Does It Make You Sad?

We had a quiet Thanksgiving this year. We had a yummy dinner of German food (Schweinemedallions, sweet and sour braised red cabbage, red Chard, and roasted potatoes), just the two of us. We had an afternoon of wine, cheese, and board games at my mom's with my sister and her husband on Saturday. Wednesday night we did a spontaneous thing -- I was in sweatpants all day since I just had PT, and was lying on the couch when Bryce said, "Let's get dressed up a bit, after dinner we're going to go have drinks at a bar." So we went to one of our favorite restaurants that's less than 5 minutes away and sat at the bar and chatted with each other and the waitstaff, and it was out-of-the-ordinary fun. 

But then, on Thanksgiving itself, Bryce asked, "Does it make you sad? That your friends have tons of family and they have the big traditional dinner and we are" 

Once upon a time it would have. But now? Nope, not sad. I didn't have FOMO, I had that lovely JOMO (Joy of Missing Out), because it is a lot to host a big Thanksgiving and that sounded very stressful to me. I liked our quiet pajama'd Thanksgiving. It doesn't make me feel sad. 

Another "does it make you feel sad?" moment came on Sunday, when I talked with Bryce's mom. She has a grandson, who is Bryce's stepbrother's son, and his arrival coincided pretty right on top of our ending adoption. It's been rough early on, and I will admit it was really hard to see this cute toddler and then 4-5 year old doing all the things we'd hoped our own child would do when visiting in Maine through social media photos. But we wanted Bryce's mom to embrace this unexpected Grandma-dom, and get joy from it (which she does).

When I talked with her, she was saying how the little boy has a LOT of energy and needs some active things to do both inside and outside, and I had a whole bunch of recommendations for places to get toys that involve building, and bouncing, and building so you can shoot marbles down your own design, and stuff like that. And she said, "I'm so sorry, I never know if it's okay to talk about {the boy} with you, because I don't want to make you feel sad." And I realized -- I liked talking about fun toy solutions and ways to keep him busy, appropriately. It didn't make me sad. 

Now, I would not want to be at a Christmas thing and do presents and have the experience we never had in our face. But, I can recommend activities. I can talk about him and what he likes. 

So, it was lovely to have two situations where a few years ago I would have been sad, and now, I'm not. Do I still have the grief of not having the children and family that we wanted? Of course. But it's not front and center. It's surrounded by a whole lot of appreciation for the life we do have. 

Mmmm, German food feast

Enjoying a pre-dinner power outage, reading by fairy lights and fading window light. SOOO glad we didn't have things in the oven yet. 

Skills, Not Pills

I've been missing a couple weeks. Is it a coincidence that it's the same couple weeks I've been building up on the ADHD medication that I finally launched? 

No, no it's not. 

I don't think it's for me. In the beginning I had stomach upset and indigestion, which is apparently normal for the whole messing-with-your-brain-chemistry part of it. But then in the past week, something changed, and not for the better. I started feeling...blah. Blah started feeling more melancholic. By this weekend, I felt downright depressed. I'm tired. I'm zonked. I feel flat and gray and unhappy without a cause. 

I am very fond of balanced brain chemistry, and I feel like I was at a good place with my anxiety/depression medication. This new addition? I feel it is messing with me without any positives so far. And I'm not sure I want to wait to see if positives erupt, because it makes me feel so yucky. 

Bryce said, "you just aren't yourself. You seem sad, and disinterested. Flattened." He only said it after I offered up that I don't like it, and that I didn't feel right. I so appreciate that he waited until I shared my thoughts, because he's trying not to influence my observations. 

I'm going to go off this med. I don't think it's a loss because it was determined that I have definitive generalized anxiety disorder, but that I also have quite a lot of ADHD traits and behaviors. The psychiatric nurse practitioner said "skills AND pills," but I feel  good about trying "skills NOT pills." He did say that I've compensated for a really long time, and I am a reasonably successful human, so working on those strategies to manage my difficulties with focus, and time, and organization, and rejection sensitivity (which is also an anxiety thing) should make for positive change. Previous sessions were in my home office, but the last session was at school...which was super helpful because I could unveil the disaster that is my desk and pretty much every available surface near a computer. I think that was enlightening. 

So, I'm going to use timers, and copy people with more successful executive function, and set better routines. And get my brain chemistry back to a lovely stasis. I have learned to listen to my body, and to believe myself when I sense that something is wrong. 


Fourteen years! Tomorrow marks 14 years of marriage, which is bananas. We love Halloween, which is why our ceremony anniversary falls on that holiday. 

We have been celebrating it up this week, since our "legal" anniversary was earlier last week. 

We get each other little prizes throughout the month, mostly decorations for the house (but also books for me and bat underwear for him, ha ha). We have an absolute BLAST decorating inside and out: 

Harold, with my prize book "The Witches of New York."

We changed the location of our cemetery, this is my favorite!

Ghouls above the graves and ghosts

My snake skeleton in the garden

Nana nana nana nana nana nana nana nana BAT LIGHT (and seriously dead plants)

We have a lot of fun with it. And we don't even have kids who trick or treat in our neighborhood -- the driveways are long and dark and it's two dead ends with not a lot of houses, so it's not super efficient even if there were young kids here (which there are not). The cemetery, Harold (lit so he can be seen from the street), and the bat light -- it's all for us. 

Then, Bryce made me a prize for the cemetery: 

He even made the stencil for the lettering himself. That's love.

To celebrate our Hallowedding Anniversary, we went out to a fancy dinner on Saturday. I'd wanted pictures in the cemetery in our finery at twilight, but we misjudged time and so had to do it after, at night. Bryce had the inspired idea to park his car in the garden area to light it, which made for some seriously creepy photos that I adore: 

Christine... if the demon car was a Mini

I wanted us to look like a ghost picture, but I think Bryce had trouble with "serious face."

And here is my favorite, where I haunt the cemetery: 

If our neighbors were looking out their windows or anything, they would have thought we were bonkers. But we don't care -- it is fun, it's OUR fun, and we get to be our own kids in a way. 

This is the 7th anniversary where we knew we would never have children (the first was a very raw 2017). We have had as many anniversaries living with that reality as we had where we thought perhaps there were babies in our future. That's a pretty cool milestone, actually. 

So, happy 14th wedding anniversary to us! Behold, a "normal" picture of our wedded bliss. 

To Med or Not to Med?

Over the summer I made the burgeoning realization that I might have ADHD. That what I thought was solely anxiety could actually be something else (in addition) that I had been struggling with for pretty much my entire life. 

I talked to my therapist. I read articles and sought resources. I felt a tremendous relief that things about me that were hard were also...explainable. 

And then I went to a psychiatric nurse practitioner for evaluation. After talking with me, and my therapist, and rating scales and observations from myself and my husband, he came to the conclusion that there may be ADHD at play along with the dual plagues of anxiety and depression. And he prescribed medication, Strattera. 

I have yet to start it, even though I could have as soon as I felt better from COVID (which, thankfully, is gone although I have lingering fatigue and shortness of breath, blergh). 

It's weird -- I wanted the validation, and I wanted to see if maybe addressing ADHD might alleviate some anxiety, if it was a chicken-and-egg type situation. 

But now I am reluctant to further mess with my brain chemistry... am I trying to fix something that I am already compensating for in other ways? 

