Warrior Princess

December 28, 2006

One Worry Down, One To Go

Filed under: Things Can Always Get Worse — ggirl @ 9:28 pm

“Food is an important part of a balanced diet.”~ Fran Lebowitz
My psychiatrist finally got back to me today.  I left a message for her on Tuesday, explaining that my therapist thought I’m being a bit overwhelmed by anxiety.  She suggested upping the ante of my regular Xanax dosage.  I told Dr. W. (psychiatrist) that my appetite never returned after I finished chemo.  I’m aware of that unpleasant empty stomach feeling when I haven’t eaten in too long, but I’m never hungry.  Dr. W. thought maybe it could be a thyroid thing.  I actually like that answer more than the Xanax answer.  I have serious misgivings about raising the amount of potentially addictive substances in my life.  I have addiction problems on both sides of my family.  Very dangerous.

Dr. W. considered raising the amount of Elavil that I use to help me get to sleep (post traumatic stress disorder caused me to wake up many times every night before I was medicated).  That would improve the appetite situation, she said.  Somehow, we decided against that.  We decided to stay with the current level of Xanax, but I’m supposed to get the extended release version.  Maybe this will help the jittery feeling I walk around with all the time.  I didn’t even have to develop a closer relationship with any addictive substance.  The conversation was a roaring success, as far as I’m concerned.

The food thing is beginning to make me a little nervous.  I’ve always flirted with a potential eating disorder problem.  So far, I’ve managed to sidestep anorexia.  Bulimia will never be a problem.  I just don’t do the finger down the throat thing.  So unattractive!  This morning I had a whole bagel (it’s a very large bagel) and six prunes.  For lunch, two pieces of toast.  And a cookie.  I also ate most of a bag of popcorn.  I find myself worrying about the calories contained in all of that non-nutritious food.  It’s not a good sign.

The only reason today’s diet is so lacking in nutritional value is that I didn’t manage to get apples and oranges this past weekend.  I usually have two pieces of toast, a large apple and a Clementine orange.  That doesn’t sound like much, does it?  My therapist pointed out to me last week that I’m not eating enough.  It was she who raised the specter of anorexia.

If you’re never hungry and you always feel bad after eating, it makes it hard to know what constitutes enough.  When I finish my usual lunch, I feel pretty full.  My therapist thinks that’s because my stomach has shrunk.  Once I establish the amount of food I’m supposed to be eating, I’ll still have the problem of feeling crappy afterwards.  It’s not much of an incentive to eat, period. I’m very clear about the necessity of eating, though.

Dr. W. said that I should just treat food the same way I would medication.  Got to do it.  No skipping doses.  I’m fine with that, but I’m seriously going to have to figure out how much food to add.  At the moment, I’m thinking about adding a container of yogurt to my regular lunch menu.  The only problem with that is that I haven’t been able to get through an entire container of yogurt.  I can do half.  My therapist is stunned by this lack of capacity.  That gets my attention.

I’ve been trying to maintain a low-fat diet because there’s strong evidence that less fat equals a lower chance of getting breast cancer in the remaining girl.  I can’t do chemo again.  I have to do whatever I need to do to ensure I won’t have to try to endure it again.  On the other hand, I don’t have a lot of fat in my diet at the moment and I could probably add some without danger.

This is when thinking about myself as my best friend is helpful.  When I’m trying to determine the best course of action or when my nasty little inner voice starts beating me up, I always just think about what I would say to a friend if she were in the same situation.  I end up being much kinder to myself when I do that.  As I said before, I’ve always had food issues.  I’m just going to have to find a way to eat more.  Damn.

December 27, 2006

Present Moment, Wonderful Moment

Looking out of my office window, the skies are so blue and cloudless.  All the leaves are gone from the tree tops, but it’s not quite time for my little squirrel friend’s afternoon nap.  The tree limbs sway a bit in the winter winds.  I’ve been listening to Gregorian chants and chamber music all day.  Right now.  This moment.  Present moment, wonderful moment.  It’s all I have.

December 26, 2006

A Good Omen

Filed under: Bless the Beasts, Faith and Spirituality — ggirl @ 8:19 pm

My office is right across the street from what used to be the Municipal Airport.  It’s been closed for several years now, since they built a much bigger one out on the outskirts of town.  The land is being cleared now for mixed use development.  There are already some buildings in the process of construction, including a children’s hospital.  Those areas are on the opposite side of the old airport.

