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Posts Tagged ‘Health’

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Already my new resolution is bringing me answers… big ones, the kind of answers that you might ponder for lifetimes. As I lay in that half-dream state this morning, I thought about last night. I’d worked a 16 hour day which is crazy, mind-rigorous because being a pharmacist is first and foremost about being accurate and making sure that the patients you are attempting to help are also keep safe from harm. Secondly, it’s about creating good regimens that will maximize the effect of necessary medications such as scheduling the antibiotic at the correct times, dosing the medications to boost effect but within the limitations of the patient’s liver and kidney functions, ensuring that the concentration of the cardiac drip is appropriate, watching for all manner of issues or concerns (other meds, patient’s normal biochemical processes, how much the patient weighs, their age, their baseline health conditions) examining the parameters of narcotics or sedatives to keep the patient comfortable but also not exceed the abilities of their body to distribute and excrete the medication.

But I digress… this isn’t about what I do as a pharmacist. I was attempting to paint a picture of my state of mind last night. Bottom-line, I’d been focused and busy ALL DAY.   Now, there have been many days that I’m similarly busy and I feel exhausted at the end of such a day. Last night, as I paid attention to how I was feeling, I realized that I felt more like a wanted a change, a shift, but it wasn’t due to true physical or mental exhaustion. This change, or shift, is what I’ve realized is the crucial point of understanding. In other words, what did I have all day and then didn’t have at the end of my shift? What I’d had all day was a sense of purpose, duty, a place or intention in the world. I woke up knowing what I had to do, that what I did really matters and felt fully competent in doing it. At the point of transition (end of my day of work), it was like a running a relay with the baton in my hand ready to hand-off, feeling great because I’d given my stretch of the track all I had but then someone had turned the lights off and closed the race down. There was no clear hand-off. The space of time in front of me at that moment was unknown, without purpose, detached.

It is this type of decision-point that I realized would usually cause me to experience a rush of pain, of deflation, of uncertainty that, in turn, would make me want to fill the void with something to alleviate the pain. All kinds of things will work… eating, having a glass (or more) of wine, interacting with another person, getting lost in a movie, going to sleep, exercising, working some more. The list is as limitless as any human being’s ability to come up with things to do. Where does the pain, the deflation, the let-down come from and why is it perceived as pain?

This is where it gets interesting. There is an exquisitely painful point within us, like a deep wound that holds our false sense of unworthiness. Within this cesspool of agony, we don’t believe we have what it takes to not be alone. It’s the part that is beyond the fear of separateness… it knows to the CORE that separateness is our only true reality and that there is absolutely something very wrong with us that makes this true. Now picture a magnet flipped over so instead of pulling another magnet closer, it twists, wiggles and maneuvers in an attempt to move away from the other magnet and the harder you try to push the two magnets together, the more violently they will repel. In the end, you can’t ever get the 2 magnets to connect. This is how our psyche relates to this core point of grief and ache within us. We will do ANYTHING to not get close to this so we either buffer or numb ourselves, distract or erect incredible fortresses in an attempt to create distance.

This explains our moods and our addictions or habits… when we are anxious, fearful, despairing; we are circling around the precipice of this wound. It’s almost like being in a room of glass shard walls that create a maze. Everywhere we attempt to move, we get cut on the glass, there is no moving into a soft corner, every decision or diversion brings a fresh cutting. When we feel accomplished, connected to other people, happy, free, we have only managed to move away from the wound by creating a world that makes us feel safe from the throb of our unworthiness. Highly intelligent people use their mind to create layers upon layers of reason and understanding, creative people spin themselves into an intricate world of beauty and inspiration, powerful people harden the space with walls of ingenious, control, manipulations, extroverted people bounce among and intertwine through their relations with others, introverted people withdraw and go inward into themselves, easily wearied from trying to find ways to “stay out there” in open territory. Every decision or movement of our life which gives us a perception of less lonely or self-importance gives us a sense of relief. Every decision or movement that takes us closer to feeling loss of purpose or separateness (being still, an unfilled space of time, feeling dejected, rejected, confused, fearful, lonely, bored, uncertainty) will cause painful feelings to surface and make us want to do things to alleviate the pain.