Bryce is nervous, because (and this is completely sweet and romantic) he said, "But I'm afraid that if you take the medication that you'll lose some of the things that make you YOU, and that are so loveable and endearing -- your frenetic energy is one of the things I love about you!" 

I am a believer in taking medication when you need it. I am a believer in outsourcing my serotonin, and it really works for me. Do I need to add norepinephrine into the mix? I've made it 47 years, and while my insides are significantly messier than my outsides, and I am a really proficient masker, which is exhausting, do I need to take something further to be a functional humanlike substance? 

I think because I am asking all these questions, it's good to press pause. I have a tendency to jump all in on things and fully commit, when maybe a pause is a better idea (like, um, all my full-steam-ahead cycles and protocols and always immediately going to the next possible thing, which ultimately wasn't the best). Maybe I'm trying to fix something that explains a lot about who I am and what's more difficult, but isn't actually broken. I'm not sure a pill is going to suddenly make my piles disappear or my grading happen before it piles up into a mountain of procrastination. And the risk that it might aggravate my anxiety, which is pretty well controlled currently... that would not be worth a change. 

Maybe I should focus more on the skills than the pills right now. I just can't tell if I'm procrastinating on it, fearing change, or doubting if meds are the right answer at this point. 

Goals vs Reality

My district has been offering a lot of thoughts and professional development with the theme of "work-life balance" and "resilience." I bristle a little bit at this, because often the reason why work-life balance is so hard is because the job is just never-ending and we keep getting new initiatives to implement and new hats to put on and new crises to avert. Taking a mindful minute is not really going to undo that structural house of cards. 

However, I did set some goals this year to help me where I can control things, since I am not single-handedly going to overhaul the educational system. 

1) Get up earlier. (Includes the opposite -- go to bed earlier.)
2) Eat breakfast at home. No more microwaving egg bites in your classroom microwave, announcing to the hallway and stairwell that you are indeed in school today. 
3) Eat lunch. Like, with people. Away from my desk and/or computer.  
4) Leave work at school except Sunday work. I haven't figured out how to NOT have Sunday work. 
5) Say NO more. Don't sign up for 80 billion things. Don't succumb to the guilt. 

I would give myself a solid B- so far. You can check my math though.

1) I am actually doing a pretty good job of going to bed and getting up earlier. Unfortunately, time seems to shift when I have more of it and I am still rushing like mad to get to school on time. This is a stumper. Do I live in a twilight zone where time does not exist the same way it does for others? (The answer is yes. See: ADHD.) So, I'm doing passably well, but it isn't making much of a difference. Grade: B

2) I have eaten absolutely ZERO eggs at school this year! I have, in a day where I hit "dismiss" instead of "snooze," brought yogurt and granola, but that's not offending anyone's olfactory and I didn't eat it in front of anyone. Grade: A+

3) Eat lunch as an actual break in the presence of other humans. This, ironically, was something that administration suggested. Take lunch to recharge! You'll have a better afternoon! And you'll get to spend time with colleagues! I have done this about 50% of the time. In part because COVID keeps whooshing through our building. I have been masking at school since the first full week because of COVID striking close, but you have to eat. And apparently eating not quite on top of other people for 15 minutes is enough time to get COVID. So yes. Spoiler: I have motherflipping COVID again. Maybe it's not time for social lunch yet. (The good news is that this round has been less severe than previous, but I DID NOT WANT IT. And it is NOT "just a cold." And with this variant, I didn't test positive until I swabbed my throat, which means everyone is swabbing noses and coming up negative while horribly contagious. SIGH. There is no way for me to avoid it as a teacher, I am starting to realize. Which is unbelievably shitty.) So, Grade: C, but F for COVID. 

4) I don't know how people get shit done during the day, during "prep periods." I honestly don't. I am doing okay with this goal, but honestly because I am cheating. I do it all at work and don't bring it home (or take work on a lovely round trip in my backpack without actually looking at it at home), but only because I'm staying until 5 or so. It does keep the separation up, but I am realizing there is literally no getting ahead of the to-do list no matter what. See: Structural Problems In Education. Grade: C+ (points deducted for cheating)

5) This one I am actually doing gangbusters at. I feel horrifically guilty, but I did not answer the call to do bus duty before or after school (it's a rare year where I have 1st and 9th "free," but I need every ounce of that time and being on my feet outside is probably not the best idea). I am looking to lower my "Yes, sure, pick me!" and I'm doing way better. Grade: A- (because I still signed on for a couple things). 

I have to remind myself that goals are there to push you, but not to be gargoyles looming over you, howling "oh look, you failed! BWAHAHAHAHA! Why did you even bother to try?" Shut up, inner gargoyles. 

Overall, I am trending upward. Which is progress, especially since I tend toward the obsessive (um, like all my years of infertility treatment and adoption goals and initiatives and pushes to the brink of reason). 

And I'm totally mad that good intentions = COVID.  This variant, while "milder," is insanely contagious. Maybe we should pull back on the social community stuff for a little while, lonely as that is. 

A Rough Transition

Well, I did not expect over a month to go by without a post. Eeesh. 

The transition back to school has been ROUGH. I always forget how tired I am the first month of school, but this year was exponential exhaustion. There is absolutely nothing that could have prepared me for the insane pace and activity that is teaching middle school. I thought with my PT and my return to movement and Pilates that I was in GREAT shape to come back and be raring to go. I walked 2.5 miles the day before I went back to school, and I felt amazing! Going up a hill did not hurt at all! I was like, I am ready. Bring it on. 


The first week of school was insanely humid and in the mid-90s, and we don't have air conditioning. Cue the swelling. I forgot that my floors are hardwood and carpet, and school floors are...concrete. I'd been elevating throughout the day, and that just wasn't practically possible. I came home every day completely exhausted, with elephantitis of the leg from the knee down to my ankle, which looked like a softball by the time the day was over. It was all I could do to just get home, lie on a couch, and recover. 

The weather improved, but it wasn't until today that I felt like my knee and leg were finally back on the up and up. It was so frustrating. 

So, I've been pretty boring. The second week of September was World Childless Week, and I wrote two pieces and participated in a Loss Ceremony that I ended up having to do from my classroom. It was powerful, and beautiful, and I underestimated how much of my defenses it would dissolve. 

WCW 2023: Our Stories

WCW 2023: Moving Forwards

Loss Ceremony

Go check everything out if you haven't already, all of the events and pieces are up for you, whenever you want to explore. 

I am finally turning a corner with school, and feeling like it no longer takes all my energy to just get through the day. The great news is that other than my leg (which I swear is heavier than it was before), everything is pretty amazing. My students are so much fun, sweet and willing to take risks. They need a lot of support, but they are delightful. And I'm teaching my favorite things, and having a blast. 

I'm just really really tired and dissolve into a pile of goo when I get home. It's good to be back, though! I'm going to catch up on commenting and reading. I've really missed this space. 

Back to School "About Me" Slideshows

It's that time again... the first day of school for teachers is two weeks from tomorrow, and the first day for students is two weeks from Thursday. So of course, I am making introductory slides galore. 

I kind of hate the first couple of days of school. It's kind of awkward, and repetitive, and expectations blah blah and routines blah blah and important stuff, just not the most engaging. I have tried different things over the years to make it more engaging, but it always feels like, good gracious when can we just get into the learning? 

