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The Flaws are Fine

I don’t live in what can be considered a normal body.  I have endometriosis, PCOS, Insulin Resistance and other chronic illnesses.  I identify with my problems as much as my achievements.  I am imperfect and happy to be so.  When I saw Laura Page’s article called “The Flaws are Fine” I immediately felt in good company.  What I love about the sentiment of The Flaws are Fine is that imperfection is not something we have to settle for – rather it’s something to be celebrated.

I saw a documentary once where Stephen Hawking described the universe as imperfect.  He said that, had the matter in the universe been perfectly formed and uniformly spaced – that the universe would not have ever produced life.  It was only the imperfections that allowed matter to grow to form stars, planets and eventually life.

I expect most people in a perfectly normal body would feel relieved to know that perfection will always be out of their grasp but I feel vindicated to know that I’m never going to be perfect.  I can accept myself as I am and be delighted that I’m as perfect as I’m going to get.

Foxy

US/UK Differences: Red

You may recall that I was born an American but moved to England for good in 1995.  I can’t help but mention the odd difference between the two cultures from time to time…

My Helios is a red-head.  While I was raised to not judge people by colour of their skin, in England there is a long-held prejudice against red-heads.  Oh sure there is the preconceived notion that red-heads have a terrible temper on both sides of the Atlantic.  But in the US that’s really where the generalisations and persecution stops.  When I was young, the thought that red-heads have a terrible temper never stopped me from making friends.  Consequently I found that red-heads don’t have any more of a temper than I do.

However, in England the treatment of red-heads is so objectionable that it’s little wonder they are commonly thought to have a terrible temper.  This English prejudice ranges from a cold adjective thrown at a red-head to downright humiliation.  Helios is regularly called “Ginger”.  While in the US this is simply another adjective to describe a red-head, while in England “Ginger” is usually said with a cold venom.

More disgustingly, red-heads are also regularly called “ginger pubes” – as if red-hair shouldn’t stop on their heads.  It is common practice for hen parties to go to pubs and force the prospective bride to perform certain embarrassing tasks.  These tasks always include asking a red-headed man to reveal his lower-garden for general ridicule.

Red-heads are always considered to be less attractive than blonds or brunettes.  I was once told by a former friend to never have children with Helios just in case it came out ginger.  “You wouldn’t want a ginger baby!” she said.  I didn’t stick around long enough to ascertain if she meant that she understood about the prejudice and how hard a red-headed child might have life in the UK– or if she simply meant that any child that Helios and I might have produced had the potential of being ugly.  It’s a good thing I’m not a violent woman because that former friend nearly got a smack in the mouth!

I first met my Helios on the telephone – he worked in a different office of the same company.  We became friends without really knowing what the other person looked like.  So when we had the necessary conversation involving what the other person like when we met for the first time, he described himself as “fat, bald and ginger”.  Well, let me tell you, he’s not fat – he’s actually very trim considering he has a desk job!  He’s bald, but I’m not in my 20s anymore and now find a man without hair to be very attractive.  As for ginger – that’s just a hair colour to me.  Although in the environment I’m discussing, you can understand why I thought he was putting himself down in three quickly-typed adjectives.

It’s a practice that I never really understood – the ridicule of another group simply because they are different.  There are enough hurdles in life without placing another before someone needlessly!

Foxy

Hope Despite Depression

I’ve recently joined SeededBuzz, a community of bloggers who are promoting one another’s blogs when I found this: http://hopedespitedepression.blogspot.com/2010/11/grateful-for-depresson.html

Now, bearing in mind that I have a number of chronic illnesses and have suffered a long bought of depression in the past, I know exactly how the writer feels.  Although depression is something that I’ve overcome, I will never have a cure for my endometriosis.  My pain is something that I hate and identify with myself.  My pain has given me a special sympathy for others.

Buddhism has given me more answers lately than any other philosophy.  There was once a woman who was distraught after losing her baby.  She went to the Buddha for help.  The Buddha told her that she would find solace when she could bring back a mustard seed from the house where no one had lost a loved one.  Needless to say, the woman could not find a house where no one had lost a loved one but gained a lot of support from all the people that she talked to.  She returned to the Buddha not with a mustard seed, but with thanks for the Buddha.

