“Social calendar” this weekend

I can’t even believe it. For the first time ever, I actually have three virtual social events to “attend” this weekend: a catch up with some female friends on Saturday night, a reiki launch session with a friend, and a friend’s baby shower. And then today, we had a Google Hangout with Chris’s parents and brother. It’s the “busiest” social period for me since the pandemic began.

I used to always feel so exhausted every time certain friends of mine would talk about how “back to back” all their friends outings and gatherings were every weekend, how they would literally go from event to event from Friday night through Sunday night. I wasn’t sure if it was a way to brag or show off that one had so many friends, or if it was meant to complain because they packed their schedules so much. But for me, just having three events on a single weekend is a LOT. But I’m looking forward to it. I do enjoy my alone time. I love reading and cooking and doing things by myself. But I also miss socializing in small groups and 1:1 with friends more regularly.

What you do while at the gym

Pretty much every Monday through Friday since September when gyms were allowed to open in the city, I have, no fail, gone to the gym every single weekday morning. The primary activity I do is run on the treadmill (some form of HIIT/interval running to prevent things from getting boring. Running at one or two speeds for too long of a time is incredibly boring to me), but I also add in some form of strength training, barre, pilates, or yoga every day. Monday-Thursday is intense cardio with a mix up of strength, barre, or pilates. Friday is always a lighter run day (lower speeds for about 20-25 min vs. 30-40 min) combined with about 30-35 min of vinyasa yoga. Friday is like the cool-down, transition-into-the-weekend workout. Vinyasa yoga has a lot of toning and strength, but it’s also a lot more balance and focus, so I like doing this on Fridays to unwind a little.

I also notice the regulars who always come around my same time of the morning. We greet each other and say hi/bye. I often get comments that I am likely the most diligent gym-goer in the entire building (which is likely true, but hey, what else do I have to do during a pandemic??). One of these friendly people, however, is a little weird. When I say “weird,” what I mean is… I’m not sure if he goes to the gym just to get out of his apartment or for a change of scenery, but I feel like he’s mostly there to NOT work out, and instead to sit there, vegetate, look through his phone, lift an occasional weight while sitting down… and… even watch me work out. It’s a weird for a few reasons: 1) I strongly dislike people who go to the gym to “say” they go to the gym, but don’t actually work out. If you are going to hog one of three slots at the gym, or go to the gym at all, make use of the space and time! Work out! Exercise! Do what you’re supposed to do while there! 2) Does this person “tell” other people like his significant other, his friends, etc., that he “went to the gym” to imply he actually worked out, but in reality, does it to ward off guilt because he actually didn’t do any exercise at all? Not trying to be mean, but he’s got a super big pot belly….. maybe he should apply himself… and 3) I’m not really sure if he’s actually watching me. When I’ve been a little suspicious, I’ve moved my workout setup when not at the treadmill to another part of the gym to be totally out of his view. And, he doesn’t seem to move with me thankfully, but it’s still uncomfortable to even think that he would watch me.

All I have to say is… if you are at the gym, do your workout, mind your own business, and leave! Don’t be a gawker. Don’t just use the gym as a place to “hang out” or “escape.”

Snow globe outside

For the last two days, it’s been snowing pretty much nonstop. And since I no longer go into an office for work and we’re still living in an ongoing global pandemic, there’s really no “commute” anymore, unless you want to include the time it takes me to get from my bedroom to my dining room table where my computer setup is. So I haven’t left the apartment since Sunday, and I likely will not be leaving the apartment at all this week until maybe Friday.

I still remember when I first saw snow during my first winter in Wellesley in November 2004. I was so excited, and I couldn’t wait to build snowmen and make snow angels and just feel the snow on my face and skin. Now, over 16 years later, while I still find the snowfall beautiful, especially when the snowflakes are huge and fluffy, I also admire it while I am warm and cozy inside, preferably under a blanket and with a hot drink in hand, and still absolutely hate walking through it, especially days after the snow fall when the snow becomes ice, and I have to worry about my aging bones and the potential that I could actually fall and break said bones.

