Adventure, Part 2

me and Lo

Last month my theme was adventure. Could I have an adventure a day? 

Overall, I pushed my boundaries a bit, dared myself a bit. I wouldn’t say Whooohooo! that was the most adventurous month of my life! Instead, it was a gentle push to spend some time in the unknown. Well, I pushed gently. The universe slammed me. 

In running I sought adventure, for instance, by challenging myself to run further than ever before. One week in June I ran 38 miles, which isn’t a ton for many dedicated runners but it was a first for me. 

I sought out new trails. On a long run, I headed down a path I hadn’t gone before. I let myself get lost, knowing that eventually I would figure out where I was. 

I sought out new people to run with. I contacted people I hadn’t met yet but who are part of a group with which I’m affiliated (the Oiselle team of runners in Albuquerque), and set up a walk or run. I went running in the foothills at dusk - so powerful! so fun! How had I not done that before? 

In Nia, I chose to create choreography on the fly, which is always a bit nerve-wracking and a challenge. That’s where experience meets adventure. The more experience we have, the more we know, the better we can set off on an adventure into the unknown. We’ve got tools we’ve developed over time and we have knowledge to tap into. Knowing stuff helps us when we get to the place where we don’t know stuff. 

I also started wearing shorts to Nia like it was no big deal. It is a big deal. I feel exposed and even transgressive. One website for grandparents warns us about Fashion Over 50, “No matter how good your legs are, no mini for Mimi!  An inch or so above the knee if you have great legs. But nothing shorter.” FabOverFifty concurs that our shorts should come just above our knees, not higher. 

To teach Nia on an especially hot day, I wore shorts and someone told me my legs looked strong. Here’s another adventure: I accepted the compliment without deflecting. I know. I didn’t even deflect in my mind. I didn’t explain my thighs were “too big.” My legs are my legs. 

Then when we had a guest instructor, I wore booty-freaking-shorts to class. Tiny shorts for my tiny ass. I SURVIVED. No one cared. The universe did not suffer a traumatic event.

I had another adventure in Nia last month, and I would have forgotten about it if I hadn’t written it down. My adventure in Nia was to find out what I can do to heal. 

My digestion has been challenged this past year, and I finally went to a gastroenterologist who scoped me at both ends (endoscopy and colonoscopy) plus ran blood and stool tests. He found inflammation in my throat and gut but nothing else. He didn’t find any causes so I’m chalking it up to age and the post-menopause change in hormones. It was good to rule out dangerous stuff that requires medical intervention but it left me with the question of what to do to heal.

Y’all think I’m just up there teaching step here, step there, cha cha cha. There’s that, and that’s most of the time. On this day, I brought with me a desire to hear from my body and unconscious through the dance. 

I needed to start the journey to healing by going beyond what the medical doctor could give me. I was going to dig into my history and I was going to engage the fear and sorrow of the child who could not speak. The routine Mystere is choreographed to music by Cirque du Soleil. It’s moody and lyrical and even epic at times. I started class and let myself go. 

First, I felt the sorrow of having berated myself all day that day. How unkind I’d been to myself, how unforgiving and harsh. When I extend that energy to myself, I extend it to my family, too. Judgmental, unsatisfied, and worried. 

Then I allowed myself to hum and sing, to make some noise. I allowed myself to picture this: me at 4 years old - but also not - you know, in that dreamlike way —and I was somehow able to say: get out! get out of my mouth! get out! I am teaching class, leading choreography, and holding this healing vision, and almost-not-quite crying, all at once. The lump in my throat dissipated. 

I know my digestion issues are physical. Real. The doctor can look and say, yes, gastritis, esophagitis, inflammation. I didn’t create those out of trauma. But maybe they resist healing, just a little bit, because these spaces are infected with a trauma that I couldn’t describe, couldn’t explain, couldn’t fathom at the time. 

The doctor I see for acupuncture says the lump in my throat is called plum pit, which “refers to a subjective feeling of something stuck in the throat which can neither be swallowed down nor spit up” (link). It’s energy that’s stuck. I have thought that the transition from a menstruating woman to a post-menopausal woman is difficult in part because we no longer have monthly flow. We don’t have that cycle of hormones. We don’t have blood that waits and then is released. How might our energy change when we don’t flow our blood? 

I work out hard. I like the feeling of my heart pounding. I like the feeling of sweat. I like when my breath changes, somewhere around 20 minutes into a run or ElliptiGo ride, and I’m breathing hard and relaxed. My nervous system settles in. I look at the sky. I feel grateful. Everything changes. 

This is my flow - running, riding, dancing, breathing. Still, it has not been enough. I’ve grown impatient. I eat well and move well and do my best to rest well. I take the Chinese herbs and return to acupuncture each week. In the past, that’s been enough to bring me to greater health, but I remained stuck.

I spent hours on the internet, researching, to see what I might be missing. I consulted the Tarot, and then again, and then again. I focused on my solar plexus. I listened to my healing meditations and took deep breaths before eating so I could eat in a relaxed state. I would be patient. I would eat more slowly.

