Wednesday, December 21, 2022

Any morning that finds me here can't be that bad

It's been a crazy morning, which I'm reminded is what happens to me when I
leave my home, but if I get to spend an hour here reading a good book, it's
worth it.

Sent from my GO FLIP 3

Friday, December 9, 2022

Food shopping

It's 1) Friday and 2) December, so I can shop without guilt at Haymarket.
(The guilt would be from not shopping at a farmers market, but that season
ends in November.) This is also more than a little bit of a brag, since it
required more than a bit of walking when I don't feel well. But it was fun.

Also getting a thrill more and more from eschewing places like whole foods
- blech - and other big chains. Everything in one shop, blah blah blah, but
it's harder and harder to look at those places and not see exploitation.
Not going to pretend that no one is mistreated in Chinatown or the north
end, but they're not selling themselves to me as the only place where I can
eat my values.

Hard to see with the light (but I kind of like the effect), but this outing
included everything from soap and coffee to cheese and berries. This week
was a little light on vegetables because we're still working through last
week's haul...which might be taking longer than usual since my family
decided they needed to eat lots of baked goods this week. Related?

Hope everyone else enjoyed their food shopping this week as much as I did.
Now if you'll excuse me, I have some bread dough to check on.

Deb in the City

Thursday, November 17, 2022

A new way to blog?

Trying to see if this method will let me blog more, as well as whether this
photo will come through.

Sent from my GO FLIP 3

Tuesday, September 20, 2022

Modern Hanbok (A poem)

I'd like to know what a modern hanbok would look like

Not the formal kind worn at weddings

Not the kind that float down a catwalk

The kind an everyday woman would wear

If she were going shopping

If she were going to work

If she were playing with her children

It would have to be machine washable, because there are busy women

It would have to be comfortable, because these are modern women

Maybe it wouldn't need a slip

But it would definitely have to work with sneakers --

After all, this is the twenty-first century

And these women would have had all this time

Evolving their fashions to their tastes

They were never told what they could wear, and what they couldn't,

Under pain of beating or punishment or death

They had agency

They lived in a world that flowed with the currents of their times

And more than once altered those currents themselves

They remembered their halmunis laughing about the pictures they saw of other women,

From other places,

Wearing a hanbok but getting the bow all wrong

Sometimes it's the details

Sometimes it's the attitude

Because there were sometimes when those other women

Got it just right

And they were wearing the clothes

Not the other way around

Just as they -- we -- live in a world in which they lived with their history

And beyond it

Not that they lived for their history

As if they themselves were an offering to it

Sometimes the colors are vibrant

Sometimes the materials are subdued

Always, it is a garment that suits their lives

Not a costume to suit a role

This is, after all, a modern hanbok for a woman in a country that has always known agency

Monday, May 9, 2022

When Gaslighting Equals Cancer

Five days ago, I had a colon resection to remove a cancerous tumor. Translation: I had colon cancer. Having found out at the end of March and gotten the surgery by the beginning of May, by modern standards I moved at the speed of light, even if the wait felt like eternity at the time.

The wait wasn't eternal, but the time it took for the cancer to develop was, of course, much longer than six weeks. One doctor says four years, another says ten. Based on my symptoms, I'm going with the latter.

But how, you might ask, could I have missed it for so long? Good question. Because I didn't miss any of the symptoms, and I brought them up to my doctor at the time. So the answer is that I didn't miss it, but she did.

About a decade ago, my digestive system started being erratic. I brought it up to my doctor, who didn't have any special insight. Frustrated, I did some internet "research" and thought my symptoms fit Irritable Bowel Syndrome. When I told my doctor that I thought I had IBS, she shrugged and said that if I thought I had it, then I probably did. Okay then. Only thing is that there's no treatment for IBS, so the shrug fit.

I was also experiencing aches and pains as well as fatigue intermittently. When I brought it up to my doctor, she said the primary reason people would have those symptoms was because of depression. I really didn't know what to say because I wasn't depressed. Very stressed with life issues I've talked about in this space, but not depressed.

I was, however, suffering from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, and when some of those symptoms became unbearable, she prescribed me a medication that was known to cause digestive issues, or, in my case, exacerbate pre-existing issues. When I brought it up, she said that sometimes digestive issues were associated with mood disorders, so this might end up resolving my issues eventually. Spoiler alert: it didn't, and I stopped taking the medication after less than three years.

Low energy, aches and pains, digestive problems, and life issues -- but I was still as active as I could be. I also ate a mostly vegan, gluten-free diet (and when I wasn't vegan, I was vegetarian), never smoked anything, and drank sparingly if at all (and for the last few years, I've drank nothing other than kombucha -- and I don't even drink that anymore). In other words, my only risk factor for colon cancer was my weight, which, oddly, seemed to accumulate around the time all of these symptoms began. Perhaps you've guessed by now that my doctor was laser-focused on THAT, to the point where I couldn't come in for something like an ear ache without her having me weighed. 

