In Defense of Millennials

I’ve come across a number of posts like the one below, recently. I tell you what, nothing ticks me off like self-righteous nostalgia, taken out on the younger generations. (I love how the post ends with “we don’t like being old in the first place…” which is where the bulk of the anger seems to originate with any generation once they hit a certain age. Aging is a bitch, no doubt about it. It equalizes everyone in that once you get old, it’s rather fashionable to bitch about how young people are the worst.)

So here’s my response:

When you act in accordance with 95% of the population, you are not special. Meaning, when milk came only in glass jars delivered by the farmer who milked the cows himself, you do not get to consider yourself “green” for using glass jars instead of plastic jugs for your weekly milk. That’s what everyone did. That’s how everyone lived. The farming industrial complex hadn’t risen to power yet, and plastics were in their infancy in production lines. You aren’t “green” if you’re living the only way society knew how.

When paper bags were all that was used in grocery stores, it wasn’t “green” to use them. Today, if you consciously ask for paper or bring your own bags to the store to avoid 20 more crappy plastic bags filling your closet or garbage, you are acting thoughtfully and consciously. You can claim “green” status. The younger generation has founded entire grocery stores on the concept of zero packaging, where customers take full responsibility for bringing their own containers – and pay for the privilege. The majority of their shoppers are young people, not the older generation who loves to laud their own “green” virtues while spitting on the idea that they should have to continue to live as they used to.

Yet despite all the ways those over 65 now seem to know how to be “green”, many don’t live by them. How many Baby Boomers and Gen X’ers still use glass milk jars, or reuse plastic bottles, or turn their shower off while they shampoo their hair, or avoid using dryers for laundry, or avoid disposable diapers?

Most grandparents I’ve met love the hell out of throwing shit away instead of putting a dirty diaper in the wash. Most people over 65 that I know have more crap in their homes, including kitchen appliances, plastic decorations, multiple fake Christmas trees, and just plain shit than younger generations who are consciously trying to stay “lean” in an era where you are expected to Walmart the heck out of every corner of your home.

So the “green” people are those who live consciously, regardless of their generation. I actually agree with the grocery store clerk. Earlier generations didn’t think about being “green” or living eco-consciously. They just did what they did because that’s how people made do when industrial junk was not as readily available as it is today. But as soon as that industrial junk became available, most of those who like to wax poetic about “the good old days” (when rivers could be set on fire due to the chemicals dumped in them from industrial waste, or when fish kills due to effluence were as common as hushpuppies) happily joined the ranks of the industrial complex and surrounded themselves in stuff they didn’t need.

Millennials, on the other hand, have to think. They have to think hard about how to use less stuff, how to make do with less when every message in society tells you you’ll die without the latest gadget. They have to choose glass or reusable containers to take to lunch, and plan to be different than their peers. They have to eschew the notion of convenience in favor of a higher purpose. They have to work to reverse the tide set by the very generation that so often likes to bash them for their incompetence. (The same older generation that now happily lives off the fat of their lack of eco-friendliness.)

Green millennials often avoid television and cable altogether, seamlessly integrating their entertainment and work onto small devices which are more and more energy-efficient. Green millennials opt to purchase hybrid or fuel-efficient vehicles and support the use of alternative energy sources, even if it may cost them extra and people around them drive Denalis. Who’s “green” in that scenario?

Sure, there are plenty of young people who don’t think twice about their impact on their environment. I’d say they are the children of those in older generations who also didn’t think twice and the grandchildren of those Baby Boomers who own more gadgets and whatzits than I can imagine. But blaming millennials for an inherited situation seems like whipping a dog for never being potty-trained. Getting pissy at them when they try to express their thoughts around the “green” movement doesn’t seem encouraging either.

People who feel that young generations might need some perspective should add a thoughtful comment or two after listening to the young person. For example, the offended woman could have said, “You’re right, I used to use paper bags every day as a child. Could I use paper today and I’ll bring my linen bags next time? Better yet, maybe you could offer paper bags to all customers first as they are more biodegradable.” Turn offense into a teaching moment of how the girl can help. Teach her about history without the snark.

Because honestly, the girl had a point. Perhaps it was not made elegantly, but it was a valid point. So don’t take it out on millennials for how the world is today. They hear every day what terrible kids they are, how lazy they are, how ungrateful, how blah blah blah. Well, if they are that way, blame their parents, not them. Blame the practices that have allowed industrialism to overtake everyday life unchecked.

