Archives for posts with tag: women

I have long loved summer, it’s long long days, the clear blue skies, vacations, and mountain views.  2012 was the summer of surgeries, I had three of them, each spaced two weeks apart. I remember watching the Olympic games from my hospital room on the day after my mastectomy. I spent a lot of that sunny Seattle summer scared and indoors. Since that time, summers have been savored the best that I can. I spend a lot of time outdoors and in nature. I take photos of the beauty around me.

This summer, I’ve been doing a lot of canning. I’ve been preserving the bounty of stone fruits in jams and salsa not to mention our wonderful berries and rhubarb. It reminds me of canning peaches and tomatoes with my mom, when I was a girl. There was so much in the garden, so much in the orchards. It was full and sweet and delicious. Canning is not the same as fresh but in the dark days of winter, it provides a bright taste of summer and the hopes of days of longer sunlight up ahead.

Women, traditionally, are the savers of these normal but parts of life. The save food, remember birthdays, keep photo albums of family vacations, and write milestones, the first steps and first words in baby books. Women preserve history of these day to day memories, the events that are not rare, but to be celebrated and appreciated. These are not events recorded in history books.
The summer of 2016 has brought a new event, one that will be preserved in history books. Yesterday, Hillary Rodham Clinton, was the first woman nominated for the presidency of the United States by a major political party. This is more than a big deal. It is something I did not expect to happen in my lifetime.

Like many major societal changes, the good news has been somewhat offset by negative, qualifying, or discounting remarks. I have seen so many women obviously moved by this historical event include a qualification or apology. “Well, I don’t agree with everything Hillary’s done or said,” or “Hey, I still like Bernie Sanders even if I like Hillary.” I have also seen women admonished for their enthusiasm on social media with cautions of, “Well you know that you shouldn’t just vote for her because she’s a woman. You need to vote for the best candidate.”

As if the women of America would be sent into hysteria and forget how to vote responsibly, something we have been doing as a group, since given the right to vote in the U.S. in 1920. And then there are the other objections, the blemishes, the “good but’s”, and just plain old unadulterated misogyny.

But for now, I am working to preserve, the best and sweetest bits of the summer of 2016, and I am savoring them indeed.

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This post was inspired by the Health Activist Writers’ challenge for the month of April. I write “inspired by” because I have yet to use one of their suggested daily writing prompts.

As a child psychologist, I am often advising the mothers of my patients to take more time for self-care. A frequent response is, “I know, but I just don’t have time,” to which I reply, “If you feel you have no time for this than you have been without time for yourself for far too long and this is even more reason to do it!”

I know I am asking a lot of moms who are already taxed with parenting, work, and household responsibilities. I have struggled with the same life balance issue myself over the years, especially since becoming a mom 14 1/2 years ago. One of the valuable lessons I am continuing to learn as a breast cancer patient is to take care of myself, I mean REALLY take care of myself. It’s not that I was living a martyr’s life but I was not taking sufficient care of my health. To do this properly, takes time.

In 2002, I was laid off from my very first job following the completion of my post-doc. To make a long story short, the job was ugly. It was the first time in my life that I was treated like I was incompetent. Down deep I knew that I wasn’t incompetent but to be treated this way for nearly three years in my first “real job” and right after becoming a mom was a major blow. The lay off itself was done in a fairly nasty and unfair fashion. It was toward the end of that job that I had my first of two incidences of Major Depression. (The second incidence occurred a couple of years later but only lasted 2 weeks because I got back into treatment immediately after recognizing that I was not myself). It was BAD. It wasn’t just sadness, which is what a lot of people mean when they say, “I’m depressed.” I had no appetite. Food was flavorless. I lost 10 pounds in a week. My sleep was messed up and I had to will myself through each day to have enough energy to parent Zoey who was a toddler at the time. She has always been an empathetic girl and at the time, was learning to read facial expressions. I remember feeling heartbreaking guilt and sadness one day. She was sitting in my lap, looked up at my face, used her fingers to push my mouth into a smile while anxiously asking, “Mama happy?”

Being laid off and depressed was a major wake up call for taking care of myself. And since I was laid off and able to collect unemployment for a few months, I was able to make use of the time to figure out what to do with my life professionally. At that point, I decided that I would never rely on one source of salary again if I could help it. So in 2002, I applied and tested for my psychology license in Washington state and in 2003, started my private practice. Meanwhile, I was writing research grants and ended up being employed through two of them, the longer one landing me on the research staff of the Social Development Research Group at the University of Washington. I worked there until 2007 until the research money ran out. I was unable to secure funding for more grants. As the money ran out, I expanded my practice and then by the time I left U.W. in April of 2007, I was able to build up my practice to full time. Although being in private practice had not previously been an aspiration of mine, it ended up being the perfect job for me.

