Oh my God … and now I’m shrinking

Hope you didn’t mind that I went off the beaten track, as they say, with my comments about Sarah Palin yesterday.  I think that far too much of what she says goes unchallenged so thought I’d add my 2-cents worth.  Now …. back to the important stuff of getting successfully into retirement.

My daughter Nili is expecting her third child any day now. So that I’m free to go to Ottawa (where she lives) and help her out after the baby’s born I’ve been scheduling as many “check-ups” as I can this week. Yesterday, for example, I had a mammogram, a bone density test, shrinking-violet2and an interview/orientation about Disaster Response with the Red Cross. Tomorrow I have a re-do of a root canal. Funny that I need more body work than my car (but then again, my car is much younger). So here’s the thing. Before the bone density test they measured me and ….. oh my God … even though I was definitely trying to pull myself up to full height I still measured in as 5’5″ when I’ve always been 5’6″. An inch gone? Where did it go? How could I be shrinking already? I exercise every day, I walk (lots of weight-bearing activity), I take good care of myself. And still. An inch. Gone! I’ve been thinking a lot about how not to feel like my life is shrinking now that I don’t have a career/job any more, but I hadn’t at all thought about my actual body shrinking. Yikes! Growing shorter? Could I be replicating Shrinking Violet (aka Atom Girl), the cartoon superhero from the planet of Imsk? I can’t even write much about this because it has be reeling. Got to think this one through a bit. Shrinking. Oh my!!!! Are you? With 5’6″ of me life was challenging enough, how do I manage this while shrinking?

Meanwhile – while I cogitate on what it means to be shrinking – here’s an excerpt of our final day on the Antarctic Peninsula (my way of saying that although my body might be shrinking my life is holding it’s own).

ANTARCTICA JOURNAL EXCERPTS: December 16/08 – Deception Island

whale-breaching2We woke at 5 a.m. this morning and thought we’d take advantage of the early hour to sit quietly in the Observation Lounge (home away from cabin) and have a coffee while we watched the scenery float by. Within minutes we were greeted by a passing whale. Not a bad way to start the day. We sat and observed and dreamed and had a second cup of coffee (more about that later).

Today we have our final landing, and it will be on a volcanic island that last “blew” in 1970. It’s an island of the South Shetland Island chain, formed by a volcanic crater that collapsed allowing seawater to rush into the caldera and creating one the the largest natural harbours (about 10 miles across) in the world. Getting dressed for this final landing was different than usual; my first layer was a bathing suit as we were evidently going to have a chance to go swimming. In the Antarctic. Imagine. Over the bathing suit went longjohns, fleece pants, thick socks, an exercise shirt, and a heavy polar fleece. It was raining a bit and so undoubtedly this would be a cold walk. Oh yes – and my earmuffs and hat. At 8:30 in the morning we’d sailed through the narrows into Whaler’s Bay. We landed on a black beach – all volcanic ash and rock. We walked for about 45 minutes view-of-neptunes-bellows2to the top of a volcanic hill to an area called Neptune’s Bellows (that low area in the background between two hills), named for the sound of the wind as it whistles in from the sea. For the first time one of my great fears came to pass — if you’ll excuse the expression, I needed to pee. I remembered back to our first briefing when a woman had asked if there would be port-a-potties on the continent and we all thought “how foolish of her to ask”. And yet, maybe because of the wind, may the cold pricks of the sheet ice that was now falling, maybe that second cup of coffee I’d had early in the day, maybe it’s my age. I don’t know why, but I knew that I’d not make it back to the ship and certainly couldn’t dare strip down and head into icy cold water with a full bladder. For the first time we were somewhere with actual big rocks that I could hide behind. David offered to “stand watch” and I waited, in the lee of a rock, for the last of my fellow passengers to come down from The Bellows so that I could do what needed to be done.

