forty-one

This is what my face looks like when I’ve just turned 41, standing in the half bathroom in front of the wallpaper I hate and can’t wait to take down — nothing personal to this specific wallpaper, but I hate all wallpaper — currently unable to smile because I toasted a marshmallow on a fork in my gas stove and then stupidly put the fork in my mouth and burned the inside of my lips and the tip of my tongue because I am still JUST THAT SMART SOMETIMES but it was worth it because if you’ve never made a s’more in your own gas stove in your kitchen at 11 p.m. on a weeknight and also used a Reese’s cup instead of a chocolate bar, then I don’t think you’ve really lived.

One thing I know for certain today is that I had no idea last year when I wrote the Annual(ish) Birthday Post what kind of year I was in for. While I never know what kind of year I’m in for when I write these, I definitely didn’t know that three-quarters of it was going to be, you know…

via GIPHY

I mean, back in October 2019, I had another breast cancer scare, and under normal circumstances, that would seem like a big deal, but these days, it’s kinda like, meh, that was nearly a lifetime ago. Anyway, after a couple of extra mammograms and a couple of ultrasounds and an enormous needle getting jammed in there (and leaving behind a tiny titanium marker that will show up in all of my future mammograms) and sitting around with ice in my bra for 2 days, it turned out that I didn’t have cancer. I had a second cancer scare in January 2020 when clear fluid and sometimes blood would come out of the nipple of my previously needle-stabbed boob1 so I had to go back for another ultrasound (they were all “Eh, we don’t see anything so it’ll probably resolve on its own but when you come in for that appointment you have in the spring to get the weird stuff in your OTHER boob checked out, if you’re still having weird fluid coming out, please let us know!”) Because yes, when I had the mammogram in October 2019, the first one, they saw what might’ve been tumors but might not have been tumors in the other boob and they wanted to give it a look-see again in 6 months, feeling that it wasn’t as expedient as the one they wanted to biopsy right away. The weird fluid thing actually did resolve so hooray, and then it turned out that the weird things that might/might not have been tumors were, in fact, not tumors, and to sum up, I want a vacation from mammograms but I can never ever have a vacation from mammograms.2

So there’s that.

After the January Boob Scare, which incidentally should be a band name or at least the name of someone’s second album, it turns out that I don’t have much to report. My husband and I went on a spur of the moment trip to look at ice caves. What is an ice cave, those of you who do not live in the frozen north might ask? Well, it is when water freezes off of rock face walls and makes, you know, caves.

See? Ice caves. You can walk around in there behind the icicles, which are, by the way, freaking enormous.

When we decided to go look at ice caves because why wouldn’t we go look at ice caves, I did some reading about going to look at ice caves. Every post and article I read was like “Kinda slippery but I took my grandma and then we took the kids for cocoa, 5 stars, would do again!” And I’m here to tell you that the trek to the Eben Ice Caves is a sometimes very steep climb to the wall of Rock River Canyon2 and is icy and nearly impassible without ice cleats or chains. So yeah, thanks to this trip, I own ice chains for my winter boots for hiking because this is the person I am now.

I think it’s weird, too.

Ice caves were totally worth it, though.

And then, I didn’t go anywhere until the end of August. I work at a very small desk in my bedroom and after a couple of years of having a nearly hour-long commute to and from the office, I have found one of those work-life balances I hear about. Instead of leaving work and driving for an hour to get asked what’s for dinner, I can just walk downstairs for that now. I have 0 complaints about not driving to work, or being in an office, except maybe I sometimes miss having a reason to wear fantastic shoes. I never thought too much about how much money it costs to commute that much, but it turns out it was a lot of money, because now I have all of the money I would’ve spent on gas for my car and now I can spend it on armchairs.

I also quit smoking this year. I mean, I’ve quit smoking a lot of times in the past, but then something would trigger me to start again. I’d been flirting with the idea of quitting this year, and then I had my first day of indefinite work-from-home, and I didn’t have any cigarettes while standing in the dark in the doorway of the garage waiting for the dog to pee early that Monday morning, and I didn’t want to go buy any. So I didn’t. Quitting sucked for awhile, and then it sucked less, and now it’s been six months and I generally don’t even think about smoking, except sometimes I have this almost painful feeling in my chest, like air just isn’t cutting it, but then I ignore it for awhile and I’m fine. I don’t have any real advice for anyone who wants to quit, except to stop giving yourself the freedom to fail. Nicotine replacement therapy is useful. Cold turkey doesn’t have to be the way and you’re not weak if you wear patches or chew gum. But most of all, you really have to stop with the reasons why this one time will be okay, because you know it’s never just the one time, stop kidding yourself.

I guess that was a bit of advice. Maybe for my future self, for all I know, but I’m just putting it out here in writing that I hope not, and I really feel done this time.

And here we are. I’m 41 now, which explains why earlier I was tying my shoe before going for a walk and I somehow pulled something in my wrist and it hurts now. 200,000 Americans are dead, or close to that number, anyway. Nineteen years ago, 3000 people were killed and we (correctly) commemorate them every year on this date; movies are made about them, books are written, there’s a museum, photos are posted of the tragedy.

I can’t help but remember back to 2001 when as a country, people largely came together in a sense of solidarity, and now people will murder each other over wearing masks because personal comfort is more important than the greater good, and it’s all a hoax and there’s no such thing as the greater good anymore anyway.

I have to say, I was never really a huge fan of humanity as a whole to begin with, but the staggering selfishness of people when it comes to, I don’t know, just doing something nice, has really solidified my dislike. People: you are such a downer.

Anyway, to wrap this up, for it has certainly gone on long enough:

Sometimes when I write these, I have some thoughts about the year ahead, but 2020 has taught me not to bother with that sort of thing, so if we’re all still alive next year at this time, and not in the throes of pestilence and war4 I’ll let you know how I did.

I hope we all make it.

  1. Boy will this post be a disappointment in someone’s internet searches.
  2. Make sure you’re getting an annual mammogram!
  3. Michigan fun fact: we also have canyons.
  4. Worse than normal, that is.

One thought on “forty-one

  1. i had my first mammogram in august. and it was a breeze. i was super worried about my pacemaker having been warned about how bad it hurt when that got pulled, but the tech was okay about it. then because it was my first i had to get a follow up mammogram and ultrasound at the hospital and it was annoying because it’s a half hour there and a half hour back and i had to be in a place with people. but at least they were wearing masks. result? eh, there’s some masses but they’re probably fine and you have super dense breasts so we’ll see you in six months. i miss blogging.

    Like

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