A couple of months ago, I celebrated my 60th birthday.
[To answer the question everyone has been asking me:] No, it doesn’t feel any different than 59.
But I definitely don’t feel as good as I did the last time I hit a milestone birthday.
At 50, I felt so good about myself that I purchased my first-ever European car, which I jokingly referred to as my mid-life crisis. Ten years later, I still have that car and it’s no longer a joke: Even minor repairs cost a small fortune and my sleek little automobile has peeling paint and a creaky transmission.
We have a lot in common.
Last month, we took a trip to New York with a friend who also was celebrating her 60th, my sister (who was celebrating her 57th) and her husband, my brother-in-law (also 60 that week). I had a great time, but I found myself struggling physically – a problem I that first became noticeable last year, when we traveled together to the UK and Italy.
The only exercise I truly enjoy is walking, so I was looking forward to walking around London, Rome, Florence and Venice. But my feet had other ideas.
You see, I used to care a lot about fashion – and I especially loved wearing pretty shoes. From the time I was 16 until my mid-30s, I wore 4″-heels to work five days a week. And then the pain started.
Or rather, the pains – because there’s more than one issue here: corns from wearing shoes with pointy toes. Callouses on my soles. The loss of padding on the bottom of the feet that occurs naturally with age. A weakness in my ankles that flares up if I dare to wear anything but flats.
I stopped buying pretty shoes a long time ago. In recent years, I started spending good money at places that specialize in shoes that are made for comfort, but even those cause me problems.
When my daughter was a baby, I noticed that kneeling a certain way hurt my knees. As the years have passed, the pain in my knees has become constant. I’m pretty sure it’s just arthritis. No, I have not seen a doctor for it yet (because I HATE doctors). But I did get a referral to a rheumatologist and will be making the call soon – because I don’t LIKE the way I feel.
It doesn’t help that I’m once again overweight. In fact, losing weight would likely solve some of the problems with my feet and my knees. I know I need to move more. Every night, I go to bed telling myself I’m going to get up early and put on workout clothes and get some exercise before I shower and start work… and every morning, the alarm goes off and I drag myself out of bed two hours later.
I’m working on that – mainly, by trying to get used to a CPAP machine my doctor swears will result in better slumber and infinitely better energy. So far, all it’s done is stop my apnea-induced snoring enough that my husband can sleep – so that’s something.
I think part of my problem lies in an inability to get to sleep in the first place, something I’ve struggled with since I was a kid and has become worse since I’ve had to deal with the joy of hot flashes. My husband seems to fall asleep the moment his head hits the pillow, while I toss and turn and think about all the things I should have done better and fret about all the things I need to face the following day. I am getting better about turning in earlier, but there are nights when my allergies kick in and I can’t breathe into the machine – and other nights when I simply cannot sleep. When that happens, I stop trying and move to the extra bedroom so I don’t wake my husband. After that, I wake up feeling sleepier than I do when I manage a full night on the machine – so I guess the CPAP is doing something.
“Of course, it’s doing something,” my doctor insists. “It’s preventing you from having a stroke or a heart attack.” These are not things I worried about when I was 40. But it’s at the top of my mind now at 60.
I could go on yet another diet. In fact, I do that nearly every single day – And by evening, I’m done. That’s if I’m lucky. You see, after 45 years of restricting what I eat in some form or another, I have trouble remembering what it is I’ve decided I’m going to forego THIS TIME. The truth is, after I went through the extremely low-calorie, low-fat, low-carb regimen that helped me shed 60 pounds nine years ago, my body doesn’t seem to respond to diets any longer. Believe me, I tried. But I think decades of on-again, off-again dieting have given me the same result that’s happened to all those Biggest Loser contestants who gained everything back.
And the truth is: I’m TIRED. I’m tired of feeling guilty every time I eat a piece of bread. I’m tired of being sober when everyone around me is enjoying a glass of wine. I’m tired of saying “no thank you” to dessert. I actually do prefer to eat a nice salad at lunch with just a teeny bit of dressing – but if I am craving a sandwich, by golly, I’m going to have one. Because I’m tired.
That doesn’t mean I’ve given up. I’m just trying to navigate the highway to hell – I mean, senior citizenship. As Auntie Mame said, “Life is a banquet, and most poor sons of bitches are starving to death.” Especially if they’re on a diet.
Sorry about the title of this post, which was meant to update you on last week’s total hysterectomy, when doctors removed my uterus, cervix and yes, both ovaries. I cannot resist a bad pun centered around a movie or song title, so it’s a good thing the whole ordeal is over or you may have been subjected to a flurry of posts with titles like “Come on Ovary,” or “Ovary the Rainbow.”
