‘Ya know how they say that you never forget how to ride a bike? I never forget how to go to a concert. My muscle memory takes over.
Of course, my muscles flexed a little differently when I attended concerts as a teenager and young adult. The cigarette smoke, the standing forever, the long day festivals... no problem.
Now, I’d rather miss the opening band and be home by 10 p.m. - neither of which ever happens.
But, when the music starts, I remember just about everything. I remember how music feels. I remember why I cannot help but dance (bounce, sway, whatever). I remember that music is one of the very few reasons I believe a god might exist. I remember a lot about who I am and who I want to be, and I feel just about as authentic as I ever do. Well, except that I have a little inner dialogue fighting over whether or not I should use the earplugs I brought. I prefer to wear earplugs because (as I’ve aged) I’m not super comfortable with my hearing being dulled for a period following a concert. But, I’m concerned other people (cooler people) around me will think of me as lame because I like protecting my hearing.
As someone who struggles to be present, concerts focus me. And, no, it’s not just because Jack White recently required that I lock away my phone to experience his music. Although, I bet it didn’t hurt.
What does hurt these days is my body. I don’t recall what song Jack White was performing, but somewhere in the middle of the concert, I noticed that my knee was pitching while I danced, my toes hurt from pressing into my shoes because of standing on an incline, and my upper back hurt from clapping so much. I barely even dared to try screaming lest my throat start hurting. And, in the middle of all of that, I smiled a very big smile.
I wish aging didn’t often bring pain, but I smiled because I’m still here (like, on Earth and at concerts). And, even as Jack White ponders entering heaven alive, I know I won’t be doing that. So, for now, I’ll plaster as wide a smile as I possibly can across my face while dancing with my pain. And, even though I’m much more selective about concerts I attend, the gratitude I have for the feelings and focus music gives me is immeasurable.
The words “dream job” have come up a lot along the way in my professional career. The words mostly swirl around in my head while I figure out exactly what a dream job is.
As a teenager, I wanted to be a rock star. But, I never did anything to actually work towards that aside from sing in my room and listen to other people’s awesome music. I took guitar lessons, but I didn’t practice. I loved to sing, but I believed I wasn’t good enough at it for anyone to want to listen to me other than me. Once, I recorded myself on a cassette tape, and then, I wasn’t sure I even wanted to listen to me. But, I never tried. I never sang to anyone. I never attempted voice lessons. I never did anything to become a rock star.
When I went to law school, I wanted to be an “entertainment lawyer.” I wanted to work for a big, fancy record company in big New York City. I found intellectual property law pretty exciting, which would have been appropriate to pursue for a career with a record company, but I heard that only super smart people could carve out a legal career in trademarks and copyrights in Kansas City. And, patent attorneys had to have a completely different education that I had leading into law school. I tried to go to law schools known for their entertainment law education opportunities, but those schools didn’t accept me. I was the president of the Intellectual Property Law Society, and I resurrected the defunct Sports and Entertainment Law Society. So, it’s not as though I didn’t make some effort, but I believed the lies that I wasn’t tippy-toppy enough in my law school class to follow my dreams anyway.
Through some twists and turns, my career path led me to be the director of Royals Charities, the charitable foundation of the Kansas City Royals. That job was not my dream job. Then, it was. Then, it wasn’t again. And, it got confusing.
I did not apply to work for the Royals because it was my dream to run a charitable foundation in sports. I didn’t even know that was a job until I had it. Then, as I thought about it and as I built the position in a slightly new way, it was my dream job. It was a cool combination of my education, experiences, and interests. I loved sports. I loved philanthropy and had professional experience with it. I sometimes did need to use my legal mind for foundation matters, and I was working in the sports and entertainment industry. I also was working way too much and not taking good care of myself, my relationships, or anything else. But, I had a boss who trusted me and let me implement my vision. So, had I just been able to get the wellness piece under control, I’d have been in a pretty good “dream job” position.
I even remembered that as a young girl, I had decided that my dream job was to be the first woman to play for a Major League Baseball team. I specifically chose the Seattle Mariners because I liked Ken Griffey, Jr. Given that I didn’t play baseball or softball or ever swing more than a T-ball bat, I likely wasn’t going to play in high school let alone the majors. But, when I recalled this original dream job, I grew even more fond of finding myself working in sports.
