Monday, June 19, 2017

Reality Bites -- Or How I'm Getting My Groove Back. . .

After three wonderful days of visiting with Sue and Lisa -- which included a delightful catch-up coffee with the inspiring Melanie of Bag and a Beret--, the reality of jet lag; of the fatiguing effects of plane-train-and-automobiles and the concomitant hefting of cases; stressing over Google maps; anxiously checking the time in long airport security line-ups; the doing of a bit-too-much in foreign cities; the sleeping (and not sleeping) in unfamiliar beds; the eating and drinking in quantities and at times not always best suited to my natural biorhythms. . . . All that Reality hit Friday morning, some time after I got back from a session with my personal trainer.

In the days before that session, I'd pointedly ignored the stiffening of joints, the tightening of muscles, the attention-demanding clamour of my fascia, because I was so enjoying the rare chance to spend time with the California visitors -- I mean, wouldn't you?!

But Friday morning, keen though I was to get back into the fitness groove, I was stiff, awkward, and somehow ill-seated in my body as we walked into my trainer, Jenna's, studio. She's so encouraging, and we found so much that I could do -- I did bench presses! First time ever! -- that I was able to loosen up, gain some mobility, and feel much more hopeful about picking up the reins of physical activity.

Between the distance from her studio door to our car, however, the stiffening resumed, and by the time we got home, I was hearing a very loud, very clear message from my body.  It's a message I heard two or three weeks before we left on our trip, and which I ignored, pushing through a very ill-advised, distance-increasing run. Since then, I've worked on stretching and foam-rolling and stretching and foam-rolling and stretching and . . . well, you know. It's taking much longer to recover than I've experienced before, and yesterday the stiffness was accompanied by a deep fatigue.

So yeah, I listened.  A hot bath, some reading on the couch, some reading on the terrace, a little lunch, and then a Two Hour Nap! Some more reading, a cup of tea, then some catch-up with Madam Secretary, followed by dinner (fish tacos) on a tray in front of an episode of House of Cards. Bed at 9:30 and a glorious sleep right through until 5:30 (so at least I might be over the jetlag).

Writing this on Saturday morning, taking stock, feeling grateful for the full night's sleep but aware that my every cell still harboured considerable fatigue, and looking forward to a calendar studded with wonderful visits with out-of-town friends, dates that couldn't be rescheduled and that I refuse to surrender, I had to admit a few things: One, that I'm very lucky to be retired, able to tire myself right out through my leisure activities. As important as I might find my fitness regime or my post-career attempt to recover a social life, neither of these pursuits is tied to my ability to pay the rent or buy groceries or keep my children safe. I'm ever so fortunate to be able to slow down or modify my approach, even to stop completely and hibernate for a few days.

And Admission/Insight Number Two: I don't need to feel guilty about that Luck. Or rather, it isn't useful to feel guilty about it. It makes much more sense to deploy it wisely and productively.

And Three, and perhaps most significant, certainly most useful:  no matter how I've tired myself out, I'm still Tired to the point of risking my health, and Self-Care is in order.

So on Saturday, after writing my way to this realisation (which, I get it, was probably obvious to you immediately), Pater and I plotted together about how we could get to the opening of a Group Art Show a friend has paintings in, and how we might also participate in an Artwalk of the galleries in that neighbourhood.  It's about three kilometres from us, and we debated taking the car, but I knew I'd be impatient with the challenges of finding parking, and I was feeling impatient to move a bit (and in disbelief that I'd even be considering a three-kilometre walk a challenge!) We agreed that we'd walk -- but at my pace, not his -- and that if I felt the urge to whimper, we would take a cab or bus home.

We also decided to stop for lunch as soon as we were in the neighbourhood, allowing me to get off my feet for a while -- if you're ever in the South Granville neighbourhood, I recommend The Stable House, an intimate bistro/wine bar with a well-honed menu, many healthy but delicious choices, and friendly, efficient service.

Happily recharged, we then wandered toward my friend's show, stopping at a few galleries along the way. To be honest, if I'd been feeling stronger we would have spent more time looking at the exciting range of local art on view, and we would have socialised more as well. But I could feel myself fading, and I wasn't willing to delay recovery even further. As it was, the walk home was probably just a bit more than I should have done, but once back on my couch with a cup of tea, it was All Coddling for the rest of the afternoon, followed by an early bedtime.

