Update from my breasts: Per federally mandated guidelines (look it up), I was informed weeks ago via email & post that I needed “additional mammographic views and/or ultrasound for a complete evaluation.” Dense breasts, they said. Cool, I said. Fun stuff. So today I had both. All clear!
I didn’t go into this thinking they would find anything—what would be the point—but I definitely strike myself as the kind of person who would wander straight out of good news into the middle of a knife fight. Instead I drove to the gynecologist to chat about my ovaries.
Update from my ovaries: It’s no secret that my reproductive system and I do not see eye-to-eye. (Heh.) I get that as strong, empowered, modern groovy women we are supposed to love our bodies and the miracles they can perform and that nature made us all beautiful and blah blah blah but seriously, that is all horse shit. Fuck the fuck off. The poking and the prodding and the scraping and the scoping, the pap smears and biopsies and ultrasounds, the fibroids and the cysts, let’s just end it already. We can’t, though. Every single option sounds worse than the current state of affairs, so until everything finally just gives up on its own, this is life. Still: no surgery!
After that I picked up my Vitamin D prescription from CVS and a chocolate shake from McDonald’s and came home and took a nap.
Update from my mother: “Why on earth would you post this?!”
I don’t know. Would you rather hear it in person?
1. I had a shouldless day yesterday. I slept in (8 a.m.!) and did not take a shower until after 1:00, and then only because I had to pick up some containers at the Container Store. I worked most of the days over the holidays, during what was supposed to be our company-wide winter break, so I decided I had had enough. It was time to do nothing but drink coffee and listen to the opera and Bob Seger and organize my closet and my inbox and read anything I wanted to read (p.s. I’m reading this). I am relaxing into this place and this space and this lifestyle and am finally getting my equilibrium back. I tend not to trust good moods or good times, being a nervous pessimist of the old school, but I am finally learning to drop my shoulders, and I was back in my jammies by 6 p.m. Quite an achievement, I say!
2. I also watched Tidying Up with Marie Kondo, who I find calming and delightful. It has very much the same warm, accepting vibe as the new Queer Eye, only pitched at a different level of intensity. I think the people who mock her should find out what she’s actually trying to do: it’s not about getting rid of all your shit, or buying a bunch of containers, or even judging your choices, it’s about taking a breath and recognizing who you are what you value. (I do like containers, though.)
3. This Healthyish newsletter from Bon Appetit is my new essential, along with Bon Appetit’s test kitchen videos. Claire is an icon for a reason but it’s all bright and sunny and relaxed and nothing makes me want to cook more than watching people be comfortable in a kitchen.
4. When I said 3 things I meant 3 things. The end!
It’s the new year, alright. My calendar says so, and calendars don’t lie. I’d like them to, sometimes.
This was the holiday when everybody was sick. It was more of a holiday interrupted, or skipped. A dream deferred. That mattered less than it would have once, since I’m finally here, close by, and don’t have to catch a plane anywhere. Nobody had to scramble or get up at 4:30 in the morning. I could drive home and go back on the weekend, which I did. Being there mattered to me.
I made this Turkish red lentil soup for lunch today, from Christopher Kimball’s book Milk Street: Tuesday Nights. Last night I made pork chops with tiny roasted potatoes and Brussels sprouts. Cooking is one of the only times I feel like an adult, like I can take care of myself and make wise decisions about my own immediate future. Other times are when I’m taking my car in for scheduled maintenance, or taking myself to the gynecologist. Adults do these things, is what I’m thinking, although the fact that I have to think it while I’m doing it probably nullifies the whole deal.
I watched It’s a Wonderful Life last night, which is the perfect new year’s eve movie. A perfect movie. It surprises me every time, how dark it is, how angry and bitter. Those aren’t the parts people remember but they are critical to its core. There’s the heart at the end, of course, but the guts make up the bulk of it. And it makes me believe the world isn’t doomed altogether, if this movie exists in it.
My second favorite Renée Fleming story: in February of 2012, SarahB, Potato Killer, Tucc, and I were sitting at a table in an empty restaurant in Baden-Baden, having lunch, drinking beer and eating German wieners with German potatoes. It was not prime tourist season in Baden-Baden, let’s put it that way. We were in town for the opera, killing time. We’re good at that together, it’s maybe one of our best talents as a group. This was the trip where I had a cold the whole time, from our first stop at the Hofbräuhaus through the return flight and then some, yet still managed to come in second when it came to drinking beer (we kept track). I refused to bow to my own shoddy immune system, and I mostly succeeded. In the end it was one of the best trips I’ve ever taken.
This restaurant that was also a bar (also empty) was situated at the nexus of three main streets in town, within walking distance of downtown and our Holiday Inn and the opera. The proprietor/bartender/waitress—all the same person—was solicitous and generous and we were loud. Another of our best talents. There was no snow on the ground and there was nothing to look at but we could see through the windows on every side and suddenly one of us, who knows who, spotted Renée Fleming strolling down the sidewalk in the direction of the opera house. Small town, Baden-Baden. And Tucc, being Tucc, laughed and said to the rest of us, should I go and say hello? And we, being us, said of course you should. So she jumped up from her chair, not bothering to grab her coat, and we watched as she ran out the door and across the street and chased this famous international opera star down the sidewalk of this mostly empty weird beautiful bath town, just to say hello.
Time is a liar, of course. Time tells me all of this happened well over six years ago, but I know it was only yesterday.
