Canadian Customs

Last week I went to an academic conference in Toronto and forgive my dramatic word choice, but I would say it was rather life changing. For some reason this has been the year of the conference as I recently attended an educational conference with my mom. This conference felt different because it was supposed to be “my people.”

To be honest I am not quite sure how to fit in with “my people.” On the plane ride despite recently buying a brand new In Style I could not read it because I was surrounded by academics and did not want to reduce my credibility. I instead underlined academic articles and glanced longingly at the glossy pages in my bag.

As soon as I began to wonder whether I was the only non-robot in the group the woman next to me (a professor at a nearby University) grabbed both arm rests abruptly when the plane got bumpy. I looked at her tense face and she forced a smile saying how she really hates flying. I get a sick amount of happiness from being around scared flyers. I am anxious about everything from birds to the subway, but I am not generally a nervous flyer (although sure for the occasional bumps and take offs I like to hold a hand, but not too bad). I responded to my seatmate, “Don’t worry, I am nervous about most things,” and continued calmly reading my article with a smug smile on my face.

Arriving at the hotel was a real “culture-shock.”  I walked into a place with 5,000 other nerds like me. I felt like an anthropologist the entire time constantly studying and watching people there. For some reason something like a casual breakfast buffet feels to me like a really intimate non-professional experience so watching people in their own morning routines was especially enjoyable.

Luckily I was traveling with one of my closest friends who has similar academic interests and is equal parts nerd and cool girl as me (I will let you decide what those proportions are). During my entire time there we did not leave the hotel much and I felt like I had to play “serious academic” non-stop even in the cramped elevators. I tried to hide my resemblance to the woman on the plane with every pause in service on the elevator, especially after my friend telling me the elevators broke when she was coming up to meet me in our room and one person panicked.

On one lunch break I decided to explore the city alone and felt like I got to stop playing academic and could just be TB Phoebe. I walked in and out of shops smiling to myself as I discovered the funky side of Toronto. Shopkeepers even assumed I was a local and one person stopped me on the street to ask for directions! I guess I gave off a cool Toronto chick vibe. I had a fun lunch at this adorable café by myself and was just starting to relax when a group of people from the conference swarmed the cafe. When they walked in I felt like I had been spotted and slumped in my seat and tried to look serious again.

The next day I spoke on a panel and felt a little more like the serious academic I was pretending to be. To be honest after the panel I was gloating. I felt smart and confident and was ready to leave Canada with a feeling of success. I should know better than to think something humiliating wont happen to me and if it didn’t what would I blog about?

When I get to the airport I said goodbye to my friend and went to check-in. After being guided by someone as smart and soothing as my friend I must have forgot to pay attention and take care of myself. After check-in I went to the “bag drop” area where the woman tagging my bag was busily chatting to her friend. I stared at my bag, “Is my bag all set?” “Yes,” she said, “just go to customs.”

To customs I went and was happy to leave my embarrassingly large bag behind. I was stressing about traveling with two laptops (one personal and one for work) because I pride myself on the speed I can go through the security line. My bags felt extra heavy and painful to carry so I just wanted to get to the to a café for a snack. After customs and being slow in the security line I went to a café and took my time going to the gate, even stopping to buy smarties to really feel like I had left America. When I was sitting at the gate about a half an hour before the boarding time they announce my name. I figured there was a seat change or something so I marched up to the gate relaxed.

An official looking man is waiting for me and told me I left my bag at check-in. When I reply of course I did because the woman said I was all set he looks at me like an idiot and says “no you are supposed to take your bag through customs with you.” (I guess “all set” was not the most clear of questions on my end). My stomach drops and he asks me to come with him. I am speechless and just stare down as he escorts me in an elevator back up to security and we parade through security the wrong way. He is on his walky-talky explaining the situation and I am officially humiliated. He takes me to a screening area where there are a few other people. I have to explain to another customs officer with little commentary that I thought the woman at check-in said I should leave my bag. I can’t remember another situation where I have really been at such a loss of words. What do you say when being oblivious has made you appear like a security threat?

