Category Archives: Seriously

My Year of Fear

Over three years ago, I started Under the Tapestry with a question: What would you do if you weren’t afraid?

Over three years since my first post! Hard to believe!
Over three years since my first post! Hard to believe!

I answered the question by sharing my story, by putting my words out there, and engaging (with the internet) in an honest and authentic way.

It’s been stilted lately, though, this little blog-o-mine. And I’ve struggled to figure out why.

 

Last week, I enjoyed my first two days at Leadership Marshfield, a training program put on through the Marshfield Area Chamber of Commerce and Industry (MACCI) focused on enhancing the ability of potential community leaders to function effectively. It was an amazing experience and I’m really excited to continue with the program over the next 7 months… but it’s already had an impact.

Yay, Marshfield! I did this tiny town of mine!! {Source}
Yay, Marshfield! I dig this tiny town of mine!! {Source}

On the second day of the two day retreat, we were instructed to prepare to share our personal leadership hero(es) with the group… with a prop. Naturally, on my way home from day one, I stopped at the (brand spanking new and beautiful) Everett Roehl Marshfield Public Library to check out a copy of Sheryl Sandberg’s Lean In. (Don’t get me wrong, I own it, of course… but a Kindle just doesn’t make a terribly effective prop, in my opinion.) It was actually on the cart behind the circulation desk to be reshelved, which made my heart happy knowing someone else had recently had their hands on it, and I brought it with me the next day.

Still my favorite -- find it on Amazon here.
Still my favorite — find it on Amazon here or check out your local public library!

The next morning, I stood up in front of the group and talked about my two leadership heroes:

(1) Sheryl Sandberg, COO of Facebook and author of Lean In, who changed my entire perspective about what it really means to engage in my life, my workplace, and my community. She taught me not to be ashamed or afraid of what and who I am, to value myself for my talents and my passions, and to move forward, with gusto, whenever I’m able.

(2) Ronda Kopelke, Director of the Marshfield Clinic Center for Community Outreach, who showed me what an amazing manager and leader should look like, up close and in practice. She continues to teach me (literally daily) what it means to really care about the people around you and to help them understand that you do. She’s also shown me how to be solution-oriented and engage with people in a positive, respectful, relationship-focused manner.

I sat back down, and then Shelley from Roehl popped up (sharing at Leadership Marshfield is popcorn-style… mmmmm… popcorn) and was mad/glad that I stole her thunder/had the same leadership role model as her. Again, my heart, so glad!

I thought a lot about Sheryl Sandberg that day, chatted with Shelley about her and about Lean In at the ROPES course (yes, I did the mother effing high ropes!! impressed? I am! go me!) and thought about what it was that reading that book had done for me and how it had changed my trajectory in the first place.

Sheryl Sandberg was the one who had asked me (and the millions and millions of other readers of Lean In) that question that started it all: what would you do if you weren’t afraid?

And I did those things. A lot of them. The blog three years ago. The ROPES course three days ago.

But I had never thought about the converse question:

What does it look like when you’re living in fear?

 

I know the answer now. Not on purpose. Not because I want to. But I look back on the last year and I can see, so clearly, what it looks like when I am afraid and I choose to live there.

I run. Literally, metaphorically. All of the above. I ran from my life and from everything that hurt and was scary. I ran and ran and ran. A marathon. Until I broke my foot (not literally, I just pulled a ligament, but it hurts like a b, so there’s that). I ate my way through Festival Foods to run from feelings and stopped vacuuming my floors. I ran from real life. I said yes to everything and anything at work to run from free time and I have ensured that I’ve had none over these past several months. No time to think or dwell, only run. From one assignment to the next. One workout to the next. One bag of chips (or box of candy, carton of ice cream, etc) to the next.

Yeah, I ate a lot... but I ran a lot too. So let's let the photo be of that at this point ;)
Yeah, I ate a lot… but I ran a lot too. So let’s let the photo be of that at this point 😉

I even ran from writing and sharing and speaking and connecting. So much of me was just so tender and everything and anything could be salt in the wound without warning.

I have been afraid.

 

Of what, though, really? Grief after a miscarriage is one thing, but fear? I mean, fear that it would happen again would be rational… but you have to get pregnant first for that to be a possibility… getting pregnant is even less my strong suit than staying pregnant, so what then?

The what, I have to assume, is failure. That infertility wins and this is it. And “it” is failure. A life of settling because I can’t do the thing I want to do. That I felt so strongly I was supposed to do. Meant to do even. Family is the next step — love, (schoooooool), marriage… baby carriage. Even my childhood rhymes said so!

It hurts to fail. And I can do physical pain, but emotional? Nope. I hate it. It feels bad to be jealous, too. And I felt like I had replaced my rose-colored glasses with green ones, everywhere I looked ultrasounds and bumps and even literal baby carriages that weren’t mine. Might very well never be. I don’t like those feelings. I don’t like to fail. So I ran, cowered, stopped vacuuming.

 

This September, the anniversary of all the bad stuff came and went. The missing heartbeat on September 11th. The surgery on the 16th. The black days immediately after when I felt like I couldn’t breath… and didn’t want to. A year later, I’m still here. Still moving. And slowly recognizing a haze of fear. Recognition.

 

I take you back to the scene in Love Actually when Mark confesses his completely unrequited love to Juliet (yes, I’ve literally already said this) and then walks away, saying to himself, “Enough. Enough now.” It’s like that. Just like that.

Enough now.

Time to move on. To stop being afraid. Or, at the very least, to stop running from it. To face fear head on. Like Brene Brown and FDR’s man in the arena (highly recommend Brene Brown’s Daring Greatly). But also like Shana Niequist in Present Over Perfect (my newest and truest literary love affair) — sitting with it, even when it’s uncomfortable. Letting myself feel it and living my life anyway.

We have a lot of moments in life that are before and after type moments. Things that define us. But sometimes the moment is longer than a moment. Sometimes the moment is more like a year. For me, it was a year of fear. A year spent running, but getting nowhere. Except back to life. And that’s ok.

