Saturday, January 26, 2013

Everything Is Exacerbated

C. came over to visit toward the end of my cooking operation last Sunday. He thought he was coming down with something and brought along the elderberry and umcka I gave him so I could dose him. After he was home again, he left me a very sweet message.

On Monday, Lesley and I took a very nice and long walk at Crissy Field, followed by lunch at Pluto’s off Chestnut Street. In the late afternoon, Tom and I had dinner at We Be Sushi. Lovely day.

Tuesday at work, I wrote a VBA module that pops open a box in Excel that asks, “Is your name Bozo?” and if you click yes, it says, “I must be psychic!” This is basically the first exercise in John Walkenbach’s Excel VBA Programming for Dummies and it was very satisfying. Igby liked it, too.

I went to Howie’s in the evening and stood at the doorway to greet people, as I often do. When C. arrived, he called excitedly, “Linda!” I gave him a hug and a kiss or two on the cheek and he said warmly, “You’re an excellent greeter.” We walked home together afterward.

I was starting to get steamed, literally and figuratively, about the new hormonal landscape. Is there no end to estrogen’s sheer hatefulness? First decades of horrendously painful cramps and the occasional embarrassing accident: “Is that really a huge glob of bright red blood on my host’s white shag bathroom rug?” (Though, in my own defense, is it really a good idea to put a white shag rug in a bathroom?)

Then ten years of dysfunctional bleeding, four surgeries, estrogen-positive breast cancer, and now approximately one hot flash per hour all day long. I went online to find out how long this is going to last, and the Internet said five or ten years, or forever, or, then again, just two years and of course some people don’t have this symptom at all, either naturally or due to treatment choices. Even two years sounds terrible. It’s only been a month or so and I’m already completely sick of the whole thing.

And it’s not just hot flashes. Everyone’s heard of those, but I hadn’t had an inkling of the deep freeze that often comes after. As with human-caused climate change, it’s not so much global warming as extremes of weather.

Online I immediately found people talking about both hot flashes and cold flashes. Of course, you can go on estrogen to relieve this symptom, but not if you’ve had estrogen-positive breast cancer, and I also don’t want to eat or swallow anything that mimics the effects of estrogen. I found myself irritable with C. on the phone last night. It seemed unreasonable that I have to go through this and he doesn’t, and in fact, as an actual shortcoming on his part, but this morning I decided I will rise to the occasion.

This is feeling extremely warm. Then very cold. Then extremely warm. Then very cold. It’s not having my throat slit in broad daylight on a public thoroughfare in some other country. Sometimes when I’m having a hard time, I wish myself ease with whatever it is: May I find ease in this period of difficulty. May I find ease in my irritation. May I find ease in my unease. So: may I find ease in this jolly warmth. May I find ease in this refreshing cool.

It will be important to relax my mind and body, and I also added a new practice to my downtown metta practice, which has been to silently send good wishes to those I see as I walk: “May you be happy. I love you.” It sounds artificial, but give it a try. If nothing else, consciously noticing other pedestrians calms the mind, as consciously noticing anything does. To combat the ill will arising in this period, no pun intended, of vanishing estrogen, my new and additional practice is to say good morning to fellow cyclists. Yesterday morning I said good morning to two and, weirdly, they both turned out to be super-friendly people with charming smiles! (I suppose all the others were jerks.)

I met with Takworth in the afternoon to go over a task he’d given me. He’d sent a screen shot to use as a reference, but it didn’t seem to match anything I was seeing. We went through it in detail and he realized what the problem was: “Oh, I see—a step is missing here. No wonder you were confused.”

I replied, “Well, my confusion goes beyond that, but thank you for saying that,” and he chuckled. He is turning out to be the agreeable, relaxed yet engaged boss Igby said he was. He might end up being the best manager I’ve ever had. Takworth knows every detail of what we’re doing and regularly does a lot of it himself. This means he can help us with any technical question or procedural question, and it also is motivating.
 

He showed what he does to generate a report for a single application. It involves a tremendous amount of manual effort, and we have a total of 65 applications. “Holy moly,” I thought, “I’d better do everything I can to make Takworth’s life easier.”

