I’ve taken some blows. For sport. Punches, kicks, being thrown. Though I’m (hopefully) always braced for what is coming. I’ve fallen off a motorcycle, and had it fall on me. I’ve broken bones and sustained injuries. I’ve messed up a variety of muscles and joints, and worked through their recovery. I’ve had my body go squirrelly on me, and had it get worse before it got better.
And I’ll tell you, the pains that only the women humans experience? Those ones feel the worst… and are treated the most lightly.
Not all women-humans experience the women-specific pains. But for those women who do (mind-meltingly awful periods, labour, IUD insertions), the response to these extraordinary and intense pains is not nearly far enough away from “bite down on this leather strap”.
We don’t have to bite the leather strap, or our tongues. It is stupid of us to suffer silently. It is a waste of our time and our lives.
We don’t have to bear pain. We don’t deserve pain. We shouldn’t put up with pain. Pain is not our lot in life, it is not our cross to bear, and it doesn’t have to be a big part of our lives.
Many women have experienced an IUD insertion. Including little ol’ me. So it’s my ‘for instance’. It is not clear exactly how many women experience pain during the procedure. A fair estimate is that 33% of women reported pain of 5 or more on a scale of 1-10.
But even something like this post, which is better written and more comprehensive than most of what’s out there, largely boils down to a pain strategy of focusing on the positive — that the outcomes are worth it, and that you won’t be one of the 1/3.
“It probably won’t happen to you” is not a pain plan.
I can take a punch (several actually), but I’ll tell you, when I had my IUD done, I took the 2 Advil I was given, and on a scale of 1-to-10, IUD insertion hurt “like fuck”.
“It’s over fast” is not good enough. A kick in the balls is “over fast”, but presented with a kick in the balls as an option, most men would still ask if there was another way.
Amy Poehler said, “Girls, if a boy says something that isn’t funny, you don’t have to laugh”. You don’t have to let people kick you in the lady balls either.
There are other pain medications we could try, techniques that can be refined. “A deep breath” and “mind-body” work is good and all, but it’s not nearly enough. What that does is make pain the particular woman’s problem. If you were still in too much pain, you just weren’t doing a good enough job of managing your pain, or managing your mind.
Well… that’s horseshit.
Breathing techniques are excellent. Mind-body awareness is essential to a healthy life. But you don’t fight fire with a song.
We shouldn’t have let it become a joke that women’s medical problems and procedures suck. We should be turning the suck down.
Lemme tell you a little about a game we play in my house.
It’s called “are you saying I’m fat?”
And the more I have to stretch to make it work, the better.
Him: “Could you please pass me the ketchup?”
Me: “Why? OH I SEE. You’re calling me fat? Can you not get your arm past my enormous girth to get it yourself?”
The trick is for him to confirm, and then one-up it.
Him: “Yes. Your gelatinous mass is obscuring my reach to the ketchup bottle. I can barely see it around your lardosity. Now please pass it over, your ginormitude.”
We also play this game in reverse.
Why do we do this?
Because it is funny. As it should be. Because women supposedly (according to The Braindead Megaphone) live in constant fear that people will think or say they’re fat, and men/husbands supposedly live in constant fear that their wife will think they’ve called them fat.
And that is ridiculous.
Because THIS DOES NOT MATTER.
Your spouse is your partner. You are a team. And being fat or not is not the most important part of that. If your partner says “I’m not happy”, or “I’m having trouble at work”… that shit matters. But “those pants are a bit tight”? That belongs right down there with “we’re out of pickles”.*
Being called fat has been ludicrously awarded special status as “the worst thing ever that your partner can say about you”. Cartoonish over-the-top Chaplin-esque backpedalling of husbands desperately trying to be 100% clear they didn’t just call their wives fat.
And how many things are more important than this? All the things. ALL the things are more important than this.
All. The. Things.
They said (or *gasp* implied) that you are “fat”. What is the absolute worst case? That… you… are…. fat? Okay. So? So what?
OH MY GOD HE CALLED ME FAT.
Empirically, it’s pretty close to a statement of fact (unless you’re married to one of those a-holes who tells super slender people that they’re overweight. In which case, you have bigger fish to fry.) You are fat or you are not. And saying or not saying it out loud would not make it any more or less true.
OH MY GOD HE SAID I HAVE GREEN EYES.
(Unless you don’t have green eyes, in which case, see above: re: the big fish fry-up).
If you are genuinely concerned that your partner isn’t physically healthy, that is a conversation you have because you care about them and you want them to stick around. You work on it together.
Weight comes and goes. Fatness comes and goes. It is a part of who you are, but it’s a changing part. My hair grows. My food and exercise changes. My body changes. It’s bigger, it’s smaller, it’s older, it’s doughier, it’s more muscular. One thing my body definitely is not is static. Because no one’s body is static.
It is fascinating and incredibly useful, but it is not the totality of things that make up me. It’s importance is in how it makes me feel (healthy, strong, capable, soggy, slothy), and what it enables me to do with the precious sliver of time that is my life.