You would think that since she was so obsessed with my weight and since I had complained about all of those other symptoms she might have said at some point, hmm, maybe we should do a colonoscopy. And I believe she did -- once. But she suggested it in such a way as to make it sound unattractive, and I declined. Forgive me for thinking that since my symptoms persisted, her suggestion should have as well, especially since she was ALL OVER ME when I had a relatively rare symptom of breast cancer. She would not accept a good answer, and I finally ended up with a surgeon. The culprit: a traumatized milk duct (which maybe shouldn't be a surprise in someone who nursed four babies past the age of two). When she wanted to aggressively pay attention to something, she could. 

To be fair, she wasn't the only person in the medical field who didn't take me seriously. When my husband dragged me to the ER in 2018 because of chest pains and feeling like I was going to pass out, one of the ER residents used the word "unimpressed" to describe his evaluation of my EKG and overall presentation -- until a test showed that I had elevated levels of troponin. Credit to my cardiologist (not the resident): he aggressively chased theories and tests, but when my PET scans came back clean, he threw up his hands. It was a mystery, but as long as I kept exercising, I should be able to prevent it (never mind that the two episodes that required hospitalization were set off by working out at the gym...).

Do people get why I did NOT want to go to the doctor after a certain point? Because while no one said they thought I was crazy, it's pretty easy to tell when people aren't taking you seriously.

My theory to explain everything was Chronic Fatigue Syndrome, because that was a great explanation for why sometimes I was just so god damned drained sometimes. It was also, like IBS, something that was real (in other words, I wasn't crazy), but no harm, no foul, since the medical profession couldn't treat it anyway. Oddly, this didn't do anything to make me feel like anyone was taking me more seriously.

I lucked out a few years ago when my previous doctor left the hospital for a concierge service and was replaced by a really attentive doctor who -- wait for it -- listened to what was going on with me. Perhaps emboldened by that, when my symptoms got worse I let him know, and he suggested a colonoscopy, but it was my choice. When they got much worse, I felt like I could take him up on it. Great!

...Only I still managed to meet another doctor between the scheduling and the actual procedure who implied that my symptoms were indicative of something much less serious. That interaction was exhausting -- did I mention that I've been exhausted for a decade? -- to the point that I didn't bring up the ear pain that turned out to be an infection. Symptoms of that infection are still plaguing me, but I couldn't bear to stay in that office for one more minute.

When I saw my current doctor today, I brought my husband, more to keep me from going off about how his predecessors had failed me. But my husband couldn't restrain himself from pointing out to my doctor that this situation affected not just me but also our family. And...he's right. It has impacted every aspect of my family's life, however much I've tried to minimize the impact. For more than half of their life, my sons have seen me as someone whose energy levels are undependable (but who usually pushes through anyway). Managing this condition, completely in the dark, has sapped not just my energy but my mental faculties. We all obsess about food, but my ever changing list of things that I could and could not have was causing me to do mental gymnastics that no one could keep up with. And while no, sorry, I haven't been depressed, I realize I've seen everything through a pessimistic lens. Dealing with low-level chronic pain -- and exhaustion -- is going to do that to you. 

Even with pain from the laparoscopic incision, I'm sleeping better than I have in years; no more waking up with a mild sense of panic in the middle of the night and not being able to go back to sleep for two hours, if at all. I am starting to feel like maybe, just maybe, this might be the beginning of a good chapter of my life. Let's see.

Deb in the City

Wednesday, March 2, 2022

The questionable wisdom of the sleep-deprived

Some random thoughts as I deal with the second day this week of four hours of sleep (though, mercifully, not consecutive):

