Thursday, September 30, 2010

Mirena: a healthy dose of skepticism

** Warning: this post may not be suitable for kids or men or the otherwise squeamish about menstrual cycles and women's reproductive organs. **

I saw my charming Ob/Gyn at Kaiser yesterday.  They're really good in that office - started stalking me to make an appointment when their emails and postcards failed to drive me to the phone or website to do it myself.  So finally, finally, a few months over-due, I went in for my pelvic exam.

While there -- everything's fine, by the way, so far (until the labs come back) -- my doctor asked me about my periods.  As a 47-year-old woman, am I experiencing any changes worth talking about?  When I said that yes, in some ways, I felt like the first few days were somewhat out of control, he happily recommended a little IUD that would take care of that for 5 years, at the end of which, given my age, periods would likely be a thing of the past, courtesy of menopause.

The little IUD, with the fuzzy, friendly, feel-good name of Mirena, releases a small amount of progesterone directly into the uterus, which generally thins the lining of the uterus, resulting in very light periods.  Which is the reason why my Ob was recommending it in the first place.  Instead of the first few heavy days, I would have very light days.

In fairness to Mirena, I have never been a fan of ingesting hormones.  An alternative to the IUD in my case would be taking low-dose birth control pills, but as I learned 20 years ago, my body responds to those with ocular migraines, in one case a total loss of vision for about 30 minutes.  Disconcerting and unpredictable, not the kind of thing you want when behind the wheel.  Beyond that, I just don't like the idea.  Makes me queasy.

Google "Mirena side-effects" like I did, and read about the crabbiness and mood swings, the acne and weight gain, the loss of interest in sex, the migraines.  No wonder it is effective birth control.  Honestly, if we can put a man on the moon, can we not invent a form of birth control that doesn't make a person so fat and bitchy that sex is out of the question anyway?  Oh, wait, we did: it's called vasectomy, the only way to fly.

I took the brochure my doctor handed me because his enthusiasm infected me a bit while I sat there in my paper top, open to the front, another paper drape over my legs.  Having read it though, I'm left with the same question I asked him in the office: But does it come with WiFi?  Because if it did, that alone might change my mind.

Without it, no way, not a chance.  I'll keep buying the tampons, thanks, and finding a way to celebrate the last throes of my menstrual cycle for as long as it lasts. I'll continue being surprised every month, by my body (really, this is how it is now?) and my mind (really, how did I manage to forget tampons again?).

For as long as it lasts, I'll deal with it.  Sorry, Mirena: no dice.

Friday, September 24, 2010

the box of screaming

I'm back at work after three mostly blissed-out days at the Anusara Grand Gathering.  They were mostly blissed-out only because I had to check work email morning and evening, to track some crucial time-sensitive matters.  I've been thinking a lot both about the timing of my absence (not the most optimal) and about how difficult it was to disentangle myself, pull myself free for just four days.  Four days, not long right?

Anyway, I'm stealing a few minutes from this work-day to repeat here the description I used when one of my colleagues asked me about my time off and whether I was able to enjoy it.

I might have enjoyed it more, I replied, if checking my work-email hadn't been like opening a box of screaming.

I tried to close the box as quickly as possible, to let out only the bare minimum of shrill hysterics, but even opening that box a crack still killed my buzz.  It couldn't have been more at odds with where I was Monday - Wednesday in mind, heart and body. Very telling, indeed.

I'm back here now, catching up and processing the contrast between the Grand Gathering -- how happy, engaged, and inspired I felt in class, with the kula, with my friends -- and the reality of this job.  It's extremely important for me to keep this feeling fresh, to stay with it, to use it as fuel for my intentions.

The box of screaming is awful and when I'm inside it all of the time, I think I forget how loud and distressing it is.  Opening it from a distance made it clearer, again, and I can still hear it, am still listening. 

