Girl Time

Over the course of the last few years, I’ve begun to accept that I can’t get through this life without my girlfriends.  They are there for me time and time again, even when I think I don’t need them…I really do!  And in the last few months in particular, I have made a conscious effort to make girl time a priority.  And my SOUL appreciates it!  No really, it is more important…vital…than I ever expected it to.  I need to laugh, I need to talk, I need to listen, I need to connect on a level that no one quite gets – except my girlfriends.   And you know what, my girlfriends need this too.

This past weekend I did my annual first craft show of the year.  Stress, long hours, hard work, a booth neighbor with migraine inducing lights shining RIGHT IN MY FACE, and hours and hours of talking with the public.  But at the end of the day, I got some much needed girl time with my dear friend Yvonne.  We got caught up on our lives, we talked about snow and spouses, we talked about firewood and flooding, and we laughed and cried a little, drank some wine and had some really good long hugs!

Also last weekend, my best friend on the planet, Eileen sent me a text – Hi Honey, how are you?  Are you ok?  My BFF-ESP kicked in….  Awww…how does she always know???  Because she knows me so well, and we really are connected soul-deep.  I assured her I was fine, told her about the craft show, the lights, and the girl time.  We set a phone call date for Tuesday.  On Tuesday we laughed and got caught up on the last week or so, talked about spouses and work obligations, summer plans, we laughed and cried a little, we talked about priorities and standing up for myself.  We made plans to talk again next week.

And also last weekend, we had Girls Night In at church.  Its our new women’s ministry group where we host a monthly get together for ourselves and women in the community.  We laugh and play crazy games.  We spend some time in the sanctuary talking about God and the role of women in the bible, and in our lives.  We eat fabulous food, and we laugh and talk and pray.  This month we also planted flowers to celebrate spring, and talked about some options for service projects – and you know what came out as the favorite idea?  Working with organizations to support disadvantaged women and children in our area.  Not sure what that will look like exactly – but I’m sure some “drive” of some sort to collect things women and children need – diapers, clothes, feminine hygiene products, toys, blankets, and the like.  I’m excited to work with my friends over the next few months to make a difference in some local lives.   Working on projects together brings us all closer – to each other, and to God.   When we are serving others, we are serving God.

And while I wasn’t able to participate because of my craft show, this past weekend was also another fabulous gathering of girlfriends in Ann Arbor, Michigan. It was MRKH Day  – A day of Education, Sharing, and Support for people with MRKH.  This special day is sponsored by the OB/GYN department, Gynecology division of Michigan Medicine In cooperation with Beautiful You MRKH Foundation.  A full day of MRKH information and support…for those of us with MRKH and our parents and partners.  The full day conference event is followed by an evening social – you know, the after party!  I haven’t had a chance to attend an MRKH conference yet, but from all the reports of those who attend…they are incredible.  While we all enjoy the online support groups, Facebook friends, and the incredible opportunities for “instant support” we can find on the internet – nothing quite compares to meeting another MRKH woman in person – and a whole house full of them….MIND.BLOWN.

Now, don’t get me wrong…I LOVE my local girlfriends…wine, chocolate, giggles, tears, talks, phone calls, texts, the whole shebang…but when you have something in your life like MRKH…well, you’re always just a little detached from all the other women in the room.  You can’t quite relate to the period talk, or the parenthood talk, or the grandchild stories – and how in the world can they truly relate to us?  They try…with valiant effort…they ask thoughtful questions and try to understand my perspective…but they don’t quite get it.

The first time I got to meet another MRKH woman face to face, 3 of us got together for dinner.  It was effortless – we instantly connected and could relate to each other just like life long friends.  We laughed, talked about diagnosis and treatment, life choices and having our choices taken away.  It’s been close to 3 years since that encounter….I’ll let Jen tell it, as I think she summed it up perfectly!  http://humoringmylife.blogspot.com/2014/08/mrkh-meeting.html  I’ve met up with others since then a handful of times.  And each time it’s the same kind of instant connection.  And each time I spend some girl time with MRKH women, I heal just a little bit more.

