Friday, February 12, 2016
test for the archives
Years ago I had to park my car on the street for a good stretch of time. You’d think that that would have made me an even better parallel parker but it did not. Unless I could easily steer my car into the spot I would bypass it and go in search of something that wouldn’t cause me to have visions of bumping into all the cars ever made. Sometimes I ended up far away from home but that was preferable to struggling to park the car.
I saw nothing wrong with this habit. My father, however, did. On the way back home from lunch one day we drove past a spot he deemed perfectly acceptable. “No way I can get my car in there,” I said and drove on. We circled back around a few minutes later and the spot was still there. “Park there,” he said. “I can’t,” I replied and drove past it.
You’re smart cookies so I know you know I ended up circling back around and of course the spot was still there. Are you getting the picture of how tight this spot was? With obviously very limited parking in the neighborhood this spot had been left empty for a good while. “Park there,” he said. “I-”
He interrupted with, “You’re parking here.” The tone of his voice made it quite clear that despite my 30-some years he was pulling the dad card.
It took a lot of inching back and forth and a lot of careful watching as he guided me into the spot but I managed to wedge it in there.
“See,” he said, “it wasn’t that hard and now you know you can do it.”
Now that I have a car again and am back to having to parallel park the car in the city, boy, am I ever so grateful that my dad took the time to force me to improve my driving. That lesson comes in handy often.
How is it that it’s been fifteen years since I discovered blogs and decided to start one and I’ve not quite figured out what should go here exactly? I distinctly remember pondering this question fifteen years ago; especially on the days when I was posting multiple times a day. What matters? What is interesting? What will I want to remember? Asking those questions curbed the many many posts about the day to day that is my life. But it also sometimes stalled me.
There’s also the added fact that we don’t always know what’s going to matter, do we? A random phone call or message easily forgotten in the moment can, after a time, take on more meaning. “Oh, if I’d known that was the last conversation I was going to have, I would have done it better-” Or, hell, sometimes angrier is the way to go. In this case I’m thinking specifically about a conversation I had on April 11 of last year. That call deserved some angry words. Not mean words, mind you, but a better, stronger articulation of my disappointment and emotions. But that’s a story for another day.
Enough rambling. (Why, hello, 2001! Didn’t think I’d see you again.) This really was just a poor way of saying, I know this space is here and I know I want to use it better. I’m just trying to figure out what better means. I’m open to suggestions.
Someone was telling me recently that he felt an obligation to attend a social function.
“Why?” I asked.
“Are you friends? Do you care above the normal ‘I wish everyone well’ level of caring about this person’s future? Because if you don’t, then I don’t see the need to go. And by going you’re actually giving the person the impression that there is a friendship here and you shouldn’t do that.”
There was a little bit of back and forth which ended with, “Patricia, you’re mean!”
This is not the first time I’ve heard this. It likely won’t be the last. I know how I am perceived, I know I’m not perceived as the nicest apple in the playground. I am okay with that because I am not actively mean. I do not actively seek to hurt people. I take pride in not being a “mean girl”.* However, because - like any good introvert - superficial connections are something I dislike and avoid, I don’t see the need to push myself to do something when there isn’t a true established connection.
But, Patricia, you’re saying, what about social niceties? You’re right. We can’t ignore them, they’re important in a civilized society, if you don’t want people acting like narcissistic heathens. I encourage people to behave in mannerly ways. I hold the door open for someone if they’re immediately behind me. I put my hand in harms way to stop the elevator doors closing if I see someone rushing to get in the elevator. I give up my seat for someone who seems to need it more. These things I do because they should be done but I don’t for one second imagine that this has established a connection, the person I just gave my seat to are not suddenly BFFs. Why do we feel this need to label everyone as a friend? Does this mean we can only be nice to friends? What’s the harm in doing something nice for a complete stranger knowing that you’ll probably never see them again?
Having and using good manners does not mean you have to try and be friends with every single person you’ve ever met. Who has the time and energy for that? Plus, there’s an authenticity to simply doing something for the sake of doing it and not because it may win us popularity points. Which is why I balk at pretending to be friends with someone who I’m not friends with. If I do that, in my mind, I’m diluting my true friendships. I don’t know. Maybe I’m just trying to rationalize being selfish with my time. Maybe deep down I mind that people label me as mean or bitchy.
I’ll ponder that some more later when I’m home enjoying my time and not out forcing myself to have superficial interactions that don’t add positive energy into my life.
*Though, of course, anytime I write that I take pride in being something or not being something, I immediately think of several examples of moments when I was or wasn’t the thing I’m saying I take pride in. But, hey, I’m human, I am flawed. I am a work in progress. I can aspire to be something while at the same time acknowledging that there are areas of improvement. Moving on, or, since this is a footnote, moving back.