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Absolutely stuffed, replete with goodness

As I drink my coffee this morning,  I can hear the elk bugling near our cabin.  That has been one of the highlights of this visit to the Anusara Grand Gathering, this daily communion with these gigantic beasts.  Once I get home and recharge the battery in my camera, I'll upload the video and photos.  Their sound is unreal, truly like nothing I could have imagined.  Last night as we three roommates stood around at our various points in a parking lot near our cabin where we actually had phone signal and could call our loved ones, the females of the herd came closer and closer.  A baby knelt to nurse from its mother.  We could hear the male scraping his great antlers against the trees.  RIGHT NOW as I wrote that last sentence, he just walked, stately, past the window of our cabin, antlers nearly as high as our roofline.

This entire experience has been mind-blowing in the same way.  Moments where I am transfixed by beauty, struck fairly dumb with the dazzlement of it all.  A lot of moments.

And so much fun.  Sharing a cabin has been so great, deepening my friendship with Robyn and Samin and having a place to hang out and talk about the events of the day.  Eating the mediocre food in the cafeteria has even been fun, meeting people, feeling this summer-camp feeling, getting ready to stroll to class with the Rockies and the sun in my eyes.  I really truly deeply madly whole-heartedly Love this practice of yoga.

Stay tuned: I'll be reviewing my notes, unpacking everything that I've learned in the coming days.  Right now I'm just trying to savor this purna, this feeling of complete fullness (full completeness?).  So, so good!

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

all of it, all the time, every time

Waiting for Master Class to start this morning, watching people walk in and lay out their mats and belongings, making their little spot for the next three hours.  I love this part.

Reviewing notes with Robyn and thinking about how the challenge of advanced yoga, really, is remembering to do everything, all the time, every time.  So it's not enough to do inner spiral in the back leg.  You have to remember outer spiral, you have think about the transitions, you have to maintain unwavering focus and intention all the time.  Every time.

All of it, all the time, every time.

That's a big commitment, right?  But it's also the joy of it, too, the big fun, the thing that makes it Big and important and interesting enough to keep coming back to.

Oh, how I love Nerdy Yoga Camp!

All of it, all the time, every time.

Monday, September 20, 2010

delicious morning quiet

I'm sitting outside this morning, 7:35 and we're still in shadow, though mountain peaks around us here at Estes Park, Colorado, are illuminated by sun.  It's quiet, as most people are in Meditation from 7 - 7:45.  Those of us misfit toys who skipped it in favor of breakfast are enjoying the lack of lines, the relative emptiness, a little calm before the bustle of the day.  This is absolutely the right kind of meditation for me, listening to the wind, cup of coffee at hand.  Nice.

We heard elk bugling last night, and I'm delighted by these magpies that are everywhere.

So far, so good.  Happy.  Didn't sleep many winks last night (first night in new bed, always challenging), but Happy to be here and ready for the delights of Day One!

Much love to all my yoga buddies who really, really should be here, too.  Next year people, let's make a point of traveling to this together.


Sunday, September 19, 2010

Continuing on the journey

I used to do this all the time, sit at an airport by myself and read, write, wait, back when I used to travel tons for work.  I forgot a little how much I love this, having this little self-contained life to roll on board with me: the essentials I can’t do without – laptop, book, phone, coffee, lipstick, scarf, money, music.  I love having my spot staked out, the power outlet in use, some time to sit with really nothing to do at all except just this.


I’m on my way to Colorado this morning, for the Anusara Yoga Grand Gathering.  I’ve never been to any yoga thing this big, and I’ve never been to Colorado, let alone the Rockies, so I’m so looking forward to it.  I already have the feeling I’ll need to go back to this place, next time with Joe.  It pains me not to have him with me. 

The daily schedule for Monday – Wednesday is amazing.

9-12                                  Master Class with John Friend

2:30-3:30         Philosophy with varying teachers – including Douglas Brooks

4:00 – 6:00      More Yoga with Sianna

Then after dinner, there’s other stuff, talks, kirtan, what-have-you.  I’ll probably skip most of that, and the morning meditation too, since I unfortunately do have to do some amount of work while I’m out there – check email, track some issues.  But at least I won’t be in the office.  That’s much-needed right now.

