63: Eggs and Rabbits

Easter is coming up. I don’t have too many thoughts on this occasion but I do have a few memories I thought I could share. When I was younger my family was quite religious. I was never forced into any particular faith by either of my parents but I was keen to attend church and I found a great deal of comfort in the routine and structure of it. After my parents separated my mother, younger sister and I began attending church every Sunday. This continued until I was in my teens and I began to seriously question my faith. These facts feel important to the stories I am about to recount as Easter is a religious holiday.

For most of my life I was raised to only eat fish on Good Friday. One year my family took a road trip to visit our relatives for Easter. I remember getting a burger for lunch without even realising it was the day we were never permitted to eat red meat. I felt so terrible about it afterward. My conscience told me that I had just committed some kind of sin. I was so scared of going to hell that I prayed for forgiveness for days.

The Good Friday rule of “fish only” has caused some awkward moments. Many of my friends growing up had different beliefs, some had never even heard of our rule and only observed Good Friday as a public holiday. When I was fifteen I spent Good Friday at my first boyfriend’s house. I had to awkwardly request fish for lunch. I felt like such an inconvenience but as we were already going to a local takeaway it wasn’t a big deal. Coincidently that Good Friday was also the day I experienced my first kiss so I suppose my request didn’t make me seem too strange.

The thing I loved the most about Easter was the chocolate eggs. I have always had an extremely sweet tooth. Growing up I loved sweets like most children but chocolate has always been my favourite treat. This made Easter one of my favourite holidays. I suppose if Australia celebrated Halloween like other places in the world then that would have become my favourite holiday. In Australia Halloween is only just beginning to become more popular but many households still dislike trick-or-treaters and will ignore them. Easter is much more mainstream and acceptable here. The supermarkets begin selling chocolate eggs and hot cross buns from New Year’s Day! Easter, much like Christmas, has grown from a religious celebration to be a commercial holiday. As much as I love chocolate it does seem odd to me that a religious occasion is so widely observed by so many people with impartial beliefs.

I’m torn about the ethical ramifications of introducing Easter to my future children. On one hand i know that my husband and I aren’t religious. We both have had a relationship with church in our past. Regardless of our faith or beliefs we are no longer church goers and would not consider ourselves followers of a particular religion. I would describe myself as agnostic. However on the other hand it seems wrong to deprive a child of such a joyful holiday that has changed meaning for so many people and is so widely visible. This moral dilemma is a slippery slope considering that Christmas is also so commonly celebrated regardless of religious belief.

I know we will celebrate both of these occasions with our children. It is not even up for debate in our social sphere. I just can’t help but wonder why that is.

50: What I have learned since switching to reusable menstrual products

I have to start this off with a warning. I’m about to talk about menstruation. I’m going to be very open and honest. If you have a problem with that then you probably should not read on.

It has been about eight months since I switched to using cloth menstrual pads. I made the decision based on the way my skin was reacting to disposable pads. I was experiencing unusually long periods due to a hormone imbalance which meant that I was exposed to disposable pads for longer than the usual amount of time. I come from a family of escema sufferers and sensitive skin is just a given for us. A lot of products can give my mother, my sister, and myself, a rash. I am the luckiest of the bunch with the least sensitive skin but after sometimes weeks of using chemically treated disposable pads my skin was not happy.

I had been researching reusable menstrual products for a few years because I knew that my sister was having a similar problem and switched to a menstrual cup (similar to the commonly known Diva Cup). I have never been a fan of using internal menstrual products such as tampons, my personal preference is external protection, so a cup was not a good option for me. Coincidentally around the time I was starting to seriously consider swapping to a less irritating product, i had began teaching myself how to sew. My grandmother had passed away a few months prior and I was sewing as a way to feel connected to her. She bought me a sewing machine for my eighteenth birthday which had barely been used since, although it’s getting plenty of use now.

It only took a couple of YouTube videos before I figured it wouldn’t be too hard to make my own cloth pads. The first one I made was constructed from an old T-shirt and a face washing towel cut and layered to fit. I had sewed it by hand which made it less structurally sound than is ideal but it did the job. I was inspired to make more.

I’ve now made over a hundred cloth pads in various styles and different fabrics. I’ve become much better at sewing and now know my sewing machine like the back of my hand. My sister and a family friend have received sets of the pads from me but I don’t think I will sell them to the public.

