Good News on a Rough Day

Hello! And welcome to another riveting edition of Carla’s Got Words. Today I’m going to be telling you some big news, sharing my feelings about a few things, and probably making a list or two. First––the big news:

I’m moving to upstate New York. With my husband Adam of course. In fact, he’s the reason we’re going––he got a job at Cornell. The Cornell––which is to say, Cornell University, not Cornell College here in Iowa. He’s going to be a senior conservation technician in their library archives! I could not be prouder. He’s worked so hard. It’s inspiring to be a witness to what that kind of hard work can do––for quality of life, mental health, and looking to the future.

We found a little apartment close to campus that we’ll be renting until the end of July. It’s small, so we may have to put some of our belongings in storage (hopefully not though). Like most places these days, it’s expensive to live in Ithaca. But hopefully we’ll be able to afford it, since at least Adam will be making a decent salary. I’ll probably be able to bring in something higher than minimum wage too––we’ll see.

The move date was February 10th, but my surgeon got sick––presumably with Covid––so my surgery and therefore the move is being postponed. We were planning on giving me four weeks to recover, so depending on when it gets rescheduled for, we’ll probably be moving mid- to late February.

You didn’t know I was having another surgery? I’m not surprised––I haven’t been talking about this one as much, because it’s not as big a deal as my first two. It’s my second (and hopefully final) reconstruction surgery. They’re going to close up the portion of my new boob where the belly skin is still showing (it’s an almond-shaped piece on the underside, about 6″ long), tuck the inner edge to bring the nipple back into alignment, and they’re also going to do a little bit of fat grafting––liposuctioning some of my love handle fat into “hollow” spots in the boob cavity, filling it out and making it look more natural.

I’m so grateful that they’re going to be fixing my nipple––I mentioned to my surgeon that it was cockeyed after the first surgery, but he said he didn’t see it, which made me feel crazy! At my pre-op though, he acknowledged that it was, after one of his colleagues pointed it out, eyeroll. I was willing to let it go––heck, I should be grateful they were able to save the nipple at all––but I’m relieved it’s going to work out.

Speaking of all this, I’ve had to seriously confront deeply-engrained beliefs during this time, about my body and my self worth, and it has not been fun. I struggle with this feeling that I’m being vain and conceited–– that if I were truly “good” or whatever, I would have just had them lop off the boob, stitch me up, and be done with it. Having them do the reconstruction surgery, and then having them do a second one, to perfect their work, feels like something only rich and superficial people would do.

Nobody has been implying that I’m being superficial by having reconstruction surgery––but I don’t think they would, even if they thought it. I’ve been through cancer, I think people assume I should get a free pass to be superficial a little bit. And maybe they’re right. Some days it’s easier for me to accept than others. But other days, I feel super guilty and self-absorbed.

Speaking of feeling self-absorbed––worst feeling ever, am I right? Sucks the life out of the room. I’ve been feeling it a lot lately. I’ve never had a “normal” life, but now especially I find myself standing out against most of my friends and peers, which makes me hyper-aware of my shortcomings. Allow me to make a list:

• I’m 34 and unemployed, with no substantive career prospects,
• I’m overweight, can’t say no to sugar and fat, can’t control my appetite, and can’t get to the gym on a regular basis,
• I call myself a spiritual agnostic, but don’t have any type of spiritual practice,
• I vote democrat, but barely pay attention to politics and could never hold my own in a debate,
• I have a significant amount of innate creative talent and valuable learned skills, but only use them when I feel forced to,
• I think of myself as an interesting person, but nothing holds my interest,
• Nothing excites me, except dangerous weather and sometimes tequila,
• I’m on medication and in therapy for depression, anxiety/PTSD/emotional intensity, and bipolar II, and I still can hardly keep it together most of the time, and
• I say that relationships are the most important thing to me, but I neglect the ones that are closest to me.

Man, that is a depressing list to look at. Wonder if I’m exaggerating? Me too. I can’t tell you how mortifying it was to go back to Tennessee for Christmas this year. I tried to not focus on myself, but it was really hard. It seemed like everyone we encountered had a wonderful new spouse, job, promotion, house, or kid. I tried to be interested and happy for them, but the contrast was so vivid, I couldn’t help but feel wretched.

The moments when I was able to see past myself were good though, and my “wise mind” is sincerely happy for everyone’s new things. And who knows, maybe life won’t always be this shitty for me. As my therapist reminded me last week, and True Romance says, “That’s the way it goes sometimes, but sometimes it goes the other way too.” I guess I have a little bit of hope.

And speaking of hope, I’ve decided to bite the damn bullet and plunge headfirst into my dream of making Art Office a legitimate, money-making business. So I guess you could say I do have a career prospect––just not a very substantive one… yet. It’s a lofty goal, and I know it’s going to take more know-how than I currently have, so I’m going to do whatever it takes to gain whatever knowledge I need in order to make it happen. That probably means taking some classes––maybe even getting a small degree of some kind, possibly also a business loan, and definitely a lot of planning and preparation. But by god, it’s going to happen.

A friend of mine is doing Acceptance and Commitment Therapy right now, and something that her therapist has had her do is write out a list of her values, for lots of reasons, I’m sure, but specifically at this time, she’s able to refer back to it to see how her behavior is in keeping with her values. Which I guess is probably useful in a lot of ways, but I can see how it could build self esteem if you’re a person with integrity. So I’m going to do that right now, to see if I can’t get my mood up a little.

Honesty, Transparency
Independence, Agency
Love, Empathy, Compassion
Creativity, Self Expression
Humor, Humility

That’s a good list! I like that list! That is a list I can get behind! I want to balance out the self-deprecating list I made earlier with a list about how I’m actually acting in integrity according to my values, even in the face of difficulty. Let me see if I can:

• I have a lot I could be embarrassed about, but I’m still putting my true self out there, in this blog, and in my daily life, flaws and all,
• I deal with fear and dread of eternal damnation, but my rational mind always wins out in the end,
• I’m terrified of losing my sense of self, but I write things like this that remind me of who I am,
• I’ve never had great examples of love to emulate, but I make time in my schedule for my true friends, no matter what,
• I struggle with severe artist’s block, but I created Art Office to keep me consistently expressing myself through art, and
• I’ve had a pretty not-funny life so far, but I think I have a pretty good sense of humor about it.

That was fun. I do feel a little bit better.

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