Me Me Me: Observations on Facebook Brags

According to many a study out there, most everyone on Facebook is a narcissist of one form or another. And if you’re a frequent Twitter user, it’s probably worse.

I don’t happen to believe that narcissism through social media is linked merely to those two outlets. There are social networks out there I’ve never even heard of. But if you can have followers and if you have enough ego, you can certainly whip up an unhealthy dose of overinflated self-importance.

Ice cream flavor “Facebook”: the “taste of time-wasting narcissism.”

I happen to love social media. That’s probably not a shocking admission. I mean, I have a blog with my name in it. (Perhaps that’s the ultimate form of narcissism?)

But here’s where I want to focus on one specific aspect of social media narcissism, and those are the Facebook Brags. I’ve been watching a lot of The Newsroom lately, so if I come across as if I’m doing a monologue from an Aaron Sorkin production, that would be why.

The whole point of Facebook is to share one’s accomplishments, milestones, the occasional selfie, some vacation photos, a snarky observation or two, and even cute stuff.  And if you’re into debate, there are plenty of conversation-starting articles, too. It’s what makes Facebook go ’round. Facebook takes the narcissism to the next level by advertising every single change and/or update we make: Likes, comments, profile photos, cover photos, job description, etc, as if it’s all equally important; so to that extent, it’s not entirely our fault.

Where self-involvement becomes untenable is the constant (over)sharing of things a person is doing that are “above” his or her friends’ experiences. When your Facebook statuses are all brag and no substance, it makes other people you’re friends with (or “friends” with) want to click Hide.

Recent studies suggest that passive participation, as in, not actively participating, on Facebook makes a person more unhappy. Another blogger went into a lot of depth analyzing the different kinds of updates one can post and their underlying motivations, the main ones being narcissism, attention craving, jealousy inducing, and “image crafting.” Particularly on the subject of blatant brags, s/he writes:

Let’s give you the benefit of the doubt and assume you’re just excited and need to brag to someone. Even if that’s the case, the only people it’s okay to brag to in life are your close friends, significant other, and family members—and that’s what email, texting, phone calls, and live talking are for. Your moment of self-satisfaction is profoundly annoying to people you’re not that close with, and they make up the vast majority of people who will be subjected to the status.

I won’t lie–in the nine years since I have been on Facebook, spanning from my early twenties to my early thirties, I’m guilty of having penned most, if not all, of the types of status messages that Wait But Why writes about. Twenty-somethings are absolutely more self-involved than most other age groups. However, as I’ve gotten older, matured, and reigned in my baser impulses, I now much more carefully choose what I decide to put out there; so much so, that I have found myself all the more sensitive to brag after brag after brag, particularly if it comes from one person.

When I’ve realized someone is a Braggart 4 Life, each status message earns an eye-roll and some kind of thought along the lines of, “We get it, you’re fabulous and we should all be grateful to be associated with you,” and I categorize that person as shallow/superficial and on the outskirts of friendship. I’ve unfriended people for less reason than being a braggart, but I could see this type of behavior driving much of the unfriending happening around Facebook.

My point here is not to make anyone feel badly about using Facebook. I check it all throughout the day, even if I’m not posting anything, just to see what my peeps are up to.

The point is that braggy, douchey status updates, if someone just HAS to write one, MUST also be balanced out with other types of posts. It’s kind of like Newton’s third law of motion (for every action, there is an equal and opposite reaction (ain’t that the truth)): for every hubris-soaked statement or photo you put out there, make the next two funny/snarky/sweet/banal. It’s that simple!

Otherwise, you’re going to find yourself without those who would share in your actual triumphs and joys. That’s a promise.

Breathes There the Man
Sir Walter Scott

Breathes there the man with soul so dead,
Who never to himself hath said,
“This is my own, my native land!”
Whose heart hath ne’er within him burn’d
As home his footsteps he hath turn’d
From wandering on a foreign strand?
If such there breathe, go, mark him well;
For him no Minstrel raptures swell;
High though his titles, proud his name,
Boundless his wealth as wish can claim;
Despite those titles, power, and pelf,
The wretch, concentred all in self,
Living, shall forfeit fair renown,
And, doubly dying, shall go down
To the vile dust from whence he sprung,
Unwept, unhonor’d, and unsung.

