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?!”

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