The old normal, part 6

Before COVID, I spent a lot of time at the gym. I don’t even have a gym membership anymore. How things have changed.

Back in the day, I used to go to the gym three times a week for at least an hour. In the summer, I would run the streets. I did countless marathons, a half Iron, and a 50k. When I first started blogging I wrote about training for my first marathon after reading a marathon training book written by a blogger. At the time I thought I could run a marathon and I could write on a blog, and I did. I even have running in the title of my blog. Over time this blog has morphed into something more than that.

I always thought I would be a runner. I didn’t often see a lot of older runners competing in races, but when I did I thought to myself that will be me someday. Running helped me burn off a lot of my anxiety and stress. I worried a lot about becoming injured because I didn’t think I would be sane without running. I know I have posted before if I couldn’t run someone would need to check on me because I would not be okay.

Then the world changed. When COVID hit my gym closed and all the races I was planning on running got cancelled. Not long after that, I had a 10 day bout of colitis that knocked me off my feet. A month later it was hard for me just to put the laundry from the washer into the dryer. I thought I would never be able to run again. I was able to but I lost most of what was left of my endurance. Then I started to experience joint pain which made it all but impossible to run without being in pain.

I’m not sure what is wrong. It could be a number of things or it could be nothing at all. I have an appointment scheduled with a specialist in May. My doctor thought the joint pain could be related to colitis. I recently read stress and trauma can cause inflammation like I have. Or maybe I overused my joints by all my long distance running. I also saw it could be a symptom of perimenopause. Or maybe I’m getting arthritis like some of my other relatives did. I started noticing bumps on the knuckles of my fingers. But until I see the doctor I’m just guessing.

I started doing low impact workouts but I find them to be frustrating because it doesn’t feel as if I am doing anything. I had to take a step back because I just couldn’t do it anymore. I miss running, I really do but I don’t feel like I will not be okay without it anymore. I don’t need to beat the hell out of my body anymore. But I don’t want to do nothing either. I’ve gained some weight. But is it realistic to think I’ll always be able to keep a youthful figure as I age?

Sometimes now I run into people from my running days. I’ve been asked what race I am training for. It’s hard to admit I am much more of a walker now. For 15 years I identified as a runner. Now it’s just another area of my life I don’t know who I am anymore. But one thing I can say for sure, I can live without running. I am okay. I never thought I would be saying that. Now it’s time for something new. I’m just not sure what that is yet.

The old normal, part 1

I’ve experienced a lot a change in the last 5 years. It started with the death of my mother-in-law from cancer back in February of 2017. We went through a period of grief and loss.

Within the last 5 years we went from having three (up to four with the foreign exchange students) teenagers living in our house to being empty nesters last month.

Paul and I went from running a business to selling our business that I worked at for 10 years and he for 20. For a period of time, we were retired. Then Paul started a seasonal business. He also started a new career different from both businesses. So there were several career and job changes within the last 5 years.

With the selling of our business, we experienced a socioeconomic change. We moved into a different house in a different town. Our youngest daughter changed schools. We are attending the third church within five years. New house, new neighborhood, new school, new church.

I went from being a marathon runner to not running at all. I was diagnosed with colitis and started developing health issues. I started to notice aging more than I’ve ever experienced it before in my adult life going from my early 40’s to my late 40’s. My siblings started to develop health issues.

I found out about the crime my dad committed. It tore up my family. Then COVID came into play and tore up whatever family unity was left. My dad will be 75 in a couple weeks and it kills me that our relationship never amounted to anything. Most of my family went from tolerating him to despising him. My mom is teeter tottering back and forth between leaving my dad and staying. She moved in with us for awhile. She is experiencing a tremendous amount of anxiety.

It’s been two years today since my youngest daughter tried to kill herself for the first time. That has been a huge struggle and change in my life, having a daughter go from quirky to being so mentally ill she might die.

Then there are the other little changes, but changes nonetheless. Losing a family pet. Buying a new car after my old car got totaled. Not to mention a global pandemic that changed everyone’s life.

I am struggling with all the change. The new me doesn’t even recognize the old me anymore. What happens now?