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Devil Teat

When last I mentioned my television/cable sitch, I was marveling over Jake Johnson’s ability to attract me with early 90s hair.

I had just had my beautiful DVR ripped from my bare hands (that might be overstating it a bit) and we were awash at proverbial sea with nothing but a Roku and a Blu-Ray player to entertain us. (If you do the math, it’s been about six weeks.)

The good news is, movies on Blu-Ray are still highly entertaining and satisfying to watch at home, especially if you have a decent stereo hookup. Still loving collecting movies and watching films in high def in the comfort and privacy of my own home.

no to hulu

“Hulu Plus is so gauche!”

The bad news is, despite trying super extra much to be won over by Netflix and Hulu Plus to fulfill our television needs, we simply were not. Watching Hulu Plus provoked quite the sourpuss reaction from both me and the dude.

We MIGHT have been able to eventually adjust to having to watch shows we wanted to see the next day and try to avoid any kind of buzz about them. But honestly, the biggest turnoff were all the ad jumps. They were more frequent than watching live television, despite the fact that you get to see how many more painful seconds you have to count down before you return to your show.

Oh but wait! They do TWO ninety second ads in a row each time.

Oh and also? The ads during each episode are ALWAYS THE SAME at every single advertising break. Hitting mute every three to four minutes is my idea of paradise not.

Moreover, we knew that the variety of shows we liked to watch weren’t all necessarily going to be available, which was a pretty big downer.

And while I don’t consider it a bad thing to turn off the tube and focus on other hobbies and activities, I basically stopped enjoying the TV experience altogether, as I actually missed being able to scroll through the channel guide to see what was on. Don’t get me wrong–I do love streaming a new TV show (hello, AWKWARD., my new friend)–but I discovered I also need the other half of television entertainment, as well. I need that haphazard stumble onto Legally Blonde playing on Sunday morning. I miss my standup comedy shows!

Last but certainly not least, watching live programs is not an option when you’re only contending with Netflix and Hulu Plus. Which of course is the whole point, because if you find something totally bitchen to stream, you get to compulsively watch a series or movie over and over if that is your choice. With Netflix, at least.

For Hulu Plus, we just couldn’t justify the cost, minimal though it may be. Regular Hulu is free, publishes tons of the most popular clips available, and you still suffer through the ads.

In the end, Netflix is staying, Hulu Plus was kicked out soundly on its ear, and we called the cable company to get a DVR box and our precious channels back post haste.

We really wanted to be the kind of couple who could stay away from supporting the villainous cable company. Truly, we did. In the end, we signed right back up for the Devil’s teat. It probably doesn’t make it sound any better to say that if we had our way, we’d choose DirecTV over a cable company, because essentially, they all operate similarly. But thems the facts.

I’m actually sleeping better at night knowing that when the fall lineup commences in a few weeks, our DVR will be at the ready.

Being wrong for supporting the devil cable company has never felt so right.

***

This post is dedicated to my sweet guy, whose birthday is today. Happy Birthday, darling!

So You Want to Be a Lawyer

It’s been four years since my dude Kevin decided he was going to pursue a law career. He made the decision for several reasons but mostly, he’s got the knack for it. His brain is just wired for all that analytical lawyerly thinking.

I have always thought he would make a terrific attorney and like any good woman who believes in her man, I stood right by him, clasped his hand, and said, “I’m with you all the way.”

I was all,

swanson

Because we were in our late twenties when we embarked on this journey together (think almost 30) and neither of us are trust fund babies, we knew it would mean a lot of hard work and sacrifice for a number of years.  But we believed the end would justify the means.

So, if you too, also, as well are thinking of going back to get a juris doctorate, get used to this phrase for the next few years of your life:

budget

Let’s start at the very beginning. You have to study for the LSATs, the exam that determines where you can go to school, which is actually kind of a Big Deal. Law schools come in “tiers” and whether your school is in a top tier will likely decide what kind of law career you have (ambulance chaser vs. corporate litigator vs. unemployed altogether).

