Pain In My Ass

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I have late-onset hypochondria. Yes, that is a made up condition. Yes, this is a self-diagnosis. But doesn’t that just make me right?

In the past year, I have been convinced the following things would kill me: ingesting poison ivy (without actually ingesting any), Lyme disease (saw a tick once) and aneurysm (it was a headache). Now, there’s my ass. My tailbone has been sore for six months. I am not imagining this. I’ve had an ultrasound, X-ray and lots of people poking around the top of my butt crack. And before any of them came to a conclusion, I did: I determined I was suffering from stage 11 butt bone cancer and my daughter would grow up motherless and I wouldn’t live to give her a sibling or witness the incredible woman she will grow up to be.

That was the official self-diagnosis. Including the Ginny stuff. It’s what I spent weeks thinking about, and how I developed a habit of wistfully smelling her hair.

I don’t have butt bone cancer. I know this because a) that’s a wildly rare thing and b) people who are smarter than me have discovered my tailbone is just screwed up from sitting on my ass all day. I also knew this all along, deep down, because when your ass hurts and you also sit on your ass all day, medical school isn’t a must-have for securing a diagnosis. But even with that information in my head, my heart was so sure about the pretend cancer thing. Convinced.

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Someone get WebMD’s symptom checker out of my hands.

This hypochondria should make no sense. For most of my life, the greatest risk to my health has been a belief that nothing could really pose a great risk to my health. My body, I believed, was just really good at being a body. But now, again and again, I find myself being positive my body is about to fail me. And that’s because, I’ve come to realize, it already has.

In February of this year, we learned the pregnancy I’d been carrying for nearly 11 weeks had failed. The heartbeat was gone. There had been a heartbeat. We’d heard it. We’d nicknamed it. We’d promised it to Ginny. Eleven weeks is a long time. And then it was gone.

But it didn’t actually go anywhere. In March, I had a D&C to make it truly gone. We mourned. But honestly, by the time I left the hospital, I felt I was ready to move forward. By that point, it had been weeks. Weeks of sadness. If I really wanted a baby, the only route was through, and then beyond the grief. What was my first miscarriage after having Ginny? Just a thing that happened. So I was getting through it, goddammit, quietly and without delay.

This is what we do to ourselves when we allow the weight and taboo of miscarriage to silence our grief. We are silent because we don’t want to admit our bodies have failed us. Have failed our partners. Have failed our parents, and our children. Even though I’d already discussed my first miscarriage publicly, it wasn’t until I was way pregnant with Ginny that I did. Like having a viable pregnancy erased the shame. Now I’m 1 for 3. And that fact felt too much to admit.

But the grief is just coming out in other ways. Like causing me to think that because I wore the wrong gloves to pull poison ivy, I probably got some into my system, which will probably cause my throat to close in the middle of the night when I won’t be able to get my sleepy husband to understand what’s happening and call for help, so I’ll die. Who is this crazy person? Am I stuck with her now? Because she is the worst.

Forgiving my body for what’s happened is done. I’ve been in the forgiveness business for a long time. I know how it’s done. Rebuilding trust is not as well-exercised a muscle for me, and that is the task at hand. I don’t trust my body anymore. It’s going to take some time. I hate shit that takes time. Also annoyingly time-consuming is the actual pain in my butt (I’m for real going to physical therapy twice a week for it. Butt PT is a thing). That’s weirdly necessary. But not necessary is wasting even more time creating an additional, self-imposed pain in my own ass by obsessing over how every tingle in my body is going to be the end of me. A girl’s only got so much time.

So I’m done. Or, at least, I’m starting to be done. The road to trusting my body again isn’t completely clear to me. I assume it’s not as straightforward as following awkward exercise handouts from a physical therapist. But I do know it starts by not waiting until this body has done something marvelous again to admit it did something terrible. Not an awful disease or fatal reaction, but just a sadly ordinary, traumatic fail. And it might happen again. But it might not.

Spending your (time) lotto winnings

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For three minutes today, I fantasized about how I would spend $429.6 million in lotto winnings. Then I realized that since my thrilling combination of being super cheap and strongly analytical has prevented me from ever having purchased a lottery ticket, these were three minutes sorely wasted. Besides, once you are a legit adult, don’t you have to subscribe to that boring windfall rule of 1/3 toward debt, invest 1/3 and just 1/3 for splurging? Zzzzzz…

All this happened just moments before winning my own brand of lottery.

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Not everyone appreciated how I strategically allocated my surprise time windfall.

First, I finished a task in half the time I expected it to take (it wasn’t even daydreaming about the lotto. It was a whole different thing). Then, a late afternoon conference call was cancelled. After my careful planning of the week ahead, I knew it was set to be a super busy one. But suddenly, two hours of my Monday just opened right up. Two hours. Two, juicy hours of limitless possibility on a sunny day.