The surgery went well. I don’t remember a thing from the time the anesthesiologist shook my hand until I awoke in recovery, with my doctor smiling and giving me a thumbs up: No cancer.
We did not think the growths on my uterus and ovaries were anything but benign fibroids, but it’s good to have that confirmed.
The next morning, my doctor had told me a little more: “Your uterus was the size of a small turkey,” she said. She actually had photos of the surgery, which she whipped out proudly, the way I used to show off my daughter’s baby pictures. They’re pretty gruesome fascinating. She said she’d get me a copy after she’d finished scanning them and adding them to my file. I may use one for my Facebook cover photo.
I ended up spending two nights in the hospital. I have to say: the nurses are heroes. They took good care of me, even though I was cranky from the pain and the painkillers. That said, I’ll be very happy if I never have to experience surgery or recovery again.
But that’s not likely, is it? I’m pushing 60 and my life is bound to follow the same pattern I watched as my grandparents and parents aged. My days of unflagging good health are coming to an end. Maybe not next year or in five years – but I’m pretty sure there will be at least another issue in the next decade that will require some hospitalization. And I’ll probably be just as big a baby about it as I was about this one.
In the meantime, the recovery from this hysterectomy is going a lot smoother than I expected. Before going in, I kept comparing it to the c-section I had 18 years ago, and there were a lot of similarities. But one week after the c-section, I was more or less bedridden… while today, I am sitting at my desk and writing this post without the benefit of painkillers.
The ease of the physical recovery is a little bit misleading. I have been warned not to resume my usual routine too quickly, not to push myself into doing anything strenuous like housework. Um, I’m okay with that. Besides, I don’t have a lot of energy. My husband, who has been amazed at how easily I’m moving around right now is just as amazed that I’m not bored yet with basically just laying around and watching television.
This is where members of my family will shout, “Do you even know Donna?” Laying around and watching television is what I do best. And that’s what I’ll continue to do — for the next week, at least.
I launched my blog, SoCal Mom, back in 2003. It feels like a lifetime ago, and I guess it is – in cyber-years.
In 2003, I was a stay-at-home mom with a daughter in the second grade. The economy was booming and we felt confident about the future. We had gotten into the habit of flying to the UK to visit my in-laws at six to 18-month intervals. In fact, the impetus for beginning my blog was to document one of those trips because we decided to include a side trip to Paris.
A lot has happened since then – most of it cataloged at SoCal Mom (on the original Typepad site and then moved to its own WordPress installation).
In 2003, I had to explain to people what a blog was (that is, if I chose to tell them that I had one in the first place). Writing a post felt like an isolated act — I never expected my posts to see the light of day by anyone other than a handful of family and friends. So you can imagine how excited I was when I started to receive comments from total strangers who responded positively to something I had written.
Those folks did not stay strangers for long. People who commented on my blog often had blogs of their own, and I left comments on their posts, too – and before long, I had an entire world of new friends (literally, because they lived all over the world).
In 2003, the tech community thought of blogging as an activity practiced mainly by men, illustrated by several essays that wondered “where are the women bloggers?” This was such ingrained “common wisdom” that it led a trio of savvy ladies to respond by producing a conference just for women who blog. By this time, I was plugged in to a rather sizable community of mothers with blogs, a personal network that grew after I attended the first BlogHer in 2005.
Today, women online are recognized as a marketing powerhouse, capable of driving consumer sales and opinion – and mom bloggers are either held in high esteem (by brands) or denigration (almost everyone else). This is pretty typical of American society in general, which both venerates motherhood in abstract but shows little respect for actual mothers.
In 2003, when I tried to think of a name for my blog, SoCal Mom was the most appropriate name I could come up with.
In 2014, with my only child about to become a college freshman in a faraway state, it doesn’t seem to fit me any longer. The problem is: If I’m not SoCal Mom — who exactly am I? For 18 years, my identity has been so wrapped around my role as “Megan’s Mom” that I barely remember what it was like to be just “Donna.”
For several years now, my sister and I have toyed with the idea of doing a project together. We actually started one last year, but the concept was fuzzy and never quite gelled. “Two Drinks Away” is a second attempt to create a space where we can hash out the things we’re thinking about and even have a conversation of sorts… much as we would if we were living in the same town and chatting over coffee… or cocktails.
Because in our experience, the answers always seem to lie just Two Drinks Away.