Tales from the doctor’s office: GYN edition.

In addition to choosing a new primary care provider, I also chose a new GYN provider, and today was my first appointment there, and also my annual exam. After the usual uncomfortable question and answer session between myself and Michelle, RN, she asked me to take off all my clothes (“you can leave your socks on,” she said), put on a gown and wait for the nurse practitioner. She left the room, I did as I was told, took a quick double peek down my legs to make sure I had, in fact, remembered to shave this morning (yes!), and had a seat. I sat around, waiting, beginning to get that familiar creep of anxiety in my stomach, as I started to entertain the idea of all the possible disasters that could strike. Then, as if on cue, I looked around at the wall postings, and saw all those potential horrors being advertised in full color, before my very eyes- CERVICAL, UTERINE and OVARIAN CANCER! PREGNANCY! PELVIC INFLAMMATORY DISEASE! INFERTILITY! HPV! PREMATURE BIRTH! STDs! SURGICAL STERILIZATION! MORE CANCER-COULD BE HEREDITARY! 99% of these things are not even in the cards for me, but nonetheless, I was going to whip myself into a frenzy about them anyway. Ugh, God. Ok.

I wanted to grab my phone from the desk, distract myself with facebook, Words with Friends, anything, but I was too scared to, as another sign on the wall directed me not to text or answer my phone while in an appointment. I understand that some rules are meant to be broken, but not while I’m sitting underpants-free in fluorescent lighting, with nary more than an ill-fitting gown and white ankle socks on. I think I’ll stay put. All in all, I waited about 20 minutes for the NP to arrive, which provided me ample time to work myself up enough about reproductive cancer, that my heart was beating irregularly, and my palms were sweaty. God, what I am going to do? I wondered about my non-existent diagnosis. I hope my insurance coverage didn’t get hacked back enough this year to leave me underinsured.

Then, in walked the NP, who was put on this earth to be a medical professional in a blue state. T, as I will call her, is a woman of about sixty years, who has all of this experience in women’s health, even working specifically with migrant women (which immediately earned her an A in my book). She was warm, funny and completely open, which encouraged a lot of really beneficial conversation about my health. I am going to sound terrible saying this as a nurse, but I have a penchant for “tidying up” facts about my health, to present myself in a better light (“Alcohol use? Oh, hardly ever. Maybe once every few months. What? How often do I exercise? Um, about 3-4 days a week?”). I blame it on my desire to be praised for doing the right thing. Hey, back off. My intentions are good. However, I know this is doing me a disservice. Which is why today was so nice, to have a provider who really took the time to engage me in genuine dialogue, talk me off my perpetual ledge of anxiety (for the time being, anyway) and gain my trust. It’s so critical for patients to have that sort of relationship with providers, and it rarely happens.

So, we came up with a plan for a few things, and I was able to reacquire my clothing (and dignity). I walked out feeling much better than when I came in, and on the drive home, I thought about why suddenly, I’m having all this fear related to doctor’s appointments and my health. I think I’m finally starting to understand that health and life are finite, and that I need to start thinking about and reevaluating my well-being and habits, family histories and my love of sugar. Thirty is feeling good so far, but it’s moments like the one today, where I hear my Grandma Alice’s commonly uttered phrase-“Man, it’s hell to get old.”


I’m having an affair. With an e-reader.

Andy gave me a nook color for my birthday last weekend, and I’m completely in love with it. And feeling guilty, a little like a cheater, because since the arrival of e-readers, I have lobbied hard against them, opposed to the replacement of paper, and bindings and book jackets with these battery-operated plastic and metal tablets. I need books around me. I love the way they look, feel and smell, I love the space they take up on all the surfaces in my house, filling rooms, and making me feel surrounded by something familiar. I also love bookstores and libraries, and losing entire days sitting in aisles, looking through the stacks. I love the weight of carrying them home.

However, I love geekery, technology, gadgets in general. And the nook is all of those things. It has some pretty great upsides, besides just its compact nature. Books are less expensive, I don’t have to drive 45 minutes to B&N (which both saves me money, and lessens my environmental footprint), and if I decide I want a magazine to go with my ice cream and bad mood at 12:13am, I can have it. Immediately. Like I said, I love it. It’s amazing. But, I can’t help but feel saddened by the fact that this part of culture, of life, is changing. And that there are children who will grow up with e-readers being a staple of their childhoods, who may not know the pleasure of a chewable, waterproof book as infants, or how good it feels to rip a page out of a GoldenBook, and/or mash a banana into it. Or you know, actually just hold and read it. And while I know this won’t impact the lifelong love of reading and books that people develop, it bothers me that people won’t have actual bound books in their possession, or at least not as commonly as we do now. And what will college students use to support their coffeetables, and open windows?

So, who knows. Maybe books will go the way of 8-tracks and vinyl, and maybe not. But for now, buy them, love them, fill your life with them. Because as great as e-readers are, as my friend Dave said recently…a real book never runs out of batteries.