Straight Hair and Monkey Agar: A Question of Existence

I straighten my hair maybe twice a year. It’s kind of a lot of work and exceptionally sensitive to moisture, so only given the right amount of time and a precipitation-free forecast will I even consider doing it on my own.

Straight hair -- feels so good!
Straight hair — feels so good!

Last Friday was one such day. It was a marathon training rest day, which makes for a considerable amount of extra time in the morning because I am a s-l-o-w runner, and there was a 0% chance of precipitation (lies!! but that’s not important).

As I ran those super-heated ceramic plates over and over and over my clipped up, back, over, and down strands, I thought back to the first time…

It was my senior year of high school and I sat on a toilet seat in the upstairs bathroom at my bestie Stephine’s. We were getting ready for a Halloween party — I was going as a witch. A subtly sexy witch, heavily eye make-upped, and nursing a crush on a friend. That was when Stephine pulled out the straightening iron. Because nothing says I’m-subtly-sexy-and-you-should-date-me like flat-ironed locks, am I right?

Stephine did my hair and then I returned the favor. We both looked ridiculously good, of course. Probably less because of our hair than because we always, always had F-U-N together and the party promised more of the same. But I don’t remember the party, really. Only a little bit, and probably mostly because there are pictures.

Oh, hey -- here's a picture from that party. Incidentally, this man is now Stephine's husband. And baby daddy. Which absolutely delights me! But more to the point -- that straight, straight hair, right? Super sexy with the witch hat!
Oh, hey — here’s a picture from that party. Incidentally, this man is (not the aforementioned crush, but is) now Stephine’s husband. And baby daddy. Which absolutely delights me! But more to the point — that straight, straight hair, right? Super sexy with the witch hat!

(Of importance here, LHS c/o 2001 was exceptionally goody two shoed. And quite frankly, proud of it. Chances are excellent that Christin’s parents were home during the party. Probably participating. Because they’re awesome, as were all of our parents, and they treated us like the fun loving nerds that we were. I’m sure alcohol and the like happened… but it must have been happening elsewhere. Mostly, we ate pizza and sang to whatever Stephine’s dad played for us while sitting around a fire or biology books or a Pistons game or a lawn croquet set or whatever. A lot of us literally went to band camp, the rest of us were in drama and/or AP biology. All that to say that when I write “I don’t remember the party, really,” it’s not about being blackout drunk or otherwise altered in anyway. It was just a long time ago.)

So, I don’t really remember the party. But I do remember that tiny bathroom, the flat iron, and my friend Stephine making me feel pretty for some long forgotten boy.

In this season of It’s a Wonderful Life and my frequent internal response of, “really? is it?” this small scene that popped into my head made a surprisingly big difference. Certainly, that flat iron didn’t really* change my life. But sometimes that memory comes back anyway. And it made existence kind of seem worth it. (Non-sequitur, yes, but hang with me for a sec.)

 

To wish for non-existence is a hard thing to explain. It’s not that I wish to be dead… just that I didn’t exist. And there’s a surprisingly big difference there. I hate the things I think about myself, I hate the things I know other people are thinking about me. The debates they have amongst themselves about when to tell me what so as how best to not hurt me (hint: it always hurts, so it really doesn’t matter). The whispered plans about what might be “too hard” for me, what might be ok (hint: it’s always simultaneously too hard and in the end ok). The feeling that I’m surrounded by land mines covered in egg shells.

If I just didn’t exist, none of that would be true.

And let’s be honest — I’m not exactly George Bailey. My wingless angel isn’t going to show me miserable people and a hometown swallowed whole by corruption. One less blog, a few still-happy people with an alternative assortment of friends or family, a different writer in my chair, perhaps. But nothing earth shattering. Except away go the egg shells and the landmines. No need to tiptoe, no cause to whisper. And that’s what I thought would be best. For everyone.

 

But to not exist means to not have the flat iron scene in that little bathroom. Or any little scene like it.

Callie purring on the end of my bed. The taste of over-sweetened grape koolaid at the kitchen counter. Pointless hikes through a poison ivy infested field. Drumsticks flying through a Go! cadence. Popping into the room next door on the fourth floor of Wadsworth Hall. The northern lights swirling around Misery Bay. Trussing a duck; still not really knowing what trussing means. Surprise kisses from Curly.

A million little moments. Moments that didn’t change anyone’s life, really, but matter anyway.

When I stood in the bathroom on Friday, straightening my hair, desperately trying to not sweat (because moisture from the inside is as threatening to straight hair as moisture from without), I thought that maybe that’s what existing is about. Maybe that’s the problem with loving It’s a Wonderful Life — it makes me believe in the notion that my life is only worth anything if no one else could possibly do without me.

That’s narcissistic. Yet, so is my realization — that my life really is about me.

Yes, by existing in my broken state, I probably do pose a challenge to other people. I’m probably frustrating, a source of discomfort. Surrounded by egg shells and landmines. But the way other people choose to react to my brokenness, on tiptoe or otherwise, isn’t really my business, is it? My existence is not to please another, but to have moments along the way that please me when I look back on them. Like the little scene with Stephine.

Maybe, if I’m doing things right, I may even pop up as part of the happy scenes that come back when other people find themselves doing mundane things. And that’s nice. But probably not the point.

 

My friend Lara, doctor of philosophy, writer of novels, mother of human, said to me on one of my more recent boo hooey posts:

Please don’t think your worth is tied to what you can do for others. You matter simply because you *are*, because you exist.

Because she’s smarter than me. By a lot.

I originally interpreted the notion she presented as a reason to wish myself out of existence. I think that was not her point.

Rather, on a day-to-day basis, existence is about moments. Getting through the hard ones, surviving the devastating ones, enjoying the simple ones, remembering the happy ones, being present whenever possible. Maybe there’s a larger purpose, a plan, a tapestry, but I know that’s not something I should be too concerned about. Even though I continually am. I can’t see it or change it or feel it. Not really. I can only trust it. Only live my moments. Exist.

