Do you feel marginalized as you age? I do.

Perhaps you’ve heard about a new article in The Atlantic by Science journalist Ed Yong entitled:

“The Final Pandemic Betrayal.” Mr. Yong won the Pulitzer Prize in Explanatory Reporting for this “series of lucid, definitive pieces on the COVID-19 pandemic that anticipated the course of the disease, synthesized the complex challenges the country faced, illuminated the U.S. government’s failures and provided clear and accessible context for the scientific and human challenges it posed.

The subtitle of Mr. Yong’s latest article from April 2022 is:

“Millions of people are still mourning loved ones lost to COVID, their grief intensified, prolonged, and even denied by the politics of the pandemic.” I saw an interview with him this week that really hit home for me. At least nine million of us have lost someone we knew and cared for and yet it seems we just go on, ignoring the tremendous losses to so many. In just two years, COVID became the third most common cause of death in the U.S., which means that it is also the third leading cause of grief.

“Each American who has died of COVID has left an average of nine close relatives bereaved, creating a community of grievers larger than the population of all but 11 states. Under normal circumstances, 10% of bereaved people would be expected to develop prolonged grief, which is unusually intense, incapacitating, and persistent. But for COVID grievers, that proportion may be even higher, because the pandemic has ticked off so many risk factors.”

In his recent interview, Mr. Yong discussed what is for me the most important aspect of this horrible loss of life. The groups hardest hit were “marginalized” sections of our society. Who are they? The elderly, those chronically ill, the weakened, the brown, the black and low income groups who have less access to decent health care.

My experience in the past eight years, as I grow older and my own health declines, has been a movement from a “normal” person to one who definitely feels marginalized. First with the aging process we slowly become invisible in our culture, or worse, someone who should just get out of the way of the younger and more vital. Yes, it’s true some help me with doors and seem to feel some compassion for my difficult circumstances, but I have experienced a pulling away from others as I have become more disabled. I have found it almost impossible to make true friends in this rural area. It seems just about nobody believes I am worth their time and energy. I don’t think I would have believed it if I hadn’t experienced it myself.

In this way I have learned what “marginalized” means in this country. We have always put an emphasis on being healthy and able-bodied, and when I was also healthy I rarely noticed what happened to those who are not. Yes, I do have financial resources unlike so many Americans, but I do not live by bread alone. Thanks to those of you who have made an effort to welcome us here. And to the rest of you, I hope you don’t ever become elderly and need a friend.

Aging, Imaginary Friends & Transcendence

I mean, what could be more natural? Throughout human history and certainly since each of us first started attempting to create ‘relationships’, we have naturally projected our own needs, desires, and preferences onto anyone around we found handy and appealing. But reality can be so harsh. If we spend time to get to know our latest “possible friend material”, it’s always disappointing. “Oh no, this is just one more flawed, imperfect, lost soul. Damn, I thought I’d found someone more together than me.”

Then AI comes along and before long we had some fascinating new ways of (mis)communicating. Artificial-intelligence gone wild! Spring break for cheaters! Open season on imagining anything or anyone and then hoping for the best!

Databases like Facebook and most dating sites made it much easier to imagine others’ lives instead of bothering to get to know them… at all! Imagine projecting across the globe and so easily. It may well bring one of our worst traits to the surface, and then convince us that we have scads of imaginary friends. Oh well. I guess that beats no friends at all 😦

I marvel at the apparent power of Facebook. After decades of wondering (or not) we connect to a few we just barely recognized in high school, but back then most of us were too scared, self-conscious or self-absorbed to get to know anyone else. Or maybe just too high… I remember my high school self as a unique combination of shrinking violet and wallflower with just a hint of enforced invisibility. For me, being in public was painful, unless I was ice skating.

Don’t worry, high school was just the pupa stage. We got much better!

Sometimes I like to compare our lifecycle to that of the butterfly. One of the reasons I enjoy this image is that it means that we were only pupa in high school and college, coming out of our pupa in midlife, and we’re now moving into our full butterfly stage, as free and beautiful as we will ever be! One thing is for sure, we are just about as authentic as we are ever going to be now.

I find that transcendent…

Such a refreshing perspective!
“I had to go through so much just to be here now.
That makes me feel so proud of myself!
I can’t believe I made it so far!”

Postscript: Perhaps death is such a relief because there is truly nothing else to go wrong.

The worst case scenario just arrived!

Aging & Accepting New Limits…

I am ever amazed at the distance between knowing how much my health has changed and accepting those new limits. In the past seven years I have gone from a healthy 60-year-old to one who needs supplemental oxygen to breath and help with balance and stability while walking. My highest priority now is to not fall again and suffer another head injury. I’ve already had one traumatic brain injury and several serious concussions.

Acceptance releases everything to be what it already is.

On my birthday this year I learned in no uncertain terms that I cannot walk more than a few blocks, and that is with balance assistance at all times. I have been an avid walker my whole life. I would love to know how many miles I have walked in my 65+ years. I was inspired by Thoreau’s essay on “The fine art of sauntering.”