Before accusing young people of being rude, remember that a blameless person in an older generation should bring her own bags to the grocery store. Better yet, support the local farmer’s market.

This Veteran’s Day, back up your words of thanks

This Veteran’s Day is the first since I met my husband that we will be together since we met. For this, I am infinitely grateful. He is a brave and selfless person, and I’m proud to be his wife and share my life with him.

Last year, I spent the day alone while he was overseas. The year before we still lived in separate cities. The year before that, he was locked away in training for his deployment. The year before that, we had just met and were dating long distance. It’s a hard day to spend apart, and in 2013, I made the mistake of going to work and acting like it was no big deal.

I ended up in tears before 9:30 am.

Despite being surrounded by coworkers, no one saw the stress that dating someone in the military put on me. He was prepping for Afghanistan, and I was freaked out that 1)something would happen to him and 2)if something happened, I would have no legal right to know. I didn’t want thanks (thanks for what – for not throwing a fit that the government sent him away?), but I did want someone to take me out for chamomile tea. I didn’t know how to ask for that.

Now, three years later, I have endured thanks upon thanks. “Endured” may sound off, but it makes more sense when people often trail off when they say, “Do thank your husband for his service, and of course, um, thanks to you for…your…*mumble mumble*…”

I usually say, “thank you for your support” now before the poor sap gets to the end. I alleviate them of the awkwardness of not knowing what to do or say. And I think people don’t know what to do or say because they honestly have no idea what life is like for me. So let me help you out. Please don’t thank me for my service or sacrifice. Thank my husband if you’d like, but realize he’s not particularly comfortable with public recognition or praise.

Perhaps people think we don’t get thanked very often. Trust me, we hear it a lot. I often wonder what motivates the thanks. From those who lived through Vietnam, I wonder if they’re trying to make up for the treatment of veterans in that era, and I understand the mental urge to distinguish one’s words from the attacks and spit of the 1970s. (From my perspective, the scales are more than tipped, but I’m also one who doesn’t believe that joining the military automatically makes one a hero.)

I’m sure others feel truly patriotic and grateful for our freedoms. That’s a comforting thought, but I believe that citizens fight for our freedoms just as much as our military, just in very different ways. Some of them literally put themselves in the line of fire. It’s not the organization that makes the hero, either.

Sometimes, on my skeptical days, I feel that words of thanks are simply a soundbite which absolves a person’s conscience of the responsibility of stepping up to help in any meaningful way.

It’s not that I think thanks are bad. But, just like dating, it’s not what someone says, it’s what they do. 

Allow me to illustrate how the last example goes down for me. On a recent trip to Kroger during the six-month period my husband was away this year, I ran into a woman I knew casually through church. Literally, our carts nearly collided around the pasta sauce and we found ourselves awkwardly apologizing to each other, slowly moving to recognition.

“I heard,” she said, “That your husband is away.”

“You heard correctly,” I said, smiling through somewhat gritted teeth.

“Well that must be so difficult, I just can’t imagine.”

To be fair, this exchange started off better than most. I almost mistook it for empathy at first, and relaxed.

“Please thank him for his service, and of course, you too, for your…sacrifice.”

The hairs on my neck stood on end immediately. I could feel my throat constrict. I wanted to scream, but settled for calling out her authenticity.

“Please let me know if there is anything I can do for you,” she said, starting to reengage her cart in an effort to move past me. The words cut deeply, because in the era of social media, not only did I not know the woman’s last name, number, Facebook account, Twitter handle, or schedule, I didn’t even know where she lived to accost her properly at her door for my future needs.

“As a matter of fact,” I chimed in, stepping to the side of my cart to block her cart from moving forward, “I’m so glad you offered – I really hate to cook and I haven’t been eating well. I’m buying these groceries, but could really use company to have a proper meal.”

This is true. My husband is the cook of our household and I don’t eat well when he’s gone. But to prove my point, her immediate reaction was disbelief, moving into a stammered balk.

“Oh – oh sure, I’d, um, be glad too.” She didn’t take her cell phone out of her purse, the sure sign that someone considers you calendar or contact-worthy. “This week is so crammed, with the kids’ Little League practices and PTA meeting. I also need to bake three dozen cupcakes for the Sunday School fundraiser.”