What happens when the pandemic ends? Do we pick up the pieces where we left off and start a new old normal?

Fortune cookie wisdom #47

The will to do, the soul to dare is yours for the taking if you prepare.

I always thought I was really good at planning and preparing for the will to do and the soul to dare. But now I think it takes much more than that.

I was planning on touring Europe. I had prepared for the trip. I had a passport. I had my airline tickets. I was ready to check that continent off my bucket list. Then COVID hit and all the preparations were for naught.

I was planning on signing up for another 50k. I picked the race I wanted to do. I was really excited because part of the course included a water crossing. I was training. I was prepared. But then COVID hit. The race was cancelled. My gym that I visited three times a week over the winter for years closed. I got hit hard ten days with colitis and haven’t been the same since. I can’t run anymore without being in a lot of pain. I couldn’t even help my daughter paint her house without having joint pain. I wasn’t prepared for that.

There is a part of me that thought my kids would stay young forever. Through many sleepless nights, I thought that. I thought that through the temper tantrums, the busy school age running, and through the tumultuous teenage years. I didn’t think about them growing up and leaving home. Somehow I found myself not prepared for that part of parenting. A part of me doesn’t even know who I am anymore since that part of me is gone.

I wasn’t prepared for aging. It’s shocking to see my hair turn gray without any hair color. My neck is starting to look like the neck of a rubber chicken. Now when I look in the mirror, I see my mother. I look like a granny; too young to crack out the cardinal sweaters but too old to dress like I am in my 30’s. I had to break down and buy bigger pants since I haven’t been able to workout like I used to. I always thought those things happened to other people, not me. I am close to 50. Why wasn’t I prepared for this?

Sometimes it’s very hard to take a good look in the mirror. I don’t want to admit my best years in health and in looks are behind me. There is not a damn thing any of us can do about it. I do feel childish in feeling insecure about it. Sometimes I don’t even know who I am anymore. I have all these crazy middle age female hormones coursing through my body making me feel like an adolescent again, but I’m not. Doesn’t seem fair. But, that’s life. Sometimes I just have to laugh it off and say oh well. I’m right where I need to be.

Ready or not, here life comes…some things you just can’t prepare for even if you have the will and soul.

Fortune cookie wisdom #22

“They fail, and they alone, who have not striven.”

I wanted to let you know I pick these fortune cookies randomly from a huge pile of my favorite fortune cookies collected over the past 2 years. I say this because today’s is very similar to the one I shared yesterday. After I share them with you I recycle them. I hope fortune cookies don’t become a thing of the past as I received a comment from my blogging friend LA saying they no longer give out fortune cookies at restaurants in NYC.

I absolutely love this fortune. It basically tells us we are successful if we try. I don’t need to have a million followers to enjoy blogging and telling my story. I don’t have to write a bestselling book although that would be quite the achievement. I can only fail if I don’t try. It’s really a great way to look at things.

This morning I went out for a run. I typically go four miles three times a week. Half of it I walk and half I run. You might think that’s amazing for someone of my age (47). I do not. I spent almost the whole time thinking about running and what my goals are. Honestly I am thinking about quitting or seriously cutting back after the race at the end of the month.

I have been running for the past 15 years. I think the first race I did was a 10k. I really can’t remember. I wish I kept track and wrote things down but I wasn’t writing anything at all at that time of my life. I got pretty good at running. It was nothing for me to run 10 miles without stopping. I could finish all races up to a half marathon in the top 10% of my age group. It wasn’t unusual for me to place in small town races. I devoted a lot of my time to running to get that good. I was well known on the neighborhood streets and the gym.

But that wasn’t enough, I wanted more. It made me feel alive. It was exciting. Exercise is a great way to burn off anxiety and a wonderfully healthy coping mechanism. I started doing marathons and did a 50k. I thought maybe I would qualify for the Boston marathon but I could never manage running the whole race. But that was okay, I just enjoyed the challenge.

