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Today’s anthem.

I thought that you were driving, but you’ve given me the wheel
There’s rain clouds out there, that you don’t wanna feel
Your anger’s like a razor blade, it’s just too bloody real
I thought that you would be here, no I just don’t get it
Hey I also feel things more than I should
I don’t relax very often, as often as I could
I worry how the whole thing looks, it doesn’t look good
But I thought that you would be here, no I just don’t get it
And being clear gets too much for me, just like it does for you
Even though I want to, I want to, I don’t

I don’t feel like calming down, no I don’t
I don’t feel like hiding out, so I won’t
I can’t turn the volume down, so I sit here in this
Chaos and piss, watching the storm passing
Storms are beautiful, right here it’s beautiful

I came all this way to be with you, and you’re already gone
If I was a good friend, I could write this wrong
I’d kick away your crutches, make you walk on your own
I really thought you’d be here, I just don’t get it
Though it looks warm in the rabbit hole, I could go down with you
Even though I want to, I want to, I won’t

I don’t feel like calming down, no I don’t
I don’t feel like hiding out, so I won’t
I can’t turn the volume down, so I sit here in this
Chaos and piss, watching the storm passing
It’s beautiful

I’m a willow tree, you can’t blow me over
And my roots go deep in anger
I wanna feel the wind as it whips me like a prisoner
I wanna be here
I wanna be here

No I don’t feel like calming down, no I don’t
I don’t feel like hiding out, so I won’t
I can’t turn the volume down, so I sit here in this
Chaos and piss, watching the storm passing
Storms are beautiful, this life is beautiful
It is

I need a vacation. I need a week alone at home with no obligations, no task list, no one to care for, no “must do” list.

I’m not going to get it. I’m out of vacation time, every bit I have is already dedicated to our families. I have huge piles of obligation at work, and I’ve traveled more than 35,000 miles in the first half of 2013. My little family needs  me to hold my shit together, so I have to find a way to focus, to get through it, to get it done, to make it happen. And one way to do that would be to recharge in the evenings, but I can’t really do that, either; I’d love to go home and read a book while I soak in the bathtub, but instead I’m going to address wedding invitations, because that needs doing and there’s no way to delegate it to anyone else. Fuckin’ fantastic. It is what it is, and this is the life I have and the choices I’ve made.

But I don’t feel like calming down, and I can’t turn the volume down. So I’m trying to remember that life is beautiful.

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On Sunday I chose to start exercising again — pullups, pushups, chest flies, arm curls, crunches. Yesterday and today, the consequences were obvious any time I moved anything above my waist. Long term, I’ll be stronger and leaner and healthier, and I don’t regret doing it (though I do regret taking such a long break from which I am now attempting to recover), but short term, OW.

On Monday I chose to go out to dinner with a visiting friend. The consequences, in negative terms, will be obvious as I try to fit more work (professional and personal) into fewer weekday evenings. But it was worth it, in terms of the “consequences” of choosing to live the kind of life I want to live. Would I be happier, better, healthier if I’d stayed in my office and worked, or sat and did financial chores on the couch instead of going out with Anna? Hell no. Will I feel a little more pressured now? Absolutely. Am I absolutely certain I did the right thing, despite the pressured feeling? Yes. Consequences.

Today I chatted with a friend about a piece of the Venn diagram that is my social life, and I noted that the piece in question, no matter how much I’d love to, is a thing I can’t and won’t ever do so long as some other people are involved. That’s the result of choices I made about my life four years ago, the consequences of which keep echoing back to me. Short term and long term, they were the right choices for me. I’m happier, better, and more whole than I was when I started this particular path. But short term and long term… choices have consequences. And there’s a path that’s cut off, for me, because I chose to walk this one. And that makes me a little sad.

Consequences. Choices.

