brown eyes

I’m sitting at Paradiso getting ready to spend the afternoon reading, and an Aroma regular is sitting a couple of tables away reading the paper. He’s a slim middle-aged man in glasses – he usually wears jeans and a button-down shirt or sweatshirt and gets a small coffee and (sometimes) a brownie. He reminds me of my dad, and every time I see him I think “I wish my dad could come to Aroma in the evening and have coffee and a brownie and read the paper.”

I have a good relationship with both my parents. I have always been closer to my mom – we talk every couple of days. My dad was somewhat distant when I was younger, and we’ve never been close, but I find myself missing him more than I miss her. Maybe it’s a brown eye thing – my dad, his father, and I are the only brown eyed children in our generations. That’s always been our special bond – the two brown eyes in a family of four green/blue eyes. We’re a lot alike in many ways, and I’ve found this to be increasingly true as I’ve grown up and known him as an adult.

Every time I park on my street (an ongoing frustration), I am grateful for the hours he spent with me driving around our neighborhood, teaching me to parallel park. HOURS. When we were small, he would take us to the grocery store for the once-a-month stock up after he got paid, and he taught us to bag groceries. I think of this and am grateful every time I’m at Meijer and I find myself reorganizing the sacks in my cart. From his example I learned to work hard and to push myself harder than anyone else every could. I listened to NPR in the car with him on the way to high school, and my strange and dry sense of humor is his through and through. When I rode my bike here this afternoon, I wore a raincoat he and Mom made from a kit when he was in med school.

And these are the things I think of when I pour that cup of coffee and cut that brownie, and think, “I wish Pop were here.”

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hands down

It is totally, exceptionally beautiful out today, and I’m sitting on the back patio at Aroma in a tank top, skirt, and kneesocks. The high today is 71 – 71 in MARCH. Ridiculous – but I’m not going to complain.

This morning, following a week of great trepidation, I performed my first pelvic exam. I was lucky to have a very particular and detail-obsessed instructor walk me through everything, which was really helpful, and I impressed her by not cross-contaminating at any point in the exam (this sounds horrifying to any woman, I’m sure, but believe me, we’re WAY more careful than most).

We use a technique called ‘wet hand dry hand’ to make sure that at no point in the exam do either the woman or the room become contaminated with things from the other. In practice this is frequently called ‘clean hand dirty hand’, which is interesting to me. In class the other day we talked about how everything is political, even things like birth control, which are nominally empowering to women, but which still require a male-dominated industry to dole them out. The terminology of ‘clean hand dirty hand’ is problematic in the same respect – which do you think is the clean hand? The one that is touching the woman’s body in the most intimate and private places? Or the hand that is touching the equipment, the sheets, or the lights?

The ‘dirty’ hand is the one that touches the body.

As a woman, I don’t want to be told that my body is ‘dirty’. As an instructor (or, thinking as a doctor), I don’t want to be introducing anything ‘dirty’ into a woman’s body. ‘Wet hand dry hand’ is much more straight forward and apolitical – the ‘wet hand’ touches the woman (and NOTHING else), and the ‘dry hand’ touches the equipment. There is no cross-contamination, and no politics or offense.

I expressed earlier that I was intimidated and unsure about this program, but the more I think about it, the more empowering and important I believe it is. This is an opportunity for women to advocate for themselves, for their physical health, and for the appropriate, polite, and caring treatment of other women. This is a way to be an advocate and to celebrate our bodies as women that isn’t just raising a fist to the sky and celebrating our gynecology. I am proud to be a part of it.

not ready for prime time

This week marked the beginning of a new and interesting experience for me.

Along with a friend, I’m in training for a job with a variety of names – gynecological instructor, gyne model, “spreading your legs for science”, etc. I’m learning how to perform breast, pelvic, and rectal exams and will in April (and possibly other times throughout the year), be helping train second year medical students on all of the above.

I first heard about this program last year, when I went to the health center for my annual exam – because of my lack of discomfort with the whole procedure, the doctor mentioned this opportunity – mainly that it pays very very well, and that I should consider it. I’ve had a variety of concerns, misgivings, and nervous moments since then – and I’m sure I’ll have more before actually working with the students – but so far it has been a really interesting experience.

The other women in the program have been instructing for anywhere between 2-25 years, and over that time they’ve determined best practices, ways of making the students (as well as new instructors) feel at ease using humor and compassion, total strictness about non-contamination (the standards are way higher that I’ve observed in any clinic experience) – and at the same time have become this funny, interesting, compassionate, welcoming community of women spanning at least two generations and a whole panoply of life experiences.

I still have lots of butterflies in my stomach and am MORE THAN A LITTLE intimidated by the whole thing – I deffo needed ice cream and curling up on the couch last night after my first exam – but I’m really pretty pleased to be a part of this – and not just because it pays $50 per hour.

new goals

New goal: no spending money on coffee and/or going out to eat for one week, beginning this morning and ending next Friday, 10 March. This will be challenging because (1) I have things going on every night between now and next Thursday, (2) I’m in the habit of buying coffee every day, and (3) I don’t have much food at my house. This will be addressed by (1) going grocery shopping on Sunday, (2) redeeming free coffee cards (I have at least three stockpiled), and (3) planning meals.

Today is Unofficial St Pat’s, and good god, the undergrads have a gorgeous day for it. I haven’t the first clue how this tradition got so entrenched into student life here, but there are hundreds of drunk kids out on Daniel and Green Streets, and I’m somewhat dreading the ride home – but glad I have my bike and so don’t have to wait for the bus at Sixth and Green, within projectile vomiting distance of Murphy’s, Brothers, and Legends.

It seems like there’s a lot of peripheral stress these days, and I’m not sure what to do about that. I’m mainly just stressed about my seeming state of inertia – I need to be moving forward on projects on which I’m just doing – nothing. Things will sort themselves out. They always do. In the meantime I have sunshine, fresh air, and Gjetost cheese to keep me happy.