Over a period of almost 10 years I worked my way up to running a marathon. It took a tremendous amount of dedication. It involved waking up early on Saturday mornings. Long lunch breaks. Running long boring miles on a treadmill. Getting caught in storms. Almost getting hit by cars. Getting attacked by dogs, bugs, and birds. Feeling afraid in secluded places. City streets. Remote trails. Getting injured, blistered, and chafed. Having to go to the bathroom really bad when there wasn’t one in sight. Wearing out expensive running shoes. Sweating. Freezing. Running friends. The endless search for upbeat playlists. Trying to beat my time. Travelling. Planning around weather. Competing. I loved it all until I didn’t anymore.

Then the pandemic hit. The 50k race I was planning to compete in got cancelled. My gym closed. Cold wintry weather. But the worst thing that happened was having colitis. I was incredibly sick for 10 days. I was so weak for a month after I could barely even walk. I had a hard time putting the clothes from the wash machine into the dryer without feeling exhausted. It was in that sweeping moment that I lost everything I painstakingly built over the previous ten plus years. I lost almost all of my stamina and endurance. I never was able to get it back which frustrated me. Running just reminds me of what I once had.

Now I have to face that my run might be over. My best days are behind me. Sometimes it’s hard to let go of the old and let something new begin. Part of me feels like a failure for giving up. But I am probably the only one that feels this way about me. I’ve always wanted to keep active my whole life. I achieved that goal. Now might be a great time to try other things I’m interested in like yoga or martial arts. When all else fails I’ll probably be the old lady that walks around the block a few times…

I can only fail if I don’t try, right??

Gratitude week 66

  1. It’s Easter! I’m grateful for the resurrection of the Lord.
  2. I’m thankful for friends we can celebrate the day with along with two of our kids.
  3. I’m thankful that Arabella is starting to do well in residential.
  4. I’m grateful that March is over and we are one step closer to summer.
  5. I’m grateful for beautiful weather this weekend. Yesterday I went for a run for the first time in a long time. This means a lot because I never thought my life would be like this. Before the pandemic, I went to the gym three times a week for intense workouts. Then the gym closed once the pandemic started. My routine that I thought I couldn’t live without abruptly changed. It’s been a year since I’ve had colitis. I was so weak for a month afterwards that I thought I would never run again. So, I’m grateful for good health, to be up and running again, and to know I can survive just fine without it.
  6. In some ways, I’m grateful I learned new things about myself during the pandemic. I also examined what I want to keep in my life and what I want to leave behind.
  7. I’m getting my first tattoo this week. I’m grateful that so far I am not letting fear stop me from something that I’ve always wanted to do. I am very nervous about it, but I think I can do it.
  8. I’m grateful that no one fooled me on April Fools Day. Honestly, I don’t think I could handle the stress of more (even if it is fake) bad news. I’ve gotten to the point where I no longer want to play pranks on people either. I don’t know if it’s a sign of me being too serious now or if I am just getting old.
  9. I’m grateful to be able to write this post sitting outside in the warm sun.
  10. I’m grateful we were able to take Angel out to eat for sushi for her achievements earlier this week. We were able to spend a lot of time with her this week and she went to church with us this morning.

The revised new normal (3rd edition)

When the pandemic started, I had four teenagers living in my house.

Clara was the first to go. She went back home to Germany in April. Right after she left, I had colitis for 10 days. I thought I was going to die. It was not a good time.

My son Alex turned 20 in June. Part of the reason we decided to have a foreign exchange student was because my older two children were going to move out. Alex was pretty adamant that he was moving out right after graduation, but that didn’t quite happen. The day my daughter Angel moved out, the foreign exchange coordinator called asking if we would take another student. Talk about hitting me up on an empty nest day! We ended up hosting two students.

Alex, and his friends, didn’t interact with the foreign exchange students much at all. I was okay with that, really. Estelle was interested in a couple of my son’s friends, but they respectfully kept their distance. I guess I am thankful I didn’t have to deal with that. It’s been an issue before. When Dan started dating Angel, he was friends with Alex. That created some conflict. One of Arabella’s friends is also dating one of Alex’s friends. I suppose it’s bound to happen with kids close in age.

Estelle left on July 3rd, a couple weeks after her originally scheduled date. Arabella and Estelle never made up. Angel came home to say good-bye. I think she was worried about me because it seemed as if I was losing all my kids. I tried to keep busy.