I now use cloth pads exclusively. My cycle is much more comfortable and I don’t break out in a rash from the chemicals in disposable products anymore. I find myself excited to get my period for the first time in my life. I love the patterns and how comfortable the cloth is. Yet I still hesitate to tell people that I make pads and it’s even more intimidating to let people know I actually use them. I expect that people will think they’re “disgusting” or “unhygienic”. My husband is surprisingly supportive of my choice. My family know about my project and I’m now known as the “green” one for wanting to avoid chemicals and reduce my waste production. The few friends I’ve talked to about it have been accepting of my choice to my surprise. I’m sure I will get mixed reactions when this goes up however.

The thing I have noticed the most is that people are more comfortable talking about menstruation than you would first expect. Using cloth pads has made me much more comfortable with my body and my period. In the end it is a normal occurrence, yet I spent so many years ashamed and confused. I was uncomfortable with my own bodily functions. I am so grateful that cloth pads have changed my life and my outlook. If anyone is reading this because they’re considering the switch. I would definitely recommend trying it. If you’re reading this and you’re finding yourself repulsed… that’s your viewpoint and I respect that.

44: I should have listened to my doctor! 

I have to start this off with a warning. I’m about to talk about menstruation. I’m going to be very open and honest. If you have a problem with that then you probably should not read on. 

This was written in 2015 but I was not comfortable publishing it until now. I wrote this because when I was having the problems I describe I couldn’t find anyone else talking about their experiences. I have found many women find comfort in sharing their experiences with one another so I wanted to put my story out there.

I got my first period on October 19th, 2005. I remember the date because my small town has an agricultural show every year on a Wednesday in the middle of October. That year it fell on October 20th and I was so excited to go. The show is similar to a carnival mixed with contests for livestock, plants and baked goods. I suppose it could be compared to a country fair. The local school children get that Wednesday off to attend and it’s generally a fun family day out. I did not have much fun at the show in 2005. The day before I woke up and got ready for school as usual but when I went to the bathroom I noticed something different. I have received a lot of education on the subject at school and at home. From grade 5 in primary school our teachers began teaching us “sex ed” which was actually just about preparing us for puberty. My mother had also been talking to me about periods since I was nine years old, which I wasn’t particularly impressed by. I knew what to do when I was finally “blessed” with “becoming a woman” (a period does not make you a woman). I had that first day of my period off from school. My mother wanted to celebrate but I did not want to make a fuss, I was embarrassed more than anything. I didn’t want to talk about it or acknowledge it at all. 

I was glad I stayed home from school because as I discovered I was also “blessed” with a genetic predisposition to intense abdominal cramping. I spend the first day with a hot water bottle on my stomach but I was determined to enjoy the show on the second day. I woke up feeling very dizzy and unwell. I felt very nauseous and hot all day. I don’t usually experience motion sickness but that day I sure did. My cramps gradually got worse throughout the day and I found myself having to sit down or I would be doubled over in pain. My mother convinced me to eat but it didn’t stay down very long. I did buy three live ducklings however which made my day much brighter. Every cycle was like this from then on. For years I had to force myself to attend school feeling feverish and sick. I got better at handling the pain most of the time but would still have to take strong painkillers on the first two days. My cycle was usually a 30 day cycle but my period always lasted about 10 days. It was very inconvenient and made me feel awful. Many of the women in my family had the same experiences so I knew it wasn’t abnormal for myself but all of my friends thought I was strange and boasted 5 day long periods much lighter and less painful. If my family didn’t talk so openly I would have felt very confused. 

When I was sixteen I had a serious boyfriend. Many of our friends were also in couples and were sexually active. I was determined to save my virginity for as long as possible. I told people I was waiting for marriage but what I really meant was “the right person” and “not in high-school!” I was spending a lot of time at my boyfriend’s house and although I wasn’t intending on taking things that far I was aware that if things “accidentally” went to that level I needed to stay safe. I did not want to make a mistake and the ever present threat that I had a coin tosses chance at having Huntington’s disease loomed over head. This was only a fraction of why I decided to go onto birth control however. I knew many other young ladies who had found success in using birth control to regulate their periods. I was told they helped for shorter, lighter periods and would probably stop cramping too. I told my mum and went to my doctor. 