So although I would not have taken that job had I known what it was going to be like, I got some very positive life lessons out of it. Also, I made a number of friends at that crazy job including my dear friends, Jennie and Lisa, whom I’ve mentioned in my blog. Hmm, taking the opportunities afforded by crappy life circumstances to glean important life lessons? Gee, that kind of sounds like my breast cancer experience thus far.

Fortunately, I was able to use some of those life lessons from my crappy job experience to cope with my breast cancer better and to avoid getting depressed again. Sorry, I hate being depressed. And yes I have grief, but healthy grief and clinical depression are not the same thing.

So having breast cancer and especially the time off after my major surgeries, has given me some time to revise my life plan so that I am a happier and healthier person. As I mentioned previously, taking care of myself takes time and emotional space. I will not always need this much time and this much emotional space but right now I do. At first, this was a hard adjustment for my husband because healing has meant my being more emotionally distant than usual. (And no, I don’t just mean less sex.) We had to develop different ways of spending time together, for example, John started accompanying me on my walks on the weekends. He also eats all of the healthy dinners I make ahead of time in reasonable dinner-sized portions and freeze. The walking and the diet change have been part of the reason that John has lost 22 pounds. My taking care of myself has also meant that John had to take on more responsibility and learn how to take care of me after surgeries. It has also meant John taking care of some of his own health issues better.

For Zoey, my cancer has meant worrying about a parent’s mortality at an earlier age than average. It has meant seeing me less energetic and weaker at times. But overall, I am very happy to report that Zoey has more than risen to the challenge. She fairly quickly snapped out of the angry, eye rolling teen stuff that she was directing toward me and started treating me much more respectfully and affectionately. She is often there with a glass of ice water when she sees me fanning myself during a hot flash and she secretly changed my screen saver to a banner that reads, “I love you, Mom,” just because. Sure we have our moments and she is still able to be disrespectful and her eye rolling muscles aren’t totally lax. And having a mom who is a breast cancer patient when she is a 14 year-old girl makes her life harder. I wish she didn’t have to go through this. But she has grown enormously.

Finally, by taking care of myself, ultimately, I will take better care of my patients. Some of them are feeling a little anxious and impatient because I am off work again for an extended time. But if I don’t take care of myself, I will not have enough energy to do a good job. And as my dear friend, Nancy points out, by taking care of myself and coping positively with a major life stressor, I am modeling valuable skills for the families I see.

So even though the villagers were not initially happy with my changing my life to have a stronger focus on self-care, ultimately, my self-care is reaping benefits for the villagers.

I do believe that there is more than one good solution to every problem but perhaps this lesson could be helpful to some of you readers out there.

 

Let’s say you signed up for a health activist writers’ blogging challenge to write 30 posts in 30 days.

Let’s also say that you had major surgery 3 1/2 weeks ago.

And to earn extra points, you walked three miles and had three healthcare appointments, two of your own and one of your daughters.

You have not driven much lately but today you drove to downtown and back twice. The final trip home was at 5pm on a Friday, the usual bad traffic, and a teen in the car who is playing along with her tunes using drumsticks on the dashboard.

You get home and your husband tries to engage you in conversation. You find that you are unable to communicate coherent thoughts. He understands and gives you space.

Then you have dinner and watch a video because it is family night. It is your husband’s turn to choose the movie and thankfully he picks something light. He has a rep for choosing the cod liver oil type films meant to impart a meaningful lesson to your daughter. He is annoying that way. When she was 8, he chose ‘Chariots of Fire’ and then kept getting annoyed with her for repeatedly raising her hand to ask questions. For some strange reason, she did not understand the subplot involving anti-semitism. Also, the frenetic pacing of the movie, especially the slow-motion running scenes was too much for her. She did however, like Vangelis’ score and downloaded it to her iPod. 

Supposing you did all of these things, you perhaps would not hesitate in your bedtime routine even when your husband notes, ‘But it’s only eight-thirty’.

You will finger type a post on your Smartphone, secure in the knowledge that you are taking care of yourself.

As a healthcare activist, my sign reads, ‘Women of the world, rest when you are tired.’

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George Lakoff

George Lakoff has retired as Distinguished Professor of Cognitive Science and Linguistics at the University of California at Berkeley. He is now Director of the Center for the Neural Mind & Society (cnms.berkeley.edu).

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