Saturday, November 27, 2010

These Mountains I Call Home

Home sweet home. As I get older I find cliches to be increasingly unerringly true. It was an indescribable feeling the night I woke up in my own bed after a couple of weeks away. Half asleep as I was, I had this unshakeable feeling that this was the loveliest, most wonderful bed I'd ever slept in, the most beautiful room I'd ever been in, the most blessed sleep I'd ever slept. Ever.

And it is always a beautiful time of year up here in these mountains. The rain and sticky heat is gone, and in its place comes stealing in what I call the sad soft feel of a year preparing to depart. A precious ambience I've come to associate over the years with oranges, dust, woollen clothes, cold nights, warming your back in the morning sun and ah, Christmas. And all the connotations of the year with its problems and difficulties doing a fast fade, and an anxious excitement for the new year to come in as if all the old year's problems will dissolve away with the last sunset. On the flip side, there's also the implicit realisation that all the year's good times and treasured memories will slide further away in time. Another year gone, another time was.

Time comes, time goes. Seasons change. People come and go. But these mountains are eternal.

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Ear we go again

Here's a new one - a micro blogpost via cellphone. Back at the CMCH Vellore. Had repair ear surgery on my right ear on Friday. The one I had in late April had been a great success but in mid September I blew it quite literally. I just woke up one morning with my ear off and when it remained stubbornly off the second day I did the unthinkable - pinched my nose and blew my ear open. And out.

My earlier visit here had been at the scorching height of a sizzling summer. This time our first day was rainlashed, grey and sunless. The handwork of cyclone Jal as it turned out. We had to dig out the woollies we'd packed for the home journey through the much cooler north east. Apart from that unexpected one day weather hitch, everything has been smooth-sailing. We even got in a day's sightseeing of the rather arid Vellore Fort which suprisingly holds not much else apart from a sumptuously elaborate 16th century Vijayanagar Hindu temple.

My surgery went well, thanks to the prayers of loved ones and wellwishers, and I'm looking forward to a gentle journey home, again by train to avoid air pressure damaging my new auditory structure. This time I'm planning to max out the home route by taking a two day rest and shop till we drop break in Cal. Whoopee de doo.


Wednesday, September 22, 2010

And I Have You

I've always loved the poetry of Nikki Giovanni since I was introduced to her by Manorama, a roommate at a month-long refresher course in Burdwan who was then attempting a doctoral thesis on Ms. Giovanni's works. I never knew if my roomie ever got that thesis done but I'm eternally in her debt for helping me discover Nikki's fresh, readable, entirely identifiable, yet faultlessly classy poetry. Her love poems especially so get it right on the button.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Show me how you look and I'll tell you who you are

Conceded, that at birth, none of us were consulted on the way we might want to look. Nose, lips, hair, body parts, general body structure, nada nada nada. But it struck me this evening as I was on my way home from work, could the way we were born looks-wise have influenced the way we act and behave? Do our looks typecast us into certain behavioural patterns?

In the traffic jam at a busy junction this evening, there was this vai guy driving one of those chirpy little new cars, I forget which, besides not being really able to identify any car other than the ubiquitous Maruti 800. Anyway this guy reminded me of someone I had seen recently somewhere though I couldn't immediately place who or where. So he wasn't to blame for how he looked but that being the way he was, I mentally typecast him as one of those vai men in their 30s or 40s, averagely well-off but not too affluent, conventional but a bit of a lech when opportunity presented itself, reasonably well-educated and bright but not overly so, fairly widely-travelled, a paunch held in by a tight belt (he was sitting and I couldn't actually see anything other than his face), a bit of a fatty chest, probably smelling of aftershave or some sweetish body spray such men seem to favour.

Ok so I was probably stereotyping him but it did bring me to reflect on the question I brought up earlier: do our looks typecast us into certain behavioural patterns? I think it does. And about 5 minutes after I sighted the guy, I realised who he had reminded me of - Principal Figgins from Glee.

