‘Tis the Season and I Want Out

I had my first bout of pre-holiday panic when the pumpkins arrived at SuperTarget.

Fresh off the victory of getting my kids ready for school, I was still recovering from Back to School shopping. And sharpening fifty #2 pencils had left me feeling very stabby (and very well equipped to do so).

As such, it took me a moment to regain my bearings and point my cart towards the “Happy Halloween!” sign that made me feel anything but.

Just as I was tossing 20-pound bags of candy and pumpkins into my grocery cart, I remembered that it was still September. Which meant the candy would be long gone and the pumpkins mushy and rotten by the time Halloween actually rolled around six weeks later. 

So I put everything back, and while I didn’t succumb to the pressure in that moment, I felt the pressure nonetheless. And it’s a pressure that doesn’t relent until we get through Christmas, which debuts before we’ve even survived the gauntlet that is Thanksgiving.

Speaking of which, the reason I didn’t post last week?

Thanksgiving.

This is a photo of me before the big day. I’d collapsed over the December issue of Real Simple magazine with its “32 Simple Holiday Shortcuts: Check Everything Off Your List.”

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But what if you don’t even have a list?

The months of September through December are such a blurring barrage of holiday cheer that half the time, I don’t know what holiday we’re actually celebrating.

Which makes me not want to celebrate any of them and instead hide out in my basement behind the boxes of decorations like they’re some sort of makeshift bomb shelter.

But I can’t. Because I have children.

And children love any reason to celebrate, which makes it especially tricky to go out in public at all during this time of year.

Halloween candy and princess costumes lurk around every corner. And as soon as they’re pulled off the shelves, Christmas arrives with toys, toys, and more toys.

Entering any store is like accidentally wandering into Disneyland and having to tell your kid, “I’m sorry honey, but we don’t have time to ride the roller coaster or take 5,000 pictures with Cinderella.”

Whining and sobbing become commonplace. And it’s usually me, not the kids, who are doing it.

Which is why I want out.

I want out of buying stuff that we don’t need. I want out of trying to make my house beautiful and festive and perfect. I want out of cooking and baking and cleaning dishes.

Because when I get that out, I have more space for love and family and magic. Which is what the holidays are all about.

This year, I’m hosting my biggest Christmas ever. My in-laws and sister-in-law (with her two kids plus their foreign exchange student) are all rolling in.

I barely cook for my family of four, so someone is going to have to feed them. And that someone will be a combination of Costco and whomever is the hungriest.

I don’t do dishes, so that will be delegated as well. Or we will eat off paper plates.

And as for decorating, we will either learn to live with the boxes that have resided in my living room since the day after Thanksgiving or my children and the hubs will handle it.

Or I will set them on fire

As for me, I’ll be reconnecting with my family and friends. Working on my webinar series and writing. And enjoying the holiday, rather than being a slave to it.

The lion’s share of the holiday tradition falls upon the shoulders of women. Because traditionally, women were/are the ones who decorate, cook, clean, and host.

So what “traditions” can we let go of? Or conveniently forget?

(We always bake Christmas cookies? That’s weird. I don’t remember that.)

This is my New Year’s resolution for 2018. To let go of traditions and the pressure and stress they bring.

While it may seem a bit premature to announce my New Year’s resolution, it’s not.

Because today is December 1st.

Happy New Year!

Sharing is caring. Send this post to another brave woman (and be sure to wish her a Happy New Year).

*A special thanks to the special reader who inspired this post. If you want to submit ideas for next week, please use the form below. xoxoako

 

The “Social Justice Smackdown” (And Why It’s So Not Helpful)

I don’t talk a lot about my actual, real job. Kinda like a superhero, my actual, real job is what I do by day so I can save the world by night.

Or to be more accurate, “so I can save the world by morning,” because I prefer to be in my pj’s with a cup of coffee whenever I do anything especially heroic.

It’s not that I purposefully avoid talking about my actual, real job. It’s just that there are very few occasions when it requires me to run into the nearest telephone booth and change into my pj’s.

WW

Or my Wonder Woman costume.

But last week, I was at a training for my actual, real job, and we got into discussing the “Social Justice Smackdown.”

Now before I go further, for those of us who are less familiar with phrases like, “social justice,” please know that is totally okay.

