Friday, October 05, 2018

Going Solo

It was a beautiful day for a morning walk, i.e., cloud cover, no sun, cool but not cold. We Southern Californians are discerning.

I have noticed people do different things while they walk. Some folks just amble along with their dogs, stopping every couple minutes so their pups can sniff and mark their territory to their heart's content. Other folks are power walkers -- serious, intent on the road before them, but who still make time to smile, nod, or say "good morning." Some are company walkers -- usually women, talking away while walking away.

I find this latter group fascinating. Many a friend has tried to rope me in to their walking schedule, or has tried to join me. I have always politely declined. I am not unsocial, I just cannot do two things at one time. If I am talking, my walking automatically slows down as I ruminate and cogitate. Really, talking is a very complicated thing to do. Listening, even more so.

But walking tops the list.

For most of my life, I have been walking on my toes. Really. I didn't know it was wrong. No one ever told me that most people walk heel first, then toe down. In fact, my mom used to call me "ballerina," which very flattering description egged me on when I was little to try walking on my tippy toes. Ergo, I grew up with terribly inflexible hamstrings and a humongous gluteus maximus. My butt never got the memo that it was a muscle. Net result, I have always walked too slowly to keep up with people.

I first got the news that I was walking wrong from my physical therapist. After 20 plus years of a bad back, a medico finally tells me that my issues can be laid on the door of bad walking and, gasp, bad posture.

Apparently while walking, one is supposed to thrust out one's chest and tuck in one's chin. Obviously, this person doesn't know what it's like to walk in India. When you've spent the first 21 years of your life hunching your shoulders to avoid errant and purposeful elbows, palms, arms to your bosom, when you've thrust your neck forward aggressively to show men that they have a tight one coming if they make the mistake of touching a body part, you kind of lose good posture.

Who knew.

So now, I have to focus on walking heel first, chest out, belly in, chin tucked. With all my mental bandwidth thusly used up, I go solo.

Wednesday, October 03, 2018

I am woman, hear me roar

Was listening to a 70's song on the radio a couple days ago. It's called "I am woman," by Helen Reddy. It's really a powerful anthem, and women have been singing it during the marches in Washington DC and other cities. Some of the lyrics:

"I am woman, hear me roar
In numbers too big to ignore
And I know too much to go back an' pretend
'Cause I've heard it all before
And I've been down there on the floor
No one's ever gonna keep me down again"

And I thought, gosh, women have been saying this since 1971, and feeling this for god knows how many more decades and centuries before the 70's. And here we are, in 2018 y'all, and we are still singing this damn song because dammit, it's still relevant.

Just look at the Brett Kavanaugh hearings. Just hear Christine Blasey Ford's testimony about being pinned down under an inebriated male and groped. Tell me you didn't cry because the sincerity of her account rang so true to you.

And tell me your blood pressure didn't rise during Kavanaugh's testimony. Yes, a man is innocent until proven guilty. But this isn't the court of law we are talking about. This is a hearing to determine if a federal judge is worthy of serving on the highest court in the United States. This is a job interview, for crying out loud. And Kavanaugh, whether he was guilty of sexual assault or not, gave his worst interview yet. He was rude and aggressive and uncooperative.

At a gathering, my white male friend said he really felt for Kavanaugh and sympathized with his anger. "Because I have been falsely accused," he said. "It's a good thing I had an alibi and it came to nothing. But there are women out there who do this."

Do you know how many women experience sexual assault and don't come forward? I countered. Do you know the stats on that? Versus the stats on men being falsely accused?

My friend went on to say he'd been messed around with. "What you may today consider assault, but then it was just bullying," he said. He'd had guys pin him down and place genitals close to his face.

I told him that wasn't okay either! Good grief, is it not assault if it happens to men? And just because men consider that "horsing around" and not "assault," should they assume that it's okay to do this to women?

There's a lot of talk about rape culture, and what constituted rape in the 80's. If a boy or man you knew had nonconsensual sex with you, that was NOT considered rape. It was just you getting into trouble because you were drinking, you were at a party, you were wearing a short skirt, you were asking for it. You did NOT complain after, how much ever you may have complained DURING the act. If you complained or filed a report with the police, you were shamed, looked down upon as a slut.

And this was in the United States, folks!

So. We have a long way to go.

