Only 7? Cool!

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Who knew? I guess we all did probably, but man, are they hard to remember. Then you’ve got the 10 Commandments, and the 7 Deadly Sins. Yikes! There’s a lot to keep in mind.

In my experience, these seven rules work pretty well. Fairly simple to write down and post on Pinterest, I guess, but not so easy to live by. For me, one of the hardest is #5 – Don’t compare your life to others, comparison is the thief of joy. That is just so true it glows. Facebook and Instagram make that rule even harder than it ever was to keep a handle on. Those two bandits sneak right in and grab your happiness so quick it defies logic. Look how much fun (money, sex, family, friends, whatever) everyone’s having – what’s wrong with me?

The truth is they’re probably not having that much fun or whatever, either, but if they really are, good for them! Has nothing to do with me. Unless it’s someone I know and care about and I can be happy for their happiness or good fortune, those happy, shiny people photos don’t mean a single thing to me in my life at all.

I went to the doc yesterday for a 6-month check-up and it didn’t really go that well. My blood pressure is through the roof again, I’ve gained a little bit of weight and my cholesterol and triglycerides are climbing again. I feel okay and have been doing well mentally and emotionally the past few weeks, but the numbers don’t lie, and I’m going to have to do something about it. That just really p*sses me off, cuz I had been doing really well with all that stuff, and now here it is again. I. Can’t. Catch. A. Fecking. Break.

It made me angry, and anxious, and I didn’t sleep very well last night – I’m going to have a stroke! I’m going to die! – but this morning I feel a little more reasonable and I know what I have to do and I accept that I have to do it. We all know someone who smoked and drank everyday, ate whatever they wanted, never exercised and yet still lived to be 100, right? Yeah, well, that’s not going to be me. Bad genes, mostly, but also a general winter laziness and fondness for sweets are my burdens to bear. Never mind all the fat people who do what they want and still live forever, I have to exercise and lay off the pastries if I want to live to be 100, and I do.

Thinking that I’ll be okay because I’m doing better than someone I work with who weighs twice what I do, or someone who doesn’t exercise at all ever – I rode my bike over 1000 miles this summer, after all – is not serving me well. Forget joy, comparing myself to other people in this way is likely to steal my health, if not my life, and I need to just get over it. Do what needs to be done. Period. Suck it up, Buttercup. Figure out a way to get some exercise this winter. Say “no” to the goodies in the break room everyday (and the lovely blueberry scones that call to me in the grocery store bakery every week).

Surely I can manage those two things again. I wish I didn’t have to, cuz geez, I hate going to the gym, and OMG, do I love sugar cookies (and scones). I have to do what’s right for me – in all things – and just not think about what other people are doing. It’s right for them – great! Not right for me. Oh well.

That’s life.

 

 

How do you mend a broken heart?

This has been a pretty intense week. All about life and death, really, nothing less.

On Monday my mom had an episode of some kind – I’m not sure if it was a stroke or a seizure – and she fainted. She was out cold for 2-3 minutes. She stopped breathing twice, and for several seconds I thought she was dead. She woke up, though, and over the course of that day came fully back to herself, though she felt a little like she had been hit by a truck. By Tuesday evening, though, you would never know it had happened.

On Wednesday I went to have an echocardiogram, cuz when I was at the doc for a physical last week she thought she heard a murmur, and was concerned that maybe I have a partially blocked artery. I had high cholesterol and high blood pressure, and in the past 2 years or so I’ve managed to control both with exercise and diet, and bring those numbers down. So I thought I was in pretty good shape, and honestly, I’m not that worried about something that’s going to kill me in 30 years. Cancer is what concerns me. I’ve had 2 middle-aged friends die in the past 2 weeks from cancer, not heart disease. I don’t know anyone who has died from heart disease, in fact; everyone I know died from cancer.

Laying there listening to the blood whoosh through my heart was sobering, though. I had a psychic tell me a long time ago that I had a broken heart; that’s what I was thinking about while the friendly young women was moving the sensor around my chest. Could there really be something wrong? Is my heart broken? I’m only 56. How could I be having heart trouble? I don’t have the results of the test yet, but I’m hopeful that it was nothing and that I’m as healthy as I think I am.