 

Incidentally, like Stephine introduced me to hair straightening, Lara introduced me to microbiology — gone was the tiny bathroom of high school, in its place the lab where Lara ruled and I rotated first. Lara was the first person I tried to talk to about microbiology, when it was still so new and so fresh that I was saying “Monkey” agar instead of MacConkey Agar. Which even now makes me laugh.

Moment worth existing for.

(Or, for those opposed to ending on a preposition, no matter how thoughtful: A moment that makes existence worthwhile.)

My friend Stephine -- moment maker extraordinaire.
My friend Stephine — moment maker extraordinaire.

 

 

*Ok, maybe the straightener did change my life. A blow dry alone, sans flat iron, as was my frequent habit in my pre-curl-acceptance days, was really not a good look. Exhibit A. (Oh, hey Bekah — you happen to be in a pretty glorious photo of my HAIR, so there you are!)

Exhibit A. Pre-straight iron. In the band room. Nothing but cool.
Exhibit A. Pre-straight iron. In the band room. Nothing but cool.

 

Bubble Verdict: Differences of Opinion In, Differences of Heart Out

Yesterday, and for the past couple of days, my gut has felt pretty twisted up about the stuff I mentioned yesterday. And I was for seriously concerned that I had created a bubble in which everyone’s opinion was the same as my own, that I might have been setting myself up for a complete confirmation of my own beliefs with no consideration of any others.

Brene Brown (I’m in love!!) is starting to give me the language I need to talk about these feelings, and what I felt yesterday following first some arguing, then some unfriending, and much more unfollowing, was definitely shame. Throw my little self-created, opinion-lacking bubble on top and I was legit concerned. So I asked you guys what you thought… you did not disappoint.

I cannot tell you how much I appreciated these two comments, from my beautiful and brilliant friends Aimee and Nicole. So so so much that I asked if they’d mind if I reposted and expounded, because they were worth so much longer of a response than a simple comment reply could allow — they helped me to understand and to be ok with what I had done, the bubble, the story, I had created. To let go of the shame. Ahhhh, sweet relief.

Late last night (maybe not so late Alaska time, but late to me), Aimee said:

Just had this exact conversation with my folks yesterday.  I only saw a few “anti-” things and generally I’m against defriending people over politics (though I want to soooo bad!) but they had much much more.  Their friends encompass a different age group than mine AND they’re in West Michigan.

I also have a really hard time even considering the opposite viewpoint from my own.  To me, it’s a civil rights issue and shouldn’t even be up for debate.  I can only hope these people are just really scared of change or whatever they think is going to happen…  and when nothing changes (except MORE LOVE all around!) they’ll come around.  One can hope! 🙂

And then, this afternoon (same afternoon in Tennessee and Wisconsin, for those keeping track) of the timeline, Nicole said:

As a member of the rainbow club, and a scientist, I came to the same conclusion as you – but long ago. The ugliness you saw on Friday is something I experience every single day, in places you would least expect. I ran for Chair of Diversity on the postdoc council at my place of employment, and my entire spiel about being a lesbian was deleted from the ballot, leaving only a generic sentence saying something like ‘I’ll do my best to include everyone.’ Of course I e-mailed the person responsible for putting together the ballots immediately (it was late, and they weren’t in their office) – and I was given a crap apology about them not knowing my public statement was in fact public, etc etc.

But what to do? I like my friends and family because they are diverse and they all have their own points of view. People are so angry and so hateful and when they start throwing words at you, they are turning off their ears and turning off their hearts. Nothing you say or do makes any difference. I can’t live in that sea of hate, so I unfriend those people on social media and distance myself from those people in real life.

When it comes to other disagreements, I try to be more distant. We aren’t voting for the same person for President/etc – that’s a-ok – Elections are supposed to be by secret ballot anyway.

I keep people in my life who can empower me to be a better human, and who enrich me with their points-of-view. There is a huge difference between someone who spews a speech with hate and contempt, and someone who speaks firmly about their beliefs but is willing to listen.

You can lead a horse to water, but you can’t make it drink.

Man, these guys are so… dang… eloquent! And, once again, as Brene Brown would suggest, I’m not the only one. I never am!

Turns out, I did make a bubble, but not quite the bubble I thought. I can handle contrary opinions. Republican rhetoric, gun stuff, anti-abortion arguments, support of big business, anti-GMO sentiments, etc. I don’t dig those ideas myself, but I get that a lot of people do, and so long as those ideas are presented respectfully (i.e. sans hate), I can deal. No big thing. Difference of opinion — a – o – k.

There are several things I cannot tolerate, however… things that as Aimee and Nicole suggest, don’t add value to my life, don’t enrich my point of view.

Namely, and off the top of my head:

1. Victimization of any individual or group via hateful language and/or images (e.g. anti-Caitlyn Jenner memes, confederate flags)

2. Victim blaming (e.g., she deserved it because of what she was wearing/drinking/saying/has-done-in-the-past, use of the word “thug” to describe a young black man)

3. Victim language (e.g., woe is me, the poor, persecuted white/straight/Christian/male-in-America)

Those things, they’re not differences of opinion, they are differences of heart. And those differences do not enrich my life. As such, they do not belong in my bubble.

This is my life now, and I dig it. {Source}
This is my life now, and I dig it. {Source}

Life is tough when words fail me and last night, I simply could not find the words to pull me up and away from a nagging sense of shame. Thank you, Aimee and Nicole, for giving me the words. And, more importantly, thank you so much for being in my bubble — you undoubtedly enrich it in a million and one ways!

Mixed Feelings About My New Facebook Bubble

When I opened up Facebook for the first time on Friday morning, it was this… exactly this:

Image originally posted by George Takei on Facebook.
Image originally posted by George Takei on Facebook.

And it was glorious! I was so happy and so was my newsfeed. Rainbows and celebration. That was all.

But then the other stuff started trickling in. The ugly stuff. The outright ugly and the ugly couched as something else, but ugly nonetheless. I mean, if someone starts a sentence with “I’m not a bigot, but…” it’s generally a bad sign. It made my stomach turn and my skin crawl. And it was from people I know.