The LSATs are comprised of bizarre types of questions, including “logic.” Kevin played lots of logic games over the summer of 2009. He read me a few sample test questions, and let’s just say…

muppet

It’s definitely a good thing it wasn’t me who was going to try my hand at law school.

After a summer of studying full-time for the LSATs (and there is a TON of pressure to try to reach that brass ring score of 170 and above), the exam happens. The first hurdle is over!

snoopy

After an agonizing wait, you get your LSAT score, which will elicit the below response, whether you’re relieved or upset at the score:

cry

Once you’ve digested your score, which will determine where you can actually try to get into school, come the law school applications.

bgc

Keep in mind, we’re only at the precursor to actually attending law school. All of this costs a lot of time and money, so prepare to batten down the hatches. It’s a longass ride.

After you’ve applied for your schools, most students join the online forums to banter and agonize over when they’re going to find out whether they’ve gotten in. There is a lot of comparison and speculation going on, especially those who brag about their super high LSAT score, or, they got a lower score, like a 160, and think they’re going to Northwestern.

really

At long last, applications are being reviewed, and acceptances start happening. Because Kevin applied at the height of the recession, when everyone else was running away to school to wait it out, the competition was so intense, that he even got waitlisted at a school that any other year he would have sailed right in. It was like,

tim

If you’re an above average potential law student, however, chances are you’ll get accepted to one of your top choices of schools, and life suddenly starts looking up.

cher

If you go to a good law school, you’ll be moving. Although moving is definitely its own level of hell, it’s worth it when you feel happy about all the potential your future holds. Still…

ugh

Fast forward to 1L year. You find out that there are actually reading assignments due before the first day of class on any given semester.

Hate

Additionally, the first semester of law school weeds out anyone who doesn’t have it in them to really make it.

The competition is even greater now, because you’re up against all the smartest kids in class from all around the country, concentrated into one class of two hundred something people. You don’t go anywhere without a lot of books and your laptop. And I mean, you don’t go anywhere without your laptop.

laptop

After you make it through your first semester, here comes your first set of finals! Here’s where you eat, sleep, and breathe at the law library for about two weeks straight, after you’ve already spent six weeks on “outlines” with your study group. Your entire grade is based on one final exam. You don’t get brownie points for homework. At some point, someone will turn to you and say,

mess

And social activities?

ru

After you’ve had an unpaid internship for your 1L summer, we get to the 2L school year, where you find out that law firms recruit for summer associates in OCTOBER.

bang

Kevin took some other people’s advice and crammed his 2L year full with more required classes and other such important things like Moot Court and an externship. And don’t forget the illustrious Law Review! There is an insane desire to stand out as the creme de la creme but it’s hard when everyone is super smart. Each weekend, I would watch him toddle off to the law library. Meanwhile, I acted very needy as I was feeling ignored.

cling

If you’re fortunate to snag a paying job for the 2L summer, you get a small taste of what it’s like to work in a law firm and even earn some lawyer money.

Nene

I remember that feeling of having the option to spend money a little frivolously.

spray

When the money goes away after a paying summer job, it is a sad time. You have to go back to doing things like selling plasma to make ends meet.

broke

By the time 3L year rolls around, you’re a “senior.” It’s old hat. Your approach to your finals may look something like this:

finals

At long last, you make it to graduation. It’s here! You’re a a proud graduate of law school!

I'm

But now it’s time to get down to srs bsns because the biggest hurdle is yet to come–that of studying for your state Bar exam. (Don’t forget about moving and/or finding money to sustain you for the Summer of Studying Hell, because if you thought taking the Bar might be economical, you would be way way wrong.)

You might have one to two weeks to move and relax between graduating and beginning your bar review of choice.

burnt

As you begin your Bar study, you’ll come to find that it doesn’t get any easier from the outset up until the actual exam. (Click here for a classic NSFW blog post regarding how it messes with your mind.)

