Tag: Health

Editing

“Be a good editor. The Universe needs more good editors, God knows.” 
― Kurt Vonnegut Jr., Letters

I don’t always do a good job of remembering resolutions, but I have to say, picking a “theme” for this year has been a remarkable success. My mindset around a lot of life elements has taken a turn for the healthier and I’m in a more balanced place than I’ve been in years. I really believe that this has come from some purposeful editing of my life. I’ve gotten much better at saying no, worked hard to remove or improve things that contributed to my stress and anxiety problems, and become a lot more intentional about my money and consumption choices. It’s been a very successful project, and I’m already thinking towards how I want to frame 2018.

“Less but better” doesn’t have a uniform definition for me. For instance, we are currently living in our largest and most expensive home to date, but on the other hand, after 10 years of marriage and most of those spent in cheap digs, the decision to rent a nice apartment was a considered one. We are also furnishing it ourselves, meaning we are spending money, but we are taking that process slowly and very judiciously. Our home is still far less furnished than I would like…but we have chosen every piece in it together because we loved it, and not because it was the cheapest option on Craigslist. I love the idea of editing a home, carefully selecting what I put in it and not rushing to fill empty space just because I have it.

Stress levels: all time low. This time last year my nails were chewed to the quick.

Meanwhile, on the work front, I’m actually working more but in a better way. Going back to freelance and contracting has been a great decision. I have not only opened a lot of doors and opportunities, but I have finally discovered a balance between work and identity: what I do vs. who I am. This has not always been the case with me, as I tend to throw myself into things like causes, projects, and roles wholeheartedly, allowing the lines between them and myself to blur. Surprisingly, given the nature of freelance and contract work and how it can divide your attention, I’ve found that because I’ve been able to choose my work, I’ve therefore been able to choose (i.e. edit) how I direct my energy. This has also helped me train my brain to better separate work from my personal life and I’m more aggressive about holidays and an overall work/life balance. In other words, I may be working more, but my stress levels are lower than they’ve been in years.

Let’s talk stuff, generally. I had a whole month long blog project dedicated to my closet and bathroom shelf this year, and I continue to be really happy with where it’s at. I’ve actually shopped and bought less this year than I have probably since my early 20s. Granted what I have bought has tended to be more expensive, but I’ve been fascinated to physically feel the urgency and desire to buy things fade as the year has gone on. There’s plenty of reporting out there to suggest that brain chemistry can be affected by purchasing, and I wonder if I’ve been able to ween myself off an internal drug I didn’t realize I was on. I’ve been slowly editing my closet down and I now think I own less clothing than I did when we first moved to London on an item-for-item basis. What I do own, I wear more and I love more. The same goes with beauty; I’ve been focused on using what I already own instead of craving new makeup and skincare items. I’m actually in the midst of a shopping freeze (my second this year) in an effort to actually use up cosmetics and potions before I allow myself even to replace beloved items. I’ve done a few edits of my shelf throughout the year and donated or gifted a few items that I didn’t use enough to justify keeping. Maybe it’s a welcome byproduct of getting older and more self-confident, but I’ve never been more pleased with the woman in the mirror.

When it comes to food and overall health, I haven’t done as well as I would have wished. We are eating out less (yay, us!) but ordering in more (kind of defeats the purpose, C….). We have periods of focus on health, but other periods of intense laziness. One thing I’ve realized is how much I require a routine in order to stay committed to food, exercise, and wellbeing goals. I am not a natural health bunny, I do no default to healthiness–I default to deep friend potatoes and Netflix and am self-aware enough to acknowledge this. It turns out that once I’m in a routine, I am pretty good at maintaining it but if something knocks me off course (two straight weeks of houseguests for instance, or a particularly uneven month at work), I fall well and truly off the wagon and it takes herculean effort to climb back aboard. I haven’t figured out quite how to overcome this yet, but I suspect the solution will lie in editing out things that I use as excuses or distractions.

This has been a much better year than 2016 for me, and I’m feeling pretty positive about 2018 at the moment. It’s a good place to be.

