A Date With Myself

I spent the day at Chestermere’s first music festival. It felt so good to be outside and listening to live music again.

As I looked around the park, I realized I was one of the very few people on my own. Most were part of families, couples or groups of friends. At one time in my life, this may have felt uncomfortable. Not anymore.

For too many years, I’ve felt lonely in my marriages. Everything would start out great, and after a few years, we’d be living like roommates. There is nothing worse than feeling abandoned by the person who swore to love you. I’d manufacture a life that suited their needs in an attempt to create togetherness, but lose myself. Maybe, in their own way, each man did love me but it wasn’t what I wanted or needed for myself.

Fortunately, I’m strong enough to know what I want. Thus, the reason I’ve left three marriages. I’m not one to stick it out “just because”. I didn’t up and leave. I talked to my spouse(s). They knew what I felt was missing and how unhappy I was. We tried counselling or relationship coaching. Each time, in the end I decided I’d rather be on my own than married and lonely.

As I sat in the park tonight, I reflected on my current relationship. Martin and I met after my ex-husband and I opened our marriage. At the time, I was actively dating and starting to believe I was polyamorous. Martin knew I was dating other men while we were developing our relationship and he encouraged it. Even after we realized we loved each other, he still thought I should see others because he’s away so much. He was concerned I’d be lonely and didn’t think it was fair to me to have a part-time boyfriend.

If I was afraid of being alone, I may have agreed to this. Most of the time, he works a 7 on/7 off schedule. The last two months, it’s been 11 on/2 off. Right now, it’s 14 on/4 off. Do I wish he was home more over the summer? Of course. Would he have enjoyed a day of live music by the lake today? Absolutely. Did his being away stop me from enjoying it on my own? No.

Am I polyamorous? No. I’m a serial monogamist. I love one person at a time until it doesn’t work for one or both of us anymore.

I’ve chosen Martin and our relationship because I love him. I cherish the time we have together, and I cherish the time I have alone. I have a wonderful life and am very glad he’s a part of it.

Oh Happy Day!

Have you ever waited for something to come true – begged for it, prayed for it – and then it does? That happened to me today.

My lab tests confirm I am now post-menopausal and I couldn’t be happier!!
(WARNING: The rest of this post might be too much information for some readers).

I started the hell that was perimenopause when I was 38. I’d already had nearly 25 years of painful, heavy periods at that time. Little did I know it would get so much worse.

There’s “heavy” periods, “very heavy” periods, and then there were mine. I was anemic for most of my 40’s. At one point, I nearly needed a blood transfusion. My entire life centred around my menstrual cycle. It felt like I was either premenstrual, or having a 10-14 day period. Some months, the pain would be so bad I’d swear labour couldn’t be worse. I’d be bedridden for two days a month. Other months, I was so irritable or anxious I could barely live with myself. Then, the period itself. For the first two days, I’d be changing a SuperPlus tampon and maxi-pad every 20 minutes. There were many days I felt it would simply be easier to sit on the toilet all day.

No one tells you about this part of the experience. We hear about the hot flashes and the insomnia. We know our periods will become sporadic. I didn’t know having monthly crime-scenes in my pants was part of it. I didn’t know my hormones could take me from deliriously happy to uncontrollably weepy within minutes. For a “Type A” personality who likes to be in control, this was extremely upsetting.

I tried everything during this phase of life. Birth control pills didn’t help. Tranexamic acid didn’t help (this is the medication used in trauma situations to stop bleeding). Everywhere I went, I carried a change of clothes. I had extra tampons and pads stashed all over the place – purse, backpacks, car, suitcases, laptop bag. My gynaecologist told me I wasn’t eligible for the Mirena IUD (reported to stop, or at least lessen, periods). I was very near a hysterectomy when a new medication came on the market. I decided to try it.

Within the first three months, it gave me my life back. It stopped my periods. I could take it for three months – no periods!! – and then go off it for a month. When a period started, I could start another three months. It was GLORIOUS!! Three or four periods a year, and even then, they were 10% of what they used to be.