That’s what girl time is about I think – it’s restorative.  It’s a chance to look at life from different angles….share the heavy burdens….get some insight from trusted friends.  While I love my husband and family dearly, and love to spend time with them – nothing quite compares to girl time.

I’ll leave you with this song by the incomparable Reba McEntire – it’s a new favorite!

 

 

Awkward Conversations

I talk about having MRKH often, and so I’m no stranger to awkward conversations.  I mean seriously, I’m talking about myself…and missing body parts…and vaginas…that’s bound to make nearly anyone cringe a little bit.  Sometimes it even makes me cringe – but I’m determined to reduce the shame, to empower my MRKH sisters, and make it just a teensy bit less awkward if possible.

I’ve been thanked, and I think admired, by people for speaking so openly about MRKH and my experiences.  And you know what…that feels kind of awkward sometimes to me.  I’m not doing this for a form of self promotion.  I’m not doing this in hopes that an article is written about me, or an invitation comes from some talk show host to appear on a TV show to sensationalize MRKH.  I’m doing this for the love of my MRKH family, and to give hope and encouragement to young women who have just been told the name of their condition.  I want to both celebrate and empower us.  To show the beauty in the imperfections.  To encourage them in the face of what feels very much like tragedy.

Sometimes I forget that by quietly speaking out and speaking openly, that I might gather more attention than I was intending.  Allowing my quiet strength and confidence to show might create some intrigue into just who I am.  As you get to know me you notice other things too, that add to the intrigue.  My choice of eye wear – to me it’s functional, but is it also “sexy smart girl” fashion?  My choice to have visible tattoos – to me it’s self expression, remembrances, and healing, but is it also “rebel bad girl” statements?  My choice in business casual and comfortable clothing seems practical to me and fits with my everyday life – but does it lend itself to a “when she’s good she’s good, but when she’s bad she’s better” air of mystique?    I don’t really know the answer to these questions, but it does make me wonder a little bit about how I am perceived, and am I portraying my “true self”.

I love to watch people and their interactions.  While traveling for work the last few weeks I’ve had plenty of time for gawking and watching.  I’ve seen things I just can’t un-see, and I’ve seen things that have moved me to tears (hush, peanut gallery!!!).  I’ve had some interesting conversations, and observed some interesting interactions.  I had that weird moment on the plane that I wrote about, and I’ve had the opportunity to brighten someone’s day.

Indulge me while I tell another story that really raised some questions in my own mind about perceptions and potential misunderstandings, and am I really projecting my authentic self.  I was at a casual social event/mixer that was a blend of co-workers and spouses and friends.  Lots of conversations happening all around the room, talking about work projects, the weather, upcoming summer projects, and all manner of things.  There were adult beverages being consumed, music playing, and just generally a good time was being had.  In situations like this, I’m generally a bit of a wall flower.  I sit back and just watch people interact, engage in light conversations with people I know fairly well, and generally just try to enjoy the event for the politically correct amount of time before suggesting that it might be time to leave.  As I’m sitting there this particular evening, a gentleman who I’ve known for a while comes up along side of me and starts a conversation.  I know him on both a business and a casual friend basis, so conversation is easy and friendly banter.  But I can’t exactly hear everything he’s saying, but I’m nodding politely, smiling and shrugging as seems to fit the blah, blah, blah kind of conversation.  As the conversation continues, I’m catching more and more of the words and starting to catch the drift of what’s actually being said.  And I’m flustered.  Caught of guard.  Shocked even.  And then scrambling to find the correct responses.   You see, what started as friendly banter had turned to flirting, and then to pretty decisive hitting on me.