I pushed on, not because I enjoy being a jerk, but because I really am interested in understanding the weight of offers emanating from the verbal fetish of thanks for military service. Hell, even my pastor asked our congregation to remember military wives. He even said he would like to invite me to his house for dinner once, but promptly forget to schedule anything to back it up.

“Well, he is gone for four more months,” I said. “Would next week work for you?” I always like to give options to test commitment. She did not take out her cell phone.

“Oh, that could work,” she replied. “But my husband might be out of town for a few days.”

That stung. As if I, the woman to whom you just bestowed your false feelings of empathy and warmth for her sacrifice at having a spouse out of town for half the year should suddenly feel sorry for someone who can’t offer company because she’ll (probably falsely) *sigh, gasp, sigh* be left alone for three days. Shit, don’t let me cramp your style.

I let her off the hook. I had made my point. When I don’t spend time with people, it’s because I don’t want to. But I certainly haven’t offered to to help them in any way possible before deciding not to hang out. I don’t have a problem with people not preferring my company as a human. What I dislike is the hypocrisy of appearing concerned about my military situation without bothering to learn anything about it and secretly giving less than two hoots about the loneliness of my days. Apparently some people are too busy to stuff in an hour or two of empathy. It’s annoying, relieving others of the burden of their words which bit off more than they meant to chew.

“Oh, of course, I totally understand, life can be so busy,” I said.

Of course, I didn’t understand. I know that life can be busy, but I also know how hours can stretch into endless days and sleepless nights and countless moments of wondering when the cosmos will resume its normal pace. At that time, life did not feel so busy. Despite the activities that made it necessary to get out of bed and go through the day, life was not so busy. Life was painfully slow.

So what should she have said? My ideal interaction might look like this:

“Oh hello, how are you?”

“I’m doing okay, thank you.”

“Have a nice day!”

Say this if what you mean is that you don’t care any more than that. Otherwise, the fact that my husband is away is just gossip. Mention of his service is brought on by societal peer pressure. What else can you say if you do truly care?

“Hi. I heard your husband is away. How are you holding up?”

*Only say this if your heart is truly invested in listening or following up in some way.* This allows me to reveal what I will about my situation. At that point, if you care to get more involved, you can, and you’ll have a starting point to know what I’m struggling with.  Because by the time you say,

“What can I do?”

I’ll expect you to do it, just like any person would no matter what his or her situation. My military status shouldn’t change the size of your heart or generosity. My loneliness as a person dumped in a new town with few contacts could.

After several rounds of this with slightly different circumstances, it seems that many who thank me for my sacrifice are content for me to carry that burden. After all, why would they thank me if they didn’t want me to sacrifice my hours of happiness? If they wanted to step in and provide relief, they wouldn’t be thanking me for any sacrifice, they would be there. They would show up unannounced or ask me for my number to text me with a plan to have dinner, or see a movie, or attend an event that I just can’t drag myself to do alone. They wouldn’t expect me to organize my own social events, because even at my best times, that’s never been my strength. I know how to be alone and it seems that in being good at it, the thanks I receive for it has backed me into a hole.

While he was gone, I took time to travel various place to see my girlfriends or my family. This, without a doubt, was the best thing a military wife could do. It was the best way to forget myself and the tick tick tick of seconds. We went to Barre3 or to music events. They offered me wine and long talks on the porch to ponder the state of the universe. They allowed me to cry and vent that I have spent half of my marriage as a single woman, but we spent equal time covering their struggles and hopes as my heartache. That is as it should be. It is friendship and love, it is thanks and gratefulness for my company, defined. And that, more than anything, is what I need when my husband leaves. To know that I am not defined by him and his absence, but by my brain and capability for contributing to moments of joy on my own.

Months later, the woman from Kroger hasn’t reached out to me. I wonder if flippant words of thanks will ever be enough and I doubt it. I’ve never been good with sound bites or lack of action.

What’s the best way to thank my husband? You’d have to ask him, but I’m guessing he would appreciate people asking about the specifics of his deployment and listening to the true challenges of our national defense issues. He supports Wounded Warrior, Fisher House, and other programs to help veterans. Celebrate the spirit of hopefulness for future peace of Armistice Day, the original Veteran’s Day.

As for me, don’t thank me. Just get to know me as more than the military cover. I have dreams and hopes that you’ll be more than just words.

