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We’ve discussed quite a few TMI things on this blog over the years, particularly lady-bits stuff.  Breast lumps, kidney stones, and menopausal symptoms are just a few that come to mind. It’s been a while, hasn’t it? So it’s time we had another of those intimate chats. (In other words, some of you may want to leave now.)

We’re going to talk about bladders. Not pig bladders, which, back in Laura Ingalls Wilder’s days, Pa blew up after the hog slaughter and let the girls play ball with.  But women’s bladders.  Or perhaps just my bladder.  But I don’t think I’m alone.  Which is why I’m sharing the love.

The pig-bladder-ball-playing-picture.

I don’t remember my own potty training as a child. I suspect few of us do. Although I do remember the little enamelware pot that I used. In fact, I still have it. I believe it’s at ex-Pat’s house, and should likely be rescued.  It’s a rather odd childhood memento, but there you are.

Very similar to this one.

Of course, I remember potty training with my own daughter, but out of sensitivity to the fact that she’s a teenager, I won’t discuss any of the entirely entertaining stories I have about that here – yet.  Unless she irritates me.  Then all bets are off.  Because the point of this post really is about my daughter.  At least she’s the cause of the point of this post.

If you are female and you’ve had a baby, you may have noticed that your nether regions aren’t as toned and easily controlled as they were before you had that little bundle of joy.  I believe this is because of the uneven weight distribution of carrying the equivalent of a 40-pound human inside of you, pressing down on said nether regions for nearly a year. There’s really no other experience like it. (And I wouldn’t have traded the experience or the outcome for anything in the world.)

Nor is there any other experience like pushing an entire human body through a hole the size of a quarter.  I don’t care how elastic something is.  Every piece of elastic reaches a stretch point of no return.

Elastic…quarter…only one image missing, and I’ll spare you that.

Following childbirth, many things get back to normal. But a few things don’t quite. You may notice that when you sneeze, you pee just a drop. Or if you laugh ridiculously hard, things get a touch moist down there. Exercise  helps. Toning up those mushcles makes a huge difference. And you can do kegels until the cows come home and no one will be the wiser, nor will you break a sweat. (They’re great at stoplights.) These things WILL make a difference, and you may even find yourself better than ever.

But then, you reach a certain age. And perhaps a certain carelessness with the kegels. It’s that age where you notice that your skin has a few more spots, a few more lines, a bit more of a crepe paper quality to it.  It becomes harder to take off weight when you put it on.  And you can no longer say you’re trying to lose the baby weight when the baby is 16.  Well, of course, you can, but others may look at you oddly. I know they do me. Especially when they ask her age, and I say, “Oh, she’s 190 months now.”

So back to this weird certain-age/bladder thing. This is new to me. Just like always, before I leave the house to catch the bus to work, or to take a long-ish car ride, I check in.  Do I need to go?  The answer is often, “Well, not really, but it wouldn’t hurt anything, so might as well, just in case. It will save any trouble later.”  No big deal, right? It’s a precautionary measure. There is no sense of urgency, as one often feels when one actually needs to go.  And so I enter a bathroom or a bathroom stall accordingly.  Something I’ve done a million times over nearly 50 years.

But here is where things are suddenly different.

It’s as if my bladder has developed a brain of its own.  It’s like the toilet is crack to my bladder.  My bladder is fine up until the time it is within about two feet of a toilet, and then it becomes like a frenzied weasel. It must have that toilet. It must possess it.  It MUST pee. There’s no stopping it.  It doesn’t give a toot about the barriers of jeans and underwear that stand in its way.  It’s going to go.

So what started out as a blase visit to a bathroom becomes, within less than a minute, a desperate race against time to shed my clothes before my bladder decides to damn the torpedoes and go full steam ahead.

Most of the time, I can beat it to the punch, though I’m sure it would be highly entertaining to watch my antics.  Not that anyone will ever get to.  But, given the nature of buttons, snaps, and zippers, the copious fluidity of some skirts, and the tightness of jeans, particularly on a hot summer day, sometimes I come up short.

Super embarrassing.

And then there’s some blotting and wandering around commando for the rest of the day.

I mean, really, am I two again? Like I say, I’ve done this for almost 50 years and NOW I’m lapsing?  WTF, bladder?  Since when did you start making the decisions here, independent of my brain signals?

It’s not enough of a problem for medication, and certainly not enough for Depends, and pantiliners are gross and uncomfortable and I had more than a lifetime’s share of them during pregnancy, so NO to that too. In fact, I’m not asking for any suggestions. I just needed to put it out in the open, because it’s not something we discuss, and as I said at the start, I’m pretty sure I’m not alone in this, so maybe it’s something we SHOULD discuss.

So, you’re welcome. Now, if you’ll excuse me, I’m going to go do some kegels.

It can happen to the best of us.

In my early forties, I developed a fear of heights and subsequently of bridges.  I remember walking with Kelsea in the Eno River Nature Preserve.  It was a beautiful summer day and we came to a swinging rope and wood bridge.  Kelsea trotted merrily across, thinking that the bouncing of the bridge when she jumped up and down on it was extremely cool.  I started across, got about halfway and stopped.  I couldn’t go any farther.  I was frozen.  Petrified.  Kelsea, on the other side, didn’t take it seriously.  She kept stepping onto the bridge to bounce me.  I had no idea what I was going to do.  I couldn’t just stay in the middle of a little bridge (that wasn’t even that high) for the rest of my life.  I was just being completely silly.  So I pulled myself up and kept going to the other side.  I couldn’t show Kelsea that irrational fear could get the best of me. 