When I went out to get in my car and go home for lunch, I noticed a bird sitting on the ground across the street. (I’m fairly certain that “sitting’ isn’t the right word here, but I know “setting” isn’t it, either.) It looked too small to be a buzzard.  It was about the size of an owl, but it’s rare to see owls just hanging out in the middle of the day like that.

As I was standing there, trying to figure out what kind of bird it was, a white pickup truck pulled in right next to my car.  I smiled because I thought it was the husband of one of my co-workers, K.  Then I remembered that K. wasn’t in today.  A guy who looked to be about my age, heavily tattooed, got out of the truck and said, “I have binoculars.”  His girlfriend or wife or daughter got out of the other side.

“What the hell is that?” I asked him.  It was a red tailed hawk.  The man explained to me that all raptors will eat dead things, as long as it hasn’t decomposed too much, in which case the buzzards get it.  As we stood there, it picked up its prey and flew into a nearby tree.  The two people got back into their truck and left.

I love all raptors.  They’re so fierce and dignified looking.  As a matter of fact, I have a photograph of a red tailed hawk sent to me by a friend that I use as wallpaper for my office computer.

I can’t help but believe this is a good omen.  In celebration, here’s one of my favorite poems, written by a man who was a bit of a hurt hawk himself, Robinson Jeffers.

  Hurt Hawks

The broken pillar of the wing jags from the clotted shoulder,
The wing trails like a banner in defeat,

No more to use the sky forever but live with famine
And pain a few days: cat nor coyote
Will shorten the week of waiting for death, there is game without talons.

He stands under the oak-bush and waits
The lame feet of salvation; at night he remembers freedom
And flies in a dream, the dawns ruin it.

He is strong and pain is worse to the strong, incapacity is worse.
The curs of the day come and torment him
At distance, no one but death the redeemer will humble that head,

The intrepid readiness, the terrible eyes.
The wild God of the world is sometimes merciful to those
That ask mercy, not often to the arrogant.

You do not know him, you communal people, or you have forgotten him;
Intemperate and savage, the hawk remembers him;
Beautiful and wild, the hawks, and men that are dying, remember him.


I’d sooner, except the penalties, kill a man than a hawk;
but the great redtail
Had nothing left but unable misery
From the bone too shattered for mending, the wing that trailed under his talons when he moved.

We had fed him six weeks, I gave him freedom,
He wandered over the foreland hill and returned in the evening, asking for death,
Not like a beggar, still eyed with the old
Implacable arrogance.

I gave him the lead gift in the twilight.
What fell was relaxed, Owl-downy, soft feminine feathers; but what
Soared: the fierce rush: the night-herons by the flooded river cried fear at its rising
Before it was quite unsheathed from reality.

Robinson Jeffers

He Set the Fire and Left

Filed under: Uncategorized — ggirl @ 5:36 pm

“…the crime of suicide lies rather in its disregard for the feelings of those whom we leave behind.” ~ E. M. Forster
Anxious.  Anxious.  Anxious.

At the very last minute, I decided to add festivity to Christmas dinner.  I got out a set of my Christmas china (I have two.  I’m very into Christmas, usually.) and created a centerpiece out of a candy dish and some red cinnamon-scented tea candles.  Mid-way into the meal, I remembered that I should have used more festive flatware, but you can’t have everything, I guess.  Maybe next year.  I’m hoping to be all well and feeling great next year, so maybe I’ll have more energy to decorate.

My husband and I didn’t do the gift thing.  I like that a lot.  No shopping!  I gave my mom a gift and she gave me a gift certificate for Borders.  Excellent choice!

On Saturday, Hubby got a call from a woman from one of the magazines for which he does freelance writing.  The editor of the magazine died over the weekend.  Hubby had known this guy for over a decade.  His house caught on fire and, though his wife escaped, he did not.

There was daily newspaper coverage and, over time, we found out that the man (I’ll call him Editor) committed suicide.  It’s the strangest method I’ve every heard.  Maybe he overdosed on some prescription drugs…that’s just speculation, though.  What we do know is that he set some newspapers on fire in the closet in the “back bedroom.”

Women attempt suicide more than men, but more men die from suicide than women.  That’s because men choose methods that are highly lethal.  They choose guns a lot.  My dad chose a gun. Setting your house on fire doesn’t guarantee the anticipated outcome.  You could be rescued.  You’d definitely want to increase the odds, because burn treatment can be excruciatingly painful.  I’m guessing he didn’t own a gun.

