September 24, 2013

Being Marshall

For a very long time I knew there was more good in humanity than bad. Bad things didn't happen to those I knew, bad things happened to people far away from me, or at least far enough away from me. Plus, they were sporadic, random, and not normal. But for the last few years it's been a struggle to continue believing that. Lately, especially.

I want to believe (need to believe?) that it's not just possible for two people to make a relationship last, but for two people to want to be with just each other for the majority of their lives. That they aren't just staying for the sake of commitment, or for the kids, or because their religion forbids divorce, or because the woman is financially trapped. But because they're in love enough, or attracted to each other enough, or respect each other enough, or just like each other enough to want to stay together.

I've felt like Marshall from How I Met Your Mother, the only character who has always believes in true love and the goodness of others, and his beliefs often prevail at the end of the episode. I haven't always believed in true love, but I have always believed in the goodness of others. But I'm a lot more quiet about it, and I'm starting to think it's because I'm so frequently disappointed.

There comes a point where I need to be OK trusting myself. I need to be OK with knowing what it is I want, what I need to do to get it, what kind of person I am and what my priorities are. And I am. Those values get challenged, a lot, but I always arrive at the same place. 

It still sucks when people you know break up, though. A while back I wrote about being surprised that my generation was divorcing, as if we were smart enough to learn from other's mistakes. I've spent most of my life with the understanding that people stay together in unhappy marriages or divorce and end up bitter and angry (for at least a little while). But we also know that certain relationships won't end - until they do. Family members, friends, and acquaintances have believed with every inch of their skin that they were in relationships that would last forever. I never felt that. I was told, and then I assumed, and once I kind of hoped because it would be cute, but I never believed. 

It's terrifying to believe.

After watching relationship after relationship fall apart how can I believe I can be different? I can hope and wish all I want but the happy, wonderful marriages I know are distant acquaintances - I have no idea how their real lives are; they could break up tomorrow and I would only be able to say how happy they seemed on Instagram (except for one - but I don't see them that often). 

Believing your relationship is secure enough to last is a risk - it's dumb to think otherwise. But at the end of the day you just have to trust yourself and hope your partner is in the same boat. 

I think this is a little bit harder to do as a woman. If we say we're going to marry the person we're dating it gets assumed all we really want is to get married, not that this person is that special; we sound less certain than men saying the same words because he's not romantic or marriage-hungry or whatever it is women are.

I made myself a promise after watching my parents divorce that I wouldn't marry if I wasn't absolutely positive beyond a doubt that I would never go through what they did. But the best I can do is believe that I'm making the best decision I can make and be OK enough to take a risk. I've worried for a long time about being naive in thinking marriage is still a good idea when so many end up broken or unhappy, but the belief that it's possible is valuable to me. I would rather take a risk and believe that I know what I'm doing than be afraid I'm just being naive and not pursue something that has the potential to make me happy.

September 22, 2013

Two Weeks

 We get to do this all the time.

I wanted to write One Week, Three Years Later, or One Week Part 3, or One Week something to continue my One Week series (part 1 and part 2), but the parts that were thoroughly out of the ordinary happened over two weeks (well, if I'm being completely honest it's been more like a month, but I've already written about a lot of the things that have happened (like my apartment flooding and the decision to move in with the boyfriend). So I'm going to abandon my hopes for a trilogy and instead focus on these first two weeks of cohabitation. Because this is so not normal.

Yet it is. Easily the weirdest thing about living with the boyfriend is that it's not weird at all. When we first decided to find a place together, then signed the lease, the boyfriend sent me a middle-of-the-day text, sounding all cute and excited, reminding me that we were going to live together in a couple weeks. I said it was going to be weird. And I fully believed it would - neither of us have lived with a significant other before, we haven't had any relationship testing experiences such as a move for either of us, and we had no idea how the animals were going to take it.

The move itself sucked. When we first decided to live together we said the fall would be a good time to aim for, partially because moving in cooler weather was just way more preferable than moving in the heat of summer. But San Diego thinks that September and October are summer and we moved at the tail end of a crazy heat wave - it was definitely mid-80s on moving day and we and our amazing helpers were so goddamn miserable. It was hot, the furniture was heavy (most of it really wasn't that heavy), there were stairs, and we had to visit three different addresses. Fuck. That. But we didn't have a choice so we sucked it up and did it (one of our helpers definitely picking up my slack when I just couldn't handle the heat for a few minutes). I've always said I love moving - the looking for apartments, finding the right one, packing, heavy lifting, unpacking, all of it. I used to do it often enough that I should have loved it, but this was not fun. Don't move in September.