Sunday, still fatigued even after a good night's sleep, Dance Class Duty (accompanying a happy Four-Year-Old to her dance class--best job ever!) and a walk to the post office for stamps was the limit of my activity. Again, an afternoon nap, and then last night I slept from 9:30 to 6 this morning. . . .

If you're still reading, thanks for your patience -- I know the account is perhaps too detail-heavy, and really, my tale of woe is a tale of privilege: Retired Woman gets Very Tired after travelling in Europe for Three Weeks. But I think it's worth sharing because so many of us are trying to re-calibrate after busy careers, trying to find the balance between things we Have to Do and things we Want to Do, trying to discern what physical decline is inevitable and what can be staved off by judicious physical training. And for those of us unused to such wallops of fatigue, the unfamiliarity can lead to a potentially dangerous denial. Many of us are used, as I have been, to pushing through and carrying on, and, honestly, I'm more than a bit shocked to find that, four, five days later, my body is still not allowing me to walk easily.

Today, an ex-colleague, a friend from my old life, is visiting the city and asked if we could meet up. Despite my current fatigue levels, I'm just not willing to say "No," even knowing that Tuesday and Wednesday I'll be busy with a friend from France. Instead, I've suggested we have coffee, then a walk in the botanical gardens nearby, followed by lunch (all so that I can get a nice mix of walking and sitting -- I suspect that the too-much-sitting of travel that played a role in upsetting my legs and back so much) -- and I've said that I need to be home by 2, although I may not have said that what I need to be home for is a nap ;-)

After these busy three days, life eases up a little, and I'm hoping that my energy and strength will begin creeping back. I have so much I want to do!  My trainer is fairly confident that I may get back to running eventually, although we're pretty clear that it's off the books for now (and please, I know that many of you are convinced that running is always a bad idea, especially at a certain age, but I've done considerable reading and thinking around the topic, and there's ample evidence in favour of running -- I'd prefer not to debate it here). Her approach is to focus on the many things my body can still do, and we're working on strength-training at the moment. More cycling and, possibly, a switch to swimming, are on the agenda, and overall, I'm feeling impatient but relatively optimistic that I will be moving more very soon.

But for now, I've scheduled blocks of reading and sitting in the garden and catching up on Netflix. I'm polishing a few posts (travel reports and garden posts and an outfit or two and a piece on post-move/post-retirement friendship). Oh, and I'm reading your comments. For example, I'd love to know whether you've experienced a check to your physical ambitions, a refusal by your body to keep up with activities you really wanted to do? I know that many of you will have weathered much more serious examples of this, and I'd be interested to read how you've dealt with the frustration -- have you found substitute activities? have you had to relinquish some plans completely or been able to compromise? Did you manage to get back to your old activity levels or did you find yourself clearly in a "new reality"? And how many of the physical challenges you've faced have had to do, do you think, with ageing -- or even with post-retirement changes to your lifestyle?

Thanks for hanging in, if you've made it to the bottom of this page. I promise -- more photos next post (oh, I have photos -- have you seen Slovenia? ;-)





47 comments:

  1. I had a major surgery back in August of 2016. It was 6 months before I was considered fully healed. I was just starting to get into a regular schedule of exercise, although no where near my former level. The trip to Paris was a test to see if I could handle the challenges of travel. Although I had to scale back the amount of walking I was used to doing, it seemed as though I was managing pretty well. A few short weeks later, I suddenly and unexpectedly wound up in the ER with congestive heart failure even though I had not had any heart problems other than a heart murmur that had not been deemed serious or limiting. So, long story short, I had open heart surgery to repair my valves. I feel to be alive. Each day, as the surgeon said, sucks a little less. Little baby steps on the road to recovery. This is so different from my previous life but I realize I have to take it one day at a time. Of course I am grateful for the support of family and friends, but most of all for my husband's devoted care.

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    1. Correction: I feel grateful to be alive.

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    2. Wow! This is really a cautionary tale, isn't it?! And a reminder that we can't take our health for granted. I hope that your recovery continues, and I thank you for being willing to share your experience.

