebration.  I will always remember the date as belonging to her.  She didn’t live long enough to grow old so I can’t picture her at the age she would be turning on the 22nd.   But Mom, I am thinking of you.

My father and sister have also passed away and their special days are September 6, and February 20.  I have more days crossed out than underlined.  I feel strange being the sole survivor of my family of origin.  I always figured my older sister would outlive me as she was much thinner, and in better shape externally.  But it was not to be.  She lived in Portugal, we had little contact, and I learned of her death online.  The disintegration of a sibling relationship.

What are we supposed to do with dates that once were significant, but are now just a number on the calendar.?  I got married on September 5, 1965, and divorced thirteen years later.  Now the date is just labor day or close to it.  He is married to someone else, and our wedding day holds no significance.  I remember it anyhow.

The funny thing is that I didn’t much like marking those dates with parties or celebratory lunches or dinners.  I like regular days better, when there is little to do other than laundry or grocery shopping, and expectations are non-existent.

I admit to even resenting the birthdays of my relatives as an obligatory time to be festive and attentive.  Maybe I am not as much of a giver as I pretend to be.  It is hard for me to share the spotlight.  Truth be told, I don’t much like my own birthday either, and the expectations that go with it.  I do love having my daughter call me as I trust her love and attention as authentic more than obligatory.

Fortunately, there is nobody special in my life to throw me a party.  As a little girl, I celebrated in the summer with outdoor picnics, but as I grew older, I was at camp for that special day in July,  so no big celebrations for Gloria.

My mother would certainly have loved knowing her great-grandchildren and seeing what a wonderful woman her granddaughter turned out to be.  During Mom’s lifetime, they had a special relationship.  Now, my daughter and I remember her with fond memories.

I won’t tell anyone tomorrow that it is my mother’s birthday-the statute of limitations has run on that occasion.  But I will know it and think of her.

NOW HE TELLS ME

OK, I admit that I am on a dating website.  Although family members object, and even my therapist tells me to be careful, I participate anyway.  I sort of like the idea of a little unknown territory into which I venture, and even a whiff of danger invigorates me.  I think I want to find a man, but sometimes I conclude that the slim odds of discovering Mr. Right online are part of the attraction.  I feel like I can play without skinning my knee.

I began corresponding with a guy recently, and he seemed to meet my desires.  Young-he was sixteen years my junior, cute, local with a Master’s Degree.  What could be bad I told myself?  We traded messages on the website and progressed to personal emails.

He was supremely attentive,  “talking” to me many times each day, and I responded gladly.  We are both adults and neither one of us will be nominated to the Supreme court, so our chats migrated into the erotic realm.  It is so easy to be brave online and tell strangers secrets we might never reveal even to close friends.

We shared fantasies and unmet needs like we were conversing about the weather.  No embarrassment entered our conversations, and the fact that we had yet to meet only heightened the mystery and desire.

I gave him my phone number and he promised to call today-9/18/18.  I was looking forward to hearing his voice and making plans to meet.  Too excited to sleep, I passed the dark hours of the night with heightened imaginings of what he would sound like and look like in person.

When morning arrived around 6:45 AM, I eagerly jumped out of bed and headed for my computer, awaiting his early greetings which usually started my days.  Happily, I saw two messages from him listed in my emails, along with ads from J Jill and LL Bean.  The clothes inside their missives didn’t tempt me as much as opening my secret lover’s words.

What a shock-he finally admitted that he was married and had no intention of changing his status.  He said he was tearing up my phone number.  Meek apologies followed, but I didn’t care.  A part of was relieved that the fantasy escaped being a reality.

I erased all his old emails and messages on the web site, ate some chocolate and felt fine.  Maybe what I am seeking is not a real man, but a make-believe mate.

 

 

Wrist Watch

I don’t own a scale.  Rather, I do own one, but it is stashed in a box in a junk closet in my kitchen.  I have no desire to know exactly how much weight I have gained recently, and coming face to face with the new number is not what I seek.

However, I do have a way of determining whether I have added pounds that has no relation to a scale.  I wrap the thumb and middle finger on my left hand around my right wrist.  If the digits touch, I am OK, but if not, I conclude that new pounds have appeared.

I grew up in a weight-obsessed family.  My mother weighed herself everyday and wrote the number in her appointment book.  On her death-bed, she said her two biggest regrets in life were her obsessions with her hair(she kept it blonde and straight,) and her weight(she kept it at a very low-level).  For better or worse, I did not inherit her focus on the number on the scale.

I was a chubby young child, and I remember hearing my mother tell the cook, “No potatoes for Gloria.”  But when I began playing tennis at age eight, I became thin and remained that way for decades.  I was able to eat whatever I wanted and remain lean.  Ah, those were the days.

Only when I grew much older(I will omit my age) did food begin to attach itself to my once-trim frame.  Suddenly, my friend chocolate became an unwelcome, but oft present guest in my kitchen.  And late-night snacks which kept me company were all-too present on my thighs the following morning.  Even my time on the treadmill does not erase the excess weight.  But maybe I would look worse if I omitted the exercise.

I am not fat, but my clothes feel tight and don’t look as good on me as they used to.  For some reason, I am not thrilled with new roll in my stomach, but I am not obsessed with losing it, either.

Perhaps, growing older has granted me the gift of acceptance-of myself and others.  I like liking myself regardless of my wrist measurements, and still eat sweets which I adore.  I figure that I have lived this long with few bumps in the physical road, and the rest of my life is up to me to handle within reason, and the grace of G-d.

WET

I like to take baths.  Submerging  myself in the hot water feels like floating and takes me away from my real-life surroundings.  I lean all the way back and let my hair go beneath the surface of the water as I lose myself in the warm wetness.  I add hot water as the current temperature cools and maintain a steady heat that is both relaxing and invigorating.

Showers feel like work to me.  I have to stand up the whole time and make the effort to wash my body while holding the soap securely in my hand.  No losing awareness of my surroundings or I may fall, and stretching to reach the body parts takes conscious awareness.  The whole endeavor is neither relaxing, nor pleasurable.  So, I opt for baths most mornings.

When I emerge from my bath, I grip the safety bars that my daughter thoughtfully had installed around the tub.  I experience serenity and a quiet calm as I don the white terry-cloth robe waiting for me on the floor.  It is almost like I have been beneath the surface of the water enough to feel like a fish might feel.

The only problem with being a bath person is that I have to clean the tub.  Or should I say, I need  to clean it more often than I do.  I struggle with bending over to reach the far away side, and have had little success scrubbing the dead skin cells and dirt from the porcelain surface.  Only Mr. Clean’s new Magic Eraser embedded with soap does the job.

As I am finishing toiling on the treadmill in the early morning darkness outside the condo gym’s windows, I begin to look forward to shedding my sweaty clothes and settling into a bath.  A sweet reward.