This certainly was not the first time I have been flirted with or hit on at some kind of event – but it was the first time in a very long time that it has happened when my husband has been in the same room, AND the “flirter” knows us both as a married couple.  It was shocking to me, and awkward, and honestly kind of funny too.  I was wracking my brain to figure out how to respond.  I excused myself and went to the bathroom.  As I locked myself into the stall, and sat down I said a little prayer to God asking for some guidance and strength, to give me the right words to say, to intervene in my brain, to help me get through the  interaction without making it any more awkward than necessary, and to help me to come to terms with the whole thing – sort out my true feelings, and to figure out what to say to my husband – if anything, and to not make this any more of the cluster-muck it was quickly becoming.

As I left the bathroom, I stopped and chatted with a couple different groups before returning to my previous spot where I had left my stuff.  He was still there, and I was determined to be polite but firm in turning down his advances.  He continued in the flirtatious banter, telling me he had been attracted to me for a while.  And while he knew I was married, he didn’t know if we maybe had an open relationship, or if he should be concerned that he was about to get decked for coming on to me.  I laughed awkwardly and told him honestly, look I’m flattered, but it’s not going to happen.

And I was flattered.  I mean really, who doesn’t want to hear that someone finds you attractive and desirable?  It’s the ego-boost that every woman needs from time to time.  But I also felt guilty for being flattered, and I started the non-stop, 10,000 thoughts per day, inner turmoil of what did my reaction to his compliment really mean?  And what if he didn’t take the hint and drop it?  And would I tell my husband of the interaction?  And would it be totally awkward the next time I saw him in public?  And what had I done, or said, or worn that might have given the impression that I would be available or interested in a fling?  Was I sending out mixed signals?  Was I letting my authentic self shine brightly?  Had I brought this on myself?  I was so conflicted…

The flirtations and suggestions continued, and I politely told him again that while I was flattered, it’s just not going to happen.  About that time I gathered my coat and purse and headed for the best defense I could offer – my husband.  We said our good-nights to everyone, the flirt included, and headed out.  I still wasn’t sure if I should tell my husband what had happened, not sure how he would respond to it all.  As we walked to our car I said another silent prayer to God for guidance and clarity about the whole situation.  When we were on the road, he asked me if I had a good time, and a nice visit with…..  I laughed awkwardly and said well, yeah I suppose – but he was totally hitting on me (and I held my breath waiting for his reaction) .  Hubby laughed and we talked it out on the way home.  He was not spitting mad and prepared to defend my honor with testosterone fueled fists, instead he found the whole thing kind of funny, but also a confirmation of some hints/feelings he had about this guy over the last few months.  I told hubby that I was afraid it would be awkward the next time we saw him, but he doesn’t think it will be.  I hope he is right.

In the mean time, I’ve had plenty of time to think through my feelings about the situation.  I’m flattered, and yet I feel guilty for being flattered (insert eye roll here!).  I think that sometimes I do inadvertently send out mixed messages.  I dress somewhat conservatively, am generally quite and reserved, I am intelligent and driven.  I also have tattoos, drink whiskey, and enjoy dancing to live music with my husband.  I know that my quiet strength and confidence, along with the glimpses of my inner rebel, has the potential create intrigue.  But acknowledging that, I did NOTHING to provoke this, it’s all on him.  I like and respect this man as a person, and I’m not really offended by his flirtation and hitting on me – surprised, but not offended. It has made me think about and reaffirm who I believe myself to be, and if I am truly sharing my authentic self with the world.

It’s approaching the time of year when I once again put myself out in the public eye and openly promote and talk about MRKH and my Courageous Project.  I hope that these recent experiences will better prepare me for raising my voice, speaking out, and celebrating and empowering women with MRKH.

 

Perhaps this is the moment for which you have been created – Esther 4:14

Thoughts on Courage

Websters says Courage is mental or moral strength to venture, persevere, and withstand danger, fear, or difficulty.

Wikipedia says Courage (also called bravery or valor) is the choice and willingness to confront agony, pain, danger, uncertainty or intimidation. It goes on to say that physical courage is bravery in the face of physical pain, hardship, death or threat of death, while moral courage is the ability to act rightly in the face of popular opposition, shame, scandal, discouragement, or personal loss.

