Earlier this week a co-worker named Geetha suggested lunch at Tlaloc, which is a wonderful Mexican place I’d not yet tried; it’s very near our office. Geetha was telling me over our nice lunch about the groups she belongs to: a musical group, a group that does service projects. Toward the end of our meal, she said warmly, “You should come over to my house!” I told her I would love to, and found myself thinking afterward, “So that’s how it’s done.” That’s how you fill a life with people and satisfying activities: by joining groups, being friendly, extending invitations. As the years pass and friends move away from San Francisco, these things sometimes seem elusive, so I appreciated the reminder that maybe it’s not that complicated.
We decided to have a monthly lunch and I sent an invitation to Geetha and to a couple of other people, including my pal Venkata. I haven’t been to lunch with him even once the whole year we’ve been working on the same floor, because he’s always so busy. He told me he sleeps four hours a night and his eyes feel like they’re “burning.” I feel very sorry for him, and chagrined that he is expected to do the work of three people. Also very grateful that I’m not in that boat at the moment.
On Tuesday night, I went to Howie’s, and after I returned from the tea break, I noticed that the floor in front of my backpack was wet, and so was the bottom of my backpack, and parts of some things inside: my wallet and Carlos’s scarf. My hat, which was also inside the backpack, was soaked. I showed it to Charlie and another fellow. Where had all this moisture come from? I hadn’t had tea or a bottle of water in the backpack or anywhere nearby. The other fellow thought it over and said, “Maybe it was a miracle water appearance.” I think that’s what it was!
Because one’s risk of ovarian cancer is heightened by having had breast cancer (that is, whatever caused breast cancer can also cause ovarian cancer), this week I had a pelvic ultrasound. My ob/gyn said we could do one every 18 months, just to check. I’m glad she was willing to do this, though I must say that when I had a hysterectomy two years ago, I was happy that I’d never again have to have an ultrasound. There’s nothing to the procedure itself, but you have to drink five glasses of water beforehand, after which riding a bicycle across town is somewhat of a chore.
I had an ultrasound maybe two months ago but neither ovary could be located. Once you have your uterus and Fallopian tubes extracted and the ovaries are not attached to anything, they strike out for parts unknown, gaily going wherever the wind blows them. My doctor said that if they couldn’t be found, that was good news, but I wanted to make one more attempt.
This time I skipped dinner the night before and breakfast the day of the test, to make sure no, uh, material would be blocking the view, but still neither ovary could be seen, and the technician explained that after menopause, the ovaries shrivel up, and convinced me that it was a good thing they couldn’t be found, because if they had big festoons of cancer hanging off them, they’d be found.
The last ultrasound cost about $1200, about $600 for the procedure itself, and even more for the “facility charge.” This kind of charge has started appearing on many medical bills the past few years, and it’s maddening: Talking to our doctor costs this much but standing in our building while you talk to our doctor costs this much. At the time of the first test, I had that much in the health account that my company puts some cash in each year and that I can earn dollars for by doing various activities, but this one is going to be pretty much out of pocket.
Perhaps to minimize both her doctor and facility charges, one thing Gretchen Rubin (author of The Happiness Project) did was get a pedometer so she could see if she was taking the 10,000 steps per day that supposedly confer fitness, although that number seems ridiculously arbitrary. That many steps would be nothing to a 25-year-old triathlete and impossible for an 80-year-old with a lung condition. I figured my long standard walk would more than suffice and was shocked when I found out (after my Omron MJ-112 arrived) that it’s only 7342 steps. It takes 75 minutes! Who has 102.152 minutes to spend walking around every day? (“Those women who carry the baskets of water on their heads,” explained Elea.)
Fortunately, this pedometer also counts each time a bicycle pedal is pushed down on as a step, which makes it easy to get to the magical number. I’m sure a pedal doesn’t equate to a step, but it’s close enough for me. I found some complicated schemes online for determining it exactly, using a heart rate monitor, but I’m not going to do that, for goodness’ sakes.
Going to work is better than working from home when it comes to steps, because the bathroom and kitchen at work are a hundred steps farther away than at home. I also considered that if I walked faster, maybe I could lengthen my standard stroll enough to hit the number without it taking an hour and 42 minutes, so yesterday evening I headed up Dolores St. at what seemed a vigorous pace. It was such a beautiful evening, crisp and cool, with a fresh smell in the air. I could definitely tell I was working harder than usual, or so it seemed, but when I got to the midway point and looked at my watch, it had taken me almost exactly as long as usual. There’s not much point in introducing a note of strain in order to cover ten blocks one minute faster, and I don’t want to spend any longer walking, so that’s that, but there is one thing of value that has come out of this, which is realizing that I must make a point of walking on Friday (when I often work from home and don’t get around to it) and Saturday (when I don’t walk because it’s Saturday).
Another thing I liked in Rubin’s book was the couple of reminders that what you do every day is more powerful than what you do once in a while. Even if it’s just a little thing, doing it every day is a tremendous force for good (if it’s a good thing to begin with, that is). This reminds me of years ago when I was despairing of getting a meditation practice off the ground and asked Howie what he would think of someone who meditated for five minutes a day for the rest of her life. He said very seriously and kindly, “I would think that person was very devoted to her spiritual practice.”
My father would claim this isn’t true, but he has always struck me as a steady practitioner of salubrious habits. Thank goodness I inherited that from him, ease and even pleasure in doing the same things every single day.