Pleasantly bubbly and refreshing!
But I especially love how the pictures look in a series of smaller headshots, at http://cargocollective.com/endiabeal/Can-I-touch-it.
They look proud, powerful, and a little strange; it’s like they’re the board of directors of a major corporation in the early 19th century or something. I read these women as having indeterminate gender: because they are older, because they are staring the camera straight on with confidence, because they’re wearing power suits, but most of all because the hair is not white female hair of any kind, not even white female powerful women hair.
Pretty interesting, and pretty awful, that my unconscious read of black women’s hairstyles is apparently “not female” or “not feminine” when it’s on white women’s heads. Also interesting, maybe less awful (maybe not), that I read it as powerful.
My reaction to the large pictures in the Slate article was “okay that is gorgeous” and thoughts about mechanics of hairstyles and maybe more white women should do these and then concerns about appropriation and then it gets complex and I am very privileged here.
A quickie set of pics of some of my weaving. Click for bigger images!
I am wearing the scarf that’s in the first three today, against a green dress; the scarf looks very green. It would seem red against a red dress. It’s kind of magic! Also, lighting really, really matters. These were taken by an experienced photographer here at work, and we had a pinkish gel up at first and I was so confused why we couldn’t get the green scarf to actually look green.
This was supposed to be a large shawl, but ended up being a small baby blanket. I love the colors, though.
Fibroids are these things that often happen in the vicinity of uteruses. You can read about it on wiki, but be warned that there are some graphic photos.
The thing about fibroids is that a lot of women get them, and most of the time they’re totally irrelevant. Sometimes they cause heavier bleeding, sometimes they get big and uncomfortable, etc — but mostly, they are benign and small enough that the uterus-owner doesn’t even notice them.
Lately, a good friend of mine has been struggling with fibroidish problems. She had several large ones, like grapefruits, and was suffering pretty severely. There’s just not a lot of room in a woman’s pelvic region for a few extra grapefruits, you know? Things aren’t designed for that. They did a treatment to shrink them and it didn’t work, so she got a hysterectomy.
Shortly thereafter, she learned that she was one of the very unlucky few whose fibroids were not benign. In fact, one of hers was a nasty evil cancer, and it spread before the hysterectomy got it out of there. So after suffering for months and enduring abdominal surgery, now she’s starting chemo.
I am very close to the family, so I am involved in the caretaking and support, and I am like what the fuck. I am looking Death in the face and his name is Leiomyosarcoma — which you can translate as Fibroid of Cancer, Fuck. (I shall always read “sarcoma” as “cancer, fuck” from now on)
I have some personal anxiety going on in the background here, too, even before we got news of the evil fibroid. My mother had fibroids and they sucked! I am afraid of something making my period worse. My period is terrible! I am afraid of growing grapefruits in my pelvis. I am afraid of even supposedly benign masses pushing on my bits and interfering with the normal operation of systems like my colon. I am afraid of having more pain down there in general.
And now I am afraid of Fibroid of Cancer, Fuck, even though the odds of that are really low. My friend having it doesn’t change the odds of me getting it, any more than my friend having grapefruit fibroids made it any more likely that I would too.
Still, I am scared. Because I have a fibroid. It is a small one, but I don’t know how long it’s been there. I don’t know how long it’s been growing. I don’t know if that’s why my period seems heavier lately, or if it’s why I’m having strange period-related side effects to one of my medications. And I don’t know if it’s a fibroid of cancer, fuck — and I won’t, until it becomes a grapefruit.
Because I’m not going to go around getting vaginal ultrasounds all the time to keep track of a tiny benign thing I might have had all my life that will probably never do anything or cause any problems whatsoever.
In the past few weeks, I have had some changes in my relationship with my uterus. It’s a very strange thing.
First off, it turns out I have a relationship with my uterus. I hadn’t really thought about it, most of my life; it was just this part of me that I had to make sure didn’t get pregnant. Or, as I was wont to think of it, infested with an alien parasite. It was also the thing that, once a month or so, hurt like a motherfucker shortly before producing a lot of blood.
Yeah, I have had serious cramps for just about 25 years now. Once a month, it’s the Day of Pain. Some hormonal treatments helped lessen it, but with other side effects. I tried to do the Seasonale thing with four periods a year, but the dose on those is too small for a fat lady and I had breakthrough bleeding the whole damn time — along with randomly scattered Days of Pain.
