Opioids and Lemonade

 

by Heather Plewes

After a mountain biking accident left me with a lacerated kidney in late January, I spent several weeks in hospital on intravenous Hydromorphone (also known as Dilaudid).  The drug is a very strong pain medication of the opioid class. After discharge, I continued to need it orally for about 5 days for extreme pain, but when I didn’t need it anymore, I stopped taking it. I didn’t want to be on it for any longer than was absolutely necessary.

I had been taking 3 milligrams every 3-4 hours, when one day, I found I could stretch those timings to 5 hours or more. At midnight, I took only 2 milligrams, and then managed to go seven hours with taking any. This was the first night I hadn’t awakened multiple times in severe pain. In the morning, I woke up feeling substantially less pain, so I decided I was done with the Dilaudid. I put the bottle away and switched to extra strength Tylenol (anti-inflammatories such as ibuprofen or naproxen weren’t an option due to risk of internal bleeding).

I was conscious of how I felt that day. Did I feel any urge to take more? Did I feel like I missed it? No and no. I was so proud of myself. “Look at me”, I wanted to shout from the rooftop (ok, from my couch, I was still seriously incapacitated), “I took opioids and didn’t get addicted!”

The following day I realized I was feeling more emotional than usual – crying over Instagram posts and videos on Facebook (more than usual!) and feeling overwhelmed with gratitude for all the people who were taking such good care of me. I wondered if these feelings were related to stopping the opioid, but it didn’t really matter to me. I obviously wasn’t going to go back on those crazy drugs just because I was a little weepy!

The second night I awoke multiple times drenched in sweat. The next day, the diarrhea started, but I figured it was just because I wasn’t taking such constipating pain medication anymore. The third night the sweats were even worse, and the day after that, I had sweats and chills even after getting up. I was nervous. Did this mean I had a fever? Was it a sign of infection? I texted my partner at work to ask if he thought I should be worried. Back came his simple reply, ‘could it be withdrawal?’ Hmm. I cracked open my laptop to google ‘Dilaudid withdrawal symptoms’.

There it was, on website after website: the mood swings, the sweats, the diarrhea. There were many more I would experience in the days that followed: muscle pain, restlessness, irritability, headache – even excessive sneezing and dilated pupils.  All of these were in addition to the pain, weakness, and exhaustion I was already experiencing as part of my recovery from the trauma itself.

I was almost embarrassed. How could I have been so naïve? I had thought that because I wasn’t feeling any cravings or emotional desire to take the Dilaudid, that I wasn’t addicted. The fact is, addiction is a physical dependence – not an emotional one. The physical (and emotional and behavioral) symptoms of withdrawal are caused by changes to brain chemistry. As someone who has struggled with depression since adolescence, I know firsthand that mental health isn’t just between my ears – it is as real and as serious as physical health problems, and yet I had convinced myself that I was somehow above the clutches of opioid addiction.

In the weeks that followed, as I continued to recover slowly from my injury, I found myself thinking about the experience I had had and examining how it could have been different. I realized that many in the medical profession – from the doctors and nurses in the hospital, to the pharmacists who dispensed the Dilaudid – had warned me about the addictive properties of opioids; indeed several went so far as to shame me for taking them or question whether I really needed them, but no one had given me information or tools to help me safely stop taking them. I looked through my discharge paperwork from the hospital – nothing. I looked through my pharmacy info sheets – nothing.

There is something seriously wrong with this.

How can medical professionals prescribe these drugs and then completely fail to inform patients about how to safely discontinue their use? My withdrawal experience could have substantially less unpleasant if I had been given information about what to expect and how to minimize symptoms. I would never have simply stopped use ‘cold turkey’ if I had known it would be so awful. A basic information sheet with my hospital discharge papers or my pharmacy paperwork could have outlined simple tips to lessen withdrawal symptoms.

The media is permeated with stories of the opioid crisis in Canada. We hear about addiction support programs, rehabilitation centers, naloxone kits in public spaces, and safe injection sites and I fully support these measures. We must care for those who are already in the clutches of addiction. But what about prevention? How can we decrease the number of individuals with access to these drugs in the first place? How can we help those who must take opioids temporarily to safely discontinue their use?

In the past, following relatively minor injuries or surgical procedures, I have been prescribed opioid medications including Oxycodone and Oxycocet, but I only filled one of those prescriptions, and I never took a single pill. One glance at the prescription, and I thought ‘No way!’ For me, the fear of addiction to the drugs was much greater than my need for such strong pain relief. I have family members and friends who have had similar experiences. But there must be so many other people, just like us, who were afraid of the consequences, but were in pain, so they took the drugs prescribed to them by a medical professional they trusted. How many of them struggled to stop taking them when the pain decreased? How many were successful? How many became addicted? In 2018 in Canada, more than 11 people lost their lives each day to opioid-related causes – over 2000 deaths in the first six months of 2018 alone.