I also am feeling extremely inspired by the thought of our customers, those people for whom I spared no more than two thoughts per year in the past. I didn’t have anything against them, I just didn’t think about them one way or the other. But now that I’m poring over every corporate communication carefully, watching the company videos, reading the press releases and poking around our website, I think about our customers all the time and can now say they are the reason I am doing my best to do an excellent job. To be clear, I’m doing the job at all to get a paycheck, but I’m doing it excellently for them. I actually almost got weepy yesterday thinking about our customers as I watched a video about our company's values.

These extravagant emotions are a menopause-related benefit! I actually then sent a co-worker an email suggesting that she go online and watch the values thing. Who is this person I now see in the mirror? “Hey, guys—did you hear what the boss said?! Isn’t he so right?!”

Sunday, January 20, 2013

Prosperity Hens All Around

After finding the bike rack full in the subterranean dungeon across the street from work, I’ve moved on to a place a block away which is working out great, and I don’t think it takes any longer to get to and from, since I don’t have to tunnel down into the earth’s depths to get to it.

Per my new professional fervor, I did on Tuesday attend a meeting given by a boss several levels above me, and stayed on the line for the entire hour, and listened to approximately 50 percent of what was said. I also took notes on the meeting as it progressed, checked my email, wished I could go to the bathroom, and looked at the company’s IM system to see what my co-workers were up to. I noticed that Igby was in a meeting, ditto our boss, Takworth. And so were our four other team members. They were all in a meeting without me! Hmm, talking about me, saying what a huge mistake it was to hire me? Nah, that’s paranoid. Probably some meeting that happens every month with some manager or other, the contents of which would be meaningless to me and to which I could contribute nothing. Still, it felt a little strange to be excluded.

Can you guess what meeting they all were in? You are correct. I guess people do actually go to these things.

Menopause-related symptoms are picking up, making everything seem harder. Besides six or eight hot flashes a day, I feel markedly dizzy once or twice a day, as if the room is spinning, and I feel nauseous at times, and am parched. I normally drink quite a bit of water, and now even more, but my mouth always seems dry. At first the hot flashes weren’t bothersome—it’s nice to be cozy and warm, right? But now they’re starting to seem unpleasant, not to mention the lingering deep chill they often leave in their wake.

I saw Deborah, my mental health professional, on Thursday about some childhood stuff I can see is getting triggered by C., or by the way C. and I interact, as evidenced by disproportionately strong reactions. Plus I think there must be hormones, or lack thereof, in the mix.

Fortunately, being aware of these factors means the actual experience is not compounded by believing each thought that arises. Plus this seems to be a fruitful opportunity to grieve some old pains, so it’s probably all to the good. My practice this week was to ask myself frequently, “What is this emotion? How does it feel?” The answer was almost always that I felt sad. After a few days of this, it dawned on me that sadness, as physically experienced, makes a not unagreeable companion—it’s peaceful, even relaxing. I made a point of not thinking about the future or making a lot of decisions, and it ended up being kind of a nice experience, yet another bolstering reminder that I can be with feelings.

On Friday I arrived at work feeling just superb—Monday! The thrilling start of a fabulous new week! A clean slate to inscribe as I wish! When I saw Olga, one of the lobby security guards, she wished me a happy Friday. “Thank you,” I said. “It’s Monday, but I appreciate the good wishes.” But of course it was Friday, which was still OK—only a few days to go until the workweek starts again! (I guess it seemed like Monday because I had worked from home the day before.)

All this jovial good cheer reminded me that, once again, something good had followed something bad. A period of gloom and difficulty giving way to one where everything seems wonderful, light and easy.

That evening, C. and I had a cozy and companionable dinner at Santaneca. Later I went home and took a shower, emerging to find Hammett dashing back and forth clawing the air. I gathered from his frenzied progress through the apartment that some manner of insect had breached the perimeter.