Walking was always my best way to contemplate my doubts and troubles. If I was upset I would go for a long walk along the Big Thompson River in Loveland, or around my neighborhood in Fort Collins. There I worked things out in my mind.

This is not an option now. I fell down in my garden a couple years ago and split my upper lip badly. Even short walks are out of the question, even if Mike is there to help. I am depressed and frustrated with this change in my lifestyle, and acceptance has never been my forte. I am one stubborn person!

However, I heard something the other day which stuck with me. It was about how we may decide to focus and go deeper into our spirituality when our physical abilities wane. This has already happened to some extent, because I’m that kind of person and I am stuck inside most of the time.

Luckily I have a phenomenal view from my bed, an 180 degree view of the Sangre de Cristos!

OK, I guess I can live with this.

Could I have insulin resistance? What is that?

Now that I am convinced that I am going to survive my most recent health emergency, a terrible case of anemia (I needed five iron infusions(!), I have decided to make an all-out effort to improve my health. BTW, I believe my anemia was cause by my statin drug. This is a rare side-effect of statins. As far as anemia goes, if you should notice an alarming amount of hair in your shower drain and a sudden, extreme loss of energy, get a blood test…now!

So I noticed an ad for GOLO.com, a supplement that promises weight loss for so many of us who are older, overweight and “insulin resistant.” Then I got to thinking, what’s that? Here’s what I found on a few medical sites:

The two main factors that seem to contribute to insulin resistance are excess body fat, especially around your belly, and a lack of physical activity. People who have prediabetes, Type 1 and Type 2 diabetes usually have some level of insulin resistance.

  • Insulin resistance happens when the body doesn’t respond appropriately to insulin, leading to high blood sugar levels.
  • Insulin resistance can lead to chronic health conditions like diabetes, coronary artery disease, and metabolic syndrome, but it does not always cause symptoms.
  • Insulin resistance is reversible with exercise, diet, weight loss, and, if needed, medications.

Insulin resistance increases your risk of developing diabetes. You could be insulin resistant for years without knowing it. This condition typically does not trigger any noticeable symptoms, so it’s important to have a doctor regularly check your blood glucose levels.

Wow, this sounds serious. So I ordered the “release” supplement from GOLO and started taking it as directed. In the meantime I learned there are many different supplements that may increase insulin sensitivity, but chromium, berberine, magnesium, and resveratrol are backed by the most consistent evidence.

In the GOLO formula, each capsule contains 15 mg magnesium, 10 mg zinc, and 70 mcg chromium as well as a “proprietary blend” of Rhodiola extract, Inositol, Berberine extract, Gardenia extract, etc. These are taken 3 times per day with meals. I found similar supplements in Dr. Gundry’s Metabolic Advanced capsules, but they recommend 4 capsules per day. In the past I did lose some weight with Dr. Gundry’s formula.

First of all you should know that the only healthy way to combat insulin resistance is through increased exercise and diet change. From my experience of losing 50 pounds in my mid-50s, weight loss works best by cutting sugar, dairy, processed foods, and salt way back, then allowing yourself only two very small helpings of white starches (bread, potatoes, pasta, rice) per day. Fill up on vegetables with a small amount of fruit like apples or blueberries.

Steps to reverse insulin resistance and prevent type 2 diabetes:

  1. Exercise for at least 30 minutes a day of moderate activity (like brisk walking) 5 or more days a week.
  2. Get to a healthy weight.
  3. Eat a healthy diet.

I started taking my GOLO capsules a week ago and changing my diet to consume much fewer calories with less salt and sugar. One of the side effects I am pleased to report is how much water weight I have lost. I have been retaining water, especially in my lower legs and feet forever, so much so that it was hard to wiggle my toes sometimes. I knew this wasn’t healthy and so I asked a number of MDs why I am so swollen. None could offer any useful answers. Now I know what I can do about it!

As far as the loss of actual pounds, I have decided not to focus on that for a while. As long as I keep feeling better I will take that as my reward. I learned from my last weight-loss experience that checking the scale constantly is no way to change habits. Losing weight is not a proper goal. For me, a permanent sustainable change in my eating habits, health and a feeling of well-being is my lifelong goal.

The Power of Healing Relationships

In my past work, many asked me if I believed that we can change emotionally or are we just stuck with our upbringing and personality traits. Can we change? Yes, but two factors were essential. The feeling of hitting bottom with little left to lose, and access to healing relationships.

I have been lucky in my adult life. I have had a number of positive experiences with truly healing relationships. The first came in my early thirties when I finally met a therapist I could learn to trust and rely on to have my best interests at heart. I know now that I would have had a very different life if I had not met this woman when I did. It took a few years, but I eventually found her completely trustworthy. I let her re-parent me in a caring, loving way, showing me that some people are worth trusting. Later I learned that she had taught me quite a lot about providing my own self-counseling in difficult situations by teaching skills of self-analysis and motive.