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I’m sitting in my office today, struggling to hold my right shoulder back and up the way I know it needs to be. It’s a painful, frustrating thing, and it’s all too familiar. When I stop actively thinking about it, my shoulder drops forward and rolls down, and I don’t even notice until I start to get alternating stabbing pains and pins and needles in my forearm and fingers. This is what my chronic joint problem looks like when I’m not taking care of myself.

I haven’t added up the miles I traveled in the last month, but I bet they’re impressive — Potsdam to Cooperstown, Utica, Minneapolis, Virginia, and Idaho — and every one of those involved a 2-5 hour drive and carrying a briefcase bag. On my right shoulder. Of course.

I love to travel. I really do. And I don’t want it to become my truth that traveling breaks my body. So I’m trying to think of coping strategies. Sadly for my self-image, a wheelie briefcase carryon may be the logical answer. They’re just so … ugly. They’re certainly not stylish neon pink bags.

But this thing where I spend huge amounts of brain energy pulling my shoulder back into alignment (and then weeks of stretching and exercise to get myself back into functional shape) isn’t gonna work. Something’s gotta give. And it needs to not be my shoulder.

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So look into the mirror do you recognise someone
Is it who you always hoped you would become
When you were young

I don’t know what to say that I haven’t said before. I still miss him. I’ll always miss him. I see his face every day in my mirror, and I know that I am who he helped shape me to be. I know he’d be proud. And I know I was loved.

If it’s all I can have, it’s enough. But I still miss him.

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I know this is a novel idea, American ideal, but maybe we could not make male-on-female rape a problem that women have. Maybe we could put the blame and the agency and the responsibility where it actually belongs: on the rapists. Because, just… this, from Audrey Binkowski at Laugh, Mom:

Never take a drink from anyone or let your drink out of your sight. Don’t show too much cleavage. Be aware of your surroundings at all times. Never go to a boy’s room alone. If it comes to it, go for the eyes, the nose, the balls. Always stay with a group of girls…safety in numbers. You can’t trust him, even if he seems nice.

These are all the rules I was taught growing up. Parents, teachers, media, all told me I had to be careful not to get raped. Because I was a girl. And the responsibility was on me.

I’m so fucking sick of it.

Seriously. I’m really sick of it. Young American women are taught to live in fear, to live in a state of heightened anxiety, because they are inherently victims. Because if it happens — if you’re sexually assaulted — you’ll be expected to explain all the ways that you did everything you could to prevent it, and if you didn’t do all of those things, well, then. You bear responsibility for what happened to you, even though you are not the one who made the choice to attack another human being. Even though you were the one who was attacked.

Once upon a time, when i was married, my husband asked me, very gently and quietly, if I had ever been sexually assaulted, because I was so impassioned about it. I, truthfully, told him that I had not, but that whether or not I was a rape victim wasn’t the point: We live in a society in which I could be, and am taught, near-daily, to be vigilant against the possibility. Because it’s my job to protect myself. His reaction — confusion that I was so passionate about something that wasn’t my own personal experience, and frustration and hostility at my assertion that we have an uncontrolled rape culture that victimizes women for simply existing — was, in some ways, the beginning of the end of that relationship for me.

My frustration isn’t about a failed marriage. It’s about our culture, and what it does to both men and women who live in it. Our societal love of “traditional gender roles” has an inherent power dynamic, and when you can acknowledge that rape is a crime of power, not of sex, then you can also link that crime to our support of those traditional gender dynamics. And it’s not okay. It’s not okay to say and believe and agree with the notion that rape is inevitable, that women have the responsibility to prevent it, and that “good” men should hate rapists but only if it’s “real” rape, or “violent” or  if the woman was “pretty” or whateverthehell excuse is on the agenda today and that only women who’ve been actively victimized by sexual assault should be upset by rape and that under no circumstances should we talk about the ways in which we culturally excuse rape as just one of those things that just inevitably happens.