How does one spend a surprise time windfall?

I can imagine a version of myself moving right on to the Tuesday to-do list. This week is going to be BUSY, YA’LL. I’ve got writing scheduled between phone calls scheduled between pressing admin stuff. I will be lucky if I get it all done. But then, that’s kind of tomorrow’s problem, right? And Wednesday’s? And Thursday’s and Friday’s? What good is winning the time lotto if you don’t spend it on a hammock? If I pluck things from future days’ to-do lists, I’m just going to fill those days back up before they arrive. Time is fleeting. We’re ALL GOING TO DIE OMGLIVENOWFRIENDS. And I don’t just say that because I recently purchased life insurance. Okay, it’s a little bit about the insurance thing.

Anywho. You know what the saddest thing about that boring adult formula about breaking a windfall into thirds? I found that it’s actually the best thing to do. Now, time is a super personal resource, so don’t let me tell you what to do with your life. But this is what I did. And it felt really good:

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Pre-mulch. Don’t you just want to tear open that bag and spread it everywhere?

1/3 Splurge. I mulched. This is seriously my splurge, because I derive deep satisfaction from yard projects. There is much mulching to do, but I just did this adorable little circular spot I made on Sunday around a found (!) peony bush, found (!) succulent thingy and a (as yet) sad little rose bush I just planted. On the way outside, I also rehung the potted plants that slept in the house due to a late frost and pulled exactly four weeds from my flower bed. It turns out four is just the right amount of weeds to pull in one session. I left about 53 others for later.

1/3 Invest. I edited one story I’d planned to do tomorrow. It wasn’t fun, but tomorrow will be better for it. We’ll call that my investment. That makes sense, because investing is also no fun, but you hope many tomorrows from now you’ll be glad you did it. Like buying life insurance, but without the dying bit.

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So. Satisfying.

1/3 Pay down debt. As you may have noticed, I’m writing a blog. Something from last week’s to-do list that never made it to fruition. Come to think of it, blogging was on the previous week’s list too, and nope. Didn’t do it. If that’s not paying down time debt, I don’t know what is. It also feels a little bit splurgy because a) I like doing it and b) it’s a thinly veiled excuse to show my mulching photos to the internet.

Few things are more psychologically satisfying to me than treating my time like the precious resource it is. Doling it out, saving it up and strategically managing it like dollars fall right out of the clock. When you work for yourself, they sort of do.

Seneca Falls 1848: Women looking at each other

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The following is a blog series based on my new daily habit: Reading one entry from “What Every American Should Know About Women’s History.” Not only are there all these bits of women’s history time has neglected, but within them are lessons that are super relevant to living a meaningful and productive life today. I want one of those. Don’t you? There are 200 entries, so consider yourself warned.

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As Orenstein mentions in the book, you will never unsee their looking past one another. Photo: By Source (WP:NFCC#4), Fair use, https://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?curid=39360505

Of the many horrifying facts that will burn itself permanently into your brain upon reading Peggy Orenstein’s book, “Cinderella Ate My Daughter,” is the fact that in no Disney Princess marketing materials are the princesses looking at each other. That’s right. Though the collective sales power of multiple princesses was undeniable, the idea that they might collaborate and interact with one another is forbidden by the Almighty Disney. While they may occupy the same packaging, lunchbox, nightgown, etc., we are to believe each princess exists in her own dimension, totally unaware of the others. In the world in which Disney would like us to operate, there is room in a good story for one woman protagonist, and while they infrequently have female friends, they are very often pitted against an evil queen/stepmother/witch/all the above. (And no, I do not think Frozen singlehandedly cancels out decades of anti-feminist storytelling.)

 

Compare the “princesses can’t interact” concept to this cold, hard fact from WEASKAWH: “Abolitionists Elizabeth Cady Stanton and Lucretia Mott, disturbed at the manner in which women in the abolition movement were treated by some males, had long discussed the need for a women’s rights convention. They, together with Jane Hunt, Mary McClintock, and Martha Wright, issued a call to women to meet at the Wesleyan Methodist Church in Seneca Falls, New York on July 19, 1848, the first political gathering called specifically to address the rights of women.”

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How’s this for women who are aware that other women exist? Source: http://www.historynet.com/seneca-falls-convention

Got that? Elizabeth, Lucretia, Jane, Mary and Martha all got together and planned this shindig. These five women had no problem interacting. They looked each other in the face just fine. It might have taken them eight years to get it together and plan the thing, another seventy years to make any progress on their demands, and they certainly fell down on the job in terms of inviting women of color to be involved, but look at that image. Look at all of these women, facing each other, listening to one another and fixing the world together. Compare it to the Princesses, looking past each other. Let us not give a moment’s credence to the idea that women are better isolated, taken one at a time. Women are always stronger, more effective — and not to mention a damn sight more fun — as collaborators, supporters and friends.