Toilets in New York City

If you’ve ever visited New York City, you’ll know that most of the buildings across the five boroughs are old, old, and old. What that tends to mean is…not only are the buildings old, but their entire makeup from underground and up, including the sewage systems, the pipes, the walls, are ancient. And what that tends to translate into when it comes to you? It means that every time you do your business and flush the toilet… it may not always go all the way down, or as quickly as you’d like.

Oftentimes, when you use public restrooms in restaurants or whatever common spaces in New York, it’s common to see signs that say something like, “Please hold the flusher down three seconds,” or “Do NOT put anything into the toilet other than toilet paper!” The plumbing is weak. You definitely do NOT want your pee or crap coming up. No one wants to see that, not even you. So it’s weird when you know you live in a relatively new building and you find out that the handymen recommend that you NOT use two-ply, Charmin brand toilet paper. Huh?

We’ve been living in our current building for the last 3.5 years, and never even once have we ever had any toilet problem… until today. Chris noticed that the toilet was flushing slower than usual, and so we called the handyman to come up. He came up and looked at the toilet paper on our toilet paper handle. “Is that Charmin?” he asked us. We responded that it was, and he said he’d strongly recommend we not use it anymore because the pipes here can’t handle it.

This building just opened in 2016 and isn’t even five years old. How can a NEW building have pipes that cannot handle two-ply toilet paper from a mainstream toilet paper brand???? If new buildings in New York cannot handle two-ply toilet paper, then the rest of the city (if not the world) is screwed.

IV sedation or local anesthesia?

So after endless doctor visits for bloodwork and ultrasounds, and nearly three weeks of self-administered injections, I finally get told today that the doctor thinks I’m ready for the procedure to extract my eggs this Saturday. This is called, in doctor speak, oocyte retrieval, or in everyday speak, egg retrieval. The nurse calls me today to ask me if I’d just like local anesthesia or IV sedation. In my head, I’m thinking they serve pretty much the same purpose. Well, guess what? I’m wrong since I know very little about this stuff.

The nurse explains that the local anesthesia would be an injection in my vagina (!!!!!). This would numb the area, but because the procedure goes so quickly, the actual numbness would not go into effect until about 10-15 minutes in, and this procedure, depending on how many oocytes there are, is only between 20-30 minutes. So in other words, I’d actually feel the doctor sticking aspirating needles into EACH of my follicles. Ummmmmm, NO.

The second option is IV sedation. This is when an anesthesiologist would stick an IV into my arm, and when the doctor was ready to begin, he’d have the IV activated, I’d initially taste a bit of metallic in my mouth, and within ten seconds, I’d be sleeping. So I’d have no recollection or feeling of anything that happened during this procedure.

This is a very easy decision to make. I absolutely want IV sedation!

But get this: the nurse explains the reason they have to ask this is that because most women who go through this procedure have zero insurance coverage, so having IV sedation would be yet another line item on your bill. I confirmed with her that my insurance does cover these benefits, and when I gave her the name of the provider, she then said, “Oh, then they will definitely cover IV sedation then!” (And because I’m paranoid, I contacted the insurance provider to confirm in writing that they’d cover this).

This really doesn’t have to be this complicated. But because we’re in the U.S. navigating healthcare, it has to be this insane.

Fertility medication in the US

So as I’ve been reading about fertility treatments and medication and also undergoing some of these myself, I was curious to understand… what the heck are you supposed to do with your meds if you do not need all of them? Are you supposed to donate them, give them to your clinic for patients who cannot easily afford… sell them on a black market….?! For your FYI in case you have never learned anything about American healthcare or infertility…. but this is actually a BUSINESS. Insurance companies, hospitals, doctors are profiting off of your diseases, every 15-min appointment, your inability to conceive naturally. Once you’ve been trying to conceive for over a year and have failed, you’re basically deemed “infertile” regardless of your age, and the ‘ka-ching!’ goes off at every single nearby fertility clinic around you. Billions of dollars are spent on healthcare here in the US every single year with pretty terrible outcomes, and I’m sure millions and millions are spent on allowing families to expand. For a basic IVF medication package, assuming you have zero coverage through your health insurance, the approximate sticker price for one IVF stimulation cycle is $8,900 USD. This number is assuming you don’t require extra meds because your follicles take longer on average to mature. If that number is not terrifying and absolutely absurd to you, you need to leave right now and stop reading this post because frankly, you are out of your mind, and I want nothing to do with you.