This is the technical language of my trade, kinda like “sphenopalatine ganglioneuralgia” is the technical language of medicine.

While “sphenopalatine ganglioneuralgia” sounds like a bunch of fancy-pants SAT words, it actually refers to brain freeze.

Which most of us have experienced when drinking Slurpees too quickly.

The phrase “social justice,” may sound similarly intimidating, but it’s pretty simple.

It’s essentially the stuff we learned in elementary school. To play fair, share our stuff, and always look out for each other. Especially our friends who are being treated poorly.

So then, what is a “Social Justice Smackdown”?

While there is no formal definition because I kinda just made it up, I think you will know it when I describe it to you.

A Social Justice Smackdown is when we use tactics like talking down to people, shaming them into silence, and practicing other unproductive behaviors to, ironically, advocate for social justice.

What might this look like?

Punch

This isn’t how it looks. But it is how it feels.

It might look like ostracizing a woman who doesn’t self-identify as a feminist because she has “internalized sexism.”

Or telling a man who volunteers to mentor a woman that he is “reinforcing patriarchal hegemony.”

Or critiquing a woman’s use of the word “tribe” to describe her BFF’s because she is “appropriating Native American culture.”

While all of this may very well be true and “socially just” to say, it’s super not helpful.

Because not only are we using our educational privilege to marginalize others, we are undermining the ultimate goal of social justice, which is to heal the world through love and compassion.

Social justice is not about public accusations, trials among our peers or punishment. That’s a different kind of justice, the kind that takes place in a courtroom, but I think we sometimes forget.

Especially with each other. Because unfortunately, I see Social Justice Smackdowns take place within our own communities, among good people who are doing the best they can.

And that’s exactly what I did last week. To the man who posted the “tribe” comment on my girlfriend’s Facebook page.

Because he is a man, and she is a woman (and I am a self-appointed-women’s-empowerment-superhero), my social justice trigger got sprung.

So I threw on my Wonder Woman suit and smacked back. While I won’t get into specifics, my response sounded a lot like his. Intellectually arrogant, self-righteous in its definitiveness, and not very nice at all.

Eye for an eye, as they say.

This problematic exchange made me reflect on how I could have handled the situation better.

Because there are many times when people have shown grace around my social justice mistakes. When they restrained from giving me a Social Justice Smackdown and instead demonstrated love and compassion.

Two examples in particular come to mind, and they span the twenty years I’ve been doing this work.

In graduate school, one of my jobs was sending out mass emails to my classmates. Right before spring break, I encouraged everyone to wear sunscreen.

Soon thereafter, I received an email from a person of color who explained that she didn’t need to wear sunscreen because of her dark skin, and that in the future, I should probably not assume everyone who reads my emails is white.

Rather than emailing it out to the entire class – which would have been an epic Social Justice Smackdownshe sent her feedback directly (and privately) to me.

And she did it with such kindness that I actually called to thank her. 

Did I feel ashamed? Absolutely.

Did I feel shamed? No.

And from that place, I was able to apologize, learn for my mistake, and commit to never reinforcing whiteness as the norm.

More recently, I was meeting with a woman who works with the LGBTQ community. I made reference to a transgender person but couldn’t remember which pronouns to use. So in my fluster, I referred to the person as “it.”

Oh.

My.

God.

Objectifying and dehumanizing “the other” is about as bad as it gets. But rather than looking at me in horror and judgment, my colleague said, “I know this is hard for you. Let’s try that again.”

There are many more times that I have been on the deserving end of a Social Justice Smackdown.

And as I stated earlier, there are times when I have doled out Social Justice Smackdowns. When my well-earned frustration has overridden my best self, and I have used tactics similar to the ones I abhor.

For this, I am very sorry.

So what to do?

First off, let’s remember why we are doing this work. And let’s create a healing space around it. Not for ourselves or to heal our wounds. But for others and to heal their wounds.

And when we feel triggered, let’s accept that this, too, is part of the work. We are going to feel frustration, even anger. So we must be very careful not to tell ourselves that we are fighting for social justice when in reality, we are fighting each other.

Because the tools of the oppressor cannot be used for liberation.

And finally, the time, place, and manner in which we advocate for social justice matters. Anything that elicits shame, silences others, or causes harm is counterproductive to our work.

We must demonstrate the very things we are asking for, advocating for, fighting for, and even dying for – love and compassion.