Arabella gradually stopped staying at home as much. She pretty much moved in with Jordan’s family. I wasn’t happy about it and wondered if she was in a relationship with Jordan. We tried to move on without our foreign exchange students and her. Arabella spent the 4th of July with Jordan’s family although we invited her to come sailing with us. Paul, Angel, Dan, Alex, and I spent the 4th sailing and swimming. We didn’t go up north as was our tradition because my dad was there. We planned to watch fireworks from the boat that night. But even that was disastrous. After the second firework, the guy that was lighting them blew off his arm and had to be airlifted. Sirens blared and our spirits dropped.

The next weekend was my birthday which I celebrated with Paul, Angel, Dan, and Alex. Once again, Arabella didn’t join us. Jordan’s mom was celebrating her birthday too. Arabella went away for the weekend with their family. On my birthday she sent me a text that said happy birthday right before I went to bed. I didn’t get any gifts or card from her. The happy in happy birthday wasn’t even capitalized. There weren’t any exclamation points or cute emojis. I got the picture, I was just an afterthought. Jordan’s mom was hot stuff coolest mom of the year. I couldn’t help but feel hurt.

Life went on. The new normal became the new new normal revised. Clara left. Estelle left. Angel went back to her apartment hours away. Alex went back to living his own life apart from us under our roof. Paul started his new seasonal business. Arabella was pretty much gone. And I was left alone. In some ways, it was incredibly freeing. COVID cancelled all my plans and I no longer had to take care of 4 teenagers. I didn’t know what to do with the change. But I tried to keep busy.

Gratitude week 60

  1. I’m grateful that the arctic blast (two weeks of subzero temps) is now over!!!!
  2. With all the snow on the ground and the departure of the bitterly cold weather, I am able to exercise outside. I went snowshoeing this morning and am planning on going cross country skiing later this week. This is the first time I have been out this season.
  3. I’m grateful that my daughter’s frogs should be able to eat crickets now that it is warmer out. With the snowstorms and cold weather, the shipments for crickets has been severely delayed or the crickets arrive dead. After my daughter’s pets went a whole week without eating because we couldn’t find crickets anywhere, my husband bought some fishing worms for them so they didn’t starve. Yeah again for warmer weather!!
  4. My appointment with the wellness nurse went very well this past week. I graduated!! Yeah, I only need to go in once a year now. I went from having acid reflux, colitis, multiple parasites, SIBO, and over 20 food allergies to being back to a state of good health. Today the clinic called and asked if I would be willing to give a testimonial. I told them absolutely!
  5. I had lunch with my friend Jen this past week. I was kind of embarrassed though because I always order the same thing and the waitress joked with me that she didn’t even need to bring a menu because that’s what I always order. So much for being a wallflower!
  6. Paul and I went to our sailing club cruise planning meeting. Nothing feels better than getting out my calendar and scheduling the summer. We have some fun trips planned and are planning on crossing Lake Michigan for the first time in our sailboat.
  7. My daughter Angel and I spent the day together on Saturday. We went out to eat and had pizza at a restaurant that offers gluten and dairy free options. The pizza I chose was absolutely amazing. Afterwards we had vegan ice cream, again it was amazing. Then we spent the rest of the day thrift shopping. My big find was a murder mystery game that I haven’t played before. Once things settle down I’ll have to host a murder. I’ll also have to find a tape player as some of the clues are on cassette tape.
  8. My mom got her second COVID shot this past week. We have plans to visit the spa in a couple days. It will be nice to be able to visit with her again. Hopefully a lot of her fears will be put to rest.
  9. I just finished a wonderful book call The Daughter. I’m grateful to find a new author that I like. There is a quote from the book that I want to post later this week that I thought was profound.
  10. I am grateful for the opportunity to document my life mainly through writing but also through photography. I’m excited about starting the series regarding having a teenager with mental health struggles. Talking about my dad and now my daughter has been very challenging for me. But I know how beneficial writing has been in my healing journey and I am hoping that by doing so I can reach others who are also struggling with similar circumstances.