Imagine my horror when this magic drug was taken off the market! I spent the last year hoping – praying – I was finally in menopause. I didn’t know how I’d get through a period without pharmaceutical assistance.

The end of July marked 12 months without a period; the technical definition of being done with menopause. I asked my doctor to confirm it with lab tests. I got the results today. My estradiol and FSH levels indicate I am now – insert choirs of angels and fireworks – post-menopausal.

I know some women see the end of their fertility as a loss. It marks the end of childbearing years. I understand that. I, however, never gave birth. My son is adopted (we were at his birth!). My reproductive cycle has caused nothing but pain, frustration, and anxiety. I am SO HAPPY to see the end of it. It feels like the capstone to the tumultuousness that has been my life the last few years.

Midlife is truly seeing me rise. New job, new home, new(ish) relationship, and now a new phase of womanhood. Best of all?? Nature’s birth control!!

The Airing of Grievances

Buh-bye!

I enjoy the show, “Seinfeld” and the “Festivus for the Rest of Us” episode. I decided to take a line from that show and have my own “airing of grievances”.

I’ve been processing the end of my third (yes, third) marriage for the past several months. I tried, for so long, to keep it together. There were so many times I told my husband I felt there was “something” that kept him from being close to me; that I felt second-rate in his life. He constantly denied it. There were so many arguments. He always told me something worth having was worth fighting for – yet he didn’t put actions behind his words. In the end, he realized he prefers his own gender, yet to this day, cannot (or simply won’t) see how it affected our relationship and his inability to be the partner I thought I was getting when we married.

Since living on my own, I’ve done a great deal of reading. I realize now he is a narcissist. Every article I’ve read about narcissism should have his photo next to it. The more I read, the angrier I became – at him and myself. I knew I wanted to leave five years ago. I didn’t because: a) I’m stubborn and did not want to be divorced three times and b) I already disrupted my son’s family life once and I wasn’t going to do it again while he was in school. I felt robbed of those five years. The more I gave and tried to change things, the more he took and didn’t give anything back.

So, I decided I had enough. I’m done with trying to figure him out. I’m done with wondering “why”. I’m done with feeling angry. I’m done grieving for “what could’ve been”. I decided to “air my grievances”. I wrote out every sadness, hurt, anger, resentment about that man and the eleven years we spent together on strips of paper. There were over 120 strips by the time I finished. I wanted to get everything out so there’d be no more energy spent on him.

But, what to do with all these strips of paper? I burned them. I invited a friend to join me. She wrote out her grievances and, in her backyard, we set them on fire in a metal planter. I wanted to do it one-by-one, but quickly realized that’d take much too long! 🙂

It was satisfying to watch the paper curl as it burned. Once the grievances were ashes, I burned sweetgrass and sage to purify the air of negative energy. The grievances are now beneath a layer of “positive” ashes. I’m going to add topsoil and grow plants. New plant life for my new life. Every time I look at it, I’ll be reminded of the action I took to put the past hurts behind me and look towards the future. As my new plants grow and thrive, so will I.

Adding Brushstrokes

I loved Vanessa’s last post. I chuckled at the comment about how our lives are “about to change” – I think that happened the day we were both let go from our employer within 15 minutes of each other. 🙂

So much of what Vanessa wrote resonated with me. We truly are staring at a blank canvas. It’s exciting, and yet scary. The last few weeks, I’ve been experiencing higher levels of anxiety, and even a few anxiety attacks. I’m no stranger to them, so I know what’s happening. My first action is to get my thyroid levels checked. 🙂 Sometimes, anxiety is a symptom of having too much Synthroid, and my medications need to be adjusted again. Failing that, I need to look at other causes.

I suspect part of it is living in a nearly-post-Covid world. Did anyone else find it weird to walk into stores without wearing a mask? For two weeks, I carried one with me. Sometimes I felt I needed to wear it, other times not. I don’t like when strangers stand to close to me – something I never used give much thought. I’ve gotten used to going without a mask (most of the time), but I still sanitize my hands every chance I get.