But the actual living together part has seemed pretty normal. We spent every night together (with maybe two exceptions) the last year, and for a few weeks we actually lived together at his place, with cat and dog, while my apartment was a disaster zone. So having our own place, a place that neither cat nor dog had lived in, and room enough for both our belongings is actually so far really easy. The cat and dog are being... cat and dog... but honestly they're adjusting to sharing the same space pretty quickly. It definitely helped that the cat is no longer living in the dog's home, and obviously the dog being the sweet non-confrontational creature he is makes things better, but they're sharing the bed and walking around the condo together without major issues (Chloe being a cat doesn't count as a major issue). 

We are settling into our weekday routines of dog walking, lunch making and cooking dinner, in between washing and putting away our endless collection of coffee mugs, pint glasses, plates and stemware (which is funny because I think we have 5 forks between us). Our place is right by a dog park so Argo gets to go several times a week. We're also by the big dog park that he knows, and he's gone there a couple times already. When my lazy ass starts running again it'll be nice to have a regular partner.

The boyfriend had the internet switched over on moving day so there was no lapse in coverage. We also discovered the basic cable package he was already paying for to watch football also comes with a bunch of channels, so we've been watching more regular TV the last two weeks, and by TV I mean we can watch Breaking Bad when it airs.

I also went through my colposcopy, giving moving in stress some medical company (it went OK).

For the most part we're settled. We're in need of a bookshelf and need to figure out what to do with our patio, but the important parts are set up and functional and the living room and kitchen have already been able to entertain friends. My deadline for being art-on-the-walls settled is end of October for our first out of town visitor, but Black Friday is going to be our fancy-pants TV and Blu Ray buying time. I have a feeling after that the boyfriend is going to want to do Super Bowl Sunday here, so maybe we'll have replaced our IKEA couches by then. But it's all exciting - this is the party of moving that's more relaxed. Having a few boxes of books not put away isn't hurting anything for the time being, so we can take it easy. In the mean time, we have painting and fixing up the boyfriend's condo to get it ready for tenants to take care of. 

September 16, 2013

Colposcopy: 15 Minutes With A Flashlight And A Scalpel

Should anyone looking for more information about what a colposcopy is and what it's like, I hope this can help. Regular readers: prepare to be educated.

After 8 years of perfect Pap smears, a month ago it came up abnormal. The doctor found a small lesion, which she called LG-SIL, or low-grade squamous intraepithelial lesion. She acted like it was no big deal, and more or less explained that women get Pap smears because cervical cancers often come with no symptoms, and tends to be discovered way later than it could have. As long as you have a history of normal Paps you get them every two years. An abnormal one means you get them every year, after whatever procedure is necessary to return it to normal. 

So today I went in to get a colposcopy (medical professionals call it a colpo - I guess they deal with a lot of -oscopies). As soon as my ID and insurance were verified, they sent me to the back for a urine sample for a mandatory preggo test (negative, yay!). I didn't even get back into the waiting room because the medical assistant was waiting to take me to the exam room. She sat me down, took my vitals, told me to undress from the waist down and gave me a sheet as a cover. Usually, you sit like that for, like, 10 minutes waiting for the doctor to come in, but no sooner had I sat back down than the doctor knocked and came in.

She explained again to me what was about to happen: there was a device to my left that looked like a cross between a microscope and a hydra that she was going to use to get a better look into my cervix. It would stay on the outside of my body, so the rest of the procedure would very likely go like a regular old Pap smear: speculum, gynecologist, and some swabs. Should she see anything abnormal she'd take a biopsy to send to the lab, otherwise she'd take a scraping just to be sure there wasn't anything the Pap missed.

I had a very strong feeling throughout the procedure that this was more of a liability issue, rather than a real medical concern. If I were to develop cancer and had a recent abnormal Pap that they ignored I'd have a case against them. Plus, Paps aren't perfect, and an abnormal result could indicate something more serious, so it really is better to be 100% sure it's nothing to worry about than assume it'll just go away on its own, even though it most likely will.

Since nothing really was going on inside my uterus there was no need for any anesthesia; the doctor explained even if she has to take a biopsy it will hurt more to administer the local anesthesia than the second or two it would take to get the sample. At first, everything felt a lot like getting a Pap smear - she found a smaller speculum to make it more comfortable (God, these doctors are amazing), I could feel the Q-tip as she cleaned and collected, and we chatted about my neighborhood and this restaurant that closed and how the owners of a beer shop down the street are reopening it, all while the medical assistant stood silent in the room. Then the doctor told me she didn't see anything abnormal, so she was just going to take a scraping.

She might actually have not used a scalpel... I couldn't see over the sheet what exactly was going on and didn't try to watch, but I sure as hell could feel everything and it felt like what I imagine a scalpel in your uterus feels like. Un-fucking-pleasant. She told me I would feel cramping, and seemed to hunker down to get this part over with as quickly as possible. I'm very lucky in that I rarely experience cramps, and the ones I do get are very mild. But this felt like the worst cramps ever. I kept trying to relax my legs and not tense up, pinching myself for distraction, but I ended up making some noise anyway. Any woman who has experienced bad cramps or a Pap smear will understand what that feels like, only times 10. Ouch. But it wasn't a searing pain and it was over as soon as she was done. 

