Once Upon a Never…

I was certain I would never be among those women who turned to hormone replacement therapy (HRT) to deal with menopause. Frequent hot flashes are a big So What. They don’t hurt and they’re over in minutes. Dry skin? Use moisturizer. Anxiety? Who doesn’t have anxiety in the current political and economic climate?

But last fall, I realized that my writing productivity had dropped in half and was still sinking. I could not turn my mental gears for more than about a single scene most days.  A trip to the barn for a 45-minute horse back ride wiped me out for the day. My 10,000 steps were drifting down to 7,000…. most days… I guess. I was paying bills almost-late even though I had the money sitting in my account.

I did not feel like myself. I wasn’t acting like myself. I felt like a vague old dear who would soon be forgetting if she’d fed the cats. I am normally somewhat foggy because I live much of the time in my imagination–or I do when I’m on my game. This was different, more like screensaver mode, stuck in neutral. No energy, but can’t sleep.

A Duke Walked into a House Party by Brace BurrowesSo off to the doc I did go, and the doc’s first recommendation was HRT.

“I’ll try it,” says me, much to my own surprise, “because I’m losing my stories, and I need my stories to be me. Also to eat.” A couple months later, Doc gets the lab work back that says my thyroid juice is WAY too low, so we double that in addition to the prescribed testosterone and progesterone.

I am happy to report that after six months of following doctor’s orders, things are looking up–Lord Stephen Wentworth’s book is completed in draft, and that rascal played least in sight for all of 2019. My next step will be a hiatus on the hormones, because what if the whole problem was just my danged thyroid (again)? But even trying the HRT was something I’d told myself I’d never do. I have no patience with the notion that a woman “should” be sexy, attractive, alluring, or anything that uses male attention as a frame of reference. Heck with that.

She should be delighted with her lovely bad self all the time at every age no matter what–says me.

But I wasn’t so delighted with myself when I could not make the words happen. I love to write, and I knew when that started to slip from my grasp, it was time to cross at least one never off my list.

Do you have nevers? Are there bright lines you hope you never have to step over? Bright lines you have stepped over that maybe you should have hopped over sooner? To one commenter, I’ll send a $25 Barnes and Noble gift card.

And PS: One result of feeling a little more the thing is that I’m getting my backlist novellas repackaged and republished (hence A Duke Walked into a House Party, and A Lady Without Peer). I’ve also put a new cover on Percival and Esther Windham’s prequel novellas (The Courtship/The Duke and His Duchess), and I like this cover sooooo much better than the old one!


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33 comments on “Once Upon a Never…

  1. I have a bunch of nevahs BUT, nine times out of ten, I change my mind and DO whatever it was I said I never would. There is a time factor; if I said I wouldn’t do something TEN YEARS AGO, things might have changed to make me reconsider.

    A case in point (and you might think a frivolous example); about fifteen years ago I said I would NEVER wear capri pants because I thought they were unflattering. They were gaining in popularity and I didn’t like the styles that were out there either. My friends began wearing them and told me to forget the Bermuda shorts, capris were the way to go. Then, I was on vacation in the touristy town in northern Wisconsin we’ve been going to for 20 years and one of the nicest boutiques was having a sale. I saw the CUTEST pair of capris, 80% off and….I was hooked.

    When I was a kid I said I would never drink coffee ’cause my Mom was hooked and, low and behold, now so am I. I also said I would never be as strict as my parents when I was a parent……I wasn’t quite as strict but was pretty strict. 🙂

    Like you, I said I would never do HRT and I haven’t YET. I have come close to agreeing to it but I always give myself a deadline—if whatever doesn’t resolve or lessen in a certain amount of time, I’ll make an appointment and finally do it. So far, things resolve.

    I’m of the opinion that if you NEED to do something to function in your everyday life, you should do it. No matter if you said “never” once upon a time.

