Thursday, June 28, 2012

Honda: Giving me Premenopausal Hot Flashes Since 2008



See this? It's my car. I love my car very much. It handles like a dream, gets great gas mileage and is peppy and wonderful. We are practically soulmates, my car and I.
I simply adore my automobile, plain and simple. I am obsessed with its XM satellite radio. I can't get enough of my sunroof. I pine for my luxury leather seats.
And the fact that those luxiorious seats are heated is really the cat's meow. Once you have heated seats, you will be forever spoiled by them. Unheated seats really won't do for you and your fancy tastes (and nether regions) once exposed to the pure decadance that is seats with heats in them.

But there is just one teeny-weeny-little-tiny-minor problem I have with my heated seats. It's truly small and minor, but it drives me completely insane:



That, dear friends, is what is commonly referred to as a rocker switch.

The rocker switch is in the off position when both sides are sticking up.
But the problem with rocker switches?

Oh, the problem.

The problem is that it is very, very easy to hit them with you hand. Particularly when they are mounted in what could only be called a high traffic area of my car. I created this amazing collage to show you the various states in which the rocker switch exists in my car:



As you will notice, Just Chillin' and Waiting 'Til It's 100 Degrees are pretty much the same thing. The Rocker Switch is ready and waiting to burn me at any moment. It's like driving with a King Cobra on my dashboard or something.

I accidently turn them on All The Freaking Time By Just Doing Normal Car Stuff. Like driving. Or, reaching for gum. Or putting my car in park. Ironically, my menopausal hot flashes Rocker Switch Incidents always seem to happen when it's 100 million degrees outside. And I think I'm going through early menopause at the bitter old age of twenty-eight and three-fourths. I get all hot and sweaty and I think I'm going insane. (Which is, honestly, really very possible.)

And I can't help but think: who is the really, really smart person who designed the Rocker Switch Heated Seat Situation? I know they are at least twelve billion times smarter than me and they likely went through all kinds of scenarios and tests and important focus groups to arrive at this design. The Rocker Switch Heated Seats are a good idea, said someone important as they placed a large stamp that says "APPROVED" on it.

I am not an engineer and really I'm not smart enough to design anything that would be safe enough to house human beings at high rates of speed, but I can talk until my face turns a lovely shade of blue on the stupidity of the Switch Situation.

Because really? I'm far too young to have a hot flash every time I drive my car.

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Healing all the wounds

For some reason, I have always been fascinated by my own faults. Things that, despite my best efforts, I cannot help but do and be. I've listed them here, but I don't believe recognizing your faults means anything in regard to changing them. Sure, it helps to notice when you're annoying people or being completely irrational, however I just am who I am--whether I'm working to hide it or not. That's how our faults work: we're either letting them all hang out or stifling them so they aren't as noticeable.

But the thing that really intrigues me about our faults are the theories that exist behind why they are there and what we do (consciously or subconsciously) to change them. I've heard that we are attracted to people who have the potential to heal the wounds that exist in our lives. Sometimes, it means we are drawn to the wrong people---because we think they will make everything better. Other times, we find people who make us feel like maybe we aren't as broken as we once thought. I'm talking friends and romantic relationships; they all have the potential to heal or break us in some way. That is, anyone who loves you because of your faults, not despite them.
Then, of course, there are theories that say we are all broken or damaged by our childhood in some way. Every last one of us. Our parents somehow wronged us or treated us in a manner that causes us hang on to those issues well into adulthood. We work to change those things or even to prevent passing them along to our own children. But, we all make mistakes. Perfection isn't possible anywhere, especially in raising children. Relationships will always be deeply complex and often misunderstood by outside observers. I think it's easy to blame our problems on our parents, but where does it stop? When do we begin to understand that we are capable of changing the wounds we have by working on them ourselves? When do we realize we are grown adults and our parents were simply doing the best they could?

The bottom line? You cannot heal all of your wounds. It's not realistic. Some simply cannot be healed---like the profound, lasting pain you feel from a tragedy or terrible situation that completely defies logic. Some things cannot be escaped--and running away only stands to make them worse. But you can't dwell on them, either. It's a tightrope walk when dealing with your emotions in an honest way. Living alongside them always seems difficult, but in reality it's the usually the best option you have.

Most of the time, we live with our faults and wounds and problems without realizing it's even happening. It's called coping. And really? It's called living. One of my favorite Oprah-isms is this: Forgiveness is giving up the hope that the past could have been any different.

I like it because it reminds me of my own tendency to hang on to the what ifs, the maybes, and the I-wish-I-hads. It doesn't matter now---it's over. Really and truly over. No take backs or do-overs.

And more than anything, it reminds me that the only person who will ever heal my wounds is me.

Monday, June 25, 2012

Thoughts on Fairness



A lot of times, I tell myself that things aren't fair. You know, life really isn't fair. Being dealt a shitty hand in life seems completely unfair.

But really, what is fair?