So this year, I am going to just get into it. The first day I am going to designate as a Welcome Back, Getting to Know Each Other, What Do You Need to be Successful, kind of low-key day, and then the second day is going to be the routines and expectations and grade policies and blah blah but cut way back so it's not so godawful boring. 

I need to make the slideshow about me for both my English classes (two sections of 12:1+1), my social studies class (12:1+1), and the ICT (Integrated Co-Taught) social studies class. I think I won't do one for Core Support, which is like a study skills/progress monitoring/reteaching/social skills period, because they will have seen things all freaking day in those other classes, but I think I will do some sort of low-key quiz game about it. 

The slideshows I do for my own classes are pretty easy -- I talk about my interests, my family, and maybe a fun fact or two. 

It's the co-taught section that makes me feel a little anxious, because the general education teacher is VERY family-forward and has probably 5 slides about family (kids! weddings! grandkids! dogs!) and one slide about interests, and I always feel like my life is kind of...boring in contrast. 

Well, that's how I feel, at least. It's not true -- I have a fairly un-boring life, but somehow in the face of giant family reunions and grandbabies on laps and large group family outings, it's like ALL THE THINGS and then QUIET MICROCOSM LIFE. 

Probably some difficulty this year stems from the fact that my summer was, frankly, on the boring side. My main job was to heal. I do have those cool knee x-rays, and a giant stack of books I read and puzzles I did. And some photographic evidence that I can go on a fairly decent walk now, on a mostly flat trail. 

Anyway, this time of year makes me feel a little of that comparison nonsense as everyone shares their pictures of kids and busy hectic lives. It's too bad that I can't really put out there pictures of me in pajamas all day or drinking wine out on the deck, ha. I am eternally grateful that we no longer have the staff slideshow that is a parade of weddings and babies and fancy trips, that tends to feel awful for people who had a more, um, traumatic summer (like my friend who spent her summer getting divorced and dismantling/re-mantling her life), or who for whatever reason didn't do anything too terribly exciting. That slideshow used to make me horribly sad, and then when I'd made peace that I'd never have kids in the slideshow I made a point to take utterly ridiculous photos for the slideshow (one of my favorites below): 

I guess there's still time to figure out something kooky for at least one of my slideshows... and actually, I got distracted and started going through my photos from this summer just now. There's a lot of fun little things, quiet things, but photos that point to a full and beautiful life. Without kids or grandkids. 

A Silver Lining to Those Medical Forms

I have my official evaluation for ADHD in September, and I had to fill out a packet of forms for the psychiatric nurse practitioner. Always with the forms that seem to chirp, "Hello, can you please share your medical trauma on this dinky form with entirely insufficient space for your sad-sapness? Thankyoooouuuu." 

I have a difficult time when they ask about two things: 

1) Do you have children?
2) Please list any and all surgeries/procedures. 

My tendencies run towards snark with the children one: Do you have any children? NO, ZERO. If I'm particularly irritable, I'll say ZIP, ZERO, ZILCH.

At least this form didn't ask me how many pregnancies, how many live births. That one always makes me sad. 

But the surgeries? There's the orthopedic kind, starting with a surgery to break and reset my legs in 1977 because I was born with a dislocated hip that wasn't diagnosed until I was about 9 months old (medical misfortune hit me young!). Then the knee surgery in 1993 for a dislocated knee, obtained when I jumped for joy over the sight of flats and flats of pansies at a nursery, but due to a crappy orthopedic surgeon (who had me walk on it for months which resulted in the need for significant reconstruction and led me to the total knee replacement in 2023 (whoa! 30 years later to the year! didn't realize that before!) because of significant damage and arthritis. 

Then there's gynecologic: Laparoscopy in 1999 to look for endometriosis that wasn't found, laparoscopy in 2011 to remove ectopic pregnancy, endomyometrial resection in 2016 to get rid of my erratic horrorshow of a  period since I couldn't do hormonal things with estrogen anymore, and then hysterectomy in 2018 to remove the whole damn thing, problem solved.  

Lastly, the endless list of infertility-treatment-related surgeries. I used to list out every individual one, and then I stopped. It's not strictly necessary, and it takes up way too much space. So when I was filling this one out, I was trying to remember how many egg retrievals, how many hysteroscopies, recalling the paracentesis from when I developed OHSS and had a soda bottle's worth of fluid in my abdomen. Ugh. But then I was like, just put 2009-2015, infertility treatment, including I believe 3-4 hysteroscopies and 6-7 egg retrievals. Because frozen transfers, egg donor cycles, and cycles canceled late in the game at the end. 

I started looking up how many, and then I stopped. IT DOESN'T MATTER. It was multiple. Whatever. Still paints a picture. (A picture that usually results in a fair amount of sympathetic noises from whoever reviews it in front of me, when it's an in-person appointment, and less often unhelpful, unsolicited comments.)

But, let me tell you, I was THRILLED that I didn't remember. For the longest time I held on to all of this information -- my HCG numbers for my pregnancies, my number of retrievals, my number of pretty much everything. It held a lot of space in my consciousness. 

I could not remember. And when I started going to research the specific data, I stopped myself and was like, I DO NOT NEED TO KNOW THIS ANYMORE. I have it, in notebooks and the blog record. But I don't necessarily need it. It isn't front and center. My brain has filed it away because it's just not as relevant anymore. 

That brought me so much joy. It was one of those moments where I felt that relief, that freedom of THIS IS MOVING FURTHER AND FURTHER INTO THE REARVIEW MIRROR. 

I do want to assert that this doesn't mean I'm "over" infertility. That it's not a part of who I am, that it didn't change me irrevocably. It is, and it did. But it's not so all-consuming. It doesn't feel like it takes up so much of my identity space. How freeing, how revelatory.

The Sound of Quiet

We were talking with a friend at dinner the other day, and she was saying how quiet her house was since all three of her kids were away this week. Her oldest daughter is married and has three kids, they were staying with her for a while before moving out of state; her middle son was at a martial arts tournament in South Korea and lives at home while going to college for physical therapy; her youngest daughter lives at home while going to college for zoology but was away at a cabin with friends. She said that she told her husband that they're going to need to move to a smaller house when the kids all move out, because it's too weird for their current house to be so quiet. 

Bryce said something about our house being quiet too, but I was like, no. That's different. Our house has ALWAYS been quiet (minus our increasingly vocal elderly cat). 

We don't have the contrast of that beautiful chaos we once craved so much, and then the absence of that. 

I can imagine that's hard, the contrast of all that activity and then... Shhh. 

But also, it's hard to have only ever imagined that chaos, to want the noise but never have it. To have the ghost of that alternate life and all its cacophony, and to feel oppressed by the silence. 

I felt that way until we moved. This house was always meant for silence, or really loud music, or movies and dinners late in the evening because that's how we live. It's filled with the sound of two people typing, pages turning, food cooking, wine uncorking, puzzle pieces clicking, music playing, cats purring... The sounds of the life we have. 

I don't know if my friend will move and downsize; it gets more complicated when it's your kids' childhood home, I guess. But moving away from those noisy ghosts was a great way for us to mark that transition, the contrast that wasn't so outwardly apparent of Wanting the Chaos to Accepting That Our Life Is (And Sounds) Different. 