Reading

Your friends and family (particularly your roommates or your significant other) may find you testy when you’re interrupted whilst taking a timed test…

what

…warranting this kind of reaction:

wiig

When you’re not studying, you can only think about two other things:

sundays

By the time you get to the last weekend before the actual exam, you’re feeling like this:

weep

You can’t imagine life after the Bar, even if you do have a job offer already. All you can think about are the words on your giant box of index cards, trying to put certain laws and lessons into mnemonic devices and acronyms that make sense only in a special kind of hell.

At long last, you make it to the testing center (with its absurdly strict rules that makes the TSA look friendly and relaxed). You endure each drudging day of the exam. (Some Bar exams are three days, which makes even me want to cry for those poor bastards.)

You may emerge feeling something like this:
eyes

When you’re done with the Bar, even if your future is tenuous and you’re unsure what the result is going to be, you can’t help but feel:

brit

I guess what I’m saying is really think about it before you put yourself through four years of unequaled stress, endurance tests, competitions with your fellow man, scavenger hunts for money (read: student loans!), and an unparalleled background check (“character and fitness test”). That’s all BEFORE you job hunt in a recovering economy that is seeing law firms, big and small, tighten their belts and hire fewer and fewer graduating law students.

Make sure you really want it, kids.

Special thanks to http://realitytvgifs.tumblr.com and http://whatshouldwecallme.tumblr.com for their amazing GIF contributions!

Tidal Wave of Silence

It happened.

It really…finally…happened.

Last weekend, Mr. and Mrs. S., of My Neighbors from Hell, officially moved out.

Gone. Poof. Moving truck came and went. And they haven’t spent a single night at the apartment since. Maintenance has been in to paint already, which can only mean they’re really, truly, utterly gone.

The blissful silence that has enveloped us from next door (in addition to the intoxicating absence of any third-hand cigarette (or otherwise kind of) smoke) has been a crushing tidal wave of relief.

The chains have come off. The doors to Shawshank have opened to reveal too bright light.

We bask in the glorious freedom!

Wheeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeee!

Handel’s Messiah. Not just for Christmas!

Bar Study Means Boredom

Allow me to set the mood by prefacing my whining post with this still from one of my most favorite movies, L.A. Story:

BBBAhhh, the stage is set.

It is Saturday night and I have been sitting at my computer for easily an hour or more. I honestly haven’t been keeping an eye on the clock. I gave up watching TV downstairs, since the Kevster is studying for the Bar exam and I grew tired of streaming inanity.

I’ve twirled in my chair; I’ve stared off into space; I’ve thought about how bored I am; I’ve thought about what a luxury it is to be bored; I’ve thought about how annoying it is that my right leg and foot have been tingling off and on every time I sit or lie down, rendering it impossible to laze around and do nothing; I’ve felt sorry for myself that I’ve been cooped up all day and now I’m bored and have nothing to do; I’ve thought about Stephen King, how he survived being hit by a car, picked himself up, struggled through excruciating pain during physical therapy, and he still manages to churn out lengthy novels; and I’ve thought about how normally I cherish being in my little nest on the weekends.

But something about this evening has me twitchy.

In between that last sentence and this one, I’ve browsed Amazon, Facebook, my email, completed most of a crossword puzzle, fiddled with my hair, read a quote by Geneen Roth (author of Women, Food, & God) to try and help me remember to embrace my life as it is now, I’ve thought about how cool it would be if there was a rollerskating rink JUST for adults that was open all night and played all my favorite kinds of music, and I even remembered to be grateful that at least as of this moment, Mr. and Mrs. S. aren’t blaring music like they were last night, which forced us to hole up in the guest room with a carpet picnic. We actually ended up streaming another Sebastian Maniscalco routine, so it wasn’t a bad time.

Part of me wants to go for a drive. But since the city I live in is on the petite side, I’d just end up going in a circle (well, a square) and it wouldn’t be as mindless as I would really prefer it to be.

I’m not what you would call a “drinker,” so going out is off the table, especially alone. Going to a movie might be fun but then I’d have to go by myself (see above with “Bar study” being at the top of Kevin’s To Do List until August 1) and I don’t really feel like being around lots of people, either. I know, I’m being all, FEEL SORRY FOR ME. Sheesh, someone get me to White Whine already.

