August 26, 2010

Doing Pretty Good

I have a sinus infection.

I have been congested and have had headaches, including one that went into migraine, but I thought to myself, “Stupid allergies.” I’ve also been somewhat achy (“Stupid working out.”), and keep going between feeling really hot (“Stupid Texas summer.”) and really cold (“Stupid Texas air conditioning.”). Then I was in tai chi class and was sweating buckets (“Stupid humidity.”), but tried to power through even as I felt weaker and weaker (“Stupid limbs made out of cement.”). At that point, my tai chi instructor walked over and told me to go lay down because I looked like I was about to pass out. When I got home that night, I cooled off, ate something with lots of protein, and generally rested. However, I couldn’t help but notice that I still felt light-headed. The next morning I felt the same.

Finally, I went to the doctor. I told her all about the light-headedness and the nearly passing out. Luckily, my doctor was a better detective than me and she thought to ask questions to find the other pertinent symptoms. After a very thorough examination, which included an EKG, a blood test for anemia, and a head x-ray, I got the diagnosis of a sinus infection.

Rather than feeling relieved that I didn’t have some bizarre light-headed disease, my first reaction was to be embarrassed. I had another sinus infection? Shouldn’t I know what those feel like by now? As I added up all the symptoms it seemed perfectly know, right after somebody pointed it out to me. How could I have not realized it was a sinus infection?!

A few of my friends have been dealing with medical problems lately. I’m at least number four on the list of sinus infections, there have been a couple stomach bugs, and then there were some more serious, long-term issue diagnoses. All these problems run the gamut of corporeal existence, but I noticed a theme as I was discussing them with my various friends.

Embarrassment. Every one of my friends seemed to be embarrassed by the idea that their body was weak in some way. At least two friends used the word shame when discussing their medical condition. There was even a sense of guilt expressed.

It’s not a far leap, I suppose, for women in our society to be embarrassed by a medical hindrance. After all, we tend to spend a lot of time being self-conscious about our appearance. I suppose it all falls under that master category of “physical defect.” I know more than one woman who has trouble taking a compliment—

“Your hair looks nice!”

“I just wore it pulled back today because it’s windy outside.”

—so it’s no wonder then that we react poorly when someone actually confirms that something about our bodies is wrong. It’s as though someone announced out loud the dirty little secret we all know: our bodies aren’t perfect.

Even though this is just the universal human condition, we tend to act like it is some terrible mistake we have made. We immediately analyze our behavior to see how we brought this upon ourselves, how we could have avoided it, how others will treat us if they find out. We find we need to forgive ourselves for something we never chose to have happen to us. We find we have to account to others how this situation could have occurred.

Even for something as dumb as a sinus infection. I can’t tell you how much it bothers me that I haven’t done my laundry because I am exhausted from being sick and taking antibiotics. I feel I need to explain myself to people for the fact that I’ve been sleeping more than housekeeping. I have a good reason, really! Please, don’t judge me too harshly! Certainly, not as harshly as I tend to judge myself.

When I was in the doctor’s office, I received a reminder why I shouldn’t be so hard on myself for uncontrollable physicality. As the doctor reviewed the results from my EKG, she said, “You have a beautiful heartbeat. You work out, don’t you?” I was so surprised that I didn’t have a chance to retort with my usual, “Not as much as I should.” The fact of the matter is that I don’t feel I work out enough because I’m not losing weight. The outside part of me—the part that I’m used to feeling guilty about—seems to be pretty much same. It took an expert to point out that I do exercise regularly and that it is having a very good effect somewhere.

So I remind myself: I’m a healthy, beautiful woman who does not have medical training. It’s okay if I don’t immediately spot potential symptoms of minor illnesses. It’s not only okay, it’s normal, to occasionally be sick and tired. What is important is that I take care of myself as best I can, that I say “thank you” when someone compliments me, and that I give myself time to recover from minor illnesses before doing my laundry.

(Stupid sinus infections.)

August 12, 2010

Keep Pushin’

What is motivation?

I know what inspiration is. I remember what it feels like when a new concept enters my mind. I remember what that excitement feels like. I know what satisfaction is. I know how the certainty of completion feels as it moves in my chest. I know what frustration is. I know how it lives in the back of my throat and behind my eyes. I know how it travels in waves.

But, what is motivation?

A clever, beautiful, strong-willed woman of my acquaintance is successful at family, education, and career. If I was asked to give examples of people who have their stuff together, she’d certainly be at the top of my list. Today she suffered a setback and decried that she had lost all her motivation.