Then, my dream job got complicated. It felt like everyone around me assumed it was my dream job. So, when the job started to feel less like a dream job, it was not good for my mental health to have every person I ever met say, “Oh, that job must be so much fun!”
As I was preparing to leave the Royals, someone asked me about the dream job potential of the new job. “This must be, like, your dream job?!” What I wanted to say was, “No, I’m leaving what was my dream job because it is not functioning like it once did, and I am so sad.” I said something like, “No, but it’s a step in the right direction.” That was probably true, but it felt like a lie at the time.
So, what exactly is a dream job? Is a dream job a title? What if the work is a dream, but the title doesn't obviously show your value to professional colleagues? Does a dream job have amazing benefits? What about a job that allows you to put your own personal wellness goals first? Best coworkers ever? Maybe that's the dream? Certainly, each person’s definition of a dream job likely changes throughout a career.
And, while we know that everyone isn't always in their dream job, it makes me sad that people might feel reluctant to share their professional dreams lest a current employer see that one of its employees has a dreaming mind. You can certainly be an effective and productive employee while dreaming up the future. If you don’t share your dreams widely, how do you know who might be able to help you get there?
But, I’ve heard some pieces of advice over the years that encouraged me to stay quiet about my dreams. One of those pieces of advice came from a senior leader at the Kansas City Royals. I heard him say that one shouldn’t be concerned with what happens “next” in a career. If you put your head down, work super hard, and be awesome at what you’re currently doing, someone will notice and offer you “the next.” Well, God bless ‘em. While, yes, I have had people call and encourage me to apply for jobs, it wasn’t that simple. I’ve never had a job where my position was high-level enough that people from other teams or companies are watching me. As such, I have to tell people what I want the next to be. I have to work to be noticed, and if “the next” isn’t “the same,” then, I have to go out and make it happen.
I’d like to not be afraid to share my professional dreams. I’d argue that if I’m working towards a dream, I’m likely giving my current employer the best of me. I’m not dwelling on the past. I’m energized by the future, and I’m focused on how I can prepare myself in the present. That means, I’m growing and learning and staying motivated to do well now to be ready for “the next.”
Or, if my current employer gives me great retirement benefits, I might just already be in my dream job. Because while there was a time in my career when I only (well, a lot at least) cared about my professional title, I’m old enough now to add “helps me retire when I want” to the list of qualities a dream job would have.
So, what is your dream job? It is a title? A benefit? Tell me all the things that would make you feel like you were in a dreamy professional spot.
I’ll start. In keeping with my tradition of wildly unlikely jobs I could never have, I do tell people that my dream job is to be the commissioner of Major League Baseball. Like, that’s a true day-dream. I don’t actually know what a commissioner does, but I bet I’d make too much money, be able to retire whenever I wanted, and get go to any MLB ballpark for any game at any time. But, the job I dream I’ll have one day would allow me to return to sports to work in a legal department. Of course, I’d still be seeking those coveted retirement benefits, trust and empowerment from my boss, and I’d really love never to put my health and my family in second place again.
And, because there’s power for me in song lyrics, U2 has often guided me with this gem. “She’s gonna dream up the world she wants to live in... She’s gonna dream out loud... Dream out loud...”
So, go ahead, dream out loud with me.
If you’ve ever posted on social media that, “my mother is better than yours,” I’ve cringed at your words. Because no matter how incredibly great your mother is, I don’t wish for a mother better than mine. I will always and only “just want my mommy.”
I’m about to turn 40-years old, and I swear to you when I say that only my mother can make everything ok for me. My poor retired nurse mom has had to accompany me to get my blood drawn because I decided I needed to come close to fainting a couple times in recent years, and she experienced the joy of my prepping for a colonoscopy at her home. Of course, that was followed by the joy of her driving me to the appointment and being there when I awakened and staying with me into the early-night because she read in the doctor’s notes that I shouldn’t be left alone for a certain number of hours.
She’s the one that I call when I don’t know what to do. She’s the one that I call before I call the doctor. She’s the one that my boyfriend called before he took me to the emergency room for an unbearable migraine headache. I’m nearly positive that if my arm had fallen off, I’d call my mother first just to hear her tell me I should not have called her first and that I should call 911 before I become unconscious. But, the truth is, I will have called her first because I know she’ll come running, and I know that if I can’t make it through a blood draw without her, I’m going to need her there when they sew back on my arm.
