Categories
Emotional Work Politics

Day 768 and Memory

I’ve not ever read Proust in its entirety because what am I an eternal being who exists outside of linear time? But, thanks to Wikipedia and university survey courses, I am familiar with its basic themes of memory and it’s frustrating insufficiency.

Anyways, when not pondering madeleines, I am often confronted by how resilient the mind is in protecting us from the horrors of the world. Memory is a very funny thing. As good a reason as any to maintain diaries or personal hagiography is that you’d be surprised at what you forget.

A doctor asked me to get a pelvic ultrasound. I surprised myself by saying absolutely not unless it’s an emergency life or death situation I am not doing that. And she, in sincere surprise, asked me why not.

And, because I guess therapy works, I recalled a pelvic ultrasound from maybe 10-12 years ago. I’d been referred in to a specialist as there was concern about a uterine cyst. This doctor, a gentleman over 50 in the kindly white gentleman archetype, who I did not know know, proceeds to tell me this won’t hurt.

But it does hurt. I am screaming bloody murder. It hurts so much I cannot stop. He tells me he will call security unless I quiet down. I cannot and I am in tears hysterically trying to convey the pain. I pass out.

I had utterly suppressed the memory till today. It happened to coincide with my husband mentioning a think piece in New York Magazine about women who empathized with the Clare Danes character from Fleishman Is In Trouble. There is a profoundly violating scene around reproductive health and consent.

And of course, because it’s happening to a striving insecure aspirant white bitch it totally doesn’t count right? Fucking Karens. It’s super cringe to consider where the system hurts you, because you dumb bitch, you benefit more than anyone else.

So I guess I am not surprised I had banished the experience of something bad but you know not so bad you are allowed to complain about it. And that is how the patriarchy perpetuates itself.

What I’m saying is that maybe you need to remember who it is that benefits from you not remembering the pain. Who benefits from forgetting? And trust me they are very scared when you realize that you remember.

Categories
Chronic Disease Emotional Work

Day 767 and Abandonment

I called someone today with whom I have a standing appointment. They didn’t pick up at first. I called back a few minutes later when they didn’t return my call.

They picked up on the second call back. They didn’t seem entirely healthy. I found myself scared. My inner child dove immediately into a pattern of abandonment and distance as I tried to cancel and give them a way out. I blathered on about how it’s usual time and I hoped I wasn’t invading their privacy but if they were sick I could rescheduled as it was obviously no big deal.

Julie” they said to me firmly but kindly. “Stop telling me how I am.”

I sat back on my heels at that. I hate it when people make assumptions about how I feel. Rather than listen, people will simply make assumptions about how I am and what I can or cannot do. If you hate feeling pitied then this will probably seem quite familiar to you.

It’s not uncommon for people to work through their own issues on illness, pain or disability when talking to me. While I have an invisible disability from a chronic disease called ankylosing spondylitis I do make it known that I have this diagnosis. I even treat it as a part of my edge at work. But it’s just a fact that I’m in various degrees of pain because I have swelling in my spine. It’s arthritis basically just inconveniently located.

But despite it being a public part of my identity, most people have no idea. I don’t look sick and I mostly don’t act like it in public as it’s kept under control with modern medicine. But I’ll have bad days. Or I’ll have to ask for an accommodation like sitting down.

And that’s when I learn a lot about a person’s relationship to illness. I’ll get pitied. I’ll get babied. I’ll get pep talks. I’ll get praised. I’ll get ignored. I’ll get written off. It’s never about me but entirely about the other person. It’s a little bit like seeing someone’s tell in poker. Most people have got one.

In the past I’ve let myself be invaded by these feelings from others. And it made me sad. I felt abandoned by all these people around me who couldn’t see me for me but instead saw their own feelings mirrored back to them. I felt invisible. I got treated like a cipher for disability or illness.

But underneath that little drama, an the actual person names Julie would be left alone to watch them play out their emotional theater. But I am done feeling abandoned by it. I don’t have to let anyone else tell me how I am. And it’s entirely up to others to decide if they can manage around me. I don’t need to make it my problem. I’ve got no need to abandon myself for them.