The kicker is that I don’t think the tender point is really pain. I think it is our true essence, our greatest sense of love and connection, the deepest wisdom of our worth but we don’t believe in it because every time we have ever gotten close, we misinterpreted that feeling as pain. Crazy, huh? This also explains why meditation, applied correctly, can absolutely work. This explains what Brené Brown (http://www.ted.com/talks/brene_brown_on_vulnerability?language=en) figured out with her shame and vulnerability research. The place that we would call a wounding is really an unimaginable space of peace and grace, an opening of acceptance and inclusion that negates the idea of separateness.   But don’t take my word for it. Start paying attention to your own feelings. When do you feel less anxious and alone? What do you do when you start feeling uncomfortable or vulnerable?

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Okay, so I can’t stand it any more.  I know, I’m a pharmacist.  But that doesn’t mean that I believe everything that comes in a pill. If your doctor has prescribed a “statin” cholesterol lowering drug for you, please just say “NO.”  “Why?” you ask.  Because the whole premise of “high cholesterol”  and its relationship to cardiac health is not what it appears to be.  Cholesterol is produced by the body to heal tissue damage and to maintain cell membrane health.  If you lower cholesterol to some “magic number” then you negatively influence your body’s ability to heal.  All the research on cholesterol and health is based on data that shows people who have cardiac events have corresponding high cholesterol.  That is like saying that people who have an infection also have a fever so the fever must be causing the infection.  No, the fever is the body’s response to the infection.  Similarly, lowering cholesterol will not prevent cardiac events.  Cholesterol is elevated as a RESULT of cardiac events.  If you have  high cholesterol, then you have tissue damage to which cholesterol has been released as a response.  When you artificially lower cholesterol, you have now lowered your body’s ability to maintain healthy cell membranes, reduce cell oxidation and also set you up for multiple downstream effects including reduction of hormone production (cholesterol is a precursor of hormones), a serious, life-threatening condition called rhabdomyolysis, anemia, hepatic or renal failure and many other effects. The manufacturers of “statins” were able to receive approval for new drug applications because the efficacy of “statins” is based on how well they lower cholesterol.  And, of course, they do lower cholesterol.  What has been swept under the rug, however, is whether lowering cholesterol makes sense for decreasing cardiac events and whether lowering cholesterol actually decreases mortality and/or morbidity.  Too much commercial bias exists now to easily undo the propaganda of “statin” drugs.

See the following links discussing “statins”:

http://www.pharmacist.com/AM/Template.cfm?Section=Pharmacy_News&template=/CM/ContentDisplay.cfm&ContentID=24117 

 http://people.csail.mit.edu/seneff/why_statins_dont_really_work.html

In addition, check out the impressive member list of The International Network of Cholesterol Skeptics

http://www.thincs.org/members.htm

Unfortunately, doctors are in a liability dilemma regarding the prescribing of “statins.”  Because of the “research-based latest guidelines,” a doctor would be considered negligent if they didn’t prescribe a “statin” when a patient’s cholesterol level is considered high.  But, luckily, you have a choice as a patient.  You can REFUSE to take the “statin” medication.  This essentially takes your doctor off the hook and also prevents you from having the many possible secondary issues from lowering your cholesterol.

            JUST SAY NO!!

Your good health depends on it!

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There was a time

When everything was smooth

And mellow,

Like a muggy summer night

With lightening bug scents

Suspended in the air,

But yesterday you suddenly

Erupted into your tomorrow,

Full of fear and newfound respect for 

Death and despair.

You are surrounded by friends and family

But are alone in your knowing that

The dreaded tomorrow is already here.

You didn’t realize it would be

This palpable;

A twisted trajectory

Of anguish and near death.

It doesn’t matter that others

Have been here before you,

It’s strange to you,

Untrodden, unbidden.