I wait in the gate area for them to get my bag and I call my mom in tears because my plane was boarding in fifteen minutes. They call my name and then the woman who is about to search my bag yells at me and asks if I read the sign about cell phones (I didn’t see one and now I felt like a bigger oblivious idiot). The man who guided me to this area says he is going to leave me. I felt abandoned and asked how I was going to get back through security without waiting in line. He says to check-in with the lady at security when I check my bag and she will guide me to the front of the line.

After my entire checked bag and carry-ons are searched I struggle to carry all my luggage back to security and try to find someone to escort me to the front of the line. The woman who I thought I was supposed to see says that she can’t help me and tries to get me to leave her alone. Finally she tells me to just ask people in line to cut. Now I am in tears and asked to cut expecting a friendly Canadian to warmly say it was okay, but instead I get an annoyed, “Okay” from a middle-aged lady. I unpack both laptops and slowly go through security a second time and make it to my gate just in time for boarding. I immediately get on the plane and eat my smarties (that later of course empty into my entire bag) and read my In Style.

I officially dropped the act of trying to be a serious academic and realize I will always be ungracefully Phoebs. According to my mother it is part of my charm.

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Snowy view from the top floor of our hotel

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Yoga is on my brain!

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London fogs at a cute cafe we discovered

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The Truth About Sesame Oil

Two highlights of yoga teacher training last weekend:

1) Someone told me I was “easy-going.” This has never happened to me and may never happen again so I am going to savor every moment of this. Also, perhaps I became too easy-going in point number 2.

2) When your teacher tells you to try massaging sesame oil on yourself as an ayurvedic therapy tip and to help with sore muscles she does not mean to use toasted sesame oil that you find in the grocery aisle of whole foods.

Our teacher had brought up the tip several times of rubbing sesame oil on yourself and getting in an Epsom salt bath. Eager to try everything my teachers recommended, I ran to whole foods during our hour break and grabbed a bottle of sesame oil from the oil aisle. I thought to myself, “toasted sesame oil must be what she meant when she said sesame oil, how many sesame oils can there be?”

That night in my post-yoga daze I decided to try it out to really immerse myself in all I was learning and the yogi lifestyle. Perhaps this was a warning sign to take this transition slower. I opened the bottle and noticed that it smelled quite pungent, but I thought perhaps this is what yogis like to smell like.

After spilling the oil on the sink and haphazardly rubbing it on myself and jumping in the bath I started to doubt my initial instinct. As I am googling sesame oil on my phone in the bath Shaun gets home and walks in noting that it smells kind of odd in our apartment.

Our bathroom and my body officially smelled like an Asian restaurant. Shaun closed the bathroom door telling me he was getting hungry standing in there. I was getting extremely nauseous sitting in the bathtub and did not know what to do with my oily self so I waited for the bath to drain trying not to vomit. I proceeded to take a shower in which I scrubbed my skin raw and then disinfected our entire bathroom. As I was lighting various candles in the bathroom and bedroom I could not get over my stupidity and repeatedly smelled my skin and everything around me to make sure I no longer smelled like Asian food.

After dinner that night I finally was able to laugh at myself and Shaun commented that he understood my frustration after I “basically basted myself.”   

In my new yogi attitude I am trying to remember that there is a lesson in every situation. I learned my lesson to think carefully before rubbing cooking oil over your body and maybe think for a second before blindly following your teacher’s advice. Additionally while frantically trying to make my body not smell like sesame chicken at least I had the silver lining that my most ridiculous moments make the best stories. 

Eat, Pray, Love (Minus the Really Fun Parts)

I might get ridiculed for this, but Eat, Pray, Love is one of my favorite books. To me, the eat and love parts certainly sounded amazing and were probably the most fun to read, but the pray part appealed to my constant search for self-improvement. The pray section also seemed the farthest from my reach unless I was going to plan a trip to an ashram in India. This past weekend I realized I found my own type of ashram right in Boston.