I care a quintillion percent more about character. If you are the biggest ass in the world, it matters a helluva lot more than if you have the biggest ass in the world.
*What am I saying? Being out of pickles is a serious fucking deal. Wait… am I out of pickles right now? BRB.
I’m sick right now. GAAAABLLLUUUURGGHHHHHWHEEEZEANGRYFACE!
I am bad at being sick. Worse even, as I get older. Because I enjoy autonomy. And decision-making. And choices. And doing things. And being sick is the opposite of that.
Being sick is boring. As a not-7 year old, I know what happens. There is no novelty in a sick day. In gingerale or jello. (Which I didn’t actually get when I was 7 and sick. I got raw garlic and salt water and vinegar. Hold your jealous applause.) No novelty in being on the couch or not being able to breath properly. I don’t want soup, I want to be healthy.
I am lucky. I don’t get sick often. I don’t have any little disease vectors (<-children) and I mostly don’t work in offices (<-contagion cesspools). And I fight it. Hard.
But at some point, by the sling and arrow of some outrageous bug, I fall. Like a giant mammoth, stuck up pincushion-style with wounds of phlegm and fatigue and ache.
So, finally, I lie here, on my mammoth side, with my mammoth trunk full of mammoth snot and I wait for extinction. Drip. Drip. Drip.
I get it from my father.
My father was terrible at being sick. Terrible.
How terrible? Well, when they went to do his heart surgery, scar tissue showed that he’d had not one, not two, but probably a few minor heart attacks. That he had just… powered through.
He was pretty sure he remembered at least one of these happening. At a work function. But it was a work function with many doctors in attendance, so he basically decided to ignore it.
He was sick more often than he would have admitted (like, all the time), and he was working too hard (like, all the time), and incredibly overextended (like, all the time).
He took all the drugs and none of the rest. In one “great” story, while the participants were doing an exercise, he went to an empty conference room and lay down under a table for awhile.
I submit that if you are lying down, under a table, in a hotel conference room, to try and get 5 minutes of sleep in your work day, when you are already on the maximum dosages of extra strength drugs, then you should go. the. fuck. home. This is not a grey area. As my lovely husband says (and I throw this back at him when he (often) pushes himself too hard):
“It’s just not that important. It’s not like you’re maintaining life support machines by hand.”
But… but… but… the meeting! due dates! reports! emails!
Don’t go and infect other people. Stupid snotty jerkfaces do that. Push through it? PFFFT! If science has taught us anything (I love you science!), there is no pushing through it. There is, however, prolonging it by wearing yourself out. Oooooooo… dumb.
I am finally (<-why the frack does this take so long) learning that I am at no risk of developing sloth. It is just not in me to cop out too early or drag it out too long. Hit the sick panic button too soon. Choose less life over more. Embrace and revel in lethargy and weakness. But it’s the fear of this that keeps me ignoring the runny eye. The hacking cough. The snot. (Oh god so much snot).
But no. I will learn this lesson from my dad. If you’re sick, be sick. Be sick, and then get better. If you find you’re getting sick a lot, look at it. What is broken? What can I fix? But don’t ignore it, and don’t pretend I’m not sick this time.
My aunt Kim Herbener passed away early last Thursday morning. She was 57.
She lived only a few blocks away from me, and was the first of my mum’s siblings that I had a separate adult relationship with. Meeting for lunch or coffee or brunch just to get together and talk about… all the things. There is already a dull ache of missing her. A Kim-sized hole beside my dad-sized one.
In November 2011, over a bowl of oatmeal at my dining room table, she told me that her cancer was back, and had metastasized to her liver. We knew it was terminal. As much as you never know exactly how much time you have left, we knew there was not much of it.
Kim, in China after high school graduation
This past year were trips to the hospital for a port and for chemo, the healthiest lunches I could find, and many cups of tea. Early on we had a few really interesting discussions about life and death. Closer to the end, when she was finding comfort in religion and spirituality, I lost the thread a bit. But we still made the time to be together. And just about everyone likes getting flowers, whether you pray or not.
This is the speech I gave at the Monday evening visitation — just one of three speeches from the 11 nieces and nephews who are left behind, and will miss her.
Now I say this with a tonne of love. And also respect: Kim was weird. I say and mean it with love and respect because it’s Kim’s weirdness that made her a cool aunt and person.
For the Hayday nieces and nephew, Kim was the one who — at Christmas and birthdays — could be counted on to never give you the “straight” gift. (And as our proudly out aunt we were proud of for being out, that was just not her purview anyways.) As kids, we’d often receive ROM gift shop replicas and… things. Things that would need explanation. So you’d open your present, and then you’d open the accompanying note that talked you through it. Replica scarab beetles from an Egyptian tomb (on every 7 year old’s wish list). Music makers (if in doubt, assume whatever gift you’ve opened is something that makes music). But we also always kept them, for years and years, surviving many toy purges — because nothing fascinates little kids like the totally unknown. Well played Auntie Kim.
But the gifts always had a story that connected you to it in her mind. Always thought out and thoughtful. There was a reason behind whatever she chose. And they were gifts that were intended to encourage you, to show you that she sees you or some part of you. That she thinks you’re musical, artistic, insightful, thoughtful or kind and she thinks that’s great.