I now know what it is to need relief from extraordinary pain, but I also know that the pain I felt from the previous, more minor surgeries didn’t warrant such strong drugs. People need to understand that minor to moderate pain itself is not a crisis. Pain is a danger signal to the body. Pain tells us something is wrong. But if patients are told to expect some pain and that it isn’t a sign of anything wrong, it is just a temporary condition that will pass in a day or two, what possible reason can there be to prescribe opioid drugs? When there is a such a high risk of addiction, surely the risks outweigh the benefits. The first step toward tackling the opioid crisis in Canada is to discourage physicians from prescribing opioid drugs in all but the direst of circumstances.

Secondly, when it is unavoidable to prescribe or dispense opioid drugs, it is essential that patients be given sufficient information, tools, and support to safely discontinue their use as soon as possible. At the bare minimum, this is a conversation that should take place between the prescribing physician and the patient, and again between the pharmacist and the patient, about how to manage and minimize withdrawal symptoms. Printed information sheets should be provided with hospital discharge papers and pharmacy documents. Community support contact information should be included: websites patients can visit for more information, email addresses for community addiction support contacts, hotline numbers for support by phone. We must equip patients with knowledge and tools to support their safe withdrawal.

This story ends happily, at least for me – the withdrawal symptoms abated within about a week. I’ve since returned all the unused pills to the pharmacy. I hope I will never be in so much pain that I need to take anything like them again for an extended period. But I realized that perhaps I could turn something negative into something positive. Maybe my injury and recovery could take on greater meaning by using my experiences to advocate for better care for other patients.

I’m not an ‘everything happens for a reason’ kind of person. I basically crashed my fat bike because I was having too much fun; beautiful weather, ideal conditions, right at the end of a fast, fun ride, and within sight of the parking lot. But as an indomitable optimist, I do believe in making lemons into lemonade.

I am uniquely equipped to use my voice to speak up on behalf of others. I am privileged in many ways and I believe that it is incumbent upon me to use my privilege to benefits those less fortunate than me. My privilege in life, in part, helped me to avoid a problematic ongoing opioid addiction: I knew about the risks of addiction and am well-informed about the opioid crisis, I had an excellent support system and a happy, successful life to return to after recovering from my injury. Many are not so fortunate, and these people are disproportionately likely to develop addictions.

I believe we must call on our Canadian healthcare system to make changes that can better prevent opioid addiction – not just treat it.

We can do better. We can make A LOT of lemonade.

 

Re-Intro…about this gal

This gal is Heather

Mountain biker / bikepacker / writer / deep thinker / travel enthusiast / creative human / dog lover / feminist / musician / loud laugher / spicy food lover…

Hi, I’m Heather!

I started this blog in 2013, then life got crazy and I didn’t touch it for more than half a decade, but I’m back. I’m going to give it another shot in 2019 and see where it takes me. Lord knows I have more than 99 things to say and less than 99 people who want to hear them on any given day.

I tend to have strong opinions, but they are generally well-considered and I’ve always been good at expressing myself in writing. There isn’t a theme here, although I imagine some of my passions will play a role in what I choose to write about. If I had to make a loose outline for 2019’s blog posts I would call it bikes-travel-feminism-mental health-culture. Not a great name, really. I think I’ll stick with According to this gal

I’m keeping most of my old blogs posts around even though they’re pretty aged at this point. Most of them still make me laugh, so they might make you laugh, and the ones I have kept all said something that was worth saying. I might not feel exactly the way I did when I wrote them, but that’s how time works. Just because I’d never wear 90’s swimwear again, doesn’t mean every picture of me in 90’s swimwear should be thrown out. (Wait, should it?) That said, I’m now worried that the fashions of the 90’s may be coming back any day now and I’ll have to eat my words while wearing some godawful acid-washed, neon-accented nightmare. But I digress…

I hope you enjoy my posts and I welcome your feedback. My opinions are my own and don’t reflect those of any employer or organization. Despite my age (37) I haven’t quite figured out who I am or what I wanna be when I grow up. I wrote a little Instagram/FB post about it recently and received some really warm feedback that included “I think one of the things you are is a writer”. Strictly speaking, in the career sense, I’m not, but it got me thinking about what it means to be a writer.

They way we define ourselves doesn’t necessarily align with what we get paid to do for a living. I know musicians who work in accounting and marketing. I know athletes who work in sales and engineering. We don’t have to define ourselves by our jobs, we deserve to define ourselves by our passions. This is why asking “what do you do?” when you meet someone at a party is such a shitty habit we all need to break. At the moment, I don’t know how to answer that question without sounding like a bum, but if you asked me “what are you interested in?” or “how do you like to spend your weekends?” I could talk until your glass is empty and my glass is empty and neither of us would have to feel like crap.

I’m just a girl in her late thirties, standing in front of the internet (figuratively), asking it to read her blog.

xo – thisgal

So I KNOW I can’t dance.

Carlton Banks knows he can dance.

But Carlton Banks knows he can.

I’m not sure whose fault it is, exactly, but I have the coordination of a drunken octopus on rollerblades.

It’s particularly a bummer this time of year because:

1)  There are usually weddings to attend (and unless the couple is really square, there will be dancing).