Then yesterday, I got word via Facebook that a friend who has been battling cancer for a few years had taken a turn for the worse and the doctors had sent her home to die. She was only 50, a recent grandmother, a bright spot in our little community – just a beautiful soul. Last night she died, with her very large family around her, and I just feel so bad about that. I will miss her, even though I didn’t know her very well. She always made me smile.

So near-death, worrying about death, and actual death in the space of 5 days. My head is spinning a little and my heart is breaking (figuratively) for Leslie and her family and friends. Through it all I’ve really been trying to just take it all in, let it be, and then let it go. So much sadness and loss in the last 2 weeks; but life goes on. My mom will die, people I care about will die, and I will die. That’s the reality of this Life, and there’s no getting around it.

Don’t take a minute for granted.

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Leslie Anne Miller Knoop 1967-2018

Rest in peace.

Throw me a line

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I spent most of yesterday at the hospital with my nearly 86 year-old mother. First we were in the Emergency Department, then later she was admitted for an overnight stay and some tests this morning. (She’s home again now and everything’s going to be okay.)

What struck me most about the day when I finally got home last night and thought about it was the waiting. There is no sense of urgency in the ED these days. We’ve been fairly frequent visitors since I moved in with mom 5+ years ago, and it doesn’t seem to me that it has always been as bad as it was yesterday, but waiting is definitely a big part of that experience.

There’s no choice but to gut it out, though, cuz the fact that you’re miserable and that it might be their job to ease your misery as if it were an emergency, clearly does not seem to register with anyone there. It makes me wonder how these people are being trained, and maybe even why they wanted to be in a “helping” profession in the first place. Didn’t they know they were going to have to deal with sick people?

The most helpful thing they did in the 5+ hours we were there was to admit mom into the actual hospital, which was a completely different experience. Thank goodness.

Anyway, that’s another blog. Back to waiting

I had an epiphany sitting in the uncomfortable chair in the little room in the ED in which my mother was on a gurney writhing and moaning in pain, and we were waiting for someone to decide to do something. I realized that I’ve been waiting for my mother all of my life. Waiting for her to let me go. Waiting for her to grow up and realize that she was the parent. Waiting to begin the life I dreamed of, not the life she envisioned for me with her as the center and my own needs secondary (read: non-existent).

There are a lot of dynamics at play in our relationship, adoptee guilt, fear of abandonment and need to please not being the least of them. I take responsibility for my choices – I could have walked away and never looked back, certainly. That’s not my nature, though, and there were other reasons I gave in to the manipulation, so I own my decisions. I spent a fair amount of time in therapy a while ago working through the resentment, so that’s not really an issue anymore, and I am certainly here now with her since my dad died by choice. I have been a good daughter to her and my dad and I feel good about that. I think it matters. 

But I realized yesterday that now instead of waiting and hoping she will change, I am waiting for her to die. I think about the changes I’ll make in my life after she passes and that makes me feel hopeful about the future in a way I’ve never experienced before. Being tied to her and her needs has always been a given, a limiting factor in my life, and the end of that is in sight now. I’m not wishing for her death, and it is most likely years away, but it’s no longer a lifetime away.

It seems a little ghoulish, but I’m making plans for my life without her and looking forward to that time, much the same way I’m looking forward to retirement. To me both those things represent the freedom – the liberation – I’ve been hoping for all of my life.

I felt a little guilty last night when I realized I was thinking in those terms, but there it is. It’s probably just rationalization, but I feel like I have done my time, and it’s not horrible for me to be thinking about my mother’s demise as a good thing. My parents have lived good long lives, and in a lot of ways I eased the way for them, certainly for my mother. I served my parents well and when that service comes to an end, I will be free and clear. All debts paid, and a clean slate before me on which to write the rest of my story.

No more waiting then – for anything or anyone. I have a lot to catch up on!

 

Apples and trees, near and far

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I was adopted as an infant, so there’s a lot I don’t know about my genetic medical history. I was in touch with my birthmother via letters for a brief time, 10 years ago or so, so I do know a couple of things about her medical history – she had breast cancer – but nothing more current.