Tuesday, August 31, 2010

A Mindset Reflective

Came across the Mindset List a few days ago and among other things, it forcibly brought home just how quickly time flies and how rapidly things change and get as outdated as fads doing a fastfade into oblivion.

It's an unsettling thought that socio-cultural milestones can disappear so completely from generational memory or morph into something quite unrecognisable. Kind of disorienting. Like goalposts bobbing around like bouys instead of staying fixed in position. It also gives me a niggling sense of disquiet as to what touchstones do we have left that won't shift or drift with time and new developments. Is nothing constant anymore?

A couple of weeks ago I was watching a fellow Sunday School teacher earnestly telling the kids about life choices and how they could shape their own futures by the proper use of those choices. Now I've heard so much negative reports about kids these days, especially school-going kids, I have to confess that I was cynically wondering how much any of the lesson was going down. As usual the kids were sitting quietly and seemingly listening politely but I couldn't shake off the feeling they weren't all there. With all the transformations in attitudes and outlooks that have come with cultural meltdowns and fast changing lifestyles, aided and abetted by technology and the media, kids today have such radically different views and look-outs, and parents and adults seem to be left behind in the dark, fumbling their way through all the dizzying shifts and turns of societal changes.

Change is good most times, and technology is amazing. But nothing comes without a price, and I suspect that's where our age-old constants will eventually be robbed. In Mizoram where the community is still close-knit, society classless and religion respected, I don't look forward to the time when the Mizo mindset might reduce all these to nothing. Or morph them into unrecognisable shapes and patterns.

Saturday, August 14, 2010

Of Love and Rain

For my baby. With apologies to Thomas Lowell Beddoes for slight changes to his Song, and credit to John Walford for his breathtaking Raindrop Rhapsody.

Sunday, July 25, 2010

Patience on a Leash

Since I got home from work Thursday evening, a neighbour has been treating us all to loud sessions of uninhibited, frenzied drumming. Not sure if he bought himself a new kit or borrowed the gear but the first couple of days, at any time the mood took him, he'd play a snatch of Winds of Change, Always Somewhere or some other 80s rock classic and enthusiastically launch into the drum parts. Drums, cymbals, et al, all smashed with the greatest gusto. The first night, he struck up after 9 which is on the sedate side of the evening in these parts, and the next morning, I could hear him banging away around 5. Mercifully, he hasn't been so inconsiderate with his timings since then, only slapping his trap set in broad daylight when everyone's presumably wide awake already.

Mind you, he's not one of those drug/alchohol-ics. Edging close to 40, he's always been a really nice, helpful fellow, very involved with church activities etc, though when I think back, he always did like cranking up his music system a notch too high on occasion. What's probably set him off the deep end is that his wife died of brain cancer a year ago. It was one of those fast-acting cancers and after a few weeks in hospital, she just gave up, leaving three kids and a young husband. The kids ranging in age from 14 to 7 are schooling in Shillong where his parents live, which means he lives here alone with nothing but memories. Reason enough to go more than a little berserk, I know, and the neighbours are humouring him by sympathetically putting up with the racket. But when the crash boom bang gets a little too much, I wish social niceties and etiquette could just be shoved aside and someone would pipe up in capital letters S-H-A-D-D-U-P!

Sunday, July 18, 2010

The way it is

Busy times these. Humid, hectic. The hearing in my right ear is still overly sensitive so I've been avoiding attending church services with the obligatory drums pounding deep into the recesses of my ear bones and making me miserable. It's almost 3 months after the surgery but I have no idea when my ear will acclimatise itself. Also most sounds are still higher on the bass register and I can't wait to be able to hear treble notes again.

I've also put on a lot of weight. Not sure how much precisely since I don't make a habit of stepping on the scales but definitely enough for all my clothes to feel tight and stretched. And that's if I can still get into them at all. I feel heavy, slow and sluggish, and the monsoonal weather isn't helping any. Oh, and did I mention my arthritis? I inherited it from my maternal grandmother who couldn't get up from a herhsawp (a low circular stool made of cane or bamboo) without clutching her knees and yelping "Aaih, aaih, aaih!"

