I was born with a troubling affliction. It’s been difficult to manage my whole life, and is embarrassing to discuss. Today I feel is the time to go public with my ailment.
I am affected by a disorder known colloquially as walnut bladder. Yes, it’s true. I so much as look at a glass of water and I have to pee.
In such times that my walnut bladder-itis impacts the life of my husband, he refers to me as a frog. “You know, you pick up a frog and it piddles in your hand?”
As a child I presented quite a challenge to my folks who liked to take road trips. You see, I had the kind of dad who refused to stop once we were on the road. “Gotta make good time,” he’d say.
The average child has to pee frequently but I was even more prone than normal. It was a problem.
We used to spend summers in a small town in Eastern New Mexico. The drive from our home in Albuquerque took about three hours, plus or minus. Even as an adult, three hours is just too long for me without a pit stop.
This vexed my mother terribly as she had to manage both my bladder and my straight-through-without-stopping father. Once she threatened to use a clothespin to clamp off my leaky plumbing.
Well that got my attention.
From that day forward I planned well ahead for any family road trip. My plan was to cease intake of liquids at least a day in advance of the trip and steadfastly refuse to drink any liquid until we arrived and a toilet was in sight.
In hindsight, not having much liquid while living in the high desert probably wasn’t the best idea, but it worked, thus avoiding any clothespin type of situations.
In my adult life I manage my ailment by working a path between my desk at work and the restroom. At home I get up a minimum of once a night to pee.
There was a recent situation where I again recognized the utter torture of a completely full bladder and no good plan to empty it out.
It was a typical afternoon at work and I was, as usual, drinking lots of good fresh water. Stay hydrated, right? That means ol’ Walnutta has to be actively managed.
Before a work meeting I will use the restroom right before heading into the conference room to help ensure I can get through the hour stretch.
On this day, I was so busy with work and in other meetings that I bumped right up to the top of the hour when my next meeting was due to start. I did an internal gut check and then a clock check and thought, “Yeah, I’m ok.”
Silly, silly me.
At about twenty minutes into the hour and a half long meeting, a job interview with a prospective candidate no less, I had that first twinge of “oh…hmm, I’m going to need to pee here pretty soon.”
As the seconds on the clock ticked by with molasses speed, and the candidate droned on and on and on, things started to get bad.
I began to go through the stages of grief:
First, denial: “Pfft! I’m fine. No big deal. I can make it.”
Then bargaining: “Ok, well, if I can make it just ten more minutes, maybe I can excuse myself and take care of this. Please please bladder don’t let me pee my pants.”
Anger: “Dangblamit why did I drink so much water today! And why is my bladder so tiny? And why can’t I just distract myself and make this feeling go away!?!”
Depression: “Dude, you are such a loser. Look at everyone else at the table, they can hold their liquids. What is wrong with you?”
Acceptance: “It’s going to be ok. I’m going to make it. I’m not going to pee my pants. And if I do, it will be fine, right?”
Over the course of an hour and a half I moved up and down and back and forth through all of those stages while squirming mightily in my chair.
Look, my attention span isn’t that long to begin with, add in a full to bursting bladder and I don’t hear what anybody has to say on any topic.
It was horrible. At one point I thought I might even cry, I had to pee so badly.
And finally! Finally at the hour and forty five minute mark that damn candidate stopped talking and I was free to go use the restroom all the way over on the other side of the building.
Then it becomes that age old question of walking or running in the rain.
Do I walk to the bathroom thus taking longer and upping my odds for peeing my pants?
Or do I run thus jangling my bladder and making it more likely I’ll pee my pants?
I chose the middle road: a sort of tight-legged shuffle which worked and I made it safely to the bathroom stall.
Once in the safe zone my whole world looked a little brighter. A little happier. A little more at peace.
I know everyone has gone through the ballad of the full bladder at one point or another. When you have a walnut bladder it happens a little more often than I’d like.