Now I’m on medication for other problems that leave me spotting every day. This is just not okay. At the same time, I know that I do not want to host an alien parasite, not ever, no matter what people say about the maternal instinct, or how much I love and adore other peoples’ babies.
So, a few weeks ago, I got a referral to a great gynecologist and went in for a consult about two magic procedures: ablation and sterilization.
The sterilization I had my eye on, Essure, can’t be done at the same time as an ablation, so I’m going to have a two-for-one ablation and tubal ligation. At least, that’s the plan. It sounds like a great plan!
Before I can be ablated, though, I have to have some testing. I needed a pelvic exam, a vaginal ultrasound, and an endometrial biopsy. If, for some reason, I had a problem and didn’t qualify for an ablation, the next option would be a hysterectomy. (I figured, hysterectomy, sounds good, get rid of the thing that hurts and bleeds and just be done with it all! Oh wait, abdominal surgery. Yuuuuuck.)
For some women, these tests are trivial and easy experiences. I had a more difficult time, though.
All this, and some other stuff, have come together to make me much more aware of this little organ inside me, and the trouble it’s caused. I’ve got more of a relationship to it, and I’m not sure I like it. I’ve got a lot of anxiety, pain, and fear.
So today I’m starting a series of posts called Wombly Speaking. I’m going to talk about some of these procedures and my experiences with them.
About a month ago, Pat Robertson said a terrible thing, and the internet was like “Whoa, Look What That Jerk Said!”
What he said is basically that it’s women’s fault when their husbands drink or cheat, because the women have gotten ugly and sloppy in their dress.
The Internet is totally right to call this guy out for saying such a terrible thing.
But you know what?
In a lot of places, I see comments about how ugly Robertson is. Check out how ugly he is, who is he to talk? For instance, here, at about 2 minutes in.
Sure, it’s an easy shot. We love hypocrisy, right? But the problem is not that an ugly dude is telling women to be pretty for their husbands (lest their husbands become alcoholics or divorce them). It wouldn’t be okay if a handsome dude was telling women to be pretty for their husbands. The problem is not who’s saying it, the problem is what’s being said.
The thing that is the problem is called “appearance policing” and it is about socially requiring people to look a certain way in order to qualify for certain social benefits, such as basic respect from a spouse. Or an employer, or a shopkeeper, or whoever. Leggings aren’t pants is the same thing (even if I passionately hate the use of leggings as pants).
When we go off and say “Yeah, what a terrible thing to say and what an ugly dude who said it!” we are doing the SAME THING AS ROBERTSON. We are saying that the problem is with what he looks like, not with what he said. We are playing into his hands, agreeing with his basic assertion that a person’s appearance determines what value they should have.
And really, what he looks like is perfectly fine old white guy. There’s nothing wrong with his appearance — not that it matters, it really doesn’t. But it just makes it worse, because the problem isn’t even that he’s some essence of ugly, it’s just that he’s old.
It’s not okay to police the appearance of old guys, calling them ugly for being old, even if they’re assholes. Even if they’re Pat Robertson, professional asshole.
Call him a sexist asshole. Call him wrong. Say how angry you are that this old fucker is going on as if he knows something about you and your marriage and how it’s all your fault that your husband is an abusive alcoholic. That’s all totally legit.
Just leave his looks out of it.
I have begin the quest to develop that most elusive of things: a regular, non-remarkable exercise habit.
I hear people have this. I hear that for a lot of people, it is the most normal thing in the world to have a gym membership and have certain times when you go to the gym, and you do the thing, and then you go on with your day. I hear that for these people, missing too many days will actually cause them to suffer from mood disruptions.
This is completely mind-boggling to me. I sort of get it intellectually, but… no. What? How? Who does that? How does that even work?
But my health problems over the past year combined to render me less of a couch potato and more of a couch. A migraine every other day will do that! So gradually even routine daily stuff like grocery shopping was getting hard. Two flights of stairs? HA. Going for a walk with my husband? Hard work, instead of a lovely time under sun-dappled trees, watching the ducks. Worse still, while I am okay with the changes in my weight*, my doctors are not, and they make a cogent case for how my weight is causing me a specific harm. I’d push back against general Fat Is Bad from the doctors but “these studies show this for your condition” is, like, Actual Science and not run of the mill fat bias.