2)  So You Think You Can Dance is lighting up the small-screen with people who can definitely dance.

I think it’s often the case that we admire those who are immensely talented in areas where we consider ourselves lacking.  After concerts (I sing) there are always a few people who come up to me and say “I just don’t know how you do that!” and I think to myself I don’t know how NOT to.  I’ve been singing pretty much since I could make sounds and singing in front of people since I was 8 or so.  It comes naturally to me.  I have honed my skills with years of training (thanks Mom and Dad!) but it started with just some raw ability and interest.  My parents are musical, so I came by it honestly enough and I was exposed to it a vast amount of good music starting in utero.  (Apparently I would kick my way through my parents’ trips to the symphony before I was even born.)

Unfortunately for me, my parents may be music-lovers, but they’re definitely NOT dancers.  Both were raised in the Baptist church and the Baptists (at least the old-school ones) were pretty firm in their stance on dancing being a direct ticket to hell (with inevitable pit-stops in fornication paving the way).

**I think my Mom would appreciate my clarifying that she is now more of a born-again-skeptic/free-thinker who left her rigid Baptist roots behind decades ago.**

But she was still a pretty conservative parent when my sister and I were growing up:

When all the little girls in my class were drowning in tutus and jazz shoes my Mom was firm in her belief that the dance moves they were learning contained ‘lewd gyrations’ inappropriate for children.  I think she was convinced they were all going to grow up to be strippers or hookers.  As it has turned out, I still know many of them and most are married, have young children and hold university degrees in fields like nursing, teaching and occupational therapy.  I think there’s even one veterinarian and one dentist.  Not quite the heroin-addicted harlots my Mom envisioned.

...or this

I forgive you Mom.  Mainly because there are no pictures like THIS of me.

I forgive you Mom.  Mainly because there are no pictures like THIS of me.

…or this.

Alas, while these unexpectedly upstanding citizens boogie down at special events, I find myself with limited options.

1)  Sit out everything but the slow dances

2)  Dance awkwardly and self-consciously in a style that could best be described as octogenarian-foreign-exchange-student-on-horse-tranquilizers

3)  Get so blindingly intoxicated that my self-consciousness gives way to unashamed ass-shaking  (I spent 4 post-secondary years in this state)

The other complicating factor is my spouse.  My husband falls into the rare and fascinating category of a man with decent rhythm, average dancing ability and limitless confidence about his dancing prowess.  He possesses genuine certainty that he is a dancing-savant and the amazing thing is, everyone is so distracted by his enthusiasm that they think he’s a fabulous dancer.  It’s like a great-dancer-mirage.  Upon consideration though, I think there’s a lesson here:  Dancing is obviously at least 50% confidence.  Do the math.  If you’re 100% confident, even if you’ve only got 60% ability, you get an A.  (Yes, I used a calculator to make sure.)

I guess that’s where the booze comes in handy.  You can drink your way to confidence and then even a failing dance grade of 40% gets you a solid B (or B- depending on your scale).  Perhaps I’m confusing confidence with not-giving-a-shit, but either way, you’ll have a better time.

Napoleon Dynamite has confidence!  Vote for Pedro.

Not unlike the tone-deaf music lovers who are ‘rock stars in their own cars’, I have been known to dance around my (empty!) house while cooking or cleaning.  The dogs look at me funny but who are they to judge?  Crotch-sniffing creatures don’t get a vote.

I guess me and my 8 left feet just need to learn to ‘Dance like there’s nobody watching’ or some other cliché meant to make clumsy people feel better about themselves.

Nah, fuck it.  I’ve never been one for clichés.  I think I’ll stick with liquor.

This guy has 200% confidence.  For NO DAMN REASON.

This guy has 200% confidence.  He needs 0% skill to be an awesome dancer.  He must be blitzed.

Poor Kate’s Royal Vagina

Kate's Ladybits

I’m certain this is the first and last time I’ll ever utter these words:  Poor Kate.

I know, I know.  Maybe you’re finding it hard to summon any sympathy for her.  After all, she’s thin, beautiful, stylish, rich beyond measure (by marriage…although I think she was quite wealthy even beforehand) and married to the future King of England.  (I imagine she’ll be Queen when he ascends the throne, although you never know with those royals and their titular trickery.  I thought she’d be a Princess when she married Will and they pulled a fast one that time.)  Regardless, her life looks pretty damn peachy.

Sorry...can't resist.  Peachy Kate.

Sorry…can’t resist. Peachy Kate.

But if I may, I’d like to provide a brief argument in favour of extending some sympathy her way, just this once.  Consider this:  millions around the globe are currently fixated on her vagina.  Seriously.  How would you feel?  Unless you’re a porn star, I’m guessing the answer is ‘not great’.  Personally, I’d like to think the number of people thinking about my vagina at any given time maxes out at two.

