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Let’s get real

Reality is something I’m normally good at: I’m brash, bold and am often told that I could use a mouth filter, which I’m almost positive is code for duct tape. But when it comes to boyfriends, reality and honesty is a little bit harder for me.

Earlier this week Mr. Unexpected and I were hanging out and he did something that put me off; when he asked why I was acting weird I shrugged and told him to leave it alone. Leaving things alone is not his forte. He’s a fan of honesty and if he wanted someone for emotionless sex he’d get a booty call, so ignoring issues and not talking about the hard stuff doesn’t count as an option any more.

Everyone has things in their past that they don’t like talking about, things that we put away in a box that we never look at. But boxes are imperfect structures and sometimes the bad things leak out at inopportune moments and we have to deal. For me the dealing part has never been that difficult, but sharing all the parts of me, even the less-than-pretty parts, is really difficult.

When we first talked about making our relationship official Mr. Unexpected wasn’t sure that I was ready for a relationship, and to be honest neither was I. Now that I’m in it I’d hate to lose him, but how do I share all the parts of me without being a self-conscious mess?

I don’t think there’s an easy answer. It’s one step at a time. I started with my slightly crazy alarm clock neurosis (I can only set my alarm clock to an interval of 3), then I talked about the exes and finally I got to my family and that is where things got tough and my desire to hide under the covers and only share the shiny parts of myself kicked in.

One of my favourite things about Mr. Unexpected is that I’m not allowed to hide, I’m not allowed to only share the superficial bits and he has no problem telling me that.

Maybe what I’ve been looking for all these years isn’t just a manfriend or the perfect bed buddy; maybe what I’ve been looking for is someone who isn’t afraid of me, someone who doesn’t take my shit, someone who doesn’t let me hide or evade questions. Maybe what I needed is someone as opinionated and strong as I am.

It’s really nice to have someone who tells me to cut it out and be real; it’s kind of amazing that he won’t put up with the number of evasion tactics I’ve come up with over the years.

It’s about damn time I had a man that won’t let me walk all over him and won’t try and walk all over me. It’s about time I had someone who refuses to let me hide behind my emotional make-up.

If I didn’t think it would give him an even bigger ego I’d thank him for always making me talk things out.

 

My hysterectomy story — Part 4 in a 4 part blog series

I spent one week in a fog of depression. If anyone else has been through it, you’ll know that being alone after surgery can be defeating.

I had been venting to my ex, who had patiently listened to me whine about feeling alone and wondering why my friends didn’t dote on me as I had expected. There were no cards, no offerings of soup and not even cheap flowers from the corner store. Weren’t people supposed to bring you something when you are sick, I asked.

His answer was simple. “You’re not doing yourself any favours by thinking this. Just be glad that they visited.”

At first I was a little annoyed. Visiting was routine. We went out for lunch on a regular day. How could that make me feel special?

But as the words absorbed in my mind, their strength resonated.  Was I building up disappointment in my own mind?

I had truly expected to be pampered while I was sick. I was looking for acknowledgement that yes, I had lost a part of my body that is the key to all life. Wasn’t I supposed to expect attention?

But then I realized something – I don’t need attention. I never have.

I was losing sight of who I was – the strong, independent woman who relies on no one, but who is strong enough to lend a hand when others need support. And now I had allowed myself to become weak. A victim of a simple procedure that rendered me healthier and yet I was crying about a host of unmet expectations, built by myself. I was drifting through unhappiness created by me.

Suddenly, the fog lifted and I could see myself again. Was I still disappointed? Yes, I will always feel a little twang of sadness when I look back on this situation. A sappy card would have given me that little bit of bliss that I needed.

So now I know better. When someone is ill, or in a state of recovery,  I will show up with a token of thought on my way to visit. Because I have always chosen to live by these words: always treat others the way you want to be treated, even if they don’t.

I’m better now. Still strong and still independent. But wiser.

 

My hysterectomy story

Part 1 | Part 2 | Part 3 | Part 4

Three little words

I’ve wanted to say those three little words for months. I’ve felt them for as long as we’ve been together and last week after a lot of waiting I said them: I told Boyfriend that I love him. Actually what I said was, “Because I love you, you big jerk.” A little romcom cliché but it’s what I said.

After an evening of TIFFing I called Boyfriend to talk and as we talked I got more and more upset. Not saying how I was feeling was driving me insane. I was afraid and I didn’t know how to do it. The last time I told someone I loved them it was the Big Ex and he didn’t say it back. If Boyfriend didn’t say it back it would break me and I knew that I wouldn’t be able to stay with someone whom I loved if they didn’t love me back, that’s not something I’m willing to do again.