She’s the mother I watched receive the call that her own mother had died on the day that I “officially” made her a mother (that’s my birthday for those of you keeping score). And, God help me when I say that in a world where death isn’t optional, that was the most perfect timing for my grandmother to pass for me.
So, as I watched Steve Hartman’s On The Road piece about mothers, I heard his kids come to the same realization I had many years ago. Your mother is better than my mother for you. And, my mother is better than your mother for me.
Very few things fully capture my attention in the present. When it happens, it’s magical.
Not very long ago, I attended the symphony with my mother. And, as I watched her listen, I could see so obviously how intensely in-the-moment she was living. I was certain extraneous, worrisome thoughts weren’t clouding her mind. And, after, I told her that I found going to events with her rewarding (not just ‘cause I’m with my momma) because I could almost vicariously feel the present more deeply through her. Almost.
But, I don’t stick in the present. Maybe I’ll stick there for a moment but never much longer. When I’m out in the world, I’m almost always thinking about when I can return home. I find myself wishing really great experiences would hurry-up and end because I just want to be home where I’ll worry less.
More recently, we were at the symphony (again!) for our annual trip to its Christmas Festival, and I worried. I worried about the message I got during the symphony related to a work matter. I worried about the dogs. I worried about our home. I worried about the fact that I made an usher person tell the older couple sitting in our seats to move over to their actual seats.
So, the way I know which is my favorite musical piece, is by experiencing it without worry. This year, there was a guest baritone singer, and he sang, “You’re a Mean One, Mr. Grinch.” And, it consumed me. I sat forward in my seat. I swayed from side-to-side (wondering how everyone else could sit still in their seats). I tapped my feet. I probably hummed along. I clapped rapidly and loudly, and I think I even cheered. But, what I know for sure is that, for a few minutes, I lived in the present. And, it was magical.
It’s Giving Tuesday. I mean, if you know me and my career path at all, you know I think every day is a day for giving. I once had a financial adviser tell me to consider pulling back my nonprofit donations during this important time in my life when I should be paying down debt. NOT. A. CHANCE.
And, I like donating so much that I’m actually writing a blog to feature some organizations I’ll be supporting this Giving Tuesday. My approach to Giving Tuesday is usually to personally donate a small amount to four organizations that I am not currently supporting with a monthly donation. So, I’m going to feature those four organizations here (along with the organization for which I work – already a monthly donor there!) in hopes that you’ll either be moved to make a gift to one of these organizations or to one that is meaningful for you. Because nonprofit professionals are always working hard to create a more compassionate and caring world.
P.S. When I say “small” donation, I mean like, $5 each.
Giving Tuesday 2019
Midwest Innocence Project
I should be donating to MIP monthly. I have before and will again. It’s next on my list to add back into my monthly giving when I can. The folks at MIP work tirelessly in an ongoing fight for justice on behalf of prisoners wrongly convicted for a crime they did not commit.
Mom’s Demand Action – Missouri Chapter
OK, OK… given that I’m the one who built this chapter’s fundraising page, I should really be a monthly donor (Are you understanding yet why the financial advisor told me I have a giving problem?). This particular page supports Missouri and national efforts to provide gun violence prevention and gun safety education programs. Teaching a family how to safely store their guns can literally save the life of a curious child.
KC Pet Project
Be a Lifeline for Felines! As KC Pet Project prepares to move into its new home at the Kansas City Campus for Animal Care, the community cat program will be expanding. And, given that a new building brings new/more space, this Giving Tuesday campaign will help purchase incubators for an onsite kitten nursery. The allows the most critically teeny-tiny kittens to be treated more quickly as soon as they arrive.
Legal Aid of Western Missouri
I’m such a big fan of making legal advice and counsel available to all. Legal Aid attorneys also save lives, keep families in homes, serve veterans, protect domestic violence victims, and a ton more. Your gift helps ensure that folks have access to attorneys when they need it regardless of their ability to pay.