I think of gifts because she was always giving. Not only things. But support and love and an ear and hugs. Hug first, talk second. There and ready with the love and support when her niece and her nephew were coming out themselves. Or leaving the last bloom off her tree on my patio for me when my dad died.
She was and went ahead of her time. She was biking everywhere when Toronto had even fewer bike lanes than today. Doing yoga well before every twenty year old was an “instructor”. She was an unselfconscious off to the side trailblazer — because she was open and interested in life. And game to give just about anything a try.
She was in love with the world. Even or especially the most mundane details. All the “hows” and the “whys” — that’s where Kim lived. She thought things over, considered the angles and gave you space to do the same. Every young little niece or nephew black and white mind can use a bit more grey in it, and an aunt who gives you a replica scarab beetle sure is bringing the grey.
She was the aunt with the whale bones. “Benedict” the giant scary painting of a head (who will live on forever in my brother Matt’s nightmares). The “Watch your head!” sign in her basement. The gypsy kings. The jangley bracelets. The somewhat unnerving colour shifting transitions lenses. A mug with a duck figure baked into the bottom. Sprouts. Pack lunches. A particularly angular way of writing the letter K. The ROM. The street she lived on.
It is sad to live on past someone you love. When they go and you are now in a world where they are not. They leave, and you love them even more. I will never walk past her street without thinking of Kim. True when she was alive, and truer now that she’s gone. Only now I won’t send her a quick message to see how she’s doing, or try to arrange for last minute cup of tea. Though I will raise a glass of tea to her in mind. And living only a couple of blocks over from her place, I’m going to burn through a lot of mental tea.
There were so many ways that we were nothing like each other. (How I tried to explain just what exactly I don’t see in interpretative … anything). But what was fantastic and a big cosmic score for all of her many nieces and nephews was that she made space for each of us to be us, and to know that whatever that was, she wanted to be a part of it. For each of us to have a different relationship with her (Erica, for instance, to cover the arty things that sail right past my analytic brain. Sarah to go shoot pool in the village.). She loved hearing when you were doing something new, and always wanted to hear updates on the things that were old.
When you die, there are beautiful things in the world that you have to leave. And sometimes some of the beautiful things leave before you do. Kim was a tall beautiful passionate enthusiastic darkly funny woman with a usually calm demeanor but also a fire in her belly, a sharp mind, kind words, and an open door.
But by the end, Kim was ready. She was calm and felt peace and she had a denser richer life than many people who get twice as many years to work with.
What would Kim have wanted for her nieces and nephews? I think, probably, something like what Maurice Sendak said before he died: “I wish you all good things. Live your life live your life live your life.”
This is my foot right now. The other one’s damage doesn’t photograph as well, because he’s mostly just poofy. This one is also pretty poofy, but not as noticeably.
I was working on kicks. Some of this poofing and purpling is because I don’t do it often enough, so my feet are extra soft and peachlike (the tops, not the bottoms. You could sand wood with those bad boys.)
But that doesn’t mean I can’t enjoy the awesomeness of these bruises.
My nails were already painted, not for the pic. I keep ending up with pink nails on Muay Thai day.
There are actually about 9 layers of colour on there. Because I can’t be assed to take it off properly. So my nail polish is cumulative. As my good – and similar – buddy said:
“I love when sometimes I get my nails done and they’re removing polish and they remove the layer of, say, green and then they find pink
so they blink and remove that
and there’s some gold
and I’m like “what?”
Current layers (if memory serves): pink, white, grey, turquoise, other grey, other pink, other other pink.
I may have mountain biked my head into the metal business end of a low bridge strut. Possibly. It came out of nowhere.
It happened during a “beginner” skills clinic. And if that was for “beginners”, then my name is Anne Murray and you’re going to love my Christmas special. I rode for about an hour after I clonked my head, so I self-diagnose that I’m fine. That’s a funny word. “Clonked”. Clonk. Clonkclonkclock. CLONK! Teehee…
Me: *knocking on husband’s home office door*
Me: “The spa I go to for waxing has a new service called ‘The Cracker Jack’, where they wax your bum. And I think that’s a great name, but I think it would be better if it was called ‘Crack is Whack'”.
Him: “I’m glad you don’t own your own spa.”
IT WOULD BE THE GREATEST SPA EVER AND PEOPLE WOULD ASK FOR FRAMED COPIES OF THE SERVICE LIST.
Y’know how sometimes you like a band’s music, and you’re like “hey, I want a tshirt!”, and then you go looking for tshirt in their official shop, because you don’t want to screw them with a knockoff, and then you get there, and it’s all “we don’t really do tshirts for girls (except for this one tremendously fugly one), would you like an ill-fitting snakeskin thong made of plastic instead?”
The accompanying text:
“This snakesking[sic] thong will make every woman’s wardrobe complete. If your man is a Rush fan, this thong will make his wildest fantasies come true. Well actually, that part is up to you, but at least you will look the part.”