Fearing Fear Itself

December 20, 2017Life

This month, I faced two fears: the dreaded mammogram and potentially not having a car for the winter.

Truthfully, the mammogram itself didn’t scare me. I figured it would be an uncomfortable ten minutes and then I’d be done. What concerned me was the likelihood of getting a questionable reading that would later entail an ultrasound and biopsy, resulting in a scary diagnosis.

Although I am low-risk with no breast cancer in my family, I waited too long to have my first mammogram. Why? Inertia, fear, and no insurance (Pre-ACA). The more time I allowed to pass and kept putting off the mammo, the more fearful I became about the possibility of breast cancer.

With the urging of friends, family, and my GP, I made the appointment. All was good until I felt a soft, pea-sized lump in my right breast a week prior to the exam. I spent those seven days constantly reexamining myself. Sometimes I felt it and panicked. Other times it disappeared and I relaxed.

But something changed. This time, I didn’t want to put off the exam. I didn’t want to wait a week. I wanted to know now if I had a tumor and take care of it immediately. I didn’t care if that meant a lumpectomy, cutting off my entire breast, radiation, or chemo. I’d take anything that would get rid of the cells that could potentially kill me.

As it turns out I’m fine. What I felt was most likely a calcified milk node. My next mammogram is this time next year, and I don’t plan to put it off or fear it.

Unlike my breasts, the fear of not having a car this winter was forcing me to keep the Land Rover. Since August, I’ve been trying to set aside some money to make two major repairs, but extra cash came in spurts. I had a recent infusion of money and I thought that next month I would shell out $1,200 to get a U-joint and calipers. After those repairs, I’d have a vehicle that would be issue free. Ha! How I deluded myself.

The latest mechanical problem was a sticking clutch pedal. I called my mechanic and told him about this latest inconvenience. His response, “That’s gonna cost ya some big money. You really should get rid of it. You’ll keep on having problems with it all the time.” And that convinced me. I was done with Greg’s “Man Rover.” It had turned itself into a cancer and I wanted to be free of it. I found an auto salvage dealer to buy it and who will sell the parts. I didn’t get much, but I wanted that piece of costly junk to be gone. So now it’s back to hoofing it until I replace it with a newish vehicle.

No breast cancer and no more Frankensteined Land Rover. How do I feel? Relieved. I hated that car. When it ran well, I semi-convinced myself that I liked it, but I’ve come to the realization that like its former owner, it was manipulating me. “I’m paid for. You can use me to cart groceries around or take the dogs to the park. Think how handy I am when it’s raining or cold. For Pete’s sake, you’ll never own another Land Rover ever again!” Yeah, but you’ve cost more to repair than what was originally paid. Sorry, but I’m not paying for a new clutch. I don’t care about your so-called luxury status or name. Ta-ta.

So I end the year on a pretty good note. No more expensive vehicle to upkeep and repair, but also no more negative ju-ju that was attached to it. As for my breasts, I keep thinking back to that Seinfeld episode with Teri Hathcher: “They’re real and they’re fabulous.” But I’ll add this: “And healthy.”

Happy Holidays!

#NEVERSILENCEDAGAIN

December 6, 2017Life

TIME’s Person of the Year cover came out today. I’m guessing the Predator-in-Chief probably feels cheated that he didn’t make the cut. However, in an indirect way, Donald J. Trump opened that door to making the public aware of the crap men—both powerful and ordinary Joes—have been getting away with for decades.

I’ve lost count of how many times men have made rude remarks, ogled, groped, and tried to force themselves onto me. The first time I was eight years old. A man—a total stranger—exposed himself, masturbated and ejaculated in front of me.

Another time I felt something was off was when a friend of my parents would always greet me with a kiss on the hand and a cordial “How do you do, Miss Schiller.” It was creepy, but my mother said he was charming. Was it charming when he made inappropriate remarks and ogled me at fifteen and eighteen? My mother finally got the clue that wasn’t charm, but predatory behavior.

I’ve been groped at parties. One man shoved his tongue in my mouth. The guy I was dating thought it was funny. I’ve had men on the street whisper obscenities in my ear and touch me. And I’ve had boyfriends who refused to accept no for an answer.

Since I was eight years old, I thought it was my fault. I did something to provoke the bad behavior: for being pretty, for wearing something too revealing, for being too flirtatious or that I wouldn’t be believed for telling the truth.

Every single woman I’ve known has experienced a sexual indignity in one form or another. Not once, but countless of times. Is it surprising we’re angry, we’ve had enough, and we refuse to remain silent?

I don’t have one ounce of sympathy directed at the men who have been accused. Lost your job and the respect of your colleagues, friends, and family? Too bad, but it’s still not enough. Live with the fear and the humiliation and then you’ll have an idea of what it’s like receiving unwanted sexual attention and the shame that goes with it.

Congratulations to the Silence Breakers for their bravery and not keeping silent. Thank you TIME Magazine for making these brave women our Person of the Year.

We will never be silenced again.

Opening A Door to a New Reality

November 29, 2016Life

This post is about the events that occurred exactly a year ago. At the time of this writing—5:11 pm—I was absorbing the fact that my partner had died by the side of the road from a massive coronary. I had neighbors coming over to make sure I was fine; I had notified the family; and I spoke with my own family and close friends. Once the shock began to settle, I caught my breath and the inevitable question came up: “Now what?”

I was fortunate to have friends and family who helped me maneuver through those early months of “now what” moments. I managed to move forward, but this year I spent most of it regaining my bearings and in deep survival mode. That comes across a bit melodramatic, but I spent much of it on the mechanics of getting through each month and not fully focusing on what mattered to me.

I also spent time reconciling the reality that I lived with a master controller and manipulator—a classic narcissist.  I lost myself in a relationship that became physically and mentally unhealthy. Once I came to realize how I was made to believe I was borderline crazy or lacked common-sense, or that I was catastrophic failure because I couldn’t meet his expectations that’s when the fury and rage consumed me. I had allowed myself to be with someone who used every one of my insecurities for his gain.

His toxicity, and his own dissatisfaction with himself, poisoned me. I sensed if we continued in this manner, I wouldn’t survive. Was I suicidal? No, but I feared the stress would ultimately kill me. Now when I sense the anger at its boiling point, I remind myself there is light and goodness surrounding me. I saw it in those first few hours after his death, I saw it earlier this month among my friends in Salem, and I see it every morning when I’m greeted with a smile.

During our time together, I questioned whether his behavior towards me had been formed by past relationships. An ex-wife whom he accused of multiple extra-marital affairs had turned him into a man who was distrustful of women, but now I suspect that any type of male friendship was seen as a threat. In his perceived reality, he was no longer “the guy” and turned himself into a victim of infidelity; making him, once again, the center of attention.

I also questioned my affection for him during this year. Was it genuine or was it forced? Now I believe it was the latter. If I convinced myself I loved him and accepted him for who he was, maybe he would reciprocate in the same manner. However, his moments of affection were purely theatrical, showing me off at a gathering, and later, behind closed doors, dismissing me.

So now, a year after the fact, I’ve made a pact with myself: after spending a year analyzing him, me, us, going through the anger, the guilt, the rage and the exhaustion that followed each emotion, I can’t change what happened in the past. It’s done. It’s over. However, what I can change is my outlook. And in doing that, I am opening that door and letting go, so that I can live my life happily ever after in my new reality, under my own terms.