Serving Wyandotte County, Vibrant Health provides primary medical, dental, and behavioral health care to adults and children along with women’s care support. Its mission is to provide access to respectful, empowering, culturally sensitive and appropriate high-quality health care for the community, regardless of socio-economic obstacles.
As I listened to a motivational speaker share some really great words of wisdom around leadership, culture, and productivity, I couldn’t help but get really focused on something he said that amounts to what I call “subtle sexism.”
Now, this won’t be the last blog I write about subtle sexism. Holy moly have I experienced it more than a few times. So far, I’ve been really lucky to avoid experiencing really overt sexism. Like, no one’s ever said to my face, “You’re a woman, and therefore, less than.” But, truthfully, I think subtle sexism is the most dangerous type of sexism because it’s brush-off-able. I mean, if you say to my face that you think I’m “less-than” because I’m a woman, I’m likely to say, “That’s stupid.” I mean, maybe I’d say something more eloquent and helpful, but at least, I would respond.
But, when my while male boss’ office is right next to mine and you (white male) come up to his door (while basically also in my door) and ask him about something specifically related to things that are under my purview (like, obviously, as there was a proper name in my title – ROYALS CHARITIES), I get stuck thinking, “Should I be calling this person out right now? Is this sexism? Am I overthinking this? Is he asking my male boss for some other reason I’m not understanding right now?”
Or, the time when I suggested that a very special piece of hardware (World Series trophy) not just be available for trips to any nonprofit in Kansas City. I suggested that Royals Charities, the charitable foundation of the Kansas City Royals with its own fundraising goals, basically get the first right of refusal if there was a request from a nonprofit for the trophy at its event. Like, the trophy was an asset to which Royals Charities had access, and frankly, if we allowed it to go to any nonprofit for a fundraising purpose, we were minimizing our ability to fundraise through it. (Yes, I was that person. I very much protected the assets to which Royals Charities had access. Frankly, that was sometimes to the detriment of other local nonprofits. But, it allowed us to raise money which allowed us to make more grants to those requesting organizations).
I interjected with this concern, request, suggestion because, well, the nonprofit thing was my area, and really, not a lot of other people at the organization would have thought about how giving other nonprofit organizations access to the trophy could have impacted Royals Charities. It just wasn’t their concern because their jobs weren’t to worry about charitable income. But, my job was. So, I said something. Then, a white man, responded by telling me that suggesting that the trophy could only be used by Royals Charities and not shared with Royals’ corporate partners was absurd and would never happen.
I was furious. First, he didn’t read my email carefully because I suggested nothing like his assumption. That suggests he didn’t really value what I had to say anyway because he gave it no time. Second, because he didn’t read my email carefully, he leapt to the conclusion that I had suggested something absurd. He thought I said something that would indicate I had absolutely no idea that corporate partners and the income they provide are valuable to a baseball team. He assumed that. And, the first and most pervasive thought I had (besides does he think I’m a complete idiot?!) was, “He would have never leapt to his assumption if I were a man.”
So, guess what? I now watch for subtle sexism like I’m the hawk of watching for subtle sexism.
During this earlier mentioned motivational speech, the white, male speaker was setting-up a story. He was setting the scene because he was at a fundraiser that was spearheaded by the founder of Spanx, a woman, Sara Blakely, and her husband, Jesse Itzler. And, he explained that Sara was like the most amazing businesswoman ever, and then, he slipped in, “and, her husband is successful in his own right.”
So, that’s a truthful statement. Jesse Itzler is successful in his own right. But, the comment hit me wrong. Like, the speaker had just raved about how Sara Blakely was a special kind of businesswoman. Like, one of the best ever, in the world, forever and ever. And, then, he slipped in, “and, her husband is successful in his own right.”
I’m just trying to remember the last time someone said, “Bill Gates is the best, and his wife is successful in her own right.” Maybe it’s happened, but it’s not as likely. In my darkest moment of analyzing this situation, I wonder if this is actually a microaggression. Microaggressions don’t have to be intentional as far as I know, but they do have to be something indicating that were trying to maintain the status quo. So, if the status quo is that men are the successful ones, then, we can’t mention a successful woman without tossing in her successful husband. Because a successful woman with an unsuccessful (whatever that means) man just doesn’t quite fit the normal narrative of our traditionally patriarchal society, a microaggression towards women has to be snuck into a white man’s speech to make sure that the power and control he’s had as a white man remains stable.
