Friday, March 26, 2010

Age Is Just A Number

My daughter, Chloe and granddaughter, Rylee
When I learned that I was going to be a grandmother at 39-years-old I was devastated…at first. Can you blame me? I was waiting for my youngest to turn 18 so I could be free to do what I’ve always wanted. I vowed to take the dreams I placed on the shelf for 22 years, blow the dust and cobwebs off, and MAKE them come alive!

I was going to write something, anything, and everything! My dream to be a pro photographer was going to happen even though it seemed I was looking up at a formidable Mount Everest. Since my dream of being a photojournalist was squashed by well-meaning parents when I was 18 I promised myself that I was going to do something along those lines when I turned 40. But a grandchild was not part of the mix and I felt threatened by her impending arrival. I was ferociously protective of my resurrected dreams and I didn’t want to sacrifice them for circumstances beyond my control.

Something happened to me during the nine months we waited for my grandchild to make her grand appearance. All of my hang-ups melted away. Well, I wouldn’t say ALL but ninety-percent of them disappeared. I used to care what people thought about what I haven’t accomplished or what I’ve done with my life. Am I a homeowner? No. Do you have a degree? No. I was consumed with worry with others’ opinion of me that I was SO anti-Facebook, anti-MySpace (still am), anti-blogging, anti-any-social-media-where-people-could-find-me.

When I finally grasped that I was going to be a grandma 2 months before I turned 40 and there was nothing I could do about it, I ceased and desisted. I finally accepted and embraced my newfound “lola” status. (Lola means Grandmother in tagalog, the Filipino language.) I no longer cared WHAT people thought of me. I was going to be a GRANDMOTHER. That was a huge milestone albeit premature. What can anyone say? And if they did, so what?! I was going to be a GRANDMOTHER! It felt like I advanced to the upper echelon of an elite world known only to its exclusive members.

Once I let go of those hang-ups my life changed. My confidence solidified into an unwavering force that helped me make changes instead of waiting for them to happen. I received my first DSLR camera on my 40th birthday and two years later I’m still hell-bent on furthering this passion into a career. (Stay tuned) With much fear and trepidation, I plunged into the world of social media by opening up a Facebook, Yelp, and Twitter account. I invited the world to glimpse a sliver of my anomalous, unconventional, and non-traditional life by sharing my ideas, thoughts, opinions, and woes. And you know what? It wasn’t so bad. I learned that people were different and I didn’t have to agree with them or they didn’t have to like me. I discovered that complete strangers appreciated what I thought of restaurants and establishments. Through Facebook I reconnected with old friends, including the love of my life, so I couldn’t knock social media any longer.

Most importantly, when Rylee Sage Mesenhimer was born on January 1, 2008, I realized my dreams wouldn’t stagnate but flourish because of her. I finally understood what it meant to leave a legacy for the next generation and what an immense responsibility it entailed.

I want my Leelee Bug to know that Gramma Nette lived her life despite the obstacles, disappointments, and disillusionments. She needs to know that I didn’t live other people’s dreams even though they tried really hard to force them on me. I want her to see that I took leaps of faith to pursue my dreams even when naysayers tried to hold a sistah down! She has to know that despite the many times I’ve fallen flat on my face in the love department, I had the courage to get up and continue learning the intricate affairs of the heart. Rylee must be assured that grandma is doing everything humanly possible to fight the bad guys in making this world a safer place for children. I hope one day she will know the peace, serenity, and beauty of a life filled with deep faith; for this is the element that sustains me through my dark days. I need her to know that it is NEVER too late to GROW, LOVE, LEARN, DREAM, SUCCEED, and TRIUMPH! Like my Twitter friend @wildbell tweeted today: “Hey, AARP just cuz I'm a grandfather doesn't mean I'm a senior citizen! “

Amen to that!

Tuesday, March 9, 2010


Image taken from Google
I crave solitude the way a beached whale desperately longs for oxygen. There are days, even months, when I resemble a top spinning haphazardly on its axis with nothing to show for it other than the angular momentum. My busyness consists of a to-do list that has less to do with me and more for everyone else. I've become a master at juggling people, taking care of others, handling my job, prioritizing the non-profit organizations I work for, creating free time for friends, and looking for adventures that I've consistently managed to neglect me. It isn't until I'm in a static case of disarray that I finally collapse and escape into my solitude.

Last night was one of those nights. As I stepped out of the shower I got a bug up my butt to watch Tim Burton's rendition of Alice In Wonderland.  


I couldn't have picked a better time as I had a few days off to recuperate from my "alien extraction" and I was going stir crazy. I knew as I headed toward the movie theater that I had to endure the quizzical, perplexed, and pitying stares from the ticket cashier. Even when I boldly walked up to the window and said, "HI!Alice In Wonderland, please!", the accompanying inquiry always comes next, "Just one?" At this point I bit my lip from uttering, "But of course! I am NOT a loser. I AM I.N.D.E.P.E.N.D.E.N.T." Instead, I smiled in acquiescence. It never fails, because each time I wait for my transaction to complete I engage in a total stare-down with the ticket cashier. Pity vs. Pride. I win every single time. Boo-ya! 