    • You are such a wise woman. I once said that I would never ever have a knee replacement – have needed both knees done for the last 17 years or so – but a visit to my new chiropractor revealed that having one leg shorter than the other for all that time has resulted in bone spurs, scoliosis (twisted spine) and compressed disks. All because I was too chicken and determined to live with it.

      I’m going to talk with the chiropractor next visit and see what he thinks of my having the surgery now, if it will help or hurt the spine. I am 62 and haven’t been able to walk the dogs for the last year. 🙁 Too unbalanced.

    • A therapist said to me forty years ago: If you need it to be happy, you need it.
      I thought that was kinda out there at the time. What’s happy got to do with anything? The older I got, the more I agree with her.

  2. Oh boy….I am back to a never ever! My blood pressure and weight did not pass muster at my last doctors appointment . So I am back at Weight Watchers- counting points, cooking healthy and packing up lunches in Tupperware.

    I should have realized that I was heading into trouble and should have figured this out. I know what foods to avoid and how to portion out my meals. But, I slipped up.
    About six years ago , I lost 35 pounds and kept 30 of it off for a few years….and now I have lost the extra 15 I packed on and have the 30 to go. UGH!

    The upside is that my corgi Greg likes to walk and with daylight savings time we should be able to walk when I get home from work. Rose the corgi misses her bagel crust and has adjusted to light English muffins for breakfast. Laci likes her walks in the morning.

    I am hoping not to cross the line again but…never say never!

    • Sue,
      I have busted through so many of my upper weight limits… and come to find out, that was just what was going to happen as my thyroid was under-medicated and mis-medicated. I weigh twice what my sisters weigh, but 1200 calories a day and running 20 miles a week didn’t get any weight off me, and it did make me miserable.
      So I applaud the part of you that is determined to get matters in hand, but I also suspect you didn’t slip up so awfully much. Our metabolism just betrays us as we age.

  3. So glad you are feeling more yourself, Grace!
    Yep, most of my Nevers involve health choices too. But until you’re actually confronted with the reality of what you think you would “never” do, you can’t know how you will pick. So I try to not be too dogmatic about it

    • That’s a good word–dogmatic. I can be very dogmatic once I come to a decision. Probably something I need to work on. (My whole family just exploded with laughter.)

  4. I’m feeling you. Had to get a steroid shot in a joint (postponing surgery there for a higher priority procedure) & it slammed my thyroid. Dishrags waltz compared to my current creativity & energy levels.

    • I am so sorry, Beth. I know you’ve been through the health wringer more than once. The only time I came up against steroids was when somebody put me on pred for a bad case of poison ivy. Two days later I was ready for the booby-hatch. Ditched the pred, and was a lot more careful about poison ivy after that.
      Here’s hoping it all falls into place for you, and that the rest of the year goes more smoothly.

  5. I too am going through menopause and I identified with so much of what you described. Thank you for sharing your experience and feelings. I have also struggled in recent years with anxiety and thought I would *never* turn to medicine for it, but finally brought it up to my doctor and she’s started me on something to see if it makes a difference. It seems to be helping already and I have a feeling I will look back and think, why didn’t I ask for help sooner? 🙂

    Thank you so much for your writing, Grace. I am currently re-reading your True Gentlemen series and just enjoying it so much. I am thrilled to hear Stephen’s story is in the works!

    All the best to you …
    ~ Dawn

    • Dawn, I recall when somebody said to me, “You know, anxiety is a symptom of menopause.”
      YA THINK? YA THINK MAYBE??? Nah. I hope whatever you’re taking works wonders. I did notice some fairly bad anxiety a few years ago, but 2016 was an anxious year all around. I’ve either learned to live with it or just chilled as a function of metabolic inertia.

      • Oh my. (The light bulb goes on!) Thank you for writing this. It never occurred to me that what I’m feeling could be menopause related, so I never researched it. I’m on HRT at a half-strength dose. This is something I’ll discuss at my next physical.

