Monday, October 03, 2016
Sometimes seeing a news feed full of smiling happy babies, parents bragging about their kids, cute announcements about new pregnancies or photos of newborns in the quintessential baby blanket is too much to take in. When that happens I deactivate my Facebook account until I stop feeling so emotional. I don’t announce these breaks. For all of my joking about being self absorbed, about being my own favorite subject (all true, though, as most jokes are. I kid, I kid) I don’t like to call attention to those moments. What’s the point, really? There’s nothing to be gained by it. So I quietly go away and quietly come back. And rarely has anyone commented on that.
I was trying to explain Facebook to a friend the other day. Though she doesn’t have an account, she asked me if I’d seen a certain bit of news. “No,” I said, “I disabled my accounts weeks ago.” This prompted her to ask if anyone had reached out to see if something was wrong, if I was okay. I laughed, “No,” I said. “That’s not how Facebook works.”
I believe that and, yet, I also wonder, if I were closer to people, maybe it would work that way?
I remember when I started blogging back in 2000; back then, if you were someone who posted on a regular basis, not posting something for a few days, a week, would trigger at least one “Hey, are you okay?” email. It isn’t that I think people cared more but I do think having to actively visit blogs created a level of investment that News Feeds don’t provide. You had your list of ten, fifteen, twenty blogs that you made the rounds on, and you could get to the point where you felt connected to someone. How deep that connection truly was, of course, is a question.
But now, in the days of 5000 friends lists, and endless ability to follow or subscribe to content, the act of taking in information is more passive and impersonal, I think. “But,” she protested, “haven’t they noticed that you haven’t posted or liked an announcement?”
“I’m sure not,” I said. “That’s just not the way it works.”
Facebook has allowed me to stay in touch with friends and family in El Salvador in a way that hasn’t been possible in the past; for that I appreciate the service but it has its cons. Though, truly, when it comes down to it, I don’t blame the service entirely, or at all, really. If this tool isn’t the one I need right now, then it’s on me to use any number of other services at my disposal. And maybe I will. Or maybe I’ll just reactivate my account. It is strangely fascinating to me how little I’ve missed it this time around, and at three weeks and counting, this has been the longest break I’ve taken.
I’m not ready to see any cute babies, just yet though. So I’ll continue the self-imposed ban for a little while longer. Maybe I’ll even use the time I would have spent scrolling and commenting by tackling some of my unread books. Wouldn’t that be something?
Saturday, October 01, 2016
Are you ready to make fun of me, I asked?
Why, the friend replied.
That’s when I brought my arms forward and showed him the lovely wrist braces and shared that the doctor had diagnosed me with Carpal Tunnel Syndrome.
You’ve had quite a year, he said. I reminded him that it’s been quite the two years.
Last year basically started out with a diagnosis of cancer, it ended with a diagnosis of plantar fasciitis, which isn’t quite as (or at all) lethal but it’s painful as hell. If you haven’t had to deal with it, just trust me, it is. That lasted all the way through March of this year and now, Carpal Tunnel Syndrome (or, CTS, if I may) on both wrists.
When the subject of my migraines comes up, I share with people that 20+ years of living with migraines has made me accustomed to being in pain but that doesn’t mean I get used to pain. So trying to get a good night’s sleep lately is basically impossible.
The hysterectomy had ripple effects that I’m still trying to cope with. The added pain issues don’t help; I don’t believe I get whiny when I’m in pain but I do get emotional and dealing with those moods takes a lot of mental energy. It’s draining on a lot of levels. But, such is life. At least, if I squint a bit and use a lot of imagination, I can make believe my wrist braces are more like Wonder Woman bracelets and I get to feel like I could take on any villain that gets in my way. Provided, of course, I don’t actually have to hit or block anything. That would be super painful!
Wednesday, September 28, 2016
I’ve always liked pretty clothes but I haven’t always felt worthy of buying them for myself. Then a job promotion four years ago forced the hand a bit; I felt I needed to upgrade my wardrobe in anticipation of a more visible role. With the lack of plus size clothing in stores I turned to shops online to fill the closet. This has had mixed results. Because I am
cheap thrifty, I rarely buy items at full price, choosing to wait, instead, for the sales. Often this means buying items during final sales which cannot be returned resulting in one of three things ... 1) the item fitting me just right, 2) the item being a tad small or, 3) the item being too big. The tad small items became aspirational and the too big items were destined for alterations.
Do you know how expensive alterations can be? I had no idea. After having two skirts altered I determined that that particular habit wasn’t something I could really do on any sort of regular basis. However, for a while I had no problems as I generally chose items that fit well.