  • Boston's hours might give you the impression that we're nothing more than a showy bedroom community. We're most reliably available between the hours of 8 AM and 8 PM, though only on weekdays. Saturdays, so it has been decreed, don't seem to start until 9 AM, and Sundays don't start until 10 AM if you're lucky. Don't believe me? Try finding a good place to get a non-caffeinated beverage while walking around on a Sunday morning before 8 AM. Never have I missed New York City so much.
  • Given the number of ways in which women who aren't white (I loathe "of color" in general -- by which standard? Right, we all know. So let's just cut to the chase and say "not white".) are told that they aren't good enough, the wonder isn't that we have panic attacks, it's that we don't have them every single day.
  • No one has made me wish for the existence of Hell this much since Bashar al-Assad, the Butcher of Syria, but Vladimir Putin should get his own ring within the worst ring. But also, everyone who only cares about Syria now because of what's happening in Ukraine, if you're under the age of 25, what is the matter with you?
  • I searched like a demon to find a history book I could use for my older-middle school/younger-high school students that would be both age-appropriate and not be Eurocentric. I failed to find anything comprehensive, so we read shorter books on other topics and used a survey textbook for what would have been their first year of high school. My husband and I are now reading Tamim Ansary's Destiny Disrupted, which is explicitly from the point of view of the Islamic world. Great...but not perfect. How I wish there was a version of Power and Plenty that covered cultural/political milestones and/or was available for older teens.
  • However sleepy Boston is, I pine for my walks, especially as various family members' anxiety makes those difficult to get. It's easy for me to sink into bitterness (especially when I'm sleep-deprived), but I realized a few days ago how much I will miss having children who want me around. Boston will be there (I mean, I think...), so long, daily walks can wait. In the meantime, I can workout at home.
  • Much as I've walked away from my identity as a foodie, walking into pastry shops to buy things for the members of my family who can eat wheat got to me. I've been baking a number of things from Erin McKenna's cookbooks. Brownies are still my favorite, but my husband likes cupcakes (both of us can live without chocolate chip cookies, although he has a soft spot for oatmeal cookies -- no accounting for taste). I'm loving pumpernickel bread all over again (obviously, best with vegan cream cheese and strawberry jam, but you knew that), but I really want to try challah because it would be nice to have that for Fridays again. Because really this whole baking jag was set off by my desire to avoid paying $39 for a challah (plus shipping). Now, can anyone tell me where I can find a good pan?
  • How I wish I could drink tea again. (Did I mention that I'm sleep-deprived?)

Deb in the City

Sunday, December 26, 2021

The Secret of Time Management

I won't keep you in suspense: it's saying No. Working smarter not harder is going to get you only so far, and if we're honest, a lot of smart working is saying no to certain things anyway. 

But how does one say No?

The curse of the era we live in is that we believe there is so much that we should say Yes to. The promise of the World Wide Web is just that: an interconnected world. But the world we are given easy access to is just so much garbage most of the time. It's a slightly more heightened version of the one available on television, which is itself a dumbed down version of the one available in books. A richer world is out there, but it's hidden in plain sight beneath the shiny glow of the baubles displayed by the internet.

I bring this up because, for the umpteenth time, I've listened in on a conversation in which people are concerned with Time Management (as well as the latest in gaming and television), and the intensity of these conversations might convince someone that distraction -- or Attention Deficit Disorder -- had been invented in the last two decades. But that is not true. What might be true is that the level of distraction has ratcheted up past what anyone could imagine.

Or couldn't they? Actually, haven't people been warning us about what mass media could do for decades? Neil Postman warned us in Amusing Ourselves to Death that Orwell's nightmare of Big Brother was irrelevant in a civilization that had chosen to make a god out of Entertainment; Carl Sagan saw that as our technology became more complex, many of us would backslide into superstition and revel in our ignorance; and Kurt Vonnegut described a society that was going to disguise the fact that it wasn't allowed to talk about substance by screaming about whatever was still left to us.

As far-seeing -- let's even call them visionary -- as these authors were, I don't think even they saw the sleight of hand that was going to be pulled on us in the twenty-first century. The usage of our modern technology -- small enough to fit into your pocket, more powerful than the Manhattan Project scientists could dream of -- gives us the illusion that we are participating in this movement called Technological Progress while we are, in fact, being commodified. We think we are using our technology to be more connected, but really we are connecting ourselves to a marketplace that listens into what we are already interested in and, like the best marketers in retail and politics, uses that information to convince us to buy what's already out there. We think we are choosing to watch and play the most cutting edge entertainment offered by Hollywood and Silicon Valley, but really many of us can't say no because we are addicted to the prospect of being entertained. 

Raj Patel, who has written more recently, had the great insight that the opposite of choice isn't coercion but instinct: if we have been participating in a marketplace from before the time we could consent -- before we were even born, in many instances -- our very "gut feelings" have been shaped to accommodate market values. Every other kind of value -- moral, political, intellectual -- will be indulged only to the point where it doesn't inconvenience said market. 

If you don't feel in control of your time -- and the life that it is filled with -- congratulations for realizing something that many are not yet able to see. You are not in control of your time because you are not in control of your attention. You cannot say No when you hear a demand, not a question.

This is a question

When you are being given thirty-nine different versions of chips in the snack aisle, you don't have thirty-nine options, but two: buy the chips, or walk away. (If one option has thirty-nine different varieties and the other has only one, what is the math weighted toward once you're in that aisle?) When you have available over fifty services for streaming in the United States, again, you really have two options: watch a program on one of the services, or walk away. (When each option has hundreds of programs per service, and there isn't a lot of drama inherent in walking away, what is the math weighted toward once you open up your device?)

Even those of us in a Community Supported Agriculture program will have to walk into a supermarket at some point, and once there it's difficult to avoid the snack aisle. By the same token, even those of us who are committed to spending as little time as possible on screens have to open them at some points, and once there it's difficult to avoid being plagued by ads and other "reminders" pointing you to entertainment. What is the solution? I don't know. But what I do know is that the more we remind ourselves that we are being asked, not told, we can start to say No more frequently.

Deb in the City