to cut or not to cut

I’ve been thinking for quite a while now about having some reconstruction work on my breast.  It’s never been an urgent issue to decide, more of something I’ve been mulling over as the thought occurs.  When the surgeon first discussed it with me, I was too focused on getting my life back to “normal” as quickly as possible; having another surgery was not of any interest to me.  Now that I’ve been living with my lop-sided boobs for almost five years (this October, actually), I’m ready to consider.

I’m quite uneven now: probably a cup side in the right breast, maybe a cup and a half.  I was never symmetrical – who is? – but they were close enough not to cause any problems.  I don’t think it’s painfully obvious to others when I’m wearing clothes (when I’m not, it’s quite clear).  I’ve asked my girlfriends a few times to stare at my chest – this is what girlfriends do – and they always say they wouldn’t notice unless someone pointed it out.  So, my issue isn’t that people are horrified by my uneven boobs.

My issue is that I notice it and it annoys me.  My clothes pull to the left, whatever I’m wearing.  V-necks are particularly bad, since they show a oddly shaped triangle of skin and emphasize the lopsidedness.  Wrap dresses are out of the question because the wrap pulls so badly to the left.  Bras hitch on the right side, so they creep up my back a little more, fall off my shoulder more often.  Long necklaces are pretty funny; for whatever reason, they end up outlining my left boob rather than hanging straight down.

None of this is grotesque; obviously, I could live like this without any problem other than some fit issues.  But I can also do something about it, so I think it’s worth checking out.  So, I met with my surgeon today for some information and a referral to a plastic surgeon.  I’ll meet him in a few weeks and see what the big picture looks like.

In general, I have two options to get closer to some symmetry: augment the right or reduce the left.  So, I need to ponder whether I would rather have a foreign body in one breast or less volume in the other breast.  My initial reaction is to avoid adding something; the potential for bad luck seems slightly higher, and I do have some pretty crappy luck.  On the other hand, women do this all the time so I’m not exactly primed for scientific mishap.  It would be a more intrusive surgery, though, and going with the lesser of two evils might be a better choice, health-wise.

I would lean toward having the left reduced – no pun intended – but making myself smaller gives me pause.  I’m a big believe that, most of the time, you’re put together the way you’re supposed to look.  Nature gives you brown hair, rather than red hair, for a reason – yes, genes, but also because that combination of genes mean you look “right” with that coloring.  Same with boobs.  For the most part, the size you are is probably the size that fits your body.  I don’t want to look – or feel – bottom-heavy if I end up having too little up top to balance what’s below.  I’m not exactly a slim woman; let’s just say I could have picked up some part-time work as a Rubens model if I’d lived in the 1600s and leave it at that.  And that makes me wonder if adding is a better choice.

So, that’s my current ponderment.  I don’t have to make a decision right away; I don’t have to make a decision at all.  I do think, though, that – in my quest to live the life I’ve got – I owe it to myself to think about doing something that is really just for me.  Approaching the 5-year mark seems like the right time to consider.

day of meetings

On the third day of the semester, I had four meetings with students, one faculty meeting, one conference call and two committee meetings.  Couldn’t we have spread the joy a little bit?

Days like this are when I realize the medication is working.  I was tired; I was more than ready for a drink (or two); but I was attentive and good-natured for every single meeting.  Last time this year, I would have lasted about an hour before I was reining in the sarcasm.  It would have been all over by lunchtime.

So, while I’d like to avoid days like this whenever possible, at least I can manage them now.

first impressions

Ah, the first day of classes.  Once I’ve been in front of students, the semester has officially begun.  

I’m teaching my normal load of two undergraduate classes this semester, ones I’ve taught for years but still enjoy immensely.  I have about 90 minutes between them, which seemed like a good idea at the time – some mental downtime, a chance to regroup and prep, a break for students taking both classes – but now I’m thinking I should have scheduled them back-to-back, given my energy level today.  C’est la vie.

The first class was actually rather fun (or maybe I mean funny).  Between nerves and a late arrival on campus, I was almost manic.  I managed to throw in a few expletives for emphasis already; I can usually hold out until later in the semester but today I was just going with the flow. Energy!  Quips!  Clever examples!  If only I was always so entertaining.