So I said it without knowing what he’d say back, hopeful and terrified all at once. And you know what? He said it back. He said, “I love you too, Shannon Hunter.” It was as if someone lifted a weight off my shoulders and breathed air into my lungs all at once. No more guessing games. I don’t know if I waited too long or if I just waited as long as I needed but saying it felt more right than anything I’ve ever said before—except when I told my mum that I would rather stay home on Saturdays and watch Ninja Turtles than go to ballet… that was probably equally right.

When I was little we used to play he loves me, he loves me not with flowers and as I waited for him to either say it back or break my heart I could see the petals falling in my mind. The last one would determine everything that came next.

So for the first time in five years I know I’m with someone who loves me, I know I’m with someone who will always be there for me and I know that I have a chance at the future I want. I’m happy when I’m single, I’ve never been the type who needs a boyfriend to feel whole, but when I’m with someone that I really care about I do turn into a bit of a girl. I imagine living together, I imagine walking a puppy that we picked out together, I imagine falling asleep and waking up to the same person every day. Life with someone you love doesn’t have to be boring, I want puppies not babies, I want adventures not a wedding, but more than anything I want someone who I know loves me the same way that I love them.

Maybe it took a little longer than I thought it would but a week before our anniversary I know that I am loved. No more guessing games, he loves me he really loves me.

My hysterectomy story — Part 3 in a 4 part blog series

I’m a fast healer. Two days after having a laparoscopic partial hysterectomy, I was driving. Walking was possible but I tired easily and I could only walk very slowly.

I had no pain to speak of. I took a prescribed anti-inflammatory but no pain killers. I had some cramping in my stomach and the tiny cuts were a little sore, but I was not in pain.

Four days after the procedure, I went shopping. I bought shoes and two belts that went around my slim waist and hips wonderfully. I felt great.

But I cried a lot. I was lonely. I had lots of well wishes before the surgery. Lots of emails and calls and offers to help if I needed help. And really, these emails and offers got me through the actual procedure so they were not in vain.

After the surgery, I waited. But truthfully, people are busy. Their lives go on and although the offers are given with sincerity, the actions don’t always follow suit.

I longed for a gaggle of girlfriends to come over on their own accord, make me tea and talk about the loss of my uterus. I wanted chat about what I was feeling and have some much needed girl bonding time.  But I suppose having a group of girlfriends show up with Entenmann’s lemon strudel  is simply just part of a script from an old Sex and The City episode and not reality.

I received text messages, and a couple of phone calls with more offers. But I wasn’t sure how I could really call someone and say, “Can you visit me today?”

Few visits eventually came, some sadly with a feeling of obligation in the air….and I played the good hostess. The cancellations were difficult. It made me realize that sometimes it’s better not to tell anyone in advance, so when they don’t make an effort, it’s because they didn’t know. And there are no let-downs.

Ironically, my ex came through for me.  It was a surprise since we hadn’t talked in a while, but he remembered the surgery. He offered the help and he visited, helped me, and fed me.

Tylenol 3 can help with the physical pain. Naproxen, which I actually took, helped with the physical inflammation. A smile from someone who makes you a cup of tea and sits with you while you are at your most vulnerable is the medicine that strengthens your heart…and once the main part of your body is strong, the rest can heal.

My theory is that my body heals itself quickly out of necessity. It knows that I’m an independent person who must rely on herself, so it supports me in that way.  Fast tracks my recovery so I can get up and start living again. And in many ways, this is good.

My ex, well, that was a bonus. Who knew? Why he’s my ex, you ask. Well that’s a story for another day.

 

My hysterectomy story

Part 1 | Part 2 | Part 3 | Part 4

My hysterectomy story — Part 2 in a 4 part blog series

Surgery was a success. Dr. Grace Liu performed a laparoscopic partial hysterectomy at Sunnybrook last Tuesday.

I remember being in the operating room and Dr. Liu chatting with me as she held something over my mouth and nose. Then I vaguely remember waking up and asking, “Did she do it laparoscopically?” and touching my belly. The answer given from who I suspect was a nurse, was “Yes.”

The next memory was of being in bed with a nurse asking me a ton of questions and I finally got annoyed and gave up answering. I remember thinking, Why is she asking me so many questions? I can’t even speak…

Five residents came to visit me and asked me the same question asked by the nurses who looked after me for the 30 hours I was in the hospital. “How is your pain?” I was confused. “I have no pain,” I kept answering.

Truthfully, there was no pain. Discomfort in my stomach area when I moved and some cramping, but nothing I would call pain. Perhaps the years of dealing with extreme cramps that would be considered pain to the average person without my condition had made me immune.