Yesterday I reorganized my closet to make room for work clothes, and meditated for an hour. I got a couple of nice calls from C. early on, and I talked to Mom. C. called again later when I was on the phone with N. I asked if he wanted to come with me to Noe Valley to do some errands, but he was thinking of doing some shopping. I said I’d call him when I was off the phone, but it was quite a long chat, and he was out by then.

It was a gorgeous day and I really enjoyed walking around doing my tasks. After I left the final place, I checked my messages and there was one from C., having trouble signing up for an email list. I called him back and went over there with a gift of some prosperity hens from the Global Exchange store for him—he’d admired the ones he saw at my place—which he was delighted by.


Our time together was splendid. C. and I hung out at his place in the afternoon and in the evening, we went to La Santaneca. Afterward, we sat on his couch and read poetry to each other. I called him when I got home to let him know I’d arrived safely, and he responded with such lovely, affectionate words. A magical day.

Friday, January 11, 2013

Thursday, January 10, 2013

Particularly Loud Executive

At work, I wear a pair of Naot ankle boots, each of which has two zippers, so there is quite a jingling sound, which has started to make me feel self-conscious in that supremely silent place. I went online to find out what to do and saw that one clever fellow had applied heat shrink tubing to his loud zippers (that is, to the tabs, not the entire zippers) to good effect.

I gave Tom a call. “Don’t lie to me, T. Do you or don’t you have a heat gun?” He claimed not to, so I went to the hardware store and described my problem. The guy there said his first suggestion would be that I simply walk with an increased swagger at work and consider the jingling sound to be a sign of my own elevated status, but if I didn’t want to do that, he liked the heat shrink tubing idea, but said a hair dryer would suffice and that a heat gun might damage my shoes.

I gave Tom another call. “Don’t lie to me, T. Do you or don’t you have a blow dryer?”

He didn’t, so I borrowed one from the couple that has the baby, but it actually didn’t do the trick. I think I’ll just buy another pair of shoes for work. Then I’ll have a nice pair of shoes for both home and work, which doesn’t seem excessive.

I moved on to thinking about bikes. Sometimes lately when I swing my leg over the saddle to mount my bike, my leg barely clears it, leading to worrisome visions of falling down with the bike on top of me: embarrassing! This morning, I called Tom, who is Mr. Buy and Sell Bicycles, to see what he thinks of Public Image bikes. I think they’re beautiful, but are they any good?

“Don’t lie to me, T.,” I began in my new standard greeting, which seems to be an effective deterrent against blatant mendacity, at least in Tom. He said he’s also had that near-inability to swing his leg over his bike a time or two lately, which made me feel better.

“Maybe it’s time to get a girl’s bike,” I said.

“Step-through,” he corrected, and said he has heard the Public Image bikes are good, solid city transportation. There’s a big store full of them a few blocks from here. I might go there.

I’ve gotten a better sense of what my job is lately: helping applications with business continuity planning (BCP—how operations are restored after a disaster) and quality assurance testing. When this sank in, I felt a little gloomy: will I learn anything in this job? Maybe my more purely technical job was a lot more fun; maybe I’ve made a mistake here.

But then I remembered how much I love to nitpick over the accuracy of information of no interest to virtually anyone on earth. Besides my QA background, I think my version control skills will come in handy, plus liking to do documentation and training. Plus there’s what my boss, Takworth, said about learning Visual Basic. The job will be technical to some extent, and in general, I plan to learn absolutely anything I have a chance to.

Whereas I immediately deleted all corporate communications received in the past and attended no conference call held by anyone above my own boss—I mean, like, never—I now am poring over every email carefully and looking up people and groups on the company website. People here are obsessed with hierarchy. As soon as you meet someone, he or she says, “I work for so-and-so, in so-and-so’s organization.” What does that even mean? I never had any idea, including not having any idea what organization I myself was in. Now, for the first time in 14 years, I actually understand where my group fits into the larger scheme of things, and have some sense of how the various pieces go together. These names I’ve heard invoked with reverence or respect (or fear or irritation) all these years now mean something to me.