I hesitate to admit it, but I’ve read countless articles about the upcoming royal birth.  I’ve tracked Kate’s maternity fashions with rapt interest and read extensively about her supposed nursery décor and prenatal care which leads me to the reasonable assumption that today and in the weeks to come we’ll be seeing scads of stories about the birth itself.  I’m guessing everything from how long Kate laboured, what drugs, if any she used, the breathing techniques she employed and whether any sweat dotted her brow or noises escaped her lips to the designer label in the nightie she was wearing, the colour of polish adorning her toenails in those gilded stirrups, and the thread-count of the Egyptian cotton sheets on her hospital bed will no doubt be scrutinized.  Much of it will be suppositions or outright falsehoods, but we’ll gobble it up nonetheless.

Shit, it was international news last year when she got bangs.  The woman can’t change her pantyhose without it hitting the front page.  (Ok, I also feel a bit sorry for her about the pantyhose.  Apparently once you’re royal you can’t go barelegged anymore and to me, donning pantyhose daily is kind of on-par with having regular root canals.  Those royal privates haven’t been able to breathe properly in several years.  Perhaps the variety of pantyhose she spends all her time in are exceptionally comfortable and breathable, but I kind of doubt it.  I’m convinced a man invented pantyhose and no one has put much time or effort into improving them in the last half century.)

Anyway…Kate must know this (not just about the pantyhose; but about the international obsession with her current predicament.)  Although I haven’t had any babies of my own, I’m inclined to think that most first-time mothers have enough on their minds during labour that they don’t need the added stress of knowing the world is waiting to hear every detail of the less-than-glamorous situation south of their belly buttons.  Any of the Moms I know would readily tell you that your dignity goes out the window during childbirth.  Your body and mind are likely to betray you and any semblance of pride you previously possessed gets trampled by the hordes of medical professionals who come to have a glance at your hooha.

So just this once, I think we should extend Kate a little sympathy.  Not because she’s doing something women around the world do every day (most in considerably less posh surroundings) but because she has to do it knowing that her ladyparts are the subject of international buzz.

Soon enough the media will turn their attention (and ours) to Kate’s post-pregnancy fashions and weight loss, her breastfeeding choices and parenting decisions, not to mention the future monarch’s every move.  I would think this might be a welcome shift after the global obsession with her reproductive organs over the past nine months.

Just remember, a few years from now we’ll be doing this again, albeit with somewhat less vehement fervour.  After all, Kate’s not finished yet: she owes them an heir and a spare.

Heir & Spare

Healthy Shmealthy

orange vs oreo

It would be delightful if I were one of those bok-choy-loving-kale-juice-drinking-organic-vegan-cheese-eating-pomegranate-facial-scrub-yoga-obsessed people.  I’d probably live longer and sleep better and have flawless skin…

…the thing is, I think I’d also be miserable, and I’m well aware of the role mental health plays in overall longevity and life satisfaction.

I can’t seem to help it.  When given the choice between the healthy option and the tasty option (not that they are always mutually exclusive) I’m going to pick taste.  Would I like some kale chips?  Well sure, if they’re the only available snack – I’ll grudgingly admit that I actually think they’re fairly tasty – but would I like some kale chips if they’re sitting next to a bowl of Cheetos?  Not on your life.

Now here is my theory:  (and I’m going to go ahead and throw my poor Mother under the bus here)  I think the reason I love sugar and salt and spice and grease so much is because I didn’t eat enough of it growing up.  My mother wasn’t the macrobiotic, organic, vegan freak-type, but she was firm in her mission to serve healthy, non-processed food to her family.  She avoided buying prepared foods and sugary cereals and pop.  We almost never went out to eat in restaurants, except for very special occasions, although we occasionally ordered pizza or had Chinese takeout.  There were usually plenty of cookies around but they were always the home-made variety (which thankfully are infinitely yummier than store-bought).  Don’t get me wrong: we weren’t completely deprived or anything, it’s just that the less healthy options were a bit of a rarity.

As for the current organic craze – sure, I’ll gladly eat organic produce – but only if it’s not prohibitively expensive and I think there’s a discernible difference between it and the alternative.  (Organic baby carrots are the most obvious example I can think of – they’re not crazy-pricey but they taste exponentially better.  Try ’em.  You’ll thank me.)  Also, I think hearing from family friends who told my Mom their son knew a guy who did nighttime pesticide crop-dusting for organic growers put a damper on my faith that organic is always really organic.  If I’m going to pay $8 for a banana I just think it should come with a certificate of organic authenticity signed by the Pope.

When they’re in season, I buy fruits and veggies from the local farmer’s roadside stand and I have been trying to buy more of our meats from a local butcher, (although I have a sneaking suspicion that the hormones I’ve ingested from grocery store meat are the only reason I have breasts whatsoever.)  Anyway, it’s not like I’m not giving the eat-local movement a fair shake.  It’s more that I think getting obsessed with it isn’t worth the fuss.  I’m just not one to get caught up in dietary or fashion fads.  I’m a naturally skeptical consumer in all my shopping.  Salespeople everywhere, take note:  you’re not gonna get me on the upsell.  I don’t want your extended warranty or that weather protectant spray or an ugly carrying case.  I’m not interested in buying 4 more to save 50 cents or signing up for your emails or your loyalty card.  The answer is ‘no’ to whatever you’re hawking.  Seriously.  No.