  6. I am so glad you feel better, and so glad that you thought to go to your doctor. Lack of good sleep is a hallmark of menopause, which I am sure you know, so if it comes back you may want to reconsider the HRT. I take it myself and have to say that it has helped. I’ve been on it for decades since I became menopausal overnight due to surgery (I was in my 40’s). I stuck it out for a while but couldn’t hack it.

    • I have never been a very good sleeper, but I do keep an eye on if the sleeping gets worse or the wakefulness patterns changes. I think I might be headed for “segmented sleep,” where you get up between about 1 am and 3 am and do quiet work. I actually got a lot of books written thanks to insomnia, so I don’t view as entirely a bad thing.

  7. Becoming disabled as a teenager meant there were a great deal of nevers I had to let go of with great accompanying pain (physical, psychological, emotional), so I try to spare myself that as much as possible by trying not to set new nevers. Of course I am not completely successful and find I am maybe stupidly stubborn over minor-ish things because I had to let go of so much earlier without in the moment connecting the dots. When I gave in, broke a never, and bought birkenstocks in my early twenties I went kicking and screaming. I wanted to wear beautiful youthful delicate feminine impractical shoes but my joints said no and I had to listen. Now I embrace a practical wide shoe, but it wasn’t a graceful process.

    • Heck. It doesn’t seem like too much to ask of life that you be allowed to swan about in the shoes of your choice. But as you say… Some Wish-Come-True’s come at too high a risk.
      I actually like Birkenstocks, as a shoe and as look. But then, I always liked when we had messy weather on court days, because then I could wear my paddock boots into the courtroom.

  8. I always said I would never quit my job but here i am. I quit my job to look after my mom who needs me. Sure, I miss working but I would have regrets if I did not.

  9. My favorite phrase is “never say never”. I adopted that one after eating those “never” words a few times. We just moved close to one of the children, I used to wonder why folks did that, now I know.

  10. Never did I ever…think I’d see a therapist on a regular basis. Over the 5 years since I decided to stay home and have children, I’ve felt more and more isolated and irritable and have just not been the person I want to be. I also, like so many other people, have a load of trauma from my childhood that I’d neatly tucked away and never dealt with. In talking to one of my good friends in passing a while back she mentioned “talking to her therapist.” I was so intrigued because she is one of the most put-together people I know and someone I’d NEVER imagine would see a therapist. I decided to call her therapist and make an appointment, just to see if it was something that could help me with my struggles and it has been such a game changer for me. I can’t believe I waited so long! When in doubt, make an appointment! 🙂

  11. I once said I’d never fly. Flew to Florida and back no problem. Last leg on a commuter, didn’t bother me, but flight attendant sat due to turbulence, a lil green in the face, my companion a veteran of many flights made her displeasure known and a youngster told his mom he wanted to kiss the ground when we landed. Would I do it again? I dunno, not because of my original reasons, but my compromised immunity doesn’t make it a wise idea ….. however…a chance at a trip to Scotland….whole ‘nother ball game.

  12. My very first never in my 20’s (100 years ago), “I’ll never pay over $10,000 for a car!”
    I have learned that it’s very bad for me to say “I’ll never …. anything”.

  13. I am glad to hear you are taking care of yourself! Why is it so hard for women to do that? And I include myself in that. I swore I would never quit one job without having another lined up. I told myself no matter how tough a job became I would not quit and leave myself without a source of income and most important, insurance. But a few years ago I made a split second “I cannot do this anymore.” decision to walk out of Walmart after 15 years and as frightening as it was I have never regretted it. I say I had nothing lined up, but I suspect the Universe was simply waiting for me to wake up and do what I had wanted to do since I was nine years old – write romance.

    I was also one of those people who said she would NEVER move back home once I left. Both of my brothers did multiple times and I swore I would not be like them. However, seven months after I quit Walmart my mother was released from rehab after a bad fall and we were told she really did not need to live alone any longer. For while we took turns staying with her but eventually I came to realize that my moving in with her was not giving up my independence, but my allowing her to keep as much of hers as she can. She drives me nuts sometimes, but know she will not be here forever and I am being allowed the privilege of spending as much time as possible with her.