Incendiary Monday: I Don’t Understand Anti- Vaxxers

“Not until the beginning of the 20th century did Europe’s urban populations finally become self-sustaining: before then, constant immigration of healthy peasants from the countryside was necessary to make up for the constant deaths of city dwellers from crowd diseases.”
― Jared Diamond, Guns, Germs, and Steel: The Fates of Human Societies

Diseases brought to the New World in the 15th century eliminated millions upon millions of people – depending on which historical view and statistics you believe of it, the disease wing of the Columbian Exchange killed at least 75% and up to 95% of the indigenous inhabitants. The main diseases that caused this? Smallpox, measles, diphtheria, and typhus. All of which we now have vaccines against.

The iteration of the Bubonic plague that ravaged Asia and Europe on multiple occasions but was still horrifying enough to be called the Black Death killed between 30-60% of the population. It killed an estimated 200 million people worldwide in 100 years. We can treat it in the first 24 hours, but to this day we have no cure for it. If it reappeared in our population again in the same numbers as the 14th century, the consequences could be beyond imagining.

"The Triumph of Death" by Peter Brueghel the Elder - a contemporary depiction of the ravages of plague and the social consequences that followed.
“The Triumph of Death” by Peter Brueghel the Elder – a contemporary depiction of the ravages of plague and the social consequences that followed.

My point? Some diseases we have fought against, and won. We have overcome the tens if not hundreds of millions who have died over millennia because of them, survived as a species, and struck back. Diseases that have wiped whole civilizations from the face of the earth have been vanquished through medical science. Some diseases we are admittedly still fighting.

Personally, I don’t understand why people choose not to vaccinate their children or themselves. People who forgo the vaccinations that made the health victories possible outright baffle and frighten me. [Edited for clarity] My personal experience with anti-vaxxers has been almost entirely with individuals who are part of anti-science, hyper-individualist wings of (mostly) American discourse that sincerely scare me. [Editing ends.] It is a dangerous mindset and it effects us all. The “science” that informed the latest and most vocal wave of them has been utterly debunked and officially recanted. The threats of the diseases they refuse to vaccinate against are still real – and they are still horrifically deadly. The nature of every major disease threat in human history is that it is communicable, we either live or die as whole communities.

There is no reason at all why I or anyone else should sicken and die with diseases that a decade ago were declared eliminated in my native country.

Agree? Disagree? Want to change my mind? Discuss.

Rant inspired by this post from the Daily Beast, shared by a friend of mine. 

A running count of preventable diseases and deaths since 2007.

Incendiary Monday Post – Healthcare, Birth Control, Women’s Roles – Oh My!

“Woman must have her freedom, the fundamental freedom of choosing whether or not she will be a mother and how many children she will have. Regardless of what man’s attitude may be, that problem is hers — and before it can be his, it is hers alone. She goes through the vale of death alone, each time a babe is born. As it is the right neither of man nor the state to coerce her into this ordeal, so it is her right to decide whether she will endure it.”
― Margaret Sanger, Woman and the New Race

My old job did a horrible job at supporting women’s health. There, I said it. No real maternity leave (unless you count 12 weeks without pay, after which time your job is hypothetically up for grabs and much relies on the goodwill of your department), no day care (there is a single care area, but it is a research facility and not open to public enrollment), and frankly less than impressive health care options.

I have my theories about this, but primarily I think it’s because it’s a private religious school that’s part of a traditional gender essentialist cultural. Women with kids should be at  home with those kids, goes the thinking. Granted I certainly I never heard anyone at the university say this in an official HR capacity, but I heard it everywhere (including some classes) unofficially, even from administrators of my own department. Let me be clear, I do not believe for one second that the policy and procedural edicts on the subject were the result of some cabal of men evilly stroking cats and scheming in a dark room somewhere, but I do think that this idea of prescribed gender roles passively plays a role in making assumptions about what working women do or do not need long term.

1970's ad from Australia.
1970’s ad from Australia.

I’m not going to get into the arguments for or against this cultural set up now, except to say that for a school that emphasized family values, I often wondered why I saw so many policies and procedures – and cultural mores – that made it hard for women (employees and students alike) to have one, because that’s a rant for another day. What really bothered me personally was the issue of birth control.

Yes, my birth control was theoretically covered by my work insurance plan. In practice, however, it turned out to be cheaper for me in the long run to go through Planned Parenthood for my annual exams and prescriptions. That is ridiculous. I often wondered what was the point of my healthcare plan if the main thing I used it for besides dentistry (being otherwise a pretty healthy person) turned out to be more financially heavy than services outside its administrative scope. And believe me, Planned Parenthood was not popular or commonly marketed as an option in this state!