Mostly I feel like I’m going to camp, which makes this waiting feel distinctly different.  I’m also not the stressed-out traveler I used to be, and damn it, having wifi pretty much rules. 

And I’m continuing my yogic journey this year by heading to the Big Show, the big gathering at which 600 Anusara teachers and students are expected.  When I look back over the year, I am so aware of how much the yoga is helping me get clear about my direction and how much the yoga serves me in unfolding what’s next.  And feeling so grateful for all of the friends and fun it’s brought me.

More bulletins from the Mother Ship, wireless willing.


Friday, September 17, 2010

Pushing through, staying uncomfortable

Ever since I got back from Bali on August 1st, I've been alternately super-happy and super-sad.  I'm super-happy when I'm in class, when I'm with my friends, when I'm at school or in the woods or in the garden, basically always happy when doing the things I love.  But there have been long, long stretches -- Monday through Friday, basically, 9-5 -- when I have been seriously miserable, especially over the last three weeks.

This week has been particularly brutal as I get ready to be gone from work next week.  I'm stoked to be heading to the Anusara Grand Gathering in Estes Park (first time in Colorado, first time at such a big event!) but as usual, the week before going is so awful that I have, more than one time, seriously reconsidered taking off.

But I'm still going.

I started wondering when this started -- this pattern of the brutal lead-up week -- and how pervasive it is.  Does everyone go through this? I can only remember it at the present job, but that could be a product of handy selective amnesia.  I do know that it's been true consistently for four years with this job, that I wind up so beaten in the week-prior that I don't even want to go, that I wind up so beaten in the week-after that I forget I ever left.

I'm only going to miss 4 days, all right?  It's not like it's the end of the world.

So the hint of migraine I'm greeting with some recognition.  After all I've been in this spot a few times so I know what this is.  The absurd, overblown drama of the demands placed on me (almost punishing me for being gone, how could you), I am pushing through.  It all keeps me from complacency, keeps me from wavering from my purpose, that this, seriously, needs to change.  The good part is that it keeps me really clear.

OK, the bad part is that I cried on the way home yesterday, just so unhappy from the day, just so beat-up, so over it in so many ways.

The good part is that it keeps me really, really clear.

And whatever: I'm leaving Sunday morning for a big adventure in the Rockies with a huge group of Anusara yogis and yoginis.  That is going to be awesome.  So bring on whatever bullshit you have for me today, job.  My eye is on the prize.

* * * * *
Rumi says:

This being human is a guest house.
Every morning a new arrival.

A joy, a depression, a meanness,
some momentary awareness comes
as an unexpected visitor.

Welcome and entertain them all!
Even if they’re a crowd of sorrows,
who violently sweep your house
empty of its furniture,
still, treat each guest honorably.
He may be clearing you out
for some new delight.

The dark thought, the shame, the malice,
meet them at the door laughing,
and invite them in.

Be grateful for whoever comes,
because each has been sent
as a guide from beyond.

—translated by Coleman Barks

Saturday, September 11, 2010

The Endurance: Greatest story ever?

I just finished reading Shackleton's Stowaway and haven't been able to stop thinking about it since.  Some years ago I saw an excellent film on Shackleton's famed expedition to Antarctica aboard The Endurance, but I'd forgotten what an altogether excellent story it is, maybe the greatest story ever when it comes to human courage, leadership and brotherhood.

Shackleton's StowawayThe book is written for a younger audience, which means that it presents the story in a singularly accessible way, through the point of view of Perce Blackborow, the 18-year-old stowaway of the title.  Through him, the reader intimately experiences the highs and lows of their three-year adventure.  And for those who don't know the story, these are some serious, unthinkable lows.  