Of course, no one knows why.  No one ever knows why.  The person who called Hubby talked about the conflict Editor had been having with the publisher of the magazine.  The publisher demanded increased profitability.   Editor hadn’t had a raise in ten years.  She also mentioned a “crazy” ex-wife who wouldn’t let him see his kids.  I guarantee that it wasn’t just the job.  As for the ex-wife and kids, I don’t think co-workers are in a position to know the truth about those situations.  The co-worker was clearly hoping to blame someone for it, whether it be the ex-wife or the publisher.

The only person to blame is the person who set the newspapers on fire.  No one can make someone else commit suicide.  It’s never about just one thing.  Or two.  Generally, people who decide to check out have had difficulties all of their lives, both in relationships and in coping skills.  Typically, people who commit suicide have always chosen to deal with problems by running away.  Suicide is the last ditch effort at running away.  It trumps everything.

I’m so sorry for his family.  My dad died shortly before the holiday season and I know what it’s like to spend Christmas just trying to get through every  minute of every hour.  The pain is of a type and magnitude that is unimaginable unless you’ve lived through it.  The minute I found out that Editor killed himself, I became furious with him.  Thanks, Dad, for fucking up Christmas now and forever more for your kids.  Thanks from the wife for setting the house on fire and causing damage that won’t be covered by their insurance.  If the blaze is deliberately set, insurance companies don’t have to pay. His wife will have fathomless guilt to deal with and, probably, abandonment by many of their friends.  People don’t know what to say, so they withdraw.  That withdrawal just increases the sense of responsibility survivors feel.
It took me years to get angry at my dad for killing himself.  I’ve been angry about it for the past two or three years.  He died 8 years ago, 9 days before my birthday.  From that date through the holidays, I always experience flashbacks.  Sometimes I can identify the triggers, but the majority of the flashbacks are seemingly random.  This has been a huge trigger.  I talked with my mom about it.  She has flashbacks, too, but hers are worse because she found him.

We talked about how my dad had wanted to call me shortly before he died.  We both believe that, had that happened and had I gone there, my mom and I would both be dead, too.  I’m grateful that he didn’t take my mom.  I’m grateful that I didn’t have time to make the trip there I was planning.

Editor’s death invokes profound sadness.  In part, it’s the sadness I felt for my father.  What a lonely place to be, the moment you make the decision.  Lonelier still the seconds before the end.  Then, all the suffering is left to the loved ones who must go on living.

I wish everyone contemplating suicide could know what they’ll leave behind.  A nuclear holocaust for survivors.


December 21, 2006

It Hasn’t Been A Bad Year At All

“Every act of conscious learning requires the willingness to suffer an injury to one’s self-esteem. That is why young children, before they are aware of their own self-importance, learn so easily.” ~ Thomas Szasz

Even sugar couldn’t help me yesterday. I was in a black mood all day. When I got home, I had a card from an old high school friend of mine. She included one of those holiday update letters that people seem to like to send. It sounds like things are going well for her and, though I’m certainly glad for her, it further damaged the day. It hasn’t been a good year for me. That goes without saying. I don’t have any business comparing myself to her or anyone else, though. Things are what they are.
I’m feeling better today. Nothing has changed, of course, but I’m not interested in questioning too much for fear of slipping down into the darkness again. I really hate that.

I’ve been thinking maybe I’ve lost some weight in the past couple of months. I never weigh myself. When I started working out regularly, I actually gained weight by adding muscle mass. I can always judge more accurately by how my clothes fit. I put on a pair of jeans this morning and they were a little loose, even though they were just washed. A month or so ago, I had trouble getting into them.

I’m never hungry anymore. I guess that’s been going on since I finished up chemo. For a while, I chalked it up to radiation, but it’s been five months since that was over. I know when my stomach is empty for too long, but I don’t ever feel hungry. It makes it difficult to tell when I’ve eaten enough…or too much. After lunch, I didn’t feel like eating the rest of the day. I made myself eat a tangerine around 6:00 p.m. because I definitely didn’t get enough fruits or veggies earlier. That was all I had, though.
I generally end up feeling a little sick after I eat, so I’m really never particularly interested in food. I’m not sure why it makes me not feel well. My mom speculated this morning that maybe I’ve been worried about the upcoming surgery. (Surgery countdown: 17 days) I’ve definitely been anxious.