During my small life crisis during the TB diagnosis and treatment plan I decided that I needed to do something positive with this time. I felt sad like I was missing out on youthful activities of going out drinking or drinking during the first spring days, but someone pointed out to me that devoting full weekends and investing in a yoga training is also something you can only do during your youth. I had been intrigued by the signs and emails I get about teacher training at the yoga studio I go to, but it was only over time that I actually started to consider the possibility of signing up. I wanted to become more into yoga and I like teaching therein maybe teacher training was something I should do. However, I did have some serious questions about if I was even good enough at yoga or loved it enough to want to commit myself in this way.

 After debating it with several people I decided to invest and commit. For 8 weekends spread out across the next four months I will be doing yoga classes twice a week and in training from 7:30am-9:00pm on Saturdays and 7:30am-5:30pm on Sundays. Obviously this is only an activity I could do when I am not drinking or going out frequently.  

 I just completed my first weekend of teacher training and I am totally obsessed. We were told in gentle yogi terms that “what happens in teacher training stays in teacher training,” so I will do my best to just write about my experience so that I am not yogi shunned.

I n the first weekend I realized there are two parts of this teacher training that relate to other things I already know I love.

 1) Being a student

2) Connecting with people in an intensive experience

 I think being a student is the most fun job in the world and I seek to be a student in many other aspects of my life. I am always the nerd taking notes at any type of meeting simply because I really enjoy the process of taking notes. I give myself homework assignments and print out and highlight my reading even if it is just for my own knowledge. I am applying this attitude to my yoga teacher training and I feel like I get to be a different kind of student than ever before. We have a binder full of information and we take notes during the training sessions – obviously my notes are meticulous. An amazing part (for a nerd like me) is that we even get really fun homework that involves reading about yoga and journaling!

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Doing my homework at my desk

 Since I was an awkward nervous teenager I have enjoyed situations that involve extreme group bonding. Despite my extreme clumsiness (still got it), nerves, and general lack of athleticism I did two “outward bound type” summer trips. Even if I would not sleep for the entire month before, once I arrived I loved the experience of finding buddies to connect with. I think in these types of situations where you are in an entirely unique group experience you can form some of the best friendships. Although yoga teacher training is not exactly the same as backpacking in the mountains in Costa Rica I think the idea of engaging in an extreme physical challenge of doing hours of yoga and the vulnerability of admitting your flaws and discussing the spiritual side of yoga, will bring the group together and will lead to me finding some new “besties.”

 Finally, I love the content of what we are learning. The training is not just about how to do the poses right or teach them to people, but it is also about meditation, breathing, mindfulness, and adopting a healthier lifestyle. My excitement about transforming my lifestyle has been quite intense. I half-jokingly told my Mom I was going to get a Sanskrit tattoo. I see in this training the amazing opportunity to get to grow and be one of those crunchy yoga people. If I am the type of person who does yoga teacher training then can’t I be the type of person that believes in alternative healing, mindfulness, wears funky jewelry, and plans a trip to India?

 Some people might suggest I take this transformation one step at a time, which sounds a lot more rational than my desire to completely transform. So continue to follow my journey and see if I can pull off this blend of personalities – yogi, fashion/junky tv/trashy magazine lover, academic, giggler, anxious over-thinker – into one smoothie of a person (lately I have been on a juice kick). I think my blog title aptly fits this journey and hopefully I can incorporate a little more grace and a little less mindless klutz. 

Talking to Strangers

One day this past month I woke up and realized I have become someone who talks to strangers. I am not sure how or when this happened, but I must admit I am shocked.

Perhaps spending my college years in the Midwest has had a delayed effect on me. Maybe it is something about not living in the New York area and having lived in the same community of Boston for almost three years. Either way I am surprised to share that I really actually enjoy these chats.