Towards the end, after months and years of challenge, six men set out in an open boat for rescue, leaving the other 22 camped on a bare strip of rock in the middle of Antarctica seas, huddled in makeshift shelter under two overturned lifeboats, worn out, frostbitten, hungry.  These six men, led by Shackleton, travel eight-hundred miles over 15 days in stormy waters, navigating by sight, in constant danger of capsizing, in search of South Georgia Island and rescue, constantly wet, frozen, bailing, without plastic, without Gore-tex to keep them dry, sleeping an hour or two at a time, and somehow make it to the island.    After a harrowing landing on the opposite side of the island from where they need to be (the boat wouldn't survive the journey) and a day's rest, three led by Shackleton head out across the island, without maps, with nails from the boat through the bottoms of their shoes as crampons, 36 straight hours over mountains to the whaling station.  And finally rescue.  But the story doesn't end there.  Nothing is easy, everything requires digging as deep as possible, deeper than you thought possible, to save every last man on crew.

Terrifying and exhilarating.  So much ingenuity, courage, steadfastness, heroism.  Such magnificence in each individual participant's performance in circumstances that would make the best of us curl up fetal and pray for helicopter-rescue.  And Shackleton, like a God, the best of humanity in his role as Captain.  In his own heroism, he brings out the hero in all of his men, and they make it against impossible odds.

Here's Perce himself, with Mrs Chippy, the Endurance's cat.  Imagine that he was all of eighteen years old when he stowed away on The Endurance, wondering at the time whether he would have the courage required for the voyage.  Little could he have imagined what he would live through, what he would ultimately survive.

Such a great story.  Really, for me, the greatest ever, just so inspiring.

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

the burden of memory

We're slogging through a bit of a memory-swamp lately, as we round the one-year anniversary of everything to do with Joe's lymphoma diagnosis and treatment.  It's bewildering to consider that it was a year ago -- in so many ways it feels like yesterday or last week.  On the other hand, I look at Joe, back to his same-same pre-cancer appearance, and I can't believe it ever happened.

The cancer-memory is always there, lingering nasty little ghost just beyond our ken, making its presence more felt now, a buzz of anxiety barely under the surface, making us sleepless and restless and a bit at odds with our surroundings.  Especially when the lights go off and we're left alone with it.

At the same time, it's been interesting to me how many reminders there are on television about 9/11, exhortations to never forget, invitations to re-live it.  Since the fucking cancer was our own personal 9/11, the destruction of all that we took for granted, all the 9/11 hoop-de-doo has been particularly grating on my nerves.

What if we just forgot?  Would we be better off?

I don't say this in any way to demean or discount the experience of everyone who suffered and suffers from the events of that day. I'm just wondering how it helps us to remember stuff all the time, to make personal or national holidays out of Chemo #1 or whatever other really bad shit has happened.

Jasper had cancer last year, too, and I wonder how he thinks about that experience, if at all.  He never knew he had cancer; we were the ones suffering from that knowledge.  He just watched us all make a huge fuss over him and wondered at the tears and extra treats, rode with us to Davis to the big animal hospital filled with even more simultaneously disturbing and enticing smells (they see big animals there, too, cows and horses), maybe remembers that we left him at that place for a few days and that when he woke up, maybe he remembers that his mouth felt funny and his legs didn't want to hold his weight.  And what was up with being in a cage for a couple of days?  But then we picked him up and it was back to the same routine, life at home, cozy, plenty of food, long walks, squirrels to chase.  My birthday can come and go and he doesn't know that that's the same day that he was diagnosed.  His own birthday can come and go and he's none the wiser or sadder.

It's great to be Homo sapiens but it's also such a pain in the ass to have this capacious brain and its capabilities and its memories.  I want desperately to be more Canis lupus familiaris, forget about the bad stuff and just open my eyes daily to a fresh start, unburdened by any sense of the past.