Truthfully, most of the anxiety is coming from not having a clear path before me. I’ve always had a plan. Now, like Vanessa, I’m looking at a blank canvas. Hers is a new van; mine is the life I want to create. In our early days of blogging, we talked a lot about creating space, through decluttering and purging things that no longer serve us. Now, what do we do with the new-found space?

If you read my posts, you know it’s a question I’m wrestling with right now. I’ve got tonnes of time, and yet, am well aware that I have more years behind me than ahead. The vision I had for this stage of life has been erased. I’ve taken the metaphorical sledge hammer to it because I wasn’t about to settle for less than I deserve.

I’ve added a few brush strokes to my canvas in the past few months. I have a long way to go to complete the picture.

Looking Inward

I’ve enjoyed reading about Vanessa’s adventures this summer. I’ve been living vicariously through her.

I’ve been facing adventures of a more internal nature. I’m trying to figure out what makes my heart sing. For so long, I looked after other people – my son, my parents, my husband. I lived a life in service to others. Now, I’m on my own. My dad is in care, my son lives with my ex, and my husband – well, he’s on his way to becoming an ex.

When I look back at the last few years, I shake my head. There’s the saying “God doesn’t give us more than we can handle”. Sometimes, I think He thinks I’m stronger than I am. Four years ago my parents moved in with us, Dad had cataract surgery, then a heart attack. Two years ago, Mom died from a head injury sustained from a fall. Dad’s vision started to fail and I became his primary caregiver. My marriage started to implode. My husband realized he prefers his own gender. We opened our marriage so we could find people better suited to each of us. I met my current partner. Covid hit the world. My son graduated from high school. I lost my job. I started a new job. My husband and I separated. I moved out and bought a new home. I’m almost afraid to ask – what else can happen?

All the changes have left me on my own with my dog, Keo. Everything I want done in the condo is done, for now. I’m settled in my new job, and love it. I have great friends. My partner, Martin, and I are really good. I find myself with SO MUCH free time and I don’t know what to do with it.

Don’t get me wrong. I have many hobbies. For some reason, I can’t get started on any of them. I feel stuck…unmotivated…aimless. It’s not depression. I’ve got that and know how it feels. Martin pointed out that I no longer have anyone who depends on me. My time is truly my own. I’ve spent so many years in service to others that I don’t know how to be in service to myself.

I suspect he’s right. It’s probably a good thing he’s working so much this summer. It’s giving me time to figure things out for myself. Being the Type A person I am, I wish I could figure it out much faster.

All I can do is enjoy the quiet and give myself grace. I don’t need to have all the answers. Martin suggested I take the time to try new things. He likened it to dating – putting myself “out there”, trying things, and seeing what sticks. It worked out for me and him, so maybe he’s got a good idea.

Have you ever had to try to find yourself and your passion? What worked for you?

Week One

Remember how I said I was going to start Whole30 in July? Well, plans changed. I thought it’d be easier to cut out refined sugar, dairy and alcohol in the summer months, but my boyfriend pointed out that: a) we enjoy going to pubs together and b) I enjoy having a drink with my friends. It would, in fact, be easier to follow the eating plan in the winter. Sure, I could give up alcohol for the summer – but why?

OK – I get that. I also get that I am ready to make a change. So, I’m doing a modified Whole30. I have food allergies (carry-an-Epipen-just-in-case-type-of-allergies) to all nuts, legumes and lentils. Giving those up? Done. I already avoid most grains because they don’t agree with my Hashimoto’s Disease. I feel better when I don’t eat them. So – grains? Done.

I love cheese. I mean, I LOVE cheese!! Giving up dairy? I’m on Day Four. It’s not easy. I also like having fruit and yougurt for breakfast. Not happening. My body knows it. It sent out a craving for ice cream today that was overwhelming. It didn’t help having temperatures in the high 20’s (Celcius) and living in a condo without air conditioning. I was SO tempted. I even drove past the DQ thinking, “I can start again tomorrow.”