At best, it’s just something that really didn’t need to be said to communicate the point of the speaker’s story. But, there I sat, in a room full of mostly men who likely didn’t even hear it as something for analysis. And, in that moment, the narrative expanded in my head, “My battle to be a respected leader will always be more challenging than that of a white man because I’m a white woman.” And, lordy, if I were a white man, I bet that privilege would be hard to give-up.
Back in 2006, I stopped taking Lexapro. It was a low dose. I tapered. So, when my brain started swimming around my head and I couldn’t lean my head to the left without feeling like the vertigo would pull me to the ground, I didn’t understand. I thought it would go away. Ten years of various tests followed. Two MRIs, a glucose fasting tolerance test, a test where they run water through your ears that makes you unbelievably dizzy, blood tests, heart tests… all normal. I cried every time a doctor told me my tests were normal. Things were not normal. A low dose of Valium for about nine of those years kept me functional, but I really didn’t think that was a long-term solution. Besides, it didn’t explain WHY I was having the problem. Along the way, I was officially diagnosed with migraine headaches, but it wasn’t until a trip to the emergency room to treat a migraine in 2015 that I decided I needed to get back to tests and doctors. The swimmy head sensations that basically no one can comprehend except me were written off as related to the migraine headaches. Of course, the head swimming sensations weren’t necessary worse with migraine. So, I didn’t really accept that answer. During that time, a doctor convinced me to try Lexapro again to see if it would eliminate the head swimming/vertigo sensations. I REALLY DID NOT WANT TO DO THIS, but I wanted to at least have this answer. So, back on the Lexapro I went. And, believe it or not, the bizarre head sensations went away… almost immediately.
Fast forward to 2019… I was pretty sure that I was struggling with depression in some way, and I was anxious during my trip down the birth canal (read: I’ve been a worrier my whole life.). I was asked if my depression was “situational.” And, I thought it was because there had been some situations that seemed to be making it worse. Although, said “situations” hadn’t really relented in more than three years.
So, because I could tell I was dealing with some increased anxiety, I inquired with my primary care physician about individual therapy. Now, at the moment, my health insurance only covers appointments, etc. at one in-network health system. At that health system, there is such a demand for counseling services that in order to get into the queue for service, you have to complete a comprehensive survey about your current mental health and mental health history. Then, you have to return that survey at which point you will be added to the waiting list to enter group counseling services. Once you complete a number of group counseling appointments, you will be referred to an individual therapist. Oh, and the waiting list for those group counseling services is about six months. Because this health system realizes six months is a long damn time to get someone seeking help some services, they offer a free (like, really free) therapist that will see you in the short-term to help get you over the hump, I suppose. So, I started using the free service. And, that’s helpful. I went ahead and filled out my survey and mailed it back as I was instructed to do. Not too long after, the department of psychiatry called me to schedule an appointment. I was super confused because I actually wasn’t interested in changing or discussing medications, so I let the scheduler know that I really just wanted to get in the queue for group counseling services. I mean, I assumed she had received my survey given I had recently mailed it back. She assured me that setting an appointment to discuss medications was the first step in the process. I decided that it wouldn’t hurt to go and that I would bring up my history with Lexapro to see if she’d ever heard of such a thing. She hadn’t. (Because no one has.) We talked, and I had her pretty convinced that I was a normally functioning human who but for these crazy head sensations would not be taking an anti-depressant. Hell, I think I started to convince myself, too.
We made a plan that I would taper off Lexapro, and if the head sensations returned, we would test another SSRI to see if another drug in the same class of drugs would have the same effect as did Lexapro in minimizing the head sensations. I tapered as instructed, and although the part where I could lean to the left was gone, my head started swimming. Even worse than that, two days after I fully stopped the medication, I could not stop feeling like I needed to cry. I felt worthless. Like, felt it. I truly felt like no one needed me. I won’t go into details why, but I had very serious feelings of worthlessness.
The worthlessness feelings subsided until they came back. They came back and this time, they were accompanied with extreme irritability, pretty intense screaming over my inability to do everything that was expected of me accompanied by sobbing on my kitchen floor. Only my dogs witnessed this. And, frankly, that’s by design. They don’t judge me. (Well, I mean, they were looking at me like the screaming was totally unnecessary.) But, I don’t wonder if they believe me. I don’t feel like I have to explain for the 4000th time what my head sensations feel like that no one else in the world has ever experienced.