When Dr. Liu came to see me the day after surgery, she looked stunned. “Look at you!” she said. “You have colour in your face!”

I thanked her and she shrugged it off. And I thought to myself – such a skilled surgeon who took out an enormous growth of fibroids from my uterus without having to cut me open. It was a procedure I was told was impossible from other medical sources. Her modesty and wonderful bedside manner made the entire experience almost welcoming – as much as surgery can be.

My recovery was not about physical pain but emotional pain. That’s my next blog.

 

My hysterectomy story

Part 1 | Part 2 | Part 3 | Part 4

 

My hysterectomy story — Part 1 in a 4 part blog series

It’s been a while since I posted. I spent a year and a half working on myself and my career and then I was in a place where I could make a long awaited decision. I have decided to have a partial hysterectomy.

I’m blogging about it because it’s a women’s issue and I wanted to share my experiences with other women who may be in a similar situation.

Fifteen years ago, irregular periods, hot flashes (yes, at 30!) and unbearable cramps led me to a specialist where it was determined that I had fibroids. They’re common, I was told. Just leave them alone and if they grow too large, then I’d eventually have to remove the uterus.

I was young and decided I could live with the symptoms because I wanted to keep the chance of having a child.

But the years passed, and the fibroids grew. I dreaded the week every month. The cramps lessened but the flow increased and for three of the days, I was incoherent. I was exhausted and even the simplest tasks took longer than usual. Last year, I knew it was time to make the decision.

Although I don’t have children and after next week, the option to give birth will be gone forever, I haven’t given up the privilege of becoming a mother.

All of my lives I have believed that being a mother to a child doesn’t necessarily mean giving birth. It means loving and caring and mentoring, helping one to grow. There are many children without a home in this world, and if I’m meant to be a mother, I will adopt.

So next week, I will be in the hands of a skilled surgeon who specializes in non-evasive operations. She will go into my uterus through three tiny incisions in my abdomen where a morcellator will dice up the fibroids so they can be removed through the incisions. There is a 30% chance that this procedure may not work, and only then will she opt for a bikini cut.

Am I scared? Yes.

In about nine days I may be able to blog again and let you know how it goes.

Keep reading….

 

 

My hysterectomy story

Part 1 | Part 2 | Part 3 | Part 4

Serenity now

This past week has been one of the hardest Boyfriend and I have ever had. On Sunday we were having dinner and joking around, ready to watch the third episode of Breaking Bad, everything was good and then the phone rang. Boyfriend’s grandfather had taken a turn for the worse and he had to leave for the hospital right away.

We’ve spent the past week communicating through Facebook, text and the occasional phone call. Unsure of what to say or do I tried to be the bright spot in all the badness. I cracked jokes, sent pictures of puppies and GIFs of playful corgis because that’s what he needed. Inside, however, I was dying. He was in so much pain and all I could do was send memes to make him feel better? I felt weak and powerless.

I know everyone grieves in their own way but it hurt me that I couldn’t be there for him, physically. He didn’t want me at the hospital and yesterday after his grandfather finally peacefully slipped away he told me he didn’t want me at the funeral. I want so badly to be there for him and planning to bring him ice cream and pizza after a funeral feels like something a roommate would do, not a girlfriend. He says that he doesn’t want the rest of his family to meet me at a funeral, he wants me to meet them when they are smiling and acting goofy, but I can’t stop this helpless feeling. Shouldn’t I be there to hold his hand? Isn’t that what having a partner is all about? A partner is supposed to be someone who is there to hold you in the cold, in the dark and when you feel like the world is falling apart.

I know it’s selfish to question his grieving process, I know it’s irrational and he needs me to be there for him in the way that works for him, but I hate feeling useless. I’m a fixer, it’s what I do and I want to fix this situation however impossible that sounds.

I know that we’ll get through this, I know that the bad is almost over and even if it isn’t, bad is part of life and I didn’t sign up for a fair weather relationship; I’m here for the long haul.

I just don’t understand why he doesn’t want me there. If I lost a family member or a friend I don’t know that I could do it without him, I would need him by my side. The fact that he doesn’t need me now breaks my heart.

I’m trying to put my hurt feelings aside and just be there for him in the way that he wants and needs but it’s a lot more difficult than it sounds. So I’m choosing to focus on the future. I’m choosing to plan our anniversary, trips out of the city and a visit to my family, which hopefully will help me shake this nagging feeling that we might be coming to an end.

 

 

It’s getting old

Aches and pains. People get them. I train an older demographic: ladies of “a certain age,” as I like to say. When first starting out in the gym, I often hear things like, “Well, I have back pain. But that’s to be expected. It’s just old age.” Is it?