For a while now, I’ve been working hard to silence the little Fascist inside my head. It’s some remnant of my childhood self that really marshaled all of my personal forces to successfully escape from the kind of life my parents had. I had tough expectations of myself. Any misstep was cause for severe self denigration. If I wasn’t perfect, I was a terrible person.

The little girl in the brown shirt still thinks she needs to monitor my behavior. Not only does she punish for current imperfections, she also has a very long memory. I can still drift into “I’m a terrible person. I hate myself.” very easily, even for things I did when I was 8.
However, every day now, I remind myself that I’m worthy of love. I’m worthy of the same level of kindness I extend to everyone else. When the little Fascist pops up, I’m more able now to stop the accusations.

It’s a sad thing that I’ve only recently been consistently aware of that voice. For years, whenever my mind was unoccupied or whenever I wasn’t completely pleased with my behavior, the haranguing began automatically. I’m hardly ever completely pleased with my behavior or, if the behavior is okay, my motivations are questionable. The nasty little voice was a constant companion.
At some point, I would notice that voice, but I wasn’t necessarily able to stop it. I didn’t necessarily believe that I should stop it. Hey, it worked for me for years. Why stop now?

I’m stopping now because I have breast cancer. Breast cancer has been very, very good to me. I’m a lot kinder to myself. I’ve had a lot of time to sit around on my sofa and listen to whatever comes up in my head. I don’t need that voice anymore. It’s no longer critical that I work so hard to be a good person, a hard-working person, to be completely beyond reproach in every way. It took this catastrophic illness to recognize that.

To revisit the beginning of this post, I’m alive. I’m not in pain. I know for right now that I’m doing the best I can. In some ways, it hasn’t been a bad year at all.

December 20, 2006

Sometimes I Even Bore Myself

Filed under: Office Hell, Things Can Always Get Worse — ggirl @ 6:10 pm

“December is the toughest month of the year. Others are July, January, September, Aprll, November, May, March, June, October, August, and February.” ~ Mark Twain
I’m not sure what’s going on with me today.  I’m feeling really down.  It could be because the sky is gray and it’s getting close to Christmas.  I was listening to the radio a little while ago, but I had to turn it off.  Everything they played just made me feel worse.  I’d really like to push these feelings away, but that only makes things worse.  Better to just feel what I’m feeling, even if it’s bad.  That was one of those great lessons I learned from breast cancer.  I have a two-day turnaround time.  If I just go with being down and stop trying to fight it, I’ll start feeling better in a couple of days.  If I try to banish the feeling, I can be stuck in Gloomy Land for weeks.
We were supposed to have my boss’ birthday party today.  He was a Christmas baby.  He cancelled it early Tuesday so that they could have a company board meeting in the conference room.  He called late yesterday and cancelled the board meeting.  He said he was having a personal emergency and wouldn’t be in today.

The comptroller of the company is furious because, of course, a lot of financial reports have to be generated for the board meeting.  He had other pressing things to do to prepare for the end of the year.

K. is worried about the boss.  She called me a little while ago to ask if I spoke with him yesterday.  I didn’t.  I told her to stop worrying.  Whatever is going on is probably not a big deal.  My boss is a bit of a drama queen.

S. is worried something has gone wrong with the boss’ wife, who’s had some health problems lately.  I don’t think that’s it.  They went through several weeks of tests recently and, even though she does have a disease, it’s a disease that’s not likely to kill her.  It’s not even a disease that will have a substantial impact on her quality of life.  She’s just more tired than most of us.

So I guess we’re having lunch.  With cake.  That should go a long way towards making me feel better.  Everyone is happy that the boss won’t be here for his birthday lunch because he tends to dwell on unpleasant topics.  It never fails.  He goes off on little verbal side trips about how we’re all going to lose our jobs in a couple of months.  Or he finds something truly disgusing to talk about.  One year, one of my co-workers ordered a pecan praline cheesecake for his birthday lunch.  The boss went on and on about how the pecans looked like flies.  Festive!

I usually try to put a stop to it, but no one else has the intestinal fortitude to do it.  That irritates me.  Jeez, people.  To quote MacBeth (which I don’t do very often), “Screw your courage to the sticking place” and say something.  They’re always grateful to me, but if they’re so grateful, maybe they should take some responsibility for stopping him.