A new project.

In honor of my 30th birthday, and of entering a new decade, I’ve decided to start a yearlong project, to document all the good (big or small) in my life. It is an adaptation of the 365Grateful project, in which a woman spent a year-you guessed it-documenting the things in her life for which she was thankful. It has generated countless replications across the world, and has been the basis of a documentary that the founder is currently producing. My friend Marc introduced me to it, and he is also doing the same thing. So, please check out my project here, and I hope it inspires you to start one of your own!

Hiding Out.


When I was a kid, I always loved being in the carwash. It felt sort of like hiding in plain sight to me, behind that wall of water. I got a little bit of that feeling again today, while I washed my car. And with the day I had, hiding sounded like a good plan.

Fear of Flying.

Ever heard of pitot probes? Yeah, I hadn’t either, until yesterday’s NY Times article about the disappearance of Air France Flight 447 a few years back. Technically, they are little cylinders on the exterior of an airplane that calculate airspeed. Apparently, it’s a very fine line between going too fast and too slow that keeps an airplane in the air, and these little guys are what help the plane and its crew do so. Not so technically, pitot probes are the newest in an ever-expanding list of potential causes of air disasters that I believe will occur when I’m flying.

Ok, I’m going to preface this with the fact that I’m crazy. I know this, but I’m going to roll out the red carpet for anxiety here. For as regularly as I fly, I hate it. As in, I get that tingly feeling in my stomach (like when you’re playing hide and seek as a kid) when I book a flight, and begin seriously worrying about my airtime 48-72 hours before departure. If my brain had a face, it would look something like this:

Once on board, I immediately convince myself that it’s too hot, and there’s not sufficient air, and OHMYGOD, I am going to suffocate. Due to this, I am the only passenger who pays attention to the oxygen mask safety demonstration. They’ll all be sorry when this can drops of out of the sky, I think. Once we’re accelerating down the runway to take off, the next round of potential horrors enters my mind. Faulty wheels, bird strike, glitch in the mechanical system, water on the end of the runway that we’ll barrel into, unexpected item/vehicle/person entering the active runway we’re on, forcing us to veer off into the highway running parallel to the runway. You get the idea.

Ok, and we have liftoff. My stomach does the flip-floppy, gravity-shifting thing, and now I am listening for any unusual (or what I perceive as unusual) sounds with the plane’s engine. Did something just shut off? Are we losing altitude? Are we going in the right direction? (Yes, I have control issues). “Ladies and gentleman, the aircraft has reached 10,000 feet, and the captain has cleared use of approved electronic devices.” Sweet. Great. Maybe a little James Taylor on the iPod will distract me. Guess what invariably ends up coming across my playlist? “Plane Crash” by moe. OK, maybe I should read. Only I cant, because I am too busy anticipating turbulance, and when we experience any slight shift in movement, I immediately dart my eyes around, feeling as though I should gauge my worry based on the passengers around me, who are either reading the Wall Street Journal, or sleeping. And if the flight attendants are walking around, then I assume we’re still golden. All the while, I’m searching back through my mind all the worst airplane disasters in history that I’ve read about, and trying to recount the cause of the demise for each. This also sends me into a panic. What if this plane wasn’t accurately de-iced?, I ask myself. At what altitude are we safe from bird strikes? Interestingly enough, the idea of terrorism has never, EVER crossed my mind. With all these gulls on the tarmac, fundamentalist Jihad is the least of my worries.

And now we’re landing. A glimmer of excitement rises in my throat, until I remember what someone I used to date said to me once. “All a landing is,really, is controlled chaos. A controlled crash.” Yiggity. Ok. As we’re approaching the runway, I brace myself-against the armrests, and my feet against the bars of the seat ahead of me. No worries, I convey silently to my seatmates, I fly all the time. I’m very worldly, as you can see. Ground. Skidding, screeching to a halt, swaying slightly, as I pray to God, Ted Kennedy, whoever can hear me, that we bring this to a safe close. At that moment, I never feel so alive. I’ve survived yet another flight. I’m home free. Or at least I thought I was, until I saw the video of the Air France jet swiping the Delta regional jet a few months back, tossing it about like a toy. So THAT’S why they tell you to leave your seatbelt on until the plane stops fully at the gate.

So, anyway, yeah. Pitot probes are now on my radar. Should they become clogged with ice or dirt, the article read, the plane is forced into manual mode, where the pilots must now navigate on their own the conditions that cause the probes to stop functioning in the first place. If there was any sliver of my sanity remaining on a flight, these little monsters have now set up occupancy there, ruining my ability to enjoy any shred of relaxation. Not to mention, the relaxation of anyone who dares fly with me. A word to the wise-if we’re ever to fly together-bring a few things: 1)benadryl, to knock me out and 2)noise-cancelling headphones, to drown out my incessant nervous talking when the benadryl doesn’t work. Hey, don’t say you haven’t been warned.