Fast forward to spring 2015 (wait, is that a fast forward from four years ago or a rewind a year? Hmm, details. Moving on) when, after my hysterectomy, I went on a shopping spree that attempted to help me forget the cancer, hysterectomy, being left barren, etc. (Did I just etc the thing that still makes me cry every week? It appears I did. Go me!) When playing a numbers game, no matter the game, you end up with a higher probability of making mistakes. So, I ended up with way more un-returnable clothes than I had anticipated.
I didn’t really give it a lot of thought, however. I would wear the stuff the fit and put the rest in the closet. It wasn’t until I had to pack things for the recent move that I really got a sense of how much I’d bought and was unable to wear. I’d decided to donate big piles of clothes, many of the items still with tags or never worn, when I remembered that I’d seen someone on Twitter post something about shopping her closet. “Hmm,” I’d thought, “Maybe that’s something I should look into.”
That’s how I came to set up a “closet” on Poshmark, a site that lets you buy and sell new and used clothes.
I was happy when several of my items moved within a couple of weeks of listing them on the app but nothing’s moved for days now.
As with anything online, this probably requires more energy and time than I’m wishing to give to it. At some point, obviously, my inventory would die down as I don’t see this making me enough money to turn over my wardrobe on any kind of regular basis. But I can see how bargain shoppers could make some money out of buying things on sale in stores and then listing them online. Too much work, as I said. For now, especially with the December vacation coming up soon, I’m happy to make any extra money I can, especially when it doesn’t require more than listing items that are basically just taking up space on my shelves.
If you have things you no longer want to have your in your rotation you should check out Poshmark.
Thursday, September 22, 2016
On any platform, however, oversharing is considered taboo. Or else “awkward.” Awkward is a ubiquitous teen word to denote socially unsanctioned behavior. It usually implies first- or secondhand embarrassment when you or a friend step outside the rules. Awkward doesn’t sound overtly judgmental or negative; it’s deliberately vague.
The above comes from an article in Wired about teens and social media. I read it a day or two after posting my previous post. So I could do nothing else but laugh when I read that quote. The girls, I’m sure, if they were to ever see the raw, painful post about my wish for a baby would label it the very definition of awkward. I knew as I was writing it an subsequently deciding to post it that it would fall under the TMI side of most people’s scale but, for me, writing/blogging is about the raw and painful. It was never just about posting the bland, non-descript parts of the day to day. So, while I acknowledge that the previous post was full of angst, I’m more than okay with having posted it.
That self-consciousness is nothing I miss about growing up and growing into my own. I still have doubts, clearly. To paraphrase Steinbeck, “to be alive is to have doubts.” The trick is to figure out whether one should care about them or move on. That’s a life long lesson. Indeed.
Thursday, September 08, 2016
Not surprisingly, Hillary Clinton’s Humans of New York post resonated with me.
I’ve lost count of the number of times I’ve been told I’m intimidating, intense, unapproachable, unsociable and, the always favorite, bitchy. All because I’m not built to be everyone’s best friend. At times I’ve thought (though not any time in the recent past), “I should be nicer, softer. More people might like me then.” And then I’d remember that I have no patience for being something I’m not.
It’s easy to say one shouldn’t be thin-skinned or that words don’t matter but they do. Now, do they have to matter for ever? No, obviously not but it takes effort at times to shake something off. Having a sense of humor has helped and embracing the term bitchy as well. You’ve heard me say or seen me write that I always feel like I’m too much and yet not enough. That sentiment certainly has its roots firmly grounded in a lifetime of having to navigate a world where I’m expected to be independent, competent yet quiet and pleasing.
But don’t worry. All of the above was typed while I had a huge smile on my face.
Monday, August 22, 2016
If typing in the wrong URL for the login page isn’t a sign that I haven’t been posting enough, I don’t know what is. As is usual, there are things I think about writing but to actually type the words, that seems like an insurmountable task…
But enough of that. Let’s write about something that has been rattling around in my head for a couple of weeks. A coworker and I were on the topic of childhoods and discipline and I decided I would share an anecdote with her. Despite the fact that I come off as being a sharer (and an oversharer, I’ve been told) I do hesitate to say some things. Talking about the way that I was disciplined growing up, or, giving actual details, that’s something I reserve for people with whom I feel comfortable. This particular moment happened when I was 9 or 10 and I had gotten into trouble over something. As I walked away from my mother I muttered “bitch” under my breath. I hadn’t meant for that to be overheard but overhear it she did. Before I knew it, I had been spun around and a hand was traveling across my face. The smack was hard enough that it cut open an eyelid. And here’s the part that’s been bugging me since I told this story a few weeks ago.