The point is we grow stronger when we support one another.  Emotional pains are invisible but just as valid as physical pain.

Foxy

Believe

Is there any way of making Endometriosis more accessible to the general public?

I still have a hard time talking about Endo to my friends as work.  I don’t want for them to think that I’m constantly in pain when I’m not.  I don’t want them to think that I’m on another crusade.

But what would happen if all the women in the UK got together and signed a petition demanding more information?  More research.  Better treatment…  What would happen if all the women in the UK were able to get together and demand more information in schools for girls; more posters in GP surgeries and hospitals; better information for doctors who consequently won’t tell any more of us that the pain is all in our heads?

How many of us are out there?  Depending on which web-side I read, it’s anywhere between 3% and 10% of women who have endometriosis: but what is it exactly?  Does it matter that up to 10% of women worldwide have endometriosis?  How many women are there in the UK?  According to National Statistics Online (http://www.statistics.gov.uk/cci/nugget.asp?id=1651), the number of women in the UK  in 2007 was approximately 31 million.  If as many as 3% of us has endometriosis, we number a small army.  Imagine what we could achieve if we got together…

Believe

Foxy

Nightmare

A friend of mine, J at My Autoimmune Life, lost her baby in January.  I had a dream about her last night: I was working in a doctor’s office and chatting with nurses.  I was crying, sobbing.  I was telling them about this patient who’d been through a number of miscarriages and who, when she’d finally had a baby, the baby died after only 13 days.  Then, after suffering the indignity of subjecting her baby to an autopsy, the doctors couldn’t find any reason why the baby died.  The more I cried, the more people came around to watch.  I expect they were trying to console me but they didn’t say anything…

I was sobbing.  I’m still tearing remembering it.  I had to get up at 5:15 a.m. to watch some TV.

While I didn’t believe it at the time, I think my miscarriages were a blessing.  However, there are times when I think God’s got it wrong.  As I’ve followed J, I’ve been through a full range of emotions over the past year or more – delighted for her when she looked like she’d be carrying “Littlest” to term.  Concerned but happy that Littlest came into the world safely.  I thought with medical science what it is, I could relax now and become a favourite auntie who regularly sends great presents.

I felt like I’ve been kicked in the gut when Littlest died.  In this day and age I just hadn’t begun to contemplate Littlest dying.  Oh sure, if we were talking 200 years ago when infant mortality rates were high I may have kept saying my prayer for her but this is 2011!  Tiny babies just aren’t supposed to die!

Then there’s the terrible irony that makes me angry: Littlest couldn’t have asked for nicer parents and she died!  J had tried and tried to carry to term and, when she finally had a beautiful baby I expected her bad luck to be over, you know?  I can completely understand J’s sentiments – that she doesn’t want to talk about God at the moment.  Would you?

I found myself angry with God on her behalf.  How much suffering can He put people through anyway?  I mean, I’d always thought that things generally turned out for the best and after a couple of years you might be grateful for certain things happening that you’d thought weren’t brilliant at the time.

It’s so hard to sit on the other side of theAtlanticfrom a friend in need.  Helplessness is a familiar feeling with my being stuck on another ocean side.  I’ve missed weddings and funerals but this circumstance shook me to the core.  There aren’t many things that would shake my beliefs but this has.

Since I’ve started re-evaluating my life, I’ve started looking into Buddhism.  I don’t expect I should be surprised that I’m finding answers there that Christianity hasn’t provided in this circumstance.  I know I’m cherry-picking my religions again, but it’s the best way for me to decide how the world should be.

Foxy

The up side of chronic illness

I know what you’re thinking after all the frustration with simply getting a diagnosis, the medications, surgeries, the psychological impact including depression and relationship breakdowns, there isn’t really an up side, is there?

The good news is that I think there is a silver lining to everything; here’s my short list of what’s good about having a chronic illness:

1) You know your true friends.  Oh sure anyone can have over 500 facebook friends who are playing Mafia Wars and FarmVille but who among us can name friends that we can truly rely on?  I can.  There aren’t 500 of them, but there are enough to keep me going when times are tough.

