Category Archives: The Middle Row

Smear Campaign

TW: Vaginas and speculums, oh my!

I’ve seen a couple of people I follow on social media talking about this and I wanted to get involved. So today, friends, we’re talking about smear tests.

As you’re aware I said goodbye to my thirties a while back. I’m now 41 and therefore so together in life that you can be sure I’m completely on top of my cervical smear appointments. NOT. The last test I had, according to my lovely nurse from this morning, was in 2010. This is totally unacceptable and I know that. But life gets in the way so I can’t beat myself up about it too much.

I have been getting lectured heavily by my husband recently though and he was part of the reason I finally booked the appointment. Along with a lot of press about how the number of women attending them has diminished over the years. I know this isn’t good but I’ve done it now and it was so unobtrusive that I thought it was worth sharing my experience. Reading other women’s stories helped me to be less nervous about everything so why not, eh?

My appointment by the way took just ten minutes. That’s ten minutes of my day to get a potentially life-saving procedure. My nurse, Natalie, was reassuring and professional – and although I say I wasn’t thay nervous, that’s a bit of a lie. The first thing I told her as I entered her room was how scared I was feeling. She asked me what I was most worried about – my responses: having to get my bits out, the pain, the results – weren’t very helpful. But she still addressed each one of them.

“I’ve seen it all before.”
“It can be uncomfortable but shouldn’t hurt. Tell me straight away if it does.”
“Whatever happens, we will deal with it.”

And then I was lying bottomless on the bed with my feet together and my legs angled like a frog’s. Not the most glamourous of positions and no stirrups in sight but it wasn’t uncomfortable. It’s a little bit odd when the spectulum slips in (after it’s been generously lubed up, thank you very much) but not painful. We talked about veganism, work and Jade Goody while she rummaged around.

In the end, I has to have an extra long speculum which made me laugh (and then wonder if I should be worried) but according to Natalie – and many of the articles I have read recently – “One size does not fit all”.

Did I mention I was in and out within ten minutes, with no pain, not much discomfort and a huge sense of pride? Like, I’ve ticked something off my “Sensible Woman” list for another three years. The results will be posted to me in 4-6 weeks and hopefully, that will be that.

So if, like me you’re several tests behind and putting things off, don’t. You’ll be okay.

Get those flaps out for your friendly neighbourhood nurse.

Enjoy the Silence

I’m a big fan of the PMA meme. I choose to believe that a fair bit of being able to get through life is to maintain a positive attitude (where possible, obvs). I don’t really like to thrive on negativity or be around bad energy – the odd bitch about a colleague is one thing but I don’t enjoy being dragged into drama, my own or someone else’s.

What I’m trying to say is that here on the blog I might have a gentle moan but most of how I’m feeling is filed away in the “being handled” cabinet, and that is that. But that’s not always realistic and sometimes I just get very, very tired with everything. Not in a sinister way, there’s nothing to worry about, it’s more about getting fed up with slapping a happy face on and going about my day all the time.

Of course most of us are doing that – it’s life – we’re fighting the good fight but sometimes all the relentless positivity, all the Go girl/You got this memes, the very memes I subscribe so heavily to, start to annoy me. What if I don’t got this? What if I can’t pick myself up and dust myself off? Obviously I can and I will eventually but what if the effort of this is too much because sometimes it is. Sometimes I feel so numb I don’t feel anything. Of course there’s always love for my husband, family and friends – it’s not that, it’s something else this numbness. It’s a bone tiredness that sucks the joy of life and the excitement out of the future.

On the other hand sometimes, when I let my meds slip (which isn’t often), I might go the other way. My brain literally buzzes and it feels as though all the nerve endings inside this head of mine are live wires. I feel overwhelmed and out of control. That’s the worst feeling in the world and almost worse than the depression.

I don’t reveal all this because I’m special or that I want to be treated differently, I share it because it’s true and a part now of who I am. We’re told all the time it’s important to talk about these things and it is, we shouldn’t be scared by fact and by the so-called negative things that make us human. I wouldn’t change this about myself, I believe honestly that it makes me a better person somehow, that my anxiety and depression attunes me to others and I can spot a person struggling and act accordingly. I will never shy away again from being sensitive, even over-sensitive – this is me.