I hardly know what to say. Disappointment and disgust and, honestly, hurt. Hurt that people I know honestly believe that their fellow human beings are somehow less worthy of basic human rights than they are. I just cannot fathom that mindset, bible or not. Christian or not.

So I cleaned house. Whenever someone said, “Unfriend me if this offends you,” I unfriended. Otherwise I unfollowed. I just couldn’t stand to see it anymore.

I’m totally obsessive though (ob-sess-ive) and now I can’t stop thinking now about the bubble I may have set up for myself. A bubble free of all opinions contrary to my own. And maybe that’s a super bad thing. I’ve heard about information bias and the notion that we set ourselves up in this loop of positive reinforcement of our own beliefs and therefore it’s impossible to open our minds up to anything else.

But the honest truth is I refuse to entertain the idea that any individual is worth less than anyone else. That anyone should be denied the rights afforded to their neighbor. I refuse — so what’s the point in seeing it? It only turns my stomach.

I love Facebook for a lot of reasons — I like to keep up with people I rarely see, I like to see photos and posts and BuzzFeed lists of ridiculousness. I enjoy getting tagged in Harry Potter-related everything. It’s a great way to see my nieces. But as a place to spew hate (even hate couched in the language of “religious freedom” and whatnot), I simply cannot stand it. So what’s the solution? Hide, hide, hide? Say my piece and get lost in a sea of comments leading to nowhere but more ugliness? Walk away entirely? Goodness knows I’m not any good at just scrolling past and letting things go.

I don’t know what the answer is, but I can’t help but wonder if I’ve made a big mistake by tailoring my environment to reflect my own opinions. I’d honestly like to maybe just stick my head in the sand and stick to Pinterest and the crazy world of crafting for a bit, but I don’t think that’s the solution either. Not when I feel this strongly about something. I don’t know!! What do you think? What do you do?

 

Here’s what I think: gay people are people and people are afforded equal rights under the law. So it is ordered. Regardless of your religion (and you can have any religion you choose — U! S! A! U! S! A!), it is the law of the land. Thank goodness for that. Goodness and love and rainbows. (Now tell me your thoughts about bubbles. Please and thank you.)

The Barren-ess

Well, well, well…

Did you know that this was a thing?!

National Infertility Awareness Week
National Infertility Awareness Week

I had no idea… and I am. So… awareness!

And one in EIGHT couples? Wowza. Friends, I hope that for many of you I’m swaying the odds in your favor. Goodness knows I know many more than 8 other couples though. Dang.

Recently, I passed what I’ve long considered “the point of no return” — I started taking birth control.

Seems counter-intuitive , doesn’t it? But apparently, birth control is a necessary step in the IVF process. No more wishing, hoping, praying, imagining that this month will be the month that a spontaneous pregnancy catches us by surprise. We’re committed. Past the point of no return, if you will, on the way to IVF.

Early, early last Monday morning we headed down to Madison for the uterine mapping process. I’ll spare you the details, but it was not exactly a fun time. One step closer. Now that I’m on the pill though, I’m happy to just check, check, check these things off my list and get to the real business at hand. Egg collection, fertilization, implantation, and then, God-willing, a legit pregnancy. Cross my fingers, hold my breath, say my prayers, beg all the powers that be…

Honestly though, stumbling across this infertility awareness business, recognizing that I’m just another 1 in 8, makes me feel a whole lot less bad for myself. It’s a lot easier to be over-dramatic and woe-is-me-ish when I’m preoccupied with the utter uniqueness of my situation, which is really not all that unique at all. Tough, yes, but not unique. Barren, but not a barren-ess… nor the barren-est.

Misery really does love company, I suppose. But misery loves joy too. And support and friendship and happy news. Misery can even not be so miserable all the time because the notion of whether or not I’m going to have a family this way or that one is really only one small part of the life that I am living… which also happens to include blogging and smiles and products for curly hair and a floppy-pawed pup and buzz-cutted man, etc, etc, etc (please don’t tell Grammarist i just listed et ceteras, it’s so super wrong). Yes, sometimes procedures and tests and waits, anxiety and pain and grief, but even lives not marked by infertility include all those very same things. I’m just one of the eight in which infertility happens to be a major source.

Ain’t no thing. Except sometimes when it’s a thing. And in this week, I guess we should maybe chat about that thing on account of it being a week dedicated to the awareness of infertility.

So: some people are infertile. Some people like me.

Some people also have cancer or webbed toes or choose to adopt despite not being infertile at all. You never know. Different strokes. I guess the best way to go about it all is to remember what my fortune cookie said that one time: Be kind, for everyone you meet is fighting their battle too.

Fortune Cookie

Regardless of the appropriate etiquette and practiced responses we’re supposed to be referring to (those links are specific to infertility, of course, not webbed toes)– I think with a little kindness about it all, remembering that there is a battle going on, one we might know nothing about, we can’t really go wrong.

Even my own attitude seems to swing somewhat wildly… some days, like today, I feel relatively non-nonchalant, infertility is just another thing. Other days, infertility feels like The Only Thing. With respect to etiquette and responses and such, I certainly can’t expect you, my husband, my dog, my mom, or anybody else to try to gauge that. It’s simply not fair. I can hope for kindness, though, and so can you. And while you obviously don’t need one more thing to be aware of (infertility! autism! breast cancer! colony collapse, drought, pandas, and webbed toes! so many Things!) it can’t hurt to remember that the radar of others’ isn’t necessarily tuned to the same channel as our own and, as such, discrepancies regarding awareness do exist. Because our radar spheres have overlapped in this moment (and I know that all of these metaphors are super non-coherent, scientifically speaking, so yeah) here I am, bringing infertility onto your screen.

Blip! You’re welcome.

Not really though. More like I’m welcome. Because it’s my self-serving blog, not yours.

Wiiiiink.