Because if we don’t talk about it, then you can’t take that to its reductionist end, and you never acknowledge that at that reductionist end you’re saying that men can’t help but be rapists, the poor things. And I don’t believe that for an instant. I think we allow men to be rapists by indoctrinating them into a society that says rape is the woman’s fault, and by devaluing women as members of society.

And I say fuck that noise. Make  a different world.

Binkowski goes on about the Steubenville rape case, and I cheered a sad little cheer inside.

Never, at any point in following this story, did I stop and think, “Man…that sucks for those rapists.”

You know why? Because they are rapists. Yes, they are young. Yes, they are stupid. Yes, they made a mistake. Yes, they had good grades. Yes, they were athletes. Yes, they are someone’s sons. Yes, they have fucked up their futures. Not a single one of those facts excuses them from the consequences of raping someone.

There seems to be some sort of fucked up public opinion that we should pity these boys because, hey, we all do dumb stuff when we’re young. Because it could have been our sons. And to that I say, bullshit.

We need to stop letting it be our sons.

We need to teach our sons that no means no. And that silence means no. And that drunkenness means no. And that being passed out means no. And that “I don’t know” or “I’m not sure” or “maybe we shouldn’t do this” means no.

We need to teach our sons that women and girls are actual people. They’re not just bodies. They’re not just holes. They’re not inanimate objects to be used at will.

And we’re not the ones who should be tasked with preventing rape, because we’re not the ones exercising our agency and our morality in deciding to rape someone. Put the blame where it belongs, and the responsibility.

This rant brought to you not just by Steubenville and all it represents but also by this image and the associated cultural baggage we all bring to the discussion of women’s behavior in society.

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Next week is the answer. The eye doc and his nurse were chuckling in the hall after I asked that — “not the kind of question we get very often!” was the comment I overheard. Yup. I know. But it matters to me!

Part of why it matters is that this morning the scale inexplicably said 168, which is my current-in-recent-history low, which makes no sense given that I’m eating all the things and not exercising at all, minus one 30 minute treadmill stint on Sunday. But okay, cool, I’ll take it.

The other part of why it matters is that I have the worst back spasm I’ve had in ages, right now. Oi. Ow. Ack. I’m alternating, for the last 36 hours, between having an active trigger point migraine, having pins-and-needles tingles in my radial and ulnar nerve fingers (but rarely both at the same time) on both hands (sometimes both at the same time), pins-and-needles in my nose (SUPER BIZARRE FEELING, wtf, body?), pins-and-needles in my right foot (again, wtf, body?) and an active spasm in my mid-right back, below my shoulderblade. And all the muscles of my neck are tight like iron cord. I am not a happy camper.

It’s dispiriting in part because A) I recognize this problem and B) I’ve been feeling really good for, honestly, months. I made it through the Australia travel and walking and snorkeling with really minimal pain, and I felt good about that. I’ve been intentionally staying flexible and agile but also building strength — the Exercise Hell DVD is a mix of yoga, pilates, and full-body strength training — and figuring that I’m getting my cardio through the fact that all of that’s HARD for me. And full-body strength builds balance across all my muscle groups, and that balance means less muscle tension caused by joint instability unevenly supported. It’s a great plan, and it was totally working.

Except now, right now, post-op, all I’m left with is light cardio. I hate light cardio. Even when I go for walks after work in nice weather, I’m inclined to do 4 or 5 miles. 30 minutes on a treadmill? Bleck.

And my back is in spasm. I can’t help but think that these two things are related. I spend 10 days being uber-lazy (RESTING!), and my body falls apart.

So. I want to get back to this thing. One week, they say. Next Monday, they say. Okay, then. Next Monday it is. Back at it, with Week One Day One of Exercise Hell. Let’s do this thing. (again.)