For any reader who might have questions about my affliction: it’s been this way since I was a kid, I have discussed it with more than one doctor, and it just happens to be a feature (not a bug) of the big Karen machine.
Sense memory is a funny thing. Seemingly insignificant things are ingrained early in your cells and pop up at the darndest times.
Earlier this week, after a long day at work and in a post-dinner stupor, I emptied the dishwasher and put away our clean dishes.
No big deal, right? Common, unremarkable.
After I’d put away the dishes, I looked at the cabinet where our glassware is kept and laughed, because I had done something that harkens back to an earlier time.
When The Good Man and I first moved in together more than ten years ago, there was a lot of negotiation. To be expected, I’d been living alone an awfully long time, was a bit set in my ways, and I was no spring chicken either.
So having this dude move into my space was, well, weird. I honestly had some difficulties, which we were able to work through bit by bit.
One such negotiation had to do with the orientation of drinkware on the shelves. You’d think this wouldn’t be a big deal, but it became one of many lessons in “things you do because of where your from.”
You see, I grew up in dry ol’ New Mexico. We loaded our glasses rim down so the dust doesn’t get in ya drink.
The Good Man grew up in Brooklyn. They loaded their glasses rim upward because god knows what crawled across the shelves and it’s gross to drink from a rim that’s been in the yuck. “That’s why my mom puts new shelf paper down in every place she lives,” he explained.
Ah. Well. Sure. That actually made sense. So I relented and agreed our home would be a rims up sort of space.
Besides, I knew that picking battles was going to be the key to success. We still had to settle if our home was going to load toilet paper over the top or from below. (Over the top is the final determination, my preference, The Good Man doesn’t care either way)
So this past week, tired of mind and body, doing something I must have done thousands of times in my life by emptying the dishwasher, I loaded the glassed rim down. And laughed.
Then thought about the early days of The Good Man and Me. As we approach our ten-year wedding anniversary, I have been doing that a lot lately.
So did I then turn the glasses back over? Nope. I left them, figuring we’d use all the clean glasses before the next washer run, and then on the next unload one of us would get the right orientation.
This morning, better rested, I unloaded the dishwasher again. Sense memory, I didn’t even think about it. I put the clean glasses rims up and walked away.
Here is a true and accurate representation of the current state of our cabinet.
Where avoiding dust and avoiding rat droppings meet
I wonder how long it will be before my rather obsessive need for uniformity will get the better of me….can’t blame that on New Mexico.
Photo taken this morning using the Camera+ app on an iPhone 7. I mean, why would you want to steal a photo of my drinkware? But if you do, please remember it’s subject to the Creative Commons in the right column of this page. Attribution, please! :)
It’s funny the things that stick with you. The seemingly forgettable details or moments that you look back on with fondness.
This past weekend, I returned home to New Mexico after a far too long two-year personal drought. Life, work, whatever, gets in the way (no excuse is good enough).
The occasion of my return was the high school graduation of my oldest goddaughter. At almost 19 she is no longer that curly-haired blonde toddler who captured our hearts. She is a smart, sassy, funny, talented and gorgeous woman and I’m a bit weepy right now just typing that. I’m so proud of her.
I have been working too many hours and it’s fair to say I dragged my ragged self onto a plane, glad to go home. Sometimes I feel like I wander a little too far away from New Mexico. I forget the foundation of my soul and going home never fails to readjust my mind, my very DNA. It gets me back to remembering who I am and what matters.
Plus I eat good when I’m there, and green chile itself will help anyone get right.
Each time I go home, I’m overwhelmed at all of the things that have changed since the last time I was there. El Paso is growing fast. The area around Las Cruces too. More cars, more buildings, more people. It’s crazy.
So then I start to seek the familiar. What hasn’t changed. What is there that I remember so I can have a touchstone. A “hey, there that particular thing is, just where I left it.”
The feedlots in Vado, for example. I was pleased to find them there, cows huddled under the water misters. The inevitable cow scent on the breeze.