I start the first day in the manner I intend to continue the semester; they’re discussing, freewriting and brainstorming right from the start. It’s often a little painful at first.  Students always expect to show up, get the syllabus, have a desultory conversation about expectations this semester and leave early.  Not in my class!  Why would I waste 90 good minutes when there’s so much to do?  Luckily, they seemed game to jump right in: fairly talkative, willing to share, thoughtful.  If we can continue in this vein, we should have a good semester.

The second class wasn’t quite so successful. Since I’d gotten the nerves out of my system, I was much more toned down in my delivery, more factual and serious.  The students were noticeably tired; by that point of the day, most of them have had two, if not three, classes, so they’re less than energetic themselves.  I know this, of course – this isn’t my first educational rodeo – but I wasn’t able to do much with that knowledge today.

Still, I think I’ll enjoy this class, as well.  Even though I have some students in both classes (lucky them!), the second class seems quieter, more reserved, somewhat hesitant.  The kids who were easily talking in the first class were less so in the second; even allowing for tiredness, they were clearly influenced by the lower-key atmosphere. They just need some time to warm up, I think.

Both classes also need some time to digest what the semester holds.  These are two upper-level undergrad courses with implications for their continuance in the program.  Both classes have a heavy reading load (roughly 45 articles and 4 books per class); both have major multi-part assignments; one class has a practicum component; the other has a community presentation event.  That should keep them busy!

Not that they’ll care, but creating such intensive classes means quite the workload for me.  Between major and minor assignments, I’ll have grading almost every week.  I have to read the books by the due date, too – because we all know that didn’t happen over the summer. I have to monitor their practica and work out the logistics for their big event.  Yes, it’s going to be a rather semester.

And I don’t mind in the least, really.  Sure, I’ll won’t be too happy come the end of October but, right now, I like the idea of having a full day that doesn’t leave much room for pondering why I have time on my hands.

the semester begins

Luckily, I didn’t have to teach today, so my entry into the semester consisted of meeting with students and trying to make sense of a convoluted conference call.  I’d much rather have the delusion that I’m easing into the semester; it gives me a chance to take a deep breath before I step into the classroom.

My parents came back yesterday on their way to Home State.  I was much calmer, having had some time to decompress, so we had a fairly decent visit – that basically consisted of dinner and breakfast before they were back on the road.  Dad was still doing a lot of grimacing and offering plenty of “don’t mind me” comments; Mom was a little more irritable since she was tired and away from home so long.  I managed to just smile and nod.  It is what it is – and their visit was essentially a strange interlude before I go back to life as usual.

Of course, I have to figure out what that means: life as usual.  My life isn’t usual at the moment, given the events of this summer. I have some thinking to do if I intend to create a better usual than I’ve had for the last month or so.  The beginning of the semester – the beginning of a new year, as it were – seems like a good point to have some new ideas.


yep, still horrible

If I didn’t look so much like my father (and a few of my siblings), I would swear I’d been switched at birth.  Are changelings a thing?  That might explain much of my life.

I have mannerisms from both my parents, aside from the physical traits; I laughed when Mom pointed out we were both standing with our hands turned the same way on our hips.  I’m stubborn – like my dad is – and I’m inquisitive – like my mom was.  So, there is evidence that I spent my formative years with them.

But when it comes to my life since age 18, my ways of interacting, my views on the world, my interests, my ideas: nothing alike.  Nothing.  It’s like we don’t even speak the same language – if we were actually talking.  

Communication might be the biggest issue.  My family’s theory is that if you don’t talk about it, it didn’t happen.  Yeah, real healthy, that.  I do not ascribe to that belief, surprisingly; in fact, I never have, which is why my friends have been and are so important to me: I can talk to them, and they will talk to me.  We just don’t talk to each other about anything important, and when you have so little in common in general, it leaves a lot of silence.  Add to that, my mom can’t manage much in the way of conversations anymore.  In the past, she would at least ask me about my life – travels, work, friends – but she can’t retain any of that now to carry on a dialogue, so I just talk at her, she nods and then we sit in silence. My conversations with my dad mainly consist of me asking questions about people back home or getting information about fixing things around the house; he doesn’t ask me anything about my life and I can’t ask him anything that hinges on the personal (like, “Why do you look like you’re in pain?” or “What would like you to eat for dinner?” because he’ll either ignore me or brush off the inquiry).