If you are still in the Wanting place, know that it is possible to eventually get to that place of Accepting. Not to say there isn't the occasional wistful moment, but overall it's good to remember that once I never thought that I could ever be happy with the quiet life we live and love now.

Listening to THAT Podcast

I finished the new Serial Productions podcast hosted by Susan Burton today, the five-part series The Retrievals (you can find it on New York Times or wherever you get your podcasts). 

I was on the fence about listening. It's a podcast about a collective trauma women experienced undergoing IVF at the Yale clinic when a nurse replaced the fentanyl for the egg retrieval procedure with saline, and what happens when women report pain and it's ignored. The premise was fascinating to me, but also... 5 hours of listening to IVF experiences. I'm in a pretty good place now, but would it be stupid to re-enter that world voluntarily? Especially knowing how immersive Serial tends to be? 

Well, I got hooked. But I sure made a lot of faces while listening and sometimes had to consciously take a break from it. It's a compelling story. I'm not sure if there's "spoilers" for such a thing, but just in case, you've been warned. 

First, it is horrific that these women experienced egg retrievals without pain control. I found that procedure painful afterwards every single time, but to experience the whole thing without any pain relief whatsoever? Horrific. Brutal. Unconscionable. 

What is hard to understand is that while the nurse responsible lost her job and was convicted, WHAT ABOUT THE CLINIC ITSELF? The DOCTORS who performed the procedures  while patients bucked and screamed and made it clear that they weren't under in any way, one, after another, after another? 

There was discussion about what's considered within the realm of "normal" for medical acknowledgement of pain. Particularly women's pain, which is often considered exaggerated by medical professionals.

For instance. When I was in my early 20s, my gynecologist did a laparoscopy to look for endometriosis because I had horrific pelvic pain and highly irregular and heavy periods. He didn't find any, and basically threw his hands up. He actually said to me, "well, some women just have pain." WHAT THE EFF IS THAT? This from a doctor who also explored the idea of PCOS, and when I embarrassedly said "no" when asked if I had excess body hair, GOT MAD AT ME when he observed that I shaved my belly button area. But he also didn't give me the PCOS diagnosis I finally got at 33 from the fertility clinic. 

I also had an experimental Integrin-3 receptivity test including an endometrial biopsy towards the end of my treatment journey. I came into the room and lay on the table, and the nurse said "You know what he's about to do to you, right?" NOT OMINOUS AT ALL. What it was was the equivalent of a vegetable peeler inserted through my cervix, that took an easily 5" ribbon of my uterine lining (which Bryce saw dropped and coiled into a clear container). I was not sedated at all. Not even a Valium. It was insanely painful, during and after. But I wanted it, I wanted answers that could lead to a successful pregnancy, and it was worth it to me (although I did say FOR THE LOVE OF ALL THAT'S HOLY, GIVE SOME KIND OF MEDS FIRST next time you do this). 

That was another point made by the podcast. That the stakes are so high, the desperation for the desired outcome so intense, that it's hard to not endure the pain. That when given the choice of continuing while unsedated, or losing eggs to ovulation and possibly losing the chance of an entire cycle of possibility, it's an impossible choice. One none of the women should have had to make. 

But, in talking about the desired outcome, the focus was largely on the women who were successful; who had pregnancies that ended in live birth. But there were questions about cycles that failed, or that resulted in miscarriage, or preterm birth. Was it in part because of the trauma? Because of the stress of the pain, and not being believed, and then PTSD? But, ultimately, most women interviewed had become mothers. 

One woman said something to the effect of, "at least I had a baby. I can't imagine how sad the outcome would have been if I went through that and didn't have a baby. That would have been a tragedy" and other sentiments that fall into the "being childless is the worst possible thing that could happen" camp. Hmmmmph.

Another woman, Laura, who did not get sustainably pregnant, but had moved to a new clinic and was still hopeful, had palpable grief. She said, "I just have so much love to give." And, "I just KNOW I'm going to be a mother. I know it." It felt like being haunted by my previous self. I remember that visceral longing, that gaping hole where a baby was supposed to be, the insistence that it WOULD work out because I couldn't imagine an outcome where there was no baby. 

I want to say to Laura: "Yes. It is sad when you want a baby so badly and that baby doesn't come. It is an incredible heartbreak. But you will find places to put that love. You are more than your ability to have a baby. It is awful to be where you are, where there is still hope to cling to, but when and if you have to let go of that hope, you will be okay. You will survive and eventually thrive. There are actually quite a lot of us that were failed by IVF, who left without a baby, and it is not at all the worst case scenario you believe it to be." 

Of course the whole point of IVF is to have a baby. That's empirically the successful outcome. But it's not a failed life to be on the other side of those success rates. You can still be a success for surviving the experience and making a new life. 

Lastly, there was the issue of the nurse's sentencing. She willfully replaced the fentanyl in the vials with saline, and in some cases she was in the room for the procedure. That is another level. But then, you find out that she was also once an IVF patient, and the level goes deeper. She knew exactly what the women were experiencing, physically and emotionally, and she did it anyway, albeit while in the throes of addiction. And then... Because she was a single mother with an abusive ex-husband, her sentencing ended up very light, barely any prison time, and it was arranged to be during non-custodial timeframes so she missed virtually nothing with her children. She got preferential treatment BECAUSE she was a mother. She may have cost women their chance to be a mother, but her status is motherhood afforded her sympathy and lighter sentencing. That was maddening. 

Ultimately, I found the podcast to be fascinating and infuriating and both unbelievable and highly believable all at once. But also, pretty heavily pronatalist. I feel like if I were to listen 13 years ago, I would believe that IVF almost always ended with a baby. That that's the only outcome worth talking about. 

Unpacking Barbie

I went to see the Barbie Movie on Friday with a friend. I have been looking to see other people's reactions, because I'll be honest... when I left I had a feeling like, "Well wasn't that avant garde?" I couldn't say if I liked it or not (I did), because I needed to marinate in it a bit. I needed to process. (See Mali at No Kidding in NZ's take on it here.)

First, my own Barbie experience -- I was not allowed to have Barbies for a long time (well, kid years long time). My mom did NOT want Barbie in the house with her tiny waist and big boobs and unrealistic body image. So, she got us a Darci doll. Which I looked up as an adult, because my recollection was that Darci was Barbie's flat-footed, bigger-boned cousin, a sort of hippie reimagining. So call me surprised when I looked her up and unlike Barbie, who had all the crazy jobs (although I remember the controversy over "math is hard!" Barbie), Darci was one thing -- a model. HER ONLY JOB WAS TO LOOK PRETTY. So, um, who cares if her proportions were a bit more realistic and she wasn't on tiptoe, that's kind of worse! Watch a real (but fuzzy) advertisement for the doll on YouTube here. Not exactly screaming Woman Power.

But, anyway, my Barbie-free childhood was disrupted when our Episcopalian priest dropped off his daughter's Barbie treasure trove that they'd outgrown. Literally treasure -- Malibu Barbies, Kens, a Barbie Dream House, a pool, all kinds of clothing and accessories... and my mom couldn't say no! It was a man of god giving us those Barbies! I'd played with my friends' Barbies, but now my sister and I could play at home. It opened the door to Barbie convertibles, Sweet Roses PJ, and my common misconception that sex was Barbie and Ken literally smashing into each other. 