Anyway, I’m really going to go write that book review of I, Lucifer now. I keep thinking about it, obviously my mind wants to talk talk talk about it. See you then!

Crazy — ha ha, whatevs, or uh oh.

I get lots and lots of sleep. So so so much sleep. Not because I go to bed early or because I turn off all electronics an hour before bed or have a great bedtime ritual or anything. Nope. None of those good things.

I get a ton of sleep for one reason only… because I am terrible at waking up. Terrible!

My favorite place... bed.
My favorite place… bed.

Always have been, probably always will be. It’s ridiculous. Ask my husband. He hates it. It’s not even a snooze problem. It’s a shut-the-alarm-off-and-go-completely-back-to-sleep-without-even-realizing-the-alarm-ever-sounded problem. (Or wake-up-imagining-I-overslept-at-3:18-am-and-immediately-jump-panicking-into-the-shower-only-to-emerge-squeaky-clean-and-painfully-exhaustingly-ridiculously-early problem, granted that occurs less often these days.)

Over the past month or so, believe it or not, my inability to wake up has gotten even worse, but not for the normal (non-)reason. This time, it’s because even though I’m sleeping (for hours and hours and hours, as I said above), I’m still exhausted. Exhausted from some seriously vivid dreams. Mundane, but vivid.

So ridiculously vivid that I’m legitimately unsure at times if something is a real memory… or if it was just a dream. I literally cannot tell. And it’s freaking me out.

My depression is no secret, of course. We’ve talked about it before. Sometimes I feel down, really really down, and talking about it often makes me feel embarrassed, but it’s part of me and I do myself and others a disservice if I fail to tell the whole truth, and nothing but the truth, except for humorous embellishment, so help me God. So I should probably mention this little bump in the road as well.

Melissa-- light

True story: a friend who recently discovered my blog says I have to come down off my pedestal now. Fair enough. 🙂

I have dealt with depression, off and on (except I think we know that it’s always really “on” in some capacity or another) since I was relatively young. As part of treatment, I have been on a number of different anti-depressant medications. The tricky thing about antidepressants is that they 1) take a while to work, 2) work differently for every individual, and 3) there’s no great way to know a) which one is going to work or b) what the exact side-effect profile, if any, is going to look like for you personally.

Oy– the uncertainty! It’s pretty traumatic, especially for someone who suffers from delusions of obtainable perfection. (Self-diagnosis.)

Most recently, I switched medications after a side-effect of the one (in me, specifically, of course) proved itself to be dramatic weight gain. And when I say dramatic, I mean it. Like 10-pounds-in-a-single-week dramatic. I could see that, I could feel that, but so could my prescriber. So after giving it some time (and a lot of pounds) we switched to something else. It’s been smooth sailing for a good six months or so. Maybe closer to a year. And then all of the sudden…

The dreams.

For the most part, I can deal with side-effects in a rational manner. I’ve dealt with dry mouth and weight gain, jitters and minor insomnia. Little things that I can see, attribute to the medication, and say, “but it’s worth it because the depression is at bay.”

Oh so worth it.

I tried to do the same thing for the dreams.

It’s just a dream. So you’re a little tired, have some tea. No big deal, you’re still getting lots and lots of sleep, as per usual.

Until I couldn’t. Because I’m too afraid of crazy. And this feeling? This feeling is crazy. Not ha ha, you craaaazy. Or you think I’m crazy? Whatevs. More along the lines of crap, this might be legitimately crazy. The uh oh one.

To not be able to tell what’s real… that’s too much.

So I went to see my prescriber one early morning this week. I got out of bed, quicker than usual, because she’s just the best, best, best. So good at simultaneously laughing at my jokes (because humor is generally how I deal and acknowledging that I’m funny is basically the best compliment a person can give me) while also taking me and my reports of the symptoms that are concerning me seriously. More clinicians could learn from the brilliant Celeste, I think. (Plus, she has an excellent name. Kudos to her parents.)

We’ve got a plan of action and a plan for ongoing communication about the symptoms. I’m tired, the dreams probably won’t go away immediately, but I do feel a sense of relief just knowing that the crazy (the scary kind) can be controlled, prevented, addressed, whatever. Thank goodness.

 

The thing that was most interesting to me in this instance is that I’ve frequently felt crazy in the first two ways I described. The ha ha way– I mean, this hair, right? It certainly has an air of crazy about it (that’s the frizz). And even the, oh, right, you think I’m crazy– whatevs, kind. I have tummy troubles and a weird case of hand eczema that I believe to be associated with gluten. Doctors don’t believe me. They think I’m crazy. Whatevs.

But being called crazy, even by a medical professional (implied only, granted I haven’t actually read my chart), frustrating as it may be, is not, in fact, scary like this is scary. That’s what this kind of crazy felt like.

And paradoxically, that actually makes me feel kind of proud. Because it means that I am trusting my body. Trusting my own symptoms and my own intuition to know when something is real, regardless of whether it is recognized.

I know that there is something wrong with my gastrointestinal system. I can work with it sometimes, but not all the time. A diagnosis of we-don’t-know-you-must-be-crazy (anyone know the ICD-9 code for that???) is not helpful, exactly, but I can live with it. I can work with it. I can continue to trust my body and keep trying to calm it down however I can. Likewise, with the eczema on my hands and feet, I see a link with gluten and flares. Yes, there are other things too– stress and hot weather and travel all seem to play a role, but not if I stay away from gluten. So I stay away from gluten, and the doctor says I’m crazy for it, but that’s ok.

Not this time though. This time, crazy is not ha ha. It’s not whatevs. It’s scary. And I trusted myself to know that I needed to seek professional medical help. I have a good relationship with Celeste, I trust her and get the sense that she trusts me to report accurately. She worked with me, with my crazy, to make a plan. I can get on board with that too.

Annoying as it may be (because in my dreams last night, I simply could not understand how my math professor was working out the problems and I was never going to pass– a new story every night), I am encouraged by my ability to trust myself, even in my crazy, to be able to distinguish just what type of crazy it was. When the push for help is not only meaningful, but necessary. And I’m grateful that Celeste seems to get that too.