I have signed up with a fancy expensive small-group training gym. You can’t actually go without an appointment and there will be a maximum of eight people there at any time — and four of them are on cardio and don’t need the trainer’s attention. They notice if you don’t show up to appointments or if you don’t make all the appointments you’ve paid for, and will call you to ask what’s up. They listened when I said I didn’t want to hear about their nutrition plan. When I had an injury, they worked around it. When I’m struggling, they tell me I’m doing great.
It’s been less than a month. I’ve had to struggle to get my three appointments a week into my schedule, sometimes; having back to back appointments is really tough for me and they’re closed Sundays. But I have now gone to the gym more times in a month than possibly in any other twelve-month period of my life.
I can (repeatedly) pick up and put down heavier things than I thought I could!
I have improved one of the exercises they use as an index for your capability by like 25%!
I still can’t really use the elliptical machine or the bike for my cardio without crying and having to stop. But on the treadmill, I have walked, like, an entire mile, after repeatedly moving heavy things around!
It is super hard, though, and I have had to apply a lot of stubborn bitch to get through some of this. But that is all in the gym! The best thing about all of this is that really, I don’t have to think about it the rest of the time. I just have to figure out how I’m going to make this appointment, same as if it were a doctor appointment or a meeting with my boss. The trainers have planned out what we do that week and I just have to follow instructions as best I can.
So, mostly, it’s like, all I really have to do is show up. Once I’m there, other processes take over and I am working hard because really any kind of movement is hard work for me, but again, someone else is in charge of that. I just have to get there.
I think that’s what’s going to be the thing that makes this possible for me. At least, I hope so. I need enough willpower and other supportive pressures to keep me going until I hit that point where the training is its own reward.
…will that happen? I hope it does. I really, really hope it does before the novelty of “wow, I moved heavy things around!” wears off.
Have any of you done this kind of thing?
*I finally fit in cheap mass-produced dresses off the internet, now that my belly has caught up to my breasts! Yay! Macy’s sales for the win!
This has become a bit less exciting now that I’ve discovered eShakti, which will serve me up cute dresses forever no matter what measurements I may possess. So awesome, so cute, and I should write up a post about that soon.
Paraphrased questions from some comments on this Captain Awkward post about green flags for a good therapist:
“Why do advice columnists (like Captain Awkward) keep recommending therapy? Isn’t there anything I can do for myself?
To find a therapist and keep going to one I think I’d have to be really desperate.
In my country/community, therapy is difficult to access! Maybe there’s only one therapist and he’s Freudian or there’s huge stigma or my insurance doesn’t cover it.
Isn’t there anything I can do on my own?”
There are things you can do on your own, and it can be difficult to audition therapists. I totally get all that. I finally got my therapeutic relationship many years after I would have used it because of those difficulties in finding a good therapist, and, I did a heck of a lot on my own.
Also I wonder what kind of therapist would have been good for me when I was younger; I don’t think I would have clicked with my current wonderful pro, because I came to her after I had a few major epiphanies.
You can do an awful lot on your own. But it can be easier and a whole lot more efficient when your work is guided by someone who knows what they’re doing. Also, and this is a big one for me, having to go to an appointment and talk to someone held me accountable for doing the work I needed to do. Sometimes, my therapist has been a reality check, helping me keep grounded and not get caught up in what I hope from a situation.
A therapeutic relationship is also a tool for growing and improving in deliberate ways, and not just fixing broken things, although it is an expensive hobby.
At times I have found it quite liberating to be paying this person, because when I felt BIG FEELINGS but also felt like I didn’t matter, well damnit, I was this PERSON’S JOB. For an hour a week, this person was professionally obligated to give a damn. That let me be safe to be as petty as I needed to be in that moment.
Paying a professional also means I don’t have to tend to their feelings. Their feelings and reactions are their business and I don’t have to worry about them. If they need help dealing with them, they go get their own therapists! So I don’t have to do the emotional work of managing the relationship. I do some work to maintain a connection, because that’s part of how therapy works, but it’s all for my benefit.
