An IUD Perspective

To be completely honest, I feel a little weird writing a blog post about getting an IUD. Not that women should be ashamed of their bodies or anything, but it’s a little strange to broadcast to the world what’s inside my uterus these days. However, I really quickly want to share a bit about my experience getting an IUD this past week, since I know I looked to the experience of others on the internet while getting ready for mine, and many on the internet had experiences that were fairly different than mine and my best friend’s, who had gotten hers a couple months ago and helped me through mine. So here’s what went down from my perspective…

Why I chose to get an IUD
I stared taking the pill when I was fourteen because I had horrendously painful periods (i.e. dripping sweat due to the pain in the middle of class until it would get so bad I’d have to go home), and didn’t stop until this past year when I moved to France and– for some reason that I forget now– didn’t bring enough with me. When I got into a relationship, I started the pill back up and experienced crushing mood swings and depression that I hadn’t felt since puberty. This experience made me question if the depression I felt all throughout high school was entirely a natural byproduct of, well, being a teenager, or actually how my body just deals with hormones. Either way, I had to stop taking the pill, and I’ve felt pretty averse to starting hormones ever again since.

How I chose my IUD
I started by going to my health insurance’s website and seeing which IUDs they covered. I then looked up the three that were covered and decided I wanted Paragard, since it was the copper, non-hormonal, option. The way copper IUDs work is that they kill sperm, while hormonal IUDs do more for making the uterus not suitable for eggs. They are 99% effective at preventing pregnancy and last for TWELVE YEARS! With copper IUDs, they normally make period cramps a lot worse for the first couple months (the doctor discouraged me from this option due to my history of painful periods, but, again, I was trying to avoid hormones). I then researched Planned Parenthoods around me to see which one took my insurance, called them to ask if they had Paragard, and made an appointment.

Getting the IUD

This is where my experience seems to diverge from many. Prior to getting my IUD, I had read that it generally wasn’t that painful, and just felt like period cramps. My mom’s best friend and her daughter had been fine afterward and drove themselves home. The doctor herself said that experiences varied, but most didn’t experience too much pain.

My best friend was visiting me from Albuquerque by chance on this day. This friend is probably the toughest woman I know and is a wildfire firefighter. She had gotten her IUD a few months prior and said it was more painful than breaking bones. When she got hurt in the field this summer, her crew asked her how painful it was from 1 to 10 and what the 10 was. The 10 was getting her IUD. Anyway, she said she would drive me home just in case, since I had been planning to drive myself.

And I am glad she did. I would like to think I have a pretty high pain tolerance: I’ve broken an arm and a leg, I’ve had mono and strep throat at the same time (and didn’t even notice until I went to the doctor for a regular check up), I’ve danced several dance concerts with shin splints. The operation, though, was incredibly painful. There were several points where I thought I was going to have to back out and ask the doctor to stop. I cried. I almost passed out. It was definitely the most pain I had ever felt, and it lasted for a little over two hours. After the two hours, the pass-out-level pain came and went in pretty frequent waves for the next two days. Now, they are coming sporadically at bad-period levels, but, for example, they kept me up for a couple hours last night. I am not out of it yet, but I expect, from what the doctor said, for this phase to last for about two months.

And, again, everybody’s experiences vary. For me, this was definitely the most pain I have ever experienced.

Conclusions
But hey I’m still happy as a clam to have an IUD! I can’t (99% at least) get pregnant for the next twelve years, which is basically the rest of my fertile life! Two months is only .01% of my relationship with this IUD fella, even if it’s pretty awful.

Hope another story was helpful, and I wish you the best with your IUD!

Happy Independence Day

I kind of think I love America. Just a little. In total secrecy. Only to be repeated on this one holiday while hiding behind an American flag just as fireworks explode loud enough for anybody listening to ask, “what did you just say?”

Every Fourth of July, I get a bit of that mushy feeling in the pit of my stomach that nurses plant in every red-blooded American at the hospital, and that is then fertilized with bald eagle spit and the bits of apple pie that get stuck to a poorly-greased pan that they sneak into all of our public school lunches throughout the entirety of our childhood.