I just think it’s important to acknowledge that the fight is tiring and that sometimes I want to give up. Genuinely, I think often of getting on a bus and disappearing, starting a new gentler life somewhere alone. My reclusive nature goes into overdrive and it seems so appealing. Imagine not having to speak to anyone for as long as I wanted! Sounds like bliss. In reality it would be lonely and isolating and it would make me feel so much worse.

I’m not going to do that. I have everything I could ever possibly need right here but sometimes, just sometimes I need to allow myself to feel these things. Then I’ll pick myself up and get on with it.

How are you?

No Shopping Update #1

As you know, I’ve embarked on my own personal challenge of not shopping for clothes until the Summer (or more specifically August 1st).

For me this is a massive undertaking and although nobody but me is holding me accountable, I have to admit here that I’ve already slipped a couple of times. I don’t mind being transparent, I bought a bag I thought I desperately needed in the BooHoo sale. It was cheap and cheerful – and I hated it so it’s going back.

I then simply had to have a pair of tartan print paper bag trousers because of course I do. Those are staying because they’re super cute.

This morning I bought a £15 puffa jacket to arm myself against the rising chilliness and a sweatshirt I’ve had on my wish list for donkey’s. That was £7. So not exactly breaking the bank and also needed but still, I feel bad I’ve already stumbled at the first hurdle.

I have to remember I’m human and breaking a habit of a lifetime so I will have minor blips. The security team at work asked me if I was okay the other day as there have been no packages since Christmas and I’ll take that as a small win. I might have caved a couple of times but I’ve still mostly avoided the sales and given my debit card most of the month off.

I know I can do this and I’ll be flipping the bird to the people who thought it would be too hard for me come August.

Starting again from NOW.

Write the Book

“Everybody does have a book in them, but in most cases that’s where it should stay.” ~ Christopher Hitchens

There’s an old adage that suggests that every person has at least one book ‘in them’. I don’t know if this is true but I often think about whether or not I might be someone who does. My gut tells me no, absolutely not, that the fiction I love to read is way beyond me. I like dark and intricate plots – and I know I’d never have the attention to detail required to produce anything in this league. I struggle with timelines at the best of times (everything was the other day to me, even 1996) but I can’t imagine skilfully being able to foreshadow or call back to the exact moment a character turned from ordinary person to arch nemesis of the world.

For as long as I can remember my mother has been on at me to just “Write the book”. I believe I can write competently, it isn’t that I doubt that – I just don’t know if I have that something extra that she thinks I have. Writers are the most extraordinary people in the world to me. Take Stephen King, the man who wakes up every morning and writes a set number of words (1000) no matter what. Come rain or shine he throws his words on the page and something usually sticks. The man has produced some of the most memorable horror characters of all time. He’s built worlds that might look just like ours but are actually more horrible/magical/strange that we could ever imagine. Whether you’re a fan or not, this commitment is incredible – and it seems healthy and cathartic to me too. Perhaps I should try it, just open a Word doc every day and GO.

But if fiction is out of the question, then what? I haven’t enough true story in me for a memoir (I know that’s never stopped a lot of people) plus I’m way too young (LOL). Self help seems like a bit of cheek – who am I to believe I have wisdom to share with the world? This morning I had a Cadbury’s Crème egg for breakfast because “I’m ill”. I know about love, heartache and grief but so do most people. What on earth is my USP?

This is one of the million dollar questions that keeps me awake at night – what was I put on this earth to do, really? Perhaps that’s my pitch: ordinary 40 year old woman goes out into society to figure out her true purpose? Hey it could work. Failing that I’ll just whip up a book of my favourite filthy jokes, none of which are suitable for this blog post.

Happy Wednesday all!

UPDATE: I wrote this for my work blog and thought I’d share it here too.

Hibernation Nation

Our household has come down with a case of the sickness and I’m personally affronted by the fact it’s penetrated the force field of my annual flu-jab. Rude.

As a result of this I do get to do my favourite ever thing without guilt though: nest. So I’ve got a whole weekend planned, reruns of Broad City, Twin Peaks: Fire Walk with Me, a re-watch of Mandy, good food (or whatever I can afford the weekend before Pay Day) and watching the gerbils fuck about in their natural habitat. Glynn is sick too of course and he’ll be feeling it far worse than this guy (because he’s a man) but I’m looking forward to being curled up in our dressing gowns together all weekend. Sue me.