Finally, a quick demonstration of the differences you might see between how different people handle a trying emotional moment, to show how a therapeutic relationship can be awesome.
I am crying hysterically. Everything feels terrible, like the world is imploding. I cannot coherently explain why I feel this way; it’s sheer emotional pain. I can’t breathe, my head is filling with goo, I’m bringing on a migraine.
Here are some scenarios, drawn from life, about what can happen next.
Several hours pass. Eventually, I slow down the hysteria, but I feel scrubbed raw and miserable. Anything can set me off. I go to bed. It happens again tomorrow, and the day after. On the third day, it happens half an hour before I need to leave for a doctor’s appointment. I’m sick of it all, this has been happening on and off for years. With the grand realization of “well I’m not going to be any less miserable at the doctor’s than I am here”, I say FUCK IT and go.
I am depressed and miserable but less hysterical. The process of “well I’ll be just as miserable there as here, so FUCK IT” is a critical healing step out of deep depression, but as a coping mechanism keeps me operating at a level of miserable and FUCK IT.
Me with friend:
Friend brings me tissues for my tears and the goo filling my head. My friend who cares for me is feeling very distressed themselves; they have no idea how this started, and they feel helpless. I’m not able to communicate so my friend has to do whatever they feel is right in this situation. Hug? Tea? There-there? My closest and most empathetic friends feel less at a loss, but also feel more of their own suffering.
I can’t help but notice their distress as well, and because of the way I am, it tends to shut off the hysterical crying. But the emotions behind it are still there, undealt with. My friend is uncomfortable and really wants to help but has no tools for this. We try to talk about it sometimes but it’s hard because I don’t have good words for it and if we get anywhere near the core of my problems, I start getting hysterical again. I feel guilty about laying this burden on my friend and try to keep the worst of it away from them. They feel helpless and frustrated and sad, but they cannot fix me.
I go home and feel more alone.
In the very best of empathetic moments, my best friend made space for me to cry whenever I needed to, and just held me. It was hard for her. During that part of our relationship, she took on almost a maternal role of taking care of me. It was a weird and strange dynamic that most friendships, I think, could not bear.
The best a friend can do is hug you and make reassuring noises, I think, but I found that most friends are really bad at doing so.
Me with therapist:
As I cry, my therapist is paying attention to nothing but me. She has seen it before and is not shocked or distressed, but she is compassionate. She does not come over to me or touch me but she does make sure I have tissues and water.
She has been taking notes and working with me so she has some ideas about my suffering. She has knowledge and experience with people with my particular issues. She says something that validates my current emotional state as real and important. I feel that moment of Somebody Gets It! and react with convulsive nodding and more tears, because it hurts so much and here I am safe to let it out. My therapist says more things that validate and support me, helping me feel connected.
I stop crying in ten or fifteen minutes. I’m drained and tired but in a good way. My therapist watches me to see how I am and where I am going, and asks how I’m feeling now. We talk a little bit about what just happened and where it might have come from.
I leave my appointment a little shaky but hopeful.
These examples are all about hysterical crying but I think the same goes for figuring out emotional stuff, too. You can do a lot on your own, you can learn a lot on your own, but you only have as many resources and as much knowledge as you have. When you are suffering or in need, you’re already straining your resources, and you have less kindness to give yourself.
Your friends have less experience about helping people, you have mutual two-way relationships with them that you must tend and not strain, and in the end they care about you a lot and have something of themselves invested in you. They can’t see you clearly, and they may have something of their own ego invested in your own behavior. The changes you need to make to be healthy may not be changes that they want you to make, or they’d be changes that threaten them. Or the work to make the changes may be just more than they can handle.
Your therapist has no friendship on the line. Hopefully their ego is not bound up in keeping you from changing. They have resources and knowledge and the skill to get more when you’re not in their office (a good therapist will go research things you bring up that they are unfamiliar with. They will also consult with other therapists for ideas about ways to help you).
Your therapist is getting their emotional needs met elsewhere, so your relationship with them can be All About You.
So yeah, you can do a lot on your own and with friends. A lot of people do. But a lot of people also endure unnecessary suffering.
Unfortunately, it can be hard to find a good therapist who fits you well, and a lot of people don’t know about how therapy works. Many people have bad experiences and talk about them LOUDLY.
