Nose Bleed

straight hairIt’s so dry in the house with this severe cold weather, I wake up every morning with such a scratchy throat I think I may be coming down with something. Once I’m up and moving around, though, I’m fine after all. The other day as my head was clearing I felt one big sneeze coming on, one of those really satisfying ones, you know, like wow that felt good.

Then my nose started its usual drip, drip, drip, the annoying constant runniness I experience through two out of four seasons of the year. Except this time, I looked down and saw red. I don’t get bloody noses, which is just what my husband said as I reached for a tissue. It stopped quickly enough, leaving me more concerned about the bloodstains on my freshly washed bathrobe as I wished my husband well and he went off to work.

A few minutes later, my nose started up again, this time in earnest. I mean it was a gusher, sending me running into the bathroom grabbing a handful of tissues to catch the bleeding. I’m not sure where I’m supposed to pinch, up high? Down low? I’m tilting my head back and feel blood running down the back of my throat. Yuck. It’s coming so fast I can’t keep up with the flow. I am not good with blood. I sit down at my desk and google bloody noses, thank God for the internet.

I quickly deduce from selectively reading WebMd.com that I must have a posterior, perhaps arterial, bleed because this is too much blood to be coming from the front of my nose and hello, it’s so profuse it’s coming out of both nostrils. The next sentence annoys me more than the blood: “[these nosebleeds] tend to occur more often in elderly people.” I told you 60 is not just a number.

It turns out you’re supposed to tilt your head forward, not back, and you’re not supposed to swallow blood. I further read, “These nosebleeds are more complicated and usually require admission to the hospital and management by an otolaryngologist” so it’s time to call my husband in the car on his way to work. My voice is garbled from wads of tissue stuffed up my nose and a gathering thickness at the back of my throat. I have to yell into the speaker so he can hear me.

“This is not a normal nosebleed!” I holler.

“Well, stop walking around and go lie down,” he says. (The internet says not to lie down!)

“The internet says this happens to f*&@ing elderly people,” I shriek.

I go upstairs to tell my son who is getting ready for work he may have to drive me to the doctor. “I’m having a problem,” I can barely speak, my nose and throat feel so clogged and swollen.

“I know,” he responds, “I heard you.”

Following sacred WebMd’s instructions, I sit up straight, head tilted forward, pinching my entire nose for a solid ten minutes (use a timer, they say). The bleeding slows although it takes more than an hour to become blood free during which time I feel a huge glob slide down the back of my throat “which may cause vomiting.” It’s a good thing I don’t have to work today.

I did have work the following day however, so I was more than usually anxious about sleeping that night, afraid my nose would erupt, ruining my pillows and bedding, and keeping me from work. When did it become so hard to feel good enough to go to work? Despite a fitful night’s sleep, my nose and I were fine the next morning and I got to work without incident, albeit with my pockets stuffed with tissues just in case.

On the drive in, I thought about the vaporizer I recently found while emptying out a closet. That would have come in handy, except I just got rid of it. It sat in that closet the entire fifteen years we’ve lived in this house and hasn’t been used since the kids were young. Day before yesterday, a long time ago.

Not Just A Number

last day of 59
This is what the last day of 59 looks like. I won’t lie, I’m not happy about turning 60 tomorrow. Don’t tell me it’s just a number, I look in the mirror and know that’s not true. My body is different now. No amount of weight lifting brings real muscle tone. Fat settles in different places and leaves others where it would be welcome, like my face. Hair has moved around too, from my legs to my chin, where it sprouts in wiry spikes like the heavy duty nylon thread you use to sew on buttons. I spend hours tweezing all the while worrying that those bristles are the only thing holding up my sagging skin. I can’t even talk about my neck.

I see a huge difference in one year. Bags under my eyes that won’t go away because it’s so hard to sleep through the night. Either I can’t fall asleep or I wake up at 3am and can’t go back to sleep. I have to worry about whether it’s too late in the day to have a cup of even decaf coffee or anything chocolate. Anything more than a few sips of wine ensures falling asleep too early, midnight sweats and angst.

