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Thursday, March 23, 2017

Plans for Moving Forward, Part Two: MBTI and 20/20

According to the MBTI (Meyers-Briggs Type Indicator), I am an ENFJ.  An extrovert, energized by being around and interacting with other people.  It is important to remember that one is not completely one or the other, introvert or extrovert on the MBTI, just one more than the other.  I consider myself a pragmatic extrovert.  What is that you may ask?  Well, I am energized by interacting with people I feel comfortable around, and I have cultivated the ability to "fake it til I make it" when I'm around people who threaten or intimidate me.  Some people and many social situations really drain me, drain my energy.
I can be very shy, and I am selective about how much I reveal about myself.  I definitely cultivate a public persona.
When I started this blog, I wanted a place to express myself, and to share and exchange with like-minded people.  I worried about whether I was getting myself into something that I would regret.  Would viewers challenge me on what I express?  Would anyone target me with malice?  Would I be opening myself up too much just to gain common understanding of a few?
I can also be very shy about having my picture taken.  And by "shy" here, I mean vain.  I can honestly say that I believe myself to be prettier than I am.  You know those comparison pictures used to illustrate the discrepancy between reality and perception for a person who suffers body dysmorphia?  I have that in the opposite way.  My self-image is way more flattering than the lies that cameras and mirrors reveal to me.  It may be shallow, but I want to be beautiful.  So I use cameras and mirrors sparingly.  That is why there are at this time only 2 images I have posted of myself on the internet. (I can't help any that others have posted on FB on TBT from our high school yearbook.)
I took a face selfie for my FB page.  It was so hard to do.  I did my hair and makeup, chose my lighting, took lots of different selfies.  I wonder if I would have photoshopped my dark circles and wrinkles if I knew how.  I chose one, cropped it, and posted it on my profile.  I cringe when I see it.  That was about 2 years ago.  The second photo is the one heading up my last post.  My husband took it.  I made him take a few shots at different angles.  I am wearing no makeup, but I'm quite obscured by bike helmet, sunglasses and even earmuffs.  But even still, I cringe.  There is no camouflaging my overweight body and chubby cheeks.
Why am I putting myself through this?  Because I think it is part of a journey to improving my physical and mental health. It is said that to be effective in setting and reaching goals, it is important  to define where you are and where you want to go.  So, that photo is a starting line of sorts, and the starting line of the PMC will be a finishing line of sorts.  I am going to try to document my journey here.
On Monday, I started Dr Phil's 20/20 diet and took a bike ride, did some resistance work at YMCA.  Tuesday, I took a Deep Water Fitness class at the Y.  The weather took a turn to colder and windier,  so no bike ride; yesterday I exerted myself shampooing carpets.  I have already lost a couple of pounds, am generally more active around the house.  My muscles are complaining a little (okay, a lot), so I'm drinking lots more water, and doing stretches and even taking a little acetaminophen as needed.
I will try to blog other things too, so as not to bore you too much with this journey  Balance is good!
Hey, for fun, if you have stopped in today and ever taken the MBTI, will you comment with what personality type you are?

Sunday, March 19, 2017

Plans for Moving Forward: Part 1 "I Must Be Mad"