So, we're slogging, remembering but wishing we could forget, living with the ghost and wishing we didn't, accepting everything and wishing we could just excise that really, really scary, awful part and be exactly who we were before.  Of course, that's impossible, and who are we to reject this great gift of evolution, this manifested consciousness with all its glory and sometimes pain?

It's the big challenge, I suppose, this living with the burden of memory, not letting the past be who you are now.  The problem really is with "not letting the past be," our over-busy minds dredging it up, turning it over all the time.

I do think we'd be better off if we could, maybe not forget, but find a different way to remember, one not so fraught with fear and anxiety.  Slowly, slowly, we're finding solid ground ourselves, but until then, it's a little muddy on the way.

Monday, September 6, 2010

Country Mouse Monday

Today was another amazing country-weekend day.  So much to tell, but instead will just post photos and commentary, get it all up here faster.

First batch of apples in our new dehydrator.  So delicious and easy and did I mention Delicious?  I am looking forward to more of same, especially since the garden is just packed with ripening food and I know we won't be able to eat it all fresh.  How wonderful to be able to save some in this way, eat some summer sunshine in the middle of winter!  I read somewhere recently that we could reduce our carbon footprints so much by eating in season and preserving the rest to eat off-season, instead of shipping, trucking food from all over the planet.  Just doing my part!

uninhabited hives :(
Spent some time with the Ets-Hokin/Elson family this morning, enjoying coffee and breakfast delights while making beeswax candles.  It's been so sad for me to have empty hive boxes -- so nice to send the comb home with Rebecca and Ruby and be able to see it become something else, and something else beautiful at that!

rendered beeswax

lovely ruby
candles in local eggshells

More Country Mouse afternoon activities: turning the compost (Sunchips bag is *still* there though in smaller pieces), starting seeds, and photographing the food to come.  Such a sweet weekend!

Sunday, September 5, 2010

Amazing home-farm day

It's a gorgeous Sunday morning and I'm sitting here, basking in the glow of breakfast and the first cup of coffee and reflecting on how completely awesome Saturday was:

- Yoga, naturally, was  a blast, followed by about an hour at Cibo.  It's so great to have the additional time next door over Blue Bottle and breakfast, just extends the yoga buzz wider and deeper, sets such a firm happy foundation for the rest of the weekend.

the crew
- Lunch at home, with our lovely guests Peggy and Jim who came over to help us with building our new gate.  Following some delightful focaccia from Arizmendi (so good!), we got going on pulling down the old gate posts.  This is our third joint-project together this year, going to each other's house to help with an undertaking, a little quasi-urban barn-raising.  First they came to us in January and helped us remove all of the vines from our old fence -- no small feat, especially since Joe was at his weakest from the chemo.  Getting that project done lifted his spirits so much!  Then we installed a three-bin compost system at their house two weeks ago, which has revolutionized Peggy's whole life, I kid you not.  And then yesterday the gate.  So fun!  There's a lot more work to do yet, but the old posts are out and the new posts are set, so we're well on our way.
pulling down one of the old posts

peg and voila!
- Meanwhile, because digging holes was really a two-man job, Peggy and I picked all of the apples from one of our two trees, and started the long, chatty process of peeling, coring, slicing for the dehydrator.  Once that was filled, we prepped the rest for apple sauce.  Absolutely so much fun to sit in the shade in the garden operating our new apple peeling device, talking and laughing the whole way through, like a quilting bee.

- Then as if that weren't enough quasi-farm-y fun, Rebecca and Ruby came over and cleaned up our hive boxes, taking home many bags filled with gorgeous sheets of honeycomb. I'll have the great pleasure of going to their place on Monday to help pour candles.

- And finally, we ended the day having dinner at Trixie and Josh's house, where we ate and laughed and tried to name their baby boy, due in 3 months.  I am voting for Declan Sabundayo Frechette, at least for the moment.

Really, that was my favorite weekend day in such a long time: filled with people I adore and slow activities that revolve around food and garden.  I want more!