I couldn’t, you see, remember which eyelid was cut. I have a scar on an eyelid but it’s so small that it’s hard to see or feel now. I remember feeling embarrassed, as if I was making more of the moment than I needed to because the scar wasn’t big enough to locate without doing some close inspection.
The absurdity of that feeling, however, didn’t hit me until a few days later. And it reminded me of how normalized abuse is in my life, or the history of it, anyways. Thankfully I’ve been able to structure my life so that I’m long past that but the emotional scars are still there. At some point, a few days after the conversation, I found myself laughing at myself. “Oh, Patricia,” I thought, “really? You’re embarrassed about the fact that your scar wasn’t bigger? How about feeling something about the fact that you have any scar at all?”
That’s the insidious thing about abuse, the invisible thing that people just don’t understand unless they’ve lived through something similar. The scars heal, they may even look like they’ve disappeared, but the emotional impact of abuse, there’s no way to fully grasp that because often the person doing the surviving, the living, the moving on has no clue about how deep the chasms go. You think you’ve got a grasp on things and then a small moment of embarrassment reminds you of how sad, painful, and ludicrous your existence was at times.
Friday, July 01, 2016
What are the things that define you? The things that you like to hear? On the flight back from SF I was thinking about this. When you’re stuck in a plane for six hours you have a lot of time to reflect. Though, really, this is my usual MO regardless of location; as I often say, I’m my most favorite subject! But I digress.
I had a fun, lovely time during my short visit to Northern California. Three things stick in my mind that call back to my questions above.
On my trip I was told:
1. “We’re so proud of you and what you’ve accomplished.” I didn’t go looking for that or asked for it but hearing it from people who have always wished well for me, it’s a generous gift.
2. “I’d know that hair anywhere.” This could go either way, right? But no matter how annoyed I am at my hair it’s been consistently a thing that I have liked about myself. And, vain as it may seem, there were times when coming up with things I liked about myself was hard so whenever someone compliments my hair it’s fun.
3. “You’re funny!” Being told I’m funny ranks up there with being told I’m smart, good at my job, take good photos, write well. I don’t practice being funny so it seems strange to feel prideful of this trait and yet I do. And having people recognize it, well, that too is fun.
So, that’s me I guess. Funny with good hair that has managed, through trials and tribulations, to get to a good place. I’ll take it. Maybe in my next life I can add good singing voice and an ability for quantum physics. Then, man, I would really be something, wouldn’t I??
Monday, June 27, 2016
While having lunch with a friend on Saturday, she began to tell me a story about someone she knows who has developed a fear of flying. “But,” she said, “someone who hasn’t had a fear before, that doesn’t develop without some kind of traumatic event -” She seemed to be implying that because there had been no near death experience via flying that there couldn’t or shouldn’t be any reason why this person would now be afraid of getting on a plane.
“I’m afraid of flying now,” I shared. She blinked and said nothing so I continued. “Ever since the cancer last year and the surgery, I’m afraid of flying and that was never the case. I’m okay after the take off but before that my stomach churns, I am jittery and afraid. Fear of death will do it, I guess.”
She nodded but didn’t seem that convinced.
I realize I put her in a bit of a spot because is she really going to argue with my assessment? That’s the thing about mentioning the C-word, it has an unfortunate ability to shut things down. The laying down of the Cancer card isn’t anything I do intentionally, nor do I really even like bringing it up. But this wrong idea that the brain always works in such a linear fashion made me want to speak up. I was a psych major for a reason; the way that the mind is constantly making connections, trying to make sense of the world or the way it can sometimes misfire is fascinating really.
If I spend time psychoanalyzing myself it isn’t that hard to figure out why the fear of flying has come into play. Being diagnosed with cancer and having to have body parts cut out in order to cure it, then spending weeks waiting to hear if the cancer had spread, there was no controlling that. Nothing I did could change the trajectory of that life event. Flying is a bit like that, right? Once I’m on the plane, whether I make it to my next destination isn’t up to me. Of course, we could say that about pretty much any action I take every day of my life but to worry and be on high alert every minute of the day would be ridiculously overwhelming so let’s thank the brain for choosing to only do this when I have to fly. That’s manageable, mostly because I don’t do much traveling!
Still, I’m hoping that with a little more time passing, the anxiety around flying will fade away. Just because I can pinpoint it to a particular traumatic part of my life doesn’t mean it makes it any less annoying to have to deal with.