Instead of pretending I don’t notice when I see someone in the gym at work and then am going to the same floor in the elevator I strike up a conversation with this woman. Soon we are new friends and I am being asked to stop by this staff member’s office to say hello. Or while waiting in a shop for the salesperson to ring me up I am chatting about what a beautiful day it is and how I had to talk a break from work to go for a walk.

Who is this person? I remember being shocked during my time at college in Wisconsin when you would be browsing in a store and the salesperson would simply want to chat with you. They were not doing it so you would buy something or because they were crazy (East Coast mindset), but they actually wanted to hear what you had to say.

I think there is real pleasure to be gained from just connecting with another person. However, small or pointless the conversation, we all deep down want to be acknowledged. No matter who we are we all can recognize certain shared emotions and experiences like waiting in a long line together, enjoying a beautiful day, or being lost trying to find an office in a large building.

Community has been something I have noticed a lot lately and seems like something so underrated we barely think about it. I so treasure the neighborhood I live in because it is such a community. One day last week became my neighborhood day and I made a point to notice this community I was a part of.

In the morning, I took my laundry to the Laundromat with the slightly crazy worker (lets call him Vince) who will chat your ear off. He knows every regular and their wife, husband, kids, or dogs. He will tell you about his life experience and you cannot leave even if your laundry is done. Shaun finds my relationship with Vince humorous because in addition to being slightly crazy he is also sexist. I decided there is absolutely no point explaining to him that this attitude he learned where he grew up (abroad) is sexist, yet I will not give into his sexist assumptions about me cooking dinner or doing the laundry. I try to politely make a stern comment with a smile, but he just doesn’t seem to notice. Even though there are days I will go to the farther Laundromat that does not have anyone working to avoid being trapped into a conversation I still realize Vince makes up our community. On snowy days, cold days, or warm sunny days you can frequently find him standing in front of the Laundromat greeting people on their way to work.

On this same day I noticed neighbors talking on the street. I have two favorite dogs that live in my neighborhood that I have noticed after living here for three years and am always keeping an eye out for them on the street. One used to live in the apartment across from us and I swear he recognizes me when we are on the same block.

While waiting for my laundry I stopped in a coffee shop for a tea and to read my newspaper. This activity that felt quant and appropriate on a simple neighborhood weekday morning. A rabbi and and a lawyer were sitting there (no this is not the start of a joke) and the person working at the counter asked where the rabbi had been because she hadn’t seen him in awhile. They were talking about what all good local Boston rabbis and lawyers chat about – Whitey Bulger. They seemed to be two individuals who just frequented this coffee shop at the same time and were keeping tabs on each other’s work.

How nice to know that if you veered from your normal morning routine someone would notice and miss you. When I studied abroad in Buenos Aires I went to the same “kiosko” everyday for water and snacks. The owner and I never really spoke – mainly because small talk is much harder in a different language and I was an insecure twenty year old – but I wondered if the man working there ever thought about what happened to me when I never showed up again.

My reputation for being someone who could “talk to anyone” and immediately become friends preceded me actually recognizing that this was a part of my personality. Can our personalities really change this much? I imagine if you asked each member of my family whether I would like to talk to strangers 99% would say I would be more likely to give a reflex eye roll than partake in random small talk. I didn’t think I was someone who really enjoyed people and when I lived in NYC would often groan about “hating everyone.”

Some of my favorite people in the world are Midwesterners who are just so truly loving and kind in their ability to see each individual as someone they could chat with or maybe become friends with. I guess I thought I liked this so much previously because it seemed so different than who I was. Instead I must have always had an appreciation for their ability to connect with others.

I would suggest that everyone, even people who would claim they do not like people  embrace this sense of community (warning label for those people living in New York City where you will look like a lunatic for making small talk with some person in a rush).  I am sure there are studies on how we need community, etc. which I never would have taken seriously until I realized that being a part of a community and connecting with people has actually brought me joy. These little sources of happiness are so important in a long winter when I imagine three quarters of the people living here are struggling with depression.