I sat in that darkened theater with the same anticipation I experience before I read a new book. For me, the television is devoid of life, but books catapult me into an unknown world fraught with adventure, teeming with life, filled with fantasy--a welcome break from the dreary and mundane. I couldn't wait to see the beloved books from my childhood come to life via Tim Burton's imagination. 

As an adult, I did not expect to commiserate with Alice in her Wonderland. In this version, Alice was constantly told who she was, what she had to do, who she needed to be, what not to be, and what she couldn't do. Several times in her dreamlike journey she was told, "You have diverged from the destined path!" To which she replied, "I create my own path!" It made me think of my own life and the many times I've diverged from my destined path only to create my own. Many have called me crazy and some have deemed me mad but it was THE path I chose. My favorite scene...well, ONE of my favorite scenes was when the Mad Hatter poked Alice and said she'd lost much of her "muchness." Isn't that always the case when we lose the arrogance and innocence of youth? When we choose to play it safe in our adult life? We tend to listen to the doubts and whispers so that we believe, "I'm Alice, but not THE one."

When the epic moment came that Alice faced the Jabberwocky, I couldn't still my pounding heart; for I face a Jabberwocky of my own. The monster is the total sum of all my fears, insecurities, doubts, weaknesses, flaws, idiosyncrasies, failures, the unknown, disease, aging, and vulnerabilities. Its jaws bite with the sharp sting of "you're not good enough", its claws scratch with a venomous "You're unworthy", and its flames burn hot with a "you'll never be successful." But just like Alice, I believe in the impossible and slay my Jabberwocky. Daily.

I challenge you to face your Jabberwocky with courage as your armor and "muchness" as your sword. With jubilation and a loud cry,"Off with your head!", he goes!

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

The Joke's On Me

It was one of those triumphant moments when I did my victory dance. Jumping up and down, flailing my arms, totally getting jiggy with it. I just completed my final physical therapy session and received a big fat “okay” from my physical therapist to run the San Diego Rock & Roll Half Marathon in June.
Four months ago, I was told I might not be able to run long distances after experiencing excruciating neck pain, severe headaches, and numbness & tingling in my hands and feet. After many x-rays, doctor’s visits, various pain medications, a MRI, and lots of tears I was told I had foraminal stenosis of the C5 and C6 cervical spine. The opening to the C5 and C6 was hardening and thickening so that it was impinging on my nerves, causing me to drop anything I held in my hand or tripping on flat surfaces. My doctor immediately suggested a neurosurgeon and steroid injections. Silently, I balked, “OH HELLLLL TO THE NOOOOOO!” I insisted that she send me to a physical therapist instead. I was NOT down with surgery as my first option.
I took control of my condition by scouring and researching the internet about cervical/spinal stenosis. I vowed I would not undergo surgery, as it would entail the neurosurgeon shaving off bone at the narrow openings of the C5 and C6 spine. One slip and I could become a para or quadriplegic. No, thank you.
My physical therapist was a godsend! He revealed that my condition was caused by forty-one years of poor posture! Within a month of physical therapy sessions I was able to run and my pain subsided into a nagging ache. I did not need surgery after all and I felt triumphant at taking ownership of my body. My inflated hubris made my chest stick out further and I thought, “HA!!! I dodged the surgery bullet! High five to me!” I should have known victory was going to be short-lived.
Along with this condition, I was also dealing with another issue that I kept silent about. I’ll spare the graphic and gory details but my fibroid tumor was hindering my quality of life. It was totally cramping my style. (Pardon the pun.) Three weeks out of the month for the past 4 months I was bleeding profusely. I would’ve been a vampire’s smorgasbord. (Hmmm…where was Edward when I needed him?) My entire life hinged upon this issue and my stubbornness prevented me from succumbing to self-pity. Only those closest to me knew my despair and torment and pain.
This Friday, I am finally undergoing surgery to remove the fibroid tumor that has terrorized me for 6 years. I’m calling this procedure my “alien extraction”. At my pre-op appointment today, the nurse asserted in ominous tones, “No pelvic activity for 4-6 weeks. You need to take it easy.” My head went, “SAY WHAT?!” I think I sputtered and asked her “Does that mean no running?” She listed: no running, no exercising, no lifting, no intercourse, no tampons, no sitz baths, no hot tubs.
She had me at “no running.”
Afterwards, I sat in my car laughing at myself. Clearly, the joke was on me. I may be rebellious and stubborn but obtuse I am not. I can’t deny that I am supposed to “take it easy.” (gag) Oh, how I detest those three words.
Yes, I can’t run but only for 4-6 weeks and I have to learn to SIT STILL! No, I won’t begin to watch t.v. but I can learn to sit still and spend time with my devotions and prayers. Sit still and finish reading my stack of unread books that I always manage to collect as if extinction were near. Sit still and just be.
I plan on running the San Diego Rock & Roll Half Marathon in June and for that I will learn to sit still and HEAL.