I know my birth parents’ names and being a genealogist, I have traced back those family lines as far as I can. So I also know the cause of death of immediate relatives on both sides, but nothing more than that medically – just what killed them. I did a DNA test several years ago, but that doesn’t tell me much beyond what ethnicity I am. The upshot is that I don’t know what specifically lurks in my genes; what I should be watching out for medically as I age.

So I’m proactive about regular doctor visits and screening tests. Doctors always ask me about my family history, and I have to tell them beyond my mother’s breast cancer, I don’t really know. This is frustrating to them and to me, but that’s just the way it is. I’m lucky I know my bparents names. (That’s a story for another time.) There are so many adoptees who don’t have the first clue about their genes, and what might be hiding in  there waiting to pounce.

Today I went to the skin doc for the first time. I have a million freckles and almost as many moles – lovely Scots-Irish skin. They, of course, asked me about my family medical history, and I told them I was adopted and didn’t know much. The young woman who was giving me the once-over, paused as she was looking at my back, and said, “I know you don’t know your birthmother, but I can tell you that her back looks exactly like yours.”

It threw me for a minute. What a thing to say! So I said, “Why?” and she said that most of the moles on my back were genetic, that in fact, a predisposition to a certain type of mole and just being mole-y in general is a genetic trait. I didn’t know that, did you? I had never really thought about it, actually.

On my way home I thought I should have asked her how she knew it was my bmother’s back I got and not my bfather’s, but I think she’s probably right about which parent passed down that gene. I have a picture of my bfather and he has really nice smooth, non-freckled skin.

I got his crappy eyesight and allergies, but the skin was all hers, apparently. I have pictures of her, too, and while my facial features and blue eyes are my bfather’s, it’s clear to me as I get older that with those exceptions, my genes are trying to turn me into my bmother – a short fat woman with whiter-than-white freckled/mole-covered skin. Lucky me.

So in addition to the other gifts heredity has given me – high blood pressure and high cholesterol, a higher risk of breast cancer, as well as the aforementioned crappy eyesight and allergies; thanks gang – now I get to worry about melanoma, too. Yikes!

Well, we all got something from our folks, right? It could have been a lot worse. I’m not complaining. I have been spared plenty of other really horrible hand-me-down stuff. What does bug me is that I don’t know my own genetic/medical history. That’s just ridiculous. We know now how profoundly we are shaped by our DNA, and it’s just not right that adoptees don’t always have access to that information. Pretty barbaric in this day and age, if you ask me.

Well, you didn’t ask me, but there it is. Most people who don’t have an adoptee in their lives don’t know that for a long period of time, and still in some cases today, original records were sealed at the time of the adoption, and most adoptees don’t have access to information about their birth parents or their medical history.

The idea was that the child was to be considered part of a new family, her “past” erased, as though she just sprouted one day fully formed, in the arms of her adoptive mother and father. Not only was she given the family name, but she was to take on all the family characteristics, too. My house is your house, my history is your history.

For lots of reasons (another time) that was just a stupid idea that has caused untold heartache around adoption for decades, but the most ridiculous notion was that genetics wouldn’t matter and that the child would never need to know what kinds of diseases ran in his/her birth family. Cuz here’s what they failed to consider: that child would not always be a child! Just as in the storybook this practice was modeled after, the child was to grow up and live happily ever after, no problem, see ya, good luck!

Of course this wasn’t a story. This was a human being, with a real life and real feelings and real concerns about health, and what genes he/she would be passing on to her own children. Did anyone consider that before they tied everything up in that pretty pink and blue bow?

Nope. Oh well.

For the record, I’m not anti-adoption, or bitter about my experience or on a crusade of any kind. Being an adoptee is just one small part of who I am. Adoption was and is a small detail of my life. I’m grateful to be here; the logistics of my arrival are water under the bridge. Every once in a while, though, like today, it pops up and kicks me good, and reminds me that I can’t take some things for granted. Maybe that’s a good thing. Maybe it makes me more vigilant and I’m better off because of it.

Maybe. Maybe not. Either way it still bugs me.