Since I haven’t been given any particular assignment, it’s been easy for me to keep my mouth shut at team meetings, which is just as well. There is nothing more annoying than a new person who tries to take over immediately or leaps in with a lot of uninformed suggestions. I’ve just been biding my time, taking classes, getting a sense of things.

I asked C. this morning if he went to Sacred Grounds last night for an evening of poetry, but no—he’d had quite an adventure. He changed pants before leaving for an appointment, and forgot he’d already put his keys in the pocket of the first pants. When he arrived home to find he didn’t have his keys, having forgotten about the change of pants, he retraced his entire route looking for the keys, and even visited some places he hadn’t gone to, ending up at his roommate’s parents’ place, where he certainly hadn’t been. The roommate’s father gave him a ride home and there he lay down outside his apartment door and waited until 10:30 p.m. for his roommate to come home. I felt bad for him.

Tuesday, January 08, 2013

Strangely Diminutive Career Coach

Last Thursday I went to Chipotle to pick up lunch with my erstwhile career consultant, Dwightly, whose office is only a couple of blocks from mine. I hadn’t realized how microscopic she is. When I was looking for a job, she seemed to tower over me, but she’s really very tiny. We took our lunch back to her office and had an agreeable chat. I’m looking forward to the next time.

On Sunday I went to Rainbow and my favorite checkout person was on duty, but she told me she’s leaving that position and shift! I will miss her. What a grand connection it has been.

Back at home, I did my cooking and then C. and I had dinner at Esperpento. I quite overate, given that I wasn’t hungry at all when we got there. Of course, I almost always overeat when I eat out, but this time I was more conscious of the discomfort of it. My metabolism may be changing, and I think that menopause may actually be upon me. I’m not sure at what point in the process one has hot flashes—as periods are stopping, after they’ve stopped, a year after they’ve stopped?—but I’ve definitely started to have them.

From Wikipedia:
There is empirical knowledge that hints at reduced levels of estrogen as the primary cause of hot flashes. There are indications that hot flashes may be due to a change in the hypothalamus’s control of temperature regulation. This would mean that the sensation of heat isn’t merely imaginary, but due to actual changes in body core temperature.

And:
Hot flashes may begin to appear several years before menopause starts and last for years afterwards.


OK, that answers that.

After dinner at Esperpento, C. and I went to Borderlands Café and sat on a couch across from the magazine rack and we held hands and he read me part of an essay from a magazine and it was very nice.

I’ve been taking classes online at work while I wait for a specific assignment and have particularly been enjoying learning about HP ALM (Application Lifecycle Management), AKA Quality Center. For one thing, it provides tools for managing software requirements, which makes me think fondly of Wiegers. My boss mentioned that he wants to use Quality Center in a different way in the future, and that we’ll probably need someone to manage it. I was tempted to volunteer, but restrained myself—what if managing Quality Center means doing something every weekend?

There is some evening and weekend work in this group, but apparently entirely of the scheduled variety, not of the type where you’re paged at 3 a.m. to sit on a conference call for four hours. I’ve been on many such calls and have often found them frustrating: if I weren’t on the phone, maybe I could be actually fixing the problem, but whereas I complained incessantly about being on call in the past, I plan to be an extremely good sport about whatever I’m asked to do in this job.

I also found myself doing our annual compliance courses in almost a spirit of reverence: These are the things I have an opportunity to learn so that I can be excellent at every aspect of my job, so that our customers will be in good hands. You can attempt to test out of these courses, which I’ve probably done every year for more than a decade, but there is one course where I’m always guessing at the answers, and just keep re-guessing until I pass the thing, so this year, I elected not even to try to test out of it, and I did the whole course and took copious notes, and now I actually do understand the subject matter.

Yesterday, five weeks after starting this job, I got an IM from my boss asking if was busy. In fact, not! He asked me to call him, and when we spoke, he asked if I’d be willing to be the number-two person on a redesign of how we use Quality Center. Of course I said I’d be delighted to, and told him I’d just finished a couple of classes on Quality Center, which he was pleased to hear.

Then he asked if I have any experience with Visual Basic programming. I said I’ve been starting to work on VB for Excel, and so now I can learn about VB at work and have it be an actual part of my job.