Because if we want to live in a socially just world where diversity, equity and inclusion are made real, we must practice it ourselves.

Please share this post with your social justice friends. And let’s heal the world together, bravely.

The Most Important Conversation To Have With Our Kids (And Ourselves for That Matter)

I was blow-drying my hair when my son wandered into the bathroom and said he had a question.

Warning to all parents. When your child is going through puberty and says, “Can I ask you a question?” take a deep breath and steady yourself.

Because they are about to ask you something bizarre. Like whether or not you can get pregnant in the pool. Or if penises break.

Also as a heads up, these questions typically occur when you’re in a hurry or distracted.

Which I was, because in addition to blow-drying my hair, I was simultaneously checking email on my phone, getting my daughter ready for school, and feeding the dog.

Since no one had shared these very helpful tips with me, I said, “Sure,” and didn’t turn off the hair dryer until he asked,

“Mom, what’s rape?”

Before I go on with this story, I want to pause for a moment. There are a few very important things to consider before answering questions like these.

And right now, in this time and place, conversations like the one I had with my son are among the most important and most urgent.

Like peanut butter and jelly, kids have been conditioned to think the words “sex” and “violence” naturally go together.

Which is kinda like saying whipped cream and raw hamburger go together. Can you imagine eating a whipped cream and raw hamburger sandwich?

Guess what. We eat them every day, and so do our kids.

Through the movies we watch, the video games we play, and the media we consume 24/7, sex and violence are brought together so often that they’ve been normalized. To the point that they seem natural and right.

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I love Wonder Woman. But really. Who wears a corset and thigh-high boots to a tank fight?

So we need to differentiate sex and violence from each other. Whipped-cream-raw-hamburger sandwiches are disgusting, and we need to explain this to our kids because they’ve been eating them for so long that they don’t know any better.

We talk to our daughters about sexual assault all the time when we should be talking to our sons.

We warn our daughters never to walk alone at night. To go to parties in groups. We censure what our daughters wear, making sure they aren’t showing too much skin. And we warn our daughters to never set down their glass because someone might put a “date rape” drug in it.

We focus so much on our daughter’s actions and choices that it’s as if sexual assault is about them. That it’s some kind of freak occurrence they can avoid with the proper precautions. Like not opening your umbrella during a lightning storm.

But it’s not.

Sexual assault is about actions and choices, but not those of our daughters. It’s about the actions and choices of our sons.

So we must have similar conversations with our sons.

We must tell them that no matter what a woman is wearing, she does not want to have sex with them.

That if they ever find themselves with a girl who is too drunk to give consent, they need to leave her alone.

That “No” never means “Yes.” Because women don’t like to be coerced into doing anything, especially sex.

And if they buy a girl dinner, she owes them nothing. Not even a smile.

Oh, and about that date rape drug. Don’t ever put that shit in a girl’s drink. Ever.

The “#MeToo” Campaign paints an incomplete picture. 

I have been following the “#MeToo” campaign, and in a strange way it has been a beautiful thing to behold. Brave women sharing their stories of sexual assault is powerful. And when it’s a woman I know, my heart breaks.

Which is why we also need a “#HimToo” campaign to run alongside it. Because for every woman who is bringing her story into the light, there is a man hiding anonymously in the shadows.

If it were up to me, we’d be able to tag our assailant in our #MeToo social media posts with a #HimToo. Because the world needs to see that these aren’t strangers who jump out of bushes.

These are men who work in the cubicles next to ours. They are friends of our families. They are our sons.

And half the time, they don’t even know they did anything wrong. Because no one ever talked to them about it.

Which leads me back to my story.

When my son asked, “Mom, what’s rape?” I did the best I could.

I told him sexual assault is not about sex. It is about violence. 

That it rarely happens the way it’s portrayed in the media because it’s hardly ever a stranger but an acquaintance or a friend.

I looked into the eyes that I loved and said, “It’s usually someone just like you.”

And I finished by explaining that it is his responsibility to make sure that he never does this to a woman.

Did I traumatize my son? Maybe. But I would rather he feel traumatized than become a #HimToo.

Was I especially courageous for having this conversation? Not really. Moms and dads talk to their kids about difficult stuff all the time.

Am I changing the world for women and girls? Yes. I most certainly am.

And you can, too.