Anatomy of a Brain Re-Born

I have a new obsession.  Thank you, Robert Whitaker, for making me paranoid and sending me back into a new depressive cycle.  Just kidding.  I thank you, for being confident and brave enough to go against an accepted society standard (notice I didn’t say “go against science”) and encourage people to reconsider our societal paradigm of mental health treatment.

For those who don’t know your book, Anatomy of an Epidemic, it chronicles the history of mental health treatment and outcomes in the United States for over 60 years.  The evidence presented demonstrates that the pharmaceutical revolution used for psychiatry since the 1950s has consistently contributed to poor outcomes, or, in extreme cases, complete disability for those suffering from bouts of mental disorders.  The research presented showcases more traditional treatments including group therapy and therapeutic homes that demonstrate that even those with serious mental breakdowns or schizophrenic episodes have recovered throughout history. The most damning link (and most reminiscent of Freakanomics) chronicles the re-birth of psychiatry using the medical model in the 1980s.  This period is highlighted by and permeated with the funding and partnership with pharmaceutical companies who seek to exploit consumerism in the treatment of mental health.

Thank you, Mr. Whitaker, for reminding me that capitalism and continuous growth are not healthy bedfellows for the human body or mind.  Thank you for reminding me that someone else’s corruption should not end with my addiction and spiral into true insanity.

Call me a conspiracy theorist, but throughout the weeks I’ve read your book, I now wonder if the psychiatry profession and pharmaceutical companies aren’t in love with mass murder in this country.  In case you haven’t noticed, effects of these shootings include 1) criticizing the gun lobby like its the only agent with a stake in the game (although it certainly deserves its share of criticism) 2) hearing many well-intentioned people, including AP columnists, talk about the need to get people with mental health disorders “on medications.”  Somewhere in the mid-west, a chic hotel is booked full of pharma lobbyists drunkenly cackling with their sweet success.

Hell, even Paul Ryan, in response to the mass shootings in San Bernadino, has proposed legislation that would force compliance with medications and other physician-prescribed treatments.  Is he in bed with big pharma or just brainwashed like the rest of us?  The only thing that possibly terrifies me more than Trump handing out identification cards to Muslims is the thought that someone like – well, me – could be forced to comply with a regimen that has proven harmful to generations of people.  I’ve wondered plenty of times if I’m crazy, and have sought treatment in the past, but now I’m scared to do so again, for fear that I wouldn’t have any choice or right of refusal.  I’ve been prescribed drugs before for anxiety, but now that I’m starting to question this, I’m finding that I’m a bit of a maverick.  What might start as a desire to quell anxiety and self-actualize could end up with me drugged and a shrunken hollow shell of myself.  (Don’t blame me for the melodrama, it’s a sign – or is it a symptom? – of high anxiety.  And by the way, my questioning of my own use of pharmaceuticals should not be interpreted to mean that I judge anyone else for his or her decision with regard to the same.  But seriously, read the book first.)

Thank you, Mr. Whitaker, for reminding me that I have a choice.

My husband is deployed now, and will be gone for half of the next twelve months, too.  Should I tell people how hard it is for me to handle the household alone?  Tell them how lonely I get after 8 pm?  Should I tell my doctor how, when I hear my husband’s voice and see his face – the time I should be the happiest during his time away – I break down and cry?  Should I tell people that I’ve yelled at my husband just to take out my anger at the Army, at my food processor, at the crappy internet service at his international post, or at my current medical problems (which, by the way, are still regular and occupy 90% of my thoughts while awake?)?  Do these problems warrant medication?  Or do we need a different national response to national “security” so that our soldiers aren’t deployed year after year after year, contributing to the military divorce rate?  After all, what is divorce but a trip both people take to a land of high anxiety and stress that the pharmaceutical companies may well love to profit from? Perhaps we need more thought around the role of our military in general, medical research around mental health (and the biological causes of mental illness, since those remain elusive), research around whether or not returning soldiers treated for PTSD and anxiety do better with or without medications, research around whether or not pharmaceutical medications cause homicidal tendencies,  and while I’m at it, research of how religious radicalization occurs, and, dare I say it, any research around what causes gun violence in general?

Thank you, Mr. Whitaker, for putting me and my most precious relationship back into the realm of “normal” and reminding me that I am / we are more than whatever DSM category the psychiatrists are inventing these days.