I expected to like Carrie Fisher’s book, Postcards from the Edge, because I enjoyed the movie. Though I haven’t seen it in a while scenes from the movie, lines, the tone in which those lines were delivered often pop into my head. (“It twirled up!”)
To my surprise I didn’t care for the book. So much so that I felt guilty and out of touch. I’m supposed to like this, I thought. Where or when this was message was picked up by me I do not know. With trepidation I opened a Gchat window and sent a message to Miss Bliss, “is it wrong,” I asked, “that I don’t like postcards from the edge?” After explaining why - seems too self indulgent, too pithy, I didn’t care for any of the main characters etc - I decided to absolve myself from the senseless guilt and just let it be. Though this is where I perhaps express some delight in not having a library card. Ha! There’s no card to strip me off, library mafia! That is a thing, yes? Oh, why am I asking? As if anyone would admit it.
After the chat, I thought I was done thinking about the book but I was wrong. As I finished my dinner from a fast food place it hit me. The main reason why this book troubles me. In my chat with Bliss I mentioned that the description of Suzanne’s therapy sessions was the reason I chose to not become a therapist. The idea of sitting day after day listening to people analyze their lives and yet make no progress- I wasn’t built for that! How dreadful, I thought then and I still think that now.
But with the smell of the burger and fries still lingering in the air, the grease sitting heavy in my stomach, I thought, “That’s me. I’m Suzanne.” Mind you, this is no grand epiphany. I’ve had probably every thought one can have about food and dieting, fat and exercise in the oh 40-some years of living in this world as a fat person.
No, the epiphany was that I didn’t dislike the book for the writing, the unlikable characters, the overly pithy dialogue. I disliked it for something Ms. Fisher can’t control. Her book was a mirror and the reflection I saw is of something I say I want to change and yet I haven’t found the strength to do so. Much like Suzanne keeps gravitating to men who don’t fill the void she’s feeling, I keep choosing food that does nothing but leave me feeling weak, out of control and undisciplined. I’m the person on the couch, year after year, boring the therapist with my overly indulgent thoughts as to why I make these choices, rationalizing them, and still not capable of just stopping.
As a psychology major I believe we work our good and bad habits for a reason. What I can’t or won’t admit to myself is exactly what I get from staying fat. It isn’t a love of food. Oh, do I wish it were that. At least if that were the case I would have enjoyed getting this fat.
So, these are things I’m pondering. I also wonder if I should go back to Goodreads to revise the three star rating I gave the book. I’m not sure yet.
The only thing I’m sure about is that I’m feeling good that I went to the gym and did 40 minutes on the treadmill. I didn’t make great food choices today and the one gym session won’t undo all the calories I took in but it was one good decision. And for now one good decision will have to do.
Several jobs ago I was asked to draft a contract amendment. I’d never drafted a contract amendment and there were none in the office to look at so I turned to your friend and mine, Google, and searched for something that I’m sure resembled, “how to draft an amendment for a contract.” I remember (why do I remember this so vividly?) that the very first link gave me exactly what I needed. I drafted the amendment, the boss was happy with the work, and life went on.
Nearly a decade later I still sometimes turn to Google to help me with my job. While other people worry about inappropriate links showing up in their search history I worry about the powers that be looking at all of my “how do I do xyz?” queries and wondering why exactly they pay me to show up every day.
When Confessions of a Shopaholic came out in 2009 it included the scene above. Upon seeing it, I laughed much harder than the other folks in the theater because it was entirely way too familiar for me. So now, each time I find myself doing one of these searches I think of this scene and the line, “Yes, I Googled” pops into my head.
In the fall of 2014 I finally worked up the nerve to talk to a gynecologist about fertility treatments. I went in knowing that my weight and my age would be working against me. But with my 42nd birthday quickly approaching I knew I was running out of time. We discussed these two things and she told me to not waste any time calling the fertility clinic. With her advice fresh in my mind, I looked up the number for the clinic while sitting in my car outside the gynecologist’s office. I was pleasantly surprised to see that there was a way to request an appointment online. (There just isn’t any good way to explain the relief that comes with knowing that one can delay actual interaction with another human being. When I tell people that I’m an introvert, I don’t say it because it seems to be the “it” thing to be nowadays.) I filled out the form, started my car and pulled out of the parking space.
Before I even left the parking lot, I had received a call back and had set an appointment for the following week. “Holy shit,” I remember thinking, “this is happening.”
The visit with the fertility doctor was as intimidating as I had expected it to be. He was unhappy about my weight and my age. The former I was told needed to be dealt with before any actual treatment could be done and the latter, well, not much to be done there except not waste a lot of time.