What this town is missing is an all-night coffee house that has soft (live) jazz playing, a place where I can sit and sip, while interchangeably staring off into space and watching people.

About the only things I haven’t resorted to doing are baking and doing any kind of craft. It’s too warm out to bake and quite frankly, the nihilism has taken over my mind and body–I’m past the point of no return.

I’ve reached the stage of ennui where all I can actually do is complain about how bored I am.

Bored
Beyond
Belief!

Kevin and I have made it through four years of his prepping for and completing law school, and now we’re rounding out the journey with his studying for the Bar exam, which will happen at the end of July.

I know I’m not the one who has to cram all of this knowledge into my brain so I can pursue my dream career. My job is to be supportive and to stand by my man and even to help him study, if need be, while I sit idly by and figure out what the heck to do with myself, since studying doesn’t brake for weekends, no siree Bob.

When one person in a relationship has to study for the Bar for two months straight, the other person gets to spend all kinds of time with herself on her own, to the point where she’s bored doing her usual introverted activities. Even watching whatever I want on TV lost its appeal.

I need my fairy godmother to come along and fast forward time to August, when the studying and the exam are behind us and we can move on with our lives.

(Speaking of fairies, did you know there is something called “fairy gardening?” I just learned about it the other day. It’s a seriously for real thing. Google it!)

Look at that, I’ve managed to make it to 10 p.m. I’m going to see if I can’t go bore myself to sleep.

Bored-Cat

Moveaholic

When I lived in New York City, I moved at least once a year–if not twice a year–the entire time I was there (2005-2010). It sounds rather appalling for most people, since I believe it’s a universal opinion that moving sucks the worst of the worst.

It’s definitely a special challenge doing it in a crammed urban city of more than eight million people. Navigating a 14-foot moving truck all through the boroughs, including on the FDR, isn’t something I would readily wish on anyone.

The upside of all that self moving is that I got to experience a bunch of different neighborhoods. I lived in three different boroughs in five years. Out of the ones I lived in, the Upper East Side and Astoria (Queens) were my favorites. In another life where I remained a transplant New Yorker and had lots of expendable cash, I would totally live in the West Village or Greenwich Village.

Moving-SnoopyThe downside is that I and several of my friends were moving my things on an annual basis.

I suppose I should look at this objectively and think how awesome it is that I have friends who moved me more than once. My best friend moved me in and out of the apartment I shared with an ex for one year. It practically became a tradition that every Presidents’ Day, she’d trundle up to New York from DC, roll up her sleeves, and move my shit from Point A to Point B. I also had another set of friends that helped me move twice–what a gift!

I became expert at sending out moving announcements. (And let’s face it, I adored “getting” to do that, since I’m a card and stationery addict.) I also learned that there is a huge difference between movers who know how to pack your items safely and those who do not. I definitely lost a few things due to poorly stacked boxes in a truck.

Fast forward to present day. Some of you have read about our trials and tribulations in the former house we resided in when we moved from New York to Illinois. To save you time, let’s just say the house served its purpose and quickly lost any luster it held at one point.

We moved to an apartment complex where we have a townhome last July. We really agonized over that decision, because we loved having a backyard for our sweet dog and didn’t have to share any walls of any kind.

For the most part, our move was a smart idea. Where we live is in a quiet area, it’s safe, on a bus line, and we don’t have to worry about mowing the lawn or fixing things that break in the apartment.

Unfortunately, some kind of bad karma on my or Kevin’s part reared its ugly head and we have suffered with the worst neighbors me or Kevin has ever had in our lives. If it wasn’t their loud beagle, who had separation anxiety, barking and whining for hours on end when his owners were gone, the neighbors have thoroughly enjoyed testing the boundaries of human decency by blasting music, accompanied by whooping, hollering, and screaming epithets at us, all taking place throughout the work week and weekends, no matter what we, management, or the police say about the noise. (It should be noted that alcohol and cigarettes are the basis of their existence.)

The fantastic news is that they will be moving sometime in June or July, so this is short-lived (if you call twelve months short-lived).

