In the 1970’s, California State Assemblywoman Marg Fong Eu ran a campaign against pay toilets in California. Her efforts succeeded, and now all public toilets in California are free. I have a medical condition, interstitial cystitis, which causes, among other things, urinary frequency. I use the bathroom more than any other person I know. As a citizen of California, I’m grateful to this trail-blazing politician for eliminating an obstacle to meeting my medical needs. Thank you so much, Marg Fong Eu! Your legacy is not forgotten.
I’m always on the alert for adaptive solutions people employ to meet their needs. Several have stood out over the years.
When my father began experiencing dementia, unable to remember directions, he could no longer take the bike rides he’d enjoyed for decades. Instead of giving up on exercise, he began taking yoga classes several times a week. I once asked Dad what he liked about yoga. He explained that he felt a sense of accomplishment when he mastered a pose. This mastery enhanced his sense of self-worth, in and out of the yoga studio, as he slowly lost his cognitive abilities. Dad replaced an exercise regimen he loved with another that made him feel good about himself. I thought this was one of the smartest things I’d ever heard. As my body changes, I will remember how Dad coped, try to be mindful of what I’m still able to accomplish, and focus on that.
I knew I was getting old when the highlight of my week was being fit for custom-made orthotics. In 2016 I’d developed painful plantar fasciitis in my right foot. With proper exercises to stretch my foot, and store-bought orthotics, my foot healed. In 2018 I developed even more severe plantar fasciitis in my other foot. The store-bought orthotics, recommended by my podiatrist, and the prescribed exercises failed to produce much improvement. Even though I’d have to pay for them out of pocket, after half a dozen months in pain, I made the appointment for custom-made orthotics.
I guess I could be blue that my body doesn’t work as well as it once did. Instead I’m thrilled that there’s a product to ease my pain, and help is on the way. It will be worth every penny. I am getting old, but it beats the alternative.
For Unlce Jon, with much love.
My uncle Jon moved to Spain in 2016 and asked me to visit him there. At the top of the list of sights he planned to show me was the Alhambra in Grenada. It rarely rains there, but on the day of our visit to this historic fortress, it poured. We never considered canceling our plans. Nor did we complain about the rain. Jon held a huge umbrella over us, and we trekked through the ruins, the palace, and the gardens as if we were experiencing a lovely spring day. Even after I fell on a slippery step, we continued to enjoy our visit. We could have skipped the adventure or abbreviated it, only seeing the indoor portions of the Alhambra, but neither of us considered those options.
Not everything in life goes as planned. We can either whine about things or carry on in the best way possible. Although I didn’t enjoy being soaked to the skin, the light had a magical quality that day, no doubt caused by the downpour.
When we live with illness, things go wrong all the time. We simply cannot be in the world and control all the circumstances with which we’re faced. Sometimes we have to make changes to our plans, and other times the best option is to carry on. I focus on being flexible and open. That’s how I was able to see the wonders of the Alhambra on a wet but enchanting day.
With the onset of menopause I began to have frequent, severe hot flashes. Among friends, I jokingly called myself Hot Flash Johanna, using the Germanic version of my name.
While chatting with a close friend and her neighbor this summer, the neighbor called me by my menopausal name. I chuckled, and so did they. I realized I must have referred to myself this way during a previous conversation.
Seven years into menopause I still have hot flashes, although they’re less frequent and less severe. But I’m glad I used humor to address this unfortunate part of
In the spring of 2018, I went through a slump. I wasn’t depressed, but I felt demoralized and defeated for about a month. I decided to complete at least one kind act a day to help boost my morale. I hoped that reflecting each night on my day would give me something to remind me of my best self.
I try to be kind in general, but this purposeful exercise highlighted that desire. I don’t think one thing pulled me out of my slump. Moving out of it was a multifactorial process. But I believe all my combined, small efforts had the desired effect, and about a month later, I was more myself again.
After my father died without warning, I often found myself crying suddenly. I cried while buying a cookie at a charity bake sale for a nurse who died in Iraq. I got choked up recalling how my high school class stood when our classmate who had cerebral palsy graduated, and became teary as I read about a homeless woman who died on the streets of New York City. At first I was embarrassed and perplexed by the waterworks. Over time I began to accept the unexpected crying as part of my grief process. We can’t always control our grief. Optimally we experience grief as it presents itself, feel it fully, and then let it subside until the next time it surfaces
During the last five years, I’ve edited three books, had two books published, had thirty-eight essays published on a variety of websites, engaged in two publicity campaigns for my books, and maintained a weekly blog. I also engaged in a crash course on the publishing industry, about which I previously knew nothing. I’ve loved all the writing, and I’m deeply grateful to have published so much of my work, but I’m exhausted.
After the publicity activities for my second book subsided, I decided to give my literary life a rest except for my blog. The peace feels strange after so much constant activity, but I’m getting used to it. It’s okay to take a break if we’re tired.We don’t always have to be productive and moving forward. Treading water is sometimes the wisest course to ensure peace of mind and good health.
My animals are a constant source of comfort and amusement to me. But sometimes they are annoying. My favorite cat, Simon, underwent a couple of noticeable changes at the age of twelve, after he’d lived with me for four years.
First he became much more affectionate. Previously he liked to be picked up and have his neck scratched for a couple of minutes once a day. That was his routine. For the last several months, he’s begun to sit next to me on the couch and meow loudly until I pet him. He also allows me to pull all twenty pounds of him onto my lap so I can rub his head and chest. This is a delightful surprise.
Not so delightful is his new habit of drinking out of the toilet. The cats drink filtered water that I change daily. But Simon now wants to drink disgusting toilet water and then walk on my hardwood floors, leaving little wet paw prints as he goes. I try to remember to put the toilet seats down, but I often forget.
Everything changes. Simon has two new habits, one that I love and one that’s revolting. Sometimes one more thing seems like too much for me. Between taking care of my myriad health needs and the three cats’ daily requirements I feel I’m at my limit. But I committed to taking care of my animals, so I’m trying to adjust to Simon’s new preference for toilet water.