You felt safe in having paid

Your healthy dues,

Thought you’d mastered the “lack of cause” position,

But it wasn’t enough,

You’re here anyway,

Against all odds,

One heart attack closer to

The conclusion.

Where is death lurking,

If not now?

When will the finale be final?

The rules have been broken 

And you’re reeling in the

Unwritten, unfairness

Of it all.

You say, “What if I go to sleep

And never wake up?”

I don’t know the answer

To give you peace.

Death doesn’t believe in   

Preemptive invitations;

It casually calls your name

Whenever it likes, wherever it likes,

Whether you are ready or not.

Peekaboo, where are you?

Ready or not, here I come.

I have no wisdom;

All I can think to say is,

“Sleep well, my sister,

Sleep well.”

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When I first saw her, she was carrying around her limp body in confusion.  I stopped her, asked her to put down her body and have a seat.  She obediently slumped into a chair, tired and exhausted.  After a moment she looked up, “Who are you?”

I tried to explain, “Dr. Benton (name changed to protect his privacy) asked me to help you.  You’ve had a stroke… a couple of weeks ago.”

“I did?”  Her face was showing more clarity, as if just having someone there to talk to was helping her reorient.

“Yes.  You have to make a decision, though.  You can die, which is what your body wants to do or you can hang on for as long as you want.  The decision is yours.  It’s very difficult on your body, however, to just hang on.”

“How do you know this?  Why are you the only one here?”

“I don’t know exactly how I know or why I’m the only one here.  Somehow I know how to find people like you and Dr. Benton asked me if I would help you because he cares about you.  No one feels like they can reach you because your body is laying in the hospital in a coma-state.”  As I observed her, she reminded me of my mother, very practical, intelligent; capable and ready to make decisions when the options are laid out.

“Is there something you need to take care of before you go?”

She thought for a moment, wanting to answer correctly and contemplatively.  “No, everything is okay.”  I could tell her circumstances were starting to sink in and she was accepting the reality of what had happened to her.

I sensed a large community of people on the “other side” who knew her, supported her and were waiting for her.  A man (assumed to be her husband), a dog and a baby who seemed to be one she probably lost when the baby was an infant were the most prominent of the spirits I saw gathered.

“What do I do now?”

“If you decide to die, you have to get back into your body.  It’s not going to feel good.  This part of you that I am talking to now is free.  This is how you will feel when you cross over but when you go back into your body it will feel like you are going into a box.  It will not be comfortable.  But, you can control how quickly you die to reduce the time you are uncomfortable.”  I showed her how she could pull her energy up, from her feet to her head, as fast as she wanted.  I reminded her that everything was totally up to her.

She said she was ready.  I asked if there was anything else and she said that she wanted to give Dr. Benton some roses.  At first she said red and then changed her mind to yellow roses because she thought red was inappropriate for her to give to a married man; he might misconstrue her intentions.  Again, her properness and etiquette reminded me of my mother who is just about the same age, in her eighties.  Just the sort of person who, like my mother, if I were talking physically to her instead of communicating in this “in between world,” would be the first to deny that this kind of contact is possible.  I promised I would give the yellow roses to Dr. Benton.

The next morning, she died.  I delivered the flowers to Dr. Benton that afternoon.  “You know you’re weird, right?”  He smiled teasingly but was obviously touched by my gesture of following through with her wishes.

“I know.  What can I do?”

“Maybe I should send her roses for her funeral.  She asked me to be her pallbearer, you know.  Do you think she will even know if I send roses?”

“She might…some people hang around after they pass to see their funeral.  She doesn’t seem the type to me, though.”

He walked me out to my car, his eyes wondering and thoughtful, “Is this a loaner car?”

“Yeah, I’m getting shocks put on my car.  After about 300,000 miles, I guess it’s about time, huh?”

He shook his head in agreement.  “Hey, thanks a lot for helping her and for bringing me the roses.”