In my job we frequently hold events with lots of random people from the community. I was trying to explain to the ten interns I supervise about the importance of talking to strangers and how it is a wonderful skill to have in their careers. One of them laughed and pointed out that I had just erased the most frequent advice one receives as a child to not talk to strangers. While I would like to stick with the concept of never accepting candy from strangers, perhaps it is time we all unlearned this childhood advice.

 

 

One month anniversary

It is my one-month anniversary of living loud and proud with latent TB. See past post if you have no idea what I am talking about and are scared of/for me.

I would say so far it has been okay (vague word, but how else does one describe the silliness of this?). The positives: blog post topic, serious street cred, unique anecdote to share, probably healthy to not drink, inspired me to do a yoga teacher training! The cons: everything else.

The first week or so I felt very dizzy on the antibiotics. When I called my doctor I heard words a doctor would never dare utter to me in the past, “You were absolutely correct to call about this. Please call me anytime about any concerns and the nurses will find me.” It is freaky when a doctor who deals with people with infectious diseases makes you feel like a priority patient.

I have felt better since that first week, but continue to blame everything on the antibiotics. This includes: crankiness, exhaustion, nauseous, vivid dreams, appetite changes, headaches, and sunburn. Anyone who knows me knows I usually experience about half of that list on any given day.

Another thing anyone who knows me knows is that I am usually an over-sharer and am not one to keep my personal stories to myself (as shown in this blog). Also I would like to be in the running as the poster child for latent TB so I have a lot of publicity to get started on.

This past weekend I visited NYC and saw several friends who did not know about my infectious disease debacle. I decided to change up how I did the big latent TB reveal. At one dinner I decided to not drink and see how long it took for a friend to say something. At another gathering I interrupted a contentious political discussion with, “In other news, I have tuberculosis.” They continued their heated sentence thinking I was offering my opinion in the debate and then, “Wait what?!”

The second sentence of each of these conversations was, “I am not contagious and have never been contagious.” People’s reactions have completely made me rethink how my germaphobe tendencies probably make other people feel. The friends who didn’t think twice about offering me a sip of their drink or a bite of their food after I revealed my situation made me feel like they trusted me and know I would never put them at risk. I can’t be sure if would have done the same, but I like to think I will in now.

Here are the FAQs that would follow for certain people who still doubted that I was not contagious:

1) “Are you sure you are not contagious?” “Yes I am definitely not contagious I have never actually had TB and I have asked multiple specialists about this.”

2) “How can you not be contagious?” “You had the chicken pox when you were young and it is still in your blood, but you are not contagious now.”

3) “Has Shaun been tested?” Eye roll, “Nope boyfriends are not a special rule for the whole not contagious situation.”

The next stage of questioning would be:

1) “How did you get this?” The truth is I don’t know, but Kenya sounds the coolest so I usually defaulted with, “Probably last summer in Kenya.”

2) “Do you have to take medicine?” “Yes and I can’t drink for four months!” Amazed looks from friends would follow.

Now about what its like to not drink. First of all anyone who thinks it is not hard must not have any trace of social anxiety and I hate them (JK, but really?). Shaun has patiently put up with my whining and sad face before we are going out to dinner or when the hostess innocently suggests we wait at the bar and get a drink.  Like anxiety not drinking is hardest in advance of or at the beginning of an experience, but once I am seated at a dinner or sipping tea at a bar (embarrassing) then it really is not that big of a deal. I have become a mocktail connoisseur and asked several talented bartenders around NYC to make fun drinks for me with no alcohol. This is also an easy way to disguise the fact that I am not drinking for times when I do not feel like explaining the details of latent TB.

In NYC Shaun and I would have probably gone to a bar for a drink at happy hour or had a cocktail with brunch, but instead we replaced drinking with eating. What to do at 5pm on a Friday when we would usually have a drink? How about tacos? (Day one) Or coffee (throughout the day)? Or empanadas? (Day two). To be honest I am not sure which is the healthier habit, but hey I am just trying to get by here.