I tried talking about this to Raina. She didn't want to hear it. Because she's grown up believing certain things are self-evident. That girls can say 'no' and mean it. That boys will stop when girls say 'no.' That girls are as smart as boys. That women should be paid according to ability on par with men, duh. Duh, mommy.

She doesn't get the lyrics in the song.

"Oh yes, I am wise
But it's wisdom born of pain
Yes, I've paid the price
But look how much I gained
If I have to, I can do anything
I am strong
I am invincible
I am woman."

She already know this. As important, my son knows this. So there's hope.

Tuesday, October 02, 2018

A Slave to Routine

Living in Southern California makes it easy to follow an exercise routine. You can't say, "Hey, it's raining today, guess I will have to skip that walk." Or "Yet another snowstorm?! I am sick of being housebound!" 


Here, it's sunny and 75 degrees F Every Single Day. No wonder this place is crawling with walkers, runners, cyclists, triathletes ... you name the exercise, there's someone doing it. We don't live in a pedestrian-friendly neighborhood -- no stores, bars or restaurants nearby -- but you will definitely see a whole lot of people going nowhere. 

As I live near the coast, there's an additional blessing, the marine layer. Every morning until around 10 a.m., the sun will not penetrate this thick cloud hanging under the sky. So you can't even say, "Hey, too sunny, guess I will skip that walk." 


There's no darn excuse. 

So off I go.

Monday, October 01, 2018

Doggy Don'ts

Is it okay to be critical of a dog's appearance in front of its owner? 

I had to think about this today while taking my morning constitutional around the soccer field. There was this chocolate brown lab, delicious and pudgy, prancing around the field, playing fetch with its owner. When I passed close by, he trotted over, tail wagging furiously. I had to stop, put out my fist and give it some loving. "Aren't you gorgeous?" I crooned. "Thank you," his owner said graciously, as if she had been in any way responsible for the dog's beauty. 

Then I continued talking to that lovely furry face. "You are so beautiful! You need the exercise, don't you?" Catching a glance at the owner's face, I saw she was no longer looking pleased. In fact, her gracious smile was gone. She whistled, and the dog obediently followed her out of the park. 

As I continued walking, I was conscious of committing a social solecism. In all fairness, I hadn't meant to be critical of the dog's pudginess. I was, in some oblique way, saying that it was okay for the dog to be running around the field, that I wasn't going to cite Section 3.2a of the city code about unleashed dogs. Okay, I was also saying that the dog, although cute, definitely needed the run, and what was an owner to do? The neighborhood dog park was often populated with unfriendly, aggressive dogs, and if your dog was naturally a mellow, comfortably plump fellow, the soccer field in the wee morning hours was the only way to go. So I was being sympathetic to the owner's plight. 

I thought some more. 

It wasn't like the dog was a baby, right? I don't think anyone can get away with calling out a baby in front of a parent as being too plump. "You need to get out of the stroller more often, little guy," I wasn't going to say. Even if I were alone with a baby, I wouldn't think of being anything but complimentary. "Who's a cutie?" I would exclaim. Anything else, and the baby might absorb your words like osmosis and have self-esteem issues later in life. And who would be to blame for that but some random stranger at the park? 

Do dogs feel the same? What about cats? Or are we reaching some new extreme of anthropomorphizing pets? 

There are folks who take the dog-owning thing as equivalent to parenting. "My kids have four paws!" exclaim decals on many a vehicle. "We don't have kids, but we have 2 dogs and a cat," they say at parties. As if that's plenty, thank you very much, we can't possibly have human kids when we have animal kids, and what's the difference any way. 

Thinking this through, I concluded that I could have been more tactful this morning. I phrased it badly. I should have something innocuous to Yummy Lab like, "It's a good day for a run, isn't it?" Something I would say to a human, in passing. Only the human would be running too fast to hear me. But that's another story.

Thursday, June 07, 2018

Pain Management

I have been in such excruciating physical pain for so many months, you'd think we'd be good friends by now. But apparently, this is one entity with which one cannot further friendship no matter how old the acquaintance.

Recently, I was reading this book which talked about dealing with pain by first giving it a name. Yes, like Bob. Or if you want to be desi, Rajendraprasad. Why Rajendraprasad you ask? Well, if it's got to have a name it might as well be something grandiose. Though it IS hard to have any degree of affection for a name like Rajendraprasad. Maybe if one affectionately shortened it to, say, Raju?

