Van Gogh in the Elevator

I had an eye exam on Monday. I was excited because it’s been a few years since my last eye exam, and a year or two ago my glasses got a small scratch on them which makes them hard to clean. No matter how much I clean my glasses, there’s always a smudge where the scratch is.

My new ophthalmologist’s office is located in the hospital in Eureka, which is the same place where my new doctor’s office is located. I like that they are all in the same place and that they aren’t far away. When I made the appointment, the receptionist took down all my insurance information. The Friday before my eye appointment–October 2nd–the receptionist called to tell me that she didn’t see any insurance coverage for vision care. EJ contacted his HR department at work, but they didn’t get back to him until after my appointment. When we arrived at ophthalmologist’s for my appointment, the receptionist explained that without insurance information, my exam would cost $95 unless the ophthalmologist found a medical condition so that they could charge it to our medical insurance. Sigh. I went ahead with the appointment. Fortunately–or maybe unfortunately–the ophthalmologist found the beginnings of cataracts in one eye–a medical condition–so we only had to pay $35 for the appointment. I asked the ophthalmologist how quickly cataracts worsened enough for surgery, and he said that I had until my late 60s or 70s, so that’s good. He said otherwise my eyes are really good. In fact, my vision has improved. Yay!

I couldn’t choose new glasses on Monday since we had to verify the insurance information. Later the woman at EJ’s HR department called and told him that vision is covered for all three of us under our insurance plan, and she gave him the details. So yesterday EJ and I went back to the ophthalmologist to pick out my new frames. The receptionist looked up the information and could verify only that EJ was covered under the vision insurance and not me. Sigh. EJ called the HR department again and when the woman got back to him, she told him that, yes, we are all covered, and she will get everything straightened out for us by early next week. Moving to a new area and finding doctors and everything is sort of a hassle.

This sign was in the elevator
This sign was in the elevator

However, at least I was able to choose my new glasses, which will be ordered next week after we can tell the ophthalmologist that I do indeed have vision insurance. I always take EJ with me to choose glasses because I have trouble deciding what looks good on me. This time we also had help from strangers. My ophthalmologist’s office is on the second floor of the hospital. Another couple got in the elevator with us when we arrived yesterday. There was a picture of a famous painting–with the addition of a surgical mask–in the elevator instructing everyone to cover their cough. The other guy said, “That’s a Picasso painting.” EJ corrected, “No, that’s Van Gogh” and the man said, “Oh, you are right!” I thought it was cool to discuss artists in the elevator.

The other couple also were on their way to the ophthalmologist. We had established a rapport in the elevator, so when the other woman and I tried on frames, we all chatted with each other. EJ helped me narrow down my choices of frames to two, and I tried first one on and then the other, and then the one and then the other as we tried to decide which looked best. The other couple said, “Oh, we definitely think that that frame looks better on you,” which I was glad because I liked that frame the best of the two–I just wasn’t sure which looked best on me. I told the couple that the next time I choose new frames, we should contact them so they can help me choose. The receptionist wrote down the information so she can order my new frames as soon as we get this insurance stuff settled.

With EJ’s health concerns and then the work we had to do on our eroding driveway, we weren’t able to get down to our old house to bring up another load of stuff. We don’t have that much more down there, but the things that are left behind are large things–like EJ’s toolboxes and some tires–and we can only fit so much in the Suburban. I was anxious to get down there before the weather turns cold to turn on the furnace so the pipes don’t freeze. Also, I want to bring up my last two birdhouses. I didn’t bring them up earlier because I didn’t want to disturb the babies in the nests.

JJ volunteered to go with his Dad on this trip. We had wanted to make the trip last week but JJ wasn’t able to get the days off until this weekend. And then we weren’t sure they were going to be able to drive down because there was a possibility that EJ would have to work this weekend. His company is alerting them that there will be more overtime in the next few weeks. However, at the last moment EJ found out that he’d have Saturday and Sunday off so the trip was back on. EJ and JJ left at about 6 a.m. this morning. They planned to drive down, spend an hour or two quickly loading up the Suburban, and then driving back home.

When the guys first arrived at the house, the realtor was showing people through the house so they had to delay until they were gone. JJ hasn’t been back to the old house since he came up north in April so he’s never seen it empty. I wasn’t sure how he’d feel about it. Also, two years ago today JJ was diagnosed with cancer and two days later–on October 12th, 2013–he had his first surgery to remove the mass. The anniversary was stressing him, and I wasn’t sure how he would handle that stress in addition to being at the old house. JJ called me after the realtor and house hunters left and he had entered the empty house. “I really don’t like it here,” he said, “But I’m doing ok.”

