Sunday, July 11, 2010

Too Many Goodbyes

Yesterday went very well: I got the info I needed for my Tolkien essay, scored bigtime at the dollar store -- where for $42 I got a lot of party decorations and place settings for Wednesday -- and then went to Ross, the discount place, where I got four new pillows for our guests, a new skirt, and a new pair of slacks. I also swam for forty-five minutes, until a charleyhorse in my calf stopped me.

Today, my good mood vanished. It's the three-month anniversary of Mom's death, and today at church we were also saying goodbye to Sherry Dunn, one of our priests, who's retiring and moving to Tucson with her husband at the end of the month. Sherry's the best pastoral caregiver I've ever met, and a wonderful preacher, and a lovely person. She preached the first Sunday I attended St. Stephen's, and she was big part of getting me hooked on the Episcopal Church. She's seen me through a lot of major changes, including the death of both of my parents.

Everyone was in tears this morning. We would have been in tears anyway, but the fact that the parish is closing hardly helps. A lot of us got up during the service and offered memories and small tributes, or simple thanks. Before the service, I'd given Sherry a pair of socks I'd made for her. Afterwards, I took this photograph to remember her by. It's a very characteristic expression.

When I got up during the service, I'd talked about how one of the things I appreciate about her is her honesty: she's isn't afraid to offer cricitism when necessary. Sitting in my pew after I'd spoken, though, I became obsessed with the memory of a moment when she told me sharply (more sharply than she's ever said anything else) that I cared more about being right than about being kind. I don't even remember now what sparked the comment, and she's certainly said many loving things since then, but I sat there and beat myself up about it and cried some more. I found myself praying, "God, help me be the person Sherry thinks I should be."

I just reduced my meds dosage again, so that little meltdown was probably the neurochemistry talking, along with the fact that I skipped my hospital shift yesterday. That was a wise move, since I got a lot done with the extra time, but being at the hospital gives me a solid, baseline sense of self-worth: that "even if you screw up everything else this week, you brought a cup of cold water to patient X" cushion. (And yeah, that's a selfish reason to volunteer, but hey: no such thing as pure human motivations.)

Tucson isn't far. I hope Sherry will stay in touch, and I may even get to see her again sometime. It's just that the confluence of events -- Mom, Sherry, the parish -- was a bit too much today.

On the bright side, some friends brought their therapy dog to church. Look at those eyes! Is that a soulful animal, or what? And she's about the best-behaved dog I've ever met, although she'd have to be, as a therapy dog. I didn't get as long a cuddle with her today as I have some other Sundays, but it was still nice to be able to pat her.

Next Sunday we're having a meeting after church to discuss the nitty-gritty of the parish closing. I'd like to be there, but my sister and nephew will be in town, and I think spending time with them is a better use of my time and energy right now. A friend told me I can call her to find out what happened. Church is just too sad in through here: I need a Sunday off!

After church I came home, ate lunch on the deck, took a short nap, and went to the gym. I need to lose at least ten pounds, and probably more like twenty. My doctor gave me a sensible talking to on Friday: "exercise regularly, vary your exercise, eat just a few hundred calories less per day." He also said, "It's hard."

Today at the gym, I worked out for fifty minutes, twenty on the elliptical and thirty on the treadmill. I wasn't a speed demon, but I definitely got my heart rate up (to a max of 126 or so) and broke a good sweat. I felt pretty good about it until I stopped to ask about target heart rates at the fitness desk, where a brusque twenty-something who's never had to lose weight in his life told me that my target heart rate should be 145 -- which sounds way too high to me, but he said the guidelines have changed -- and also said I'll have no luck losing weight until I work with weights. I'm really very faithful about cardio, but that's not enough.

I hate weights. If I have to work with weights, I won't go to the gym at all.

When I got home, I talked to Gary about this, and he basically said, "Do what feels right and ignore all the stupid numbers." I knew that, but needed to hear it from someone else!

In the meantime, my knee's more painful than it's been in ages, so I suspect I overdid today's cardio, although it felt good at the time. Sigh.

This is a very whiny post, isn't it? Fran arrives tomorrow, so I hope I'll be feeling better then.

Must go clean now. Thanks for listening!


  1. I'm glad you are reducing your meds. It is a great goal to have, to be chemical free. Meltdowns, however, sometimes have nothing to do with reduced meds and everything to do with having a sensitive and gentle heart. It is too bad that human beings don't come with some kind of radar that can detect fragility in each other; perhaps then your gym assistant would have been more encouraging instead of belittling. Thank goodness for Gary and his common sense approach. And by the way, you are not being whiny....just expressing how you feel.

  2. That 20-something jerk is full of shit. Exercise is very good for you for lots of different reasons, but it will NOT make you lose weight. Eating less is the ONLY way to do that. Trust me: I know this both from published scientific evidence, backed up with personal experience. Also, there's more to feeling well than weight loss. I've found that weight loss only occurs when feeling well. An annoying paradox, I know, but there it is.

  3. Anonymous6:40 AM

    Dear Susan,

    I'm sorry yesterday was such a hard day - I hope today is a better one!



    ps - love, love, love Gary's response to your report on the guy at the gym - definite words to live by!

  4. Anonymous2:05 PM

    Losing weight itself is not the be all and end all, especially if you are gaining muscle (which can be done on the bike or treadmill); it's decreasing the abdominal fat that counts- if your pants are starting to get looser, you're on to something.
    And "lifting weights" does not have to be in the gym with machines or dumbells. How about instead of pushing your grocery cart all the way to the car, try carrying the bags; start with part way and work up to all the way from the store. Walking stairs is good weight lifting for your legs if your knees can hack it. Have you tried swimming with some sort of weight? (keeps the strain off the knees.) There are many day to day things you can do to "lift weights" if you look for them and do them diligently.
    And I disagree to some extent with Dinosaur #1- It is all a balance, and everyone is different. Some people need more exercise, some people need less food, some people need to change around either their exercise or eating habits, and some people need a combination.
    a Family Doctor who reads your blog with interest.

  5. Anonymous4:19 PM

    Hi Susan,

    Unless they're specially trained, most 20-somethings have NO CLUE how to give exercise advice to middle aged people with bad knees and backs. So don't just shrug off their advice--actively avoid it! Some people have good luck working with a sympathetic trainer. Me, I've gotten specific advice about what's good for me the hard way, from a physical therapist after being injured.

    For losing weight, I cannot recommend Weight Watchers enough. Because it IS really hard to do, and they are great at providing structure, peer support, and good, scientifically-sound general information about exercise and nutrition.

    Good luck!



  6. Anonymous4:29 PM

    The New York Times just published an article saying that the heart rate guidelines for women have changed, but they're actually lower now. The calculated maximum heart rate for a 50-year-old woman (I don't know how old you are) would be 162, which puts the 65%-85% range at 105-138. The article is at

    So a heart rate of 126 sounds like a good workout!

  7. I'm Episcopalian too! It's odd though. Husband grew up in one of those big Powerpoint during the worship music churches. I feel so uncomfortable there I can't stand it, and when he comes to church with me? *He* feels weird.

    But as far as intellectual honesty, I can't imagine raising our kids with any other church-family.

    I guess we'll just have to work it out.

  8. Hey, thanks, everybody! I really appreciate all the support!

  9. Anonymous1:07 PM

    May I respectfully disagree with mybabyjohn? Being "chemicalfree" can be a good goal, but mental health is also a good goal, and sometimes mental health comes from taking medications, and no other way.

    I send you best wishes in your journey to finding the right level of medications for you.

    __Sharon (Jean's sister)


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