Thursday, November 18, 2010

Breathing is So Underrated

Today I called my friend Maryanne to wish her a happy birthday. We bemoaned the craziness of our schedules and frustration at not being able to see each other as often as we'd like. She asked how I was feeling. "Today's the first day in weeks that I've had a chance to breathe," I said. "Breathing is so underrated."

We laughed. Then she said, "You should blog that. A one-line blog post."

So here it is: Breathing is so underrated!

Happy birthday, Maryanne!

Monday, November 15, 2010

Listening to the Leaves

"Listen," said Jim.

We were an hour into a hike in Norvin Green State Forest. One we'd never done before. The trail's incessant downward slope had just begun to ease, and the dense woods opened on either side. The forest floor was blanketed in gold, fallen leaves covering every surface as far as we could see.

We stopped walking. In the quiet, I heard a stream gurgling off to the right. Nothing more.

"Let's see if we can hear the leaves falling," said Jim. We looked around. In the wide expanse, a dozen or so papery-brown oak leaves drifted down from high up in the almost-bare branches. Lazily at first, then gaining a sense of urgency as they got closer to the ground. As if eager to join their predecessors.

At first I heard nothing. Then, just off to our left, a golden maple leaf landed. With a sound tough to put into words. Like the whisper of snowflakes falling in the dark. Or the hush of the first raindrops that herald a summer storm. Or a breath, exhaled so softly it can only be heard in a silent room.

A breeze swept through the treetops and sent several dozen leaves showering down. The air filled with the faint rustle of their journey to earth. As they came to rest, barely disturbing their brothers and sisters and cousins, they became invisible. Stitched instantly by hidden hands into autumn's colorful quilt. Richly cushioning our boots as we resumed our walk.

Monday, November 8, 2010


Three weeks ago I took a giant leap out of my comfort zone. Completely dissatisfied with the way age is affecting my face, I decided to embark on a skin treatment program that would involve several months of sticking with an exacting, twice-a-day regimen. As an added bonus, the first three to six weeks would be characterized by extreme redness, itching, peeling and burning.

Sounds like fun, doesn't it? I mean, who wouldn't jump at the chance to walk around looking like a burn victim for a month or two? Especially a woman like me, whose job involves seeing people--lots of people--every day. But I'm a graduate of the no-pain-no-gain school of life. So after some sweet-talking by my favorite cosmetic surgeon, I plunked down my credit card, took home my bag of bottles and tubes, and plunged in.

Four days later, I woke up, looked in the mirror, and started to cry. What the hell had I been thinking? Thankfully, the doctor's office surprised me with a support call, and I was relieved to hear that what was happening was normal.

Ten days later, I looked ten times worse. My face was red, sore, burning, itching. Yawning hurt. Smiling too often induced unsightly peeling. I pretty much kept my mouth shut about the discomfort. After all, I'd brought it on myself, hadn't I? A second support call (this time from my doctor's wife!) and a pep talk from my friend Maryanne (who had encouraged me to do this after experiencing positive results herself) lifted my spirits.

Wednesday was my first office visit. I arrived feeling confident that things were progressing nicely and sensing a glimmer of light at the end of the tunnel. After announcing his pleasure at the degree of my redness, he gleefully announced, "Let's speed up the process!" and told me to double the dosage. What could I expect next? "More peeling, but you'll get through this phase faster." I could hardly contain my excitement.

And what timing! Saturday I was co-hosting a party celebrating my parents' 80th birthdays and 60th wedding anniversary. How could I face a roomful of people--three-quarters of whom I hadn't seen in at least 10 years--with this face? Emboldened by panic, I asked, "Can the speeding-up part wait a few days?" After explaining my dilemma, he smiled kindly and said, "Sounds like it's time for an escape!"

Escape? What a concept. Turns out that if you stop using the treatment products for three days and slather on a blend of moisturizer and cortizone cream instead--voila! Your skin returns to normal. Without reversing the progress you've made. No one at the party noticed a thing. And I could smile without my skin cracking!

Last night I got back on the wagon with mixed emotions. I dread the return of the peeling. But this little break revealed positive changes in my skin. And now I'm convinced that putting up with the next few weeks will be well worth the trouble. Isn't that what "escape" is all about? Getting away from an experience that feels overwhelming so you can regain your perspective. If only it was always as simple as dabbing on some cream.