The downside of working

Working for the census was downright difficult at times. It wasn’t just the cases themselves. Although I will not downplay the fear of dealing with my anxiety. I did find myself in some really dangerous situations at times. Just doing the job during COVID was scary enough. I had to face the fear of things I could and couldn’t see such as the risk of getting sick. The uncertainty was difficult. I never knew what I was going to be dealing with on a day to day basis.

While I was working, my mom didn’t really want anything to do with me. She viewed me as high risk to getting her sick. My mom is a hypochondriac. Not that I didn’t understand her concerns. But it was still difficult and painful. She is living her last years in utter terror of leaving her house. She will stop by with her mask and sunglasses on wearing gloves or with hands full of handwipes. She won’t even pet my dog because someone infected might have touched him. She is battling crippling anxiety and insomnia. It is difficult.

The night before I had my census training, my husband and I admitted our daughter to the psychiatric hospital for the first time. It was stressful because I knew I couldn’t be there when she got home because I had to work. That is really when I let things start to slide. I allowed Arabella to stay at her friend’s house more than I would’ve liked because I felt she was safer there than home alone.

My husband was working his seasonal business that he started. At times he was gone for several days in a row. We couldn’t deal with a suicidal child at home when we were both working. Then later we struggled to get her back home.

I felt like I needed to work because the investments we were banking on to start our new business didn’t come through with COVID. We were planning on taking a small trip for our anniversary in the middle of summer, but I had to choose between the trip or doing the training for the job. Plus with our daughter, a week of sailing turned to a day or two on the boat. It was just another thing cancelled because of COVID.

I had to deal with a lot of things I was afraid of. I had to interview people in dangerous neighborhoods. Then there were dogs. Some days I had to drive for several hours. I’ve always been a nervous driver and had to face that fear. Again, not to mention COVID when I could hear people coughing. At times I felt like I was putting my life on the line.

As a census worker dealing with colitis, I was fearful when I couldn’t find a bathroom. When I was out in the middle of nowhere a lot of park or public restrooms were closed due to COVID. It was a real nightmare at times.

I had to get over the anxiety of talking to people I didn’t know. I had to overcome this fear of being out of my comfort zone by myself. It was also very intimidating doing things I’ve never done before such as purchasing a ticket for the car ferry. With every adventure comes a little apprehension.

In all of that, I still had to find the energy to go to the grocery store, cook, clean the house, and get the laundry done. It’s a big adjustment to go from not working to working 40+ hours a week.

I have to say though that it was a wonderful experience. I did earn a fair wage for the work I did. My supervisor was awesome along with all the other census workers I ran into along the way. I’m sad I didn’t have the time to write about this while it was happening, but I knew there would be later. Now.