Talk to your sons, your nephews, your brothers. As much if not more than your daughters, your nieces, and your sisters.

Bring this entire conversation into the light. Not just the female side. The male side, too. The side that really matters.

This is the Sex Talk we should be having with our boys. This is the most important conversation we should all be having right now.

#MeToo

Please share this post so we can have more of these conversations. With our boys, our girls, and each other. 

PS – I wrote a post last week about womansplaining, a few days before the #MeToo movement reignited across the world. It connects to this topic in a lighter, funnier way. Check it out if you haven’t already.

PPS – I am building a school for brave women, and I’ll be writing more about it in next week’s post. As always, I want to hear your thoughts on what women want to learn about through my work. Subscribe to the list and womansplain to me.

The Dark Side of Bravery

I’ve received a few comments about my work on bravery that give me pause. Nothing scary or hateful, although I did once receive a vomiting emoji in response to a Facebook post about Beyoncé, interestingly enough.

Rather, the comments indicate a frustration women have with bravery. Frustration for not being as brave as other women. Frustration with other women for not being braver.

So I want to spend a little time exploring the dark side of bravery, not just the positive who-runs-this-mutha side. (That was a shout-out to Beyoncé and vomiting emojis, BTW.)

About one year ago (October 9, 2016, to be exact), I hosted a women’s leadership retreat. All by myself. I was the coordinator, host, MC, speaker, everything.

It was terrifying to plunk down $2,000 and then go home to tell my husband after the fact. (He does not really like expensive surprises.)

It made me sick to my stomach to ask friends, family, and anyone with a vagina to attend. (I never self-promote, not even at my own birthday party.)

When I should have been feeling “brave,” I felt anything but.

Here’s my journal entry on the day of the retreat.

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Fear and bravery go together, apparently

While fear may seem like the dark side of bravery, it’s not. The dark side of bravery is judging ourselves or other women for their choices related to it.

Because when we judge each other, not only are we buying into more bullshit about how women should be, we are actually scooping it up and throwing it at each other.

And while we’re in the middle of a bullshit melee (which I picture as being somewhat akin to a cafeteria food fight, just way grosser) men are out running the world.

Not women. Not you or me.

Not even Beyoncé.

Men.

They’re the ones running this mutha. And the longer we hurl bullshit at each other, the longer they will continue to do so.

This week, I’m at a women’s leadership conference called Emerging Women. It’s like what I did last year just times a billion.

At the conference, the woman who mentored and inspired Malala to become an activist gave a presentation. She and Malala now run an international girls’ education program in some of the scariest places on the planet.

She’s beautiful with a Stanford education and a lovely English accent who meets with the Obamas and Nobel Peace Prize winners (not counting the one she mentored) in between saving the world.

And oh-by-the-way, she’s twenty-seven years old.

I could sit here and roll around in bullshit, comparing myself to her. Finding fault in my meager attempts at social change while she continues to build her Empire of Awesome.

Or I could do what I actually did, which was go to the bathroom, stumble upon her in the hall, and envelope her in a hug.

Bravery is always, always, always relative to you and your life. Whatever action makes your heart flutter with your truth is brave.

For some women, that’s asking for a raise at work. For others, it’s asking your spouse to do the dishes.

For Shiza Shahid, it was asking Malala how she could help and then launching a global women’s movement.

Every act of bravery counts. 

There is no specific thing you should do or way you should be that is braver than others’. Because what makes my heart flutter with my truth will not be the same for you. And vice versa.

So let’s stop shoulding all over ourselves and each other.  

What does bravery look like for a stay-at-home mom? I have no idea, but it’s brave.

What does bravery look like for a transgender woman? I can’t say, but I bet she can.

What does bravery look like for you? Only you know.

Bravery is relative. It is deeply personal. And it is true for you.

So please. Be brave enough to support other women. To hear their truths and honor their choices. To set down the handful of bullshit or, even better, throw it full force at the patriarchy.

Because that’s how we are going to change this world. Together. 

Special thanks to the stay-at-home mama who suggested this topic. AND below is a list of reader-generated topics that YOU can vote on for next week’s post!

 

Remind Me to Start a Revolution about that Next Time

This is the third morning in a row that I’ve woken up at 4:30 a.m. I thought it was a fluke, but three times in a row isn’t a fluke, it’s a pattern. And within patterns, there is usually meaning.