I’m boring myself today.  Maybe my brain will start functioning better when it’s fueled with sugar.  You get that nice little high for about thirty minutes before the blood sugar levels tank.  I’ll just rush back in here and type furiously until it’s over.  It  could be entertaining.  You never know.

December 18, 2006

The Surgery Countdown Begins

“I don’t know why we are here, but I’m pretty sure that it is not in order to enjoy ourselves.” ~ Ludwig Wittgenstein

I can tell it’s getting time for a new oncological procedure.  I have once again completely let go.  Letting go followed quickly on the heels of detachment and dissociation.

Last weekend, I ran a red light.  This is not a thing I would normally do.  I know lots of people do it several times a day, a little like Russian Roulette.  I tend to stop for caution lights unless it looks like the asshole behind me has absolutely no intention of slowing down and that, if I don’t keep going, I will probably be launched through my windshield.  I didn’t even see it.  That was a very frightening experience, soI let my mom drive the rest of the day.  After it happened, I could definitely feel a slight fuzziness in thought process.  I could tell there were fairly large areas in my brain where there were no synapses firing.

Then I went to do my weekly grocery shopping.  I’m a very decisive woman.  My motto used to be, “If you need a decision, just call me and I’ll make it.”  As I wandered through the aisles, I would periodically find myself just standing there, blanked out, unable to decide whether I should get bread or whether I even needed to go down Aisle 9.

Chemo brain, I thought.  I’ve read it can go on for a decade after one finishes chemotherapy.  Last Monday, more chemo brain.  Standing in the middle of my bedroom, wondering which clothes to put on.  I took four or five shirts out of the closet and ended up leaving them on the bed.  The plan was to wear jeans.  Then I thought maybe I just needed to switch to a skirt and that would solve my blouse impasse.  Wrong again.  I took out several skirts and they made their way onto the bed, too.  Finally, after standing there for a while longer, I decided to go with a dress.  Ah, yes.  That way you only have to pick the appropriate shoes for the dress.  I was up for that task.

I mentioned to Therapist that I was having this standing around like a deer in the headlights problem and I attributed it to the chemicals still floating around in my body or lodged in places like my liver.  I noted my irritation and frustration.  She parried with her diagnosis of dissociation.

That might explain my general level of detachment I’ve noticed for the past couple of weeks.  It makes perfect sense.  What do I do when I’m anxious?  I dissociate.  Does the upcoming surgery make me anxious?  That word doesn’t begin to describe how I feel.

I’m still detached, but I managed to get through grocery shopping on Sunday and getting dressed this morning without aimlessly standing around.  I had a little panic attack last night, but then I suddenly remembered that I’m not in control here.  Oh yeah!  I can let go.  So I did.  Whatever happens will happen and I’ll get through the week in the hospital with God’s grace.  I don’t have to worry about those five days.

This phenomenon seems to be limited to breast cancer-related issues.  I may not be able to let go in any other situation, but there seems to be an automatic on/off switch when it comes to breast cancer. Suddenly I’m on autopilot and at peace with whatever comes.  I’d really, really like it if they would stop hurting me, but my life has never been about what I like or dislike.  It has always been about what must be done.  I’m okay with that.  I mean, I might as well be because who cares what I want?  Not the universe, obviously.

The current surgery countdown is 22 days.

December 14, 2006

Not Conducive to Perfection

Filed under: Breast Cancer, Office Hell, Things Can Always Get Worse — ggirl @ 9:02 pm

I just have to complain.  I know it’s going to make me feel so much better.  This morning, the Accounting Office asked for my help with the relational databases I’ve been working on that creates both invoices and purchase orders.  There are three different files for three different types of invoices.  K. works on two of them.  S. and her boss, the Comptroller, couldn’t find an invoice that S. knew we’d billed because we had the check that cited two invoices.  I took the information and went back to my office to look for them.  I opened up what we’ll call the “JLLCity” files, performed a find request and there they were.  I knew they were in that file because I’ve been working on it for the past couple of days.  K. asked that I delete the information in one of the fields.  Now she wants it back, so I’ve been updating this file.
I went back to the Accounting office and showed S. where they were.  They were in the wrong database.  They should have been in the “Miscellaneous” database.  As a matter of fact, there are at least 135 invoices that should have been in that database.  Of course, both the Comptroller and S. immediately became irate at K. for putting them in the wrong place.  Well, you know.  I just create the database; other people enter the data.  My goal has been to make the process faster and more efficient for everyone who does billing.  In order to do that, I had to rely on K.’s input to some extent.  Turns out K’s wrong.  Again.  Great.