So I did look up what you’re supposed to do if you have leftover meds (and, inevitably, you WILL have leftover medications). It is illegal (yes, illegal) to give your meds to someone whose name is NOT on the prescription. It is illegal to try to sell these drugs to a friend or via Craiglist or some black market. It is illegal for pretty much anyone else to use your drugs that is not you. When I think about that, I realize… wow, this system is so unbelievably fucked up. You spend tens of thousands of dollars on trying to conceive, and you cannot even legally give your drugs to someone else who may be in financial need (or need, because some of these drugs have actually had a shortage, or try to recoup some of the insane dollars that were spent on this entire effort? And when someone else may run out of their drugs, be given last minute notice by their doctor that they need to continue medication for a drug they no longer have enough of that has also run OUT at their local pharmacy, they’re technically breaking the LAW if they accept it from someone who wants to give it to them nearby?????

The only people winning in these situations… are the doctors, the clinics, and the health insurance providers. It’s such a sad and infuriating process.

“Maybe You Should Talk to Someone”

A book that I had on my reading list for last year that I’ve pushed into this year is Lori Gottlieb’s “Maybe You Should Talk to Someone.” I’ve already started reading it and am pretty hooked. It IS a bit self indulgent, so I thought it would be like a “guilty pleasure read” for me to begin the new year with. Lori Gottlieb is a real-life therapist who, encountering her own life’s troubles, decides herself to see a therapist, so you get an interesting view from two different perspectives: how a therapist sees and treats her patients, and how as a therapist, a therapist can receive treatment. Part of a therapist’s training, as you can probably imagine, is to get therapy in order to increase understanding and empathy on both the parts of the therapist and the patient, but she provides an interesting perspective on how therapy can not only affect and shape the patient, but also the therapist herself.

As someone who had been in therapy for about two years, I can say that it was definitely helpful, but a lot of the burden of responsibility really sits on the patient’s shoulders, and not everyone who thinks about therapy or even seeks therapy thinks about that. During that time, I managed to distance myself from my dysfunctional emotions around my parents and my family a lot more, which was helpful for me to develop into a more independently minded human. I also was able to break free of some of the thought processes my mom had instilled in me which, frankly, are just not productive and good when you want to actually have real relationships with people that are not transactional (e.g. I no longer feel compelled to immediately give a gift back to someone when someone else unexpectedly gives me a gift. I no longer feel like I need to immediately treat someone to a meal just because they may have paid for me yesterday. Life is not about “quid pro quo” the way my mom seems to think it is. I also do not “expect” anything in return when I do kind, generous things for people I care about. That definitely generated some resentment in previous friend encounters that I didn’t quite understand at the time, but in retrospect, I realize I was being a dangerous mini of my mother). Some people erroneously believe that the therapist should just “fix” all the patients’ problems and lead them directly into their epiphany sooner rather than later, but that’s not really how therapy works. In Gottlieb’s words:

“What makes therapy challenging is that it requires people to see themselves in the ways they normally choose not to. A therapist will hold up the mirror in the most compassionate way possible, but it’s up to the patient to take a good look at that reflection, to stare back at it and say, “Oh, isn’t that interesting! Now what?” instead of turning away.”

….

“Insight is the booby prize of therapy” is my favorite maxim of the trade, meaning that you can have all the insight in the world, but if you don’t change when you’re out in the world, the insight — and the therapy — is worthless. Insight allows you to ask yourself, Is this something that’s being done to me or am I doing it to myself? The answer gives you choices, but it’s up to you to make them.”

But I do wonder, based on this, how many people actually use therapy as a “crutch” for life, and instead of taking action on the insights they may be learning in therapy, do absolutely nothing differently while holding that insight in their hands when leaving to go out into the world? I have a friend who may fall into this bucket. She’s been in therapy for years, but if anything, I only see her life outlook seeming to regress, and she seems to examine things less deeply than she once did.