Unfortunately, the anxiety of living next door to such gems has given rise to the moveaholic in me. I have gotten a serious itch to ditch and just get the hell out of here. It’s totally impractical and illogical, especially since these folks ARE moving. The chances of the next neighbors being this bad are about as great as my winning the next $500M Powerball lottery. I try to reassure myself with that.

But fighting my inner Cher-in-Mermaids is not an easy battle to endure.

mermaids film 2(Does anyone remember that movie, Mermaids? Seriously one of my all-time faves. Cher, Winona Ryder, and Christina Ricci are a small family unit who move at the whim of the mother, Cher, anytime anything makes her uncomfortable and she just bolts. Dreamy Michael Schoeffling plays the love interest, in case you need any further impetus to watch this movie.)

Naturally, in the wake of recent events with our special next door friends, I have already looked at homes for rent in our area, if for no other purpose than to soothe the runner in me who wants to flee this place and never look back.

Winning out this time are factors like knowing that this is short-term, this too shall pass, it completely doesn’t make financial sense to move right now, and quite honestly, there isn’t much of a selection of better options. The only way this situation would improve is if a bag of money fell from the sky and we could move into a home that we bought ourselves.

Barring that miracle, I am working in each moment to remind myself of the following:

Life will give you whatever experience is most helpful for the evolution of your consciousness. How do you know this is the experience you need? Because this is the experience you are having at the moment. – Eckhart Tolle, A New Earth: Awakening to Your Life’s Purpose

To that end, I hope to be an even more evolved person for having endured and triumphed through one of the more negative experiences we’ve had in the last three years, including winning out over my instinct to run when things get rough and uncomfortable.

I’ll tame this moveaholic yet.

When Gallbladders Attack

This post could alternatively be titled, “How I Spent My Summer Vacation at the Doctor.”

Hi, folks. Been a while.

I didn’t mean to take such a long hiatus from writing. It just sorta happened. You’d think that when life gets nuttier, I would run to the soothing salve of writing. Instead, I tend to bury my head in the sand. For any of you who have followed me for a long time, this probably isn’t news to you. I was on a really great streak for a while though, wasn’t I?

Okay, let’s get down to business. I’ll try to recap what’s happened since last summer and what has kept me away.

First and foremost, I started a new job, which took just about every ounce of energy I had for almost the entire year. Seriously. It wasn’t just ordinary stress of starting a new job, either. It was a doozy because the department I work in was going through a major transition. Myself and my colleague (who turned out to be awesome) just kind of grabbed on to each other for dear life and had a “make it work” moment à la Project Runway, except that it was twelve months of make-it-work moments. Things are much better now. Our office made it through the first year of transition and I am hoping the really rough stuff is behind us.

On top of that, Kevin and I finally left the house that tried to kill us. We moved into a great place and are very happy. Naturally, because it’s us, I have a story to tell about the adventures in the new place, but I’ll save it for later.

Adding insult to injury, our former landlords turned out to be giant pieces of crap in human form. The home’s condition probably should have tipped us off but we really didn’t know that we were dealing with legitimate scam artists. What I’m hoping happens, thanks to karma, is that they get back what they did to us and presumably countless others. They claimed we damaged their home to the point where they felt it necessary to hang on to our security deposit. They know it’s bullshit, we know it’s bullshit. But in the end, it would have cost way more time, money, and energy to prove we were in the right (which is exactly how they exploit their student tenants), and it ended up being more important just to get the hell out of there and never look back.

I’ll put it this way: the dog food in the oven was definitely not an accident and it was definitely in retribution for these people being truly awful. Even worse is that their daughter, who assists with their real estate business, is in on the whole scam. It’s like all three of them ripped off their human masks and underneath were writhing piles of rotting flesh. Graphic? Yes. Apt? Yes.

In general, 2012 ended up being a continuation of more bizarre health issues for me, as well. I’ll say this: being in my thirties has definitely given me a newfound appreciation for cell turnover rate in my twenties. By June, I was having some serious pain in my stomach, particularly when I would eat fattier foods. I don’t experience nausea very often–hardly ever–so when I started having nausea and dizziness (and confirmed that pregnancy was definitely not a plausible scenario) on top of a really full feeling in my stomach after eating, it got to the point where I went to an urgent care center on a Sunday.