It was interesting to me that the movie has Barbie as a positive role model, that Barbieland is all woman power and the Kens are just...ancillary Beach Bods. I loved when the angsty middle school girls tear her apart and the dissonance of Barbie's thinking that she's a feminist hero and the girls' assertions that OH NO, YOU ARE THE PROBLEM, PINK PLASTIC LADY. 

The movie is definitely more for adults than kids. It felt very nostalgic to me, and I thought it was so much more about the roles women are squished into and the layers of expectations that are just impossible to "win" at. I liked that it was very much about finding out who you are and realizing that these expectations are ridiculous but you can shed them (sort of). 

I loved America Ferrera's speech. But, I felt a little like a footnote in it. I thought that the inclusion of "not mothers" got put in as an afterthought and so much of the rest of the speech was about womanhood and motherhood's intertwining. Which I guess is true, as not being a part of motherhood can sometimes make me feel left out of what society has deemed an essential part of womanhood. And really, the movie is so much about mothers and daughters, which makes sense because who's playing with Barbies? 

I loved all the weirdness. I loved the American In Paris style Ken dance number. I saw an article in The Guardian that criticized the movie for being so body inclusive with the Barbies, but then all the Kens are perfect beach bodies. Which goes with the whole "Ken is one-dimensional" thing about Ken, but interesting point. 

While Barbie was darker than I thought, it was also way funnier -- I laughed out loud and literally flailed in my seat like a beached sea turtle. There were nostalgic laughs, and "oh my god I FEEL THAT" laughs. 

After marinating, I really really really liked the movie. I think I have to see it again to catch more things and marinate further. Then I might be able to say I loved it. 

What did you think about the movie? 

Summer Without Kids

Ahhhh, summer... Anyways a nice slower time for me, but especially slow this year. I have been enjoying time for reading, time for puzzling, time for healing. There's no alarm, and everything in my calendar is there because I scheduled it (and once I could do stuff outside the house, it's been things like PT, Pilates private lessons, the occasional massage, and outings or visits with friends). 

I realize that this is a bit of a luxury, as all my friends with kids have very little respite. It's nice to spend more time with your kids, but I bet if I were to talk about all my restorative time to myself it would definitely cause some wistful envy. Or a snarky "must be nice..." 

Yes, yes it is, and the cost was just 8 years of pain and heartache and loss, time and money and energy that yielded ABSOLUTELY NOTHING. So hell yeah, I'm going to revel in my free time.  

Part of this summer is cleaning out the garage. We are doing some rearranging and purging, and one thing in the garage that I had to go through was a cardboard box of stuff from my childhood. That box has been in the garage, between our cars, for at least a year. Oh good gracious, if it's the same time as the Breyer Horses that I gave away, TWO years. oh, the shame! 

Anyway, I promised I wouldn't let it fester any longer and so I went through it. Apparently, a mouse had made a nest in there, of some of the cards and letters dating back to high school and college. But there were also tins of seashells. 

I used to collect seashells, from trips to the beach, or gift shops at the Jersey shore, or gifts I guess. I used to know all the names: scallops and limpets and cowries and whelks and moon snails and a million other names I can't remember. Cockles. That one still makes me giggle.

So here I was, with my box o'childhood that I probably subconsciously let languish because I didn't want to deal with it, and a substantial number of very pretty seashells. 

I texted pictures to my friend with the three girls who received several of my (plastic) horses. "Do you think your girls would want these?" 

I crossed my by fingers and waited. I really didn't want to have to throw them out. 

I was thrilled when she said yes! I drove them to her house, and the three little girls were in the pool. They were thrilled -- we went through some and picked out some particularly pretty ones. It made me happy to see them get a new life. 

My friend sent me a picture later:

That's her two older daughters, setting up a "treasure hunt" for their Barbies. 

Bryce asked me if it made me sad. It didn't, not at all. If I don't find people who have kids who might enjoy my childhood treasures, they are just going... Nowhere. THAT would make me sad. But seeing littles playing with my seashells? Awesome. 

Photographic Evidence

All through fertility treatments, I loved collecting pictures. Ultrasound pictures of my ovaries with follicles (one doctor dubbed them "chocolate chip cookies" with follicles as the chips), of the moment an embryo or two were released into my uterus. Photos of the inside of my uterus from hysteroscopies, looking vaguely like alien landscapes. Hopeful photos of embryos that had made it to the point of transfer, either blobs of 8 cells or split-disc-looking blastocysts. Sadder photos of my rupturing tube both inside my body and on a tray when I had the ectopic pregnancy, and the one lonely photo of a briefly viable gestational sac.

In more hopeful times, I saw these photos as the earliest possible baby pictures ever. I saw them as proof of the inexplicable medical miracle that was possible. Photos of such tiny things! 

Eventually, though, they became a record of pain and worst-case scenarios, and a gallery of sadness and loss. That, for some reason, live in a floral box in my attic. How could I ever get rid of the pictures of my hopeful, ill-fated children? 

I still find photos of medical procedures fascinating. No one would humor me when I had my hysterectomy; I really wanted a picture of that organ, excised. I had to use my imagination instead. Apparently people think it's weird when you want a picture (or the item in a jar, which is illegal in New York) of an organ you're exorcising surgically. 

Lucky for me, knee replacements are cool and you are encouraged to take pictures of your x-rays. They don't take pictures of your surgery, probably because it is so aggressive and traumatic, what with the power tools and the mallets and the gore. But I do have some nifty pictures of my new knee, just under seven weeks after surgery: 

HOW COOL IS THAT? But also, yikes. No wonder that hurt so much! All the pounding components into bone and shaving bone to fit the implants. Bleccchhh. 

This, along with my hysterectomy, are some of the only surgeries and medical procedures where I have way better outcomes after. I lost something in both, but they were both things that didn't serve me. Both my uterus and my left knee caused me pain and hampered my quality of life. One is just gone, but this new knee is an improvement! I'm working hard to get my strength back and looking forward to getting back to the things I love doing. 

This photographic evidence of things done to my body makes me so very happy. I have a new knee. I survived this procedure and my body is stronger for it. It was worth the pain. I didn't have the same positive outcomes from the many infertility photos, but all of them remind me that I'm a survivor. I can come out the other side of something traumatic with more strength than before.

Weddings and Hope

We went to a wedding on Saturday, at the Buddhist temple. It was 90-95% in Laotian, so we followed along as best we could, but it was absolutely beautiful. 

There was a parade with the groom and his family and then he had to answer questions from an elder family member of the bride to enter the gate, and then questions from a younger family member of the bride tho enter the temple for the ceremony. I felt nervous for him, because the questions were INTENSE and he isn't Laotian. He did great though, they let him in!

It's always bittersweet when weddings feature prominently the promise of children. When everyone is like, "bring us lots of children! Have many babies!" It seems like a constant no matter the religion. At first I bristled a bit. And then I thought, well, we had the Blessing of Hands at our (highly unreligious)  wedding and one part is "these are the hands that will hold your children." 