Got to accept people where they are. Not everyone will benefit from therapy, not least because you won’t change until you’re ready to change. Pushing people into it is expensive and frustrating all around.
It’s helped me, though, once I finally started.
Yay, most of the electoral results today.
I hope against hope that the republican party will examine itself and discover why it is having so much difficulty fielding national candidates. For all that party’s effectiveness at controlling messages and maintaining unification (some of which is certainly the result of bullying and hostage-holding behavior from elements of the party), and the party’s clear willingness to do, well, just about anything to gain and retain power, it still had an anybody-but-Romney primary… and ended up with Romney anyway.
Democrats and independents are picking up votes from moderate republicans who are uncomfortable with the current party’s policies and behaviors. So… Republican powers that be, what will you do about it?
I have clear preferences about the kind of values that should be jettisoned from American political party platforms in the 21st century. I am being nonspecific here, because it ain’t my party; a healthy 21st century Republican party would clearly still be a party I would strongly oppose. I do not believe that the party as it stands is a party interested in the best for America, though; I do not think there is goodwill and commitment to reasonable governance.
My state voted out possibly the last moderate Republican in the Senate. I’m thrilled to have Warren instead of Brown; he ran on a platform of “vote the man not the party” but even a moderate republican these days votes party lines when it matters and everyone knows it.
I hope the republican party shivers itself apart enough that reasonable people can start to take leadership again. I mean, come on. Colin Powell came out for a Democrat. How broken is the GOP when Colin Freaking Powell crossed party lines?
My hard-right republican family members are heartbroken. They are legitimately terrified. They are not bad people, particularly, and their politics have often confused me. But I know their feeling; they are afraid. They feel threatened.
I can’t explain to them that actually this president is pretty damn centrist and hardly a leftwing nutjob. I don’t know if they think he’s passing policies he’s not, or if they think the left is actually what he’s doing, or a combination of both. I happen to think it’s fearmongering and misrepresentation, and I am happy in myself knowing that this president is still probably better for their actual interests than their preference. (arrogant much? Yes, sometimes I am. But none of them are ridiculously rich.)
My parents always said that people got conservative as they got older because they started getting things to conserve. I suspect it’s also about not keeping up with the times, too. But I have gotten more and more lefty, more interested in personal freedom and respect, more interested in life without coercion, and more interested in compassion.
But anyway: Republicans, look to your house, why did you end up with Romney? What can you do about it? Do you like the tea party and fox news?
I wasn’t fast enough to skip a political commercial today and it caught my attention. It starts, China 2030. It’s a professor lecturing a classroom about how empires have fallen. Here you go: Have Some Yellow Scare
The ad has really nice product values, you know? On a meta level, it’s almost kind of awesome; you can see, in a culture that politicizes education and paints its enemies as weak and frail*, it might claim that an opposing power that had once been Scary had Fallen and was now weak and owned. It could be a scene in a future-disaster movie, right up until the guy looks at the camera and laughs. But this ad is not trying to work on a meta level.
It’s just trying to work on a clear straight up racist level. If you do these policies that the group disapproves of, characterized by buzzwords that have no correlation to actual policy but are used to mischaracterize certain kinds of economic policies, then you are SELLING YOUR COUNTRY TO THE CHINESE, who will LAUGH ABOUT IT after they OWN YOU.
I don’t know how many of my readers** remember the 80s. I was a kid. But I remember the JAPAN WILL BUY US AND RUN OUR ECONOMY INTO THE GROUND OMG DOOOOOOOOOOOOM activity. How’s that working now? Yeah, not really. Because it was fearmongering. And it was racist.
So is this. Shame on the assholes who made this ad, and shame on the people who believe it.
It all makes me want to punch people but I’m too sick, and also too pacifistic, so I just rant on the internet and viciously spin wool into yarn.
Fuck the racist motherfuckers who try to leverage cultural racism for political gain. Fuck the racist motherfuckers who make it possible.
* I don’t actually know if China does this. I understand it does a lot of China Is Awesome, but that seems pretty typical for superpowers. They might do Enemies At The Gate like we do, or they might do Enemies Are Pitiful And Weak, like the soviets did.
** I don’t know that I have readers! If I do, hi! Unless you are a racist asshole, in which case, stop being racist, you asshole!