Some of the girls I have talked to said that their doctors just wrote them a prescription without asking them any questions. This surprises me because my doctor was very through. He asked me if I was currently sexually active (I wasn’t) and if there was any chance I could be pregnant (there wasn’t but he got me to take a pregnancy test anyway). He then asked me about my relationship status and told me that even with the pill I wasn’t protected against STIs. My doctor made sure I understood what was going on before he gave me my prescription but didn’t judge or try to persuade me against sex or contraceptives. 
I was on the pill for roughly five years. At first I took the “spacer” pills as directed, sometimes called the placebo or sugar pills they are meant to make your body experience a period. I didn’t have any cramping and my period was a much shorter and more manageable five days. After a few months I decided to delay when I would take these spacers. I would schedule my period for the school breaks when it was much more convenient. After almost two years of having my periods quarterly instead of monthly I started only taking the spacer pills once a year. I had been talking to some other girls on the pill who did this and did some searching on the Internet which told me there wouldn’t be any negative consequences to doing this. The theory being that the pill tricks your body into being pregnant and although the spacer pills caused a slight drop in hormones and a light period it wasn’t a “real” period anyway. I’m not a doctor and neither is the internet. I figured this all made sense to me so it wouldn’t be a problem. 

In hindsight I really don’t recommend this cause of action. You should always do what your doctor says when it comes to prescription medication or at least follow the instructions on the packaging. I was told that I should continue taking the spacer pills as directed because it would keep my cycle on a schedule. I was taking the pill to control my periods and specifically my pain. For the majority of the time I was on the pill i wasn’t even sexually active. My doctor always made sure I checked in with him and occasionally would get me to do a pregnancy test (and sometimes even a blood test). 
For the most part I didn’t have any problems when I was on the pill. I’ve heard women complain about acne or hair loss while on the pill. I didn’t experience either of these issues and my acne actually cleared up a bit while I was taking the pill. I’ve also heard women have problems with irregular bleeding and spontaneous spotting but I never had any problems with unexplained spotting/bleeding. The only problem I did experience for myself while on the pill was weight gain. I definitely found my metabolism wasn’t what it used to be while I was taking the pill. I also found that any medication I take tends to cause weight gain so I suppose I am just predisposed to that side effect. Most importantly it did its job! I never got pregnant while taking the pill.
The most common problem I heard while on the pill was people complaining that either themselves or somebody close to them got pregnant while taking the pill. What I’ve discovered from these stories is that usually the woman who got pregnant was relying on the pill as her sole method of contraception and/or they were not taking the pill on time everyday. The pill only works if you take it the same time every day with no more than four hours difference either direction. If you miss a dose then you should definitely use a second method of birth control for at least week (it says this in the instructions). The pill worked exactly as it should have for me.

The biggest problem I have had with the pill came after I stopped taking it. However I blame myself for the problems I have encountered since I went off the pill. At the time of writing this I have been off the pill for almost ten months and I have experienced very irregular periods that have varied from very short cycles (21 days) to very long (50+ days). I also have had lots of days of random spotting mid cycle that I never expected before or while taking the pill. My menstrual cycle (post birth control) has been completely impossible to predict and much more inconvenient than before I started taking the pill. I believe if I had been taking the spacer pills consistently for the last five years then my cycle may have remained on a more predictable routine. I have spoken to my doctor many times since going off the pill and it is his opinion that my body is just trying to regulate my hormones after being on the pill for so long. It is the popular opinion that it should take six months for a woman’s cycle to return to normal after the pill but I have also read of it taking up to two years! I hope that’s not the case for me and that my levels even out soon. 
A few months after this was written my doctor checked my hormones and they were in fact low. I was put on progesterone during my cycle for three months. This significantly helped regulate my cycle. 
Please don’t take any of this as advice. I am not a doctor and I wish I had listened to mine over the suggestions of my friends. 