It's that hope thing. A part of me feels superstitious, though... That maybe it should be "we hope for children" instead of "there will be children," like it's a given. But for so many, it IS a given and I end up feeling like the dark cloud, Milificent at the christening. Yes yes, things are great now, but wait until that spindle comes for you!

I guess it's that edge that comes with losing that sense that things can ever be a given. But I do hope for this young couple, that if children are in their plans, that children they will have. 

I just wish the focus was less on future children and more on the happiness of the couple's lives together. 

Want to read more #Microblog Mondays? Go here and enjoy!

The Power Of Knowing

When I found out that I had Celiac Disease, it was a relief. I had experienced what can only be described as a terribly violent stomach for YEARS. I had developed other nasty side effects, and when I had a name for what was going on, it was... amazing. Sure, I had to stop eating gluten, but that was a small price to pay to feel so much better. (And, honestly, gluten free options are so much tastier now, although still half the size and twice the price, grrr.)

Going through fertility treatments, I finally got an answer to my horrifically painful and irregular periods. I had been on the Pill since I was 18, which had helped with some of it, but throughout adolescence I was constantly having problems with bleeding through my pants, not knowing when my period would come (because it wasn't 28 or 30 days, it was at times as many as 180), horrific cramps and bloating. I felt like a freak. I was embarrassed that I couldn't handle this thing that happened to literally everyone with a uterus and ovaries. I was misunderstood by doctors and my family, who didn't have a history of irregular periods. So to find out that I had PCOS (polycystic ovarian syndrome) and that everything that had happened had a name and a reason, it was a relief. I even found out that my need to wax my Wolverine chops and my ever-existent-despite-running-track lower belly pooch were related to this disorder that unfortunately has lifelong health implications. 

So imagine my surprise when I realized, at FORTY-SEVEN, that so many things about myself that I struggle with and have struggled with throughout my ENTIRE LIFE -- things I thought made me weird, and messy, and annoying, and spacey (worse when others saw me that way) -- were actually... ADHD. 

How did this happen? 

Well, I was sitting in the living room a little over a week ago, messing around with my phone, when I saw a reel on Facebook. It was by Cherry ADHD and titled "8 Weird Things I Do as a Woman With ADHD." I'm linking it here, but in case you don't wish to visit the book of face, here they are: 

Un-numbered Intro: walking into things OMG all the bruises all the time. Furniture, doorknobs, cabinet pulls, missing the doorway partway, walls...

1)  getting super irritated when I'm interrupted Yes, always, although I am also likely to interrupt you all the time when I have a thought pop up.

2) searching for things that I've just had or that are right in front of me (or even in my hands!) ALL the time. I've even tried to open a house lock with a car key, when car keys existed. I have accused Bryce of hiding something on me that was literally in my hands. I can lose pretty much anything.

3) often sighing and randomly singing words and sentences Okay, Bryce is constantly calling me out for sighing audibly more than "normal." And I live life like I'm in a freaking musical. I sing EVERYTHING. I also have this weird tic where I sing a little snippet of something that sounds like a mix of "nana nana nana nana nana nana nana nana BATMAN" and the theme from either James Bond or Mission Impossible. No words, just a weird scat-like humming that happens most frequently at school. I'm sure it's not annoying at all.

4) accidentally walking around with t-rex arms THIS was the one that made me go hmmmmm the most. I did not know this was a thing. But I do it and then see the evidence in photos or videos and am like, WHAT'S UP WITH MY ARMS? To see it on someone else? Mind. blown.

5) feeling restless but tired Always. I can be exhausted and wound up at the same time. I am super tired from all the racing my thoughts do in my head.

6) enjoying playing with sensory toys a little too much Ummmm, yes. I got a PopSocket for my phone and I cannot stop playing with it. Pop out, pop in. Pop out, pop in. Also I have a fidget bin in my classroom and I love messing with the pop-its and the connected flippy cube thingies, and I love those tiny magnetic balls you can make shapes with, that, incidentally, a student introduced me to. A student who stayed after school with me on Fridays saw that bin and was like "wait, you have these? On purpose? FOR STUDENTS? That's SO COOL!" Huh. 

7) feeling super guilty and stuck when I'm sitting down and not doing anything OMG yes. I am horrible at "laying low." Like, cannot do it unless I end up taking a nap. Which in surgery recovery is a necessary daily thing but I wait until I have begun system shut down to do it. 

8) forgetting I have friends for periods of time I can definitely self-isolate.

So, it was weird. But again, the weirdest was the T-Rex arms, because see below in stills from my National Board renewal video: 

Oh. My. GAWD, what IS that? I had no idea it was a sign of something.

So what happened next was I showed that reel to Bryce, and he was like, HMMMMM. Truth be told, he's said for a couple of years, "Are you SURE you don't have ADHD?" and I thought he was just being "funny." But also this year I had a high percentage of students with ADHD and one said, "Mrs. T, you know you act an awful lot like YOU have ADHD." and I laughed it off, because I'D KNOW THAT BY NOW IF I DID, RIGHT? I mean, I often call myself a "hot mess express," but ADHD? No way. 

Bryce brought up a video that led me to a channel called How to ADHD, which I cannot recommend enough. The particular video that we watched though was "ADHD In Women," and by the time we finished watching it I was ugly-crying. 

EVERYTHING rang true. At one point, I turned to Bryce and sobbed, "You're the only reason I don't live in a trash heap, aren't you?" Yup. Unchecked, I am chaos. My desk at work is evidence of this. My desk at home is evidence. The bags of mail that I collect and then hide because I'll "take care of it later" are evidence. I hate filing. I have a photo of my inbox in my office at my first job in publishing, and it is a stack of paperwork about 2.5 feet high, with a large green bowl on top of it for some reason. In high school, I shoved laundry in my closet and just kept pulling out new clothes and would wait to do laundry, and at one point there was (ew) MOLD growing on the floor under my pile of unwashed laundry. I am deeply ashamed of these things. It takes a LOT of effort to appear physically organized, and I am kept accountable by Bryce. I mean, "I promise to make pile management a priority" is verbatim IN MY WEDDING VOWS. I am very mentally organized when it comes to things I am interested in. But, I flit from thing to thing. And physical organization? I need major systems. 

I sent my therapist the videos (because I went down a major rabbit hole, and then Bryce was like "you're hyperfocusing on your ADHD," and then I realized that OMG, how I approached infertility and adoption was 100% hyperfocusing. OMG it's EVERYWHERE). She called me and asked me to explain, and I basically had to admit that I had compartmentalized her. I had shared all this stuff about my grief and trauma and PTSD from infertility, and adoption, and my first marriage, and some stress management, but I had left a lot of these things out. Because I hide it all. After a long conversation where I talked about the things that go with the videos and how much I had hidden, she was like, Oh yes. You most definitely have this. So she gave me a referral for an evaluation. 

Bryce was wonderful, and was like, "I love you, and I don't want you to think that you have to change anything about who you are!" and then I started crying again and was like, "but keeping everything together and pretending to be a more typical human that doesn't have to compensate for all these things is FUCKING EXHAUSTING." 

And it's true. I am tired all the time, because things that come naturally to some people are insanely hard for me. I stay at work late in part because when everyone is gone, I am much more able to focus in on what I need to do. There are fewer distractions. Fridays I've typically stayed until 5:30, and the custodial staff always gives me hard time and rib me about "don't you have something better to do? Doesn't your husband miss you?" and the answer is, "I get SO much done when everyone is gone." And now I know why. 