The one and only exception to my ‘no upsell’ policy is sauces and condiments.  Waitress:  if you offer me additional quantities or options on those, your tip just increased.

In fact, my personal eating philosophy can really be encompassed in one simple phrase:  I don’t think life would be worth living without condiments.

I’d probably lay down and wait to die if I found out that I could never have mayonnaise again.  (Likewise ranch dressing – not on salads, I think that’s gross, but as an accompaniment to my hands-down favorite food; Buffalo Chicken Fingers.)

Let me give you some examples:

  • I like my coffee with lots of cream and sugar.  (And not the ‘5% tastes like 10%’ shit.  Read the label, it’s full of carrageenan.  That is seaweed, people. )
  • I adore Eggs Benedict.  It’s the breakfast equivalent of my relationship with Buffalo Fingers.  But don’t bother serving it to me unless the Hollandaise can be measured in cups.
  • Aforementioned Buffalo Fingers (or wings) must be breaded, deep fried, doused in medium or hot sauce and accompanied by a vat of ranch dressing.
  • Chips have a best friend called dip. Pitas and dip are also on affectionate terms.
  • Fish & Chips are lovely, heavenly greasiness – but utterly pointless without loads of tartar sauce and malt vinegar.  And how about some gravy for the fries…
  • Tacos or fajitas aren’t complete without loads of cheese and sour cream.  Ditto that for baked potatoes – but please add butter, bacon and green onions too!
  • While we’re on the topic of butter, if I’m going to eat bread, it needs plenty – salted butter (not margarine, blasphemer), preferably slightly cooler than room temperature if possible.
  • Anything involving whipped cream should be almost entirely obscured by it.

The way I see it, we’ve all got to die at some point and if I die of congestive heart failure, at least I won’t have the right to be indignant over it.

If my body is a temple, I’m pretty sure it’s the Southern-Baptist variety.  And I’m only really there for the church picnic of fried chicken, potato salad, apple pie and the like.  I’ll raise my hands and shout ‘Hallelujah!’ to deliciousness with a born-again zeal.  If I croak afterward, so be it.  I can think of considerably worse ways to go than with a drumstick in my hand.

Death by Drumstick

Gasp! Heaven forbid that hockey stars should marry EACHOTHER

hockey players kissing

Good job, 98.1 FM

During my morning commute each weekday I tend to have radio listener’s ADD.  I don’t like to listen to the morning hosts’ senseless blathering.  I don’t care about Bad Boyfriend Poker.  (Or much worse Roses; a dreadful gimmick where the DJs trick douchey boyfriends or spouses into answering a brief telephone survey in exchange for a dozen free roses to send to anyone they wish – which these fools inevitably send to someone other than their girlfriend or wife who is listening in on the whole thing, live on the radio.  The Jerry Springer-esque fallout that ensues is meant to be entertaining. If you have half a brain, it’s not.)  I don’t particularly enjoy the Classical 96.3 Snooty News, or the weather (which is wrong more often than it’s right), or the generally obnoxious Dean Blundell Show.  So what I do is surf incessantly.  As soon as the mindless chatter commences, I hit the button until I get to a station playing something that could pass for music and return to my state of head-bobbing highway hypnosis.

Yesterday morning however, I was in perhaps a greater state of Monday morning apathy than usual and was listening idly as the chatter on 98.1 FM (a mind-numbing ‘current hits & yesterday’s favorites’ kind of station that sticks to a steady playlist of easily palatable pop hits) led into their daily entertainment update.  I soon had the enormous pleasure of hearing the following exchange:

Cheesy lady host:  “Two NHL stars got married over the weekend”.
Even cheesier guy host  “But not to each other” (with an audible smirk)
Lady host:  “THAT wouldn’t be a good thing!”

It was at this point that I groaned aloud and then exclaimed, to absolutely no one “SERIOUSLY???!!!”

What exactly would the crisis be if two NHL stars married each other??  Would the entire sport of hockey grind to a shuddering halt?

(Wait, just let me get my soapbox…)

It’s unfortunate, but the world of professional sports continues to be an unwelcoming climate for gay athletes.  I’m no fool:  I understand that the men’s locker room is one of the last bastions of unbridled machismo and that the use of homophobic slurs has long been part of the ordinary banter, but acknowledging the status quo and accepting it are two different things.  “We always have” is not a good enough excuse to continue.

When, over the last 75 years or so, professional sports began to admit black athletes, the concept and individuals themselves were met with resistance and experienced a period of transition – I’m sure members of public and teams alike shrieked ‘it’ll never work!’  Hell, there was a time in the last half century when African Americans were thought to carry different diseases than whites.  They were forced to use separate rest rooms and water fountains and sit at the back of the bus and frequent separate movie theaters.  Now, looking back, how batshit crazy does that seem?

I’m confident that in the foreseeable future, the concept of segregation and intolerance linked to sexual orientation is going to seem equally ludicrous. People will scratch their heads and wonder how they ever thought there could possibly be a difference between the love shared by heterosexual couples versus that of same-sex couples.