What does it mean to wake up at 4:30 a.m. for three mornings in a row?

To figure it out, I need to write because something is swimming around at the edges of my subconscious, swirling in the purgatory between my unconscious and conscious mind.

Writing allows me to fish it out, to cast a line into those unknown waters and wait for the tug of recognition. And when it comes, if I finesse the rod just right, if I don’t pull too hard or too gently, that something will emerge, thrashing and alive from the depths.

I’m pretty sure it has something to do with an excerpt from a book I was reading, a clever line written in jest by the author about an issue she cared about but not quite enough to do anything about.

“Remind me to start a revolution about that next time,” she wrote.

I cast that out across the expanse of my subconscious and wait, senses alert. What do I care about but not quite enough to do anything about? What do I want to start a revolution about next time because right now, this time, is not a “good time”?

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The cursor on my computer screen blinks. I am patient and quiet. Is anything there? Or better yet, is anything there that I can handle right now?

Because I am not sure this is a good time to start a revolution, thank you very much.

I’m married with two kids and a dog. I work full time. My family is coming off four weeks of taking turns being sick with the flu because apparently “the vaccine didn’t quite match up this  year.”

I’ve somehow managed to contract pink eye, most likely from all the visits to the pediatrician’s office. (Because, flu.)

And last night, my nine year-old told me there’s a lice outbreak in her classroom and she thinks her head itches…

So no, it’s not really a good time for me to start a revolution, unless it’s to set fire to my house, my eyeballs, and my daughter’s hair.

Unless it’s to quit my job as a mother/wife/caretaker and tell somebody else, anybody else, that I’m all done now.

In fact, even if I don’t start a revolution, if I’m really, really, really honest with myself, I AM ALL DONE BEING A WOMAN IN THIS WORLD.

Oh wait. That’s it. That’s the something that I want to start a revolution about next time, and it just landed at my feet, thrashing and alive from the depths of my subconscious. There was no waiting for the second and third tug, no finessing of my rod. It just burst out of the water like Jaws.

I am all done being a woman in this world. 

Is that even possible?

How can I quit my job as a mother, wife, caretaker and overall keeper of my family’s universe, because I’m pretty sure it would all implode into a black hole without me?

How can I stop feeling the conflicting demands of work and motherhood where being in one place means I’m not somewhere else, so I’m always, always failing at both?

How can I acknowledge the pain of my stay-at-home-mom friends, women who didn’t understand how their “choice” would drastically limit so many of their future choices?

How can I tell my daughter that even though she’s smart and hard working, she’s at an incredible disadvantage compared to the boys in her class?

How can I?

How can I not.

I am all done being a woman in this world. That’s the honest-to-goodness truth, and not doing anything about it? That makes me a co-conspirator in everything that hurts me, my daughter, other women, and men for that matter.

Since I can’t really be all done with my identity as a woman, I guess that means I’m all done with this world. I’m all done with a world that makes it so incredibly hard to be a woman.

Does that make me a revolutionary?

Perhaps. It all depends on how I move forward from here. And while I’m not sure what this will look like exactly, I do know this. My efforts will not be unrelated. They will not be flukes.

Like waking up at 4:30 a.m. three mornings in a row, there will be a pattern with meaning.

And if anyone looks closely and cares to fish it out, they will find it for themselves.

I am all done being a woman in this world. And I’m starting a revolution about it this time

One-Night Stand Activism

 

For many women, becoming an activist is kinda like waking up after a one-night stand, looking over at the dude sleeping next to you and wondering, “Now how the heck did that happen?”

The evidence is there. Hand-made signs propped up in the garage. Maybe a pink hat or two in the front hall closet. You know who your Senator is and how to reach him. (I say “him” because I have an 90% chance of being right on that.)

And perhaps you’ve sent him an email or called his office about issues you had no idea even existed four weeks ago. (Cabinet nominations? I didn’t know that was a “thing” until this year, and I’ve been a card-carrying voter since 1992.)

You’re conversant in a slew of acronyms (ACA, NoDAPL, NSC) and new phrases like “alternative facts” and “false media.” And you’re really, really pissed about them.

Even though I’ve identified as a feminist since my high school days, I never considered myself an activist. That label was for angry people. People with issues.