The World Cup was great. The last two passed by with me not really registering much of it because it takes a lot to wean me off the computor and the internet. This time Facebook provided great company. A page called Ban the Annoying Vuvuzela etc gave me daily laughs as people (as in regular, eloquent, adult folks and not silly, incoherent teens) threw in wit, sarcasm, indignation, annoyance, and a generous dose of plain stupidity to make for a very lively discussion group. Unfortunately, the page sank under the weight of its own popularity, and disappeared halfway through the competition.

At work, I've been assigned something new that I'm not sure I can do justice to. Rhetoric and prosody is something that I never formally studied so it's going to be a tremendous challenge mastering all the intricacies involved enough to be able to teach it all in turn. I know I'm going to benefit a lot from it once I sort out what's what but for the moment, argh, my workload weighs heavy. Wish me luck.

Thursday, July 01, 2010

With the angels..

Totie passed away this afternoon. He was 13. He was named indirectly after Dodie, the man Princess Diana died with, and who were both in the news at the time. My sister thought the name Dodie was just so cute and begged to name the puppy with it but I said no, so we settled on Totie. 13 years is a long time especially for dogs. I read somewhere that 1 human year equals 7 for a dog so that would mean Totie was 91. While he did have filmy eyes, decaying teeth, incontinence, and not too sharp hearing, our 5 year Koorie kept him lively, dragging him to play when he would have probably preferred to sleep quietly. Totie sometimes snapped back impatiently but most times, he let Koorie tease him around, which inadvertently helped him get some good exercise.

As my sister and I have been leafing through old photographs of our many dogs, we're having problems remembering who was born when, whose mother was who, whose sibling was who and so on. We're also realising that 13 years is also a long, long time for human beings.

Monday, June 07, 2010

My 15 Minutes of Fame

Just when I was thinking I've been there, done that, seen everything there is to be seen in life, along came this. The feeling is incredibly sweet. Having somebody appreciate something you've done to the extent they're happy to fork out money to buy it is just mindblowingly ego-boosting. Especially when it's so completely unexpected.

It's also been something of a major eye-opener. Though I don't really know a thing about art, I enjoy visiting the local art shows and often come across a piece that catches my eye. But I usually psyche myself out of actually making a buy. It's either too expensive or the artist is too unknown or the colour won't suit our walls or something or the other. An artist friend of mine keeps telling me to buy something to "encourage" the young talents but I never do. This experience has shown me how exhilarating, inspiring and galvanizing it is having something you've done monetarily appreciated. Sure, mine wasn't the best piece of photography on display. There were several others with great style, technique, impact and what have you. But this guy comes along and connects with my picture and instead of dilly-dallying like I usually do, clinches the deal. Moral of story: you may not be the most well-off person you know but if it's not going to set you back too badly, pick up a piece that speaks to you and go for it. At the end of the day, art isn't really about technique or colour co-ordination or future investments but something that speaks to your heart.

Thursday, June 03, 2010

Who will Love a Little Sparrow?

Who will love a little sparrow?
Will no one write her eulogy?
- Paul Simon

And so in typical airbrained female fashion, after all my angst over my SLR cam, I went and got myself a zoom lens and have been happily discovering the world of difference it makes to my photographs. I still know zilch about the techno aspects of the cam - still in blissfully ignorant limbo about shutter speeds, exposures, ISOs and the like. But even in auto mode, I'm just blown away by the results.

I've been specially concentrating on the sparrows that throng the Mayflower tree right by the house. Leastways, I got in a few shots on a couple of sunny days till the weather turned on its head and has been spewing waterworks endlessly over the last couple of weeks, and just about denuding the tree of its vibrant, scarlet flowers. I've discovered first hand that birds are infuriatingly difficult to shoot because they're so timid and fly away at the slightest sound or movement. Also they just won't stay still unless you catch them at special moments. I have to say I've developed a very healthy respect for birdwatchers. That kind of patience is just phenomenal.

