The Great Reset

It’s ironic, I think, that I was bragging about the robustness of my blood as the nurse inserted the IV. “I’ve got great veins,” I said. “And I’m a universal donor. Nurses love me.” 

But my blood didn’t really love me. Not at that moment.

I’d been sent to the ER after multiple blood pressure readings indicated I was in a “hypertensive crisis.” At its highest reading, my BP was 232/183. For days, I’d been struggling with dizziness, nausea, vomiting, and an intense, vision-blurring headache. I took a Covid test that came back negative, but my symptoms continued to get worse. 

On a Zoom call with my doctor, she asked me to take my blood pressure with my home monitor. When it registered 188/123, she sent me to her office to confirm the reading with her nurse. When the nurse confirmed the numbers were accurate, she then sent me straight to the ER.

I was foggy and confused as I lay in the dark alone with my IV and a blood pressure cuff that continued to register too-high numbers. I looked high blood pressure up on my phone and the only word I could see was stroke. Stroke. STROKE.

I don’t want to die, I thought. I’m not ready. But I was terrified that maybe that choice had already been made by the culmination of a lifetime of bad choices.

I’ve never been great at self-care, especially when it comes to my body. As a teenager, I binged and purged my way into some perceived image of lean beauty. As I grew older, the purging stopped, but the bingeing continued. I have lost and gained my total body weight multiple times over. I have been on every diet known to man. I’ve clocked hundreds of miles of pre-dawn runs to pay for the sins of my tastebuds and lack of discipline. I can justify any sweet, late night snack.

My body and I have long been at battle.

And for the past four years, my mind has joined the fight.

After coming out…

divorcing…

moving to another state…

sending all four of my kids off to college and to life…

mourning the loss of friendships that didn’t survive the divorce…

unexpectedly losing my job…

being unemployed for seven long months…

watching the unpaid medical bills continue to roll in…

fighting for racial equality and watching the police tear gas peaceful protesters…

worrying constantly about the state of our nation under its current Presidency…

crying over babies in cages…

and quarantining for nearly a year in the midst of a global pandemic…

I no longer understood what it meant to breathe. To relax.

I’ve always been a deep feeler, a heavy thinker, an epic worrier. I have spent many nights in my bed awake wondering what I could have done differently with my life…

if I could have done things differently in terms of my sexuality…

whether my kids understand how very much I love them…

why Trump supporters can’t see that he’s a horrible human being…

why white people still think they’re a superior race…

whether my mom is lonely in her nursing home room…

why people still continue to travel in the middle of a global pandemic…

why so many equate wearing a mask with some kind of tyranny…

how a former friend can walk by your table in a restaurant and act like you never existed…

whether I’m doing enough good work at a job that I love…

what good work really means…

whether I should rewrite my memoir or move back to fiction…

how many shelter dogs wonder why others get forever homes and they don’t…

why hamsters have such a short life expectancy.

And lately, as I’ve been experiencing this roller coaster of nighttime questions, I can feel the swell of my stomach under the covers, the spread of my thighs, the result of too many nights of pizza and wine and ice cream mindlessly consumed with the pandemic as an excuse. And macaroni and cheese. Always, macaroni and cheese.

I have let myself go in so many ways, succumbed to the Siren’s Song of DoorDash deliveries and PJs all day. In this seemingly never-ending solitude of pandemic life, I have given myself permission to eat too much, exercise too little, shave next to never, and go to bed by 9:00. Sometimes 8:00. Okay, 7:30. Some might call that self-care, but yesterday, I could have died because of the choices I’ve made.

“I was really worried about stroke,” I said to Sam on the phone. “I mean, I need my brain to work. I can’t really write without it.”

“Most people are pretty dependent on their brains,” he said. “They tend to be important.”

The world looks so different at 50 than it did at 40. I mean, that’s not a revelation of any kind, but I never really considered the full gravity of not taking care of the one and only body I’ll ever have. I want to live to see my kids explore life. I won’t say I want to live to see my grandkids, because I’m not sure my kids will ever be the grandkid-producing kinds of kids, and I would never put that expectation on them. But… you know what I mean.

Fifty can’t be it for me. I’ve always thought of it as just the halfway point. Halfway is not enough.

I know what I need to do to take care of my body. It’s just a matter of making that choice. But my mind? That’s where I get tangled up. I don’t really know how to let go of my expectations of others, of my need to be heard and understood, of my worry about the world and its inhabitants, of my desire to save all the broken and lonely dogs. But I can no longer carry it all on my back. My body just told me so in no uncertain terms.

I had tried recently to make peace with the size of my jeans, with the pooch of my belly. I was going to be all body-positive, all love-and-light, all my-body-does-not-define-me.

But yesterday, my body did define me. My heart and lungs said, “Enough!” We can’t take it anymore. Eat some greens, walk the dogs, invest in the “Calm” app, stop with the salt.

And so, I must listen to her. I must heed her warning. I must figure out how to find a balance between caring and activism and sacrificing myself for the worries of the world.

Boundaries.

I’ve never been good at those, either. Boundaries for me have always been liquid, negotiable. I don’t like conflict, I don’t want to create chaos, I hate hurting others… even at my own expense. And when I do invite conflict and create chaos and hurt others, it sticks with me for far too long. I beat myself up over and over. I blame myself. I blame others. I blame myself again.

What I need to do is let it go.

This past year has been so incredibly challenging for all of us. Maybe it’s The Great Reset. I’m sure there are lessons to be taken away from such illness and death and division. Of course there are. But I’m still unpacking them. They’re sitting in the suitcase beside my bed, and I take one out one at a time… but only if and when I need it.

Here’s the one I unpacked yesterday. Self-care. It’s critically important. It is for you, too. Are you eating? Are you sleeping? Are you managing your stress? Are you hugging the humans in your quarantine bubble (and masking around those who aren’t)? Are you texting your friends? Are you Zooming with your parents? Are you figuring out what matters in your life and what doesn’t? Does that look different than it did a year ago?

Change, of course, is inevitable. And life is good. And life is hard. It will wrap its arms around you in a warm hug and then turn around and kick your ass. But the one thing that remains until death do you part? You.

Hang on, loves. Drink more water. Go for a walk. Leave your delivery driver a big tip. Take a nap.

Breathe.

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3 thoughts on “The Great Reset”

  1. My dear sweet Katrina you had more than your share of double or triple whammies in your life. You are a very strong person but as you see to strong you hold it all inside you are a beautiful person with a great heart. I will always love you size does not matter it’s what in your heart and you have it. I love you Aunt sally xxxooo

  2. NOOM works. Also consider RUKing. Unfortunately, it is all about the math. You burn 2000 calories a day. Exercise can burn half of that (a one hour walk with a 10lb RUK pak will burn 1000 calories) and every pound is equal to 3500 calories. So if you can cut just 300 calories a day by eating a little less, no snacking at night…etc. you can lose between 2-3 pounds a month or 24 to 36 pounds in a year. And remember, plateaus are normal and demonstrate you are on the right track. I have lost 25 pounds this last year. You can too. Choose. Have you every read anything by Baggini?

  3. Robert W Finertie

    Hi Katrina, Great presentation this morning, infused with authenticity.
    Yay and Yay on your Self-care, because I love you and want to keep you around.
    Bob Finertie

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