Since reading Anatomy of an Epidemic, my mantra has become, “I am not a person with anxiety” or “I am more than anxious” or “my feelings are normal.”  I put these phrases on repeat as I walk through my neighborhood.  I don’t dare tell anyone what I’m thinking. I’ve already heard three other ladies this week tell me they “take a little something” to help them, which is their prerogative, but doesn’t make me feel any better about my newfound decision to go against the grain.  As any personal with sad or anxious thoughts can tell you that it only makes matters worse to have people react to your problems with the paternalistic reaction that maybe you only think the way you do since your brain is a little off.

Thank you, Robert, for listening to me.  For believing me.


Amen to what’s not there and *&$@!* DIY projects

So in my never-ending battle to 1) figure out what’s wrong with me and 2) fix it, I heard today that I don’t have rheumatoid arthritis.  Amen!  However, I was told that I have the gorgeous hands of a hand model and that they are dainty enough to not take kindly to being “mistreated” by learning aerial silks (does that mean I can also tell people I’m no longer allowed to do dishes?).

So the bad news: I’m not sure I can make a career of being an aerial artist.  The good news: I can save myself a lot of time and money in the trying.  Also, I don’t have the autoimmune disease I had feared when my hands started clenching and I was unable to open or close my fingers upon waking each morning.  Note that the elimination of RA as a possibility doesn’t rule out other autoimmune diseases (yay!).

I was given permission to continue with household DIY projects as long as they were not as stressful on my hand joints as rock climbing.  While this sounds like a far-fetched comparison, I refer you to my previous post about the importance of towel bars (multiple) in each bathroom.  Ergo, it is safe to assume that I have been in the process of adding towel bars to my two bathrooms, or,  more accurately, I’ve been trying to do so.  After my last post I’ll admit to feeling euphoric at the idea of bettering a room for me and all who may come after me as well as putting my own personal pet peeve to rest.

Then, of course, reality set in as I tried installing an actual towel bar and hit the metal plates.  I’ve already mentioned this before, and even had the audacity to proclaim that I would stop making mistakes until I figured out what I was doing.  So I did what any rational being in 2015 would do and watched no fewer than 4 YouTube videos of how to install a towel bar (or TV, for that matter) into both drywall AND metal.  I purchased the right bar off of Amazon that was only 18 inches in length and got back to work.

I drilled my second set of holes and immediately hit the same problem as before–despite not drilling over a stud, I was hitting metal and inch behind the wall.  The more I tried to push through and force the plastic anchors to lie flush when they had nowhere to expand to, the more I ripped up my wall (not to mention stressing my precious hands, ha!).  One guy at ACE asked if I had water gushing from my wall because he thought it sounded like I had hit a pipe.  *Paranoia set in about there, despite no water coming from the wall.*

So, I’ve given up a second time, after losing some sleep to this issue.  (I did note that I realize this “issue” is about as unimportant as they come, right?  And yet you see that it is still something about which I lose precious hours of sleep.)  The rheumatologist said he thought my not sleeping was a bigger deal than the pain in my hands since the pain has finally subsided after I stepped away from aerials for a few months.  You know you’re transparently Type A when the rheumatologist talks to you for twenty minutes about getting better sleep.

So coming full circle to my list of what is wrong with me and what needs to be fixed–I’d like to say it’s the towel bar’s fault that I’m a bit neurotic.  And why not?  Last time I blamed the beguiling Moen towel bar with a string of curses, it didn’t argue.

Is it just me? Ode to towel bars

Every home I’ve ever lived in has touted its greatness in some respect.  Some apartments have come with nice pools, others have included utilities, some places come with extra storage or a gas stove.  In the competition to fill new homes or have the perfect living space, it seems people will go to great lengths to distinguish their space with unique properties.  So it seems odd to me that all of them have missed the marked in at least one respect: they never have enough towel bars, and the ones they do have are often flimsy.

I’ve interrupted my regularly scheduled “heavy chat” as I’m not yet ready to face my newest set of issues.  But I am ready to talk about towel bars.  Levity has its place.  For once, I’m very grateful to have a problem in my life that could not be less important.  I’m thrilled to have this nit-picky, ridiculous, first-world bone to pick with society at large to forget about other things.  It makes me think differently about how others’ shallow obsessions may actually be facades for things they can’t let people see.

I digress…towel bars.