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  2. Hello Frances
    Just back from Maine yesterday so the jet-lagged piece I really get.It so fouls up sleep for this insomniac (since childhood).
    Have spent nearly a month in Maine working on the cottage to prepare it for airbnb guest from around the world this Summer: repairing Winter storm damage inside and out with paint....Lots and lots of paint.. and glass replacement and intensive garden and furniture moving. Had some excellent help but many days worked solo. Everything ached-everyday- from hard physical slog. Roller ball self-therapy and two massages helped. But I always recover quickly from such things something I feel very lucky about.
    The physical challenge that nearly undid me three years ago was breaking my left foot and many of my right ribs,making it impossible to lean on cane and crutches. Four months of non-negotiable inactivity nearly drove me nuts until my sweetheart made me realize giving in would actually help me. My life stopped: couldn't get on public transportation, or do certain kinds of work (I plan to work at least another ten years), go to football or anything fun. Was irrationally convinced I would never have my foot recover enough to exercise the way I always have again. Ten months after the accident and six months out of the cast, I was back to walking 25 to 30 miles a week and climbing 450 to 600 stairs a week (can actually count them each day while carrying on a conversation with a friend)!
    Your fitness will come back definitely, especially since you have such a long history with fitness.
    You just need to rest, let the jetlag truly pass, read til your heart's content and be kind to yourself with some treatments that are nurturing. But I am a massage junkie, so I would say that.
    So loved seeing you bloggers all in a row. What a fantastic gathering of such special people.
    Rest up, Frances. And, P.S. think strength training is the name of the game. Trying to ease more of that into my regime, too.
    A.in London

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    1. I broke my left fibula in two spots some 25 years ago, and I really sympathise with your response to enforced inactivity. Your sweetheart was wise to convince you -- sometimes slowing down is the only way to speed up. This is what I need to remember right now, so I really appreciate the story. And yes to the P.S.-- and my trainer makes it so much fun, which I'm shocked to find. I truly enjoy the sessions!

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  3. For those of us who love to run no explanation is needed. For those of us who don't no explanation will convince.


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    1. So very true. It's why I'm not really interested in debating the issue. Well said!

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    2. Well said. Some of us just feel miserable running, but, are happy to walk 20,000 paces in a day. Wish I were a run-capable person, but, have never been and so must try to compensate with other activities.

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  4. Well,I'm so sorry -but take your time,be kind to yourself and slowly everything will be just perfect. Slf and A.in London have excellent insights and advices (and thanks to both for sharing their stories )
    Even too much of good and pleasant things,events,travel experiences,socializing.... could lead to exhaustion . The name of the game is balance and moderation :-)
    I learned (and still am learning )it the hard way.
    As you know,I live with MS more than thirty years. There were some very bad times. It is hard to let some (a lot of :-)) things go,to realize that you can't do something...but,than-it is a blessing that still there are a lot of beautiful things left, that you actually can do and enjoy.
    I am still impatient,to thrive and to want more,sometimes to have my cake and eat it too ,to overload myself ,to feel obligations....but,than ,there are times when I have to admitt that I have to rest more and stay at home and read.
    Like now. The orchard house roof problem ,as it happens,was hornet's nest . Three of them (luckily,only three!) bited me.
    Take care
    Dottoressa

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    1. Had no clue, Dottoressa, about those health issues. I've admired your energy before, and now, even more,

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    2. I'm so thrilled that you have been able to keep so active, Dottoressa. I had read of some health issues, but not of their nature or gravity. I have a neighbour who is seriously affected by MS; she is about my age. Her husband cares for her lovingly and admirably, but it remains very sad. A neighbour in my housing co-op has an "orphan disease", i.e. much rarer but similar.

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    3. I've been drawing on your example since we got home, Dottoressa, in so many ways. . .
      Yikes! A hornet's nest. And "only" three bites is still significant -- did you swell up? And were you able to get someone in to get rid of the nest for you? I hope you're able to get the roof back to its usual leak-free, hornet-free state without any more excitement!

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    4. Thank you :-)
      Yes,I did swell up (all three on the upper arm),but it is slowly going better with ice and medications (and if they say that bee's venom creams help-I would be very beautiful :-),hornet venom must be even better!)
      I contacted the firm who does the vermin killing -we'll see
      D

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    5. Megs,lagatta á M.,and A.in L!
      Ladies,thank you so much :-)
      A girl's gotta do what a girl's gotta do!
      D.

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    6. D. your grace and dignity inspires me.

