Friday, March 24, 2017

Impermanence

Raspberry sorbet with chocolate shell (housemade, coconut oil based)
from Frite & Scoop in Aurora, OR.

When oranges pop up in seasonally minded grocery stores, spring is near.

This past Sunday I woke up & split a large cara cara orange with my partner for breakfast, juicy & sweet. I scrubbed our clawfoot tub for the first time in too long & switched out the soiled shower curtain liners for their replacements squeaky clean out of the package. The red & beige fabric shower curtain was recently washed so I hung it up while inhaling that familiar laundry detergent scent. I lit tea candles perched atop the toilet tank. Rihanna's ANTI blared from my iPhone. I dutifully massaged my skin with a cup o' coffee face mask, covered the drain, began filling the tub with too hot water, & unearthed a floating island bath melt from the top shelf of the medicine cabinet. As my body slowly adjusted to the water temperature, I soaked in what was my first bath of 2017.

This is stereotypical self-care: candles, face masks, scented baths. However, as I sometimes have to repeat to myself: just because it's stereotypical or popular doesn't mean it can't be effective.

When I fall deep into the worst of the winter blues, my first instinct is to ignore my body's needs. I keep my thoughts & creative impulses stifled by noise. I eat too many deep-fried foods & not enough fresh produce. I drink too much coffee & alcohol & not enough water. I numb myself with stories I personally have nothing to do with. I pretend bad things aren't happening, that if I lay in bed long enough listening to podcasts or watching every single episode of Mad Men maybe it might all go away. 

Taking the time to nurture my body, pointedly soaking it in natural oils & vanilla bean, can sometimes, somehow, boost me back up to neutral. Taking the time to trim my bangs, shave my legs, paint my nails, soak up some sun - these 'extra' tasks that a full-time-working-person may wish to do but can't allocate time for because other priorities take precedence - can make a noticeable difference. 

I tend to ignore my body because it is my own to ignore; when I am sad, I admittedly don't like myself very much & my body takes the brunt of that. When I was unemployed & recovering from surgeries for some months in 2010-2011 & 2012-2013, I was given the luxury of time to take care of my body. I did yoga & pilates several times a week. I walked my father's dog every day, sometimes twice a day. I had time to think through every meal & nourish myself with mindfulness. I read a lot & felt more connected to the world & other people. I got enough sleep & drank enough water. I felt the most clear-headed I ever have in my life. It was an unexpected gift to uncover myself in that way - to find some semblance of peace amidst the rubble of the unfortunate fact that my face had been crushed & my life interrupted. 

Sometimes, on lazy Sundays, I get to peek in on that contented version of myself again. I find her in those holy moments when I can turn off my intensely active, anxiety-prone thoughts & just exist for the sake of existing.

Weekend breakfast: coffee with soy creamer, seitan bacon, buttered sourdough,
tofu scramble with whatever was on hand, blood orange segments.

I call my ovarian cyst Marlow. Marlow approaches me in the middle of the night about once a month & inflicts intense physical pain until sunrise. If my cyst were a woman, she would be lounging comfortably on my bed telling me horrific stories that make us both cry. She would show me scars from cigarette burns & resemble what I imagine to be Lana Del Rey's unkempt older sister. She would smell like a campfire. Marlow makes me feel rattled & uncertain.

My most recent visit from Marlow occurred the night before last at 2:45am. My partner rubbed my sticky-sweaty back & I rhythmically pet my cat for some small distraction from the pain. I missed two days of work this week because of Marlow. I don't remember feeling this fatigued since I was first released from a month-long hospital stay in 2010. My only means of comparing the two are due to just how depleted I feel after using up my energy to shower.

Disruptions in personal health have led me to contemplate the idea that everything is temporary & thus impermanent. Something as presumably fixed as the shape of my nose was proven to be impermanent; a car accident crushed my facial bones & surgeries only pieced together a shadow of what once existed. The stress of writing a paper for a college class is also fleeting as that stress falls away when the paper is returned a few days later with a passing grade. Seasons change, people come & go in our working lives & social circles, you move to a new town, pets & loved ones die. I am mostly comforted by the notion that most things in my day-to-day life are bound to shift - depression passing to light, winter turning to spring - but obviously happiness & warm weather are not cemented in stone. Perhaps this is how I come to learn the importance of preparing myself for future mental struggles? Maybe this is how I come to know, yet again, the power of mindful living?

I can only try my best to be more mindful - but, as we know, nothing is promised.

Triple layer cake I made at work: banana cake, peanut buttercream,
chocolate ganache, peanut butter cookie crumble.

Sometimes we need that quiet self-care, those baths or moments spent with animals or lazy Sunday breakfasts or time staring at nature, to readjust ourselves to our surroundings. What seems to be chaos when you're stressed out of your mind may not be chaotic at all when you take the time to organize your thoughts. This is seemingly basic, but also something I have to remind myself of time & time again. I will not always be stuck in pain related to my cyst; one day my doctor & I will figure out what treatment is best for me & my body. In that same vein, I will never be this young again. I don't want to be caught up in worry or sadness over things out of my control when I live in a city full of possibilities & endless choices & general opportunity for whatever interest I wish to pursue. Time heals, time changes, our lives shift & our minds must adjust with them if we want to thrive. 