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So, per my doctor, I totally could go back to work right now if I chose to, since if I wear my left contact and use drugstore cheaters I can see pretty well — distance is great, up close is deal-with-able. However, per my own needs, I am not going back until the 18th. I’ve got two very particular reasons for that:

1. On Friday, I will be back to not seeing very well, as I can’t wear my left contact while I’m doing the preparatory drops for Monday’s surgery, and then it’s probably Wednesday again before I stop feeling like post-operative poop. I was surprised by how hard the anesthesia punched me, in terms of after-effects.

2. I need a fucking break, and I’m taking one.

I mean, yes, I just had a week’s vacation in Australia, but I also worked my ass off the week before that for the NLS6 folks, and I worked equally hard to tie up my loose ends before I left. And it was a wonderful, rejuvenating experience, but it wasn’t restful.

So far today I stayed up late reading a book, and then slept from 2 am to noon. I made myself some lunch. I read a book. I pet my cats. I took a catnap with my cats. I made a list of things I hope to accomplish while I’m home. I put drops in my eyes, took my vitamins, and weighed myself. I did a Google hangout with my friend David so he could test a microphone for one of his colleagues (and we chatted about The Dresden Files). I caught up with a few friends online, offering sympathy, advice, and support. I read a bunch of blogs and news articles about a bunch of stuff that wasn’t library-related.

That’s about it. Now I’m gonna go unpack the medicine cabinet into the new bathroom cupboards, and look for my makeup in the still-not-unpacked-yet tubs of stuff that was in the old bathrooms. Then I’ll eat dinner, and probably watch some Mystery! of some sort on one of our streaming services.

And I’m okay with that.  It’s not “productive”. But it’s good for me. I need a break. I need some time to collect the pieces of my energy and sew them back together. I need to acknowledge that doing that has value equal to the value of going to work and doing ACRL statistics and scheduling meetings with Advancement folks and debating strategic directions with my coworkers.

It’s okay to need a break.

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Today’s surgery was as easy as I was promised it would be. We went in at 7:30, and I was out,  filled with banana-walnut pancakes from Roxy’s, and home by 11. There was only one hangup, and I was expecting it.

Maybe in bigger cities this isn’t an issue, but the problem here is that no one expects 37 year old women to need cataract surgery. This is only relevant because I had to smile through a whole lot of “wow, you’re young, is that congenital?” and because no one remembers that I need a pregnancy test before they can give me anesthesia — it’s a New York Law. I ran into it with my shoulder surgery — had a seriously annoyed nurse who had to shuffle a bunch of things around so they could do a stick and a test before the anesthesiologist came in, and all I could do was say “but no one told me I needed bloodwork!” So this time I knew, and I was expecting it, and was prepared.

But cataract patients are old. So no one believes me on this surgery.

It started when I asked the pre-surgical coordinator at the doctor’s office. She didn’t know — that not only isn’t her job, but she doesn’t run into the question very often, if ever. She said I should ask the hospital pre-registration nurse.

I asked that nurse, and she said “Yes! Stop in the blood lab on your way up to the 4th floor.” Ok, great, a straight answer. Awesome.

Then I asked the scheduling nurse (who was telling me to go straight to the 4th floor for outpatient registration), and she gave me a moment of stunned silence before incredulously asking “How OLD are you?” before agreeing that, yes, potentially fertile 37 year old women do indeed need pregnancy tests before receiving anesthesia.

So today I get to the hospital, and go to the registration desk. She fits me with my stylish bracelet, copies my ID and insurance cards, and says, “Now go on up to the 4th floor.” I stop her, and say, “I was told to go to the blood lab for a pregnancy test first.” She consults her lab list, and says “You’re not on it.” I thank her and go to the lab anyway.

In the lab, the receptionist can’t find me on her list. I explain. She calls the 4th floor. The 4th floor reports I don’t need it. So I give up, and go to the 4th floor.

Where, half an hour later, my outpatient nurse, upon preparing to do my IV, says “And you stopped in the blood lab for a pregnancy test, right?”

*headdesk*

It turns out that someone named “Blair” who works on the 4th floor didn’t check my age or my chart when filling out the presurgical bloodwork orders, or when taking the phone call from the lab. Because I’m a cataract patient. I must be old. Old people don’t need pregnancy tests.