There were almost 100 passengers on the ship and so, not surprising, there were some that I found I wanted to spend less time with than others. One of these was a fellow who I usually referred to as “gun guy” because of his very right-wing perspective on things and his spoken position on gun control. Wouldn’t you know it, gun guy was the last person to come sauntering down the hill as I stood there, shifting from one foot to the other in anticipation. trekking-on-deception-island1Did he just walk right on by? Of course not! There was a little bit of moss growing on the rock – almost the only vegetation we saw – and he decided he needed to take a photo. Several photos. At last – with me holding back more than my desire to tell him to “move along” – I was able to do what needed doing and, arm in arm with David, we walked back to our landing site. (Those spots you can see in the photo, those are raindrops – icedrops actually.)

While we’d been hiking, some of the expeditation staff had been digging into the black ash beach, and hot water – warmed by the active volcano we were walking on if you recall – had bubbled up to form a little pool. Ergo the bathing suit under all of my other clothing. I’d dressed to go for a swim, but was so cold from the walk that I was giving it second thoughts. This all quickly became very symbolic for me. If I did it, I’d face being unbelievably cold. If I didn’t do it, I’d face being unbelievably depressed that – for the first time – I’d shied away from something that I wanted to do because I was …. too old. All of the identity issues I’d been facing with retirement came to the fore. To swim or not to swim? So I started to think about another approach to this. Maybe I could skip the dip into the frigid Antarctic waters and just do the dip in the hot, somewhat sulphuric water, even though the crew had told us that the “rules” were cold water first? Maybe nobody would do it and I’d be off the hook. No such luck. The first person to head for the icewater was a white-haired elderly woman who had been crawling on her hands and knees all around the ship to make sure she didn’t hurt herself. Several others followed – still only women. I watched into-the-sea2and waited. Then, in a burst of energy unencumbered by rational thought I made my decision and started stripping off layer after layer of clothing. Soon I was standing on a volcanic beach on an Antarctic caldera in bare feet and bathing suit. I knew there must be something to learn from this … but at that moment in time I thought little about lessons and lots about survival! I reached for David-from-Ireland’s hand (another passenger) and together, screaming like banshees, we ran into the water up to our knees. We splashed about, making sure to wet our hair which was one of necessary precursors to gaining entry to the just-dug hot pool. From the bay into the hot water, steam rising into the cold air. The real challenge, I realized and-out-again1as I tried to submerge myself in 8 inches of hot water, was what would follow; getting out of the water, back into my clothes, and onto the zodiac for the ride back to the Polar Star. Quite amazingly it was much less cold than I’d anticipated … maybe I was just so numb I couldn’t feel anything at all. In the end, I’m glad that I did this. But then again, I’m glad that I tried bungee-jumping a number of years ago.

Once back on board it was straight into a hot shower to see whether or not warmth would bring feeling back to my extremities. There were threats of potential storms in the Drake Passage as we made our way back to Tierra Del Fuego, so to complete dressing I added a fresh sea-sickness patch, then took a gravol and put my BioBands back on; all before heading up to the Observation Lounge for happy hour for a drink that I’d surely earned.

in-the-engine-room1Soon there was an announcement that there would be visits to the engine room for those who were interested in what actually made this ship move. Of course we headed down, and down, and down, into a maze of machinery that truly boggled the mind.

After dinner we all gathered for our daily briefing (update: we should only have GaleForce 8 winds in our crossing) and to watch the final episodes of Life In The Freezer. I asked the staff if they’d be giving us a list of everyone’s e-mail addresses and they told me it was up to the passengers to organize that if we wanted, so I promptly started a chart (remember, I love a good chart) for people to fill in and announced that it would be on the table as you entered the Lounge for the next day if anyone wanted to add their name (most did in the end). As we watched the video the boat began rocking again, this time not only fore and aft but also side to side. Heaving actually.

Only two more days before our return to Ushuaia. Two more days to meditate on the beauty we’d experienced, hear more about people’s adventures, think about what was ahead of me. Two more days.