I’ve spent the last month or so working my behind off trying to get the system up and running so that I can find and address needs for more information, design flaws or glitches in the system.  That’s because, beginning January 3, I won’t be in town.  After January 8, not only will I not be in town, I’ll be heavily drugged for several days.  Anything that goes wrong then is just going to have to stay wrong until I get back.

I’ve been moving information from one database to another all morning.  It’s not a huge deal, but it’s not work I enjoy.  The Comptroller suggested that we scrap the “JLLCity” database and create a new one dedicated to that customer.  We have invoices for that customer in all three databases.  Several thousand records.  I’d also need to figure out a way to make all of that information remain accessible in the current files so that we won’t be any more confused than we obviously already are.  I can do that.  No question about it.  Can I do it by the first of the year?  No.  Would it have been better if the responsible party (i.e., the Comprtroller) had actually participated in the planning?  Oh yeah.  It would have been fine if he’d just looked at the skeleton of the databases after I’d created them.  Now it’s all just a huge mess.

I was telling Hubby and my Mom over lunch about the whole brouhaha.  “I don’t know why I care,” I said.  “But you do,” my mom pointed out.  She’s right.  If I design something, if I work on something, I need for it to be as close to perfect as I can make it.  This is obviously not perfect at all.  I’m frustrated and irritated.  I may even be frustrated with myself for being upset about this.  I should know better than to get too emotionally invested in anything here.  This company is not conducive to that.

I sent the Comptroller’s office an email, asking if they wish for me to create that new database.  I recommended that we retain the old files in their current location, mark them as void and note that they’ve been moved to another database.  More work for me, but closer to perfection.  Will anyone think about this?  I don’t know.  All I know is that if I create this database and then someone says it isn’t what they need after all, I’m going to be furious.

I’m clearly going to have to spend some time today divesting myself of emotional ownership.  Yeah.  That’s easy for me to do.  In the meantime, I’ll just be moving those 135 records.  Funny.  I don’t feel any better about any of this.

December 13, 2006

Just Hop on That Table Over There and Grab a Speculum

Filed under: Office Hell, Things Can Always Get Worse — ggirl @ 5:52 pm

“People who like this sort of thing will find this the sort of thing they like.” ~ Abraham Lincoln
I don’t have much on my mind today or maybe I have a lot on my mind, but none of it’s very interesting.  At some point in our lives, we narrow down our amusing life experiences to maybe a top ten or top five.  Those top five or ten are the mainstay of any social gathering.  Don’t know what to say?  Trot out Amusing Anecdote Number 5.  Of course, some of them are only entertaining if you actually know the people involved.  They have only limited uses.

Being inherently asocial, I’ve worked hard at developing a social strategy.  The first line of action is to ask questions.  Make them personal, but not too personal.  For instance, do not ask anyone if you can see their Brazillian wax.  Maybe just stay away from the waxing topic altogether.  If worst comes to worst, you can always play the sports card.  I try to keep up with virtually all sports to some extent, just in case I’m in a situation where it comes to that.

At some point, you may be forced to actually talk about yourself, but the odds of that are slim because most people never get the chance to really talk about themselves.  Or rather, they talk about themselves, but they know deep down inside that the listener is just basically marking time until they can jump in and hijack the conversational ball.

I’m all about letting people talk about themselves.  I think that’s one of those things that makes me such a “likeable” person.  I can always be counted on to notice anything new (new tie, new hair style, etc.) or express unlimited interest in the minutiae of other people’s lives.  I really am interested; I don’t mean to imply that my social strategy is duplicitous.  From time to time, though, it begins to dawn on people that they’ve known me for years and actually know next to nothing about me.  That’s when the Top Ten Amusing Personal Anecdotes comes in very handy.  It seems like I’m sharing when, in fact, I’m handing out pre-processed information that isn’t, in the end, all that illuminating.  The top anecdotes tactic has sometimes bought me several years of extra time before I actually have to come up with something revealing about myself.

Aside from being introverted, I like to stay away from the subject of me because so much of my life was so completely beyond the pale that I know tellling will likely have some unpleasant results.  People turn a little white.  They look at me like I’m from another planet.  They start to cry.  Sometimes I can see people trying to figure out whether I’m just making things up or deliberately trying to shock.  None of these are particularly appealing outcomes.  Hence, anecdotes.