So, as soon as the worthless feelings started, I reached out to update the psychiatry person to see what steps I should take next. Were these feelings a side effect of not taking Lexapro? Was Lexapro masking a deeper depression that I thought might have been there and now, the depression was winning? After 48+ hours of the message floating out there that explained I was crying a lot and experiencing feelings of worthlessness, I followed-up with a phone call. My symptoms were rapidly changing. I choked back tears as I left the voicemail. And, no, I really didn’t want to go to the emergency room, which was suggested because I was getting a little beside myself. I pay $520/month for my health insurance. If I go to the emergency room, it will cost at least my deductible, which is $3,000. That afternoon, the office did follow-up, but by the end of the day, I still couldn’t manage to actually get them to complete calling-in the prescription. That’s because I had to send an end of day message telling the office what pharmacy I like even though every damn time I go to said health system, I have to confirm my preferred pharmacies, so it’s in my online file. I know it.
I tried not to worry though because I coincidentally had a follow-up appointment scheduled with my primary care physician for the next morning. If things really got bad, I’d just be honest with her about my deep thoughts of worthlessness, and maybe, that would expediate the medication situation.
Nope. I got a call shortly after the communications between me and the psychiatry department from my primary care physician’s office letting me know that my primary care physician was out on medical leave and my appointment was cancelled. Sigh. Heavy sigh.
So, I’m waiting. I’m waiting for medication. I’m waiting to figure out if this is truly depression. I’m waiting to understand if the fits of crying, screaming, and extreme irritability are the symptoms of depression or anxiety or what. And, as it turns out, I’ll be waiting longer to get into that group therapy queue. Because the survey I returned where I revealed the truth about how terribly I’ve been feeling and the survey that is required before I can even think about being seen for counseling in six months… the office never received it and has no idea where it is.
There’s a piece at The Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art by Carl Andre. It’s called Aluminum and Magnesium Plain, and you can walk on it. If you’ve been through the contemporary galleries, you’ve seen it. I’ve walked on it. I have a picture with my foot on it.
But, my recent interaction with it basically told the story of my life.
At first, two museum staff were in-view when I approached the piece. Now, they know I can walk on it. But, I don’t know that they know I know I can walk on it.
Scenario one: If the staff know I can walk on it, but they think I think that I’m not supposed to walk on it, then, I can’t walk on it. Because I’m uncomfortable thinking that they think I think I’m doing something I’m not supposed to do.
Scenario two: The staff would acknowledge that it’s ok for me to walk on it. At this point, I would absolutely walk right across it. But, that defeats the whole point of the piece in my opinion. Being given permission to walk on it means I’m not a risk taker at all. And, more than that, I’d have the instinct to say to the staff, “I know; I don’t need your permission to walk on it. The artist wants me to walk on it.” And, yet, without permission from the docent, I don’t feel comfortable walking on it.
Soon, two gallery visitors entered the room further complicating the situation for my brain. But, the staff had left.
It turns out that this really didn’t change the game. I believe that most museum visitors don’t know you can walk on the piece. I mean, I believe that part of the point is that almost nothing else in the museum can be touched, so it’s meant to be confusing that the intention of this piece includes touch.
Scenario one: I assume that the other two people in the room don’t know you can walk on the piece. I assume this because they don’t stop to read its information (where it clearly indicates one can walk on the piece). So, I stand super close to it, but I can’t walk across it because I cannot tolerate the thought that the other museum visitors would think I’m breaking the rules. But, I wouldn’t actually be breaking any rules.
Scenario two: The staff still aren’t back in the room and the museum visitors have gotten just far enough away that I muster the courage to tap the piece with my foot. That’s it. Just tap it.
And, at 39-years old, I walk away from one of my most favorite pieces in the museum wondering what the path forward in life for me should be. Do I work towards accepting the person who stood at the piece only willing to tap it with her foot when no one (well, cameras) was looking because she’s afraid someone might *think* she’s breaking the rules or the normal? Or, at 39-years old, do I work towards seeking the courage I need to walk across the piece without much regard for who’s looking or what they might be thinking?
