Don’t get me wrong, I love an inspirational meme. In fact, they have become a staple in my social media scrolling each day, especially when I’m feeling life rubbing me the wrong way (that’s what she said).

Take this one, for instance:

That is quite the reframe, am I right? How powerful, how satisfying, how action-oriented it is to go from “Why is this happening to me” to “What is this trying to teach me.” Plus, the person is peacefully and mindfully reflecting on her life, surrounded by incredible scenery, joining with the center of who she is.

This image and these words were so powerful, in fact, that I posted them on my Facebook wall, a welcome “Ah-ha!” moment during a busy day in a complicated life. I wanted to preserve my initial wonder at the simple turn of phrase that can change a life perspective. Also – to be brutally honest – I posted it in celebration of my own emotional growth, my superior understanding of what this meme meant, because I’m cool like that.

Except when those words became reality, like when your life is falling apart in one or many ways and you are saying to yourself, “Why is this happening to me, because it sure does suck?”

I call this phenomenon, When Memes Attack, or When Good Memes Go Bad.

My Hard Reality (#TWSS)

I was all high and mighty about my emotional growth between UTI events. They are so frequent that, as I sit here and write this, I currently have a UTI. I just came from the doctor, and stopped at a nearby cafe to drown my sorrows in an egg scramble with non-dairy gravy as – insult to injury – I am lactose intolerant (the gravy, however, is exceptional).

I know the UTI’s aren’t personal – I’m not Job from the Bible. But sometimes it feels like the universe is saying, “Okay, asshole, you posted this meme in a pretty smug way. Now you get to practice.”

Touche, universe.

While I wasn’t peacefully and mindfully reflecting on my life in awe-inspiring surroundings, I was recently joining with the center of who I am while drinking coffee in my favorite coffee shop. Notebook open and surrounded by the sounds of screaming toddlers in the play area, I jotted down some ideas about what this whole UTI saga is trying to teach me.

Promiscuity All The Way, Baby

I’m not saying that I’ve had few partners, but I can report that if one described my sex life in terms of ice cream, the flavor would absolutely be vanilla. Not french vanilla or vanilla bean, those are too fancy. Just the plain, generic, flavored with imitation vanilla kind.

It is obvious that I should have had sex with a lot more people over the years. I got married when I was 20 years old, and didn’t have sex with anyone else before that. Now it’s clear that I should have drowned my nether regions in experiences.

Okay, fine! I’m joking with this one. Not that I have feelings about other people’s promiscuity one way or another, in that “To each her own,” except that I want everyone to be safe and consensual.

Also with every joke comes a shred of the truth. I mean, I know quite a few people who have had plenty of sex with a number of people and they are just fine. Not so much as a sore muscle. My experience, however, is like a kid who hasn’t been exposed to any germs at all and therefore has a crappy immune system, grabbing every germ within a five-mile radius, except for me it’s urinary tract infections roughly once a month for 10 months.

What Do You Mean by No Sex?

Basically, I have discovered that I’m not great at following directions when it comes to the “have no sex” part of my life. This was evidenced by a recent email exchange with my doctor, who is a naturopath MD.

I emailed her about UTI symptoms coming on. These can be brutally fast, in that I feel fine in the morning and by lunchtime am in intense pain. It can be hard to tell that a UTI is imminent and cool it on the sex stuff, especially as I have a pretty active appetite, if you know what I mean (also that’s what she said).

She emailed back, “Keep using the herbs from last time. Call if you need to be seen today. And no sex.”

Uh oh, I thought, wondering if I should email her back, “What do you mean by no sex?”

Let me put it in terms of canoes. As in, what if I paddled my own canoe right before I got her email? Was I in any danger? Does paddling my canoe with another person mean “sex,” or can I still paddle my own canoe?

I Can Be a Squeaky Wheel

At this point in my UTI saga, I am getting desperate. Not enough to give up canoeing altogether, mind you, but still wanting to figure this out. Fortunately, I have a great support system built up over the years.

One of the people I called first was my OB/GYN. He saved the lives of my children and me, and he is super smart. Plus I hadn’t been in for an appointment in a couple of years, what with being distracted by a divorce. When I called, the receptionist asked for the reason for my visit, and I told her about the UTIs.

“Oh, we can’t see you for that,” she said.

“What?” I asked.

“Yeah, he’s not a specialist, so he can’t see you for that.”

“Okay,” I said, confused and, quite frankly, ready to burst into tears. Which I did. And then I thought, a receptionist is not in charge of my health. I am in charge of my health, and I want to see my doctor.

I called back. I got an appointment. I am my own advocate. I will continue to fight for what I need, however long it takes, however many times I need to burst into tears and call back.

I Still Have a Sense of Humor

Obviously. If I keep telling myself how much UTIs suck, my mind will believe it and repeat it, over and over again. I don’t need that kind of negativity on top of everything else. Reframing is essential.

Yes, UTIs are unpleasant. They are also a sign that something – I’m still trying to figure out what, exactly – needs attention. And until there are answers, I will continue to have this experience teach me the lessons I need to learn. Hopefully, with less smugness than before.

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