Gratitude week 38

  1. It’s been one of those weeks and I’m glad it is over. Nothing major, but sometimes it’s the little things. My son got his exhaust fixed on his car and a few days later the exhaust is loud again and a headlight burnt out. But I’m thankful that all my kids have vehicles that for the most part work so I don’t have to take them to work or school.
  2. Honestly, I’m grateful that the census job is almost over. It’s been stressful lately. I’ve been going to rough neighborhoods that I have been having difficulty closing cases in. Yesterday as I was walking through a neighborhood a man yelled at me to leave. I’ve been feeling quite anxious lately and I think an overall sense of not being safe is adding to that. It bothers me to see the living conditions of the children. Filthy apartment complexes with signs on the doors saying its recently been sprayed for roaches. Garbage littering, broken beer bottles shattered, and a haze of stale cigarette and pot smoke lingering in worn apartment hallways. Today as I was working several young unattended children came up to me and asked me if I had any quarters for them. It’s really quite heartbreaking. I also saw a woman walking around on a busy street in a bathrobe. Oh, all the stories I will write about the things I saw that will change my life.
  3. I’m grateful though for all the wonderful people I met through the census job. It gives me hope that humanity is not totally screwed despite people having to live through tough circumstances.
  4. I’m grateful that despite windy conditions Paul and I were able to take my cousin and her husband sailing. We haven’t seen each other in about 5 years at the family Christmas party. Even then we really didn’t have the chance to catch up and visit. Plus she works in the editing field and wants me to reach out when I am ready to publish my book.
  5. My daughter is moving home at the end of the week!
  6. Paul’s birthday is this week and it is the 25th anniversary of the day we met. I am renting a really nice hotel room where my daughter lives to celebrate then the next day we are moving her home.
  7. We are supposed to get some warm weather within the next couple of days. It’s been so chilly here that I’ve heard some people put on their heat. Not me! But I did break down and briefly wore my winter jacket outside.
  8. I am feeling a lot better. I had a couple of bad days of stomach cramps and nausea. I was worried that I might end up really sick with colitis again. I felt pretty miserable. Miserable enough to ask God to just let me die. Please Lord take my life because I can’t take it anymore. I still managed to somehow stumble to work. As I was getting ready for work, Paul came in to tell me he was having chest pains that radiated down his arm. What a sad lot we are! He figured out he wasn’t having the big one but just pulled a muscle. When I asked God to take away my life I didn’t mean Paul. In that moment I felt really grateful for Paul because who really knows how much time we have left. That’s the scary part about getting older. Someday all of this is going to end. We are starting to get reminders of that.
  9. I’m grateful I managed to find the time to finish the book I was reading. It was probably one of the most depressing pieces of fictional family drama that I ever read. Everything fell apart but in the end everyone and everything miraculously came back together. All broken relationships were mended. I found the book to be rather triggering. It made me think of the book I’m writing. There are plenty of messes that don’t seem to be resolving themselves. It was so sad reading it that I wondered what people would think reading my book. Too bad I couldn’t just write it with a happy ending. I want the feel good book of the year. I want people to feel good about what I write. But is that real life? Does it give hope when things magically come together? Or does it give more hope that we can handle things when they don’t?
  10. I got some good test results back this past week and I am meeting with the wellness nurse this week. Despite a couple days of setback, I am hoping that my path forward will include better health.

Gratitude week 24

  1. This school year is finally in the books!! I think my daughter passed all of her classes. For the first time, I wasn’t sure it was going to happen…so that is tons of stress off of me!
  2. Summer!! Mother Nature has been moody this year. It’s either been hot, humid, and rainy or cool, dry, and windy. I almost froze this weekend sleeping in my winter pajamas. Some days we need the heat and others the A/C, but we are saving money by keeping both off.
  3. For the first time in my lifetime a tropical storm passed through the state of Wisconsin setting records. I almost felt like I did get that trip to Florida. Just another thing to add to the list this year of weird historical events I’ve lived through. Our foreign exchange student had her 16th birthday and party the day the storm hit. Talk about memorable.
  4. I finished a self(?)-help marriage book this past week. I realized I am an avoidant marriage partner. I like to take care of myself and not ask for help. I tend to hide out in my shell and have to be drawn out. As an introvert avoider raised by two introvert avoiders, I don’t tend to reach out to others as a source of comfort. I sometimes wonder if blogging is another way of avoiding relationships with other people. I am grateful for books that bring about more self-awareness.
  5. I also finished the colitis for dummies book. I learned a lot of helpful information. I also met with my wellness nurse this past week. I expressed frustration over not feeling good after going for almost a year. She still thinks she can help me but said that I have a lot of things going on in my body that have been that way for decades and are resistant to change. She gave me her personal contact info which she doesn’t give out to any of her other clients so I can update her on my progress. I feel like I can trust her. I am working hard with the nurse, counselor, and craniosacral therapist to heal my body. It seems almost voodoo like to have to purge all the junk I’ve stored in my body for so long to deal with the trauma in my life.
  6. I bought some flowers this week to decorate the outside of my house.
  7. I have been working with a mentor the last couple months on a Bible study on anxiety. When talking about what to do next, I suggested a couples study on marriage. I’ve been dealing with anxiety and depression my whole life but I haven’t been married that long. It’s something we want to work on with someone who has been married longer than us.
  8. I’m grateful my husband spent the weekend away working. His new business is taking off and I am happy about that since it was something we worried about.
  9. Flavored sparkling water.
  10. I’m grateful my daughter will be coming home for a visit this week.