I have never realized how much people expect you to drink in all circumstances. Trying to relax and not think about latent TB I got a facial on vacation and the facialist asked if I wanted a glass of wine. When I said no she asked if I was sure because apparently I am the only person who does not drink after a facial. At dinners out they shove the wine list in my face and ask a few times if I want a drink. To not drink in the U.S. takes serious effort.

At my sister’s suggestion I have been thinking through a list of top reasons a person would not be drinking:

1) Pregnant (or nursing)

2) Recovering alcoholic

3) Trying to save money

4) Trying to save calories or doing a cleanse

5) Driving

6) Drank too much the night before

7) Just getting over the flu, cold, etc.

8) Alcoholism runs in family and so making an effort not to drink

9) Big meeting, commitment, or exam

10) On antibiotics for latent TB!!!!!!

I have decided to proudly use reason number 10! Hopefully it will inspire other latent TB sufferers (please let there be others out there)!

Here are some pics of the food and other random pictures I took in NYC:

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A Positive Test Result

Hypochondriacs are used to living their life worrying about their health only to be consistently told that “no you aren’t having a heart attack,” or “no you do not have [fill in the blank disease].” We get used to this pattern of worry and subconsciously expect that negative test result or unnecessary doctor’s visit. How does it shake our ways when we actually do have something to worry about?

My health scare sounds a lot worse than it is, but in the effort to keep my blog exciting post-adventures in Africa, the truth is that I have latent TB. Before any of my friends who read this blog (thanks to those of you out there) decide to disinfect anything I have ever come in contact with I would like to say that I am absolutely not contagious and not sick. I am scared to tell people because I can only imagine how I would react hearing this despite assurances that someone had the “inactive” form of TB. But from a fellow germaphobe hypochondriac I have thoroughly researched this.

At some point in my life I was exposed to TB (I am sending dirty stares to all people who have ever coughed on me) and my body fought it off. The TB bacteria is still present in my cells and in very rare cases especially if someone’s immune system is weakened the TB could become active. This is the reason I had to go through all these tests when everything seemed fine to me.

It all started when I went to my new fancy doctor in Boston. I am quite obsessed with my new doctor’s office because it is a medical practice that seems to be geared towards worriers. You can email the doctors with any questions you have, the doctors are so patient and attentive, and it has the nicest waiting room I have ever seen. In reviewing my medical history my doctor asked me if after my trip to Kenya I had been tested for TB and I suddenly remembered that I had conveniently ignored the advice to get this test when I got back.

I have had several instances in my life where I got a TB test, which seemed positive, but then was told by doctors that it was likely just a skin reaction or something else. I expected the same cycle to happen this time when my doctor told me my TB skin test seemed positive. She told me to get a blood test for TB which would probably come out negative, even telling me there had been a patient before me who had the same problem and had just got a negative result from the blood test.

I got the blood test and a week later (despite me calling everyday for the results). I got an email from my fancy doctor’s office confirming my appointment for the next day. As I hadn’t made an appointment I knew this was not good news. Five minutes later I received an email from fancy doctor’s office telling me my TB blood test was positive.

My hypochondriac pattern was shaken and I had no idea what to do with the fact that this time I had not exactly been worrying about nothing. I did what any anxious emotional girl would do and pulled over on the side of the road with my hazards on and called my mom hysterically crying. I also threw in a dramatic text to Shaun that said, “I have TB,” perhaps playing with the shock value of this statement.

Phase two of three of this process was for me to get a chest x-ray. By now I had calmed down and decided I could handle this like an adult and decided to just casually stop by the hospital to get a chest x-ray. As someone who over-worries about things I did not have enough foresight to consider how I would feel in this situation alone. I am still used to my mom taking me to scary doctor’s appointments (just last year I felt like a ten year old girl hysterically crying in the waiting room to my mom before getting my wisdom teeth removed). When I walked in I saw patients on hospital beds chatting about lunch and family members watching TV in the waiting area. I checked in and was handed a hospital ID bracelet and told to put on a robe. Dumbfounded I proceeded to freak out while changing in the bathroom only to get walked in on by an elderly man in the waiting room.