“Do you drink,” he asked. “No,” I replied. “Smoke? Do drugs? Sexually active?” “No, no, and no.” “You’re no fun,” was his official diagnosis. I ruefully considered that I hardly needed to shell out the copay to be told that. I get that told to me on a nearly weekly basis, at least every time I join friends for drinks. After that brief conversation with the fertility doctor I was sent along to speak with a nurse and the financial advisor. It was all a strange mix of hopeful, clinical, sad, and demoralizing. Despite not being able to start with treatments until I’d lost some weight, there were still tests that could be done, I was told. The timing, however, was a bit of an issue as I was leaving for my annual December trip in a few weeks. I decided then to take the rest of the year to focus on the weight loss and to start the new year with the tests and other matters.
I spent November and December thinking about the possibility that, if things went well (“please let things go well”), I could maybe, possibly, hopefully be pregnant at some point in 2015. That thought exhilarated and frightened me. I also spent November and December trying to not think those things. “We’ll just see,” I thought. “Stop. We’ll see how things go.”
I’ve spent my life, it sometimes feels like, doing risk assessments. If A, then B. If this, then that. Something could go wrong. Think positively, plan for the worst, etc etc. While I certainly considered the idea that I’d have trouble conceiving, or I’d run out of money, it was an idea, one of a million that ran through my head. That’s just the way that my brain works so I’m used to it and, because not every result has always been a bad one, the idea that things would work out just fine also lived in a parallel track.
Even when the doctor ordered extra tests because he didn’t like the results of some of the routine tests I still thought, “Maybe, possibly, hopefully.”
Until the morning of Friday, January 23rd rolled around and I finally was able to connect with the doctor after several days of playing phone tag.
“Patricia,” he said, “you have endometiral cancer.”
It’s telling, I think, that my first and only question was, “What does this mean for my ability to have a baby?”
He must have known, of course. Thinking back I think he must have known the answer to that but he demurred and simply said that the oncologist would be better able to answer that. He reassured me that I would come out of this just fine.
But that’s the sort of thing that is subjective, isn’t it? One person’s fine is another person’s shattered world. What does a person do when the one thing you’ve wanted for as long as you can remember is taken away? (Of course I know there are other options and we’ll touch on them at a later point but in that moment, those words, that truth was devastating.)
The worst of it is, this was preventable. Had I gone to the doctor more often. Had I tried getting pregnant earlier. Had I just -
done life better.
Maybe, possibly, hopefully, I wouldn’t be so angry with myself. For allowing something that I have wanted for so long to slip away. I know there are no guarantees but through my inactions I let even the possibility slip away and I haven’t yet forgiven myself for that.
So here I am, a year and three days since my world changed and the tears come just as easily and freely as if I’d gotten the call today.
Truth be told, I think that’s why I was so ready to come back to the blog. While I’ve shared some of the above (and more) with a few friends, the words are still just living in my head and I have this hope that if I put them out here that the grief will lessen. Though maybe it’s just more time that’s needed. Perhaps both. So, fair warning, it won’t be the topic of every post or every day, but the events of the last year and the repercussions (as they’re still being felt) will come up. Those of you who remember reading me know things can get uncomfortably TMI-ish. Knowing is half the battle, as they say.
I have been here for years. If by here we mean the world wide web and not this blog or this domain specifically. I moved away from the blog for reasons that I can’t now remember and took to micro-blogging on Facebook and then Google+. And while I certainly have enjoyed the social aspects of those networks, I have missed the ability to really write, to do the brain dumps, the emotional word therapy that got me through much of the 2000s. I have also missed the creative outlet that coding and designing the blog (and sites) allowed. Granted, I don’t by any means harbor any grand delusions that I became a master coder or designer but it was fun to learn new coding tricks or to see something on the web that I had dreamt up and been able to give life to.
It’s taken a little while to really get this back up and running, however. Being without a laptop (since March 2015) was a bit of a challenge and I had to get over the need to start over from scratch. To let go of the idea of bringing this back bigger, faster, stronger because, quite frankly, that sort of perfectionism is just the killer of dreams sometimes. So, I dusted off some old code, some old css (circa 2006, thank you very much) and here we are. I’m going to try and focus on the words for now. Maybe when I am able to get a nice shiny Mac again, I’ll shift some of the energy back to the coding, to tinkering with the behind the scenes stuff but for now this works. I have a box to type in, you have a place to comment if you wish. The rest will get sorted along the way.
So, thanks as always for reading. And let’s see what comes of it, shall we? I have stuff to say. Hopefully you’ll enjoy reading it again.