But the real challenge came when I quit that job in preparation for our London move. I needed a supply of  several months to get me through the summer, the move, the settling in, and the setting up of our new health plan in Britain – we’re covered by the NHS but opted for additional coverage as part of Jeff’s work benefits package. Planned Parenthood could only give me 2-3 month of a prescription at a time, and my GP couldn’t write me a prescription that could account for my change of employment status, since my insurance disappeared with my job. My GP was a great doctor who took them time to listen to my concerns and ultimately wrote me a full year’s prescription and worked with the pharmacy to fill it, since they also normally dispense it in smaller quantities. But it was entirely out of pocket for me and cost nearly $400 to do so – a bit more than a $1 a day to remain child free by choice.

VictorianPostcard

Fast forward to London. When down to my last month of birth control, I make an appointment with the doctor’s office I’ve registered at (coincidentally a 7 minute walk from our flat). My stats and measurements are taken, my health history is reviewed, my current prescription is examined to verify they carry the same or a similar drug, a new prescription is written. The whole process takes 10 minutes. Four days ago I walked to the adjacent pharmacy and filled it, getting two months of BC. It is not as attractively or complexly packaged as what I got in the States, but the dosages are identical.

It cost me nothing.

I don’t pretend that socialized medicine is without consequences, particularly for a country as large and divided as the US. But I grew up in socialized medical care – by which I mean… the system that treats the military and government servicemen and women of the country. It too had some major drawbacks (witness a large scar on one arm when having skin biopsied vs the nearly invisible one I got for the same treatment in private care), but when run properly it works. Astonishingly well. I’m for more of it, particularly more that treats women’s health as an integral part of the system, since we’re 51% of the population, instead of a specialty field.

Discuss.

– My friend Heidi documents a less than stellar experience from her Danish doctor. Any other expats have stories to share, good and bad?

John Green talks about healthcare costs on the vlogbrothers channel, worth a view even if you disagree vehemently.

– A post laying out the pros/cons of universal healthcare and comparing it in the US to other nations

Another pro/con examination

The Winter of My Skin’s Discontent

“She couldn’t get any farther away inside from her skin. She couldn’t get away.”
― Cynthia Voigt, When She Hollers

Confession. All my adult life I’ve read the articles in women’s magazines about the perils of winter on a girl’s skin, and I always assumed I got genetically lucky. My skin was largely okay. Even living in a desert state with dry air for years, the only thing that really affected my complexion was hormonal cycles and bad eating (still occasionally guilty of the latter). Then I moved to London. After an initial breakout, my skin calmed down again (many thanks for your advice)…until winter hit.

Team, consider me a convert. The magazines were not, in fact, just lying to promote sales of various products. The desert air has nothing on your old school heater in a city flat. I’ve never experienced the flaking, cracking, and shedding of my epidermis that I have in the last couple of months. Also, as a child I had eczema that mostly cleared up, except for my scalp where it has more or less stayed for the past two decades. Annoying but manageable. Not anymore! My eczema is back with a vengeance and it has become quite painful in areas.

2014-01-24 08.39.32
I’m giving the mirror some serious side-eye here.

Sorry to the more prurient minded among you, that’s not a hickey. It’s but one of the visible patches of winter eczema currently dotting my neck, chest, and face. This one is mostly healed, after a week long battle with medication. I’ve got streaks of it just below the neckline of my supremely fashion forward alma mater hoodie, and a patch on my right temple which took a big enough hit that I’m pretty sure its going to leave some scarring. Drat.

The current arsenal.
The current arsenal, posed in front of the offending heater.

Nivea is currently managing things below the collar bone while my argan balms and are keeping things like knees, elbows, and feet intact. I’ve got my eczema specialist for spot treatment, my moisturizer with SPF for day and my eye cream and Kiehls treatment for night. Lips require their own regimen. Neosporin gets slathered on any point where the skin is punctured, fractured, or generally abused. One heavy duty cream for the nights where they won’t cut it. For the first time in my life I’ve needed the occasional slathering of hand cream after a day out in the cold!