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It all started with my casual discussion with one of our traveling ER physicians a couple of weeks ago.  He was talking about his night-before three-hour workout and in my ignorance I suggested P-90X as a great workout that he should try sometime.  He immediately sneered at that idea and after I understood what I didn’t understand AT ALL about working out, I realized how inferior something like P-90X might seem to someone who has his body literally down to a science. You see, he is a body builder, not the kind who tries to build huge muscles, but the kind that competes basically against his own willpower; how proportioned he can mold his own physique, not how well he stacks against the size of another guy’s muscles.  His previous night’s workout was 3 hours of SQUATS with 150 to 200 lbs.  Okay, I concede my perceived brilliance in knowing about tough workouts. 

So he proceeded to tell me what his sequence of 3 hours a night workouts entailed and mentioned that he had a competition at the end of the summer.  Now get this… he then casually said, “That’s when I get down to about 2 to 3% body fat to compete,” like he’s saying, “That’s when I go to the store to buy socks.”  In other words, MATTER OF FACT.  I wanted to yell, “Hello!! Did you know that there are billions of dollars spent, countless books, diets, special food, workout DVD’s, fitness clubs, discussion groups, counseling, and I’m not even going to talk about people who have SURGERY to get their stomach’s stapled or bands inserted all to LOSE WEIGHT!  And you just so casually say that you’re going to get down to 2-3% body fat by such-and-such date and you are going to do it without losing an ounce of your precious, hard-earned muscle tissue.”  Wow, he had my attention.  Wow, wow! 

Now I’ve always been athletic and haven’t fluctuated more that 20 lbs over my high school weight except when I had my kids and I gained almost 100 lbs each pregnancy.  Three years after my last child was born, I ended up signing up for weight watchers (had a sobbing meltdown in the parking lot prior to going in because I felt so desperate and out of control).  Weight watchers worked, I lost the rest of my baby fat and have semi-maintained that mode until the last 5 years.  Approaching 50, having a hysterectomy, sitting on my butt at a desk job, whatever the reason, I’ve been feeling that freaky out-of-control feeling again, especially after doing aforementioned P-90X for a year and gaining enough weight to essentially have whittled my wardrobe down to just 3 pants that fit.

So the next question, of course, is how do you do it?  How do you lose the fat, keep the muscle and KNOW it’s going to work?  “Oh, just cut back on carbs and up your protein,” he answers nonchalantly.  JUST LIKE THAT…  I was stunned.  I was mesmerized.  I felt like I had fallen into another dimension.  He didn’t wonder whether it would work.  He didn’t agonize about whether he could do it.  He didn’t give it a second thought.  Again, I think what amazed me the most is that he seemed to have NO idea what it is like to NOT know if the diet will work, NOT know if you can do it, NOT feel like you have any control of what your body has decided to do on its own without your permission. 

So I mulled on that for about a week and then happened to be talking to a diabetic friend of mine who has been immobile for several months due to intolerable back pain.  Obesity is the obvious factor in her back issues and she finally has a nutritionalist working with her.  And guess what diet the nutritionalist started her on?  You guessed it.  Low carbs and high protein.  Alright, we’re on to something here.  I know this idea isn’t new.  Atkins has been around since the 90’s but for some reason I always dismissed it because I love bread, cereal, desserts, pasta and starchy food in general.  Always having been a reactive hypoglycemic and from experiencing many blood sugar crashes in the middle of a sporting endeavor, I somehow determined that my blood sugar would bottom out and I would feel terrible without having carbs in my diet.  And to be honest, I also just didn’t want to sacrifice my favorite foods. 

Now it was time to quit being in denial, quit ignoring what was right in front of me and TRY IT.  So I came home that night from being with my friend and announced to my husband and daughter that we were going to try a new way of eating (my 15-year-old son needs all the calories he can get so he is automatically eliminated).  The first thing my husband said was, “Ketosis?  Isn’t that bad for you? Can I eat rice?  Why can’t I eat rice?  The Japanese eat rice and they’re skinny.”  My daughter couldn’t imagine life without bread.  “How do I eat a sandwich without bread.” 