Though I haven't exactly managed to get really, really good shots yet, these are a few that I really like, even if I do say so myself. A couple of them I was even pursuaded to send in for a local photo exhibit that started today. I was bursting with curiousity to see how good or bad they looked so I went to check after work. It felt strange seeing something you had created out in public for everyone to see and though they aren't great pictures by any means, I'm proud of my little sparrows :)

Monday, May 24, 2010

PDAs: Cringetime!

What do you do when you're out in a public place minding your own business and you're suddenly confronted with a couple unabashedly creating a public display of affection? Consider them fair game and ogle them happily? Quickly avert your eyes and pretend you can't see them? Act totally blasé like you're exposed to exhibits like that every day? Confront them with a sound lecture on public behaviour?

At one of the eating places I went to on my recent trip, my cousin and I were hungrily lunching on something nice and Chinese when this young couple walked in and sat down at the table right next to ours. Both looked Chinese, in their early to mid 20s, fair, decently dressed and had a few shopping bags. Although they were sitting directly in my line of sight, I was probably so busy digging into my food I didn't notice when they started acting touchy feely. My cousin who was actually sitting with her back to them was the one to bring them to my notice. The restaurant was cosily dark with tinted windows but not so cinema hall dark that customers might end up eating spoonfuls of salt. And besides it was around 2 in the afternoon with the sun in full blast mode outside. None of that bothered the couple. The woman would lean her head on his shoulder like she'd been carrying a quintal-full headload all day and her neck was now dying on her. He would smoothen her hair, murmur presumed wee wee words of love in her ear. When their food arrived in arrays of plates and bowls, they fussed around and when I next looked, she was coyly feeding him like he was some imbecelic overgrown child having trouble feeding on his own.

Ok so they didn't actually put on a physically intimate free show, at least not when I was looking, nothing that might've got them booked for indecent behaviour in public. But it got me thinking that while times change and the country and its people aren't as conservative and buttoned-up as it/we used to be, surely you should stop to consider whether your public peccadilloes are embarrassing the unwary around you and take it someplace private.

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Thank you, Jesus

A quick post of something that's just too precious to me to not blog about. CMC Hospital in Vellore being originally founded by a Christian missionary, there's plenty of evidence of its Christian origin despite it being overrun by non-Christian staff and patients today. Like the chapel on the ground floor that's easily accessible to everyone and whose goings-on you can listen to via audio set-ups in the privacy of your room even up on the 9th floor of A Block. And the many Bible-themed pieces of art in unexpected places all over the hospital campus.

What's especially dear to me is the picture of Jesus that hangs over the OT door, something similar to the picture above though probably not the same. When you're flat on your back being wheeled in for surgery, all you see is the space directly above you. So a picture over a door you're passing through instantly catches your eye. I remember being tremendously reassured by the picture years ago when I was first wheeled in, and often thought of it in later years. Not that I ever heard anyone mention it though. Last month, as I was again being wheeled in, I wondered if it would still be there and there it was. A little the worse for wear, with the inevitable Indian-style floral garland around it but still the same. It instantly took me back 17 years ago when the thought of Jesus being with me through the surgery gave me such comfort - not that I'm the type that's afraid of needles, blood, surgery etc. Amid the flood of memories, one thought came to mind - a Bible verse. "Lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the earth." And I had to fight back a tear that the Lord is with me always, remains true and faithful, and stands by His promises.

Sunday, May 16, 2010

All about a Ear

Finally a post to fill all you concerned folks in on my surgery. I had my stapedotomy (slightly different from a stapedectomy in that the dec version is done on folks with stapes, which are the smallest bones in the human body, but since I was weirdly born with no stapes, I was given the do version ) on Tuesday, the 27th April, rather late in the day.