But I feel it stronger this year that I have since said childhood: which is weird. This is the first Fourth of July with Donald Trump in the white house. Without going into an enormous list of specifics beyond that, American politics, generally, look like dystopian fiction right now. Not that they were great to begin with. At a pretty young age—growing up with George Bush, the Iraq War, and the hate that permeates nearly all immigration politics fought so close to home in my border state—I never really got into the whole patriotism thing. The American Dream was always just an ironic punch line. Loving your country was only for people who drove trucks and buried bigoted hearts behind the camouflage print on their t-shirts. I can’t remember the last time I said the Pledge of Allegiance.

Angsty, in-your-face rejection of any and all things American has been an integral part of my identity for as long as I’ve had one, and just getting the fuck out has always been at the core of any plans I’ve made for adulthood. Whether it be Canada, France, Denmark, or Ireland (all of which I went through huge, obsessive phases over at one time or another while growing up bored in the suburbs), I just didn’t want to be a citizen in today’s modern Roman Empire, pillaging the entire world for energy, power, and the spread of its impeccable American-branded morals.

And I have. Gotten out, that is. I studied abroad in Denmark for a year. I just got back from teaching English in France for a year. Next year, I’m getting my masters in Ireland (still looking at you for something, Canada). But, honestly, I think the biggest lesson I’ve learned from that getting-out is that non-American doesn’t necessarily equate to good.

In fact, I’m starting to get the impression that everywhere is kind of shitty.

Canada, for as much as we prop it up to be a gleaming tundra of overly-nice, plain people, has some serious xenophobic shit of its own. Denmark, said to be the happiest place on Earth, takes the most anti-depressants in the world and, in my personal experience, has some serious alcoholism issues. Not to mention that their own xenophobic, racist political party is pretty popular. There’s a reason the word “ennui” comes from France. Workers’ rights, while important, seem to be the only thing the French will fight for. When I went to the Montpellier Women’s March (organized by ex-pats by the way), there was hardly anybody there, because, as it was explained to me on several occasions by the French, feminism isn’t important to them. The French have the second most McDonald’s in the world, and, arguably, the same level of Redneck that I find in America, but without the American acknowledgement that it’s there. They are, also, the most open with their racism that I have ever personally experienced, even if Marine LePen only won second place this past election. I’ll get to Ireland after this coming year, I’m sure. Spain seemed nice, but my current supervisor (who is black) said it was horribly discriminatory to him. Italy is terrible about refugees. England has Brexit. Etc. Etc. Etc.  Americans disillusioned with America always seem to look to our European neighbors as some kind of answer because, what? It’s old and beautiful and a nice place to live if you have don’t have to deal with the same discriminations that exist in the US?

I’ve focused on Canada and Europe here just because it seems pretty common for masochistic Americans to think of the other side of the pond as “the answer,” and because it’s what I personally know, but I’m sure I could find similar examples from every continent (those researchers over in Antarctica particularly). Nowhere is perfect. People aren’t perfect. We’re into ourselves and our groups and however we want to draw the maps to reflect our  “us’s”.

I don’t mean to point out all the problems with one continent and juxtapose it with a positive view of America to say that we’re the best and to revert to some weird nationalistic American exceptionalism. But, right now, coming back from Europe to my old American “us”—systemic and political worlds aside—I’m realizing that I’m pretty fucking into this blob on a map despite a lifetime of rejecting any of its positive attributes. I’m part of a community of people dedicated to protecting the environment and building each other up through the process with my current job. It’s funded by the American government which, at least for the moment, protects huge national and state parks that are more beautiful than anything in Europe. I’m working with people who understand and even enjoy working their asses off. Americans work so fucking hard and, yes, probably too much, but this respect for good work is, I think, special and unique and beautiful. Back in France, everything was so fucking white and sexist (teachers commenting on my ass when I walked through doors, for example) and xenophobic and racist and gender normative (there is no non-binary pronoun in the French language, and nobody is even talking about trans-rights in France to my knowledge). In my experience in America, if somebody in privilege does or says something offensive, they are at least going to get called out and made uncomfortable with the normativity that society usually lets them take for granted. America, while controlled by money and the fear of the few in power, is rife with diversity on a personal, daily level, and I, at least, would prefer a world where those in power act out of fear rather than heedless, unchallenged comfort in what affords them that place.