“Just take the bread off and eat the stuff in the middle.” 

“Yuck… if I can’t eat the bread, I don’t want to eat the sandwich at all!” 

“Okay, don’t eat the sandwich at all.” 

“Great, I can see how much you care about me.  Now I’m going to starve!!” 

Daughter huffs away downstairs, husband goes outside to smoke.  I go to the computer to google “High protein foods” and “Carb counts.”  This should be FUN?? 

A week later… daughter has lost 8 lbs, husband 5 lbs, me 5 lbs. AMAZING!  Only had to navigate through a couple of late night carb fits (I’m sick of eating meat.  This CAN’T be GOOD for you) and temper tantrums.  Everyone feeling much clearer, lighter, like a fog has lifted.  I don’t want to nap all the time.  My husband’s up and down moods have lessened.  I don’t have the constant, nagging, background headache that I’ve had FORVEVER. My daughter’s constant food cravings are weakening.  Amazing! 

Next up: I’m running a 5K next week and wonder, “Could being in ketosis help my performance?  Might I be a middle-aged, fat-burning running fuel machine with unsurpassed energy reserves, blowing around the 5K course like it’s a walk in the park?”  Hmmm… could happen.  After all, some people sculpt their body to the exact millimeter muscle size they WANT and get down to 2% body fat to show it all off.  No worries.  What’s a little 5K?  I guess we’ll find out…

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            When the nurse from the emergency room called me that day to come and assist with a patient, I knew it was not good.  As the pharmacy director in a small, rural hospital, pharmacy is usually called when patients have arrived unconscious, are trauma cases, or when a patient is in respiratory or cardiac arrest.  As I stepped into the trauma room I made a quick assessment of what was happening.  The room was full; respiratory therapists, lab tech, physician, emergency medical techs and nurses crammed the room, all busy and crowded around the patient’s stretcher, medical supplies and equipment strewn everywhere.  One of the nurses filled me in on the patient; second or third attempt to kill herself, the last time was with antifreeze.  I looked at the nurse, startled, “She’s serious,” I said.  She nodded in agreement.  “What did she do this time?” I queried.  Typing the patient’s information into the computer, the nurse replied, “Tylenol and Benadryl.”  I could feel my heart sink.  Tylenol is such a nasty drug with which to overdose. It literally wipes out your liver, depending on how much you take.  I have seen too many people overdose on Tylenol and instead of killing themselves as planned, sentence themselves to a lifetime of severe liver dysfunction. 

            Getting a glimpse of the patient between the sea of medical personnel swarming her bed, I saw she was young, barely 20 years old, with beautiful red hair and smooth pale skin.  A stream of charcoal streaked from the corner of her mouth, staining the sheets and covering the floor.  In my head I added up her chances; serious about killing herself, nasty drug choice, vomited the charcoal antidote, unconscious.  Depending on how much Tylenol she had ingested, she was either going to die or she had severely limited her chances of a healthy life.  “Does she have family?”  I asked the same nurse who was recording her information in the computer.  “Her mother came with her in the ambulance but left when we got her in here.”  She shook her head sadly, “Mom’s got a lot of problems too; bad boyfriend and attempted suicide herself.”  I sighed with the weariness of it all, “Some people have it stacked against them, huh?”  The nurse looked at me with years of experience showing in her eyes, “Yeah, some people definitely have it hard.”

