Sodium

I had a really good session with my dietician today. Encouraging, supportive, and quite pleased with what I was already doing, she was very helpful in steering me towards a more finely tuned approach to my diet. I knew that for my kidneys’ sake I need to manage my protein and sodium intake in particular, and I have been paying them some attention, but I must confess I have mainly been trying to ensure I meet my kilojoule goals yet have a balanced and pleasurable diet. Though my kidneys should be my priority I have really been concentrating on losing weight to hopefully relieve the pain and improve my mobility. It is more a matter of life and death that rather than losing weight I keep my kidneys functioning at their current level and prevent them deteriorating further.

So I must do both. Because what is the point of living longer if it is no fun?

Now we have fine tuned the goals to reduce the protein and sodium limits further. I can manage the protein easily enough. I’ve already reduced my meat consumption to a few hundred grams a week. But I’ve noticed that it is easy to exceed the daily sodium limits. I haven’t worried about it too much, but it appears I should. Now my limits are even lower, and it may be that sodium, rather than energy, is what will actually limit my choices of food or quantity.

It looks like anchovies are out, for a start.

Many Cheeses too, which is a shame.

I must pay more attention to the nutritional information on foods and not just focus on the kJ.

Lastly, though I thought I was drinking plenty of water already, I must increase my intake back to Kimberley summer quantities.

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25 July

Swimming went well today, day three. I found that although I can’t coordinate my left arm swimming overarm forward, it works fine with backstroke. And I can swim faster backwards. Breastroke up and backstroke back for 60 minutes straight, then some larking about water walking. Feeling much better afterwards today than I did on Tuesday.

Physio this evening, they are starting me on an exercycle. Then I think I will have earned a combination chow mein, I’m in energy credit. .

If I actually can manage to complete a reasonable time on the Exercycle without ending in agony (which I am expecting) I know where I can get a small foldaway portable one that would suit a caravan lifestyle. Very reasonably priced, too.

Swimming with Endorphins

I just spent two and a half hours in the pools at the Bribie Island Aquatic centre, run by Moreton Bay Council. Excellent place.

I did a concentrated 75 minutes of pool laps in the swimming lanes. I had aimed at completing 50 laps but lost count on the way. So I decided to swim for an hour. At the end of the hour, despite the ache in my shoulders, I was feeling good so I carried on for 15 minutes more. Yesterday I did only half an hour. Then I was alone in the pool but this morning I was joined by a few others. Having someone swimming in the next lane is a good incentive to keep going. My neighbours on either side were considerably faster than I, but they had the advantage of being able to do the Australian crawl. I can’t do that, because my left arm won’t behave, swimming overarm. Besides, I am not good at synchronising my breathing. I had to content myself with breaststroke.

I started out doing a length in just over a minute but had to slow down. I settled into a rhythm of 36 strokes a minute and averaging a length in a minute and a half. After an hour I was swimming a length in just under two and a half minutes. The swimmer on one side of me was powering along doing two and a half laps to every one of mine. But it wasn’t a competition. Except I kept swimming until I’d outlasted him.

My shoulders haven’t had this much exercise since I was camped at Inskip and swimming every afternoon. That was almost a year ago.

The water in the pool was a balmy 26C and after a while the ache in my shoulders became tolerable, almost pleasant in a satisfying ” I’m doing something” way.

After the swim, I joined a bunch of other elderly, overweight or crippled folk like myself in the warmer indoor therapy pool. There we exercised our knees, backs and other ailing joints enjoying the buoyant support of water at a pleasant 33 degrees.

Again I pushed myself for over an hour, and it seemed too easy. It was good to have a more sociable environment in which everyone had problems and seemed happy to chat and include a newcomer. That made it even easier to carry on.

But on exiting the pool and subjecting myself once again to the full force of gravity, I realised, rather acutely, that I had indeed been putting my muscles and joints through more effort than usual. Getting into my trousers was a little more difficult, giving me a hint of my future if I don’t keep this up and improve my fitness and mobility. Climbing into the Landcruiser was rather painful too, and I had to rest a bit before driving home.

My goal is to do this at least 5 days a week. I’ll know it is working when I can put my track pants on without nearly falling over.

Snippet.

I sit quietly, regarding the empty compartments of the weekly pill organiser.

Time to refill it. It is Saturday again.

These pills, ten and a half taken every morning and five every evening – plus an iron supplement taken every second day (because it causes constipation), keep me going.

Metaphorically – or not – they replace love, family, professional pride, enthusiasm for sport and hobby, pets, wildlife, aquaria and frog ponds. Things that kept me going.

Again. It is empty again.

I look into the compartments, each a morning or an afternoon, and try to recall how it was I filled them. How I took again from them the medicine of each hour, and used it.

Medications

1973

Now here is a blast from the past. An old school friend just sent me this photo of me and him about to use our new SCUBA gear for the first time. So very long ago. it must have been about 1973. I know because the short speargun I’m holding was a 21st birthday gift from Glenn.