Many seem to think that putting up with a growing assortment of aches and pains is part and parcel of getting older. But other cultures throughout the world demonstrate better aging than in North America. (I’m thinking of Japanese centenarians who can still pop a squat, for example.) I won’t presume that these folks feel just as sprightly as they ever did but it’s fair to say that they feel good enough to keep (surprisingly) active.

There are a couple of problems with using “getting older” to account for feeling crummy. The first is that it can obscure the real reason why people feel that way. If I’ve got one bad hip, let’s say, then why doesn’t the other one feel just as bad? If it’s all about aging then both hips should have gone bust because they’ve got the same number of miles on them. It’s quite possible that there’s a specific mechanical issue that can be addressed with proper exercise (and as a matter of fact, a good trainer *ahem* should make it her business to look out for those issues).

The second problem I see is that this kind of thinking winds up stopping older folks from doing stuff that will keep them healthy and well. If you think “getting older” is the only explanation for your aches and pains then you’re much less inclined to do anything about it. You do less. And the less you do, the less you can do. I’m not suggesting that age isn’t a factor in how our bodies feel and function but I do think that using it as a catch-all is getting old. (See what I did there?)

Life’s Lessons from a Septuagenarian

It is often at the dusk of our life that we seem to value the life we had and live. I turned to the elderly to sail through seemingly tough times. Here is what I have learned so far…

 

1. Trust only a person’s actions, not their words. Much can be promised; little of it gets done.

 

2. Surround yourself with people who will either help you grow as an individual or who keep you happy. You are better off alone than with false friends.

 

3. Always have a plan. Time passes swiftly and one day you will not realize when you turned 60. Set New Year resolutions; you may not follow them but you will at least know where you want to be.

 

4. Be happy or learn to be happy. Create your pockets of happy moments, like adventurous travels, risqué affairs, insurmountable challenges, etc. These will be the memories you will return to when in distress.

 

5. Don’t fight to change people or things. Change your perspective and everything around you will change itself. If there are people bothering you, discard them from your life and stay out of theirs.

 

6. Gain control over anger and emotions. Maintain silence and refrain from making any decisions when too excited, depressed or upset.

 

7. Do not envy or compare yourself with anyone else. Know that everyone has their own set of miseries to deal with.

 

8. Be good to your spouse, friends and children. Your treatment of them will decide how your old age is going to be.

 

9. Learn your finances well. Money has more value than everyone else advocates. Use it wisely.

 

10. Remember to never lose faith and instill ample patience. Everything has a way of working out in the end.

Things get worse before they get better

I’ve heard that things always get worse before they get better, but really? Just when things were starting to get better we found out that Boyfriend and I both have close family members who have been diagnosed with cancer. You’d think that after all we’ve been through the universe would give us a break, but as it turns out that isn’t in the cards yet.

So we hold each other, we love each other and we try to support our families as they deal with what comes next. But despite all the pain this summer has brought with it Boyfriend still manages to make me smile, he still manages to make time for me and he still makes me laugh in that totally embarrassing out loud knee slapping kind of way.

I wouldn’t have made it through the summer of 2013 without him; I couldn’t have picked a better partner to stand by my side and I only hope that I give the same thing to him. If I can give him half the strength he gives me we’ll be in a good place because he needs me now and I want to be the one to support him.

I know that we’ll make it through all of this drama a better couple; we’ll make it through stronger and more together than we’ve ever been. But you get to a point where you start to wonder how much more you have to deal with before life gets easy again. At least I wondered that before I remembered that life isn’t easy and that the ‘easy’ relationships I’ve been have never been good; easy isn’t good it’s just easy.

Being with Boyfriend isn’t hard, but life is. When you’re really with someone, I mean committed we’re in this for the long haul with someone, you will inevitably deal with drama, heartache and loss, but you’ll deal with it beside someone you love and that is what makes the bad nights tolerable. I’d really like it if we had a couple of weeks where all we got was good news but life doesn’t often work like that.

Even if things do continue to get worse I’m going to focus on the positive. In the words of a great friend, I’m going to choose love, because I do love him and no matter how hard things are for either of us we make each other better, happier, more sunshine-y people.

I chose Boyfriend almost a year ago. I chose to let go of my fears and commit myself to someone who was worth committing to and I’m lucky that I did because without him this summer would have been nearly impossible to get through. So life, give me whatever you’ve got because I’m walking through life hand-in-hand with my favourite person, because I’m strong and he makes me stronger but mostly because when you choose love you can do anything.