Love in a Soup Cup.

The question was posed recently-when did I think I first understood what love meant? I thought for a second, about the typical responses that question might elicit-from my parents, the first time I fell in love, my first experiences owning a pet (or a plant,even). For me, though, the answer came immediately…and was something far different.
A few summers ago, I was spending some time in DC, working. It had been a rough couple of months for me, and I’m not sure I’ve ever felt more uncertain about the direction of things than I was at that point. Nonetheless, I had been working incredibly hard, and when an unforeseen afternoon off presented itself, I decided to brave the stifling heat to go play in the city. I walked through the park near my hotel, the same one I walked through each day on my way to the train, and came upon the usual midday cast of suits and the homeless, bustlers and old men playing chess. As I looked ahead, I saw a crowd gathered, near what appeared to be a lunch truck and a few tables set up on the sidewalk. As I got closer, I realized that there were a few people serving food, to anyone who was interested. For free. There were no conditions-if you were hungry, they would feed you. And while no money changed hands, what was being exchanged was humanity. All those park inhabitants, people who would typically never regard one another, found themselves engaged in conversation. Tethered to their spots by overflowing soup cups, they were forced to slow down…and in doing so, really see the others around them. And it was all because three people decided to feed others.
Anyone who knows me, knows what high value I place on the idea of the unifying nature of food, of nourishment, and its natural communal effect. So, it’s not surprising to know that I was so fulfilled by bearing witness to what was occurring. I slowed down myself, to people watch, and then I looked down at the curb next to the truck. There sat a woman, who was presumably one of those involved in the planning of this impromptu meal on the sidewalk, and next to her sat a man. This gentleman was reed-thin, clearly without adequate means to care for himself, and could barely hold up his head. Drool spilled intermittently from the sides of his mouth. His eyes were bloodshot, and his hands were dirty. And that woman was slowly feeding him soup, pausing between spoonfuls to hold his hand, to talk to him. What I felt I experienced in that moment was the most radical, pure act of love I had ever witnessed in my life. It threw me off balance for a moment, and I swallowed hard to keep from crying. Tears came anyway. The woman met my eye, and I realized I had been looking a bit too long. She smiled at me, I returned the gesture, and kept moving.
I thought all afternoon about what I had seen that woman do for that man. That man who maybe she knew, maybe she didn’t, but regardless, she fed him. Nourished him, without condition. As someone who has devoted her life to serving others, particularly those who are most vulnerable to the things which are most devastating in this world, I knew then that replicating that act of compassion and love had to be a central driving force in my work, my life. And yes, it’s incredibly hard on some days, when people act in ways that feel less than deserving of that love. But I remind myself that reciprocity is not the point. The point is that my responsibility is to make each life in which I enter just a bit better than it was before I arrived, and to do so without expectation of something in return.

I (don’t) like the nightlife.

It occurred to me on Saturday night that I have reached the point in my life where I no longer enjoying going out to bars. In fact, it sort of feels like a chore to me. We went to Rochester for the evening with some friends, and I don’t know, maybe it was the barefoot, dreadlocked hippie who was spouting incoherent nonsense, hugging Andy, and throwing empty airplane bottles of liquor on the sidewalk. Or, maybe it was the guy with no ability to read social cues, battering Andy and I with a steady stream of hard-to-follow, rapid-fire questions about our level of satisfaction with the state of the world’s affairs (also, are those questions that need to be asked of anyone, at this point in the game?). No, no! I know what it was. It was the terrible jam band playing, lulling high bar patrons into a communal sway, while some would-be hipster was inexplicably painting a giant canvas in the middle of the room, which people were really finding a great addition to the evening’s ambiance. It all EXHAUSTED me. And kind of embarrassed me. I don’t mean to come across as a jerk, but I just don’t get how people can keep propelling themselves out, weekend after weekend, drowning themselves in cologne and glittery eyeshadow, looking for something that doesn’t even exist. That said, I know it’s something most people have to experience, at fixed points in life. I just don’t like looking at it, or being a part of it anymore. Besides, I think there’s an episode of “House Hunters International” on.
I don’t know when I became lame, and preoccupied with garden beds instead of social events, but all of those adulthood prophecies that our parents and others predict for us are coming true, for me. And I am kind of okay with that. While life in your younger years is arguably more exciting in certain aspects, I think as you get older, your idea of what is exciting in and of itself changes. Priorities really do change, and it becomes less important to know what other people are doing, and how to keep up with them, for fear of missing out on something. Thankfully, facebook allows me to experience it secondhand, without the unfortunate hangover and/or property damage.
All in all, I lasted until about midnight on Saturday. Luckily, Andy and Co. were losing steam at approximately the same time. Off we went towards home, which has apparently become my new Saturday evening hotspot. Hokey as it is, I’m realizing that I love our routine and togetherness at home, complete with the dog taking up way too much space between us on the couch, more than being out. And if nothing else, at least there’s no cover charge. Or skinny jeans.