Moving forward is such a good idea.  I like both parts: “moving” and “forward”.  Here, just now,  I am focusing on the cognitive and physical acts of “moving” and “forward”. 
I agree with what Miranda Esmonde-White says about aging and taking care of your body.   I catch her on PBS once in a while.  She stresses the importance of movement and gently challenging your flexibility, balance and strength.  I find that when I move my body, my mental health improves, too.
My mental health has been impacted by grieving, in addition to the annual winter blues (SAD), and an awareness of the toll age has taken on my mental agility.  I am increasingly aware of certain maladaptive patterns I have in response to things that hurt or frustrate me.  I mean sulking and a tendency toward self-pity.  And then there’s denial.  I now find that, when faced with life’s worst insults (the loss of loved ones), these flimsy coping strategies don’t serve me well.  I must be thoughtful, intentional, or better put, strategic, about “moving forward” with my mental health in order to salvage my functionality!
My physical health has taken a hit, mainly in the area of overall fitness.  Whatever healthy habits I developed were disrupted by last-minute trains to Boston when David was in one crisis or another.  Eating in hospital cafeterias, sleeping in family waiting areas, long periods of just sitting, pacing, worrying.  Hours spent ruminating on “what if” scenarios, making Plans A, B, and C, and then starting all over again as circumstances changed.  Oh my….suddenly a simple act like going for a walk borders on impossible, and unfortunately, unimportant. 
One thing I have found in my grieving process is that I am very angry, principally with cancer.  Cancer has taken my father, my brother, my stepfather.  My great-grandmother lost both her baby and her life to ovarian cancer when she was in her 30’s, leaving behind a husband with 5 children, 3 of whom survived colon cancer. 
It has finally dawned on me that grieving and healing will involve dealing with my anger.  So I'm channeling my anger to do what I can to defeat cancer.  My brother David was blessed immensely by his care at Dana Farber Cancer Institute in Boston.  They have a huge fundraiser to support cancer research, the largest of its kind.  Every year, they hold a bicycle ride across Massachusetts: the PanMass Challenge.  Riders can participate in distances that suit them, from “virtual” riding (which is fundraising without actually riding a bicycle, all the way to pedaling the whole distance from Sturbridge to Provincetown in 2 days (192 miles).  I’m pretty angry, so, throwing caution to the wind, I have registered for the full distance.  (Crazy?  Yup.  Mad in both senses: angry and crazy.)
The PanMass Challenge is first and foremost a fundraiser.  The money needed to keep cancer research funded is staggering.  David participated in a clinical trial for the medicine nivolumab, and later, for pembrolizimab.  The associated cost was overwhelming, but he didn’t have to pay because he was essentially donating his body as part of the experiment.  I can’t even imagine what the additional costs were in hospital stays, neurosurgeries (to remove spinal tumors), testing, testing, more testing, rehab facility, etc, etc, etc.
When a rider registers for the PMC, she commits to raising thousands of dollars to cancer research.  I have a long way to go, both in physical preparation and in campaigning for funds.
If you are still reading this, I am appealing to you to consider making a donation for this worthy cause.  Surely, your life has been impacted by this horrid disease.  Maybe you can donate in memory of someone you love and have lost, or in honor of someone who has waged war and won, or someone in the struggle.
I am riding in memory of David, Dad, and Jim, and 2 people I’ve never met:
1)  Tim Moore, who is the brother my friend Mary lost to melanoma 5 years ago; and 
2) (in honor of, not in memory of ) President Jimmy Carter, who received pembrolizimab at the same time as David did, and for the same reason (4 melanoma brain tumors). 
But my anger and determination, my ride is big enough to carry your will to beat this enemy too.  By the time I reach Provincetown, my driving force will be Hope.  And in such an epic battle, Hope is everything.

To donate online, follow this link: Donate here to my rider page.  You can donate anonymously or publicly; your amount can be confidential if you wish.  Either way, your donation becomes a tangible tribute.  If you make a donation or not, make a comment in memory of, or in honor of someone you love who has or has had cancer.  Many thanks.

Tuesday, March 7, 2017

For the Longest Time....

My brother David and his daughter Emma , summer 2013

For the longest time, I didn’t know if I would ever want to come back to writing this blog.  I had felt some inspiration the last time I posted, but then….
Life has happened and happened and happened…..
I can’t write a lot about it, because it is too painful, but my beloved brother David died from melanoma last June at 55 years old.  Horrible, devastating disease. 
David was a Golden Boy in our family.  Do you know what I mean?  Some families have them, and I was lucky.  I had him my whole life until June.  I had him my whole life longer than anyone else.  I have tried to tell myself that my loss wasn’t that…..important because it is worse for my mother.  Or it is worse for his wife and worse for his daughter.  And then I realize how ridiculous that line of thinking is, and scold myself for being petty.  And then I admit that I am trying to minimize my loss because to feel it all at once is too big and too painful.
I have spent so many weeks and so many weekends at my mother’s house, both before and after David died.  Mum & her husband and David & his family lived in the same tiny little town near the Maine-Canadian border.  David was very attentive to my mother, stopping in to make sure all was well.  Taking care of anything Jim couldn’t do.  Bringing sunshine and love and laughter.  There was plenty to do to help Mum & Jim and my sister-in-law get ready for the coming winter.
Then life continued……
Jim had for several years a condition called BMD (Bone Marrow Dysplasia), which often eventually degrades into a form of chronic leukemia.  He converted from BMD to leukemia a little over 2 years ago, had a round of chemotherapy, achieved remission, and had done reasonably well since then.  He was gradually getting older and more frail, but so gradually as to almost be imperceptible.  Then in late September, he became acutely ill, met criteria for additional chemotherapy, put it off and then died.  It was very sudden.  He was admitted to the hospital just not feeling well on a Saturday.  He got rehydrated and transfused and was resting comfortably by that evening, but in the wee hours of Sunday, he deteriorated rapidly and died.  It was four months to the day since David died.  We couldn’t believe it.  And in the months since then, it has been a journey of grieving, coping, and trying to orient toward healing and finding purpose.
That’s enough for today.  I have plans as to how I am moving forward. More next time.