Categories
Emotional Work

Day 766 and Friends

The worst part of getting back on Instagram has been the number of people who said welcome back. Now you might say that sounds kinda nice. And for the extended universe of people with whom I casually socialize, yes it was nice. But for the people I considered to be friends it was fucking insulting.

I left Instagram before my health troubles but the overlap on the timing on the two isn’t wide. Its mostly concurrent. It’s hard to post the kind of aspirational lifestyle bullshit that the algorithm prioritizes from bed rest. There is a reason Twitter and long form blogging on WordPress are where I spend my social media time.

A significant portion of people in my bucket of friends simply disappeared from my life when I disappeared from their lives. When I stopped reaching out they stopped reaching out. My timing certainly wasn’t great as my health imploded around the time a lot of my peers got married and had children. Totally acceptable reasons to be busy.

But I also I learned the hard lesson that most people are so busy keeping themselves afloat they don’t give a fuck if you are dying. Because they are struggling too. Yet it’s hard not to have a sense of abandonment when people don’t reach out across any medium except what’s proximate and convenient for them.

I went to so much trouble putting myself and my entire journey online. I knew I was harder to reach as I couldn’t leave the glide let alone my own bed. So I reached out from the pit of my own despair and hoped someone would see my hands reaching. And a whole world of people did. I made a lot of new friends that way.

I’ve literally written hundreds of thousands of words about my journey. And all of it is conveniently tagged and linked and is searchable. If you wanted to read about pain management or biohacking or my medicine regiment it’s all here. I’ve even written an FAQ on how to reach me. I am one of the most accessible people you will ever reach. I made this this space because I knew I had to reach out lest I be abandoned.

So when a bunch of socially networked acquaintances said “welcome back” on Instagram, what I really heard was you were never my friends in the first place. And that felt sad in a way I wasn’t expecting. I’m sure was true that most people were not my friends. I always knew was true for the vast majority of people. But it was sad to learn it was true for people I’d felt close to in the past.

For the handful that were actually friends, it was a bit disappointing to see what distance, time and sickness has yielded for my expectations. I hadn’t heard from them in years but they still think we are friends. And I don’t know how to break to them that no actually we aren’t. I have come to expect more from people.

Categories
Emotional Work Medical Politics

Day 765 and Kobayashi Maru for Women

I woke up to a totally off handed tweet of mine going viral. I had done some googling on the cost of pregnancy surrogacy and learned that it would probably cost $200,000 a pop. I’d never really considered the cost as to be honest as I didn’t think I’d be having children that way. The responses to the tweet left me feeling despondent.

Five years ago I did IVF to freeze embryos (and eggs too) and it kicked off a massive health crisis that I only feel I’ve gotten under control recently. It took everything from me. I was on medical leave, I sold my startup, and my marriage got to learn what “in sickness and in health” really means. It was awful. I am crying just remembering.

It took years to get healthy again. Of course, I first had to get stable at all. I spent years, and a huge chunk of savings, biohacking my way back to a body healthy enough to work. I’m thrilled to be back doing what I love most which is working with early stage companies. But work wasn’t the only goal of getting healthy.

I’ve had a fantasy that if I just kept at my biohacking that one day I’d be off all these medications. That I could truly be healed. That all this trouble and heartache wouldn’t be permanent. That I could heal myself. Unsaid in all of that, is that I cannot be pregnant and on the medications that saved my life. How is that for a kick in the teeth.

I’ve got two embryos and ten eggs and a fleeting dying ember of hope that I could ever carry them. I don’t know if having them via a surrogate is my path forward. Maybe there is still hope I could be healthy enough. I frankly don’t know and I’m not ready to say where my fertility is headed.

All I know is that this feels like a no scenario. That having a child in America is a fraught and expensive endeavor even when everything goes right and you are healthy and young. There is no winning as a woman as any decision around family is going to upset someone.

It’s the Kobayashi Maru for American women. Juggling your partner (or partners), your money, your home, your health and your fertility means balls get dropped. You are going to lose somewhere. And it really hurts.

Categories
Emotional Work Medical

Day 762 and If It’s Not A Yes Then It’s A No

I was supposed to drive my husband to an appointment today. I’d put it on my calendar and was prepared to make sure it happened because that’s what wives do right? It was an easy and obvious yes. I didn’t think anything of it.

