A Year Ago This Week–Week Eleven

Continuing the weekly arguments that 2016 was not all bad, I’ve created a series of posts designed to exonerate the year. This is the eleventh installment in that series.

A year ago this week I fired my cardiologist. I knew the issues with my heart could not be chalked up to, “I think you’re having anxiety over what a normal heart rhythm feels like.” Four decades of the same heart rhythm and I can’t be trusted to determine that what I’m feeling is not normal for me? Oh yeah, that sounds reasonable. You know what else isn’t normal for me? Firing a medical professional. I’m the one who mandates without exception that anyone fortunate enough to be receiving medical care has a responsibility to be a good patient. My primary care physician’s eyes flew wide when I mentioned this once during a routine exam. She asked me to repeat it.

“I consider it my responsibility to be a good patient.”

Seriously, folks, I don’t take this stuff for granted — access to medical care and the luxury of being able to afford preventative care. Treatment is important, yes, but preventive care is right up there with manna from heaven. Lots of people (the majority of those people being women) in the world do not enjoy this privilege, including me and my siblings as children and those young adult years I couldn’t afford health insurance. I am so grateful to have it now that I am an absurdly good patient. I am a pathologically good patient. For me to fire a doctor there has to be something appallingly, deplorably wrong. In this case I was told the equivalent of “this is all in your head.” No. I politely but resolutely went out of network and out of pocket, paid for the tests deemed “a waste of time” and proved him appallingly, deplorably wrong. But while I was fussing and fuming over it I wrote with great sarcasm in my journal:

Photo Mar 11, 7 30 32 AM

My definition of good patient grew to include not submitting to a lazy non-diagnosis or the path of least resistance to the detriment of my physical and mental health. I did not compromise my principles in 2016. Or my sense of humor.

A year ago this week I listed in response to Danielle’s prompt to name behaviors that create feelings of opposition within:

Lack of sleep (this was likely the birth of Old Lady Bedtime)

Saying yes to feel included and then weaseling out of the obligation (this was likely the birth of my use of weasel as a conjugated verb)

Assuming I’ve been demerited because I’ve been open about struggle and failure (this was the rebirth of old fears that we lose credit and credibility when we dare to lose our shame — because shame is the only socially acceptable frame for struggle and failure)

I beat back shame in 2016. The nude selfies would commence the very next week.

A year ago this week I bought a swimsuit. I forced The Chef to participate, which means I convinced him to stand witness so I wouldn’t cop out and do it the hidey/fraidy way. I didn’t want to take the swimsuits into the dressing room, try them on in private, select one with the least horrifying reflection, furtively purchase it while fully clothed, and wear again in public only after being mostly concealed under a cute boho cover-up sarong.

I last bought and wore a swimsuit about ten years ago.  I still owned this particular suit. It didn’t/doesn’t really fit the same as it did ten years ago. I needed a new one. I knew going in I was not going to walk out of a dressing room wearing any suit and look like I did ten years ago. Nonetheless I decided I would walk out and model each new suit to be considered AS IF THERE IS NOTHING WRONG WITH THE WAY I LOOK NOW because there is, in fact, NOTHING WRONG WITH THE WAY I LOOK NOW. And by now I mean a year ago this week.

Out of the dressing room I marched in sock feet and each swimsuit, onto the sales floor in full view of the general public, sales staff, and security cameras, and modeled my dimpled ass off in half a dozen swimsuits. The Chef and I agreed that we could say we liked or disliked the suit but neither he nor I would say anything disparaging about my body. If the suit was not acceptable it would be the bathing suit’s failure to fit well AND NOT THE FAULT OF MY BODY. I did this in three different stores before I chose a swimsuit. The entire time I was auditioning suits I whispered words of affection and gratitude to my half-naked body. In 2016 I did not demand that my body look, feel, or function the way it did ten years ago. You’ll see the new suit next week (if you didn’t already see it a year ago.)

A year ago this week I was packing for my first-ever trip to Florida (or as Homer Simpson calls it, America’s Wang), buying a FitBit with a heart rate monitor so I could run with yet another electronic device, and posting 70 consecutive days of self-portraits.

I still had a lot of living left to do in 2016. And I meant to do it well. (Still do.)

To those who “just couldn’t wait” to get 2016 over and done because it was so awful and worthless and 2017 beckoned with such superior promise, I say up yours. It may not have been a banner year but it was not all bad.

— Mercy

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