I’ve always been a homebody. Someone way more comfortable in my own environment than anywhere else. Over the years I’ve got much better at being out and about socially but if given a choice I would always be more inclined to stay in. I like being cosy and comfortable, I like my own shows and my sofa, on which I keep all the things I could ever possibly need (face wipes, notebook, giant tub of Vaseline).

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I like my husband even when he’s being annoying and I like his company, although we definitely don’t live in each other’s pockets. If he’s gaming, I’ll be in the bath or in the bedroom, reading usually. If I’m chilling and Netflixxing (with myself), he’ll be in the bedroom reading too. It’s a perfect kind of harmony really and always reminds me of a line in Chicago’s Cell Block Tango:

“He’d go to work, he’d come home, I’d mix him a drink, We’d have dinner. Well, it was like heaven in two and a half rooms.” ~ Annie (SIX)

Obviously (hopefully) without the bigamy. What I’m trying to say is I’m content. I think we both are – and sometimes I actually embrace being sick. It feels like a chance to slow down a bit and just be, to give the body what it desperately craves (no, Christa, not 16 Cadbury’s Creme Eggs) – I can’t wait.

How’s everybody today?

The Empress’ Old Clothes

Every month I tot up all my expenses to see how much ‘treat’ money I’ll have left after all the bills are covered. These funds go towards dinners out, takeaway and new clothes if I’m lucky.

Increasingly the treat pot is getting smaller, especially after this Christmas and February looks just as bleak as this never ending January.

I beat myself up about never having proper money and although it’s true I like to shop and possibly have a problem with that, I live in Brighton and it’s expensive af! We are all just doing what we can and I know I’m much luckier than a lot so should just shut the fuck up.

But! I’ve decided to set myself the challenge of only wearing clothes I already own until the Summer. I thought this could be fun and teach me a few forgotten lessons about being wasteful. I have some really lovely items in the back of my wardrobe (in a pile of clean laundry in the corner of my room) and dammit if they don’t deserve their moment in the sun (or lack there of).

So this is my pledge. No more new stuff until August. No new handbags, no new clothes. No new jewellery – I have heaps of the stuff.

Man, I might even go through my room with a black bin bag and Kondo some shit. I haven’t actually read or watched any of her stuff but I do like the idea of only housing joy-enhancing stuff. Mmmmmm, stuff.

Shit this is going to be challenging.

UPDATE: There are 197 days until 1st August. I’m going to make a daily note of what I wear each of those days. Who knows, it might even encourage me to get more creative with what I already have.

I’ll hit you back with an update in August. Wish me luck! 🎉

One Week In

We’re a week into 2019 and I could really do with a week off. I’ve managed to drag my worn old carcass out walking a bit, one of the few non-resolutions I’ve made. I’ve been the laziest toad this Winter, getting the bus every evening instead of doing the 20 minute walk to my flat. It’s amazing what you can blame on the cold and darkness if you have to.

I don’t really have much to share in this catch up post. Life has been ticking along. The office is rife with diet chat and I want to chew my own arm off in protest. I don’t care if you’re ‘being good’, Linda – leave me out of it.

I’m here in the first week feeling like something needs to happen. I want to make changes, to salivate with possibility again (there’s an image for you). I’m a scaredy cat though in so many ways and I don’t want to be that way anymore, I want to take risks like I used to. Perhaps I should be looking for another job. The one I have is lovely and I like what I do but is it the right one? I chose it because I was so wounded by the last one and it’s been nearly 18 months now. I’m not even saying I want to leave the company, I love it here – I just know I need to push myself harder. So I’m going to find a way to do that.

This year I just want to surround myself with decent people and be happy. Get a grip on my self-doubt and find a way to soar. Isn’t that a great goal? I think I also need to start throwing away a lot of the old shit that weighs me down. The things that don’t bring me joy, as Marie Kondo would say.

See this is the thing about January, it’s so devoid of things to look forward to (unless you make it), that you’ve no choice but to sit in gazing at your own navel. It’s a good and bad thing, equally.

How’s your New Year so far?