The doctor originally said it would take about 45 minutes but she later said it turned out to be more difficult that they'd thought so they took a little over 2 hours. It was done under local anaesthesia but possibly because they said I'd have to keep my head in the same position for 12 hours after surgery to help keep the piston in place, nurses gave me sedative shots on both hips before the surgery. That made me very sleepy but the docs kept asking if I was alright etc etc. Towards the end, the questions came so often I couldn't sleep and though I couldn't actually feel the pain of the whole microscoping thing that was going on, my earlobe ached badly from the pulling/holding in place and I fervently wished it was all over. While I had been terribly apprehensive about the whole not moving my head for 12 hours thing, it was about 6 in the evening when I was wheeled back to my room and with one thing after another, it was night time anyway and I slept like a baby through the crucial hours.

According to my discharge summary, I had a single fixed crura with a thickened footplate. 3/4 of the posterior of the footplate was removed and a 3.5 x 0.6 mm Teflon prosthesis inserted. A week later, the padding inserted in my ear was removed and I could hear normally. Everything was overloud though. Also the removal of the bit of bone makes things echo a lot but the doctor said it will soon go away.

What I feel is like I'm wearing a hearing aid which amplifies every sound like crazy but I'm told I just need to adjust gradually. About 20 days after the surgery, I'm still taking it easy at home and going around with cottonwool stuffed in my ear to minimise the impact of loud noises. Things still sound very distorted and I feel disoriented and sometimes unable to tell which direction a sound is from. I think someone's talking on my right but when I look, they're on my left. And this morning, as it was raining with thunder rumbling in the sky, I asked if it was thunder or the sound of a vehicle outside the house. Little problems like that. Very confusing. But I also know it's getting better because 3/4 days after the surgery, I couldn't stand the hiss of the pressure cooker and had to escape from the kitchen. Now it doesn't hurt my ear so much anymore. Also I've been reading up a lot on online forums about the problems and what have yous of other stap patients and what I'm going through seems to be quite normal. It's just going to take a while for my ear to heal completely. I'm just so thankful it's been a successful surgery.

Finally, here's a video of a stap operation for the more curious. Very minute surgery as you can see, and only performed by the most experienced and skilled surgeons.

Saturday, April 03, 2010

Of Easter and hope of a personal renewal

For since we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so, through Jesus, God will bring with him those who have fallen asleep.

Easter will roll around again tomorrow. I don't feel it so strongly now but come tomorrow morning I'll be misty-eyed again about the implications of Easter, of redemption and life hereafter. And of seeing my parents again someday.

I especially miss my mother these days. In a couple of weeks time, I will be continuing something that we had done together over 17 years ago. In October 1992, we had made a trip down south to Vellore on medical advice regarding my auditory perception. A minor surgery was performed on my left ear and more importantly, it was discovered I have a congenital malformation of the stapes (an important part of the inner ear). The doctors told me to come back for a review five years later but when Mum died two years later, I just never went back. It wasn't as if I was terribly inconvenienced so I got by somehow. And with one thing after another, I never really gave the issue much thought.

Till recently when my right ear just couldn't even properly pick up whispers anymore. Took off to a local audiologist who ran a test and showed me sophisticated hearing aids in the price range of 70,000 to one lakh rupees. I slept it over and decided the next day to go for the other option: have a stapedectomy done which involves inserting a little prosthesis called a piston in the inner ear. An intricate piece of microsurgery which can restore hearing to practically normal. A botched job can cause nerve damage or worse, permanent loss of hearing.

So instead of buying a one lakh something hearing aid which even the audiologist admitted doesn't actually stand up to natural hearing, I'll be going back to Vellore for that long overdue surgery. And I'm going to miss my mother a lot. But then again, I know she'll be with me in spirit - thanks to the promise of Easter.

Saturday, March 13, 2010

The Day We Danced the Streets into History

Friday, March 12th, 2010. What a day it was. And you had to be there in person to savour the euphoria, exuberance and carnival atmosphere of it all. Chapchar Kut it was, traditionally an agricultural festival during a short layoff period in the heavily laboured lives of our ancestors and always celebrated with a work hard, party harder attitude. Considered a heathen custom with the advent of Christianity, and ousted from practice. Also no longer applicable in today's largely desk-bound Mizoram, especially in the urban areas, except as a governmental cultural holiday. This year, the powers that be decided to take a leaf out of neighbouring state Meghalaya's flirtations with Guinness records and arrange the world's biggest and largest ever gathering of the traditional Mizo dance, the cheraw.