            The anesthetist was at the girl’s head, attempting to put in an endotracheal tube down the girls’ throat to establish an airway to help her breathe.  I could see that the anesthetist struggled to see clearly in the girl’s mouth through the black charcoal vomitus.  I held my breath, knowing that the seconds were ticking away quickly.  The anesthetist’s face was stone-like in concentrated effort. “When did she loose her airway?” I asked the emergency medical tech standing beside me.  “After she vomited the charcoal,” he said.  “She was groggy when we picked her up at her house, but arousable.  Since we’ve gotten here, she’s gone completely unconscious.”  The Benadryl kicking in, I thought.  In the medical world, suicide attempts quickly get categorized: those patients that are serious about killing themselves and those patients using the suicide attempt as a call for help. She was in the “serious about killing herself” category, no doubt.  The anesthetist finally placed the endotracheal tube down the girl’s throat.  Respiratory connected an ambu-bag to the endotracheal tube and began to bag her rhythmically.  The radiology tech swung into action with a chest x-ray to assure the tube was placed correctly.

            “Are we flying her out?”  I asked a nurse.  “Yes.  The helicopter team should be here any minute.”  I wondered if she would even make it to the other hospital.  Overdoses have so many unknowns; how much did the person take, did the person take what we’ve been told that they took, what time did the person take it.  All the unknowns make it very difficult to predict how a patient will do.  The anesthetist passed between me and the girl as she walked out of the room, stripping her blackened gloves.  “Did you see her legs?” she whispered, shaking her head with pity.  “No. What about her legs?”  I peered at the end of the bed and got my first look at the girl’s legs as I asked the question.  The anesthetist shook her head as she opened the door to go out, “Gives me chills.” 

            As I stared at the girls’ legs, I went numb with disbelief.  Deep into her legs, the girl had carved her pain, with clear words that pierced my heart.  The large lettered carvings were fresh, but starting to scab, covering the length of her legs from knee to ankle.  On her left leg, on the front inside of her calf, she had knifed the words in capital letters, “EVERYONE I KNOW GOES MISSING AND LEAVES ME.”    On her right inside calf she scrawled. “WHY DO I EXIST?”  Looking at her beautiful, unconscious face I pictured her sitting at home, alone and distraught, one leg propped across the other, a knife in her hand, leaning over and intently and painfully cutting into her flawless skin.  Her pain became suddenly very palpable in the small ER trauma room.  As the immediacy of her condition stabilized, other medical personnel began to notice her legs and I could see their reactions of shock and compassion.  When the helicopter team strode into the room, one of the nurses quickly and respectfully covered her legs. 

            Knowing that she was in the capable hands of the helicopter flight team, I made my way out of the ER.  My heart felt heavy and incapable of comprehending the vastness of the pain I had just witnessed.   My mind was reeling.  “She has carved into her legs the pain of all mankind,” I thought, “The pain of not feeling worthy enough to have love in your life and the pain of not knowing your purpose in life.  If she lives, she will walk around the rest of her life with scars of her pain vulnerable and exposed on her legs for the entire world to see.”  How many times had I felt the same despair at wanting to understand why I am in the world, feeling hopeless that my life had any purpose?  How many times had I felt alone and misunderstood, unloved and unwanted?   How many times had I covered up my pain with work or busyness, trying not to feel my despair underneath?  The experience left me feeling filleted, like all my hidden pain was now revealed as surely as her legs were scarred with words.

            Like so many patients that are treated in our ER and then flown out, I will never know whether she lived or died.  I do know that in her attempt to end her life she probably affected more people far deeper than she would ever believe.  As I drove into my driveway that night, I couldn’t wait to see my children, whole and happy.  Ever since I had left the ER, I had fought the fear that my own children might feel such despair and pain that they would self-mutilate or attempt to take their life in such a way.  As I hugged my children in relief, I knew that I greeted them with a different heart.  The pain I had witnessed that day in the ER had penetrated my heart as surely as the bold, bloody words scarred the girl’s young body.  I knew that the pain I had witnessed was the pain that we all feel when we imagine that we are separate from God, and without that connection to our spiritual nature, there is no hope.   Who hasn’t felt forgotten by God and felt that, just when we need Him, He “goes missing and leaves us?”  Who hasn’t felt the hopelessness of wondering “why do I exist?”  I felt a silent prayer lift from my heart, a prayer of compassion and desire for all to know their pain is witnessed and they do matter.  And this, I realized, was my life’s dream; that all people would know they are loved and have a purpose in life. 