Also, just as a side note, Jesus, Americans are funny. I was genuinely starting to worry this past year that I’d lost my ability to laugh. Like, really laugh, something that has always been a defining characteristic for me. This past weekend, though, I went to my old college town and saw a few old friends; I laughed so much so constantly that I didn’t think my eyes would ever dry or my stomach ever stop hurting. The youth that I work with often ask me if I’ve ever heard jokes before, because I just laugh at all of them.

I love our protest. I love our art. I love our literature. I love our love.

The world is an agglomeration of fucked-up systems and problematic cultures. Everywhere is awful. And, looking at what the US in capital letters is up to these days, all I know is that I have to come back here. I have to love. I have to do everything in my power to rebel against what I’ve always known I hated to make it reflect the America that I’m finding out I do love.

Happy Fourth of July. Who’s up for stealing the Declaration of Independence?

Out of France and into the Fire

I don’t live in France anymore. I spent my last moments in the Pézenas apartment taking a bath—planning to explore that metaphor more later—kissed my lover goodbye, and flew home. Basic communication with strangers isn’t daunting any more. Pastries are a non-event. There are a lot of American flags attached to pickup trucks in my day-to-day. Small towns are no longer constructed of old stone and vine revolving around a central church, but instead large stretches of asphalt from one beige stucco house to the next to the Walmart to the southwestern wilds that are like nothing else in Europe.

That’s where I am. Kind of. Well, I’m in a trailer in a state park named after a dead horse with a beebee gun in the cabinet and blues on the radio. I’ve traded killing time speaking English in front of classrooms of disinterested French high schoolers to dripping sweat over the dry Arizonan soil with a cohort of four American high schoolers who think that a good way to spend their summer is doing hard manual labor under a sweltering desert sun. That’s where I am. With my six-foot-something coleader sleeping in a tent in the front yard amid a screaming chorus of crickets and a night sky that only the dry desert air can display.

This summer, I’m working for the Arizona Conservation Corps as a mentor for the youth program. My location is the Verde Valley (pronounced VUR-dee), a region of Arizona consisting of a few small towns with names like Cottonwood, Camp Verde, Cornville, Clarkdale, Centerville, Jerome (an abandoned mining town turned artsy hippie community). The small towns are deeply American, just as the landscape is deeply southwestern: cactus, red dirt, expansive blue skies, cottonwoods and willows weeping over the Verde River, the longest free-running river in Arizona.  I’m getting battle wounds from the mesquite tree thorns here that may never go away.

Said days usually start with coffee around six in the morning. Cowboy coffee: beans soaked in boiling water which usually end up getting consumed too. Oatmeal. Pick up the youths. Fifteen minutes of physical training and fifteen minutes of stretching. A few hours of pulling invasive weeds or trees, some of which are so volatile that every pore in your body leaks in protest. A few hours of trail building. Maybe mixing up mud for planting seeds. Hiking. Collecting dragon fly larvae. The jobs vary, but the heat is a constant, boiling away my skin and humidifying the sweat under my thick collared uniform. The brilliant sarcasm from my corps members is another constant. Laughing so hard I can’t get my body to keep working. Two fifteen minute breaks and a thirty minute lunch. We finish at 3:30, and I get to hike, bike, fish, paint, write, go to Taco Belle with the rest of my afternoon.  Then dinner, make lunch for the next day. I’m usually in bed by nine.

The days are steady and predictable in a way that only a day constructed around eight hours of hard work can be. Slow days built by slow work whose effects feel dubious from such close proximity (what is five hours of pulling napweed when it will only be back in a matter of months?). But the river here is not a strong one anyway.

It meanders. Sometimes, you wonder if there’s a current in its water at all, sitting idle between its grassy banks with something that looks like rotten peanut butter on top. This is all just a lesson in slowness anyway. This river that gives no heed to here or there has supported life for centuries. Look to the ruins at Montezuma’s Castle or Tuzigoot. Look around and see all the miraculous green for which the Verde is named. Listen to the bugs. Watch out for snakes.

Baths don’t always get you cleaner. Rivers don’t always display obvious force. Time is just a labelled bag.

This is where I am.