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  5. It is really difficult to admit that even healthy, reasonably physically fit people have more limitations as they age. Some of us also have to realize that why might have been a pesky issue years ago is now serious. I have joint hypermobility, which has caused a few injuries over the years. Now I have to be careful with exercise -- my yoga teacher and I have to work on limiting how far I stretch which is the exact opposite of what she usually does. It also takes some of us a longer time to recover. I'm currently reading book of conversations between Desmond Tutu and the Dalai Lama about joy in which both talk about being old. They stress the need for acceptance, perspective and humor as we age. It's really a wonderful book and has helped me feel less limited in what I can do.

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    1. This is it, Lynn, that issues that were mainly just annoying can now settle in to incapacitate if we're not careful. I've been a bit shocked at how thoroughly my body is saying "No" right now.
      And a change in perspective is necessary -- sounds as if that book (I'll have to look for a copy at the library) would help nudge in that direction. I've found similar inspiration in some of Diana Athill's more recent titles.

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  6. Familiar tale. Now that I am running more and running seriously with a definite goal in mind, I find that it takes much more of a toll on me. Feeling tired after a decent run is not something that used to bother me at all but these days if I push it or stay up late, I have no choice but to catch up. However, I will admit to being chuffed the other day when my daughter, out running with me said: You're not the average OAP, are you? Perhaps not and perhaps that is the price we pay. I will take it every time and go to bed at 8pm.

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    1. I've been chuffed at moments like that myself, and I've been able to overcome, to run through, any fatigue or minor injury in the past. This time 'round, though, there's no negotiation. Hoping I can get back to where you are. Maybe the 8 p.m. bedtimes will help.

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    2. Shortly after I wrote this I went for a run and crashed headlong to the ground, having tripped on tree roots. So now I am sitting here feeling a bit battered with sore ribs and aching legs. Fortunate that it wasn't worse - mostly my pride that took a biffing. That will force me to take a day off and to be more aware of what I am doing. Especially in woods. Hubris.

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    3. I'm so sorry! I hope the aches and pains heal quickly (my mother would have prescribed witchhazel, but maybe some Tiger Balm?) Take care.

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  7. Had no idea, Dottoressa that you live with MS. Now, I am even more impressed with your joy for life. Wow.
    Kathy, think you are right about running. It is just SO right for some people;who cares what others think? Have a cousin in-law, nearly 60, who was a smoker and non-exercise focused until age 46. Began running, routinely beats 28-35 year old men in her office when it comes to speed and ranks very high in age group for finish times in marathons including the Boston Marathon....crossing the finish line in 2013 about 16 mins before the bombs went off. And still she runs. I get it and admire the tenacity. Plus she regularly outpaces her husband who is very athletic,too.
    A. in London

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  8. Wonderful as it is, travel is exhausting. Especially the kind of travel you do. Not like boarding a cruise ship or a big bus and letting someone else do all the driving, all the navigating, make all the decisions, and figure out how everything works in every new place. When we went on our first biiig trip to Australia and New Zealand and were away for close to three months... at the end, even trying to figure out how the darned tv worked in the last place we visited brought me to tears. That and figuring out what to wear in the cold rain to a nice restaurant that was either my lovely but freezing sandals or my warm but grungy hiking boots. More tears that night. It was definitely time to go home. You need a good rest, girl. But I totally understand that now you're home from your "vacation" taking time to rest up from your vacation seems somehow wrong. I'm still feeling a bit unsettled from our big South America trip, followed by my stressful visit home to New Brusnwick, and now with what seems to be a plethora of day-to-day life screw-ups that need solving by the "patient person" who lives in our house. And yesterday after talking to my mum, solving her issues and then having Stu say, "Suz what do you think we should do about...?" made me want to say..."I DON"T KNOW...OKAY." And then he said..."Are you going to cry?" Yep. And I did. So I hear ya...sista. Now go have that nap. You deserve it!
    P.S. Am writing this while pedalling my exercise bike...while wishing I was running instead:)

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    1. Hahaha, you cry about the same things that reduce me to tears. And really, Stu and Paul, I keep thinking they might be related!
      And you put your finger on what I find tricky -- having just taken a "vacation" it does seem wrong to need to rest up. . . . something tells me we aren't taking the right kind of vacations, either of us!