When Mizos get high on something, we don't do things by halves. Everyone gets into the mood, young, old, rich, poor. We tend to all want a piece of the action and have our say, whether positive or negative, helpful or completely irrelevant. Friday was Christmas, New Year's Eve and FIFA World Cup final day all rolled into one. From 9.30 am, the AR Grounds where the main function was held, began to bring in participants for the dance. By 12 noon, on the streets, where the dancing was to spill over out onto, vehicles disappeared: traffic was closed and rerouted. People took over. Endless processions of dancers in traditional gear and excited revellers in everyday wear walking towards the Lammual.

We had been informed the dancing would stretch from Sikulpuikawn in southern Aizawl to Chanmari kawn where I live. I had thought I'd just walk up the couple of yards to our locality's buzz point and take in the action from there. But then my neighbour whose teenaged son was to beat the bamboo staves said the dancing was supposed to begin a lot further away. Disappointedly I decided to watch from my brother-in-law's place bang in the middle of the bazar area. I also took my much maligned camera along.

By the time I left the house, all the dancers were arrayed on the streets with bamboo staves in place ready for on the spot rehearsals. There were bull horns tacked on high posts all along the way for the music feed. The sound was tinny and unimpressive though. And the crowds. Oh, the crowds. They filled the sides of the roads so you had to jostle your way through. Some watched from rooftops and high-rise windows. There were waves of them walking south. Waves walking north. Incredibly, even during the actual official Guinness performance, there were still waves moving north or south!

I squeezed southwards too, thoroughly enjoying the ambience. Everyone smiling, excited, expectant, animated. The dancers took breaks in between rehearsals, eating hurried lunches, prepacked soft drinks, ice lollies. Most were school children who'd been practising since the beginning of the school year. Many of them looked of pre-pubescent age. Under the bright March sun, they sportingly swayed and skipped and weaved in and out of the bamboo in tandem. Hundreds of photographers, some with sophisticated expensive equipment, some with rather rudimentary cellphone cams, snapped pictures and shot videos by the truckload. Carpe diem.

And what a day. Certainly the poor will remain poor, the rich will stay rich. Life will go on much as before. But we created history and gave ourselves an unforgettable experience on a beautiful, sunny day when our hearts were collectively one. The day we took colour and movement and music to the streets in the name of culture and a place in Guinness. And most importantly, I was right there in the middle of it all, wooohooo!!!

Friday, February 19, 2010

Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Sailor, Shutterbug, Chef!

At my age, I probably already have a pretty good idea about things I can do and can't do at all. But the great thing is I can afford to try out things and not have to moan years later awwww I never got to try this or that.

Which explains the SLR camera I got myself over Christmas. I've always been fascinated by cameras since childhood especially the tiny so-called spy cameras I'd see advertised on the backs of American comic books. The ones they promised they'd send you free if you sold 100 or 150 kits of some useless this or that. In hindsight, spy cams you could hold in the palm of your hand in the 70s can't have been all that techno-sophisticated and I certainly don't recall ever coming across any photograph taken with one of those. To get back to my cam, I hadn't actually wanted an SLR. All I wanted was to upgrade to a better zoom digicam that I could slip in and out of my handbag whenever wherever. But it turned out the particular model I'd set my sights on had just recently been launched in India and was still steeply priced while the SLR had undergone hugely slashed prices so I allowed myself to be persuaded into going for the SLR.

