Monday, January 26, 2009

Quick Post, New Link

My other half started a blog. He might be better at it than me, with more time on his hands (and possibly more other stuff on his hands as well).

Also, I wondered if anyone wanted to play fill in the blank? Here it is:

Life wouldn't be worth living (for me, er, you) without _____________.*

For me, it's reading. Fiction. And I'm not doing much of it right now. Hence, stress headaches, night-time teeth grinding, general dissatisfaction. What is it for you?

*(I don't mean this in a I'm-feeling-suicidal way, just a this-is-what-makes-my-life-enjoyable way.)

Thursday, January 15, 2009

How Working Kills Blogging

For me, anyway. Or maybe I'm just in an adjustment period when I have too much to do at work to have time to blog AT work. And still a little paranoid about the ability of bosses and/or network administrators to look at a record of all the sites you surf at work. Maybe these things will pass. Or maybe I just won't be so achingly tired every evening that I want to go to bed at nine. (I say this optimistically, but I'm no optimist, really.) I may just be tired forever, from now on, and not blog much. Not that I was blogging all that much before getting the job. Sigh. Now I'm just depressing my tired self.

I did have two things I wanted to blog about, though, so here goes.

Last week, I went to the student health center to get an allergy prescription. I'm a grad student and student health is free! I still have to pay for the prescription because I don't have health insurance for the moment, but the appointment is free! Maybe you get what you pay for, because it was a weird little experience that I've probably retold to five or six different people in the last seven days.

The nurse had me step on the scale in the hallway. I did, and watched the number appear, all digital style, the same number I've been frowning at when standing on the YMCA scale, jiggling the non-digital balance thingy, hoping it'll bounce up, er, down, a little.

The nurse, on the other hand, was shocked at the number. Not because she knows me (never seen her before) or saw that I'd gained a significant amount since my last visit (I haven't) or was even looking at my chart. She was shocked because, as she put it, "Wow. You do not look like you weigh that much!"

I chuckled or snorted or something, perhaps slightly uncomfortable, but not hearing the alarm bells that later reflection told me I should have heard. My people-pleasing kicked in, and I said, with a little slap to my, ahem, outer thigh, "It's all in my hips!"

"Seriously," the nurse continued, unable to impress this upon me with only one inappropriate comment, "You do NOT look like you weigh that much."

Heh, heh, I might have said. I went into the room, briefly chatted with the doctor, got my script, and I was gone. It wasn't until after class, on my hour-long drive home, that I thought, Huh. Something was not right about that.

I probably should write a letter to the medical director, as more than one of my post-event confidantes told me. I should probably include in that letter that no staff member should ever comment on a woman's (or any patient's) weight while weighing them and writing the number in the chart. If a comment needs to be made, as it might, about significant gain or loss, or concerns about medical complications, it should be made by the primary provider, in a sensitive, confidential way.

Here's the thing. I think she thought she was complimenting me. "Wow, you look skinnier than that number!" or "Wow, you look like you weigh ten pounds less!" But isn't there also a subtext:
"Wow, that's a high number!" or "Wow, you don't look that fat!" And what about this? What if I were recovering from or still dealing with an eating disorder? This is university student health. I know I'm 36 and don't flatter myself that I look 18, but eating disorders have been around since my college days. If it bothered me, who has never been particularly obsessed or concerned about my weight, what would it have done to someone who was finally at a "normal" weight after years of anorexia or bulimia. What if I'd heard negative things about my weight through my whole life from my mother or other important role models? (And isn't that A LOT of women?)

Okay, maybe I'll copy some of that into a letter. Without the sarcasm. I'm going to send a note to a great blog I've been reading, called Every Woman Has an Eating Disorder, too. What do you all think?

My second ruminating point this week happened when I ran into an old friend. A girl I used to hang out with in elementary and a little bit of middle school. We went to sleepovers at each other's houses; we were in Girl Scouts together. We went to high school together, too, and were always friendly, but moved into different circles of friends and didn't hang out anymore. And I haven't seen her since.

I went to a meeting for work, with other staff from work, at another (much larger) facility who provides many of the services to which we refer clients. Behavioral health, substance abuse, etc. We were meeting their executive staff, with our director, trying to build a positive and mutual beneficial relationship, yada yada. Long story short, we're both covertly studying each other across the conference table because we had the feeling we knew the other. As soon as we start the tour, she takes my arm and says, "I know you." Then we say OMG, where do you live? how old are your kids? etc., etc.

Nothing is bad about this. It's just me, looking at her business card, realizing she has the same degree I'm about to get, the same license I will soon be pursuing, that she's an chief [blank] officer at a pretty fracking large facility. I'm happy for her. Why wouldn't I be? It's just that I'm a case manager. It's going to be close to three years before I can put those licensing initials after my name. It's like I can hear my mother saying, See that's why I told you to get a useful degree (I got an English degree), and Look at So-and-So's wedding announcement, she already has her CPA/MBA/Ph.D./M.D.