Here's one last video that I watched that made me go AHA: 

There's a lot to unpack for myself here. But also, it's a relief. All the things that I felt shame and that caused me a great deal of anxiety are because my brain is different. Not better, not worse, just different. Now I can learn more about how my special brain works, and why the systems I've somewhat unknowingly set up for myself work for me, and what other systems I can utilize to make my life easier. I am interested in trying medication because I wonder if it will be like putting my glasses on for the first time, but for now I can search for more tools for my toolbox. 

Lastly,  I recently had a phone chat with a friend I've known since college who lives out of state, and I shared this revelation with her. I said, "I just figured out I have ADHD!" and her response? 

"OMG, you didn't KNOW? I always thought you KNEW you had ADHD and you just hadn't figured out your medication!" 

We actually had a term for my ability to be really really smart and really really spacey at the same time -- MindChamp. And now, I know that MindChamp is just another word for my ADHD. She even said, "I wish we would just call it that all the time, because maybe it would take some stigma away." 

I am so relieved that I am not deficient. I am not "failing at life," as I say on repeat frequently. Something is not fundamentally wrong with who I am. I am not broken. I have a different brain, and now I can learn how to optimize my strengths and accommodate for my struggles, how to set up systems. I can basically be my own special education teacher. I'm glad I made this discovery, even though it was insanely emotional and tore down the walls I build around the core of myself that is that girl with mold in her closet, now I know. And there's so much power in starting from knowledge, even when it took 47 years to get to this epiphany.

Everything Is a LOT Right Now

Today was a very, very hard day. It was physical AND emotional. I don't know how to make it into a cohesive narrative because my brain is not functioning at even medium capacity (more on that later!), but I am drained and I am sad and I am overwhelmed and I need to let it out. Anxiety sucks, man. 

The Straw:

The knee that I replaced had a previous surgery from 1993, and so I have two scars now -- one beautifully thin but 10" long and vertical that's new, and one thick angled mess that has a skin loop I can put an earring through (don't ask how I figured that out but it cracks me up). I will be able to teach supplementary angles with my knee scars next year. BUT, the old scar has had some swelling around it and extra pain and it really ramped up today. 

I have worked really hard to get the oxy down even further, and had three days where I successfully did 1x/day at night. But this morning it hurt so bad that I had to take one, and that felt like a small failure but it was a tiny price to pay for relief. 

I had a PT appointment today (still in-home, still on my walker, still dealing with instability and "buckling" that's preventing me from using a cane), and I texted her and let her know that I was in a lot of pain and it was that same spot that has been bothering me since Week One, and that I did bring it up with the surgeon but he didn't seem concerned but what if it was some kind of soft tissue damage that needed surgical repair, or some kind of weird tumor like a traveling vestigial twin (all hair and teeth) showing up at exactly the wrong time? What if it is a sign I'm actually dying? 

You can see the spiraling. 

I was sobbing and pretty inconsolable when my physical therapist arrived at 12:30. She checked it out, and translated surgeon-ese to explain that it is probably where the instruments broke through the membrane into the joint capsule (EW EW EW I am so sorry for how gross knees are), and she showed me how to do multiple types of self-massage and desensitize my overfiring nerves. She explained that all of our quad work that needs to happen to get me cane-ready and more stable is aggravating that spot. And, she said that if it will make me feel better to see the doctor to get peace of mind I definitely could, but just hearing anatomical information in ways I could comprehend made me feel a bit calmer. 

Medical PTSD:

But just a bit, because as I explained how much I hurt, I then proceeded to verbal-vomit a whole bunch of trauma into this lovely lady's unsuspecting ears. I explained that I worry about tiny percentage things because I am a tiny percentage kind of person and my medical history can be summed up as "A Series of Unfortunate Events" to borrow from Lemony Snicket (google it, great books). I sobbed as I spilled tons of medical history tea and listed the ectopic pregnancy from IVF (where they PUT the EMBRYO in my UTERUS but it had ill-fated WANDERLUST), the hyperstimulation/OHSS that resulted in a paracentesis procedure to tap my abdomen of an insane amount of fluid, difficulties from the hysterectomy because I had undiagnosed adenomyosis (which was also why my endomyometrial resection surgery in 2016 failed spectacularly in 2019, which led to a hysterectomy ANYWAY). Some of my fears are anxiety, but also... I have a bit of a track record. 

Loneliness and Feeling Dependent: 

I have also been feeling pretty isolated. I have phone calls and texting and am wayyy active on the Facebook, but there's been a lot going on for all my humans (end of school year crazy! death in the family! going on trips for fun! Etc!) and so I haven't had the chance to talk with or visit with people I would have seen daily at school. I have had visitors, wonderful visitors who have made my day when they come, and so many generous humans have come bearing food and coffee and flowers and things to occupy me like puzzles and magazines. But I can only handle about 1-2 hours of visiting at a time, and there are days on end where no one comes (because life is busy and I am not the center of all things). It's been a rough transition to go from the insanity of school existence where you have constant interaction and come home and just crave silence and alone time, to absolute silence and alone time and not a lot of change in scenery. Maybe if I could get out on my own volition that would be different, but my biggest solo adventure has been going with my walker to the mailbox at the end of the driveway, and I typically need a nap after that. Sigh. I have absolutely loved and appreciated any and all visits, but there's a difference between choosing to lay low and have solitude and having that being the only option unless someone comes to the house. (And of course Bryce, who is wonderful and amazing, but he has things he has to do too and he can't be my only source of social entertainment.)

I am so done with being dependent for every little thing. I still cannot SHOWER by myself. I need help in and out so I don't slip and fall. I'm good on the shower chair once I'm situated, but having to schedule showers around Bryce's work schedule is less than ideal. And because I have curly hair, nighttime showers aren't great -- my hair takes forever to dry and then I get some stretched-out curls, some right-angle curls, some really tight curls, and then a load a frizz to boot. I don't mean to be vain, but I don't want to look like a freak even though I'm not so public-facing. I worry that Bryce is going to resent me for all the care I require and keep requiring far longer than I anticipated. He assures me that he doesn't, but anxiety tells me stories all the time about how I am a burden and he's just being nice and he can't wait to get out of the house and away from my sorry ass. I want to be able to drive and I want to be able to do things for myself and that's damn near impossible with the walker still in play. When I try to do more I pay for it in pain and exhaustion, which is part of healing and recovery, but it's frustrating. 

Pitfalls of the Book of Face:

I mentioned that I've been on Facebook more lately, after a few months where I really tried to not do a whole lot. I dislike social media for the harm it does and the insincerity and misuse of the phrase "best self" that gets put out there constantly. It is often a veneer of reality, not actual reality. If comparison is the thief of joy, then Facebook is an Oceans Eleven, an Italian Job, a Bullet Train. And if you feel like you're missing out on experiences because you're stuck at home, then GOOD GOD it can feel terrible. Upside, it is allowing me a way to interact with other humans, even if it is superficial. Downside, I end up beating myself up because it seems that everyone has a knee replacement story and I'm getting a lot of "wow, I never had that kind of pain" or "why is your recovery so crappy, [insert person]'s went so much faster/less complicated/less painful" and then I feel like WHY AM I SO BROKEN? What's WRONG with me? It's yucky, to say the least. 

