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Nine days ago I went into my first ever surgery. While minor, I was still nervous, like peed six times before they gave me the good drugs nervous. Something about losing time with anesthesia really bothered me.

I'm home, mostly in my bed, for the last nine days. I'm lying. Today, I'm on my couch. The doctor told me the recovery for a tonsillectomy for an adult was rough. He definitely downplayed "rough." Last Thursday, four days after the surgery, I went back to his office convinced I'd developed an infection because my neck was so swollen my jaw line was almost gone, and the pain so bad it brought tears to my eyes. He told me I needed to be tough and this was normal. I cried in his office.


I find this word interesting because for a large part of my life people around me have used this word to describe me. I'm not sure what makes someone tough. Because I often cry. In fact, I cry for almost each of my emotions. Happy cry, angry cry, sad cry, I do them. So what makes someone tough?

As I've been slowly healing, I don't feel tough. I feel pain. I feel a burning pain each time I try to swallow. More than a few times, I thought I wouldn't be able to swallow. I felt like I would die. Literally. I felt like I was going to suffocate because I couldn't will the muscles in my throat to contract. When they finally did, the burning pain started in my throat radiated up into my ears and more than once brought tears to my eyes.

Is that tough?

Part of me wants to laugh at how silly it sounds. Why is a surgery that children often get so painful for an adult? But then I get a twinge of pain as I try to swallow cold water through a straw. So, I'm trying to be tough as I spoon baby food into my mouth. I'm trying to be tough when I go to bed with an ice pack on my neck.

Next month, when I can finally eat solids, and this will be a long-ago memory, I will be glad the tonsils were taken out. I'll be glad that our bodies aren't capable of remembering pain. I'll be glad I can hold a conversation for longer than a few minutes before my tongue starts to ache. And I'll say, yeah, "Fuck, tough."


  1. I believe "tough" may be characterized as the ability to endure the pain, with or without tears. Perseverance is key. "Tough" people are often sensitive. Indeed their sensitivity is a strength. It gives them the ability to relate to others and understand life's challenges. These traits give "tough" people the skills needed to really live a meaningful life.

    I was close to your grandmother if only for a short time. You remind me of her, strong, sensitive, full of life, and yes, very "tough."

    Take good care dear cousin.



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Listas de Colombia

Number of hours spent traveling: 20
Days spent in Colombia: 29
Cazuela de frijoles comidas: 2
Tres Cordillera cervezas tomadas: 15
Shots of aguardiente shots I turned away: 6
Shots of aguardiente I couldn't turn away: 4
Veces que usé tenso equivocado en español: unknown
Ceviches I ate: 6
Days at the beach: 4
Micheladas: 10
Showers taken: 58
Sunblock application: 10
Usos de la palabra chevre: 5
People asked why I was a brown gringa: 4
Times I was offended by this: 0
Times people thought I was Colombian until I spoke: unknown
Apologies made on behalf of United States for Donald Trump: 1
Explanation of the El Paso/Juarez border: 5
Uso de la frase, "ese man": 20
Photos taken: 88
Veces que escuchú salsa: infinito
Ramen from Formosa restaurant eaten: 3
Max number of hours of speaking only Spanish before mouth and brain hurt: 4
New tattoo: 1
Book read: 1
Books started and left unfinished: 1
Reruns of CSI: Miami watched on AXN: 20
Ubers rides: 15
Chicharonnes eaten: 12
Jaras de …