IMG_4550

December Twenty-Sixth

When I was in fourth grade, my Grandma Mormor (which as an adult I recognize is like saying “Grandma Grandma” since Mormor is the Swedish word for grandmother… but I don’t care) passed away over Christmas break. We weren’t planning to go to Marquette for Christmas, but when an aneurysm in my grandma’s head burst, sending her straight to the hospital with a severe hemorrhagic stroke, we packed up our clothes and our Christmas into our blue van and drove straight up to the UP. Although she came through a surgical repair successfully, another stroke left my grandmother brain dead and life support was removed the day after Christmas. She was only 60 years old when she passed away on December 26th. I chose not to go to the funeral because I was scared (of the funeral? of death? of my grandmother’s body? I don’t know…), but I regret that now. I did write her a letter that was placed in the coffin. Regardless of whether I was there or not, she knew I loved her, and that’s all that really matters.

My Grandma Mormor’s birthday was February 24th and I always think of her then. She was happy and gorgeous and made amazing oatmeal on her kitchen stove. Her house always smelled good and she wore a floral apron in the kitchen. I know other people have other memories of her, but mine stop at the age of 8 and it’s all beautiful to me. I also always think of her on December 26th… the day she died. She would have died on Christmas, maybe Christmas Eve, without artificial prolonging of her life. But nobody wanted that, so she was allowed to pass on the 26th and the 26th always had something of a pall over it. It was not a good day.

Until 2011.

On December 26, 2011, my sister’s first child, her daughter Emma, was born. To me, it seemed like the universe had righted itself again. December 26th was no longer a day for mourning, but for celebrating this amazing little life that came into our family. Today, Emma is three and more amazing than ever and I am so grateful for the gift of timing the universe gave our family.

Perhaps it’s just a coincidence, but December 26th feels bigger than that.

This year, December 26th also marked 14 days after IUI— the day I could take a pregnancy test. Something else to make the 26th of December even more significant. My sister found out she was pregnant with Emma on my dad’s birthday. We were both excited about the possibility of me finding out the same on Emma’s birthday.

I’m not pregnant though. No need to test. (I did, just in case, but it was negative. No ambiguity here.) Remember, I said I’d tell you either way. I was hoping for the other. But a promise is a promise.

 

I guess the fact of the matter is that we all struggle, in our own unique way. Maybe we don’t want children and others see our familial choices as incomplete. Maybe getting pregnant is easy, but the timing is poor. Maybe the timing works out, but our child isn’t as “perfect” as we would have expected. Maybe everything seems just right, but postpartum depression settles in. Maybe things get tough with your toddler, your adolescent, your adult child. Maybe you can’t get pregnant at all.

The good news is that you don’t have to get pregnant to have a family. And families are beautiful and imperfect, no matter how they come to be. There’s no right way, no wrong way, when you fill a home with people (or animals!) who love each other, it really doesn’t matter.

I know all of that, intellectually. But to really know it… that’s tough stuff. So for now, I’m going to let myself just be a little sad. Really sad. Disappointed. Confused and upset and frustrated and guilt-ridden. Just for a little while.

 

I’m also going to drink enough wine and take enough cold medicine to make up for all that I passed up over the last couple of days on account of the potential for pregnancy– a little Christmas cheer to go with my Christmas cold.

All in good time.

T is for Truth and t is for truth.

My drumline instructor when I was a freshman in high school once told us a really terrible joke about tuning piccolos (the extremely high-pitched mini-flute-like instrument absolutely essential to any John Philip Sousa march). I don’t remember it exactly, but it went something like this…

Q: How do you tune two piccolos?

A: Shoot one of them.

I told you it was horrible.

Yet, I was reminded of that punch line when I found myself facing this similarly challenging question yesterday afternoon…

Q: How do you get two biostatisticians to agree on an analytical approach?

The punch line has got to be similar.

Statisticians never agree.

Never.

Except there’s a difference. Bring a person with perfect pitch into the room (perfect pitch is an amazing and rare gift– I’m pretty sure Kevin from the LHS drumline, the guy who we called upon to tune our timpanis, had it. Absolutely amazing.) and you’ll be able to figure out which piccolo is hitting the right note and which one needs to adjust. That’s a Truth. In contrast, in biostatistics, there are many different ways to come to an answer and determining which way is the right way is really just a matter of opinion. Each approach may seem like an obvious Truth to the statistician that espouses it, yet both approaches are actually truths.

See the difference? The big T versus the little?

There are, in my mind, two different kinds of truth: Truth and truth. As a scientist, my tendency is to think of them in terms of a law (Truth) and a theory (truth). A Truth is a fact, a thing that is undeniable. Gravity is a law, it’s a fact, it’s a Truth. That gravity has an abnormally strong effect on me, thus explaining my general tendency toward clumsiness? That’s a truth. The truth can be different for you and me. The Truth cannot.

Like the word innocence for the letter I, the notion of truth keeps popping up over and over again in my life just as I hit the letter T. So it must be the word. (It was going to be Toot Sweets and Truly Scrumptious because I love Chitty Chitty Bang Bang, but Truth/truth gets a little deeper– so let’s go with that instead.)

Things that can feel very Truthy for me might not be even close for you. Take the Oxford comma, for example. (Are you into nerdy things like grammar? If so, I highly recommend you click on that Oxford comma link– it’s an amazing infographic entitled “The Oxford comma: Decried, defended, and debated” from Holy Kaw and I love it!) I have strong, personal feelings about the Oxford comma and will use it always, but there are two different opinions on that point and Oxford comma yes or no– either way is technically correct. Therefore, your own personal thoughts about the Oxford comma are just a truth. Not a Truth.

QED. (I was proving to you that the notions of law and theory, Truth and truth, don’t always have to be applied in a purely scientific capacity. I should have made that clearer from the get go. But now I’ve proven it and I’m not going back to re-write.)