No one truly believes that there are no gay players in professional sports but there continues to be an unwritten policy of ‘Don’t ask don’t tell’ and breaking down the communication barrier is critical to fostering a climate of acceptance and respect.  Baby steps are being taken (and since they are a relative rarity, they are regarded more as massive leaps).  I wept to read Jason Collins’ article in Sports Illustrated.  One player coming out should NOT be a news sensation – but it still is. and so I cheer for those who are brave enough to do it!  The only way we can hope for the next generation to be less homophobic than ours and the ones before it is by providing kids and teens with positive LGBTQ role models.  The Arts sphere has been doing an exemplary job of this recently (and been more quietly welcoming to the LGBTQ community for decades) but, (as I’m about to point out) not all gay kids want to work in the Arts and unless we make it known to them that they can expect a culture of acceptance and equality in ANY field, the closeting will continue.

Newsflash to the ignorant masses:  Not all gay men are musicians, interior decorators and fashion designers.  They haven’t all been carefully corralled into LA or the big-city Gayborhood.  They’re EVERYWHERE – your bank teller, your doctor, your travel agent, your kid’s teacher or your auto mechanic.  Your trash collector, your landscaper, your next-door neighbour, or your boss.  And if you didn’t think any less of them when you thought they were straight, why change now?  (The same sentiment obviously applies to the stereotyping of LGBTQ individuals).

Look, maybe the radio host didn’t mean any harm.  Maybe she realized she’d said something homophobic afterward and felt like an ass.  No matter what, unfortunately, her words simply reflect the majority of sports fans’ attitude today:  “Gay athletes – no way, they couldn’t be!”  And just in case you hadn’t caught my drift yet, I’ll distill it down: that is NOT OK with me.  I’m hoping that in my lifetime we’ll get to the point where ‘coming out’ goes like this:

Guy to his buddy:  “So, uh, I don’t know if you know already, but, uh, I’m gay.”
Buddy:  “Cool.  Whatever.  Lace up your skates before the ice fucking melts, buddy.”

A non-event.  A passing conversation of the same level of importance as what we ate for breakfast or how bloody hot it was yesterday.

And when the day finally comes that two gay NHL stars wed, I will be pumping my fist instead of shaking it.

hockey bums

I can’t wait to go for a run later! (said this gal, NEVER)

…alas, I hate running.

Which is a bummer because it’s probably the most practical form of exercise ever – all you need is a pair of half-decent shoes, operational knee joints and the motivation to get your ass out the door in said shoes.  It’s inexpensive, you can do it almost anywhere and it requires no special training (unless you want to go to the Olympics or something, but clearly, most people don’t.  And if you do, have you really thought that through?  ‘Cus the Ethiopians seem to have it pretty much covered, at least for the longer distances.  Maybe you should try badminton, or bobsledding.)

I’ve run a couple of 5ks (for charity, badly, slowly) and running a 10k is on my bucket list.  (And from a purely practical standpoint, I probably shouldn’t leave it til my knees completely crap out.) But here’s the thing:  I hate running.

There have been times in my life (two, to be exact) when I actually managed to get into a regular running groove, so it’s not like I’ve never given it a fair try.  I ran every day the summer I was 16.  I was working at a Resort and I was going mental so I got into the habit of running every day.  This was pre-iPod era so all I had to listen to were my own thoughts.  I suppose I could have bought myself a Walkman, but then I would have had to heft it around.  (Plus, I was making almost negative money for my superlative ice cream scooping skills once my employer deducted room and board.  They had the audacity to pay less than minimum wage – which charities can get away with – and then charge us to live in an ancient boathouse building that was literally condemned a couple years later.)

ANYWAY…For those of you who are old enough to remember the Walkman, enough said.  For those who aren’t or who have blocked out those memories, they were about the size of a sandwich (maybe made on texas toast) and had super dorky headphones (see figure 1).  You put cassettes in them (see figure 2) which usually contained 12-16 songs and had to be taken out of the machine, flipped and reinserted mid-way through the album.  Even the bloody cassettes were bigger than today’s iPods.

orig walkman

A Sony Walkman
(and its accompanying super-sexy headphones)

girl w cassettes

Figure 2:  Cassette Tapes
(Also, feel free to enjoy the chia-pet perm.)

So what you should be grasping from this is that a Walkman was not a super practical running accessory.  (Just so you don’t think I’m ancient, they had invented the Discman by then but it was even bigger than the Walkman and the CD would skip if you subjected it to vigorous jostling, so it was even less practical.)

The next time I got into running was more than a decade later and that time, I was doing it to get fit.  By then, thank god (or Steve Jobs) the iPod had been invented, so at least I could rock out while I ran.  I lived in the ‘hood at the time, so I ran with my iPod and my ‘pepper scented bear repellant’, just in case I encountered any skeezy, downtown bears with bestiality on the brain.  (Is it still bestiality if the animal initiates the sexual encounter with the human?  Or would bears call that something different?  Like humanality?)  Whatever.  I ran.  After a few months of running I decided to set a goal to put my efforts to use in the Canadian Breast Cancer Foundation’s Run for the Cure.  Unfortunately it got stupidly hot in July and August (as it tends to do in Ontario in the summertime) and so I sort of lost my mojo.  When September came around I got back into the swing, but it was only a few weeks before the RFTC 5k, so I wasn’t exactly in my best form (and let’s be accurate, even my best form was still seriously pathetic.)  I managed to finish the run in a not-heinously-embarrassing amount of time (and promptly gave up running after that.)

