I am attempting to take good care of myself. The universe is fiercely testing my resolve, but I am determined to persevere. I am a true Leo, born on the first day of August and in the Chinese year of the Dragon (among the last post-WW2 baby-boomers), so I have reserves of tenacity it has yet to plumb. Bring it, baby!
I went to my GP earlier this week reporting symptoms I mentioned before: vertigo with incipient headache, and some weird edema in my ankles and lower legs. My BP is a little high (138/90) but lower than the two previous readings (all three together showed as descending). However, that is the likely culprit for both the severe edema in my lower legs and the vertiginous migraines. I saw a neurologist and since May 20 I've been taking 400mg Riboflavin daily, which has almost totally wiped out the chronic recurrent migraines and vertigo I had for the previous 4 weeks (and it worked miraculously fast, too). But a couple of days ago the vertigo and headaches returned and they are hovering. And the edema is coincident with a very faint recurrent chest flutter and a pinching sensation left of centre (which of course was flying under the radar during my afternoon exam - only occuring in the am and evg, and hence not audible under the stethoscope. How does it know?).
Given my symptoms and my family tree of genealogical medical histories playing the top ten tunes on the obesity-related hit parade, including numerous cardio-vascular diseases and assorted cancers, they are wisely booking me for a cardiac ultrasound, an exercise/stress test and a 24-hour halter monitor (I think I will request 48-hours).
It all seems a bit of an ironic cosmic jest. I've had surprisingly good health so far. I have spent 42 years on this earth, most of them rather sedentary except for two periods of physical fitness in 1992-96 and 2000-02. I am lucky that despite my tendency to zaftig Rubenesque proportions I hadn't yet developed any of the associated life-threatening complications. But at 40+ I am clearly at a chronological crossroads and as you know I started earnestly doing something about it.
I spent the past several months improving my fitness in advance of summer training for the September 60km walk for PMH (the Weekend to End Breast Cancer). I embarked on this journey from what is probably best described as enlightened self-interest: I have pretty good reasons both to want to build a healthier lifestyle into habitual behaviour for the rest of my life, and to raise awareness and funding to support people battling breast cancer and the research to end it. Also, fear of pain is a powerful motivator and since this endurance test is not the sort of thing for which you can "cram" right beforehand, it made me get out and move regularly since the New Year. I am at the point where 8-10 miles walking or biking are totally doable. Now I need to build in the get-out-and-do-the-same-the-very-next-day stamina. Instead I am under orders to stay off my feet as much as possible until the swelling and blood pressure return to normal.
My symptoms are really only partly of physiological derivation, largely exacerbated by the cumulative stress of recent months. The reactive fallout from personal choices I made in recent weeks was a blow that left me a bit shell-shocked and I am certain it triggered my current physical condition.
I have to withdraw from an intolerable family member in order to protect myself. This person is a holocaust survivor who functions at a very high level on the surface, but effectively conceals a borderline personality disorder characterized by unpredictable private outbursts of enormous rage, verbal and physical abuse. God knows they have very good reasons to be the way they are and are coping remarkably well, given formative years spent under horrifying conditions. I have tremendous compassion and empathy, but after a lifetime of attempts to appease their engulfing neediness, mollify their defensiveness and still achieve anything resembling balance in my own life, I finally realized last month that I just cannot do it.
Now I am dealing with a bizarre mirror situation while preparing for the upcoming arts festival. The material and artists are good, but despite my best efforts I've had escalating confrontations with an artistic director who refuses to accept that as artists we have a right to decide and state what we are and are not willing to do (and then she, of course, has choices w.r.t. how she responds to that information as well). For months now she has refused to hear the word “no” whenever my soprano colleague or I say it; instead she has temper tantrums and then starts to cry!
This person is a truly brilliant poet & composer. Unfortunately she is very disorganized, wasting vast amounts of time being chronically late, scattered, overextended and unprepared, and by repeatedly digressing into her own personal issues in the middle of rehearsals. She is also utterly wrapped up in her personal victim ideation and complains about her vision not being respected, wheedling and using emotional manipulation to get her way, while dismissing our input and concerns.
Also, we have become aware that she tries to play us off against each other. She has actually commented that she cannot fathom our lack of competition and she really seems to resent our mutual support. I’ve been informed by my comrade in this insanity that (among other things) the A.D. actually told her that SHE is giving ME some terrific opportunity (like I need her to build my career?). That's a very interesting notion, since but for a visa snafu 4 years ago with the goodfellas at US immigration flexing their new-found muscles and delaying my application (it's still pending, BTW... LOL), I would have been performing with Des Moines Metro Opera, and as a result might by now be regularly engaged with Chicago Lyric Opera, Houston Grand, et al... Quite frankly, versatile dramatic mezzos don't grow on trees. Okay, then.
... And meanwhile she is regularly bad-mouthing the other soloist to me! Both of us are being told by everyone we know in the biz to get the hell out. We’ve decided to be professional, support each other and just stick it out for this festival, (so as to not let down all the other participants).
So right now I'm just hanging in there for another 10 days and thanking God for my husband/soul-mate/best-friend/biggest-fan, my good friends and colleagues, my excellent therapist, and the ever-growing light at the end of this tunnel. And when I feel ready to do more than seriously contemplate felony homicide: I knit instead. One stitch, two stitches... very zen.
Despite the behind-the-scenes personality issues, the festival (June 8-10) is shaping up to be a fabulous weekend of chamber music, theatre, poetry, folk music and activities on the south shore of Lake Simcoe near Jackson’s Point. Then I will have another completely different concert June 23 with several talented operatic colleagues.
Summer will be slower, but I am planning major household organization & minor repairs, I have a new knitting-pattern design commissioned due mid-summer, and I will have lots of new music to learn and make performance-ready for 3 very different gigs in the fall: a kitshy cabaret-and-popera fundraiser gala for Hospice Thornhill, two concerts (I am also producing these) for Holocaust Education Week, and a preliminary concert of a new piece that’s being written (just for me!) about the visionary Canadian artist and writer Emily Carr.
And hopefully, with my health and the weather cooperating, I'll be increasing my training for September and Weekend to End Breast Cancer.