Even though I read The Interestings and know that the people doing your x-rays cannot tell you anything I still expected this man to again reconfirm that I was overly worried and say, “these look great.” Instead he had no expression and I was now convinced that my judgment was entirely off and this time something was actually wrong.

The next night I couldn’t sleep and convinced myself I was having a heart attack. This now seemed plausible due to the positive TB test. I googled “27 year old woman having heart attack,” and “right shoulder pain.” In the morning when I had a scheduled appointment to get the chest x-ray results I had a panic attack and lay in bed trying to do yoga breathing.

The chest x-rays were fine and all that was left between me finding out what latent TB meant for me was an appointment with an infectious disease doctor. Just by the title I had a feeling this appointment would not be easy. I decided to bring Shaun along. I couldn’t get an appointment for two weeks so I was uncomfortably powerless and lacking information for this period, not a good state for me.

After googling and talking to friends who had friends who had dealt with this I knew what would likely happen was that I would be put on antibiotics for months. The reason this seemed especially problematic was that you cannot drink at all on these antibiotics. I feel kind of like an alcoholic when I explain that this was part of my worry. I would not consider myself a big drinker, but most people I know enjoy a nice glass of wine at night or can understand that often people ask you to “meet for drinks.” This meant a serious lifestyle change. I had anticipated making this kind of change when I was pregnant, but it felt so disappointing to do it now when I was still supposed to be “young” and carefree.

I had been floating the idea of doing the yoga teacher training that is always advertised at the studio where I do yoga sometimes. I was even more intrigued when I did a two-week daily yoga class with all of the students in the training program. This felt like a kind of nutty idea for someone who is not that devoted to yoga and generally not that good at anything requiring coordination, but I felt that if I got the verdict that I would be on these antibiotics I would have to make other changes in my life to make up for the lifestyle change. Someone told me that this was another thing that was youthful that I could not do when I had kids and other responsibilities. I could take this time just to focus on me. The more I thought about this the more I started to accept the possibility of taking the antibiotics. I basically had made my decision to do the teacher training, but decided to wait until after my doctor’s appointment so in case I got bad news I would be able to direct my attention to something positive.

The morning of my appointment was a massive blizzard. All I wanted to do was get this appointment over with and I was determined to get there regardless of the snow. Shaun and I took the T in the blizzard and were literally covered in snow when we got to the appointment. I brought a lot the snow of into the waiting room and the faux fur-lined hood of my adorable coat smelled like a wet dog. The office wasn’t quite as creepy as I imagined although there was a huge poster in the bathroom about the life cycle of HIV. I took deep breaths and tried to find comfort by being overly chatty with the nurse checking me in.

As soon as Dr. G greeted me I knew I would like her, she gave off a warm and calming presence. Dr. G understood my anxiety and did not try to talk me out of how I was feeling. When she took my pulse she said, “I am expecting it is going to much higher than it normally is,” and of course it was.

Dr. G seemed to have a sense that she would have to sell me on the need for taking medicine when I felt fine and could maybe live without the TB every becoming active. She seemed to know her audience when she said she worries about this for people my age who might become pregnant which changes your immune system. Using this example seemed to hit a nerve with both Shaun and me. She patiently answered every single one of my questions and Shaun even added some thoughtful ones as well. My most ridiculous question was whether I could drink wine that night and start the antibiotics the next day. She smiled and said that yes I should enjoy some wine tonight. Dr. G sent me on my way telling me she would have to see me every month while I was on the medicine and I would have to get blood drawn to make sure my body was handling the antibiotics okay.

We left the hospital and I took some deep breaths, but was basically silent. I think my silence after an emotional event is usually what worries Shaun and the people closest to me the most. He suggested we go get bagels (despite our effort to cut out carbs) and I could sit there and call my parents. The shock prevented me from crying all day. I signed up for the yoga training and felt somewhat comforted, but still defeated. That night I felt like it was my last hoorah, last moments tend to not sit well with me, but I proceeded to drink a lot of wine and made an effort to be carefree and to not think too far ahead.