One of us always has to stay behind to care for the pets when a trip is made to the old house. I was really relieved that this trip the person who was left behind was me. We all find it difficult to go back to our old village because it triggers a lot of stress and anxiety–due to EJ’s experiences at his old company, my abusive family, JJ’s cancer, and other things. I also feel a lot of anxiety about getting everything moved up here, about the expenses associated with the old house (we still have to pay for utilities and taxes down there), about getting the house sold, and so on. We’d really like to be able to end our old lives down there and concentrate on building our new lives up here in the North.

We absolutely love our lives in the North. Our new house, our beautiful surroundings, the wildlife that wanders in our yard, the many attractions in the area, the better companies that EJ and JJ work at–everything–is really everything we have always wanted. We feel such deep stirrings of joy and contentment. Almost every day we exclaim, “I can’t believe we actually live here!!!”

It was kind of surprising to us, then, that when we are so happy living up here we all have been suffering from severe anxiety attacks. I have never experienced such attacks as these. However, I’ve been reading articles from stress, anxiety, and PTSD sites and pages and one article, titled How Stress Breaks Down Your Mind and Body and How to Fight Back, explained,

We have a few different stress hormones that affect our bodies. Adrenaline, noradrenaline and cortisol are stress hormones called glucocorticoids that are essential for us to function properly in the face of danger. While these hormones can be useful in helping us to learn and form new memories, too much of them can be unhealthy. When our lives are filled with chronic stress, we can enter a state called cortisol dominance, which negatively affects learning, attention span, and memory…

Tania Glenn is a social worker and psychologist who has done some fascinating work on the science of stress and in particular, PTSD. In a talk given to members of the United States Air Force, Tania said that the foundation of stress is the fight or flight response. For those who experience long periods of the fight or flight state, they are often prone to feeling symptoms of withdrawal when they return to a nonthreatening environment, as their bodies readjust. I thought it was really interesting how Tania described this process:

“You’re tired, but you can’t sleep; you want to sit still, but you are compelled to get up and move. Your body is literally detoxing from exhilaration… And just like any detox, coming off the extra adrenaline, glucose and cortisol is unpleasant.”

It makes sense that after leaving behind a life of chronic stress and moving to an area that we love, we are now experiencing anxiety attacks. We are detoxing. The anxiety attacks are very awful, but we tell each other each day, “We will get through this” and we are doing what we can to deal with the attacks. The articles about dealing with PTSD and anxiety are very helpful. We are taking vitamins and supplements and eating foods that fight stress, and we are learning to fight anxious thoughts by not dwelling on the things we can’t do anything about, by living in the moment, by thanking God for the blessings of our new life, by enjoying the beauty around us–and there is a lot of beauty around us.

This morning I got up with EJ and JJ at 5 a.m. After they left for their trip south, I went to bed for a little more sleep. When I woke again, I had a very quiet day to myself. The morning started out with beautiful autumn blue skies. By the time Danny and I walked down to the mailbox, it was becoming cloudier and windier, which I think is beautiful too. The temperatures are chillier now and I get to wear my warm hoodie. I like this weather.

Every day the autumn trees are becoming more colorful. The trees of the forest surrounding our home are still quite green, but whenever we drive places–like for medical appointments or to the grocery store–we see more and more color. I love living in a forest. One of the reasons that I like to paint my interior walls a neutral color is because I don’t want the colors to detract from the beautiful view outside the windows. I see my home as a sort of art gallery, with windows framing living landscapes.

Here are some pictures that I took this week of our beautiful North. We had beautiful blue skies, clouds, rainy days, and colorful trees.




3 Comments on “Van Gogh in the Elevator

  1. You have the best of the best TJ, the beauty the lovely men in your life and the knowing that you have found your beautiful home in the very nature that draws you to the forest. Say hi to the guys, and love ya, Linda


    • Yes. my guys are the best and we love our new home. Despite the affects of stress, we are the happiest we have ever been. We love it up here so much. If you ever get to our area, please stop in to visit. We’d love to see you and show you around.


  2. And that we would do, Mich. is such a beautiful state but the call of the north is something special, our kids so enjoy their place at Lake City and we get to see the color and changes thru her lens.

    Liked by 1 person

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