Weird changes too. I no longer sweat under my arms, but under my eyebrows and above my lip.  If I feel the slightest bit warm, which continues to come in waves, I become blinded by salt dripping into my eyes. I have brown spots on my cheeks too big to be called freckles which require I start buying face creams and makeup I am sure are nothing more than a scam to prey on panicked people like me.

There’s so much I can’t do anymore, like go to sleep on a full stomach. I can’t stay up late and miss my drowsy window and I can’t sleep in even if I don’t have to get up. Even when I get a good night’s sleep, I don’t feel refreshed. It takes twenty minutes to get out of bed and another ten for my body to completely wake up. I can’t get up and go straight to the gym anymore. I have to follow my routine: drink my vitamins and supplements, have breakfast and wait a half hour to digest before working out.

I can’t believe I’ve become “set in my ways.” When I interviewed for my retail job, the thirty-something manager said, “We have people working from 6:00 am until midnight daily. Are you available all those hours?” I said yes because I have no time demands on me, but soon found out I have no desire to work at night or too early either. There’s no way I could work late one night and then return the following morning. As it is I can barely make it through a five-hour shift with only a fifteen minute break during which I need two chairs, one on which to put up my feet.

I believe in my heart that 60 is the new 40, and I want an exciting life, but I’m not sure what that means. I think wistfully of the coffee bar I had and loved, but look at the clock when I would have to start baking and know I couldn’t do that now. I no longer have the drive to go to law school or get the PhD I always wanted, so instead I “take a class” while reviling at doing anything that sounds like something a “senior” would do. I’m starting to relate to how my grandmother in her 80s, living in a senior apartment, refused to socialize with her neighbors because they were all “old people.”

I know I’m not old, but my hearing is not good and I’m starting to get words wrong like I always pick on my mother for doing. I called myself “typhoon” instead of “typhoid Mary” which my husband was helpful to later correct. I hoped the others present were too young to know the proper term. I’m trying not to talk about my age-related physical maladies, which thankfully are more annoying than life-threatening, although I am terribly depressed about not being able to wear heels anymore, ever again.

Being around the kids at work is fun although I feel sad remembering how I viewed someone my age when I was young: irrelevant and clueless. I know I’m not, but I fear sliding down that slope. I won’t go peacefully into my 60s. I want more than the same old with longer vacations. I haven’t found my mission yet but trust it will come to me. Until then I will continue to let my hair grow long and wild and defy social convention wherever possible. So long as I’m not too tired.

What the Universe knows

2013I wasn’t looking for a retail job.  I’ve never watched someone working at the mall and thought hey, I’d like to do that!  I’m not even so into shopping anymore.  It’s gotten where I feel like I’ve eaten a too rich dessert just walking into some stores for being surrounded by so much stuff no one needs.  But I did want to find work and wasn’t getting any interviews via the internet, so I signed up for a career fair one Wednesday afternoon.  I didn’t have high hopes and wasn’t even sure I’d go, but with no other pressing plans that day, off I went, thinking at least I was taking a positive step.

My goal was to get face to face with someone at a large health care organization I already applied to online.  I hoped handing someone the book I published years ago would make me memorable enough to get an interview, but the opportunity fell flat.  The young woman behind the table was nothing more than a resume receptacle, reciting the same script to everyone in the long line.  Deflated, I looked around and spied the logo for a clothing line I held in high regard.

The young woman at this booth was personable, genuine.  I hoped she was hiring for an office, but it was for a store.  I’d been to that place in a crazy busy outlet mall, and mostly remembered how I couldn’t find my car for over an hour, not so Seinfeld funny.  Still, when the young woman said “we’ll talk more next week at the interview” my heart lilted.  Three weeks later, after I’d given up, I got a voice message inviting me to call for an interview.  Mapquest said the store was an hour away.  Too far, I thought.  I called to decline the interview, but at the last minute changed my mind and accepted.  What did I have to lose?