I’m currently listening to the Audible version of the second book in the Divergent series. So intense! So good so far! Most recently, Tris and Four (pardon me, Tobias) were interrogated by the Candor faction (which for those of you not in the know, values honesty above all else) under truth serum. They were unable to lie and both were forced to admit some hard truths– big, important, sensitive, and personal truths. After each confession, the interrogator would be joined by  everyone in the group for a chorus of the phrase “Thank you for your honesty.”

I liked that. That’s a good response to a personal truth, whether you agree or not. Whether it’s Truth or not. It’s respectful and neutral. Granted, it would probably be an awkward conversational moment if the exact phrase was actually used in real life (e.g. You: “My pants are too tight.” Me: “Thank you for your honesty.”), but I do think the notion of appreciating someone else’s honesty is a good one. A very good one. (Perhaps a better way to neutrally appreciate such a statement would be, “I’m sorry you feel uncomfortable.” But I’m an apologizer… so… you could probably come up with something better. You get the idea, anyway.)

As I thought about the concept of Truth vs. truth and my truth vs. your truth, I realized how important it is for me to always remember that there is a difference. It’s important from the perspective of sharing my truth and accepting the truth of others.

When I share my truths, I have to phrase them as such– I need to start with a phrase that lets the other person know that this is what I believe to be true, but that it doesn’t have to be their truth, because it’s not necessarily the Truth, no matter how correct it feels to me. Similarly, when someone shares their truth with me, even if they are certain it is the Truth, I have to remember that it’s ok to have a difference of opinion.

There are a lot of things we talk about where this distinction is important.

Robin Williams is gone and he took his own life. That is the Truth.

Why he did it, what it means, what can be done in the wake of this tragedy– we all have a different truth about that. I don’t know anyone in my generation who isn’t touched by this tragedy… and that it is a tragedy, I think that is a Truth.

Depression is like that though. It’s divisive because that things are bad feels so incredibly true for the person who suffers, regardless of how things look on the outside. Of how things Truly are. You cannot tell a person at the bottom of that pit that the pit doesn’t exist because to them, it is all they can see. The successful career and the happy appearance are True, but depression is a truth it’s hard to see as anything less than Truth for the sufferer. I promise.

Nearly two years ago now, Sister Doctor was rotating through psychiatry as part of her third year medical school rotations. During that rotation, she came into contact with an elderly woman who was hospitalized for severe depression and suicidal ideation. She did not want to live. The woman touched Sister Doctor pretty profoundly, whether Sister Doctor realized it or not, and the way she spoke to me about it after the encounter struck me as particularly beautiful.

The woman had tried, in vain, to explain to someone who had never experienced depression herself what it was like and ended with a statement acknowledging the fact that without personal experience, it is not something that can be understood.

I can’t be certain, but I think that most medical students, most people for that matter, would have launched into an explanation of biochemistry and book learning and medical diagnostic criteria that would effectively minimize their own feelings of inadequacy.

Sister Doctor did not.

What she said to me was that she really wished she could spend an hour inside that woman’s head… to really know what it felt like, because the woman was right, she had no idea what depression felt like and couldn’t relate.

Wow.

What if all doctors thought that way? What if all people thought that way? What if when someone shared a truth with us that doesn’t match our own truth we said, “I wish I could understand what it is like to be you in this moment…” “Thank you for your honesty…” ???

Depression is like that.

Chronic, undiagnosable  illnesses are like that.

The truth, with a little t, is like that.

A Liberal Feminist Response to Mr. Walsh: It’s Not A Competition

I am a liberal feminist. I am one of the women to whom Matt Walsh’s recent open letter was addressed. And I’d love to respond. Not point-by-point, because I don’t think the letter deserves it. Rather by making one important point:

YES, Mr. Walsh. Liberal feminists, such as myself, AGREE WITH YOU.

Boys in our society do have it rough– very rough, in many ways. There is no question that boys are often inappropriately labeled with psychiatric or emotional disturbances, that they are more likely to successfully commit suicide, that they are more likely than women to transgress in ways that are legally unacceptable and subsequently end up incarcerated. All of those things are true and concerning and very worthy of attention.

But here’s the thing… Mr. Walsh seems to believe that by addressing any problem, real or perceived, in girls and young women, we somehow dismiss these very real problems that plague boys and young men.

I don’t think that’s the case. And I think what Mr. Walsh fails to realize is that this is not a competition. To recognize and address a problem that primarily affects women does not take anything away from folks focusing on recognizing and addressing a problem that primarily affects men.

I am a liberal feminist and I am intrigued by the “Ban Bossy” campaign. I read Lean In and I understand that it’s a call for awareness– to be aware that we may be calling young girls bossy when the word bossy isn’t warranted. Similarly, we may be calling young boys aggressive when the word aggressive isn’t warranted. My logic takes me from point A (ban bossy) to this point B (think about the words we use to describe personality traits in girls and boys). Mr. Walsh’s point B seems to be something very different.

I am a woman and I am a liberal feminist. I do not consider feminism a dirty word because I know that to be a feminist does not automatically make me anti-male (or anti any other gender in between, for that matter, because what is feminine vs. what is masculine is, truly, a comparison of the average in a way that doesn’t recognize what really may be more of a continuum… but that’s another point entirely).

I don’t know Mr. Walsh except to know that he is a passionate and articulate man. I surmise, based on his two most recent anti-ban bossy, anti-feminism blog posts, that he is mired in a state of comparison that’s not necessarily doing anyone any good.

I’ve talked about comparison before– I truly believe it to be the (square) root of all evil. (Remember that sweet math joke?) I’ve also talked about the notion of promoting what you love, rather than bashing what you hate. As conceited as this is going to sound, I think Mr. Walsh could be much more effective if he embraced these two principles.