All of this is mostly helping, but I’m wondering if it’s a bit much and if there’s an easier way to keep my skin from falling off. So I’m putting another call out for winter skin and facial care recommendations. RSVP. Before I disintegrate.

Sick. And Tired.

“Sickness is the vengeance of nature for the violation of her laws.”
~Charles Simmons

A child lives above us and it’s been affecting me, not in cute baby ways. This baby must have something wrong with it, possibly really bad colic, and it screams for hours at a time, day and night – but mostly night. I haven’t had three hours unbroken sleep in weeks, but lately it’s been getting even worse both as to noise (which was pretty loud to start with) and duration (which was nothing to sneeze at either). I’ve tried moving to every room of the flat to sleep except the bathroom but it doesn’t work, nowhere is safe.

This whole past week I was sick from lack of sleep. I lost my voice for a while and had to call in for two days, apparently one day leaving a supremely loopy message on my supervisor’s answering machine much to the hilarity of my coworkers. Today I slept until nearly two – completely spacing a lunch date with a friend – who, weirdly enough, had a prophetic dream in which I had to cancel and then saw from a Facebook post from a couple days ago that I was ill and when I didn’t return texts to confirm assumed I was knocked out cold. Which I was. Apparently some of her ESP rubbed off on me because I woke up mere minutes after her phone call and was able to grovel appropriately and reschedule for an early dinner, but I missed a phone call from my sister-in-law inviting us to a nephew’s birthday party dinner tomorrow.

As I type this now, in the mid afternoon, the infernal child is wailing.

I’m exhausted, and I can’t even imagine how the poor parents are coping! I’m pretty sure at least one of them is a student at the university and this is finals week. This is not how I imagined wrapping up my last couple weeks at work and packing up the house…

Love Letter to the Lone Man in My Zumba Class

“Start out perfect and don’t change a thing. Always accentuate your best features by pointing at them. And conceal your flaws by sucker punching anyone who has the audacity to mention them.”
– Miss Piggy

Dear Sir:

In time (a lot of it), this could be you.

In a class of 50+ women, you found a place on the floor and manned dinky little hand weights with the rest of us.  When asked by the instructor who was new, you raised your hand fearlessly, and when asked your reasons for coming, you responded, “I’m just trying to get healthier, and I wanted to try something new.”  Bravo.

Surrounded by girls who looked at you askance, you marked choreography.  You learned to cha cha.  You laughed and had no trouble making a fool of yourself.  When a load of loutish freshman boys walked by the doors to the gym, pointed you out, and laughed, you returned a roguish grin (in no way lessened by the sweat running down your face) and gestured to the ridiculously fit and attractive blonde next to you and shrugged.

In addition to an admirable attitude, your shimmies, dear sir, are magnificent.

Moreover, we saw you checking out that same cute blonde to the right of you, making funny comments to her during water breaks, and offering to turn in her weights for her when class was over.  I watched you fumble cutely to ask her out, sweaty mess that you both (to say nothing of the rest of us) were.  I’m pretty sure I saw her give you her number; I sure hope I did.  I think you earned it.

Sashay on, sir!

Your admirer,
C.

Sanctuary!

“Didn’t…didn’t you used to have that on the other side?”
– Young Frankenstein

I was an excellent dancer my whole life, but two years of marriage to a man who Does Not Dance has turned my once innate sense of rhythm into a sort of  limping flail.  My toes may be perfectly pointed but my African dance arm circles do lack some finesse, my samba steps may be lightening quick but my “hip hop” (note the sarcastic airquotes) could use some work.  But what I now lack in technicality I make up for in enthusiasm.

Riding a wave of said enthusiasm last night, I decided, “Margot’s in California for the weekend, I’ve nothing else to do tonight and two exercise classes in a row won’t kill me.”

Boredom produces frightening effects in me, kittens.  It was brutal.  But it wasn’t until halfway through class number two that I realized that I was probably doing something personally embarrassing – beyond the obvious movement of my bum in improbable directions.  Then the girl behind me tipped me off, she was staring at my back and every time my gyrations turned me about I got a quick glimpse of her puzzled face.  I pieced it together during the cool down period.  My workout top had a hood, but when putting it on, apparently the hood had gotten turned inside out and stuck on inside my shirt.  Creating a sort of hunch.  That moved about as I did.  Enthusiastically.

"What hump?"