New Discoveries About My Identity: 

I also made a discovery that I am in the process of solidifying officially that explains SO MUCH of who I am and how I operate, and why I have had certain experiences that weren't the best, going back to childhood. It is INCREDIBLE to me that I am 47 years old and only just discovering this thing about myself. I always thought it was just me being weird, annoying, and physically disorganized, and that it was chalked up to anxiety alone.  So, finally getting medication for that in 2017 was good, but didn't "fix" all the things. It turns out this is because I also have ADHD Inattentive Type. So much of it goes back to how most research is done on boys and men, and women present differently. Because of societal pressures and "good girl" nonsense, we are trained to hide our true selves, so it's harder to see the struggle. I have been hiding who I am for a very long time. I have a lot of deep-seated shame about pieces of myself that have always been difficult and now I know why. I am going down a deep rabbit hole but that is actually causing me more anxiety, but it's good because I'm realizing how much I've compensated and how many things are systems I've created to help myself and how many tools can help me now that I know... But it's overwhelming.  More on this later, it deserves its own post, but it's fun to realize that one reason why I love teaching the kids I teach is because... I'M ONE OF THEM.  It's revelatory and exciting and exhausting and unearthing a lot of shame and trauma. 

Allllll of this piled up and built up until today, I dissolved into a sobbing pile of goo in every kind of pain imaginable. It reminded me of 2017 when I hit my limit with adoption. That was not a particularly awesome time.

Physical Therapists Rule the World:

What a gift though, to have my PT lady come today. She was amazing. She helped me with a tapping thing to calm my nervous system so I could communicate. She validated my feelings but also gave me a clearly-communicated, rational explanation and tools to help my physical pain. But better than that, she helped me with some anxiety strategies. The tapping was amazing and I know there's a name for that but truly, what a deceptively simple way to exit a spiral (but with repetition, once didn't cut it). Then she introduced me to Dan Harris and Ten Percent Happier.  I downloaded the free app (and then after doing some of the guided meditations I signed up for a membership, because ALL OR NOTHING, that's ME and my ADHD), and WOW. Everybody says how amazing meditation is. I have sucked ass at it. Every time I try I'm like "woo hooo, another self-care thing I fail at! Yayyy" I can't quiet my mind. The racing doesn't stop. I just feel like a failure, which is less than relaxing. BUT THIS IS DIFFERENT. More later, but wow. I think I may actually be able to become someone who meditates! And it is a really great approach to calming anxiety and not vanquishing the beast but inviting it in, albeit tamed. (So reminds me of my favorite anxiety book so far, First We Make the Beast Beautiful by Sarah Wilson.) There's a book, too, which I will read at some point when I'm not so totally overwhelmed. 

My physical therapist was an Anxiety Angel. She gave me a hug, a real one. She recommended I watch Bridgerton, which I haven't yet (yes I know, last person ever not to watch it), because it's delicious candy in every possible way. 

She left and I felt so. much. better. But also still horrible. So I took a 3 hour nap and then froze some spoons to attempt to de-frog my eyes (nope), and then did Day 1 of two of the series in the Ten Percent App, and felt calmer and like there's hope that I can feel more in the realm of a human-like-substance.

It was a really, really hard day. But it will get better. This is temporary. And I am so, so grateful for all the support during this recovery and while I struggle through this additional spirally gooey moment. I am going to be a HORDE of butterflies with all this messy time in transformational goo. 

The Right Pillow for the Right Time

Since I've been home recovering from surgery, I've had a bit of a online shopping spree. Nothing crazy, I'm super practical and reasonable even when sucked into Facebook ads and catalogs and BuzzFeed articles about hot deals and amazing organizational finds on Amazon. I really am trying to avoid the place run by the captain of the big blue penis rocket on principle, but sometimes it can't be avoided when homebound. I do click over to Etsy when I think I can find something there instead.

But, a steady stream of packages are arriving. To be fair to myself, it's a lot of comfy pants and wireless bras that really do lift, things for the house to make living in the basement bedroom more cozy and organized, healthcare/cosmetic items (best purchase award in this category goes to CocoFloss -- like having a dental hygienist on demand in your home, amazing!), and gifts for people. 

One of my favorite things to do when I am feeling down and isolated is to buy prizes for other people. But occasionally, I get prizes for us. 

Enter a pillow and blanket that I've been eyeing on the Bas Bleu catalog/website FOREVER. It called to me. It whispered seductively, "You waaaant me. You NEED me. Bring me home, baby." And then it went on sale. 

Behold, the pillow that whispered sweet nothings to me:

And there's a cozy blanket, that is also Lucky's favorite new thing:

Isn't it perfect? I love everything about it. I am generally against pillows with words on them unless they go with a seasonal holiday, but this is one of two exceptions. 

Do you remember the other best pillow ever? Another right pillow at exactly the right time? From, oh, SIX YEARS AGO almost exactly? 

I remember buying that pillow and CACKLING with utter glee, at a time when glee was in short supply. An except from my 2017 post about it on my previous blog, My Path to Mommyhood

I bought myself a fabulous new throw pillow for our new couch, for which I splurged on expedited shipping to get it in time for my birthday tomorrow and it makes me laugh maniacally and do a happy dance when I see it.

Is that not the best thing you've ever seen?

I saw it in my head the other day, and then googled it AND THERE IT WAS. In real life. Purchase-able even! So much happiness in a little square. It's like I finally manifested something, ha HA ha ha.

I can get behind pillows with words on them if they swear and are strangely appropriate for life at the time.

If you want to read the whole post, it's here. I reread it and holy crap it brought me back to that time where we had just made our decision to walk away from adoption and resolve without parenting. If ever anyone wondered exactly why we made that decision, THIS POST ANSWERS THAT QUESTION. and, it introduces what was once my most favorite pillow. 

The time for that pillow is gone though, and it has been sitting in my chaise lounge storage compartment for years. Until today. 

In the spirit of decluttering, Bryce has a "something in, something out" philosophy. It made total sense to bring this new pillow in and to give away the pillow which served its purpose and lived a rich life, until it lay dormant inside seasonal pillow storage, hidden away. 

Until today. 

A friend came to visit who is going through a rough time. Understatement -- she is in her chrysalis stage, utter goo as her life is being dismantled. Different situation than mine was, but similar in that the life she thought she had, the future she had imagined, has been cruelly ripped out from under her and she is feeling unmoored, sitting in a swamp of disbelief and horrific, painful limbo. 

SHE NEEDED THIS PILLOW. So, I sent her home with it. She may have even cackled with glee.

If you are in a place of transformation not of your choosing, and you logically know it will get better but are in that space where you just feel utterly disassembled, a Fuck. This. Shit. pillow is a small win. 

I am glad to give it a new home. I am glad it can be passed along in times of need, like magical traveling pants. And I wish I could teleport back to the me that wrote that raw post oozing with grief and show her the Ghost of Pillow Future, the fulfillment of the promise that sounds so trite, so pat, so hollow when you are hurting and in that transformational goo: "It gets better." 

Because it really, really can. I can't promise it will be perfect, but it is possible to take upending grief and sorrow and rebuild a different life you love. 

The new pillow has spoken.