It’s been bothering me ever since. I’m not particularly worried about her as she’s the type of gal that regroups and attacks from the left if the right isn’t working. I wouldn’t be surprised if she’s already moved on with a well-itemized action plan to counteract the situation. What she said, however, has stuck with me.

For a long while now I’ve been struggling. “I’m having a problem with my motivation,” has been a great little sound bite for me to describe this sense of personal struggle. Yet, when I heard it come from the mouth of a woman who seems to be so—I don’t know—well-organized at life, suddenly the statement seemed…

Meaningless? Stupid? Overly-dramatic? No. It was an honest moment of frustration and I knew how she felt and I sympathized. I responded with encouragement because I wanted her to get it back. It: that mystical motivation that we apparently all know we need.

But, what is motivation?

If you peruse Merriam-Webster long enough, you will get to motive. It comes from a variation on the Latin verb that means “to move.” Literally, motivation is what makes you move.

I think it’s what’s you have when you don’t have inspiration. I think it’s why you keep moving even when it doesn’t feel wonderful to move. I think it’s what convinces us that if we keep moving, eventually it will feel wonderful, eventually we’ll get inspired again. I think it’s the metaphorical moat that keeps despair from invading.

After an unexpected and negative outcome, my friend told me she didn’t feel like moving. Oh, how I know how that feels. I guess it seemed funny coming from her because she’s not good at sitting still. She’s isn’t the type to stop moving. I guess it bothered me because I worry that I am.

Am I moving or sitting still with a lot of talk?

I suppose it’s like sanity, if you are worried that you are losing it then you must still have some left. So, I have motivation.

Anybody know where I can pick up some of that inspiration stuff?

August 5, 2010

I Say No, No, No

“Does Chinese food sound good?”

You would think I—wannabe foodie, Weight Watchers member, generally picky eater—would easily say “no” when Chinese, in fact, does not sound good that evening. Instead I say something like,


In many ways, I’m a very opinionated person. I wouldn’t call myself picky, but boy am I particular. When I consider how opinionated I am on certain subjects, how willing I am to share my opinions on certain subjects, how much of a smart ass I can be, how easily I can hand out seems strange that I ever have trouble saying “no” when the answer to someone’s question is “no.”

I reason that I don’t not-like Chinese food. Sometimes I even crave Chinese food. So, if my friend wants Chinese food, I can certainly eat it. I can certainly not go with my first choice so my friend can have hers.

I always like to think that when I say “yes” when I’m thinking “no” it’s because I want everyone to be happy. I truly do believe in the golden rule of treating others as you would want to be treated. I think to myself, “What if I wanted Chinese tonight? I would want her to say ‘yes’.”

The truth is, a lot of the reason that I say “yes” when I’m thinking “no” is because I want people to like me. It’s not so much wanting my friend’s happiness, it’s being afraid of my friend’s rejection. That’s a horrible approach to decision making.

For one, and most obvious, something’s going on with my self-esteem when I find myself compulsively yes-ing. There are better ways to gain people’s love and friendship than eating unwanted food. I will not have failed in my ability to interact sociably if I do not go out for Chinese. Two, the idea gives very little credit to my friends. They love me more than my willingness to eat kung-pao chicken. They are not so shallow that they will hang up on me if I say no to Chinese food. Third, I don’t want to be that person. I really do want to make decisions based on people’s happiness, including my own, and not based on my personal fears.

I noticed an upswing in my yes-ing not too long ago. I think I’m afraid certain people in my life are there because of happenstance and not by choice. For example, does so-and-so at work chat with me because she really thinks I’m cool, or because I happen to sit closer to the restrooms than to her manager’s office and, therefore, geographically suited to avoiding work a little bit longer. I think that sort of paranoia is partly due to my natural shyness, and partly due to my ability to be really hard on myself about everything when one or two things aren’t going right.

That’s a lot of psychology to load into a decision on where to eat for dinner. (I hope all of you who have gotten this far in realize that “Chinese food” is a metaphor.)

In response, I’ve been trying out my no’s. (No, not my nose, my no’s.) I turned down going out when I had brought my lunch. I said “no” to driving when I had been driving all day. I said “no” to a favor when I knew I really didn’t want to do it. I told that annoying little voice of doubt that lives in my head to shut up when it questioned all of those decisions. I think no’s are good for me.

One, I’m getting a little of what I want and that makes me happy. Two, none of my friend’s have hung up the phone yet. In fact, if they’ve noticed the no’s, they haven’t let on. Three, I’m a little closer to the completely confident, happy, and trusting person I want to be.

"I'd rather we went out for Thai."