43: Sand

I bumped in to someone from my past today. It was strange and awkward, yet familiar and nice. From the moment I saw them, all the memories came flooding back. The good and the bad. It’s interesting how in a brief moment your mind can have you relive months and years. My brain can make me feel everything in a second that I had forgotten years ago. Every emotion is as real as it was back then. When you lose someone from your life that meant so much you never expect to see them again. You hope that if you ever do you’ll look good, as though all those years haven’t worn your body and your mind. The sands of time have blasted my corners and worn away at my spirit. I am different now than I was then yet somehow I’m the same. I’m simultaneously the 16 year old girl who didn’t know any better and the 24 year old woman who definitely should. I wish I could talk to my past self but I’m not sure what I would say or if I would even listen. Sometimes time moves so fast and I can’t keep up. We were all so eager to grow up but now we have and yet we are still so young. I wouldn’t recognise the people I went to high school with, I would know their faces but I wouldn’t know their souls. I have lost many friends over the years, some over juvenile arguments, others purely due to the progress of time. These people meant so much to me. I keep thinking of that old analogy they often bring up at weddings. We are all sand and the sand of other people mix with those who we get close to and although you may separate you will never be able to remove every grain of their sand from yours. The people in my life have profoundly changed who I am; from introducing me to new bands to having shared experiences, I will never remove their sand. 

42: My best friend 

You already know everything I would want you to know. I have told you time and time again how much you mean to me. This is for everyone else to know. 
You are one of the bravest people I know. You make friends everywhere you go, which is inconceivable to a person with so much social anxiety as myself. No matter what the situation is you manage to charm your way in to the hearts of the people around you. You might not get along with everyone all the time but you do manage to keep a level head and a fair spirit. 

I admire your adventurous spirit. You travel so much but it’s not always about the distances you go. You have this amazing way of finding the fun, the good, and the exciting. You can turn around some pretty unfortunate situations and you always end up with a great story. I will never know how you do it but it’s one of the best things about you.

You’re realistic but optimistic. There’s nothing worse than when someone is way too positive all the time. You have this way of making people feel like you have genuinely and logically found the best in the situation. I trust that you’ll figure it out and that you’ve thought it through, yet somehow you make it work. I think you might be magic, or some kind of hypnotist.

We have grown up and changed so much but I am so happy that we are still friends. I am so grateful that we kept in contact. I love knowing what you’re up to and I’m always proud of you. I am so glad we met when we did, my life has been richer having you in it. We might not talk as often as we used to since adulthood has got in the way slightly, but I always know that you’re there if I need you. Thank you for being you.

41: A letter to some people I have loved.

There are two of you, you know who you are, although I highly doubt either of you will ever read this. There would be a third but he has remained my best friend. The two of you will forever hold a piece of my heart. I often wonder if you ever think about our time together the way I think of you. I remember every detail so vividly. The first time we held hands. The first time we kissed. The first time I told you that I loved you. The first time you said you loved me too. I look back at these milestones and smile yet I can’t help but wonder if you will even remember them. Did these moments matter as much to you as they did to me? 

I suppose I shouldn’t expect you to remember such details. You began to forget me before you even left me. You ended things, you had time to process the decision, it was no surprise to you that the love had faded from our relationship. I was the one who was blind sided. I often try to remember that moment, when the nostalgia takes me away and I feel that familiar smile crawling across my face, I try to remember the hurt. This brings me back to reality. 
We haven’t spoken since. You were my best friend, the person I trusted the most, and now it’s as though we are strangers. The silence helps to keep it all a distant memory. Both the pain and the love are locked away and protected by the progress of time. 
I often wonder if you know how much you hurt me. I wonder if you ever think about the good times we had. I know I do. I wonder if you ever think about me and smile. I hope you do. It breaks my heart to think you would think negatively of me all these years later. 
Sometimes I still miss you. Then I feel like a fool. I’m married now but it doesn’t stop me from imagining what might have been. All of our lives are just a complex web of decisions sending us onto different paths. At some point my path connected with yours. Then at some point our paths veered off again. I want to believe it was fate because that makes it easier to consolidate in my head. It’s easier than trying to decipher where it all went wrong. Fate is a convenient distraction from reality. 
The amazing thing is that although this is directed towards two people, every word is relevant to you both. You each meant so much to me in completely different ways. You were completely different people. Both in comparison to one another and also, I assume, to how you are today. I have changed so you must have also. I have grown in age and in maturity. Would we even recognise the people we have become? Would we ever fall for each other today? We will never know. 
What I do know for certain is that my relationships, every love, every deep yet platonic friendship, every meaningful conversation, every heartbreak, has made me who I am today. I can never forget you because you will always be a part of me and even if you never realise it, part of me will always belong to you too. Those memories might become vague with time but they will never completely fade because they meant so much to me. I was completely devastated when our relationship ended but I would never take it back because the good times were worth every second. 