Therapy is a balance of expressing compassion, empathy, and also confrontation. That’s why, when your friend says the exact same thing your therapist does, you may lash out and get defensive, but when your therapist does it, you end up holding your tongue and actually… THINKING about it.

Kimchi

Before this year began, Chris said that he wanted to have more probiotics easily available in the house, and the best and tastiest way for us to do that would be to have kimchi available at all times. I thought yogurt would be a decent option, but despite Chris being Indian, yogurt… is not really something he eats regularly unless it’s via raita with a savory dish. He doesn’t just eat yogurt for breakfast or mix it with fruit or granola. So he decided on his always-on kimchi fix.

Well, that ‘always on’ fix ended up really being “always on” because we ended up spending WAY more time at home than we originally thought we would this past year. At the beginning of the pandemic, we stopped by Hmart and picked up a big tub of kimchi. Apparently, there were kimchi shortages everywhere as everyone loaded up on staples… yes, even in the Asian community. And we’ve been eating it little by little, refreshing each time we were near a Korean or Japanese store that sold it. Today, I finally used it to make kimchi jigae, or kimchi stew. I can’t believe it’s taken me this long to make it at home.

I’d previously made it with pork bones and ribs, so it was a lot richer, but I’d say that even with just chicken stock and some added silken tofu, it really sings together. It’s one of my favorite stews of all time, and it’s way simpler and easier to make than it looks. This needs to be on repeat at home now on.

Uncertainties

Around this time last year, we were in Indonesia, enjoying (or suffering through) the extreme humidity, eating delicious exotic fruit and trying new foods every day, breathing in fresh, crisp air and wandering through a beautiful paradise. Every year we’ve been together that I can look back on, we’ve done something super fun somewhere else at this time of year. And this year, when I think of the mini “breaks” I’ve had with Christmas and New Year’s…. I feel…. completely unrefreshed and replenished. It was not a real “break.” It was simply time away from a computer, time away from work email and Slack.

It feels like just another week, another month, another day… with not much light at the end of the tunnel. I have no idea when I will go home to see my family again. I have no idea when we will get on a plane again. I don’t know when I will be able to see Chris’s parents or relatives again. Will I ever get to meet my colleagues in real life? Will I get to leave the country this year? When will I be able to stop wearing a mask outside my apartment everywhere? There are so many things I am not sure about, and I’m trying to keep them all under control and not think too much about the things out of my control now.

Farewell, 2020

I want to say I want to forget 2020, but I realize that would actually be a lie. I don’t want to forget any part of my experience of this worldwide pandemic. I don’t want to pretend it never happened. I don’t want to deny reality or facts or data. What I do want to say is that I learned a lot this year… about the American electorate. About how terrible it can be to be employed by an employer that is not yourself. About exactly how ruthless and cold the American healthcare system is. About how people still refuse to accept reality and truth and data. About how selfish people really can be (how hard is it to just wear a fucking mask?!). About how selfless people can also be (healthcare workers and essential workers). The world is not as terrible as I sometimes say it is, but it’s also not as great as I want it to be, as we deserve it to be.

Relative to myself, my social media following has grown quite a bit for YmF. I barely had 70 followers as of the end of 2019, and at the end of 2020, I have over 815 Instagram followers. No, I’m not breaking any records or bragging at all about this because in the grand scheme of things, 815 isn’t a lot, but again, it’s all relative to myself. I had about 98 subscribers on my YouTube channel at the end of 2019. At the end of this year, I have 416 subscribers. That’s pretty decent growth if I’m increasing by over 4x, right? I think I deserve a little bit of credit here… And Chris, well, he thinks he deserves a lot of credit as the self-proclaimed “CE fucking O.”

I’m still trying to learn to balance, to stop negative thoughts, to be more positive. I’ve started meditation and am trying to devote at least 10-15 minutes every day to this practice in an effort to bring more calm to my life. I’m trying to be less obsessive over productivity and efficiency and trying to live more in the moment. I still have a lot to learn and lot of areas where I need to grow. Hopefully, that will be happening more in 2021 as the world, fingers crossed, begins opening up again.