The Three Pound Mammoth: Thoughts on David Foster Wallace’s Infinite Jest and the Value of the White, Male Author

It now lately sometimes seemed like a kind of black miracle to me that people could actually care deeply about a subject or pursuit, and could go on caring this way for years on end.  Could dedicate their entire lives to it. It seemed admirable and at the same time pathetic. We are all dying to give our lives away to something, maybe. God or Satan, politics or grammar, topology or philately — the object seemed incidental to this will to give oneself away, utterly. To games or needles, to some other person. Something pathetic about it. A flight-from in the form of a plunging-into. Flight from exactly what? These rooms blandly filled with excrement and meat? To what purpose?

Infinite Jest
David Foster Wallace

I was first introduced to David Foster Wallace my freshman year of college in a class on American literature from 1860 to the present. We did not read any essays on tennis or excerpts from Infinite Jest about, well, tennis or any YouTube interviews where he talked about tennis. We did not consider any lobsters. We read his commencement speech to Kenyon College’s class of 2005, which is now known as This Is Water. It is about the meaning of a “real education,” and how it is not so much facts and skills that make this “real education,” but the acquisition of the ability to question what we are given, ranging from media to even our own selves. It is hella worth a listen. (And, if you would like to ponder that a bit more, I think my high school English teacher gave a lovely Tedx Talk following in its footsteps.)

The following summer, just before heading off to the wonderful reading world of summer camp, I went to the library for Infinite Jest, but they did not have it. Instead, I got The Pale King, the novel Wallace was writing when he killed himself in 2008, and was able to read it within a week. I don’t remember much about it except that it was about taxes, and that there was a character named David Foster Wallace who spoke in the first person. And, of course, that I thought it was absolutely brilliant in the cheeky, post-modernist kind of way Wallace is known to be.

A few weeks later I bought Infinite Jest. Two years of lit-majoring after that, I’d still never had the time to read the 1,079-page, three-pound mammoth.

This year, though, working as an English teaching assistant in France and, basically, never actually having to do the whole “work” thing, I finally had the time to tackle Jest. It’s taken five months, equally having to do with its length, my preference for reading slowly, and the fact that I am usually reading around three to five books at any given time right now (a book in English, a book in French, a book of poetry, maybe a book of poetry in French, and some literary journal). Now, after five months of lugging around this cumbersome stack of dead trees and flipping back and forth between my two bookmarks (one for the normal chapters, one for the endnotes), I am not sure how I feel about Jest.

I would say up until page 700/month 3.5, I was really into it.  I liked the idea Dave Eggers brought up in the foreward that we should all read Infinite Jest because “[w]e have an obligation, to ourselves, chiefly, to see what a brain, and particularly a brain like our own — that is, using the same effluvium we, too, swim through — is capable of.” One of my friends, upon starting the novel, told me it blew her mind in a very good way. I’d liked his previous work. And, for the first 700-pages, I mostly liked what was going on with Wallace’s effluvium here. It had a cool conversation going on between the obvious, familiar manifestation of addiction and messed-up pursuits of happiness through a halfway house of, well, addicts, and with the less obvious, but intensely-more familiar world of American sport/school/film/government with the Incandenza family, whose parents founded and ran a tennis boarding school academy and made artsy films on the side, and whose kids attended said school, one of which going off to become a pro-football punter. There were a couple of transvestite spies on a hill talking late into the night about desire/addiction/the American lifestyle whose chapters were weaved through the two main narratives to supply the philosophical groundwork upon which the more narrative chapters were given context. It is funny. Like, absurdly funny, in a kind of dumb way that made me feel like I was just making jokes with my (beloved) dorky friends, even if, later, I found out in this interview, Ole’ Dave did not see why people said his book was so funny when everything was supposed to be sad (which, I think, is obnoxiously obtuse. There’s a women who creates steam when she gets sexually aroused). Most of all, it is, clearly, the work of a genius.