But why must pain have a masculine name at all? Men can be a big pain, 'nuf said. Okay, so Raju it is. When it's being extremely troublesome, one can use the full name, just like I use Raina and Rohan's full name when they are in trouble. So, the first step, naming it.

Next, the book recommends that one should talk to it. Like "Hey, Raju, what's up, dude? You may be a nice person at heart, but honestly, I am not in the right frame of mind to discern any good qualities you may have. Actually, for now, it would be much appreciated if you just went away. Shall we try that, huh? You are trying to teach me a lesson? An important life lesson, you say? But you should consider that I may not want to learn it. No, really. I know you want me to be disciplined and do my exercises, and you promise you will go away if I do, but we've tried that before. Sure, you go away for a bit, but a few hours later, you are back with a bang. What you do is give one false hope."

Apparently, I can curse at Raju. I can yell. I can be angry. It just seems silly though. It just makes me feel silly. So the end result is supposed to be that Raju and I learn to deal with each other, because we are kind of part of the same whole (you knew that, right?). We slowly become friends.

I tried, I really did. I worked with Raju. Only to be back to square one many months later. This isn't true friendship, this is toxic. But what else do I have? Pain can be such an isolating experience. People who love you pat your back, hold your hand, feel terrible for you. You understand they are trying to reach you to comfort you. And all that does is fill your eyes with tears of frustration and self-pity. Why me? my lips tremble. Why can't this just end? When will it?

Giving your pain a name is supposed to make you feel less alone. Here's this entity that is with you always. Might as well get to know it, work with it, to reach a better place. That way, you don't relinquish control to pain. You fight, but you don't surrender. You work together, a team. You are no longer helpless.

Theoretically. Practically, when you find yourself back at square one, you just want to give up. But that doesn't work because your body doesn't do what you want. It doesn't care what you want. So you dust yourself off and start over.

Here goes. "Hello, Raju."

Wednesday, June 17, 2015

Gearing Up

Getting ready for yet another trip to India. Gearing up with more than the usual gifts of clothes and chocolates. There's knee braces, back braces, Poises. Gearing up physically and mentally to help out as much as I can. Shoring some emotional strength. It's going to be different this time. The parents and in-laws are aging. Hoping this summer with their grandchildren and daughter home, their loads lighten a bit, they smile more, their aches ease. At least for a little while, they are distracted from the seemingly endless cycle of pain. Bas thodi der ke liye. Bas thodi der hi sahi. And maybe my sense of helplessness will lessen. Bas thodi der ke liye.

Thursday, June 05, 2014

Age is but a number

...which means, yup, I had a milestone birthday this year. I am all of 4-0 now.

So, I did all the stuff everyone says you should do when you turn 40. I went out with my girlfriends on a microbrewery tour. My hubby arranged a wonderful couples massage in wonderful surroundings, with champagne and oysters after. And then I went out again with some other girlfriends. I did some wild stuff. More celebrations are due -- heck why not celebrate all year?

I am guessing all this partying is supposed to drown out the dreadful fact that I was turning 40. The middle age is here. Or maybe it should be called the Age when the Middle goes. The wrinkles are here to stay. The breasts are heading kneewards. The hair is getting grayer. You get a birthday card from your daughter assuring you that you don't look as old as you are. You feel warm at night and wonder if menopause is starting early.

But hey, did I care? Well, maybe a wee bit. Maybe I felt that I should care, and by not caring, I was violating one of those laws of the Sisterhood of the 40-Year-Olds. But mostly, I was just too busy having fun to care. 40 is just a number, right?

Today I attended a friend's birthday brunch. She'd turned 40 a couple years ago. My friend had obviously botoxed her face recently - hush hush. There was all this talk of liposuction, getting rid of belly fat, how 40 was the new 30. And I felt like a complete wide-eyed idiot, part repulsed, part fascinated. Is this what it takes to belong to the Sisterhood? Botox and lipo and plastic this and that? No more carbs, just drink coffee?

I can't be the only one who doesn't think 40 is the new 30. I am not sure I WANT 40 to be the new 30. Gosh, at 30 I had just become a first time mom. I don't want to relive those newborn years.

Sure, no one wants to be overweight. And everyone dyes their hair. Maybe lipo is the new hair dye, and botox is the new yoga. Maybe everyone just has different thresholds for this kind of stuff, and it's back to live and let live, the evergreen philosophy. Maybe I just want to enjoy being 40 and all that it entails. Hopefully, no warts. I draw the line at warts.