The night I was going to start my antibiotics was when I had my biggest freak out and also worried about more rational things. Why was I putting this strong antibiotic in my body for four months when I felt fine?  Maybe there are strong side effects of this that no one knew about yet. Is this part of our antibiotic culture? Was this a mistake? Was it really happening?

I took the medicine hungry (because you have to take it on an empty stomach), which did not help my reaction as I tend to be miserable when I am overly hungry. My parents tried to reassure me that this was the right plan and people often get surgery when they feel fine. I tried to frame it to myself as similar to getting a vaccine, you are putting a substance in your body, which you may not ever need. I apologize in advance for over-sharing, but if you are reading this blog I think you might be okay with that. Another fun fact, the antibiotic makes your pee this strange neon bright orange hi-c like color so that is quite freaky. It also stains your contacts orange, which will make me feel even more like an alien. This might become my new party trick.

The bottom line is that I know this is actually not a big deal and I am so grateful to be healthy and be able to prevent myself from getting very sick. These little annoyances will become less of a big deal each day. Perhaps this happened at this time to force me to make a life change. I hope this yoga teacher training will be transformative and it is something I probably would not have done had I not been dealing with this TB situation. Maybe this positive test result will lead to positive life changes. It certainly helps provide more interesting blog material, conversational anecdotes, and will be something I will always remember and be able to laugh about. Although, stay tuned for my next entry titled, “I miss wine.

Your Truly

TB Phoebe (great new nickname)

Reuniting with New York City

 I have written posts in my head, even wrote a few down, yet something is holding me back from continuing blogging. There is a new fear that wasn’t there before that I am writing for no one. The concern that now that I am out of Kenya I don’t have as much interesting material. This is in addition to for some reason it feeling like a chore. I don’t want to open my computer and write. Here is to breaking that pattern and not letting my worry get in the way of something that I have grown to so enjoy over the past six months.

 Last week I was in New York City for a work trip and to see friends. I have been back several times since Shaun and I moved from NYC, but this time it felt different, although I am not sure why. From the moment I stepped off the train into Grand Central I had that excited feeling in my stomach. I remember feeling this way coming into NYC before I moved there. The energy, the buzz, and the people going about their lives who forgot what that excitement feels like.

I felt especially nostalgic this trip as well. Staring at the skyscraper where Shaun and I first met, smiling as the cab sped by the restaurant where we had our first Valentine’s Day, and strolling by the lunch place I ate at everyday the summer I interned in NYC during graduate school. For such a big city it is amazing how my memories are scattered across it.

 The first night I stayed in the city I stayed at my friend’s apartment and had the morning free to wander. My goal that morning was to find the perfect NYC bagel in her neighborhood. I researched online and found a place called “Best Bagel.” I walked there in the morning and stood in line not even minding it. I eavesdropped on the eclectic couple in front of me and felt like a tourist because I did not order as quickly and blend in with the rest of the crowd. I rushed back to the apartment to savor my NYC bagel and coffee in peace. It was absolutely everything I hoped it would be and I text Shaun about just how perfect it was, maybe rubbing it in his face a little bit. We say what we miss most about NYC is ordering bagels delivered on the weekends. (I guess that shows what our priorities are).

 It rejuvenated me to have a mini adventure and see the city with new eyes. Forgetting the fact that when I lived there the crowds, attitude of the people, and pace made me miserable. This time it all seemed kind of charming, like visiting another country.

 I am glad NYC and I reunited. My friend who is living there now and has been for the past five years told me she thinks she is developing a bad relationship with the city. She knows it is time to break-up and is worried that the longer she lives there the more she is going to leave hating it. I guess I am proof that even after a break-up it is still possible to hold a soft spot in your heart for NYC.  

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