Until I was 18 surfing was the weekend sport, but then we discovered snorkelling. It didn’t take long before we ventured into SCUBA, took the training and became certified so we could rent the gear.

Eventually we could afford our own, and here we are, about to try it out for the first time.

That’s me on the left, with the mo and the sturdy legs.

Health Update

I don’t have dementia. I don’t have diabetes. My kidney function is actually improving slightly. It had dropped from 47% to 33, and now it’s working its way back to 40%. I am losing weight;

6.8 kg in 70 days. It is working. The MyFitnessPal app is very helpful in monitoring my energy intake. I recommend it. I can work out in advance what I want to have and how much of it fits in my energy budget. So nothing need be off the menu. Portion control.

My mobility is not yet improving and pain constrains the amount of exercise I can do walking or standing. I am building up my upper body strength with my rubber band gym, which is a surprisingly effective way to work out sitting down.

My mental health remains stable thanks, in no small part, to fluoxetine.

I have my hobbies, books, Netflix and Spotify. I’ve done a bit of exploring, but the weather has not been particularly conducive to swimming, fishing, drone flying or bird and reptile photography. I do miss the stimulation of intelligent conversation, and I am acutely aware of how far away I am from family and friends. Much of my support system is now with Facebook friends, many of whom I have never met. .

My finances are, if not precarious, in need of scrutiny. I can’t afford to eat into my nest egg any longer, and must try to manage on the pension. Fortunately I have all the tools, appliances, appurtenances and clothes I need for now, so there is just rent, medications, food, fuel and entertainment, Insurance and registrations – and that bloody albatross of a lockup in NZ that is costing me $1,500 a year. I’ve spent more on it than the contents are worth.

This month marks nine years since I was Dear Johned. It seems like a lifetime.

So that is the story so far.

Home

Every man, every woman, carries in heart and mind the image of the ideal place, the right place, the one true home, known or unknown, actual or visionary. A houseboat in Kashmir, a view down Atlantic Avenue in Brooklyn, a gray gothic farmhouse two stories high at the end of a red dog road in the Allegheny Mountains, a cabin on the shore of a blue lake in spruce and fir country, a greasy alley near the Hoboken waterfront, or even, possibly, for those of a less demanding sensibility, the world to be seen from a comfortable apartment high in the tender, velvety smog of Manhattan, Chicago, Paris, Tokyo, Rio or Rome — there’s no limit to the human capacity for the homing sentiment. Theologians, sky pilots, astronauts have even felt the appeal of home calling to them from up above, in the cold black outback of interstellar space.

Edward Abbey, Desert Solitaire.

Where I am now does not feel like home. I hoped it would, but it doesn’t. It is the place where I currently live. I live in a caravan, which is an object. The caravan is in a park on Bribie Island, which is a location. Neither the domicile nor the location is home. I’m not even sure these days what, or where, home might be for me. Or even where it was.

Every place I’ve ever considered to be home has been taken from me or I have had to leave it behind. Every place I’ve been happy, I’ve had to abandon. As child I moved with my parents wherever their aspirations led. As a young man I followed employment opportunities and my own romantic hopes. For the last eleven years I’ve gone again where necessity sent me, albeit of my own free will. I have found the occasional Happy Place, where I can enjoy being alive and communing with the natural world in some positive heart-lightening way, but I have had no home in that time. No place where I could look around me and say “This is where I belong. This is where I shall stay”.

Looking back I realise I have been searching for such a place since I was a child exploring the hills and fields and streams of the Manawatu, and as a young man exploring the bush and beaches and under the seas around New Zealand

Also, of course, as I explored the possibilities of a shared life, relationships, offering and seeking love.

Home is more than a house, more than a place. It is people in familial and social relationships. Relationships which are enduring and settled. It turns out I’m not so good at maintaining relationships. Two failed marriages, other failed relationships, and very little constant contact or intercourse with family.

I’m not sure if this is caused by, or is what causes, depression.

Fortunately, or perhaps otherwise, I am comfortable and content in my own company. I don’t get lonely when I am alone. Even so, social interaction comes easily enough to me. I don’t have the difficulties that, for example, an autistic person might. I can be amusing, empathetic, and supportive. Caring. Nonetheless I cannot seem to get right the combination of interaction that will lead me to have constancy of companionship and the stability of location that feeling at home requires. Others move on. Or I must.

So here I am ageing, separated from friends and family, with my social interaction limited to a few short term acquaintances and virtual friends whom I no longer see in person or have never even met in the first place.

All I can do now is seek out a new Happy Place. One where I can stay. I have no idea what, or where it might be, though I have an inkling it must be somewhere on or near the sea. Most of my Happy Places have been. I find peace and contentment by the sea, or by water, more than anywhere else.

Does this introspective essay mean I am, after all, becoming lonely?

I have to think about that.