My mother's proud of me. That's not really the issue anymore. I don't know what the issue is, except that I have one. Why should I be jealous that someone else did things differently, more directly, with less distractions and diversions, and is successful in her career? (And, damn it, she even has one more kid than me.) If I hadn't done all the things that I did, I wouldn't have met my husband, other friends I have, conceived these particular children, blah, blah, blah. But it still stings a little. I still feel a little bit like a loser. This is not a plea for reassurances--I've already gotten a lot of those, from sister, mom, husband, my own more reasonable self. I just wanted to get it down. To look it in the face and maybe stop it.

You know what my (poker-playing, stay-at-home-dad) husband said when I invited him to the pity party, with all my qualifiers ("I know that people take different paths . . . I should be happy for her--I am, aren't I?"). I said, "Wouldn't you feel that way, though, honestly, if you met someone from your class who was doing really well?"

"I know there are people from my class who are really successful," he said, first, reminding us both unnecessarily that he went to a private, preparatory school. "Besides," he added, "I think I AM successful."

Maybe that's part of the difference. Maybe I need a bit of that. I am successful, too. I am.

Friday, January 2, 2009

Driving Post

I could have had many of these, with all the driving we've been doing over the last week. Except that sometimes I was driving and other times I was reading. (Two books finished in the car this week, both highly recommended: Michael Chabon's The Yiddish Policemen's Union and Terry Pratchett's Nation.)

And have I mentioned that my husband is an online poker player? Like, for his job? So the main reason I was driving at all, was so that he could play poker on the laptop while trapped in the car. He also played while we were at the in-laws, so even there I had limited access to the computer.

We did drive a lot. Eleven hours or so, in one day, with minimal stops for gas/bathroom/food, to get to the in-laws. Four days after that, we drove three hours (north and slightly east) to visit one set of friends, another hour (north) beyond that to visit and stay with another set of friends. (Set of friends sounds awkward, but they are families now, too, with children around the ages of our children, which makes things so much more fun, if exhausting.) Then another two hours (west, this time) to visit more relatives, and finally four hours back (south) to the in-laws.

And now we're headed home, probably in the last two to three hour stretch, with the kids clamoring for pizza. The husband wants to get all the way back to our town, order some pizza from the local chain, and eat it at home. He has the slightly manic, possibly testosterone-driven desire to beat all his previous records on a given route, to make the least number of stops. I'm mostly on board with this--I want to get home, too--but two-year-olds and five-year-olds cannot be told to hold it and wait another two hours, although he's trying. I think they will wear him down.

I talked to my mom last night. She's home and glad to be there. She has to return to the hospital to check levels and adjust medications this weekend and three times next week. She won't be able to return to teaching this school year, because of her lowered immune system, but she is hopeful about next year. (My five-year-old and my sister's five-year-old would be in her class.)

I had all these profound thoughts I was going to say, composing blog posts in my head, when I was trying to fall asleep or taking a shower or walking around my in-laws' subdivision before the weather took an uncomfortably brisk, windy turn. Something about friends and how grateful I've felt recently.

I met up with one of my very best friends from high school on this trip after emailing a few times and talking on the phone once. She lives in the same city as my in-laws, has lived there for almost ten years, some of the same years that I was living only a couple of hours away, newly married and driving there to visit my new in-laws fairly frequently. We talked about that a little, a little regret that we hadn't found each other again sooner, but mostly we talked about ourselves. We shared things we hadn't necessarily known about each others' families back in high school, about how life doesn't ever turn out the way you think it will, how maybe everyone regrets something, but we just have to do the best we can.

Honestly, I'm not good at friendships. It's hard for me to make friends, being shy and always wondering what the other person really thinks of me. I'm prickly and waver between disclosing too much and not enough, probably mostly the latter. i often feel like I'm a couple of steps behind, that everyone knows some secret I don't, that (f you'll forgive the tired cliche) I'm always on the outside looking in. With her, my high school friend, I felt that we already knew each other's cores, as much as one can, and we could just keep talking as if we hadn't been interrupted by nearly 15 years.

So this is what I thought about writing, that there are some people you would be glad to have sleep on your couch (if, like me, you don't have a guest room to offer them), and I visited a few of them over this last week. When you find people with whom you don't have to pretend you're doing better than you are, people with whom you can talk about real things, even if those real things are books you've read or ways your children drive you crazy.

2009 is probably going to be a hard year, but I don't know if I've had an easy one yet, mostly because I haven't let myself just be and let that be enough. I look back and think I'd love to be 25 again, but a wiser 25-year-old, who knew just a little about what was to come, and lived better, happier in that light. But that's the way it works, I guess, that we have to live the best we can without knowing what's coming next. Maybe I'll start today.