The nurse practitioner ruled out appendicitis but ordered me to get an ultrasound after having an appointment scheduled with my primary care physician. Oh, that’s another thing–I finally got away from a really crappy doctor.

I was all over WebMD and Googling all my symptoms until I could figure out what could POSSIBLY be wrong with me. On the way home from the urgent care center, I came across some symptoms of a problem that mirrored exactly what I was going through: those of having a gallbladder attack. I had pretty much every single symptom on the list and it explained a lot, including having inexplicable pain on my upper right abdomen.

When I talked to my doctor later in the week and told her I was strongly suspicious I had been having gallbladder attacks, she dismissed this hypothesis of mine but ordered me to get an ultrasound, anyway. (She was a real winner.) The ultrasound was a really non-traumatic albeit expensive experience, which ended up not showing much. I didn’t have gallstones but my gallbladder was also not functioning, either. They give you this shot of stuff to stimulate your gallbladder and then monitor how it works while you’re in the ultrasound.

My doctor was smart enough to send me to a surgeon to talk to me about my gallbladder issues, however. Long story short, the surgery was scheduled in August and I had it taken out through the magic of laparoscopy. It’s hard to describe the pain when your gallbladder is giving you the finger and refuses to work, but essentially, if you aren’t properly digesting fats in your diet, your whole digestive system just like, shuts the hell down. So my little gallbladder had become inflamed and was throwing a shit fit and needed to be removed altogether. I am in the rare percentage of people, around 5%, who have their gallbladders removed without having any gallstones. Makes me feel special, all right.

I had never had major surgery before and the whole notion of having something I was born with, a formerly functioning ORGAN just totally removed, really scared the bejeezus out of me. Kevin was a trooper and waited until after everything went smoothly to tell me he had been terrified, too. I was glad I didn’t know at the time. Being wheeled on a gurney into this cold, sterile room filled with trays, bright lights, and stainless steel utensils that you just know are going to be inside of you had me tearing up something fierce. I was and am so incredibly grateful that everything went routinely and I was just another successful gallbladder removal case. The surgeon had a sense of humor and was from New York. Somehow that was comforting to me as a scared patient.

After I got the little bugger removed and I was finally on the mend, I thought I would magically bounce back to some supreme state of being. 2012 laughed and said, “Oh, Zoe. You’re cute to think so.”

I had been experiencing all kinds of whack things that I just attributed to having a faulty gallbladder: acid reflux, tinnitus, incredible fatigue, and on and on. As life would have it, all of those things continued. Not one of them changed.

Fast forward a few more months and I finally do more research and plan to go back to get more lab work done; this time with a different clinic system. Evidently my iron levels have been in the toilet for quite some time and when that happens, it sends your entire functioning-as-a-human-being thing out the window. Extremely low iron levels can not only mimic hypothyroidism, which I thought I had, but can cause a whole slew of symptoms as I was experiencing, including but not limited to digestive problems and inflammation of organs, causing them to crash and burn.

Ding!

There is always the chance that I was always going to have my gallbladder out because all of my mother’s siblings have theirs out. So, shittygallbladderitis runs in the family. But since I’ve been my own medical researcher for a few years now and I’m still making a comeback with my health, I’d venture a quasi educated guess and say my low iron levels are the culprit of my chronic ailments.

The upshot is I was not only able to switch to a primary care physician who treated me like a human being and is a nice person to talk to, but my lab results confirmed that indeed I need to consume lots and lots and LOTS of iron to get my levels back to where they need to. As I’ve been taking my iron supplements diligently and consuming lots of delicious red meat and spinach, I’ve noticed a reduction in some of the symptoms that have plagued me for a while. By no means am I out of the woods but at least there appears to be a proverbial trail of bread crumbs for me to follow.