And I considered myself a relatively nice person with a relatively normal, issue-free life. I also had better things to do.

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Who are these people? And how did I get here?

But right after the Trump Apocalypse, I signed up for the Women’s March. I’ve never marched in anything before except high school parades. To me, marches were a thing of the past, something activists did in the 60s.

Yet like a newly-hatched sea turtle with this overwhelming need to get to the ocean, it was calling me, and although I didn’t know exactly why, I knew that’s where I needed to be, even if the seagulls tried to eat me.

Speaking of seagulls, I was nervous that my daughter and I might be risking ourselves in some way by attending. Marches can take on a life of their own, and given the right circumstances, they can turn into mobs, which are legit dangerous things.

That said, I struggled to envision a bunch of women setting cars on fire or breaking windows because really, who’s gonna clean up that mess afterwards?

Then there was the fear of the counter-protesters rolling in with their hate and maybe even their violence. But deep inside, I knew all the nice ladies with their cute pink hats would become poster-wielding ninjas if something like that went down. (Especially the grandmas. They seem especially angry nowadays.)

It did cross my mind that some crazy person might shoot at us. So I took stock of my life and decided I’d make a good martyr for middle-class mothers. That’s a segment of society with a lot of untapped power, and seeing one of their own go down might be just the ticket to unleash it.

So all told, I felt quite safe. And strangely ready to die if needed.

Does that make me an activist? Yes, I think it does.

And if you’ve read this far into my post, you might be an activist, too.

You might be an activist if you are afraid of terrorists attacks (I mean, who isn’t?) but don’t think throwing hate at the entire Muslim world is going to make us safer.

You might be an activist if you have a uterus and would like men to stop talking about it, let alone making laws about how you use it.

You might be an activist if you care about the environment, public education, science, or national security. Because all of those things are under attack right now. (And I can’t believe I just wrote that.)

You might be an activist if you have a child. Or know a child. Or sometimes see a child at the grocery store or at the park. Because what’s imprinting on their young minds and hearts as “normal” is anything but.

You might be an activist if your family immigrated here one year ago or hundreds of years ago, and the thought of a wall brings up memories of communist Russia.

Speaking of Russia, you might be an activist if you wonder just how much they were involved with Trump’s election. (Or you might be a paranoid conspiracy theorist.)

You might be an activist if you have a friend or loved one whose nationality, sexual identity, race, ethnicity, religion, gender, ability or socioeconomic status make them even more vulnerable than they were before. As if they were not already vulnerable enough. 

Yes, you might be an activist, and you probably always were. Because like most people, you probably value things like love and respect. You probably were taught to believe America is the land of the free and the brave. And you probably know this is only going to get better if everyone, every single one of us, finds that little bit of activist in ourselves and does something.

Even if it’s just reading this post.

xoxoako

PS – Share this post with a friend and you’re not just a one-night stand activist, you’re a revolutionary. (More on that in my next post.)

 

A Love Letter to a Friend with a Mystery Disease (Or What I Think of the Sexist Western Medical Industrial Complex)

A photo by Christopher Campbell. unsplash.com/photos/Cp-LUHPRpWM

Dear Friend,

I woke up early to write you a love letter. And I can’t get through it because I keep having tears in my eyes, so it’s really hard to type.

I love you. I know you know this, but I want you to know that when I love someone, they are surrounded with this protective aura of energy. It sounds weird, but I know it’s true. We have super powers like that.

So my love-bubble-aura of energy is surrounding you right now as you read this. It’s with you when you’re sleeping, and when you’re at work. It’s definitely there when you’re wanting to make it all stop, even if it means curling up in a ball and falling asleep, never to wake up again.

I have been where you are. I have had good doctors and bad doctors. My love letter to you is my letter, my story. Where to begin.

When I was in grad school, my body betrayed me. I was in so much pain. You know what they said when I went in with my “pain journal”? I’d spent three months following the Pain Journal Instructions so I could show, quite clearly, that my pain was in specific regions of my body and it hurt. A lot.

The doc looked at me skeptically and asked, “You’re a young woman. Don’t you have better things to do than document your pain?”

Ummmmm…. Sorry? Oh wait, oh no. You don’t believe me. Even though this is the most important thing for me right now. This pain.

I explained that I wasn’t really comfortable having him examine me because I didn’t think he was taking me seriously. He was aghast and ashamed, which were really unintended consequences.