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  9. I can identify with so much of what you wrote- the jetlag, the expectations, the frustrations, feeling slightly guilty over First World problems. After my trip last year, o realized I was soul weary and allowed myself to putter, stitch, walk, and just live for a bit. Still have a balancing problem, and am working out retirement. How much do I fill up the dance card- can't I just be an introvert? I guess it's how I feel inside that is my compass- does this make me content? Healthy? Am I giving something back? And last but not least, I'm still learning patience with myself.

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    1. Yes, can't I just be an introvert? There's definitely a part of me that would be quite happy doing that . . . until I want to talk something through with someone who I trust and who understands me. Keeping those someones in my life seems to mean stretching a bit from time to time, and the effort, I believe, is repaid many times over . . . But I have to acknowledge that it is an effort and, as you suggest, that effort has to be balanced with rest somewhere else. Like you, I'm still figuring out this retirement gig. Getting there. . .

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  10. Paying attention and listening to our bodies is so important...
    you lead a very busy retired life! I need to pace myself too.

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    1. In many ways, it was easier to set limits when I had to protect my energy from work -- perhaps you find the same thing.

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  11. You may have saved me from writing this very same post! I'm trying to accept how tired I am after a thrilling and active two plus weeks doing a bike barge trip followed by a week of big city fun in Amsterdam and London. Long days of fun are still long days and I am reminding myself almost hourly that I don't have to impress anyone, even myself, with what I can fit into a day now that I am home. For me there's tiredness and also a sense of sadness too. My first visit to London was 45 years ago this very week so there was melancholy at the passing of time despite my many England visits since then. It is my good luck which I appreciate everyday and feeling our bodies change is universal.

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    1. Ah, now that's the kind of busy holiday that Susan Burpee's talking about, above. No wonder it left you tired, as did our three weeks away, and yes, I think we need to learn that it's okay to be tired from our vacation, even though it goes against our expectations, might even make us feel defensive, perhaps guilty. . . . I hear you, too, on that awareness, through travels, of time passing. As we flew out of Vancouver three weeks ago, I realised that my first time in a plane (to London, on an 18-hour trip, a prop plane that stopped for refuelling in Frobisher Bay) was 50 years ago. 50 years!!! Like your 45. . . Melancholy and sheer incredulity!

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  12. Happy exhaustion is the best kind but it's still exhaustion. I get it, especially after exciting events, and things like blogger meetups, which are rejuvenating in so many ways as well.

    I do inspiration walks every morning and lately I've been doing grocery shopping while I'm out, but I'm finding that I may need a cute little cart to help me get everything home! It's a big barrier to admit I might need a CART. Weight training is excellent. I should get on that too. I hope you recover your energy equilibrium soon.

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    1. Well said. It might be happy exhaustion, but it's still exhaustion.
      Oh, those carts. I hear you!! I don't want one, so I'll just keep sending my manservant out for the groceries. ;-)

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    2. A good rucksack with padded hip belt could be an alternative, and better ergonomically? I can carry much more in the way of groceries (or 'messages', as we say in Scotland) in my walking rucksack than in carrier or shoulder bags.

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  13. Just thinking...as my very wise father once said, "There are trips- and there are vacations; very different animals". One is true relaxation, the other not.As Susan B. said, it is not as if you were on a cruise ship letting life happen around you. It seems as if many people on your blog choose trips over vacation. Maybe keep in mind that even high level athletes need days of rest after a big event...and Frances, you did all that walking and everything else carrying a sore knee problem and still managed to do it. No wonder you are bone-weary.
    Wise old Yankee, my Dad. Think he was on to something which explains the *trip*fatigue people are speaking of here.
    A.in London

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    1. Oh, your Dad was very wise. It's very deceptive to call what we did a "vacation" or a "holiday," much as we enjoyed it. My Grandpa used to say that "A change is as good as a rest," but probably because that was about all he could ever manage, poor old hard-working guy. . .

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  14. I hear you too. I took up running in my 50's, loved it so much, but now at 60 I need a knee replacement soon. Just coming to the end of almost 7 weeks in Europe, and very tired. Also a bit sad that I can't do what I want any more, like walking all day in a new city, or bending to pick up a friend's grandchild. It seems such a waste to be resting when we'll be home soon, but my husband is wiser than I, and insists. Hope to get back into my pilates and hydro when we get home, and hopefully a new knee.