The following summer I meant to get running again…but didn’t.  And the summer after that I tried again, going for a few runs on the trail, but what can I say?  I FUCKING HATE RUNNING.  I was an idiot and did the Run for the Cure anyway that fall (after only a few practice runs) and I finished it…but it wasn’t pretty.  I’m not sure if you can still call it running when the fast walkers are passing you by times, but I thumped out the 5k because it meant something to me to do it (and I am ridiculously stubborn).

Now I find myself at the time of year again when running is an option (ok, I guess it has been an option in terms of weather for a couple of months already) (**unless you’re one of those hardcore freaks who’s willing to run in sub-zero conditions and risk the loss of their nipples to frostbite) but right now I can see the RFTC looming three months away and I don’t want to embarrass myself again.  The friends I ‘ran’ it with were literally out of my field of vision within a couple hundred metres last year and I don’t want that to happen again.  They may very well leave me in the dust at some point, but hopefully not within the first kilometer.

So I guess, (better sooner than later) I need to dust off my running shoes, squeeze my tatas into a sports bra and the hit the road or the trail.  I’m SO looking forward to first-week-running-and-I’m-basically-disabled syndrome.  At a time of year when I can get sweat ass walking from my office to the car, it’s gonna be a real treat.  I guess I just have to focus on the positives: the intoxicating wave of self-righteousness that accompanies a completed run and the opportunity to unabashedly adore Carly Rae Jepsen’s bubblegum pop songs.  (It’s a short list, but I had to find something…)  I can promise you this, I won’t be virtual high-fiving myself on Facebook every time I do. It’s not that I think this is the worst FB sin ever, although people posting about their workouts all the time makes me feel like an epic underachiever/sloth, it’s more that if I do, I’m afraid people will notice when I stop and that’s bound to happen because at the core of my being,

I just really hate running.

ecard running

Vanity…(the deadly sin, not the messy cupboard in your bathroom)

SO Hawt.   (Side bar: Do you think $2000 stilettos would be more comfortable than their $100 counterparts?)

SO Hawt.
(Side bar: Do you think $2000 stilettos would be more comfortable than their $100 counterparts?)

Only a few days into my new blog and I found myself fretting – ‘what if I can’t think of anything interesting to say now that I have a limitless forum in which to share it?’
(Also, to be fair, I’m now wondering…is it still a forum if no one reads it?  But screw it.  I’m doing probably the most worthwhile thing I’ve done all day and I work full time...)

So I kinda loved this article.  Are women foolish to love stilettos?  Ch-ch-check it out.  I started reading the article because I love my stilettos (deeply, all of them) and I was intrigued about where they were going with the ‘foolish’ angle.  From a strictly medical standpoint, I completely agree – high heels are asinine.  My feet are half destroyed and I’m only 31.  Look at the millions that are being made in the ‘holy shit, these shoes are gonna kill my feet what can I buy to mitigate that agony industry’: I have a bin full of insoles and grippy things and tiny bandaids and even [I shit you not] foot lube (which by-the-way is an awesome product: For real, get some.)  From a social standpoint though, high heels are genius.  Nothing makes me feel more confident than strutting around in heels.  I feel thinner, sexier, more powerful and more in-control: my confidence level shoots up right along with my height.  And that is why I suffer – because confidence is an elusive quality: if they bottled it and it tasted horrible, I’d be guzzling it down by the bottle-ful – but they don’t (and becoming an alcoholic isn’t really an option I’m up for considering), so I slip on my high heels, throw my shoulders back and feel kick-ass despite the occasional blister.

ANYWAY…the actual article is less about shoes and more about women and beauty in the 21st century.  Pretty fascinating, when you hear it elucidated so clearly: “At a moment when girls and women have never been more empowered, they are in thrall to ever more ruthless standards of beauty.”  It’s true, of course, women today (let’s be clear that unfortunately my use of the word ‘women’ herein only refers to women living in Western cultures) have more options than ever before and are continuing to achieve a greater standard of social, economic and vocational equality than ever before.  (Crap.  I could go on at length about the changing roles and definitions of women in our society today…I’ve gotta stop there and hop off my soapbox or else this post is going to veer way too far from its intended course.)

The troubling thing about the article is this: if you’re a woman with even the remotest sense of vanity, it can’t help but leave you asking yourself “would I rather be hit by the truck?”

And I guess I’m pretty much morally bankrupt…because as long as I didn’t suffer any lasting physical disfigurement, (which would completely defeat the purpose of choosing the truck over getting fat), I’m leaning towards the truck (no pun intended).