  14. My never: I will never do another woman what was done to me. I imagine anyone reading this will understand what I mean without me stating it specifically.

  15. Interesting. My biggest depression and battle in 2019 was a result of my primary care provider informing me she would no longer prescribe my HRT. After close to 40 years, suddenly I’m going to get cancer from it? I was worried about depression (lost a sister to suicide during menopause) and broken bones (father’s demise was hastened by broken hip). Osteoporosis was always the threat that induced me to take HRT. Experience with messing with it indicated that depression was right behind. It never had anything to do with being feminine or sexy. I would miss your stories if you weren’t able to write them anymore. Please be rational about your choices. I found a reputable OBGYN to examine and prescribe. The anti HRT was based on non-significant results.

  16. Never thought I’d ever get on a plane but when your one and only baby chick moves halfway across the country, you put on your big girl panties and fly!

  17. I hope to never step over the getting a divorce line. There doesn’t seem to be much of a chance of that since my hubby and I are pretty good about talking things out. I never wanted to be the spouse that stayed at home, or the person without a cash paying job. I was a stay at home mom and really loved spending time with my kids and taking care of them and my husband. I went back to work after the kids got older. We paid for their college as well as a lot of other bills. Ten years of my time back at work involved a lot of lifting and physical labor. I now have chronic neck problems that include compressed discs, arthritis, and nerve pain. I should have quit my job sooner. As it stands now, I can’t sit for too long or stand for too long without the pain acting up. I am getting the house cleaned and organized slowly and am pretty happy being the stay at home spouse once again.

  18. I am not keen on hormone replacement either. I was describing my struggles with sleeping because of nightly hot flashes to a friend. She said go to the doctor and get the hormones. Several months later, I saw something on social media that claimed to decrease or eliminate the hot flashes and sleeping disruption, plus give increased energy. Off to the research courtesy of El Goog. I discovered a change in diet made a tremendous difference. I told my friend about it and she said it was like the diet she was following as part of My Peak Challenge. She also said that she hardly ever had hot flashes. I said that we hadn’t discussed much beyond the 5k element of the program. I wish she had mentioned the diet earlier. I am still not mentally the best, but I have better sleep quality and fewer hot flashes.
    I can say that unless someone gives me anti-anxiety medication, I will probably never walk on those glass floors hundreds of feet above something. I have a paralyzing fear of heights.

  19. Most of my nevers show how immature and clueless I was in my early 20s 🙁 As a young, newly married, childless woman it would drive me nuts when parents took their kids to resturants and the child would fuss and “interrupt” my enjoyment (because I guess it was all about me).

    It also really annoyed me when I was anywhere and knew the name of a child because parent’s would say “Johnny sit down, Johnny don’t make me count, Johnny you really don’t want me to count. Johnny 1, 2, 3.

    So I was never, ever going to be that parent. Needless to say 3 children later I shake my head thinking about my younger self.

  20. I am still taking estrogen 15 years after a complete hysterectomy. The progesterone no, I don’t need that! But without the estrogen I would never get out of bed. My hot flashes last an hour and a half or longer. They would occur anywhere at any time of day. So I just take it and have stopped making excuses for myself.

    I am sometimes cautious and sometimes impulsive. But as I age, I seem to be cautious more often! Lines crossed? Hell yes! Rebellious? Often! But that to has tapered off as I age. But I still refuse to apologize for that either.

    I am happy you have been able to pursue your dream. I had no idea you were still working as an attorney up until two years ago. I mistakenly thought you were a full-time author for many years

    Thanks for the chance on the gift card. I am home with acute bronchitis. Just as well. I should stay home anyway as I fall into the high risk group. Very scary situation we have on our hands. Stay healthy and stay safe!

    B. J. Schelin
    Bradenton, FL

  21. I’m so glad you’re getting your mojo back! You’re one of my “must read” authors and I’m sure your writing has influenced my own. Thank you for the countless hours of pleasure you’ve given!