I’m left trying so hard to find some common ground and failing miserably.  They are who they are, I get that.  But I am who I am, too, and no matter how much I wish I could become a daughter they understood, I don’t know how to do that.  I’m pretty sure I never did.

I suppose there’s always the tension of who we want to be and who we are – and that extends to who we want our family to be and who they are.  I love these people, however much they drive me nuts, but that feels like the only connection we have; there’s so little commonality in all the space between us.

I feel so alone when I’m with my family.  I always have, hence my escape into books as soon as I could read and my reliance on friends.  I didn’t work to become different.  I just did.  And that just makes me so sad.

well, I’m a horrible daughter

My parents arrived today.  Yes.  It is the week before classes and my father decided to take a road trip (my mother just goes where he goes).  I know how my father operates, and it has nothing to do with planning and thinking ahead; it was huge that he brought up the idea of a visit a month or so ago.  Usually, he just calls me a few days before he’s leaving.

So, here we are.  They’ll be here for a few days before going on to visit another relative in another state, then they’ll likely stop by next week as they make their way home.  And what we will do, I have no idea.  Sit and look at each other, I guess.

I realized the other day that my parents do not have hobbies.  They don’t have particular interests that take them to museums or concerts or movies.  They don’t have the physical stamina to do much sightseeing, especially anything that involves walking.  These are people – I believe the phrase is salt of the earth – that have worked their entire lives in some form or fashion; when they sit down, it’s because they are tired.  They might watch a show on TV or read the newspaper but that’s just a prelude before going to bed.  They’re social (or were, in my mother’s case).  They go out to eat frequently, with relatives or friends; in the past, they’ve gone on trips with different relatives all over the United States.  

But when they visit me, we’re all at a loss.  I don’t have grandchildren to serve as entertainment or distraction; I don’t have a spouse to help with the socializing.  I can’t think of any particular activity that might interest them.  We have very little to say to each other when we sit down to eat.  They come because they love me.  I want them to come because I love them.  But I feel like such a horrible person because their visits are so strained.

How did I end up so different?  How can we have so little to talk about?  Why can’t I have an easy and pleasant relationship with my parents?  

None of us are getting any younger; I don’t have a whole lot of time to figure this out, so I feel like I’m just storing up the guilt.  I can already see the list of “I should have’s” scrolling in front of me: I should have spent more time with them, I should have visited more often, I should have been more patient, I should have tried harder.  In the moment, though – even knowing that – I can’t get past being stressed out and frustrated.  

Yes, it’s all about me, another thing to add to my guilt.  My parents drive over 700 miles to visit me and I’m unpleasant.  Perhaps it’s a good thing I’m single, because I seem like a fairly terrible person at the moment…

communal time

I’m not sure why we have faculty meetings, much less faculty retreats.  The majority of the time consists of people talking at an audience clearly paying attention to laptops and phones.  We need a dispersal of information in a communal forum at some point, I suppose, so we can ask questions and confirm our (dis)approval but surely the delivery can be a bit more useful when it requires us to give up our time.

Luckily, yesterday was devoid of any meetings (except with my grad student, who – as he is writing his dissertation now – will be like an extension of me this semester).  I was able to spend most of the day in front of the computer, refining syllabi and working with data.  I wasn’t so lucky today: the entire morning was spent in a meeting, so I was less than inclined to continue sitting to do work this afternoon.  Needs must, however.  I’ve managed a few hours, with a few more to go.

I’m losing tomorrow to an all-day meeting.  Ugh.  By the time I get home, my brain will be too mushy to get much in the way of thinking done – which is why I may cut my losses and head out early.  I figure, as long as I don’t make a public service announcement about it being a waste of my/our time, no one will really mind me leaving.