When I was a kid, it was only fair that my siblings and I each received slices of cake that were the same size. It was the only way to know my mother didn't love my brothers or sister more than me. Most children are broken records with things like, "But, that's NOT FAIR!" It seems like the logical thing to say in your small kid brain. Fair is getting the same as everyone else.

But as life moves forward you begin to understand that we won't all get the same sized piece of cake. Someone will always get a bigger piece, and there's nothing you can do about it. Some people will get gourmet cake, others will get day-old stale cake from the clearance aisle at the grocery store. Fairness doesn't count for much in the adult world, it seems.

As children, we assume everything will always be fair---we'll do what we're told, follow all rules, and things will come to us in the manner in which we deserve. That seems fair, right? Adulthood teaches us this concept is a bunch of baloney. Many people will do terrible things to be treated fairly; others will do the right thing and never get a fair shake. It's a tough lesson to learn and it's difficult not to find your heart hardened by the lack of things you feel you deserve.

Being told of all the things wrong with our bodies was the ultimate moment of realizing life just isn't fair. They say there's no good way to give someone bad news, but the medical world is full of people who are really terrible at telling you that things are tragically wrong. It's always so stale and clinical and confusing. Medical terms aren't user friendly and their solutions aren't always clear. It makes you feel like a big idiot with broken insides.

It's strange to go through that type of experience because it involves a lot of unanswered questions, worst-case scenarios, lots of waiting, and then lots of bombs being dropped on your head. The waiting and the worst-case scenario-ing are the worst parts. Because you think of all the worst possible things while waiting to hear the worst possible things from doctors and nurses that are too busy to call you back when they say they will.

I lean toward the worst-case side when waiting to hear news, mostly because I find relief in hearing that things aren't as bad as I thought they would be. When it comes to having children, however, things turned out to be the worst scenario I could conjur up in my head.

It wasn't fair, I told my husband, that people like us--who seemingly did everything right--were given dog feces in lieu of cake. I sometimes wish I could go back to the simplicity of worries over getting a fairly sized piece of dessert; things were easier without grown-up problems filling my brain.

But when I think about that scenario--the pieces of cake--I think about that sense of innocence you feel in those moments. When getting dessert was the most important part of your outlook on life, and you realize that life has a way of hardening you as an adult. You find yourself feeling jaded or broken from the world, rather than carefully watching your mother as she scoops pieces of cake onto small plates.

Life was much simpler when I didn't know my body was broken, I tell myself. But you can't undo these kinds of things; you can't unsee and unhear the things that change everything about your life. Maybe it was easier back then, perhaps it's just as great now that I know the truth.

It's just hard to know what's fair.

Thursday, June 21, 2012

Listening

I have never been a skilled listener. I'm a good talker, but listening has never been my forte. I get too excited about my next chance to talk, I think. If you and I talked, you might think I'm a good listener though. I have a good cover and I have been trying to mask my I'd-rather-talk-than-listen-to-you-ness. I really have to consciously try to listen more, ask more pointed questions. It simply doesn't come naturally to me.

But being a terrible listener is quite easily remedied with silence. It makes people think you're listening. I do this a lot, but it typically ends in being caught up in a drawn out conversation that seems to have no end.

Ironically, I'm not very good at listening to my body either. While my marathon training has not yet ramped up to full bore, I have been putting in 20+ miles a week. Each time I've been out on a run, I have been trying to ignore the dull ache and pull of the muscles around my right knee & IT band.

I'll run through it, I tell myself.

Obviously, that's not possible. Your body won't forget to ache and interrupt your plans when you stop listening. It gets a bit angry at you, even. My body punished me over the weekend, halfway through a 10-mile run in the early Sunday morning humidity. My knee buckled, as if someone hit me with a lead pipe and I realized I had stopped listening. We walked all the way back as punishment.

Injuries have a way of making me contemplative, down in that moody part of my heart that gets angry when I stop taking care of myself. I haven't been stretching, icing, doing yoga or weight training in weeks. This pisses my body off in the most royal way possible. I know the solution, I'm just too preoccupied with the rest of my life to make the time. I stopped listening.

It's just hard to break yourself of a deeply ingrained routine that helps you cope with life and forget, at least momentarily, about all your faults. That's how running makes me feel: like everything is perfect. But it has happened time and time again that I push and push and never stop until I cannot take it anymore--it always ends in a sidelining injury.

You need to take care of yourself, my husband reminds me in a way that feels very father-like.

It's can be annoying to live with someone who is always so right about everything. He again reminded me of this earlier this week when a cut on my thumb became infected and I woke in the middle of the night with intense, throbbing pain. It was unreal how painful it was--and it was because I wasn't taking care of myself. If you've never had the pleasure of experiencing an infection in a finger, let me say this: it is truly awful.

But, I'm thankful for a body that feels like it's falling apart at the seams. The injuries, the illnesses---it's an opportunity to learn how to slow the hell down and start listening again. Sometimes it takes a brick over the head to get the point, but I think I got it.

Thursday, June 14, 2012

Thoughts on Peace



I have been thinking about peace a lot lately. I suspect it's because I am always telling people that I am at peace, finally. And I mean it.