Around noon I noticed I was becoming intensely sound sensitive. I asked my husband if it felt really bright outside even though we had cloud cover. I felt a little bit nauseous but I’ve been taking some antibiotics so I dismissed the symptom.

It was only when some silverware clattered onto our wooden dining table I realized something was wrong. I full on screamed. I jumped and shrieked liked like a poisonous spider had just bit me. A massive overreaction to a noise that objectively was neither that loud or that threatening.

“Honey, is it possible you have a migraine?”

Alex Miller

Despite the litany of easy to diagnose symptoms, I had managed to ignore the obvious. I had a migraine. And from the looks of it a pretty severe one.

I’d woken up feeling amazing so I wanted to tackle the day with all the energy I had. But as it waned I got angry. If I’d bothered to look at the emotion I would have seen that underneath the steam of the anger was hurt. I felt betrayed by my body. I had a 95% recovery score on my Whoop. How dare it let me down? So I just ignored it.

The kicker to the story is I kept trying to ignore it. I took one Imitrax even though it seemed like a two Imitrax migraine. Alex asked me if I was sure I would be OK to still drive him this afternoon. I waffled a little bit and said I dunno I am sure it will be fine once the migraine medicine kicks in.

I don’t like to drive after taking Imitrax as it tends to make me a little sleepy. And I really wanted to help Alex by driving him. So I just took one and hoped for the best.

An hour later Alex came into the dark bedroom and said “honey you know if it’s not an immediate yes then it’s a no, right?”

Apparently I did not. I took another Imitrax and Alex found another ride. Hopefully I learned my lesson.

Categories
Biohacking Emotional Work

Day 754 and Smooth is Fast

I like to move quickly. With my enthusiasm for generating momentum, I can easily get myself myself into trouble. I’d bet you can remember a time when you accidentally slowed yourself down by trying to go too quickly.

The phrase “slow is smooth, smooth is fast” originates from the SEAL teams but the purpose behind it can be applied to all situations. There are many situations when we want to react quickly and start moving, but in your efforts to move so quickly, you end up slowing down the operation

Chris Fussel, McChrystal Group

I was rewatching William Gibson’s Peripheral and happened to hear the SEAL slogan from one of the main characters Burton. As his sister Flynne scrambles he reminds her that slow is smooth and smooth is fast.

I am taking that to heart today as I’m itching to get a bunch done. But I am still a little jet lagged from being on Europe time and I woke up a little bit sniffly and a low recovery score on my Whoop.

As tempting as it is to beat myself up about feeling behind on work or scold myself for deliberately slowing myself, I am reminded that there is a reason high performance teams like the SEALS believe slow is smooth and smooth is fast.

Categories
Emotional Work

Day 753 and Strong Routines

It feels good to be back in Montana after a long journey home. I’m relieved I won’t be going anywhere for a while. I spent yesterday resting which felt appropriate on Sunday. But today I needed to get myself back into my typical routines. I was up at 6am and immediately began searching for my rhythm.

I am often frustrated by how much energy I put into maintaining a steady restorative routine. I like to live and work hard, but as I get older the best way to maintain productivity seems to be putting good habits at the forefront of my life. I have to fuel myself to go the distance.

I’ve got a number of deals I’m working on this quarter and I’ve got fundraising to do, so I’ve got to make sure I’m on my game.

I dutifully took all my supplements. I worked out. I meditated. I did hot and cold work. I ate a nutritious lunch. I did chores like my laundry and unpacking. I cleaned out my email inbox. I got my schedule in order. I set my goals for the week.

Having had a productive working Monday, it’s now time for Monday evening emotional work. I stack my personal therapy and group therapy back to back on Monday. I usually write afterwards but I thought I’d get down some basics before as I am still just jet lagged enough I might prefer just going to bed afterwards.

Categories
Emotional Work

Day 747 and Defeat

They say you shouldn’t make big decisions after a failure or a defeat. I failed during my trip to Prague. And I’ve been trying to let go of the sting of the failure. I was trying to help a family friend secure a visa to America. It was my second attempt and second failure. I’ve been working on it for two years.

