Wednesday, July 28, 2010

The Decade of Joy

When I turned 40,  I went to the doctor.

I was at a low point in my life--- feeling tired and depressed, not sure what to do with myself, waiting for the times to get better.  I was staying at home with my 2 year old baby and trying to help my 14 & 11 year old sons make it through puberty.  Although I did wonderful things with Mark (the baby), I didn't do much with myself.  I played a hell of a lot of Canasta with my parents.  Together time with your parents is great at any age, but let's be real.  A forty year old really shouldn't be that good at Canasta.

And so I went to the doctor.  Up until then, I'd only gone to the ObGyn or to the Doc-in-the-box if I was really sick.  I think I thought, "gee, you are forty, you need to take care of yourself.  Go to the doctor."

Well, the doctor liked me.  I was fat and forty and had great insurance and a lot of time on my hands.  My thyroid was low, my iron was low, my will was low.  I went on medication for hypothyroidism.  I had a boat load of tests (and by boatload, I mean that I paid for my doctor's yacht) to find the cause of the anemia. 

As an aside, as the Colonoscopy Poster Child, let me say:  This is when I had my first colonoscopy, and that was a good thing.  Since then, two of my uncles have died from colon cancer, along with at least two of my Dad's cousins.  I have had this test every three years since then.  The test isn't fun, but colon cancer is worse.  And when you get tested, they remove the polyps so they are gone before they can develop into cancer.  It's well worth the agonizing misery the day before.

So, I had tests on all parts of my body that might cause anemia.  They never figured it out, but when I had a hysterectomy because of heavy bleeding (which THEY said wasn't enough to cause anemia but I thought was enough to make me die) and three very early term miscarriages, I got over the anemia.  I guess.  I sort of quit paying attention.

Then... I had my first migraine, an agonizing pain that felt like someone was hitting me with a spiked pike for a week.  It wasn't typical, so it took awhile to figure it out.  After they called it a migraine, I had one a day for a few months.  I lost 30 lbs in three months.  I looked like hell, but I was thin(ner) and was trying to decide whether it was worth the pain when the migraines just sort of went away.  I still get head aches, but nothing that keeps me from eating, dammit.

And then my blood pressure, which had always been normal even though I'm fat, went up.  A whole lot.

Sometime over the decade, I woke up psychologically.  I went back to school and became a tax preparer & accountant of all things.  I helped start a great school for my youngest son, and worked with that on a daily basis for five years.  I felt alive and competent.  I vaguely wondered where I'd been the last twenty years.

Here I am: 49 years and 363 days old.  I am no longer fat and forty, I am fat and fifty.  I do like what I'm doing, but I'm not sure what else I want to do.  I love my children and am really really glad they are older.  I pray that they are able to become independent and challenged in their lives very soon.  I hope they come visit.  Often.

And here I am, working every day, taking on more and more tasks and completing my to-do lists while writing more.  And I still don't know what I want to do with my life.

That is why I am calling this the Decade of Joy.  I'm not going to quit my job and move to Santa Fe (not yet).  I'm still clearing out the crap in my house and my life.  I'm still thinking about being in business for myself (with Bob's help).  I am still working on quality public charter schools.  But now, I'm adding time for my joy and dropping the stuff that isn't important and/or Joyous.

This is my JOY:

Instead of yelling at Bob because he grabs his guitar and heads out to the hammock when I want to clean the bedroom, I'm going to grab a G&T and head out with him. 

We joined the gym, not because we (or anyone else) thought we ought to (and that's another story or two), but because we want to.  I'm going to use the walking-type machine, the girly weight machines, the yoga class, and the water aerobic classes as much as I can.  I'm not going to care that Duston the pt kid thinks I'm a wuss.

I'm going to write more.  That gives me joy, even if I never get an actual story written.

I'm going to have lunch with friends, because I like that and it doesn't make me stress.  Hey, maybe friends can walk with me at the gym.  Whatever.

I'm going to talk to my kids without asking them when they plan to go to college/get a job/cut their hair.  I'm going to listen.

And the stuff I'm not going to do... well that's another story.  But maybe I won't tell it.

Sunday, July 4, 2010


This week, I went to Charleston with my husband and youngest son.  Charleston is my father's birthplace, the place where my parents met and married, where we spent almost every New Year's Eve and every weekend from Easter to Labor Day throughout our childhoods, where my aunt and cousins still live.  Although I haven't been there as often in the last 30 years, I have been there many times.  And yet, for some reason, this week the nostalgia hit me like the wall of humidity that greets you when you walk from the air conditioned hotel lobby.

I was there for a conference, and so we were with my boss and his wife and my co-worker and her sister.  Maybe it was sharing memories with them. 

My mother's mother moved to Charleston from Massachusetts when she retired from teaching.  It wasn't until I spent summers with her that I really "did the tourist thing."  Gramma and I walked or rode buses and taxis all over the city.  She took us on the horse and carriage tour of South of Broad.  We'd go to the Market, or even just the Piggly Wiggly on King Street.  And where ever we went, she'd say, "This is Kathy Duffy.  Her uncle is Father Duffy.  Her grandfather was John Duffy the pharmacist.  Did you know him?"  And although it wasn't surprising that everyone knew Uncle Tommy, I was shocked by the number of people who remembered John Duffy the pharmacist.  It was almost enough to break through the soul-deep mortification I felt as a psychotically shy child with a talkative grandmother.  Almost.

On Tuesday afternoon, we drove to Folly Beach.  The road to James Island, where I enjoyed a true childhood with my friends Bernadette, Elizabeth, and Roland, was so different it didn't strike any chords.  Actually, I think it might be an entirely different bridge.  It certainly didn't awake my sleeping child-map that remembers the turns and the Spanish Moss and the Dairy Queen we stopped at once in a while for a rare treat. 

Although Folly Beach isn't a part of the child memories, the ocean and the waves that were.  The waves were breaking in just the right place for some serious wave-riding.  For the first time in 25 years, I didn't stand in the shallows with small children or watching anxiously for potential threats against my fearless sons as they dove into the waves.  Mark and I rode the waves ourselves.  I heard my mother's voice as I said, "Hold up, that one isn't going to break for us."  I saw my awe for my mother reflected in Mark's eyes as he saw I could really tell when the wave would break and when it was faking.  Of course, he didn't say anything.  He was having too much fun, and maybe he didn't realize what an art it is.  I got tossed into the sand with the whole ocean as a Netti pot, and I haven't had such a good time in... 30 years?

Wednesday we went to Sullivan's Island to visit Fort Moultrie, and that is another story...