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    1. So many people find new life after having hips or knees replaced -- I hope that's so for you. In the meantime, enjoy your Pilates and Hydro.

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  15. For me, I find it's a combination of physical tiredness and emotional weariness. I can't run because of my arthritic foot, but I do lots of walking, miles more when I'm on vacation. But I also feel I have to be "on" all the time & don't want to miss anything because I never know for sure if I will be able to come back next year. Also, communicating in my second language is exhausting. And that doesn't even touch the jet lag or the flights - which I think stress the body in themselves. I always joke that I need a vacation to get over my vacation ! And yes, it's all magnified by being 61 instead of 41. But I'm grateful to be able to go at all!

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    1. Yes, I'd say that for me it's the combination as well. At a certain point, resilience dissipates quickly, and although I can generally push myself to do a bit more, I somehow hit a point where my body just said "No." Like you, I also suspect that there's something about how unnatural both the altitude and the so rapidly changed relationship of one's body to the sun (the time zone change) are that triggers a deeper guardedness somewhere in our body, exhilarating as modern travel might be. . . .

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  16. Very interesting thoughts on tiredness and self-care, and something that I am struggling with now (we are on an emotionally and physically challenging out of town trip with a sick friend whose situation is so dire that I keep discovering that it is 7 PM and I haven't eaten since dawn and am about to melt down....no help to anyone that way!). I keep resolving to do better for me so I can do better for her, which, when I fail to self-provision, leads to beating myself up about THAT. Not a helpful loop! Tomorrow I must do better! Actually, I took an hour long nap on the sofa with the dog lying across my chest, a very typical at home thing that hasn't happened in 3 weeks, and it felt GREAT. So there are avenues to pursue.....

    Thanks as always for sharing your thoughts and experiences.

    ceci

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    1. That sounds like a very challenging situation, and one in which self-care is so important but also so tough to manage -- it doesn't present itself to us as a credible priority in such exigencies, and sometimes the best we can hope for is that one really can run for a reasonable period on sheer adrenaline. And that there will be a chance, somehow, to refuel when that runs out. Before the inevitable crash, with any luck. Do take care. You're doing such important work!

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  17. Just stretcing out on the sofa , reliving it all is called for ... two trips for the price of one .

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    1. You know, this is a very good idea. I think there is an element, in my fatigue, of needing to process what we've done, where we've been, these last few weeks. Thanks for this helpful mind-shift.

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  18. See, I am wondering a lot whether I'm getting older, whether I'm too sedentary, or sometimes in dark moments, whether I'm sick. I get tireder lately. I need to take a rest. I feel sleepy in the afternoon, which has always been true to an extent, but has now become a real thing. So, yes. I can't do as much as I used to be able to manage.

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    1. To add, it's reassuring to hear that others are having the same experience. I am also one who has always been highly energetic, to the point where people wondered if I was always caffeinated;). So needing to actually rest in a day feels like a shift in identity, not just a slowing down. I kind of like that new identity, feels less anxious, but it's still a little odd, if you know what I mean.

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    2. Ah yes, the dark moments. . . And even when we leave those, the shadowy awareness that they might be inevitable now. . . . whereas for so long, leaving them if we ever wandered into them somehow, we could mostly shake them off as almost indulgently silly worries (or maybe that was just me!).
      And yes to the identity shift -- rather a good thing in many ways, but still odd. I know precisely what you mean.

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  19. I am way behind in reading here, having been away myself. Lately I've been pondering whether I'm more tired than when I was working. More physically tired because I'm moving much more, but definitely not as mentally deadened. Are you much more physically active than pre-retirement, or did you always manage to cram running/lunching/gallery visiting in alongside a professional career?
    Actually I was pleasantly surprised at how well I held up during the 5 days (62 miles/100km) walking the St Cuthbert's pilgrim way. I was no more tired than my very active 23 year old daughter who was doing the walk too. But when I went to a personal trainer session 2 days after getting back I definitely felt a dip in energy! A message to allow some recovery time, which your reading/napping account has reinforced.

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I'd love to hear your response to my post. Agree, disagree, even go off on a tangent, I love to know you're out there, readers. Let's chat, shall we? I apologize, though, for the temporary necessity of the Word Verification -- spam comments have been tiresomely numerous lately, and I'm hoping to break that pattern.

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