I don’t know which direction I’ll go. What I do know is that someone at some point in that piece’s history has looked at it and asked, “Why are a bunch of metal plates assembled on the floor considered art?” And, if that’s all they see, I’d submit to you that they are missing an opportunity much greater.
I love my birthday. But, as with everything, I have a lot of contradictory thoughts that go along with the celebration of my day-of-birth, life, and aging.
1) I want everyone to acknowledge it’s my birthday through text messages, Facebook posts, phone calls, cards, gifts, etc. But, I don’t want to talk to or respond to anyone on my birthday.
For my birthday, I really just prefer to go dark. I don’t want to check and respond to messages because I do that every other day of the year, but I’d feel completely unappreciated if the messages didn’t come. I spend much of the day being anxious about not responding immediately to those thoughtful messages because I’m incredibly appreciative of your taking time out of your day to wish me a happy birthday. But, I don’t actually want to communicate with you until tomorrow. I don’t know what this makes me, but I only want to see and talk to my immediate family and people and dogs who live in my house on my birthday.
2) I don’t want to work on my birthday.
I work plenty of other days during the year.
3) I’ve never told you this before, Internet, but my grandma died on my birthday.
Yep, that happened. And, what’s super strange is that it brings me no sadness that her death is associated with my birthday now. I mean, it did, and I feel completely weird about asking my mother to celebrate the birth of her first-born daughter on the same day as she mourns the death of her mother. But, my grandmother loved her grandchildren. She had 28 of them, and I was her first. It only made sense that she chose the day of the year on which her first grandchild appeared on Earth to go ahead and leave us. But, rest assured, it’s not an event with which I thought I’d share my birthday.
4) I love my age.
So, sometimes, I judge people (usually women) who choose not to share their age. I am so stinkin’ ok with whatever age that I am that I want everyone to know what age that is. Now, this comes from two places. First, I’ve looked young for most of my life. And, I want people to know that I have as much life experience as I have – now, 39 years of it. Not more, not less. Also, I actually WAS the younger person growing up. Most people in my high school graduating class were older than me, so I guess I never felt “old enough.”
Of course, there are some terrible struggles with ageism out there particularly impacting women, and I’m guessing there’s lots of good reason to hide one’s age. But, I’ve felt strongly about sharing my age for much of my life. Then, I saw a documentary with a woman in it who experienced a stroke or some kind of medical issue. The issue actually caused one side of her face to essentially freeze from aging. And, you know what? She hated that youthful side. She loved her aged side because she felt like she earned those wrinkles, that lack of collagen, the slight drooping, but the other side of her face showed a “youthfulness” that wasn’t real for her.
5) Aging is the goal.
When some people go on about how they are getting older, I’ve been known to say, “It’s better than the alternative!” Because let’s face it, we get two options here on Earth. Age or don’t. For those of you playing along, “don’t” is a euphemism for dead. I don’t care to be dead yet, so every birthday I have tells me that I’m still alive. That’s good.
6) But, wouldn’t you rather be younger again?
No. Well…. no. I mean, things were pretty great in seventh grade. Like, that was a year I look back towards with some fun memories. And, I almost said, “And, I was in less pain.” But, folks, I drew the short straw on pain in this life. I’m acutely aware that some people drew way shorter pain straws than me, but since about the fourth grade, I’ve been dealing with some type of physical pain. Yep, it seems to get worse every year (which is crap), but it’s always been there in some form or fashion. Some types have improved over the years. Some types have worsened. And, sometimes, my right knee hurts when I move my foot from the gas pedal to the break pedal. I’ve joked for many years that God went to the spare parts room when he built me, and I guess that’s just the deal I got.
7) Time Moves Pretty Fast.
I have a few sayings that help me get through the whole “limited time on Earth” thing. Somedays, they help. Other days, I’m not so well-adjusted. First, “a minute is 60 seconds now and 30 years ago.” I try to remind myself that a minute has and always will be 60 seconds. Even when minutes feel like they are speeding by more quickly, I get comfort from thinking about how they are not. Some scientist will probably tell me this is incorrect.