I don’t know what to do next. I am unsure if I am able to do more to help. It’s humiliating to keep failing at securing a visa. Americans have little to no idea how hard it is to get into our country. Only 40 countries of 195 can travel to America without going through our Byzantine maze of rejection and waiting.

Maybe I need more time to pass before I’ll come up with another idea or solution. Every time I write about visa issues I get back a bunch of comments from folks and alas few of them appear capable of fixing the situation. I’ve got a few leads ranging from fixers to number one ranked legal firms. We’ve reached out and secured help from congressional representatives and ambassadors.

I don’t accept defeat easily. I chew on failure like a dog on a bone. I want to find a way to a solution for our friend but at this point it’s not just about them. I need to find a path forward for myself as well.

Categories
Emotional Work Travel

Day 746 and Control

When I feel afraid I seek control. I have rituals and rhythms that help sooth the fears of my inner child.

This morning I was in my least favorite fear control pattern. I had to leave a temporary hotel for a new Airbnb as a mold issue destabilized my first week. Hives and prednisone and such. I hate packing and I hate the logistics of it. It reminds me of my childhood nightmares.

I set my alarm early enough to get breakfast and packing in before the slightly too early checkout. I was racked with anxiety I couldn’t repack everything as I’d acquired new items meant for an apartment stay and my suitcase overflowed.

I had vitamins and medicine to take but I couldn’t do more than choke down a croissant. I ordered fruit and cheese and than was too worked up to eat it. I hate wasting food so I wasn’t thrilled. I beat myself up for being a bad person who can’t take care of herself.

As soon as realized how had it was getting I took an Ativan. Joke all you want about benzodiazepines but occasionally they are the barrier between a traumatized woman and the history of her fears. Probably why it’s such a cliche. Just the sort of thing you learn as you are alone in a foreign country where you don’t speak the language.

I felt so rushed by the need to be out at a certain time. Each knock on the door a reminder of my failures. Each internal call to calm down a criticism I recalled from my father, my coaches, my bosses and my lovers. A hysterical woman is a shameful thing.

Each “hurry up” a reminder that I am someone who is policed and polite and controlled for other people’s convenience. I am not allowed to be scared or cry or reactive. A hysterical woman woman is, again, a shameful thing.

Finally after the tension and anger and shame bubbled up, I threw the first thing I could get my hands on to release the tension. Better than hurting myself a dim quiet voice said. I cracked my watch face. And immediately felt better. And so embarrassed I’d boiled over.

I’d only needed five more minutes to get myself together. Just a moment. Give me a second. Please just let me be. And each time my preferences had to accommodate someone else I lost more of myself.

I was able to exert the seamless self control over my emotions eventually. I checked out. I tipped. I’m swanned over to my new digs. I executed exactly what I needed and got on with my workday. But the shame stung and the control soothed it like a cold aloe gel.

Categories
Emotional Work Travel

Day 744 and Nothing

It’s always a toss up as to whether I am going to write beautiful missives showcasing my deepest emotions when traveling or just shit out whatever I can manage. I’ve discovered I’ve got quite a range over the years. And I can almost never predict it.

I assume everyone can relate to this. You can never really predict when your best efforts will yield great results. This is, of course, why I prattle on and on about about practice and habits. If you aren’t forcing yourself to hone a skill set even when you don’t feel like it you won’t ever improve it. If you don’t let yourself fail you never win. You miss all the shots you don’t take.

I totally get why people are obsessed with sports metaphors. I often wonder if athletes use business or war metaphors because otherwise they are stuck with the literalism of being descriptive.

I’ve always hated when business people use war metaphors as it feels a bit offensive (don’t elevate your work to life or death unless it actually is life or death) so I default to sports metaphors.

But mergers, term sheets and deals aren’t as sexy as goals, shots or points so if you are an athlete maybe sticking to literalism is fine? I mean, they are to me, but of course I’m inclined to think my work is hot. You’d be worried if didn’t.

So today I’ll accept that we use the metaphors we have on hand as sometimes we do t have anything else. We’ve got nothing. And you’ve got to work with what you’ve got to make something from nothing.