Take care of yourselves.

Tuesday, January 3, 2017

2016: Just Fucking Do It


One thing I've learned this past year is that a person should do what it is they really would like to do, regardless of whether or not they believe themselves to be qualified or prepared. The most accurate embodiment of this idea from the last year, of course, is He Who Shall Not Be Named (i.e. Donald Drumpf). Though I would rather not have to acknowledge him as the next president of the United States of America, I have to admire the fact that he identified something he wished to do and just fucking went for it.

So here I am again, sitting on my drooping grey Ikea couch with a mug full of hot lavender chamomile tea. Writing. Attempting to channel vulnerability in a way that doesn't come off as too confessional, more of a Statement of Unfortunate and Encouraging Personal Facts From My Everyday Life.

The holiday season & the onset of 2017 somehow coincided with my mind being forced to recognize that something is wrong with my body. A year ago, during the second week of January, I was awakened in the night by abdominal pains unlike anything I had ever experienced before. I spent hours doubled over, moaning & crying, trembling with pain. I considered going to the emergency room but the pain was so intense that the thought of getting dressed & into the car & my body not being in the 'right' physical position to accommodate the pain seemed like the worst possible idea. So, instead, I popped some ibuprofen & genuinely suffered through the pain until I eventually drifted to sleep.

Throughout 2016, I experienced a fistful of these painful episodes of varying degrees. I missed a few days of work here & there because I literally could not stand for longer than it took to force myself to hobble back & forth from my bed to the bathroom. For awhile I didn't know what was wrong with me & thought that perhaps it was related to food, that I had eaten something horrible, except the fact that I never vomited or had digestive problems or even had eaten anything out of the ordinary. Stupidly, despite the fact that I have health insurance, I didn't go to the doctor (somewhat but not entirely because of my PTSD regarding a hospitalization in 2010). Soon enough, however, I came across something about endometriosis. The descriptions I read & heard about the condition described my pain perfectly.

Source.

If you're not familiar with endometriosis, Bitch Media produced a very informative podcast entitled 'Women & Pain' wherein one of the stories features writer & endometriosis patient Maya Dunsenberry; I highly recommend taking a listen. As Wikipedia states it, 'Endometriosis is a disease in which tissue that normally grows inside the uterus (endometrium) grows outside it.' From what I've read, a lot of other problems can also arise - such as infertility & organ dislocation. An appropriate diagnosis can also take a great deal of time: "In the US, as of 2007, about 27% of women with endometriosis had had the symptoms for at least six years before it is diagnosed."

The pain most recently hit me again this past Thursday, the 29th of December, & my body hasn't felt 'normal' since. I finally bit the bullet & made a doctor's appointment with someone who seems as if they could help me manage this condition.

My options for treatment, as I currently see them: intrauterine device (IUD) with progestogen, possible pelvic ultrasound, laparoscopy (a surgical procedure using a camera to diagnose & treat lesions), minimal alcohol use, exercise, a heating pad, etc. There is no cure for endometriosis.

Source.

So suddenly I'm in 2017 & I have an appointment to see a physician in a little less than two weeks & I'm telling myself I can only drink once a month in an attempt to prevent the debilitating pain & I'm trying to eat more nutrient-dense foods that give me energy because my body is in a near-constant state of fatigue & I guess I could take up a new exercise regimen? I feel like one of those stereotypical 'resolutioners' that steals the good machine at the gym in January only to stop showing their face completely by the end of March. However, instead of feeling 'new' & 'determined', I'm afraid of what my body is trying to tell me. I'm watching my partner drink a pint without me & I'm eating a big salad for breakfast. Don't get me wrong, I'm still eating chocolate cake in the evening & sampling cookies at work - but I'm more aware of what I'm eating when I need my body to be productive. 'Disaster Management', if you will. No diet, all fear.

Treating & managing my newfound endometriosis with the help of a licensed professional is something I feel I have to do, but last month I also plunged myself into something I wanted to do: Pies for PDX.


I didn't know if it would 'work', but on Christmas Eve I offered up Turtle Pie (flakey buttery crust, chocolate, pecans, salted coconut cream caramel) & raised $335 for End the Backlog. Some of that money was my own, & admittedly some of it came from my incredibly considerate coworkers, but a lot of it came from strangers I had never met before & may never meet again. I was prompted to begin Pies for PDX after the results of the last election. I felt as if a lot of rights I had taken for granted under the Obama administration were suddenly being threatened & I wanted to get out & do something tangible in an attempt to combat those threats. This is a project wherein local vegan bakers handcraft & sell pies to donate 100% of profits to causes we believe in. We work once a month out of the Sweetpea Baking Company kitchen to offer a delectable pie whose flavor & purpose we put much thought & consideration into. 

I was terrified I was getting myself into a promise I couldn't keep, but the city of Portland showed up & donated & ate pie & everything turned out as I imagined it could (except for some crumble/collapsing with crusts - note: deep aluminum pie tins do not work as well as glass pie plates!).

I do not have any New Year's Resolutions, only goals I would have already pledged for myself otherwise. I'm forever learning about my own body, learning about what being a vegan baker means to me, learning about my relationship with food & the city where I reside & the people I come into contact with every day. 

And if I want to do something, I'm going to fucking do it & hope for the best.