But, like Wallace said himself in “This is Water,” everything is up for questioning, and the thoughts of a genius ought to be among that everything. There seems to be a bit of the “genius theory” school of thought going on in approaching Wallace that implies geniuses should not be subjected to editing from others. I think Wallace needed a fucking editor though. Two of the biggest stylistic choices, I gather, in Infinite Jest that make it such “a…mind-altering comedy” [back cover of the book] are its length and its end-notes. However, I really don’t see either of these elements working towards anything substantial. Although I get the meta- nature of having to plow through 1,079 pages to talk about America’s need for entertainment and gratification,  there is a lot of stuff that did not need to be in this book, and I’m sure there’s a reason I started to resent the process around page 700 when “long” books would have normally ended. Does one guy really merit getting to say that much just because he’s a genius? Is boring your reader from time to time with lengthy descriptions of things nobody cares about (ahem. Tennis) really necessary to achieve a thematic end? The endnotes, too, do not seem to really have a distinct purpose. I know in the interview I referenced earlier, Wallace says he likes the endnotes because they give him a space for a different voice, but I did not see much of a distinction between the voices in the real chapters and the endnotes. And, unlike the length which at least conversed with the reader on the theme of boredom and entertainment, the endnotes did nothing special for the reading experience other than seeming to “ask something of the reader” for the asking of asking something from the reader.

Beyond stylistic choices, though, there is an almost unbearable whiteness, ableness, heterosexualitiness, and cis-ness going on throughout the book (and yes, it does address every one of the issues directly at one point or another. From the position of the privileged each time, too). One cannot help but notice that all the real main characters are able, hetreosexual, white, cis-men, with a few women (a mother and a love interest, of course), two cross-dressing spies, and a disabled little brother appearing so regularly that I wonder whether they too are main characters or not. But these characters are very clearly an “other” to the main ones. They are less developed. They are there to serve as a prop in the human setting that the white, male characters live in. The “Moms” is a caricature of nurture; Joelle van Dyne is a love interest/muse whose beauty is her most defining characteristic until she is later deformed. Mario’s disabilities clearly serve as a means to make him some inhuman creature that makes him better than the fucked-up standard Wallace focuses on in everyone else. The spies’ cross-dressing is just some lame joke that doesn’t seem to ask much more of the reader than to laugh at the skin-deep image of two men dressed up like women. The insight into any human condition is all done through the accepted standard of white, able, cis-, heterosexual manness.

And, yet, I still want to like Infinite Jest. While reading the book, I recommended it to a friend who I saw having a similar sense of humor and was sent this article  in response, which talks about how the big Wallace fans are white men who feel like Wallace gets ~their problems,~ and they, subsequently, always try to force his literature onto those around them, and more white man literature is not as valuable as literature from other voices. And so Infinite Jest, for me, has become a sort of culmination on the very discussion of white male writers’ worth that I’ve been hearing for a while. White men have too much of a presence in our English canon. Yes. Obviously. But, at the same time, I feel like the themes and artistry in Infinite Jest, among other white, male authors (my favorite author right now is Ander Monson, who is also a white male) are something I can connect to and enjoy as a woman. I am a human. I am American. I’ve struggled to understand just how to pursue happiness before. Orin Incandenza was a character that especially got me. In a fictitious future that features a sort-of Netflix, when Orin is asked what he misses, he says the subjected boredom of mass television. There’s a passage about sex — “It is not about consolation. …It is not about glands or instincts or the split-second shiver and clench of leaving yourself; nor about love or about whose love you deep-down desire, by whom you feel betrayed. Not and never love, which kills what needs it. It feels to [Orin] rather to be about hope, an immense, wide-as-the-sky hope of finding a something in each Subject’s fluttering face, the need to be assured that for a moment he has her, now has won her…that there is now inside her a vividness vacuumed of all but his name: O., O. That he is the One” — that has never pinned down my feelings so exactly. I keep thinking back to an article I read in Poetry Magazine‘s December 2016 issue, “A Politics of Mere Being” by Carl Philips. In it, he says, “To insist on being who we are is a political act — if only because we are individuals, and therefore inevitably resistant to society, at the very least by our differences from it. If the political must be found in differences of identity, who gets to determine which parts of identity are the correct ones on which to focus?” And while this is of course referring to non-white men’s ability to write from a place outside “the other,” I can’t help but think of it in terms of an ability to see my individual self in the work of another individual who does not share the same societally categorized characteristics as me.