I kept driving. If I stopped, I’d be letting myself down. I’d only be dragging out the withdrawal effects. I had a constant headache and extreme fatigue all day. A “quick fix” of dairy would have made me feel better. But, would it? Psychologically, yes. Physically, maybe not. That’s why I’m doing this. I want to cut out things I know to be inflammatory and reintroduce them one at a time to observe the effects on my body and mind.

I’ve also stopped eating or drinking anything with refined sugar. I know alcohol has it, but I don’t drink very much. Reducing by 90% is better than not reducing at all.

Over the weekend, I stocked up on fresh produce. Did you know cotton candy grapes actually taste like cotton candy?? I froze some and it seems to have intensified the flavour. I snacked on cucumbers today. I haven’t done that in ages. When the craving for something sweet got too strong, I made a fruit smoothie. I have chocolate protein powder that is dairy/gluten/sugar free and thought it might help. It did – minimally.

I’m eating whole foods. Nothing refined or processed. Only things found in nature. I’m not counting calories. I eat when I’m hungry and until I’m full. I took the forecast into account and cooked up eight chicken breasts yesterday so I don’t have to use the oven this week. If you knew how much I dislike grocery shopping and cooking for one, you’d know this way of eating is a big effort and commitment for me.

Today was a rough day. My body knows something is changing. I expected it. I was sorely tempted to say “F*** it!”, and I didn’t. Tomorrow might be similar, and that’s OK. Next week will be better.

I hope.

Staying Cool

I am luxuriating in the cool temperatures of 19C this morning. After the last week of mid-to high 30C temperatures, this is a welcome respite. I don’t care if I need to put on a sweatshirt later – every window in the house is open to let the cool air blow through it.

I’ve always believed it isn’t necessary to spend thousands on central air in Alberta. We have such short summers, a week or two of high temperatures doesn’t justify the expense (though I admit, it’s nice to have!). We spend the majority of the year in winter and I remind myself of this when it gets too hot for comfort.

Staying cool in a home without air conditioning proved to be a challenge. By late afternoon, my indoor temperature was 81F (27.2C). My normal room temperature is 67F (19.4C). Fortunately, it cooled down slightly overnight, so by 0100 or 0200, I was able to sleep.

What did I do to try to beat the heat?

  • I kept all curtains and windows closed during the heat of the day. I’d only open them after the outside temperature dropped below what I had indoors.
  • I draped cold wash cloths over my fans. That didn’t work very well.
  • I froze water in 2l pop bottles and set them in front of the fans. This worked better than the wash cloths.
  • I bought a personal evaporative air cooler. It was better than the pop bottles. It kept me cool while I worked or sat on the couch, but not nearly enough to cool a room.
  • I took cool showers.
  • I put fans in the windows overnight to blow in the cool air. I got up early to remove the fans and close windows/curtains before temperatures started to climb again.

Today, I’m researching how to keep seniors cool in the heat. Martin’s dad is in his 90’s and still lives independently with his wife. The a/c unit in their apartment isn’t strong enough to keep up with the heat happening in their area.

What have I learned? A few things I should have tried last week.

  • Drape cool towels behind the neck and around the shoulders. I should have thought of this. I have a cooling jacket for Keo when we go to outdoor dog shows in the summer. Same concept.
  • Sip fluids all day to stay hydrated. Seniors are especially prone to dehydration.
  • Soak feet in cool (not cold) water while sitting.

I’ve also found cooling blankets online. I’m not sure how well they work, but the reviews seem to indicate they help for sleep (and, I’m assuming, afternoon naps).

Most cities also have dedicated cooling stations open during the day where people can go to escape the heat. With COVID restrictions lifting, there are also options to visit a library, mall, or coffee shop to get relief from the heat.

The trick will be convincing his dad to try these things.