All of this was just a rambling build-up to an anecdote that came to mind yesterday.  Since I have nothing particularly compelling to talk about, here it is.

Back in the mid 1970’s, I worked for a local women’s organization.  It had started out being edgy and political.  They regularlyl held “rap groups.”  If you don’t know what that means, you should probably just count yourself lucky.  Suffice it to say that I never had the slightest interest is “rapping”  and, furthermore, the very word offends me.  It’s like the word “depot” that used to irritate me when I was a child.  There are just some words I don’t like hearing or saying.  “Rap” is one of them.

By the time I went to work there, it had degenerated to a very un-cool, grant-funded organization.  We participated in a federal grant to help women find jobs.  Well, technically it couldn’t just be women, because the feds kind of expected equal access, even though men already had all the access they might ever need.  We had a help line that I inherited.  I got calls from women whose husbands had left them after clearing out all the bank accounts and cancelling credit cards.  I talked to women who were battered and looking for a way out.  I fielded just about any kind of crisis question imaginable.  It was very, very stressful.  We rented out space in our building for classes and publicized them.  That was my bailiwick, too.  (Note:  “Bailiwick” is one of those words I  love.  It just sounds entertaining.)
We had difficulty funding those two services.  My boss (who really deserves her own post) put me in charge of one of the fundraisers.  I was known as a writer back in those days, with contacts in the community.  Alex (the director) came up with the bright idea that we have a bookfair featuring local women authors.  Well, I thought that was a terrible idea.  I knew exactly how much community support writers got here at the time and it just didn’t seem likely to generate enough interest to make even half the money she was counting on from the event.  But you know, what choice did I have?

Okay.  Here’s the anecdote.  Finally.  One of the local authors contacted me regarding a book about women’s gynecological health.  I just figured it was like Our Bodies, Ourselves, so I  signed her up and sent her a packet.  A couple of weeks later, the woman calls me up, seriously agitated.  She’d read the packet materials and demanded that she get not one, but two tables.  I didn’t have a problem with that.  There wasn’t any danger of running out of tables.  I was curious about why she thought she needed two, though.

The author explained to me that she’d really like to have an extra table to stage some demonstrations on how to do your own gynecological examinations.  What?  She wanted to have some woman (or women, I guess) splayed out on the table with a speculum and a mirror.  “Oh no,” I said, “No, no, no.  No.  There will be children and men there, too.  I can’t possibly allow that.”  She flipped out.  She really didn’t see the point in participating if she couldn’t do her little demo and, furthermore, what would be so bad about children seeing something perfectly natural and very woman-centered?  Well, what can one say to something like that?  No.  Because I said so.  Ultimately, she decided it just wasn’t her cup of tea after all and, after haranguing me about my lack of political correctness, suggested that I just take her name off the advertising.

I did and never heard from her again.  I left the organization after a year, burned out and even more cynical than I was before I worked there.  The job I went to turned out to be even more awful than that one, but in a far less satisfying way.  Every year, we have a statewide book fair held at the state capitol grounds, originally organized by Laura Bush.  (Personal anecdote #8 is about a friend of mine who got axed from the fair because Laura found out his work was openly critical of her husband.)  Every year, I wonder if that author is still trying to find places that will allow her to drop her big girl panties and speculum up.

December 11, 2006

Avoidance of the Inevitable

Filed under: Breast Cancer, Things Can Always Get Worse — ggirl @ 4:32 pm

On Friday, my therapist asked me what my plans were for Christmas.  I was dumbfounded.  Plans?  I’m supposed to be making plans?  Well I don’t have any.  My big plan is to hide from myself as long as possible how quickly January 8 is looming on the calendar.

Nonetheless, I’m festively attired and jingling still.  How can I sustain both?  Well, that’s why people call me “complex.”  It’s just one more dichotomy amongst many others.   I haven’t done any Christmas shopping.  I don’t even have any plans to shop.  I haven’t decorated my house.  I haven’t participated in thinking about a menu.  I try not to hear Christmas songs, even though they’re absolutely inescapable.

I lose track of days and months.  Have we gotten through winter yet?  I actually had to think about that question over the weekend.  Let’s see…I know it’s not May.  Are we close to May, though?

I rode my stationary bike on Saturday and, instead of feeling a bit more energized, I just ended up feeling more exhausted than when I started.  That fatigue followed me all day yesterday and today I still seem to be at least partially brain dead.

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