So I don’t know about you, but I like to use one towel to dry myself after a shower (I don’t discriminate between ‘this one for body, this one for hair’) and I keep the same towel in use for about five days.  Ok, seven, max.  I use a dehumidifier to dry out the bathroom so things evaporate more quickly, but nonetheless, a quality towel bar where one can spread this towel to avoid mold growth is essential to making that towel last and not over-using resources, like water for laundry.  Also, if I’ve been working out a lot, I like to hang up my workout clothes before tossing them in the hamper to prevent mildew and mold growth.  Seems like common sense.  So I need a towel bar (and not one that falls off of its brackets every time I retrieve the towel or replace it) for the towel, and another bar, or at least some hooks, for the clothes.

Anyone with me on this?!

So I have followed that basic principle for years.  Then, last year, I got married.  Obviously, now I have a husband who shares my bathroom.  And while the poor state of towel racks has always been a pet peeve of mine, getting married has magnified it tenfold.  My husband, logically, also uses a towel (I hate sharing a towel with someone–how can you dry yourself with someone’s damp leftovers?).  Therefore, there should be two towel bars, his and hers.

And YET.

In every residence we’ve had (which is more than you might think, since he’s military), and in every residence I’ve been invited into and asked to use the restroom to scope out this issue, there is a shocking dearth of towel bars.  There is only ever ONE.  And it is usually 18 inches, made of a cheap, lightweight metal, with shabby brackets so that the towel is in constant peril of plunging to the floor and remaining crumpled and risking mold.  In fact, we were recently shown pictures of a “big kid” home, as we call them, of a local millionaire.  The bathroom was done in marble and gold, with a shower the size of my queen bed and a steam room off to the side.  A huge jet tub was next to the shower.  A stunning job if ever I saw one.  The bathroom had been photographed from every angle.  A wealthy man lived there with his wife and children (and who knows, maybe a mistress or two).  And how many towel bars could I find in all of the pictures?  That’s right, ONE.  Horrific.  Apparently it’s fashionable for the wealthy to throw towels on the floor for someone else to pick up and use after each wash.  Even if I had the money to act like that, I wouldn’t.  Nothing should go into the hamper wet.  It comes out smelling like wet dog.

So, in our current home, I couldn’t stand it any longer.  I undertook the impossible: installing (many) more towel bars; at least three per bathroom.

I began, of course, in the wrong place.  I went shopping at Home Depot for the bars. What I should have done, as any good consumer knows, is look on Amazon for a surefire match to the current hardware and a better deal.  Hindsight is…

My second mistake was measuring from an aesthetic perspective vs. a structural one.  What is the top reason most towel bars fail at crucial moments of need?  They are not properly installed with adequate screws into studs or drywall that is thick enough to hold considerable weight.  So keep in mind that if you decide to add a towel bar, you have to think more about what is behind the wall than what you want it to look like installed.  For example, I am installing one where two walls meet at an unusual obtuse angle.  I wanted the bar to extend the length of the wall and drilled holes to meet the 24 inch criteria.  However, drilling so close to the edge of the wall left me drilling into a metal plate only half an inch behind the drywall.  Not enough space for a 1 and 1/4 inch screw.  And you don’t want to move to a shorter screw.  Trust me.

My third mistake was taking down a towel bar in the guest bath to reinstall in the master.  Unlike most towel bars, the one in the guest bath was really well installed.  Why did I do this?  Well, looking back at my first mistake, it was because I had gone to Home Depot instead of shopping online and getting the exact hardware I should have used.  So in trying to cover that problem I made another, because anyone with any life experience knows that once you remove a perfectly good towel bar from its original location, that location can never be used to the same effect again.  If you do make the mistake of trying to reuse the holes, I can promise you’ll have weeks of misery while your bar collapses multiple times after you leave the bathroom and you return to a crumpled, nasty towel on the floor.  Eventually you’ll capitulate and overpay some goon to come in and reinstall the bar in a new place, which will only work marginally better than the original location, unless you get lucky and the guy uses the right screws.

So, I’ve stopped the mistakes before I can make any more. I’ll watch some YouTube videos, ask some people who know a thing or two some questions.  And then I’ll get back to it, because life with two plus towel bars in the bathroom is just infinitely better.  Until that moment of nirvana comes, I’m back to one towel bar.  I love him so much, I’m letting my husband use it.

