Personal Milestones and Retrospecting on the Past Year

It’s been a busy fall in our household. Daughter #1 graduated from university last spring, had a summer job, and landed a real full-time job. She lived with us for a couple of weeks, along with her two roommates, and moved out on Labor Day weekend. Daughter #2 started university just before Labor Day. Mark and I are empty nesters, and we are enjoying it!

I also celebrated (if you can call it that) a year of vertigo. September 5 marked my one-year anniversary of vertigo and right-side hearing loss. I normally have oscillopsia (bouncing vision vertically and horizontally) with BPPV thrown in every so often for the vertigo. Because of my hearing loss, I also have tinnitus. No, I don’t just have normal tinnitus; I have 3 kinds of tinnitus: constant normal swishing, lovely bells intermittently, and pulsatile tinnitus even more intermittently. The louder the room is, the louder my tinnitus is.

I am managing my vertigo better now. I started using a cane in June, after a horrific fall in May. Esther sat with me for hours in the ER in Albuquerque as I had many X-rays and a CT scan to see if I’d broken any facial bones. No, just a broken tooth.

I met Daniel for lunch more than a month after the fall, a few days after I started using a cane. He asked, “Why did it take you so long to start using a cane?” Good question. I was in denial about the vertigo and what I could and could not do. I think I am no longer in denial. We will see.

As for the past year, I have come to some critical realizations.

  1. My vertigo is likely permanent. Yes, I am managing it better. It appears to be somewhat better right now, but I suspect that might be an illusion because I have been home with no back-to-back conferences. The travel doesn’t bother me; the lack of sleep does. Being on a plane is easy. Being sleep-deprived is a problem. (I’m a champion on-the-plane sleeper.)
  2. I must take care of myself. That means staying well-hydrated no matter where I am. It also means not letting myself get too hungry. I have to get enough sleep. And, it means I have to work out in the gym, to strength train. The combination of all three keeps me upright. I miss one and I lose my balance. A couple of  weeks ago I was tired from a trip and slipped in the bathroom. I managed not to fall over. I did pull groin muscles. It took me a week to walk normally again.
  3. I have to work harder to be socially acceptable. Because I can’t hear on my right side, I miss some social cues about when other people are talking. If I see their mouths move but can’t hear them, are they still talking? Yes! I need to hush! Of course, not everyone talks from an obvious mouth. Some people cover their mouths when they talk. They have some nerve!

I have also learned a number of things:

  • Even though I hear all elevators on the left, sometimes they arrive on the right 🙂
  • I can teach sitting down. I can speak sitting down, if necessary. I have not had to keynote sitting down, and I hope I never do. But I can still speak sitting down.
  • If I concentrate hard enough, I can scan the room to see who is talking in a workshop.
  • I can still ballroom dance, and I often need to adapt the turns, or practice them forever to get them right.
  • I need to be ready to ask for help in many situations and that’s still difficult for me sometimes.

I use a cane so I have a third leg and stability walking, not because I need it orthopedically. People react differently to me when they see me with a cane, which makes me feel strange. (That’s the best word I have for it right now.) Often, they think I have mental deficiencies as well as physical limitations, just because of the cane. Oh, and if they see me walk without a cane, they assume I’m drunk. (My gait is still ataxic.) And, there is no way I could ever pass the walk-with-one-foot-in-front-of-the-other test. I don’t have enough balance for that. See, a cane is a good idea!

A bunch of great things have happened this year, too. I’ve been collaborating with Gil Broza, Rebecca Wirfs-Brock, and Shane Hastie. Esther and I are starting to talk about another book in a couple of years. Much of that work is under development, so I’ll talk about it when it’s done, not now. I’m having fun starting to write about agile management and agile program management.

Physically, I never thought I would be quite this old this young. Professionally and personally, I’m having a blast. Life remains interesting 🙂

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6 Comments

  1. Sam

    Some recommendations about balance:
    get more Omega-3, for example using good flaxseed oil. (for background google “Seth Roberts balance”).

    Practise your three senses of balance (by importance: Eyes, ears, muskles). Eric Franklin provides great balance training using simple tools, the book “Conditioning for Dance” is great, but might be overkill.

    And in general: cut sugar, cut wheat, eat more good saturated fats (like butter). Your brain is running on these fats (and cholesterol) and need them to work. No good fats -> no good brainwork -> no good balance.
    Sounds ridiculous? Have a look at http://www.fathead-movie.com and of course thehealthyskeptic.org

    Enjoy! Oh, and yes, crazy I am, but crazy and healthy.

    Reply
    • johanna

      Sam, I’ve been low-carbing for several years, and have not only lost weight (not enough!), but I feel so much better. I am on a flaxseed kick these days too, aside from my omega-3 supplements. Flaxseed in my low carb cereal with almond milk. Yum!

      Reply
  2. Chet Frame

    Keep on keepin’ on, Johanna. Be sure to ask for help. Remember, it’s a double mitzvah when you ask, because you create the opportunity for someone to do the mitzvah of helping.

    Reply
  3. Sam

    Johanna, great to read you take your health in your own hands and responsibility!

    I mostly eating flaxseed with cottage-Cheese for breakfast, love it. Will try almond milk, sounds good.
    My main problem was to find a good source of flaxseed oil, even most organic ones are spoiled before they reach the store shelf.

    I really hope you find more of the things that will make you feel better!

    Reply
  4. Adam Jacobson

    I’ve been a long time reader of your blog. Thanks for the post – it keeps my issues in context.
    I will say that you have a great teachable moment as someone who works with teams. You’re a very skilled person – but when you pick up a cane you become less of a person. How often people do that (ever seen a programmer consider a user stupid because they couldn’t use the software efficiently)
    just a thought.

    Reply
  5. Susan Smith

    Thanks for your post. I have battled some bizarre health issues for a few years now. I thought one was corrected only to have another come up a few months later. I have had to use a cane as well recently and related to your blog parts about that use. You are a wonderful teacher/coach/mentor so hang in there and continue to do the things you do best. Your writing and teaching has always been very helpful to me.

    Reply

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