I began to feel sorry for myself, which is the opposite of adventure. I was working this physically, mentally, emotionally, and spiritually, and my digestion was stagnant and the lump in the throat remained. Wah, wah, poor me. Poor impatient me.

I tried to focus on the positive. I was getting enough to eat and loving everything I ate, gorgeous organic veggies from the farmers’ markets and fresh chicken and duck eggs from our neighbor. Yet I began to get a bit depressed, which pissed me off because it’s summer and I’m on break from my work at CNM, which is about as awesome as it gets. 

Recently, a session of visceral manipulation with a focus on my vagus nerve seemed to help the most. Oh, man, I love when getting the right support is what shifts things for me. This is important: I was ready for the support. I’d done the prep work. That part is all me.  

It may be a slow process of doing everything I can and waiting for the change. This is a challenge. I have to trust that what I’m doing is enough and listen in case there is something more I need to do. I have to wait in that unknown space. Do and wait. Act and wait.  

The big unknown, the biggest of all, came at the end of the month as my old dog Lola got sicker and sicker.  Some part of me knew this was coming, yet I held out the hope that this was a sickness from which she might recover. 

I compelled her to drink water. I stuffed medicine down her throat. I fed her tiny bits of food from my hand until she refused even her favorites. I sat with her, sometimes petting her and sometimes just sitting on the floor near her while I worked on my laptop.

This dying is hard stuff. I thought of my sister dying and my father. How does it feel to lay there in pain and know it’s not going to get better? Or to fear it will get worse? How long will it take to lay there, clinging to life while life gets more difficult with each breath? My fears of death and dying clawed at me while I cared for Lola. Could I help her heal or was it better to help her let go? 

Was I doing enough for her? On some level, I felt the guilt of not being able to save her. My rational mind knows: She was old and dying; I can’t save her from death. I couldn’t save my sister. That hasn’t stopped me from feeling as if I have failed. I am not enough. I am not worthy. 

A round of antibiotics had her feeling and walking a bit better, and she tried going up and then down the stairs in our house. That was it. She stumbled down, and her health and energy rapidly declined from that point. Two days later, I was sure she wasn’t going to recover. Another two days later, it was clear to the whole family that she was at the end. We made an appointment for her to receive an injection to end her life, and it was the right choice and right time. We were all with her, and I like to think that mattered to her. It certainly mattered to us.

I had already been crying hard for a few days. I wailed when the vet told us she was gone. I sobbed when we threw dirt on her in her grave. I woke up the next morning just as bereft and even more lonely. I exhausted myself with grief. 

About 24 hours after her death, I declared it was time to take a break from this grief. I went into the back room and lifted weights, and my son was there to coach me again on form. I felt stronger. Life went on. I am still crying but I’m not sobbing. I still hurt but I don’t feel overwhelmed by the hurt. I’m not done grieving my loss. Im done being under water in it.

Some of the guilt has dried up with those tears. I may have cried some of that out. I did what I could do for her, and I did what I could do for my sister.

At some point, I stopped feeling guilty about my first dog, Tasmin. She was my buddy and my spiritual guide. She helped me grow up. Then I got married and had kids, and Tasmin didn’t get much of my time and attention. I wasn’t in town when she died. I felt terribly guilty that I hadn’t done a better job of caring for her at the end of her life. I really hadn’t. Still, over time, the grief and guilt faded. I don’t miss her, though I think of her with lots of love. 

Some day, I won’t cry about Lola. I won’t miss her except maybe a little. That’s how life is. I still cry about my sister, but not often, and I don’t know if I miss her much. Yes, I just wrote that. She’s been gone so long. That’s scary, too, isn’t it? How we fade. How it’s okay that we’re gone. We’ll be mourned and cried over, then the tears slow down, and eventually there’s just a warm thread of love and gratitude for the one that’s gone. When all of us who knew my sister are also dead and gone, that’s the last thread. 

That’s how it will be for me, and that’s how it will be for you. We’re here, we’re connected, we’re gone, we dissipate. 

I’m not okay with that yet. I’m not okay with diminishing. I am still reveling in moving my body with fierceness and joy. I am still invested in adventure.

I need more days without adventure, too, it seems. I need to work less. I need to do lots of things more slowly or with more gentleness. Eat more slowly, have sex more slowly, heal more slowly (and with lots more help). I am discovering who I am at 53, post-menopausal with adult children, and the changes, the differences, sometimes feel huge. Sometimes, they feel great, too. 

There’s a sweetness in remembering our past and wanting that again. The memory is sweet. To have loved that moment or person or place or time so much that we ache for it, that’s sweet. 

At 53, I’m certainly more than halfway through my life. I hope to be kicking ass in my 90s, but that seems a pretty reasonable end point. I’ve done already the major stuff— grew up, got educated, married, raised a family. That means a whole lot of years left to explore life outside of my career and outside of the responsibilities of mothering. There are decades ahead of an undefined life. 

It’s been a helluva month. I have to remember that we get what we ask for, and I need to be especially ready if I call for adventure.