Chapter 33: What Makes You Happy?

Today while sitting in on my fiancé’s class I heard his information technology teacher say that her original passion was zoology. My initial reaction when finding out this kind of information about a person is confusion. I wanted to ask so many questions. Zoology and I.T. are not exactly sister vocations. How does someone go from wanting to work with animals to working with machines? It is so interesting to hear from people what their first career choice would have been. When we are going up we are told to have aspirations and are often asked by adults what we would like to be when we grow up. Growing up we are encouraged to believe we can be whoever we want to be. We are asked what we want to be when we grow up, what we want to do. Our whole lives are ahead of us; the world is our oyster; and every other cliche you can think of. As we grow and evolve so do our ideas of what we would like our lives to look like. Every adult knows that life is more complicated than we all perceived it to be as children. 

I have written before about how I always knew I wanted to spend my life doing something creative and stimulating. I have also written about how my path has been redirected in the last few years and I feel like I am walking around in long grass blinding searching for a new, more defined path. I still know that I would like to do something creative because it is so woven into my identity and personality that I don’t think I could achieve much of value in any other field. I had wanted to work in theatre from a young age. I was in the fourth grade when I began writing scripts but had a vague interest in the performing arts much earlier. It was the satisfaction I found in being in charge that lead me towards stage management. Before I discovered the magic of live production I wasn’t very sure of my future. When I was asked by my elders I would respond with the typical answers of a young girl, a ballerina, an actress, a doctor, or a mother. 

There is an old home movie from when I was four years old and I had just started attending primary school. In the video I’m sitting on our ugly green couch with my knees up to my chest. I talk directly to my camera and my father who was behind it filming me. Always the story teller I tell a story about a friend I had just made and what I had learned about her future ambitions. It’s cute and it’s amusing. In my story the friend had wanted to grow up to be a “rock and roll star” but had her dreams crushed due to her gender. There are so many things wrong with that part of the story, I’m sure Joan Jett, Debbie Harry, Suzie Quatro, Pat Benetar and Janis Joplin would have a thing or two to say about my bizarre idea of gender roles in the world of rock and roll. I was young and naive and I was quickly corrected and reassured that women can do anything men can and I should never feel bound by gender

Although I went to a public primary school, my school had a prayer we recited at assembly and a special teacher would come in to our class once a week to conduct a scripture lesson. Any students who had identified themselves to the faculty as belonging to a religion other than Christianity would leave the class during this time. In hindsight they must have been teaching us Catholicism as we were given rosary beads and two Seven Day Adventist children would always vacate the room during these classes but I’m not entirely sure. During one of these classes we were told that having goals was important and we weren’t living our life the best way if we didn’t have clear aspirations. (Organised religion has a habit of telling us the guidelines for how to live an ideal and fulfilling life.) I remember thinking that I wasn’t sure where I was going or where I wanted to be. My ideas in regards to my future were vague at best. I found myself highly concerned that I wasn’t living my life the way I was expected to in the eyes of society and God (which was much more important to me at the time).

After we found out about the Huntington’s Disease in my family I felt a pressure to plan my life out and take control the best I could in the unfortunate event that I also had the genetic mutation. (If you don’t know my Huntington’s Disease story, click here.) Since finding out that I did not having Huntington’s Disease I have learnt to let go. I feel like my life is a lot more open to exploration without the constraints I had anticipated for so long. As I grow up I am realising more that our goal should be to be happy. People continue to ask me what I want to be now that I have grown up. But I’m learning more and more that it doesn’t really matter.

I find I am much more intrigued by what people are interested than what they do for a living. I look at examples such as the IT teacher who loves animals or the carer who wanted to be an engineer. Working with creative people in a creative field is almost like wearing your heart on your sleeve, we are artists because we are doing what we are passionate about. However there are so many other creative and interesting people who are sitting in office jobs (Pam Beesley anybody?). I wish we could ask people what makes them happy or what they are passionate about instead of what do they do? It would be much more fun to talk about anime or sports, animals or science fiction, food or music, with someone I just met rather than their job as an electrician or a salesman.

So what do I aspire to become? I’m not sure but I know I want to be happy. What do I want to be? I want to be comfortable with myself. What am I passionate about? So many things!