As soon as she got the scraping she removed the speculum and told me I was free to sit up if I felt OK or I could stay laying down. The doctor housed her sample, cleaned up, asked if I had any questions, and was out. The whole thing took maybe 10 minutes. Crazy fast. I was allowed to dress, the medical assistant gave me a panty liner to protect against spotting, and I headed to the check-out desk for my paperwork.

Unfortunately, that's where it got a little scary. The medical assistant left her desk for a minute to retrieve the paperwork from the printer, and immediately I started to feel hot and lightheaded. This familiar wave rushed over me - the air in the room was gone, I was sweating, and I knew I was about to pass out. I held on to the counter and tried to focus on a word on the wall... but no one was around if I did pass out, so I found a chair in an exam room, sat down and fanned myself with a paper. The medical assistant found me after a few seconds and helped me to the exam bed to lay down, then went to get the doctor. When they came back they brought some water, a cold washcloth for my forehead, and the medical assistant took my vitals again, just to be sure. Apparently this happens - I guess messing around with your cervix has some other effects on the body. After a few minutes and normal vital signs I felt well enough to leave.

Things you should know about a colposcopy:
  • They'll give you a sheet of things to prepare yourself - no sex and no putting any creams or products in or near your vagina for three days before the procedure.
  • You probably want to take an aspirin or something before getting there in case you have cramps. I didn't and the pain was only during the procedure.
  • My insurance would have charged me $100-200 to have it done in a hospital, where the original appointment was made, which a super awesome nurse informed me of and let me change my appointment to a medical facility that wouldn't charge the fee. That being said, I still have no idea how much my insurance will charge me for this whole thing (but I'm glad I didn't need a biopsy!).
  • No sex and no tampons for three days after the colposcopy. 
  • There might be spotting and cramping (I didn't have any effects after). 
  • Wear cotton panties for breathability.
  • Results come back between 7-10 days, and you should expect a call from the doctor that performed the procedure.
I hope anyone reading this who is about to have a colposcopy or knows someone who is has found useful information here. This was the fastest medical procedure ever, and all in all not as bad as I was fearing. Also, anyone sexually active (under 30, I think) should get the Gardasil vaccine - protecting yourself and/or your partner(s) against 75% of viruses that cause cancer and warts is a crazy good idea.

EDIT: My results came back normal, as expected. Now I just need to schedule my follow-up PAP for one year from now to make sure everything is still all hunky-dory.

September 7, 2013

Living in Sin

In less than 10 hours I'll be picking up a U-Haul, filling two adult-who-has-lived-alone-apartments of stuff, and depositing it all in one place. After a year spending pretty much every night together, a year spending every night together, and a few weeks of can-the-cat-and-I-live-with-you-while-my-apartment-is-a-plumber's-nightmare, the boyfriend and I are moving in together. Officially.

The subject of moving in together came up around month 8 of our relationship (move in day, tomorrow, marks month 25). My roommate had just let it slip that he would eventually be moving in with her boyfriend (or was he fiancé by then?), not in San Diego. Being the ever eager apartment hunter I am, I was browsing craigslist one night when the boyfriend looked over my shoulder and said, "you know, you could just move in with me."

It wasn't a total shock. As far as having the major conversations went, we'd established that the future was real pretty much right away. But at less than a year of dating I could only imagine trying to explain that one to family. Plus, there were other reasons I didn't want to move in to his place, the main one being that when I lived with a boyfriend I wanted it to be a place we got together, that didn't previously belong to either of us. We spent the next year discussing this. The biggest hurdle was the boyfriend doesn't rent - he joint owns his place, so it wasn't going to be as simple as giving a 30-day notice and there were two others who had a say in things.

One day a few months ago we decided we've move in together in the fall, after wedding season is over for photographer boyfriend and the weather cools down a bit. Plus, it would be great to be looking after the new students were settled so we wouldn't have competition. But then my apartment exploded, and I pretty much moved myself and the cat in with the boyfriend and the dog, so we decided to start looking. I don't think either of us were expecting to find a place we loved so quickly, but we jumped on it. And tomorrow we get to call it home.

Unfortunately for us, the weather not only has not cooled down at all, it's hotter than ever. Our "relief" that the weather stations have been talking about is a measly 2-3 degrees, which is still in the 80s. Fortunately for us, since I've been pretty much living at his place for the last few weeks, the cat and dog are learning to co-exist. Chloe accidentally occupies a space close to Argo on occasion, but rather than immediately hissing and running away like she used to, she's been hanging out, if only for a few minutes. Chloe is a pro at moving and adjusts almost immediately to a new home, but this will be Argo's first move. Tomorrow will be an interesting day!