But what is peace, anyway?

For me, it is a term that has been ingrained in my brain since childhood. As a born and bred Catholic, peace is practically the cornerstone of my religion. We talk about peace a lot--it's mentioned and shared over and over again in weekly mass.

People are almost always wishing peace upon you--in fact, a portion of each mass is spent shaking the hands of those sitting around you while looking them in the eye and saying, "Peace be with you." Each mass ends with being told to go in peace. Like anything else, however, the true meaning behind that message is very easily lost with both time and routine.

But it has been on my mind a lot lately. What, exactly, are we wishing upon one another? What does peace feel like?

The more I thought, the more I came back to something that happened years ago when I was in college. I don't remember exactly when it was, but it has always stuck with me.

I took a Sociology course at my conservative, private (read: Catholic) University and we were given the opportunity to listen to a speaker one evening for extra credit. Not one to pass up an opportunity to boost my grade, I tredged across campus one night for the talk. The speaker was a former Major League Baseball player (whose name I cannot recall) who spoke to the group about his life, primarily his efforts to conceal the fact that he was homosexual for the majority of his career as a baseball player.

I remember being spellbound the entire time he spoke. He broke down midway through his talk, tears streaming down his grown man's face as he told of the shame and pain he felt all those years he tried to hide who he was from family, friends, and teammates.

The one thing that stuck with me all these years is this: the profound sense of peace that I felt in his presence. It wasn't something tangible; you could just feel how peaceful this man was. It literally radiated from him.

It has been at least eight years since that day, perhaps more, but I still remember that feeling of sitting in some ornate old library on campus, smiling knowingly at someone who was fully and completely at peace with his life. It's an infectious feeling.

So when I think about my own peace, I think of that man--whoever he is. I think peace comes in acceptance, in knowing who you are are and pursuing it wholeheartedly. Peace is chasing your dreams, no matter what they look like. Peace is putting everything else aside--the anger and bitterness you feel for the parts of your life you don't like--to search for your own personal acceptance, regardless of what that means for you.

It's very clear to us as human beings when someone else is truly at peace. It's easy for us to perceive that about others. Like that former MLB player, peace really does radiate from those who have found that feeling in their own lives. It's difficult to describe, but we know it when it we see it--and feel it. Likewise, we know how it feels when we encounter someone who has yet to find their peace. It feels like poison.

For me, peace is knowing that I have done all that I can do and there isn't a thing left for me to be other than myself. I like to think that I've paid my dues, worked through every last ugly feeling and came out a different person on the other side.

I realize I'm a better person for it--not a girl who was given something she didn't deserve. But really, peace is letting go of expectations, rules, and the things we thought would be ours before we understood that we couldn't control everything.

"Peace is not something you wish for; it's something you make, something you do, something you are, and something you give away." - Robert Fulghum

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

The Early Mornings



A few times a week, I get up early to run before work. I am not exaggerating when I say early: I meet with my running partners at 5:00 a.m. at the local Y. I wake up at 4:30-ish to take the dogs out and then throw on something reflective before I drive 10 minutes or so to our meeting place. It's quite the groggy situation.

Most of the time I'm whisper-yelling at these two hooligans to stop it with the butt sniffing, already:




It's a losing battle, let me tell ya.

I have the ultimate love/hate relationship with the early mornings. I love slipping on my running shoes before the sun has started to peek over the horizon. I adore that I'm doing something productive while the rest of the world is still asleep. The roads are almost empty. Things are quiet, dark, and peaceful. Best of all, it's cool and (sometimes) breezy. Pleasant, even. We get to watch the sun rise, an opportunity I almost always miss the rest of the week. I smile as I drink my coffee and drive to work knowing there is already a major accomplishment under my belt. It's like I have a little secret that no one else understands.

Let's be honest, though: waking up that early really sucks. Truly, that's the only word I can choose to describe it. {Sorry, mom.} It is a brutally tragic situation when my alarm sounds at 4:30. In the most dramatic way possible, I really and truly hate every second of it with every last shred of my being. I go to bed the night before thinking about how much I do not want to get up early. Then, I mentally flip through all the potential excuses to go back to bed when my alarm sounds. Every cell in my brain urges me to just go back to sleep. Nothing would make me happier, actually.

But, I don't.

I get up and put in the work because it means something to me. For me, running is no different than any other relationship in my life. It takes commitment, it's not always easy, it can be painful, and sometimes it feels like work---but it always gives back what exactly I put in to it. Most of the time, people don't understand it. I tell people about getting up that early and receive rolling eyes and shaking heads in return. Sometimes it feels like what I'm doing is crazy.

But, it's not.

I wish I could explain to the eye rollers and head shakers what those early mornings feel like in words they might understand. I never feel more alive than I do when I'm running on those early mornings. My feet hitting the pavement in time, the rhythmic orchestra of my lungs and heart beating, the sweat on my brow, the cool air on my face---it's awful and tragic and beautiful all at the same time. 

And, perhaps, just a bit crazy.

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