My dad used to say this thing upon parting—to friends, family, neighbors, strangers, children—what I thought growing up was “Keep’s over!” but what in reality was “Keep sober!” It doesn’t make much sense any way you slice it but he has never cared much for making sense. He just likes talking. Just like I like typing!
So happy holidays, etc., to you and your favorite people and especially all the dogs out there. They know who they are. Stay cool, or warm, or whatever your preference (my parents like it EXTRA HOT so I will be kicking back in shorts and a tube top in 30-degree weather). Most of all, be safe, be well, keep laughing, and keep sober (but also drink if you need to, and you’ll probably need to).
I had a few meltdowns at O’Hare Sunday morning, when I got lost trying to find the transit station that would deliver me unto the economy parking lot, and then when I tried to pay for parking, and then when tried to exit the lot. None of these were difficult tasks yet I failed miserably at each and behaved badly at every juncture, slamming doors and tossing bags and heaving curse words in all directions. Had I been watching myself from afar I would have thought, look at that sad middle-aged three-year-old losing her mind in the public sphere.
O’Hare is not my friend, as we learned long ago.
Over the course of 45 lost minutes I approached multiple unstaffed information booths and traversed many empty corridors, causeways, and underground labyrinths, but in the end it was Siri—lord how I loathe that word—that finally snapped my cord, when I found myself pulling onto Bessie Coleman Drive screaming JUST FUCKING TAKE ME HOME at an unresponsive Apple Carplay, via the Honda Civic touchscreen interface, in a voice I have never heard before and at a decibel level that has done possibly permanent damage to my vocal cords.
I hadn’t turned off “Airplane Mode” on my phone, that was the problem. It wasn’t even Siri’s fault.
What was the point of this story?
I’ve had a hard time this year. I haven’t been shy about admitting that. For some reason (naiveté, ignorance) I thought making this move would be easy and that it would solve everything, that I would reach the end of this particular path and settle down and… be settled. I planned for the move, but I didn’t plan for the upheaval, and the upheaval has been destabilizing and weird and just plain sad, sometimes. The distance between what I had planned for—what I expected—and reality was wider than I could ever have predicted. I felt lost and dumb most of the time, month after month, not understanding why I wasn’t happier, now that I had what I wanted, and I wondered more than once if I’d made a mistake. If I had failed.
I was reading this book on the plane called The Wisdom of Menopause, because that’s where we are now, that’s what it’s come to (oh dear, it’s true), and I highlighted this:
When we are standing at a crossroads in our lives, doubts inevitably arise. “Am I capable of pulling this off? Do I have the talent? The strength? Can I make it out there?” Or, as in my case, “What’s the use of having made it out there if I have no one to come home to?” Plucked from the milieu in which she has already proven herself and cast adrift in unfamiliar surroundings, a woman would have to be extraordinary not to be afraid. Her self-doubt may be magnified by the fact that as she faces loss, very often the path that will lead to her new life is not clear.
(I highlighted many things.) It felt good to feel understood, and recognized, just to have somebody say it’s okay. It’s okay to not know what comes next, to feel unsettled, to not have the answer, or any answers at all. To just be here and not expect more than that for a while. It took a lot of the pressure off.
I went to New York last weekend and had an amazing time but I realized I didn’t miss it. I wanted more than anything to bring my friends back with me when I left but I had no desire to stay. I was happy to come home, at least until my newly declared structural nemesis the airport screwed me over once again. That’s a victory—a small one, maybe, but I’m clinging to it.
We call Lori “Mrs. Smith” because she’s married to a man called Brian Smith, which sounds obviously fake, and because it makes her angry when women change their last name when they get married (which she didn’t). So: to grind the gears, really. Also she once showed up to a Halloween party dressed as Groucho Marx so I sometimes call her Groucho, just to mix things up.
We call CV “CV” because those are her actual initials (she also refused to change her name when she got married). I call her Tartufo when I need a favor, and I always fax her pictures of the menu when a restaurant serves tartufo.
We call Becky “Stretch,” although I don’t 100% remember why. It had something to do with her pants or the length of her torso.
We used to call Kim and Luke “Chips and Salsa,” back when they were still friends with us and brought chips and salsa to game nights (or games night, to be technical).
Chelsea and Roxie call SarahB “Guv” because she loves British detective series where indomitable ladies give orders. I stopped calling her “Grandma” because she didn’t care for it.
We call Chelsea “Tucc” because she once got to be Stanley Tucci’s seat filler at the Kennedy Center Honors. This was not long after she spurned our offers to call her either “Butter” or “Pickle,” which we attempted at a dinner table in London. She’s the only person I know who got to vet her own nickname.
We call Roxie “Potato Killer” because she enjoys potatoes in any shape or format, and sometimes “Teresa Wright” because she reminds us of Teresa Wright. I hope you know who Teresa Wright is. If not, go to work.
We call Sally “Phyllis” because we like the character of Phyllis in “Follies” better than we like the character of Sally, at least when she’s played by Donna Murphy at Encores!.
We call Ravinia Bob “Ravinia Bob” because his name is Bob and I met him at Ravinia, and when we’re in a hurry we shorten that to RivB.
SarahB calls Kevin “Max” because of “The Sound of Music” and he calls her “Elsa” for the same reason (i.e., they are both jaded and haughty and enjoy dressing up to drink cocktails in the daytime). I call him “Jerry” because we both love “The Awful Truth.”
Some people call me QHD because I like hot dogs and often behave like a queen, and some other people call me Trixie for reasons that have never been explained.
It’s important to have the right friends when you’re a fully grown adult, is what I’m saying. And a blog.