In case you’re curious, I’m not pregnant. I was also amused by the outpatient nurse’s followup questions:
“Did you have a tubal?”
“Nope.”
“A hysterectomy?”
“No.”
“Then why did they send you up? You’re potentially fertile! It’s a law!”
“I have no idea. I tried, I swear.”

So. In my case, this is no big deal: A competent nurse and an informed patient worked together to get shit done right. But I couldn’t help but think, as I waited for the surgical nurse and anesthesiologist to finish hooking me up and injecting me with cheerful sedation, that this is the kind of small screwup that can happen to anyone. Anywhere. And it won’t always be a missed negative pregnancy test. Sometimes it’s big. Sometimes it’s a real thing. And sometimes it has major consequences.

Don’t make assumptions. All cataract patients are not old. All things are not what they may seem. All categories are not homogenous. There’s a lesson there, in and outside medicine.

All of that said, the surgery was easy. Like, EASY. Light sedation, a good, efficient doctor, cheerful and capable nurses, and a great partner to ferry me around, buy me pancakes, put drops in my eye, and tuck me in for a nap.

And when Justin took down my eye patch so he could put my drops in at 3 today, I could see all the details on the wall across the room in high-def. 15 feet away.

That hasn’t been true since before I was 7.

At some point in this process, I’m going to break down and cry with the wonder and joy and gratitude of it all. But not yet. I’ve got another eye and a scrip for reading glasses to go before we get there. But I’m gonna get there.

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Today I was reminded that, for all his flaws as a “liberal president” (because he isn’t one), Barack Obama has done one crucial thing: He has reminded us that all Americans have value, and all of us are worth fighting for, caring for, and acknowledging. Emphasis below is mine.

“And we must be a source of hope to the poor, the sick, the marginalized, the victims of prejudice — not out of mere charity, but because peace in our time requires the constant advance of those principles that our common creed describes: tolerance and opportunity; human dignity and justice.

We, the people, declare today that the most evident of truths — that all of us are created equal — is the star that guides us still; just as it guided our forebears through Seneca Falls, and Selma, and Stonewall; just as it guided all those men and women, sung and unsung, who left footprints along this great Mall, to hear a preacher say that we cannot walk alone; to hear a King proclaim that our individual freedom is inextricably bound to the freedom of every soul on Earth.

It is now our generation’s task to carry on what those pioneers began. For our journey is not complete until our wives, our mothers, and daughters can earn a living equal to their efforts. Our journey is not complete until our gay brothers and sisters are treated like anyone else under the law — for if we are truly created equal, then surely the love we commit to one another must be equal as well. Our journey is not complete until no citizen is forced to wait for hours to exercise the right to vote. Our journey is not complete until we find a better way to welcome the striving, hopeful immigrants who still see America as a land of opportunity; until bright young students and engineers are enlisted in our workforce rather than expelled from our country. Our journey is not complete until all our children, from the streets of Detroit to the hills of Appalachia to the quiet lanes of Newtown, know that they are cared for, and cherished, and always safe from harm.

That is our generation’s task — to make these words, these rights, these values — of Life, and Liberty, and the Pursuit of Happiness — real for every American. Being true to our founding documents does not require us to agree on every contour of life; it does not mean we will all define liberty in exactly the same way, or follow the same precise path to happiness. Progress does not compel us to settle centuries-long debates about the role of government for all time — but it does require us to act in our time.

To which I can only offer a heartfelt and tearsoaked SO SAY WE ALL.

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Why do I straighten my hair, when it freaks so many people out? Because it’s nice to have it lie flat, where I put it, and not be strangely frizzy, fluffy, or otherwise untidy. I have this feeling like no matter how nicely I dress or groom myself, my curling hair is this independent actor communicating strange things with my audience from behind my line of sight.