For my area, the temperatures get back to more seasonal summer heat. Unfortunately, other parts of western Canada aren’t so lucky and will still be experiencing the heat wave.

For readers without a/c, do you have any other tips for staying cool in the heat?

Summer Adventure

Reading the title, you might think I’m planning an exciting trip. Instead, my big adventure for the summer is to clean up my eating by undertaking the Whole30 eating plan. I’ve done it once before and know it’s a commitment, and it’s not easy.

I planned to start today, July 1, but changed my mind. I’m going to ease into it. Because of food allergies and having Hashimoto’s Disease, I already avoid quite a few foods. So, during the next week, I’m going to stop eating all grains – not a huge step because I’m already gluten-free. It’ll mostly be rice and my granola bars I avoid. Next week, I’ll stop eating dairy products. This one is tougher because I love cheese and yougurt. Finally, I’ll start the Whole30 eating plan and give up sugar and alcohol – 30 days with no umbrella drinks!

Why am I doing this? I know I’ll feel better at the end. As I reintroduce foods after the 30 days, I’ll have a better idea of which foods my body tolerates and which it doesn’t. I know – once I’m through any withdrawal symptoms – I’ll have more energy and I may even start to sleep better.

I enjoy a challenge. When I was first diagnosed with Hashimoto’s, I followed the Autoimmune Plan (AIP) for seven months. That was the MOST restrictive eating plan I’ve ever done. It was Whole30 on steroids! At the time, I needed to figure out what foods made me feel good and which ones made me feel worse. As a result, I avoid gluten, nightshades, and potatoes. I’m not allergic to these, but I know eating them makes me feel bloated, fatigued, and achey – almost flu-ish.

As much as I’ll miss having drinks on a patio, it’s a good time to undertake Whole30. I’m settled into my new home and job. Martin is working most of the summer so my eating plan won’t be restricting what he eats (he already avoids a lot of foods he likes because of my allergies and Hashis). And, it’s been a couple of years since I’ve done it so it feels like it’s time to hit the “reset” button. I find it easier to adjust my eating in the summer when there’s things to do outside. During the winter, it’s hard to give up hot chocolate. 🙂

So, there will be blogs about this eating adventure. I know I’ll go through sugar cravings the first few days I stop eating it. I’ll get frustrated with having to grocery shop for fresh produce every week and meal plan. Near the end of the 30 days, I’ll start to think I’ve done it “long enough” and contemplate quitting. Blogging about it will keep me honest and on track.

Anyone want to join me on this adventure?

Baby, it’s hot outside

Western Canada is in the midst of a heat wave. Right now, B.C. is setting record breaking temperatures, and that weather is expected to move east into Alberta over the next few days.

If you’ve been reading our blog, then you know I’ve recently moved into a condo. It has no air conditioning. Martin and I were gone for 5 days last week, and my 19 year old son was left in charge of my place. He was great at watering the plants and keeping them alive. However, he hasn’t got the life experience (and lives in a house with a/c) to know that opening windows is NOT a good idea during the heat of the day. We came home to a condo that was already at 78F and got to 82F before the temperatures started to drop in the evening.

I’ve always been a firm believer that, while a/c is nice to have, it’s not necessary. We live in a climate where we experience winter up to 8 months a year. A week or two of hot temperatures is not going to kill me, or make me want to pay to have a/c installed (I’m not “cheap”, I’m “economically efficient”).

I continue to stand by this belief. The temperatures we are experiencing are not normal. Sure, we’ll get around 30C for a couple of days each summer, but a week or more of 30C+ ?? That’s an anomaly. Because I live in a condo, the strata rules state that I can’t have a window air conditioner. I’d have to get a portable a/c unit, or central air. Portable means I need to store it when not in use (and storage is at a premium), and I’d rather buy stainless steel appliances for my kitchen than shell out the money for central air.