Wednesday, April 06, 2016
When I revived the blog I said I was doing it because there were things that needed to be written. That remains true. Writing has always been cathartic for me, it was a way to get the swirling thoughts out of my head in a way that made me process emotions, ideas, aspirations, fears, anger, etc. Everything that happened last year should have been accompanied by heavy bouts of writing but I was so out of habit, not just with blogging, but with actual writing that I didn’t do it. As a consequence, all of these words continue to live in my head.
The problem is, I don’t want this to be the cancer blog. I don’t want to have entry after entry of just depressing content. Because, that’s the thing about writing in public, isn’t it? It isn’t just a therapeutic exercise. It’s the creation of “content”; the understanding that the words, once given life outside of myself, are going to be processed by others and that changes things. This isn’t a bad thing, this isn’t a condemnation of living our lives, part of our lives, in public spaces. It’s just a layer. How much that matters is up to each of us.
As I chafe against having every entry be about the cancer, and, hell, if I’m honest the cancer isn’t what I think about or cry over on still a very regular basis. It’s the infertility, stupid. That’s the root of the sadness. So, because I don’t want this to be entry after entry about how that has affected me, I don’t write. I don’t write despite knowing I need to write.
So, for now, I’ll just do a bit of a brain dump:
- Thing one: I finished A Tale of Two Cities. I had a hard time finding a groove because of the style of writing. The story itself I enjoyed very much so I know I’ll go back and reread it at some point. I also greatly enjoyed having the chance to discuss the book with someone; so the mini-bookclub was a success in that regard. I realized that while I was aware of the famous first line (It was the best of times…) I wasn’t attributing another famous line to this story. When I read the last line (It is a far, far better thing that I do…) I gasped and thought, “Oh! That is from this book?!?” I know know exactly why I find that note worthy and yet I do. Next up for the mini-bookclub is Atlas Shrugged. It’s one of those books that people reference a lot (especially lately) but that I can’t speak to having never read it. From the little I know about the book the reading and discussion should be interesting.
I am so close to being done with the cross stitch project that I intend to give to my mother on Mother’s Day. I’m generally happy with the way it’s come out. It has been a few years since I worked on a project this big (it’s an 8x11 cross stitch) so it’s given me ample time to become aware of the short cuts I take. I imagine that may improve if I stick with the plan of stitching on a more regular basis. Though I don’t want to impose such a tight deadline on myself for anything else. Getting this done for May has meant putting aside other activities and that’s definitely not a sustainable way to live my life.
Hmm. I thought I had a third thing but maybe the beginning of this entry was thing number one. This will do for now.
Friday, March 11, 2016
For as long as I can remember, I’ve experienced sharp, lucid dreams; dreams in which I am aware that I am dreaming. In doing some reading about this, I’ve read that some people have reached the point where they can direct the dreams. I’ve never tried to accomplish this. One, because I’m not sure how one would go about doing that. Two, while they happen often enough, they don’t happen so often that this is top of mind for me.
Some of the dreams can be fun. There was the one where I was a superhero and was kicking badguy ass left and right. I had a super cute superhero suit and super speed. The part of me that was aware that I was dreaming thought, “Cool. It’s like my own little comic book movie!”
While other dreams are emotionally intense and leave me quite disoriented upon waking. Like the dream within dream where my dream baby died. I remember thinking, while dreaming, that it was an awful dream and I wanted very much to be able to wake up so I tried to do that. I woke up relieved that the awful dream was done and that my baby was well. The part of my brain that knew all of this was just a giant mind game knew things were still not right. So when I finally woke up from this multi layered brainscape I had to work hard at understanding my reality. “Wait. Do I have a baby? Is my baby dead? No, right. I don’t have a baby. Thank god that was a dream.”
There I lay in bed, both relieved and sad that I had no baby to lose but still wishing my life wasn’t child-less. Can I tell you how hard it is to process that many feelings and sense of confusion so early in the morning and still get up with some energy to get to work? I probably don’t have to tell you. You can probably guess.
I was told I had cancer on a Friday morning, as I’ve previously shared. Friday, January 22nd to be exact. And from that day on, for about two months, I woke up every day with the feeling that that call had been a dream. All of the fear, the tears, the confusion, the anger, the grief; it all seemed surreal. So surreal that I was certain at any moment I would wake up thinking, “My god. That was the most detailed dream I’ve ever had!”
Each day there was the waking up with the confusion and the slight hope that this horrible thing would magically go away. Each day I was forced to accept that this was my life now. It’s gotten better; I don’t wake up every day believing the cancer was a dream but it would be a lie to say that, even a year out and with a clean bill of health, I don’t sometimes wonder when I’m going to wake up and be able to put this nightmare behind me.
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