While it’s scary as all getout to go to the doctor, even and especially when you know something is really, really wrong, as I did, it is so much better to figure out what the heck is going on and get it taken care of. It also made me a hundred times more thankful for the healthcare plan my employer provides, because I had been without a healthcare plan since I left New York City. Having consults and labwork and endless blood drawn and a surgery still cost me a lot of money we didn’t have immediately on hand (thank you, Discover Card), but looking back from the privileged standpoint of hindsight gives me reassurance that I absolutely did the right thing by paying attention to what my gut was literally telling me.

2013 has already been a better year on the health spectrum than the last two years combined. I am hopeful the streak will continue but I have come to realize how much my health lies in my own hands. It is all about the daily self care, even down to something seemingly simple like taking iron and vitamin supplements to make sure my cells are functioning properly, which then means I can hold down a job, pursue hobbies, and walk around and do stuff like spending time with friends and family. You know, little things like that.

Last but not least, I want this to be the rebirth of getting back to mental and spiritual side pursuits, as well–like writing!

For now, je suis revenue.

Until next time, friends.

Triumph of the House

The last time I wrote on the subject of the home I’m living in, we had just discovered something bizarre (and gross) in the oven.

Prior to that, I lamented quite a bit on the struggles of living here due to the home’s age and lack of upkeep on the landlords’ part. I also ascribed to the house a somewhat sinister personality, as if it were taking a page out of a Stephen King novel.

I really wish that were the end of the shenanigans. Since my last update, we discovered we had a mouse in the kitchen (January 1, in fact). He’d created a “nest” at the bottom of our trash can. We have a “fancy” trash can that has a separate inner liner than the outside of the can where the pedal is. The mouse had figured out a way to get in through an infinitesimally small vent hole on the underside of the trash bin and began chewing larger holes on our inner liner.

We laid some poison traps and the little guy liquified shortly after that at the bottom of the can. I really wish I could talk sense to mice instead of having to kill them outright but it’s just not how it works. A month or two later, we discovered another invader had found his way in but he liked to crawl around on our kitchen counters. A fast-acting mouse trap did the trick then, and ever since, we have been blissfully mouse free.

Oh but I’m not done yet.

A couple of months ago as I came home from work, I had another lovely surprise awaiting me. As I crossed the threshold of the front door, an eight-inch green garter snake fell from the door jamb above me and fell onto my neck and shoulder before falling to the floor. I promptly proceeded to scream bloody murder. Thankfully, Kevin was already home and was just in the kitchen, so he came running. He managed to grab the snake by its tail and throw it out into the front yard. Why was there a snake in the door jamb? Why, indeed. It’s just this house. It’s “quirky” like that. It’s not because it wants us gone or anything.

As you can imagine, between the recent rodents, the snake(s), the bugs, our strange landlords, and the fact that we can barely keep from getting hypothermia in the winter, we put up our white flag.

White flag

Courtesy of gct_ch on Flickr.

You win, house. I just don’t have it in me to battle this shit for another year, particularly in the winter.

By the end of January, we’d made up our minds that we’d be signing a new lease elsewhere, vacating sometime in July. Due to the competitive nature of rental homes in our area because of the influx of students and professors, we started immediately. Turns out tons of people prefer to have a relatively spacious place to live with multiple bathrooms, a great location, a driveway and/or a garage, updated appliances, and a decent landlord who allows dogs.

If we really wanted to get everything on our wishlist, we were going to have to compromise in rent. By a LOT.

After being let down with a few properties and at least one landlord, we incorporated apartment complexes back into our housing search and to make a long story short, we eventually found a townhouse apartment at a place that was reputed to have great service and actually maintained the premises. The entire experience of working with them is how things should go with a prospective landlord.

So our little housing fairy tale has a happy ending, after all.

We’re counting down the weeks until we move. Even Kevin is thrilled and moving is his number one most hated activity. We also successfully endured our landlords showing the place to potential renters for five weeks, which is a separate story unto itself. A set of new people rented the house by some grace of God. I wish I could leave them a note of how best to handle winters and everything else here but I know it’s not my place to do so.

The house may have gotten the best of us but I couldn’t be happier about surrendering.

SEE YA!