And so I tried to work the thing out. I figured it had taken me some time to feel comfortable working with my little Sony digicam when I first bought it a few years ago. In fact back then, I'd often felt I was producing better pictures with my phonecam than with the actual digicam. With the new SLR, it was deja vu all over again. And this time, there are so many things I'm supposed to remember - the shutter speed, the ISO, all the million and one manual settings that you're supposed to make use of if you're using a good quality cam. Well, I give up. I just want to point and shoot. And all that pointing and shooting I'd prefer to do very unobtrusively. It's just not in my blood to lug around a pro-looking cam in public. So when I went to this family wedding a few weeks ago, there were all these young, teenaged-type shutterbugs with big, clunky, expensive-looking cameras taking shots and expertly tweaking their settings in between, and getting in the way of the pastor and the crowds. Me I took along my little Sony digicam and was happy taking a few sneak shots during low-key moments. So I think I'll lay my pro-photographer dreams to rest and exchange the SLR for something much much smaller and far less ambitious.

But I think I'll stick with the microwave I also bought recently. Not that I've ever had any great interest or talent for cooking. I cook if absolutely necessary and manage a passable meal but I suppose there beats in every modern woman's heart the hankering for a microwave. My first attempt to make something was appropriately ambitious. I youtubed a video for butter cookies (this one here) and happily mixed flour, butter, sugar and vanilla essence. While it all baked in the oven, the aroma all over the house was divinely mouthwatering. When I took them out though, the cookies were squishy and underdone, and when they had cooled down, rivalled Veronica Lodge's jawbusters! I haven't tried butter cookies again but I've popped corn, grilled cheese sandwiches, reheated and defrosted things so I still think I have the makings of a great chef yet!

Tuesday, February 02, 2010

My Peri-Women-O-Pause

(I wasn’t completely sure whether to blog this, not sure whether readers, especially those of my own somewhat conservative community, are mature enough to deal with an issue like this. But it’s helped me feel so much better putting things down so while I know many of my female readers may still be several years away from my experience, I have a feeling they might thank me for this one day)

Years ago I remember reading a funny article in the Readers Digest written by a man whose 12 year old know-it-all daughter once stumped him by asking, “Daddy, when did you start your menopause?” When he replied something to the effect that men don’t have menopauses, she triumphantly shut him up with, “Oh yes, they do. That’s why it’s called the men-o-pause!” Semantics apart, it’s a word that applies more commonly to the female of the species of which I’m proud to call myself one and whose life process I cannot escape.

Yes, I’m in perimenopause. Which explains the general tone of my first post of the year – dispirited, beaten, defeated, and then the tone of the second post – silly, giddy, frivolous. In those two wildly vacillating moods you get an idea of what I’m going through – see saw, Marjorie Daw, up and down and down and up.

Actual menopause starts on the 12th month anniversary of your last monthly menstrual period – in other words, a full year of no periods at all. It happens gradually since the ovaries don’t abruptly stop but slow down. That transition period is called perimenopause during which you can still get pregnant because your childbearing years are simply winding down, not stopped, and although your periods may become unpredictable, your ovaries are still functioning, and you may still ovulate though not necessarily on a monthly basis. While the average age for menopause is the early to mid 50s, it has been noted that it tends to happen earlier to women who begin menstruating early in life (such as at age 9/10/11) and to women who have never been pregnant. Perimenopause can last anything from a couple of months to ten years. It affects every woman differently so symptoms and their intensity vary, with the more common symptoms being mood swings, hot flashes, insomnia, forgetfulness, osteoporosis, incontinence and depression.

While I have no problem (touch wood) with things like insomnia or hot flashes, suddenly all my common-sense and self-confidence seem to have flown out the window and I find myself secondguessing everything people do or say. Was there a hidden meaning in that? Did they really mean this or that? Was it because of this or that? My self-esteem is shot and so are my nerves.

A good friend and colleague once told me about the problems she’d had during her perimeno. She said she often felt isolated, that she’d come to work and feel like nobody wanted to talk to her. As she mentioned that, I remembered a time when she’d just morosely sit all by herself and never join in all the staff room chatter. Well, I feel exactly like that often now. While before I might have casually joined in any conversation, now I think umm no no, I don’t think they want to talk to me, don’t want to be with me, and just can’t summon up the confidence to approach anyone unless they come and actually sit and talk to me.