I’ve had similar experiences since.  But I’ve noticed that it’s improving.  I feel braver than I have in a long time.  And that’s helping me beat the little irrational fears (except the fear of yeast.) 

Bridges highlight the separateness of two worlds, while providing a connection between those worlds.  But when on a bridge, you are in the physical reality of “betwixt and between”.  You are not in either place, in either world.  You are in the air, at risk of falling, in danger of the tenuous firmament beneath your feet collapsing, dropping you, helplessly spinning to a place below, a hell, a death, a river, a canyon.  It is something that must be crossed to transition.

There’s special symbolism in bridges and my fear of them, given this time in my life and circumstances.  I have spent years in between one shore and another, one life and another, one island and another.  The divorce, while a rift, has also been a bridge for me.  It is both the chasm and the crossing.

I am moving across this span to a new future.  The only problem is that I can’t see what’s on the other side.  Today, I am in the middle of the bridge and feeling shaky, low on confidence, even though I am brave.  I need a hand to hold, someone on the other side cheering me on — well, I don’t NEED that, but it would be nice.  The bridge can be a lonely place.  But there is no turning back.  I may not know what’s on the other side, but whatever it is, it is what I have chosen.  I just hope it’s warm there.  And that I am not crossing the River Styx.

Bridge and Pier

Today is a Blue Day.  I guess that’s to be expected.  I mean, you can’t just get divorced and be fine – can you?  Maybe some people can, those people who took marriage cavalierly in the first place.  But not me.  I really tried.  Now, I’m really lonely.  I don’t miss the man as much as I miss …..  what?  I don’t know, perhaps just the concept of “belonging to” someone.  There’s a difference between belonging to someone and being someone’s possession.  I felt more like a tool, a possession in my marriage, but I love the idea of belonging with someone.  Note, that’s WITH, not TO.

There are some days that I just feel insecure.  I have hopes, dreams and am trying to shape goals for myself.  But it’s tough.  I am so tired, so burnt out on all my work, on all my feelings.  I just want some peace, laughter and love.  I sound like an old hippie, don’t I?  Oh, for the days when I didn’t wear shoes…

Things seem to get out of my control so easily – the house, work, my head in general.  I need to cut myself some slack and realize that what has happened in the last week (last month, last year, last four years) is a big deal, and it is normal for it all to consume my rational mind, albeit unconsciously, in a fiery swirl, so that I can’t function with the same efficiency and joy that I have come to know in myself.  It’s as if I am a different person.

I suppose I have been reshaped.  That’s not a bad thing, necessarily.  Perhaps it’s an opportunity to select the qualities I like and discard those that no longer serve me well.  Sounds good, but I don’t have the wherewithal to pull it together right now.  Right now, I just want to be held, and listen to the waves crash on a beach, and feel the beating of someone’s heart against my cheek.  (One happy thing – I have been “keeping company” on occasion with a very, very nice man.  While he has his issues, we seem to be good for each other.  But the ocean is still missing me.)

Divorce shakes your world, shreds your soul.  Even when you’re the one who wanted it, initiated it, or took the actions that led to it.  Your sight becomes focused on your losses, and your future seems impossible — impossible to imagine, impossible to achieve.  How can you have a future when you feel like you’ve lost everything?  How can you start all over again at 47?  I’ve lost my perspective on what my past was and what my future can be.  It’s just been consumed by the sadness and weariness of my present.

Today, I suppose the full moon is not making things any easier.   I had a good cry in the parking lot before going into work.  Feeling sorry for myself.

It will just take time.  Time to let go, and time to heal, time to adjust, and time to see the reality of the future, not what it looks like in my fears. 

That shoulder to sleep on, that someone who, whether right by my side or a million miles apart, I can always feel within my heart (to borrow from Kenny Chesney), feels very important to me now.

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My life is heavily focused on “what’s left” these days.  What will I be left with financially?  What will I be left with emotionally?  And what am I going to do with it – what little there is of it?

This is an opportunity to re-create my life, which is really a rare gift.  People don’t usually get the chance to start over, to be reborn, halfway through their lives.   They are usually, by this age, set in the pattern in which they will continue until they die.  They’ve adjusted to the loss of dreams, and reconcilled to their circumstances, coming to a happy, blind acceptance of the rest of their lives.  Perhaps they are mature enough to just accept what they have as enough, as their lot in life.  Is that maturity – or cowardice?

I – and Pat as well – have been given the gift of a do-over.  It’s a bit late in coming, but I think it’s the right thing for both of us.  When I look at the past and I look at the now, I can see how we were holding each other back.  Yes, I supported him financially, but it was begrudgingly as well.  Not supportive.  We never resolved the things we disagreed on, just stifled them.  Some couples can do that successfully.  We couldn’t.  And so we go our separate ways, to pursue our separate dreams, and hopefully stay supportive friends as we move through our separate futures.  That sounds pretty nice.

The whole do-over thing is actually pretty exciting.  And as far as age goes, well, so what?  It is what it is.  The one thing I know about myself is this — I always manage somehow.  Always.  So if I’m left with practically nothing, and I want to spend my month in Italy, or another in the Caribbean, trying to write, and it doesn’t work out, something else will come along – or I’ll make something else happen – just another new adventure.

See?  Exciting stuff, huh?!  Kind of cool to think of making your dreams happen.  Perhaps I have more left than I thought.

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