As I lay in bed that night, staring into the darkness unable to go to sleep, I imagined the red-headed girl again.  I imagined her bent over, wounding herself alone in her intense pain, but this time I also imagined that behind her a loving being wrapped tender and adoring arms around her.  I imagined that she allowed the love of this spirit to soak into her and like a tide, wash away her despair and sorrow.  I imagined her suffering face become soft and full of hope.  I imagined her one day becoming a mother, holding her own beloved children in the same way that this loving being had held her, filled and overflowing with unconditional adoration and love.  I imagined her touching her child’s skin with unspeakable devotion and tenderness, kissing the softness with gratitude for the blessings of life   And this is how I choose to remember her, so that her pain will have been witnessed and given seed to hope.  This is how I choose to feel her pain and release it, knowing that the pain she has shared can be catalyst of compassion and healing.  This is my dream, that one day all people will know love like I imagined she could be loved; then her pain, I believe, would have made a difference.

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What is it about the wildness of the wind, the unpredictableness, the cheerful enthusiasm becoming random recklessness as it collects trash paper, splattering it wildly against store windows and rudely unwrapping, elevating pieces of clothing on unsuspecting pedestrians?  The wind was both playful and abrasive today, whistling and howling one minute, gentle chime-ringing the next.  I started out at Waffle King and the “waitress/greeter” (they always say, “Hi, welcome to Waffle King” whenever anyone enters the restaurant so in the course of your breakfast you will hear this ALOT) was having a full-blown hot flash.  Red necked down to her biceps (I thought it  odd the way the red stopped like an inverted “farmers tan” sunburn on her upper arms) and streams of sweat poured off her face and neck.  “Wow, you’re hot!” I said, before thinking.  Walking into the restaurant from my car, the wind was the snappy, cold kind that makes you want to dive from your warm car through the restaurant door as quickly as possible, but instead the wind pushed back on my car door like a linebacker as I attempted to step out, whipped me around the parking lot and then shoved me against the diner door as I fumbled, battling against the door suction thwarting my effort to enter.  Also, early morning, before-coffee daze prevented me from accurately accessing the scene of the perspiration dripping woman in front of me before blurting out my stupid, misguided surmise.  I assumed some type of work she was involved in had caused her to overheat.  “No, baby, I’m having a HOT flash,” she clarified as she blew by me, coffee pot in hand, the heat of her body emanating like a furnace blast.  Immediately my thought was, “Wow, I wonder what that feels like?  How could something inside us turn on within seconds and be hot enough to burn you from the inside out.  That’s amazing, fascinating!”  I was so enthralled at this point, trying to imagine the source of the heat, struggling to grasp how something so ordinary can be so ancient and mysterious at the same time that I almost posed my witless, follow-up question, “What does it feel like?”  I wanted to, but I didn’t.  I mean, I’ve been a pharmacist for 25 years, dispensed tons of hormones, talked to masses of menopausal women about their “choices” and it never occurred to me what they are really going through; a real live chemistry explosion happening somewhere deep inside and detonating through their skin like bullets of hot lava.  I’ve heard plenty of jokes about women running their mates out of the bed at night, watched numerous women flapping their clothes to fan themselves outside in bitter cold weather, heard dry, medical lectures about the latest “best practice standards of care” for menopausal women, but for some reason my empathetic, curiosity “feelers” were not tuning in to this particular phenomena.  Over the 20 or 30 minutes it took for me to eat my breakfast, her neck began to pale and her body’s heat wave currents seemed to dissipate.  Her face relaxed and the tension in the air released.  It was as if we had all been held captive by some kind of unnamed shakedown and we were kindred spirits in our relief of having passed without any understanding of our participation.  I surrendered effortlessly to the whims of the wind as I left.  Nothing to hold on to, nothing to fear, nothing to control.  I had just witnessed the ultimate cataclysm of life. Free and untethered, I let the wind do with me what it would.

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