I was thinking a lot about C. while downtown yesterday and left him a message when I went out for my walk. I walked up California St. a ways and back down Sacramento St. and was shocked by how grim the latter is. I’d assumed maybe it would be similar to California St., which is wide and gracious and has lots of nice buildings on it, but Sacramento St. is where the blank back sides of some of those buildings are. It’s barren and somewhat like a trench and almost desolate seeming, though I also noticed some wonderful old buildings.

I got a call from C. about 6 p.m. yesterday, who really wanted to come over. I told him I would have to get into the shower at 7, so it would be a short visit, and he said another possibility was for him to go to Glide, but he ended up calling back to say he wanted to come over. He arrived about 6:30 and we sat in the living room together and he told me a bit about his day and I told him about mine.

Tuesday, January 01, 2013

First-Rate Findings

The Saturday before Christmas, I took a really splendid walk with Elea near her place in the avenues. We strolled and talked for two and a half hours, passing by Ocean Beach, and then later above the beach, where the expansive view was inspiring. C. and I had a nice visit in the evening, Sunday I did my cooking, and Monday Tom and I went to Sacramento.

Paul, Eva, Chris and Sarah went to Sweden for Christmas this year, so we went instead to Ann’s (Tom’s mother), and had dinner, opened gifts, admired the tree, and generally enjoyed each others’ company. It was lovely and cozy. Here’s who was there: Ann, Steve, Julie, Dan, Jim, Melinda, Abbie, Tom and me.

Tom and I slept over, and Steve and Julie returned the next morning for stockings, I think done entirely and generously by Santa Julie and Santa Steve. In the afternoon, Tom and I drove home in a tremendous downpour.

Normally biopsy results come in a couple of days, but because of the holiday, I knew I wouldn’t hear anything until the day after Christmas or even later, which was sort of a long time to wait.
 

I had the day after Christmas off work and spent it doing chores at home, and didn’t get a call with the biopsy results. I also worked from home on Thursday, because I was going to work from home until I got the results because I didn’t want to have that conversation while sitting in my cube with others within earshot, and on Thursday morning—finally!—I got a call from Sarah G. with good news: what was seen in the biopsy was benign changes. What a relief! I'm glad I wasn't so sure I was going to die that I stopped brushing my teeth and showering.
 
While the radiologist said the calcifications appear to be new, as they are just a bit outside the lumpectomy site, they are not malignant. I was sorry to hear they are new because I’d just as soon that part of my body wouldn’t be creative in any way, but of course delighted it appears I will live on.

I told Sarah that last year’s biopsy was painless, but there was a lot of bruising and swelling afterward, whereas this biopsy was painful throughout, but resulted in almost no bruising. Weird. It would have been a year until my next mammogram if this hadn’t happened, but now I will have one in six months.

That evening, C. and I had dinner with his roommate, Juan, at El Majahual. Juan insisted on treating us, which was nice of him.

On Friday, C. and I had dinner at Esperpento. On Saturday, Carol Joy came to town and we had lunch at La Santaneca and then saw The Impossible, about the 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami, which was my choice and which I bitterly regretted. I felt almost nauseous sitting through all the scenes of punctures and other injuries. The sound design was remarkable, making it that much harder to endure. I don’t know if that is actually how it sounds when a tree branch goes into someone’s flesh, but it was revolting. Saturday evening, C. came over to visit and on Sunday morning, he visited again. We had lunch at La Santaneca and then I went to Rainbow and did my cooking. C. came over to visit yet again in the evening and, while I did my chopping and stirring, he read me some uplifting stories from a publication for teachers.

Last night—New Year’s Eve—C. and I dined at We Be Sushi, but got into a mild conflict, so I spent a bit of time with him at his place afterward, but we parted company by 9 p.m. or so. Today we went downtown and saw Life of Pi and then we went to Sunflower and split an order of vegetable fried rice and an order of garlic noodles with tofu and they were both extremely delicious. This evening we went to Howie’s and walked home together.