10 responses to “Oh my God … and now I’m shrinking

  1. OMG! Shrinking – let me tell you!!!
    I am experiencing a quasi-retirement – enforced through a long-term disability due to a back condition that causes my disks to deteriorate throughout my spine. Not that I’m complaining.
    I had to have my height measured at a recent appointment and to my (enduring) horror I’ve been told I’ve shrunk to 5’7 because of disk deterioration. I used to be 5’8 & 1/2″ – say 5’9″.
    Now this may not seem bad, but you have to put it into context. Not only have I shrunk, but my BMI (body mass index – for the uninitiated) has consequently deteriorated – a crisis for those of us trying to approach a societal norm.
    Instead of having a goal weight range of between 128 and 168 pounds (HA – not even in sight) I’m now assigned 121 to 158 pounds as an “acceptable” (by who ?- sure as shootin’ isn’t me) BMI weight goal.
    This really is beyond the pale. Talk about adding insult to injury. Because I’ve lost 1&1/2 inches in height, without any change to the scale I’ve gained an additional 10 unwanted, apparently extraneous, pounds in the process. Dang!

  2. Sylvia Bereskin

    Oh …. I hadn’t even thought of that. I’ve been trying to get to the Y most days to work off the extra pounds (and rediscover the lost muscles) and now you’ve raised another reality that truly sucks. Right you are; if I’m now shorter then the weight goal needs to be lower. Okay – so how many deep-water aquafit classes can a woman do in a week without risking becoming waterlogged? I, too, wonder who devised that “acceptable” chart … clearly someone whose mental acuity and BMI correlate.

  3. Pingback: The Boomer Chronicles » Blog Archive » Friday Links Variety Show (Jan. 16, 2009)

  4. Shrinking, huh? I thought that I shrank 1/2″ BUT whoever measured me did not insist that my heels be against the wall. One year later I discovered I had not shrunk at all.

    Loved the stories this week. You crack me up!

    • Sylvia Bereskin

      Thanks Jeannie. I think that when I see my daughter the doctor (very soon as her due date is Jan 19th) I’ll as her to remeasure me (once she can readily bend over and stand up straight again). Wow, that would be the reverse, then, of what Janus said about gaining 10 unwanted pounds by shrinking, perhaps I can have also lost 10 unwanted pounds by not shrinking. That would translate to how many deep water aquafit classes?

  5. I don’t think I’d mind the shrinking as much if it didn’t also include losing my waist…I mean, literally, my hips are joining with my ribs. I was always short-waisted, but if I shrink at all, I’ll have negative waist!!

    Thanks for the good chuckle! You are much braver than I.

    • Sylvia Bereskin

      Brave? Maybe I wouldn’t be walking around trying to stretch myself a little wee bit taller if I was brave. I’ve even been thinking about going to a kid’s playground and hanging upside down from the monkey-bars to see if that would help.

  6. Shrinking I may be – somethings are NOT worth checking but I surely walked tall after I had done the Antarctic dip thing, not only did I walk tall I felt years younger for having joined in an activity that seemed quite ridiculous, besides having witnessed Sylvia’s mad dash in there was no way I’d miss out.
    Melbourne at present is very hot but am I likely to go swimming No. I’ll be at the Australian Open Tennis watching the fit and young hit it out in close to century heat.

    • Sylvia Bereskin

      Donna, I don’t know if I told you that although I had my bathing suit on under all of those layers and layers of clothing I wasn’t sure I’d do “the dip” at all. In fact, much of the time we were walking around on Deception Island I was listening to a tape running in my head saying: “I don’t have to prove anything to anyone. I don’t have to do this. David isn’t planning to do this and that’s because he’s smart. I definitely don’t need to do this.” And then I saw that white-haired woman (can’t remember her name … the one who crawled everyone on the ship so she wouldn’t hurt herself) coming out of the water and thought that if she did it and I didn’t well … the depression that would set in from giving something up because I felt too old would be much worth than dipping into ice-water. My body may be shrinking, but at least my courage is hanging in!

  7. Hmmm…Arctic Ocean first, Antarctic Ocean – you had to do it and I’m not sure it was courage but more of “gotta do it”. A sense of adventure and a sense of … knowing yourself.

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