The drive was pleasant, scenic, peaceful almost, all highway and against traffic.  The store was nicer than I expected: neat, colorful, classy; smelled good, fun music playing.  I liked the interviewer, a little younger than me, but with much in common, including college degrees unrelated to retail and a long drive to the store.  “I guess I’m an adrenalin junkie,” she shared, describing the busy store’s challenges, obviously proud of the store’s high standing.  “We need grownups.” she said.  I would take an online test before we could move forward.  If I passed, I would get a second interview.  I was … intrigued.

I almost didn’t go to the second interview.  Does it make sense to drive an hour to work an hourly retail job?  What about the gas and tolls?  Can I tolerate such a busy place?  Stand on my feet all day?  But it’s a good company, and I haven’t been offered anything else.  Why not go for another interview?  The second interviewer, a much younger man, shared the larger picture of what it takes to operate the company’s number one factory store.  Employees work many hours beyond open for business. Am I available?  Yes, In theory at least.  It’s most difficult filling the middle hours of the day, he said.  “Then I’m your man!” I replied.  A high five and the interview ended on a positive note.

A week later I was offered a part-time position as a cashier.  Orientation would be the following morning if I was available.  Elated, I felt a weight had been lifted.  Months of searching were over, I had a job!

I almost quit at orientation.  Six of us sat around a table and were handed a quarter-inch stack of papers and an equally thick employee manual.  One other woman was about my age, the rest were kids in high school or college.  We each shared how we came to this company.  The other woman and I both hoped to progress to the corporate office, the kids just wanted a job, any job.  We were shown a video on the company’s history then spent the next four hours reviewing the company’s policies and expectations while reviewing and signing copious authorizations, releases and employment forms.  The kids looked to take it all in stride, I was overwhelmed.  It’s been many years since I worked for a large company.  Would I fit in?  Could I take on the required persona?  I closed the folder and sat quietly waiting for the session to end so I could escape, maybe never to return.

I handed my folder to the session leader and told her I wasn’t sure I fit into this company.  “I don’t dress like that,” I said, referring to the dress code.  She urged me to give the job a try for a couple of weeks before deciding. “It’s a lot to take in,” she admitted, “but I’ve seen four or five people catch the eye of Corporate,” she encouraged, cracking that door open, drawing me in.  I agreed not to give up just yet and later tried analyzing my resistance.  For years I had been in charge, setting the culture, creating the atmosphere; I wasn’t used to taking on someone else’s.  Could I be another company’s “brand ambassador?”

I might have noticed the real-life foreshadowing pointing me right in that direction.  I was consciously trying to update my “look”, yet didn’t connect that with having recently bought, for the first time, clothes bearing the logo I would represent.  There was that aforementioned trip to this particular store in the huge mall, including parking in the same lot (in which I would lose my car again, this time in torrential rain).  On the negative side, though, employees have to park far from the store during the week and completely off-site on weekends, taking a bus in, adding to an already long commute.

I didn’t anticipate how tiring it would be to absorb so much new information.  “Learn something new every five minutes” became my motto my first few weeks on the job.  If I thought being a cashier might be too simple, I was wrong; it’s extremely challenging, physically and mentally.  Yet interesting.  In four months I’ve met customers visiting from 55 countries, including some I’ve never heard of (Brunei?).  I have something to talk about and stories to tell every night.  I notice so many ways in which the store is just right for me, from how the physical work area is set up to the people I’m working with, to the company’s customer service philosophy, one of my passions.  And it turns out I love dressing to code in the company’s style.

Sometimes I feel anxious going to work, until I enter the store and it all feels right and good.  How right it is became crystal clear when this week I finally got invited to explore my intended path, going back to my roots as a legal secretary.  The law firm setting was so familiar, from formal reception area to elegant conference room.  As I interviewed with two of the firm’s partners, though, I found I was much more excited talking about my current job than I was hearing about the firm’s activities.  When they asked how soon I could start, I realized I had no intention of leaving my new retail home.  The Universe knows.