The Organ Mountains. Craggy, uneven, and absolutely gorgeous. I see those mountains that once watched over my college education and smile, glad to say hello again.
So today at work when I was homesick, missing my best friend and the peace of her back patio, I started going through the photos on my phone to help me with the pain.
Did I find photographs of vast mountain landscapes? Did I see the faces of my loved ones? Did I have a whimsical photo of a cow?
No I did not.
All of those sorts of photos are on my actual camera. Weirdly, I took very few photos with my phone on this trip.
So I will share with you the two photos I did take. Memories I’m carrying in my pocket to remind me of home. This gives you an awful lot of insight into my muddled mind:
First, a photo of my goddog. I may have taken one or two photos of him in the past.
The gray hair around his eyes and in his muzzle makes my heart hurt, just a little
The second will take a little more explanation.
You see, to get back to Las Cruces, I have to fly into El Paso and while that’s not my town, over the years I’ve even grown a bit fond of that crazy place.
When I stumble off the airplane and into the terminal I find that nothing much has changed. Then my heart softens a little when I see the genuinely godawful carpet in ELP’s main terminal. Seriously, it’s so bad, it makes me sentimental.
Nothing says “welcome home” like lizard carpet. Apparently, I was so overcome I had to take a photo.
Not conducive to overcoming a hangover
And now I’m glad I did, I just found out today that the infamous ELP carpet is due to be replaced, like this month! Yipes.
That means next time, I won’t be greeted at the door by the funky lizards. And as my goddog isn’t getting any younger, one day I’ll roll up to my best friend’s house and won’t get to experience his side-angled lope and velvety soft ears.
That’s too much to consider. Right now, I will rest easy knowing that hideous lizard carpet and beautiful brown dog eyes remain just where I left them. I feel my connection to home, which makes sitting in this dull gray office just a tiny bit easier to take.
My parents were pretty strict when I was growing up, but I’m not here to complain about that. I think my brother, sister and I turned out pretty well, overall. Well, my brother and sister did, jury is still out on me.
But it’s true, my folks were a bit old fashioned and handed down strict discipline. They kept us in line.
One thing my Dad was all about was his kids answering “yes, sir” or “yes, ma’am” when addressed by an adult. It’s ingrained in me, automatic. It’s a show of respect for elders, along with respect for a person’s position.
And so when either of my parents would call out “hey Karen?” I would automatically drop a “yes, sir” or “yes, ma’am” without hesitation.
It’s carried into my adult life and usually has served me well. On a recent visit with one of my favorite Aunties in Michigan, she at one point called out my name and I dutifully replied “yes, ma’am,” and I knew it was right. I felt like a good kid.
As the digits in my age advance, however, I also notice that I get ma’amed here and there. At first I didn’t like it, but then I began to appreciate that for those younger than me, their parents raised them with that same value. Yes sir!
Here’s where it gets weird: My new boss at work? She’s my same age. In fact maybe a year or two younger. She was my peer for the past several years and was recently made the acting manager. It’s also very likely that she will soon be the permanent manager. And I’m okay with that.
I have nothing but respect for her and we’re working out the bounds of going from peers to boss and employee.
Yesterday, she came wheeling into my office, fresh off one of her many meetings each day and with something on her mind. “Hey Karen?” she said sharply.
“Yes ma’am!” I replied.
And she looked at me kind of strangely.
And I looked at her kind of sheepishly.
“Ahem. What can I do for you?” I revised.
It made me think maybe I need to change up the ma’am/sir thing. I mean, it still fits in many cases. For example, if I come across any of the distinguished scientists that I work with, I’m sure as heck going to ma’am or sir them, regardless of age. Or any dignitary.
But maybe I have to realize that I am the grown up now. I am the one to receive the ma’am treatment. I suppose it is time to finally own my own mildly elder status. Right?
It’s just so weeeird! And will take a while to reprogram my brain.