“Time flies whether you’re having fun or not. So, ‘ya might as well be having fun.” I am terrible at this one. I am currently trying to figure out what will be a more “fun” life for me. But, again, under the theory that a minute is 60 seconds no matter when it happens, fun is better than miserable.
Oh, and The Byrds. “To everything... turn, turn, turn. There is a season… turn, turn, turn.” Or, the Bible. Whatever. But, for me, it was The Byrds. I believe so strongly in the seasons of life that I’d be utterly hypocritical if I didn’t accept aging and death as a season of it.
8) Some Die Just to Live.
Gosh, as I write this, I think, “My golly, I have a healthy outlook on life and death.” And, yet, the fear of death grips me so tightly (not just my own, that of many others) that it likely is the impetus for almost all of my anxiety. Well, not throwing-up in public. That wasn’t literally going to kill me. It was just going to embarrass me so badly I would want to die.
Pearl Jam has a lyric in its song, “Immortality,” that has stuck with me since I heard it. “Some die just to live.” I have absolutely no idea what was meant by it. But, I heard it as follows… Death isn’t typically fun or easy or even painless. But, most people are absolutely willing to die in order to live. I guess that’s odd ‘cause most of us don’t ask our parents to conceive us. But, once we’re here, we typically think, “This livin’ thing is pretty ok!” Like, even when it sucks a lot (and of course, barring severe depression), most of us really prefer being alive as opposed to being dead.
So, here’s to 39! I’ll thank you for your birthday wishes tomorrow.
I’m in a lot of pain a lot of the time. But, I do everything I possibly can to work through it, hide it, pretend like it’s not happening, etc.
I was diagnosed with atypical migraines several years ago.
I’m in this photo, and I’m smiling. And, my head hurts badly enough that it feels like it has an independent heartbeat, and I’m foggy. I probably shouldn’t be driving, and I’ve taken more than the maximum amount of migraine meds I should take. Before this photo, I felt my migraine returning at around 11AM, so I took a second pill about twelve hours after the last. Technically, that should have been ok, but I felt worse having taken the second pill. The headache didn’t subside, my stomach went nuts, and I felt so foggy and slowed down that I definitely should not have been driving. So, I stopped at a local library and just sat there hoping the fog would pass because I had obligated myself to being at this event.
The fog sort of passed, but the pain did not. And, on to my obligation I went. In pain. And, I stayed for about four hours. In pain.
I finally left, ate some food, drank lots of water (which I did at the event, too), and added CBD. I hopped into bed and actually felt better in my air-conditioned home. But, a few hours after I fell asleep, the migraine came back, and it was super worse. I couldn’t take more meds until morning, so I did whatever I could to make myself comfortable, and with the help of Benadryl, slept until morning. I had to cancel my Pilates class, which I love, so I could sleep and sleep some more. Finally, the next dose of meds helped the migraine subside, but I was so exhausted by this time that I just needed to sleep.
And, I worry that no one believes me. When I talked to my most recent neurologist, he asked me a common question, “How many days of work have you missed because of your migraines?” Well, none. But, I probably should have missed parts of several days if I were actually taking care of myself. But, somehow, that doesn’t seem to count. Pain only feels like it counts if you’re writhing and crying in pain and doing things (like missing work) that others would expect. Like, if other people can SEE your pain, then, you really have it. I do everything I can to make it look like I’m not in pain. I mean, I might tell people I’m in pain, but then, I keep working. And, when you say, “Oh, I really hurt,” but you just act like you do when you don’t hurt, I feel like it’s not surprising that people don’t really think your pain is that bad. As I mentioned, I have “atypical” migraines, which means I don’t have light sensitivity or aura. I just hurt a lot and sometimes get nauseous. I feel like the atypical part of it makes it even harder to believe because the migraine doesn’t include every single awful symptom that it could.
So, I guess this is my way of telling you that even when I’m smiling, I might be hurting. I obviously need to learn to prioritize my health rather than prioritizing proving to people I can work through pain. But, for now, I just want to let people know who have “hidden pain” that I trust you and I see you trying to push through it. It’s so stinking true that you never know what battle each person is fighting, and that is so hard because sometimes the battle that’s being fought makes a person disagreeable, unlikable, and maybe even nasty. But, lordy, trust people who tell you they hurt, and if you can, encourage them to take care of themselves. Some of us need the reminder.
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