Urban Dictionary says that Courage is the ability to confront pain, fear, humiliation, or anything else a person would naturally stay away from. Can be divided into Mental and Physical courage. Mental Courage encompasses threats, attacks, and discomfort of the mind. Physical Courage is pain, hardship, torture, and death.

So there seem to be 2 categories, right?  Mental and Physical.  Makes sense, I guess.  With both mental and physical courage, it is the ability/choice/willingness to confront something.  Just do it according to Nike.  Get ‘R Done if you ask Larry.  I think it’s pretty clear in my mind about physical courage.  You just take a deep breath and do it – trusting the outcome you are conditioned for.  Rip the band aid off – knowing it will rip the hairs out, but quickly.  Jump in the pool, knowing the water will be cool and refreshing.  Stumble through the dark to flip the light switch.  To me physical courage is bravery, but talking about mental courage – that’s a different animal all together in my mind.  Mental courage is the strength it takes to be brave, the faith it takes to believe, and the willingness to see it through.

Courage is obviously a buzz word in my life.  I have it tattooed on my arm.  I used it in naming my blog.  I use it as a brand for my Courageous project with the Beautiful You MRKH Foundation. It’s a word I easily identify with, and in many ways it’s how I approach my life.  Websters says courage is the mental strength to venture and persevere.  If you had asked me about courage a few years ago, I might not have given it much thought.  I probably wouldn’t have thought that my actions or choices could be viewed as courageous.  I wouldn’t have felt like I could be an inspiration to anyone, or that people would think I was brave and strong.  I was pretty comfortable with myself and my life, but I hadn’t found my niche. I was quietly searching – but for what, I didn’t know.   Always curious (it’s a sign of intelligence they say!), I was wandering around the internet when I found the Beautiful You MRKH pages.  I started reading, and I started making connections, and I was inspired by the bravery and the strength of these women who were publicly talking about MRKH.  The more I read, the more I started to comment – and as I did, I could instantly see the effect of sharing my experiences helped.  I grew more comfortable talking about my own journey, and naturally I began really digging back through my own history.  As I reflected on my own life, and the choices I have made all along – I recognized my own strength, resilience, and the way I faced each challenge was saturated with courage.    The courage to be strong and brave – without knowing the outcome.

I have the courage to talk openly about MRKH and it’s roll in my life.  I will answer any honest question, even the embarrassing ones.  I will use terms that might make you blush, but I do this  knowing that knowledge is power.  I will tell you that I talk so openly in an effort to educate, but more importantly to reduce the shame many women feel when they receive their diagnosis.  I want to empower and celebrate women with MRKH.

MRKH shaped my own life, in many ways I don’t even fully understand all the implications it has, as they seem to change as the years go by.   As a teen, MRKH made me feel like an outsider, a freak.  I never got initiated into the world of periods and staining white pants, needing a pad or a tampon in my purse.  And then there is the whole stretch your vagina in order to be able to have sex…yeah, not one of my friends could have related to that!  That was a quiet and personal shameful journey I had to take completely on my own.  As a young woman, MRKH made me a medical oddity, a freak.  I had to jump through all kinds of hoops just to join the Army – not to mention exploring options for starting a family.  It came to a point where I pretty much just put MRKH on a shelf, and refused to give it any attention at all – because it was just too painful – but putting it on a shelf didn’t solve anything.  In fact, the avoidance tactic just made things worse in the long run.

As I have said many times, when I do take the time to sit back and reflect on my life, I see that I really did have a lot of strength and resilience.  I got through a whole slew of challenges with just blind faith…wait, that’s Courage.

The word courage evokes quite an image for me.  I see strength, honor, dignity.  I see brave men and women fighting in our armed forces.  I see brave men and women fleeing war-torn countries.  I see people taking a stand for what they believe in.  I see proud hard working people achieving their dreams of a better life for themselves and their families.

I will leave you with my all-time favorite courage quote from the incomparable Amelia Earhart:

Courage is the price that life exacts for granting peace.