2) You are not alone.  There are others out there who can sympathise and give advice – not just doctors.  When my sister encouraged me to start blogging I was originally out of work.  Initially I found it to be therapeutic: writing about what really irks me about my illnesses as well as normal day-to-day living.  Venting, even onto a blank sheet of paper can be amazingly helpful.

However, since I started Tweeting as well, I’ve met a number of women who endure so much more than I do that it’s made me look again at my situation.  Although I have a number of chronic illnesses I currently have them in a manageable state and enjoy a happy marriage with Helios.

3) You appreciate the good days so much more than someone without chronic illness.  Is this a gift?  Yes!  We aren’t like other people.  The days that we have enough energy and are pain-free we grab with both hands.  We may find ourselves doing things that others may find mundane but because we don’t get the opportunity often, we do it with real feeling.  Who would have thought that going to the grocery store or walking the dog would be such a delight?

Do you know people who bemoan daily living?  I know a few and find them hard tolerate.  I find myself reminding them that the weather is good and they have a great personal life but they focus on the negative.  I just don’t understand it.  Here I am in a full time job, lucky to be able to hold down a job and I try to make sure I appreciate it.  I remind everyone that we’re lucky to be alive.  Who would you rather have as a friend: someone who always brings you down or someone who is constantly happy to wake up in the morning and finds themselves awake?

My true friends always teach me something about the world I thought I knew – a new perspective.  That’s your gift to the world.  It’s unfortunate that you have to endure endometriosis to know this perspective but it’s made you a beautiful person.   Someone worth making the effort to know!

Foxy

Let it be

I was driving home last night when the Beatles came on the radio and I remembered that look that Dad always had when we heard “Let it be”.  His brother died when that song was popular, just two weeks before I was born.  I found myself wondering not just about Dad and the uncle I never met but about how things happen – life, death, death and life.  We so often think that death and suffering are things that are meant to be completely avoided and yet they are unavoidable.  It’s easy to find a balance of life and death when someone in the same family is born just weeks after another dies: when something is given, something else is taken away.

Am I clearly expressing what I think of as balance?  When I was teaching History, many years ago, I tried to show my classes about balance.  In particular, when studying WWII and the Nazis, I also talked about The White Rose.  For those who are unaware, a group of university philosophy students began printing leaflets denouncing the Nazi government for their evil practices, including the mass slaughter of innocent, unarmed people.  The students were rounded up and the ringleaders – including a girl called Sophie Scholl – were tried and beheaded for the crime of speaking out against tyranny.  To my mind, the sacrifice that Sophie Scholl made was as significant as the Final Solution.  I’m not saying that somehow her sacrifice nullified the evil that was The Final Solution, but I am saying that it is significant that a full-blooded pedigreed German, without arms, stood up and said “no”.  I do not know if there were any other German resistance movements (aside from Operation Valkryie) but the knowledge that there was one makes me hope there were more.  Of course she died for her beliefs but in that day and age, what other choice was there?  How can I find balance amongst war and death?  Is it because Sophie died to get the message of tyranny out to the allies – and succeeded!  I find the actions of the group The White Rose to be a beacon of light amongst so much darkness.  Is it because hope is much more exquisite when it is under threat of extinction that I equate it with balance?

Perhaps this is a better example: I worked for a guy once who had to return to Britain when his mother developed Alzheimer’s and his brother was too sick to look after her because he had cancer.  Now you would think that this was the most unfortunate man on earth.  His mother recognised him as if he were his father.  His brother was dying.  Having said that, I considered him very lucky: he remarried and while on honeymoon to India his new bride developed a stomach bug which turned out to be no stomach infection but a baby!  It was as if the life of his youth was being taken away from him in one movement and, at the same time, he was given a whole new support system to help him through the rest of his life.  I think this is what I mean when I talk about balance: what is being taken away on the one hand, other things are being given with another.  Life is replaced by death which in turn is replaced by life.

Balance in our day to day lives, with any luck, isn’t life threatening.  It should consist of loving relationships, tolerance of the rest of the world and endurance of whatever suffering life throws at you.  The good bits, in the long run, balance out the bad bits.  I’m not saying that we can ever avoid suffering, but with the care of friends and family, we can endure whatever life throws at us.

Peace in our time.

Foxy