A few years later I studied for a M.A. degree in counseling psychology where I learned even more about trusting the wisdom of my own intuition. Your gut has decades of experience in choosing what is good for you and those ideas and people to avoid. Trust it.

All of these tools are not useful, however, if you are still second-guessing yourself, like I did with my first marriage. I knew marrying that man was a mistake, but I did it anyway. Of course, that did not end well, so by the time I hit 49 I was divorced, jobless and depressed as hell. Living on unemployment and severance provided the time and space I needed to re-imagine and re-frame my life. I spent months writing, reading my old journals and other books on self-esteem. What was next for me?

I decided that the only thing that meant anything to me at that point was to find love. Unless there was a loyal, trustworthy, generous love for me in this world, I wasn’t sure if I was interested in living the rest of my life. My priorities were clear. I started my own local, non-internet-based dating service to prove to myself and others that love was an “intriguing possibility” for all of us, even over age 50 or 60. Thus began my own proof of something I completely believe in:

“What you focus on grows!”

And, sure enough, I soon met the partner I had always dreamt of, except he certainly didn’t come in the package I had imagined! Mike was an engineer and electrical technician, not a university type at all. He wanted to learn how everything worked and fix it, plus he was also a sculptor and artist. On paper we did not match at all, but in real life we were so well-matched and happy!

After our marriage at age 50, he subsidized my search for an alternative career and then supported my new work as a free-lance writer. He gave me what we all need at some point in our lives, someone who believes in us more than we believe in ourselves. Believing in myself as a writer was difficult for me in spite of fact that I had always been an avid reader and writer. I had been a university librarian for decades with three M.A. degrees at that point, and yet I needed a lot of support to become a research writer.

One factor which I’m sure has played an important role in our relationship over the years is that both of us have suffered from chronic illnesses, him when I met him, and me recently. This experience teaches us compassion for self and others, because that is the only way to survive the daily challenges of an illness that others can’t understand or cure. I often think now about how easy it used to be to walk everywhere without supplemental oxygen, and go just about anywhere I wanted to. Remember, your health will not last forever.

Since we met, over seventeen years ago, Mike has played a gigantic role in my own self-love and self-healing process. I am so grateful for his love. He shows me everyday how smart, strong and worthy of love I am. He is my best cheerleader.

To me, now, that is just about as much as we can ask from life or love!

Father-Daughter Relationships: What I learned after the death of my father

It is now two years since my father’s death. He died one week before the Covid-19 pandemic struck our country. I was watching an interview with Will Smith the other day, where he spoke about his alcoholic father and his death. The interviewer said, “You rarely say anything about your father,” and Will responded with, “He was never there, so what can I say.” About his father’s death Will said, “The death of my father started a new phase in my life.” I have to say I agree to some extent with both of these observations as they relate to my own life.

An older friend said to me in the past year or so, that after our parents die we may finally feel more comfortable being honest with ourselves about our relationships with them. That has been my process in the past two years. Yes, I’ve had lots of counseling, in fact the first time I went in was to discuss my problems with my father and how he couldn’t seem to be there for me. Yes, I agree that we would best get past our fixations with our parents’ behavior towards us. But I enjoy understanding my past and how that explains my behavior in the years following my childhood.

Human behavior fascinates me!

Suddenly, in the past week or so, I saw this simple quote and it blew my mind! As strange as it may seem, I was constantly seeking appreciation and approval from most males in my life after my father tended to ignore me most of my childhood. I never felt truly appreciated by him. The exchanges I remember with him were observations like, “You have all A’s on your report card except for this one B+. What happened there?” Yes, I turned to my father for criticism and judgment, and I usually got it. (Interestingly, my brother dropped out of high school and ran away instead of taking this criticism day after day!)

So then men became those whom I would always try harder to please.

WOW, am I slow in figuring these things out! I called my first marriage ‘criticism central.’ I could do nothing right around my “was-band.” And it wasn’t until my divorce in my late 40s that I figured out what I was doing and decided to do things differently. When I first met Mike, who seemed genuinely caring and loving towards me, I was always suspicious, waiting for him to reveal his true feelings and change into my super critic. We even had a joke between us about this, where he would say: “We’re married now ###. Things are going to change around here!”

In retrospect, I would say most of the friends I’ve known weren’t grateful to have me in their life. My first husband, a wealthy man, bargained with me on how much it would take to make me go away. When we arrived at a number, he asked me to sign a contract written on a napkin so that number couldn’t go up. Yep, I could certainly pick ’em! That is why it took me so long to truly trust Mike.

Why does it take us so long to learn these lessons? Because they were our first experiences in the world. My father represented the way men act towards me and I knew I wanted him to love me so I kept trying harder. I mean how many people do you know who have three Masters degrees?

Along the way I learned that those who are heartlessly critical of others are also boundlessly insecure within themselves, not good company for anyone…