So, for the next week, I’m making do. Fortunately, it cools down to 16C or 18C at night – which is very comfortable. I can cool off my place with fans in the window overnight. Upon waking, I close all the windows, shut off the window fans, and pull down blinds. I ordered room darkening/thermal curtains for my main floor this morning. They are due to arrive tomorrow or the day after, and I’ll install them as soon as they get here.

I have fans running during the day. Believe it or not, putting a bottle of frozen water in front of a fan actually helps cool the place. The trick is to get the bottles of water to freeze faster than they thaw in this heat! I’ve also tried draping cloths that have been soaked in cold water and thrown in the freezer for a few minutes over the fans, and that’s working to help cool the place.

Yes, I’m sweating. It’s mildly uncomfortable. Yet, in the grand scheme of things, I remind myself that – six months from now – we could be at -33C and I’ll be longing for days like today.

OK Universe, I’m listening!

The universe is speaking to me again. No – actually – it’s yelling. It’s doing all but grabbing me by the collar and shaking me.

Today, I attended a Summer Solstice Celebration hosted by our friend Selena, of Luna Terra Soul. She started the celebration by having us choose a goddess card. My goddess was Hecate – the Greek goddess of crossroads and the in-between. In the book accompanying the cards, it states:

You are standing in the liminal spaces between what was and what will be – who you have been and who you are becoming…You’re being tasked to carefully choose the direction of your thoughts, feelings, beliefs and actions….Now is the time to understand the responsibilities require of you as you move forward in a new version of yourself that is as yet unformed.

This hit home. My marriage is done. My son doesn’t require “parenting” so my role as a mother is changing. I’ve recently bought and moved into my own home. Who am I ? What kind of life do I want to live? What do I need to let go of to move forward? These are questions I’ve been pondering.

Selena took us through an exercise to release what no longer serves us. I identified ‘resentment’ as what I needed to release. I was hanging onto resentment towards my ex-husband for the lies, denials, and unwillingness to truly work on our relationship. Even though I now understand why he acted the way he did, there is hurt. I released it today. It no longer serves me.

While we were journalling about what we released, Selena gave us another card from a different deck. This time, it was “Inner Earth”. The statement on the card was:

You’ll survive this. New solutions and new beginnings.

Whoa.

Last night, Selena and Vanessa were at my place to record some podcasts. Selena brought her animal spirit cards. As I was shuffling the deck, two cards fell out. One was the Lion – “the living mascot of self-transformation…This card reminds us that self-mastery is available to all, no matter where our quest begins.” The other was the Frog – a water element. “This card serves as a reminder that water helps us cleanse, forgive, and release.”

So, to pull those two cards last night and then get these two cards today, I know I’m being told to release, forgive, transform – and the universe is telling me it’s going to be OK.

But, that wasn’t enough. Oh no, just in case I still wasn’t getting the message, the final card given to me this morning was from a third deck. It was “Letting Go”.

Life is constantly changing. Nothing ever stays the same…You have the innate courage to acknowledge the situation and know that change is inevitable. It also brings with it newfound freedoms and spiritual growth.

The “Letting Go” card tells me my mantra is: “I am ready to free myself from situations that no longer serve me.” – and I have.

For the past two years, the cards were telling me to find wisdom and hinted at a transformation to come.

Well, it’s happening. I’m on my own. I live near water. I’m doing things that fulfill me without having to justify what I’m doing to anyone. My partner, Martin, tells me he’s enjoying watching me discover myself again. He has dubbed 2021, “The Year of Sharon”.

A few minutes ago, I looked for a summer solstice image to share. The one I’ve posted jumped out at me. It’s the same message.

I don’t believe in coincidence. The alignment of messages is simply too strong to ignore, so I won’t.

I’ve let go. I’m starting a new life. One where I’m not defined as a “wife” or “caretaker”. I’m learning it’s OK to be selfish as long it serves me without disrespecting or harming others. I’m finding peace and contentment within myself, which is making me want to try new things.

I still have some work to do to fully let go of the past, but I’m embracing the future. After today, I feel the Universe is on my side.