By jumping to a place of comparison, Mr. Walsh assumes that to promote something good for girls and consequently women is to bash something good for boys and consequently men. To promote an ideal of leadership rather than bossiness in young girls, as well as in their male peers, is not an emasculating thing… because the point is not comparison. All of Mr. Walsh’s concerns about young men are not only valid, but important and timely. They are worthy of attention and of intervention. Especially as they point to systematic problems with our educational system and a lack of appropriate behavioral health services. But before I could even think rationally about the importance of those things, I had to suppress my anger about the bashing of other things I think are important. And that made the whole article hard to stomach. I imagine a lot of people, a lot of liberal feminists, won’t even note the important points he does make as a result of all the bashing.

I would suggest that instead of using his time and considerable talent to bash the tenets of feminism, Mr. Walsh instead focus on bringing awareness to the problems that are clearly plaguing young boys.

The title of Mr. Walsh’s recent post is this:

An open letter to liberal feminists: girls don’t have it any worse than boys

To Mr. Walsh, I say: or course not. But just because girls don’t have it any worse than boys doesn’t mean we don’t have issues that need to be addressed for the sake of the future of young girls. And just as many issues ought to be addressed for the sake of the future of young boys. It’s not about comparison. It’s about improvement and progress. For everyone. Regardless of gender.

Matt Walsh has a popular blog. He discusses controversial things and more often than not, he seems to be looking to get a rise out of someone. That’s fine, that’ll get you readers, it’ll get you shares, views, clicks, and likes. But will it make life better for anyone? Perhaps that’s not his point… but dang, he could do it. He knows his facts about ADHD and over-medication, about suicide and incarceration. That’s awesome– he should talk about that, do something about that.

I also believe that Sheryl Sandberg and her organization, Lean In, know about the psychological impact certain ideals can have on young women. And that’s what they’re talking about, what they’re doing something about.

Ain’t nothing wrong with that!

Hashtag fight WHAT?! (Special K got it all kinds of wrong.)

I was scrolling through my Facebook feed one day (every day, all day, whatever…) and came across this sponsored post that Facebook thought I might enjoy:

Special K ad

Well, you thought right, Facebook! This does sound like something I might be interested in, doesn’t it?

Interested in because I want to rip it a new one!!

But it’s not ok to just rant about something. It’s important to do your homework. So in that moment (that angry, angry moment), I took a screen shot, saved the picture to my phone, and went on with my life until I had time to do some thinking, some reading, some more thinking, some writing, and some posting about it. That time is now.

–cue music–

Special K says they want to #fightfattalk because it “is a barrier to managing our weight…” Mmmm hmmmm…

You know what else is a barrier to “managing our weight”??? Things like television, internet, and print ads that suggest we subsist on nothing but cereal for 2 weeks so that we can lose weight, feel better in a bikini, go to the beach without a cover up, and “gain” other things when we “lose” the weight.

I call BS on this ad. BS on the whole of Special K, and by extension, the entire Kellogg’s brand (sorry, Michigan, I just can’t support this kind of behavior!).

And even if it weren’t for the irony of Special K’s ad campaign, I still don’t like the phrase “fat talk” because it implies that fat is bad. Always. And that to be fat is to be bad, to talk about being fat is to talk about being bad, and that the word fat should be banned from our vernacular entirely just like being fat should be banned from our lives.

No.

People can be fat. They can be thin. They can be skinny, obese, rotund, chunky, sickly, muscular, pale, flabby, large, small, tan, cross-eyed, etc, etc, etc… and all of those things are nothing more than physical descriptors. Not one of them has any inherent value attached to it. Yet, these are the hooks on which we tend to hang our self worth. Why? Well, that’s an entire book. A series, even. But to be sure, media campaigns like this don’t help. And we can’t forget what Special K’s actual purpose is:

To sell cereal.

Special K does not care if you engage in fat talk or not. They do not care whether you are fat or thin. They do not care about any of those physical descriptors listed above. All they care about is you buying their cereal. And if pretending to care about body image is going to help them do that, then by all means, they can pretend.

Not that I can blame Special K for that, really. I mean, it literally is their job to sell cereal… not to look after the mental health and emotional well-being of society. I get that. But maybe Tyra Banks, with her history of issues with body image and all her ginormous scope of influence, could recognize a marketing ploy and not lend her name or her very, very famous face (did you see her smiling… with just her eyes???) to a campaign that is downright damaging.

If you actually go to Special K’s Fight Fat Talk website (slogan “Shhhhut down fat talk”) I think you’ll see what I’m talking about. They suggest that you use social media to tag positive posts with #fightfattalk and they have a little tool that will allow you to scan your Facebook networks to see how common body-focused negative self talk (my phrase, not theirs… like I said, I don’t dig the notion of “fat talk” specifically) is in your social networks. But beyond that? The point of the site is clearly to sell you their cereal… not to improve anyone’s body image by actually promoting body positivity.

First up, a Google search for “Special K fight fat talk” is headed up by an ad for the Special K 2 week diet… you know, the one where you starve yourself on two bowls of cereal and a chicken breast per day.

Special K google search

So then you actually click on the site. It has numbers. Numbers. It says there are over 12.4 million “actual fat talk found online”… ummm, what? Instances of? Where is this number from? How was it curated? I just… I don’t… I can’t… ugh…

Special K website

And all that this site has about actually “fighting” fat talk is right there in front of you. That’s. It. Use our hashtag, eat our cereal, save the world, one sad lady at a time.

Because, you see, when you click on anything else– why they believe positivity matters, the Gains Project (Special K’s famous “What will you gain when you lose?” campaign that asks women to imagine how much better their lives will be if they just weren’t fat anymore…), the “My Special K Plans” link, the products, recipes, and articles. It’s all there to sell you cereal.

And like I said, I can’t really blame Special K for trying this tactic. It’s been working for Dove and body positivity is a hot topic right now… I just hope that women don’t buy into it.

Negative self talk is a problem for everyone, women and men, thin and fat. Fat, per se, is not the problem. Rather, it’s the notion that our identity hinges on something physical or superficial. That’s what we need to fight. And I don’t think we need Special K to help us.

#fightnegativeselftalk

#fightcorporatecomandeeringofbodyimage

#youareperfectexactlyasyouare

#manshouldnotliveoncerealalone

#fatisnotadirtyword