And the next step is…

So I decided that the next step was a biopsy.  Rather, my new doctor strongly recommended this and I was so tired of trying to come up with an answer myself that I was easily swayed into this next step.  So now I’m recovering.  As I said in the hospital when loopy with anesthesia, “you know that you’ve hit rock bottom when you’re ok with having holes punched in your vagina.”

Part of me is scandalized by my own willingness to admit this publicly, but a greater part of me realizes how damaging it was for me to grow up in a society that hid these things, that pretended these issues didn’t exist.  I wish that these were issues that women warned you about, as common as complications from childbirth, for example.  I wish this were polite dinner conversation.  I wish I didn’t feel ashamed of how I’m laid up for days because I can’t sit down (church was out this morning, as is going anywhere in a car, really).

I digress.  While I’ve been lying here the past couple of days, I came across this article:<a class=”m-story” data-collapsed=”true” href=””>Kingpins</a&gt;

This was a great article pointing to problems I think our society misses all too often.  While we’re caught up in the sensationalism of war or homicide or celebrity happenings, we are completely unaware of societal problems and solutions to chronic pain.  Meanwhile, people like me struggle with chronic pain, while trying to avoid the predators trying to hook us on a problem worse than the solution.  Hard to be vigilant when you’re drugged up.  Here’s to hoping there’s always someone else looking out for you.

An Intro to My “Credentials”

In starting to write a book this year, I’ve gotten a lot of questions about who I am and what I’m about.  I hadn’t thought of a novelist having a “platform” or “brand” before; I just thought I liked to make stuff up.  But as I wonder what to put out into the world and why–which will be the words I will rely on that I can never take back–I have had to do a lot of questioning of what I should talk about.  There are a lot of topics that matter to me (#blacklivesmatter #linguistics #homicide violence #publictransportation #zoukdance #travel to name a few) but few of which I am really qualified to speak.  In posing a lot of life’s questions to myself, I still come up with the rather pathetic answer of “I don’t know.”

So in searching my history and my soul, I’ve wondered what parts of it will be relevant for the long haul, and which are easily forgotten.  In that sense, I suppose I will only have time moving forward to tell me.  Nonetheless, as I look back on patterns in my life, the one that strikes me today is how, at a relatively young age, I know a lot about chronic medical conditions.  I use those words and they sound almost cold, but if I put it in more personal terms, I could say I know a lot about feeling sick, feeling at odds with the world, pain that lasts and lasts, tears that arise because there is no other way to cope.

I’ve been to a lot of doctors in my life and I’ve worked around them too.  The funny thing is, the ones I’ve worked with don’t suspect me of being the one that is also currently someone else’s patient. “You’re so young–what would you know about bad knees?” or “You’re young and healthy, long-term care isn’t something you have to worry about yet,” or, my favorite, “You look great–just wait a few more years, then you’ll know what your body really thinks of you.”  It’s such a strange stereotype that we have in society–that people who are young are assumed to possess vitality and full working parts, like a new machine.

Meanwhile, the doctors I see as a patient are often baffled with what to do with me.   One chronic illness is plenty per appointment, as I’m told, yet what if I have four or five to throw at them?  I often leave appointments feeling sorry for ruining their days with paperwork.  My bathroom drawer looks like a pharmacy and I feel like a pincushion.  I try to keep in mind that nothing imminently fatal has been thrown my way–that’s the beauty for now.  But where I belong in the abyss between thriving and  dying often remains precarious, in my mind.  And never mind if I’m somewhere solidly in between.  My position in less important than how I move from one end to the other.  Will a bridge appear in the direction I’ve hoped for?  Or will the next tidal wave wash me to the dreaded shore?  Or am I doomed to remain in purgatory for the next fifty years?

It’s not good to complain in public; no one likes a whiner.  There is seemingly nothing to complain about when you look at the world and you see all of the terrifying “could be’s” surrounding you, forcing you to count the blessings your twisted brain is all too eager to forget.  So feeling grateful is an important part of staying healthy.  But if you were to know the truth, my mind spends a good portion of each day wondering just how much energy one can expend to maintain a state of health that feels only marginally better than those who often are seen as unlucky.  It’s hard to talk about what the problems are–they’re embarrassing and complicated and often misunderstood.  But I wonder if, as I write, this crucial part of who I am will find the will to shine in characters that are more courageous than me.  My hope is, they take life’s knocks and bounce back with a return kick to the gut, a killer smile, and great hair.  My hope is that my “credentials” in life inspire characters that inspire me to climb the right side of the chasm.