Wallace would have done better not to mock certain groups of people based on their very belonging to those groups (I’m thinking specifically in terms of gender queerness and disability), but, at the same time, everybody in Infinite Jest is a flat characterization of our own selves, and he seems to be asking us to mock what we see reflected back at us with him (spoilers, there’s even a mirror held up to a drug addict’s face by the mob as, like, an intimidation tactic at the very end of the book). Of course he wrote the book from the white male perspective, as he is himself a white male. We all see the world through this lens of “self” and “other”, and Wallace’s shifting perspective and voice throughout the novel indicate (I think?) an encouragement to sympathize with everybody and nobody, main character or someone acting as furniture to a main character’s identity.

Going back to “This Is Water,” we don’t know the stories of everybody around us, and, therefore, everybody must deserve our love, sympathy, and withheld judgement. After 1079 pages, I may know the stories of the white male characters a little better than the others, but I think what is more important is the very surface, caricature-like characterization that is rife among everybody in Infinite Jest. We come out still not really knowing anyone, yet somehow feeling deeply connected to their problems. What exactly is the endless joke here? we wonder, even if played out through the view of what has long been the narrative norm of the white male lens.

Infinite Jest is too long. It is problematic. It does style stuff just for the sake of style stuff. There are many better books out there. But, in the end, I am happy I read Infinite Jest‘s three pounds (I think?). If for nothing else — and even though David Foster Wallace said his masterpiece is “deeply sad” — because it was fucking hilarious.

*Photo courtesy of Chelsea Moreno

Olargues and Bédarieux

For my last week in France, my fella decided to show me the village Olargues, a village officially listed as one of les plus beaux villages de France, with a stop by Bédarieux on the way home. I seem to be having some luck with forecasted rain and surprise sunny, perfect days, as was the case when I went to St Guilhem le Désert for my birthday Thursday, and again in this instance. We wandered some streets, explored some castle ruins on a hill, sat on a bridge, had coffee at the most adorable organic marché/café in Bédarieux. Despite my hesitancy, we hitchhiked home in the perfect weather, and it was just magical walking along the road in the sunshine between rides.

Pour ma dernière semaine en France, mon gar a decide de me montrer la village d’Olargues, une village connue officiallement comme une des plus beaux villages de France, avec un arrêt à Bédarieux en route chez-moi. J’ai la chance récement avec les prévisions météorologiques pour la pluie qui résultent en les journées ensoleillées et parfaits, comme quand je suis allée à St. Guilhèm le Désert pour mon anniversaire juedi, et encore dans ce cas. Nous avons balladé quelques rues, exploré quelques ruines d’un château, assis sur un pont, pris du café à la bio-marché/café la plus adorable à Bédarieux. Malgré mon hesitation, nous avons fait l’auto-stop jusqu’à chez-moi en le météo parfait, et c’était simplement la magique en promenant la rue dans le soleil entre les trajets.

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Gordes, France

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For my last little trip in France this year, I stayed in Avignon and went to the provincial towns of Aix-En-Provence and Gordes. While Avignon was closed for Sunday, Aix-En-Provence was closed for Labor Day, and Gordes had pouring rain, Provence absolutely blew me away with how beautiful it was. Gordes, especially, was unlike anything I had ever experienced with every wall in bloom, its view over the countryside, and hidden waterfalls all over the place. I just spent the day going from little archway to little archway for cover from the pouring rain and reading a chapter from my book (which, right now, is a French translation of Hemmingway’s Paris Est Une Fete). It was small, there wasn’t much to it, but my five hours there almost didn’t even feel like enough.

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Pour ma dernière petite voyage en France cette année, je suis restée à Avignon, et je suis allée aux villes provenciales d’Aix-En-Provence et Gordes. Bien que Avignon était fermé pour dimanche, Aix-En-Provence était fermé pour La Fête du Travail, et il pleuvait à Gordes, j’ai trouvé que Provence était incroyablement belle. Gordes, en particulière, n’était pas comme rien que j’aie vu dans ma vie avec tous les murs fleuris, la vue sur la paysage, les cascades partout. J’ai passé la journée sous des arches, protégée de la pluie et lisante mon livre (qui est, à l’instant, une traduction française de Paris Est Une Fête d’Hemmingway). La ville était petite, il n’y avait pas beaucoup de choses, mais les cinq heures que j’ai passé là m’ont donnée l’impression que ceux étaient presque pas assez.

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