I’m not going to lie, I was really rather relieved (and not actually too surprised) to read that a majority of women (near my age bracket) feel the same way.  There’s no real way around it…I’m vain…we all are, I guess, at least to a certain extent.  I have admiration for the women out there who love their bodies no matter what and feel so confident they can appear in public without makeup on…but then my internal mean girl is judging them too – and usually the bitch has her say first and then I do the mental correction ‘no, no, self, you should admire her!  She’s so much less self-conscious than you are!’  (Funny how I can manage to put myself down, even while putting others down.  But more on that in a future post.  My digressions here are already digressing.)

Where was I?  Oh yes, the truck.  The truck is more appealing on so many levels.  Get hurt?  Sympathy cards, flowers, ice cream.  Get fat?  Gossip, pity, judgey stares while eating ice cream.  I think it’s time to clarify that for every woman, ‘fat’ is a different thing and not only that, the definition for ‘fat’ that I would apply to my own body is considerably more stringent than how I would classify others as fat.  In the last year I lost 20 pounds.  I felt SO fat with those extra 20 pounds on me – in fact, I’d love to lose another 5 (or rather, re-lose the 5 that snuck back on, plus another 5).  Anyone who knows me would likely agree I was never fat.  Just a little curvier than I’d ever been previously.  I actually think curves look utterly fabulous on many women and I’m in strong agreement that beautiful bodies come in many different dimensions – we don’t come out of cookie cutters and I’m glad of it.  But that doesn’t make me any less hard on myself and I know I’m not alone in this state of mind.

I think that more than anything else, the article has me wondering whether our society’s increasingly restrictive standards of beauty will reach high tide anytime in the foreseeable future.  Because if not, before long, only genetic and surgical manipulation will be able to produce women who measure up and the rest of us will be comparing ourselves to a bunch of mutants.  You don’t have to look any further than the covers of the beauty and gossip magazines to come to the startling realization that it’s already happening.  The women who grace the covers of these publications are, more often than not, altered both physically and through digital means to make them so utterly flawless that even the most stunning of natural women can’t help but feel ugly.

Thankfully, there are caricatures like Joan Rivers to serve as cautionary examples.  Seriously, if we don’t get a firm grasp on a more realistic standard of beauty we’re all going to end up looking like pincushions.  In my golden years, I sincerely hope that I am more focused on living life to the fullest than making it to my Botox appointment on time after a day that included a grueling workout with my personal trainer and 4 hours at the salon having my hair coloured some ridiculous shade in an attempt to retain a youthful appearance that simply isn’t realistic.  My role model for appearance in my 8th and 9th decades (should I have the good fortune to live that long) is Betty White.  She obviously takes great care of herself and has beautiful skin and hair but let’s get real:  her skin has wrinkles and her hair is white, and although she isn’t overweight, she hasn’t retained her pin-up figure of a bygone era.  (Google Betty and have a look at some old pictures – she was an absolute stunner!)

I am looking forward to the day when there is a collective revolt against the unattainable standards of beauty that grip our culture and we can all stop wishing so fervently to be women we’re not: because the truck is coming, full speed, loaded to the gills with cosmetics and hair products and workout equipment and body-shaping undergarments, and beauty magazines and surgical implements and ‘experts’ of all varieties proclaiming our inadequacy that we’re not going to survive impact otherwise.

 

I’m jumpin’ on the bandwagon…

bandwagon              …and I’m only about 10 years late!

My reasons for finally making an attempt at blogging aren’t particularly impressive, nor am I at all confident anyone will actually read my blog, but if nothing else, perhaps I’ll find writing it therapeutic.

Basically, in a quest yesterday for information on a controversial news topic that had raised my curiosity I found myself reading a bunch of other people’s blogs and was horrified at both the quality and content.  It became sadly apparent that the ‘blogosphere’ (as I’ve heard it called) is full of not-so-intelligent opinions purporting to be facts. (Yuck!)
(Note to other bloggers who aren’t assholes (and I’m sure there are plenty of you): Good for you! I’m joining your varied and interesting group and hoping my online presence, like yours, is an intelligent, mainly positive contribution to the world wide web and one which strives to combat all of the backwards, judgmental, unkind crap that seems to run rampant online today.)

I don’t claim to be an expert on…well…anything, really but I find myself full of thoughts and opinions I’d like to share with the world and this seems to be my best option for getting them out!

I also like to steer clear of getting too political on FB…that’s blown up in my face a couple of times and I quickly came to the conclusion that my social networking activities should be mainly…hmm…social, I guess.

I don’t know how long I’ll stay or what I want to say yet but since I know me fairly well at this point in my life, I can guarantee a few things at least:
– I’ll try to say what I want to say without being so worried about what people think
– My potty-mouth will make occasional contributions
– My ridiculous internal spell check will be on high alert
– My ‘moderate to left’ leanings will likely play prominently
– I’ll be verbose (I’ve never been good at keeping my thoughts and stories short and sweet!  ME = short & sweet …but my thoughts = notbloodylikely!)

So, as my pretty blue banner indicates…ready or not, here it comes!