I just wanted to get away from him because he was quite clearly part of the Sexist Western Medical Industrial Complex that thinks women are fundamentally crazy, especially if whatever is going on with our bodies doesn’t apply to men (because if it doesn’t apply to men, it’s not worth understanding let alone finding a cure for), and that if they can’t see it, test it, whatever it, it doesn’t exist.

(I can’t hear a dog whistle. But it exists, right?)

So I go to another doctor who actually kind of believes me, even though endometriosis at the time was something they thought only impacted older women (I was 23). And after doing a laparoscopy, he said, “Wow. You’re all messed up in there. I’m surprised you can even walk.”

Hmmmmm…

But then he advised me to have a medieval surgery that would require I drop out of grad school, be on bed rest for six months (because he was essentially cutting me in half), and then, get this, take hormones to medically-induce menopause.

(I was a young woman and I had better things to do than go through menopause.)

So I decided to get a second opinion.

And I’m super-glad I did because just up the road in Cleveland, there was a sweet doc who said, “Hey, I just got out of medical school and we have this great surgery that only puts in 3 teeny-tiny little holes around your belly button and we’ll fix you right up!”

So I did that, and I got better. And I wrote that other doctor a very nice letter saying he may want to stay current on developments in his field because he almost ruined my life.

Then I got the yeast thing, which as you know is also autoimmune and, like endometriosis, is a mysterious disease that no one in the Sexist Western Medical Industrial Complex can seem to figure out because it generally only impacts women.

They can put a man on the moon, but they can’t figure out how to cure a little bacteria that is wreaking havoc on my life?

Yes.

I’m still on that journey, and I’ve traveled through Western medicine (“Why don’t you take this super-toxic drug? It may destroy your liver, so we’ll need to test you every week to see if it’s inducing liver failure.”), spent some time hanging out with the osteopathic docs and Chinese medicine ladies (they actually relieved my symptoms more than anything), found my own way to deal with it (but not cure it), and I am still winding my way, most recently with the NASA doctor.

Yes. I am now seeing a doctor who once worked for NASA. And yes, I find it ironic that it takes a doctor from NASA to help me cure my yeast problems.

Man on the moon, right?

The point is, when doctors don’t know what to do, they do very stupid things. They tell you you’re crazy, suggest some kind of radical stuff like let’s cut your body in half or medically-induce menopause, etc. And that is really, really hard to navigate because you’re sick, really sick, and that’s not the time to have to make crazy decisions like this.

So I get it. That’s all I want you to hear and know in your soul.

And I know you, like really well, actually. I have come to know in my soul that you are strong enough to handle this. Seriously. So I can say as a fact that you will get through this. There is no other option.

This is just the Bad Time. The time when the docs are telling you, “Hey, you might be crazy.” And you very well might be. Who wouldn’t be? You are disabled right now and that’s enough to make anyone crazy.

This is the time when you feel like an utter failure at everything – as a professional, as a mother, as a wife – you may even wonder, “Why do I exist? I’m only taking up space from everyone’s lives. I am a burden. Maybe the world would be better off without me.”

Those are the really bad days.

This is the time when formerly pleasurable activities are bad. Even watching t.v. is bad because it only shows happy, productive, healthy people. The contrast is painful.

Sleeping is bad because you have to wake up to it all again.

Talking to friends is bad because you can’t feel better, and you know that is what they desperately want and need from you. But you can’t give them that, so you feel guilty.

All of it is bad.

So you will  have to *temporarily* sit in the bad. I’m sorry about that. It totally sucks. I have no answers for how to sit in the bad. I’m actually very bad at it.

But I’ll sit in the bad with you, ok? And if you’re ever ready to blow the bad up, I’ll be there, too. I’ll sneak you a little assisted-suicide medicine and we’ll do some kind of ceremonial thing with your husband and the kids and we’ll make it all stop. (I’m just kidding. Kind of. Just know you have options.)

And if there’s something in between sitting in the bad and blowing it all up, I’ll do that, too. I’ll manhandle my way into the NASA doc’s office and make him see you tomorrow, I’ll give you thousands of dollars to fly to get treatment in Malaysia, I’ll adopt your kids even though I don’t do babies. Whatever it is, you know I’m up for it.

Love,

Your Friend