My friend tells me it’s all in the mind and it probably is, but when you’re hardgripped by hormonal putdownitis, everyone and everything just seems totally daunting, unfriendly and hostile. You go out and every other female seems so vivacious and alive, bubbling over with confidence and good health while you feel frumpy, dowdy, stupid and slow-witted. Thanks to the estrogen level drop, your skin goes into sand desert mode overdrive and no matter how much you moisturize or take pains to dress, there’s always something wrong with the end product so you can hardly stand to look in the mirror.

Even worse is the reality check mood that got me bad earlier this year. The so this is you and this is where you stand and what have you achieved in life to show for it stink bomb. That really sank me when I thought of everything I have not achieved and probably never will. I got out of it only when someone pointed out what I have already achieved – like my reasonably well-paying job. That kind of negative thinking and brooding over the impossible is dangerous since it could even get you into suicidal mode.

As I was writing all this, it struck me suddenly that all of this is very similar to adolescent angst, puberty blues or teenage stress. The physiological changes accompanied by all the hormonal psychological disturbances, when you feel the ground you’re standing on has suddenly shifted and you’re falling through space, and you’re not sure about anything anymore. So even if men don’t go through menopause, they ought to be able to relate to the emotional rollercoaster that goes with the territory. When something major is happening within your body, it naturally follows that everything goes out of sync because the human body is so intricately complex. As the psalmist put it, “I will praise thee; for I am fearfully and wonderfully made: marvellous are thy works.”

A final note: talking with people who have gone through similar experiences is always therapeutic, and I am truly grateful for the network of friends, neighbours, relatives, colleagues, you get the idea, who have shared either their personal ordeals and know-how or that of their mothers. It’s always reassuring to know you’re not alone in the dark.

Saturday, January 09, 2010

Dejunkin' a Dresser Drawer

mismatched earstuds
dusty bottles of stale perfume
an empty jar of ecollagen
plastic-coated hairclasps
broken-toothed french combs
a box of white petroleum jelly still in its protective sheath
a dark-eyed peacock feather
l'oreal liss control long past its expiry
a gift tag saying merry christmas. love you lots.
bracelets in skin tones and sky blue and aqua,
silver and gilt-edged worn off in places
economy packs of neosporin and dipsalic
sunblocks in lotion, cream and gel
button strays
a candle
dust whorls
hair strands
dog fur
and this is just the top drawer
wonder what's in the other three?

PS: After my last blog post, some folks seem to have pegged me down as being in some kind of deep dark depression. Not quite. Mood swings is the more correct term. Anyway, it made me remorseful enough to post something more lighthearted to say hey I'm ok.

Sunday, January 03, 2010

Sunrise, Sunset and the In-Between (Midlife Crisis Blues)

And so a new time frame begins. Seems like only a couple of years ago that everyone was talking about the problems of things not being Y2K compatible but all that's ten years down the line already. Sunrise, sunset, sunrise, sunset, and in between those two eternals, our lives are seamlessly spun out.

The woods decay, the woods decay and fall,
The vapours weep their burthen to the ground,
Man comes and tills the field and lies beneath,
And after many a summer dies the swan.

Much as I usually try not to think or sound negative, I feel incredibly aged this year. The immortal lines of Eliot's Prufrock, learnt a long lifetime ago when the world was still sunny and warm and bright with promise, speak for me.

No, I am not Prince Hamlet, nor was meant to be;
Am an attendant lord, one that will do
To swell a progress, start a scene or two
Advise the prince; no doubt, an easy tool,
Deferential, glad to be of use,
Politic, cautious, and meticulous;
Full of high sentence, but a bit obtuse;
At times, indeed, almost ridiculous—
Almost, at times, the Fool.

I grow old . . . I grow old . . .
I shall wear the bottoms of my trousers rolled.

Shall I part my hair behind? Do I dare to eat a peach?
I shall wear white flannel trousers, and walk upon the beach.
I have heard the mermaids singing, each to each.

I do not think they will sing to me.