Monday, December 7, 2015

A Little Less Safe

I'm suffering this minute from what I can only imagine is a version of PTSD. According to the Mayo Clinic these symptoms could include:

Mood: anger, general discontent, guilt, hopelessness, inability to feel pleasure, loneliness, loss of interest, nervousness, panic attack, or emotional distress
Behavioral: aggression, agitation, hostility, hypervigilance, irritability, screaming, self-destructive behavior, self-harm, or social isolation
Psychological: depression, fear, flashback, hallucination, severe anxiety, or mistrust
Sleep: insomnia, night terror, nightmares, or sleep deprivation
Cognitive: thoughts of suicide or unwanted thoughts
Whole body: acute stress or blackout
Also common: emotional detachment, headache, or lack of emotional response

I'm inclined to describe them more as "feeling constantly on the verge of tears; not able to focus on anything important; wanting to shut-down, go to bed and pull the covers over my head."  Although I have experienced nothing of the magnitude that, say, someone who has fought in the military or lived through a mass shooting has experienced, in my own small way I have suffered from a traumatic experience that makes me afraid of my own neighborhood and has me looking over my shoulder for the enemy.

This morning, in the still early twilight hours we were headed out to a meeting. We passed the little store in our neighborhood where a car had just pulled into the small parking lot. As we passed the car pulled quickly out of the lot and came up behind us. I thought nothing of that although my hubby got one of those weird feelings like "what if this driver has ill-intent and tries to ram me at the stop sign." While that specific action did not take place what happened in the next few minutes amounted to harassment on a level that spawned terror in us. The driver of the car started speeding up close and then backing off, swerving all over the road behind us, flashing his high beams at us. Our first response was that we should just get off the road and allow him to pass and create some distance between us. However, whenever we would make a move to get off the road he clearly intended to keep following--and terrorizing us. I began to have visions of being run off the road into the ditch or worse, being shot at. He turned off his headlights altogether a couple of times and the second time sped up to come up alongside us. At this point we sped up and I called 911. Between our speeding up and his backing off we put some distance between us again in time for other cars to enter the road. Whatever the reason, we saw no more of him after that but the deed had been done. We were terrified beyond reason and couldn't wait to get off the road and to our destination.

So many thoughts have gone through my head since that encounter, not the least of which is fear to be in my own small neighborhood, a victim of some crazed lunatic with a 2,000 pound car as his weapon. It brought home the truth that we can never become lulled into thinking that even our own little corner of the world is entirely safe. And certainly this notion is confirmed at least weekly it seems as another mass shooting takes place in this country. I feel fear but I also feel anger--anger that someone could in fact act so dangerously and terrify me so completely, anger that he took away any sense of safety. 
And in the end, I feel a little less safe than I did 24 hours ago.

Wednesday, December 2, 2015

Exclusive! Book Excerpt!

I finally launched my first published book this fall. There is something quite wonderful about hugging nearly 300 pages, bound in a shiny cover, of words that you have written. Even if you have to publish it yourself and even if you give away more copies than you sell. It is proof, right there in your hands, that you have accomplished something.

So the next accomplishment would be to sell a few copies and actually get someone to read it and maybe even give feedback. So as an enticement, for those of you who like to try before you buy, I present to you a sneak preview of of chapter. (P.S. You can also scroll back in this blog to find other excerpts if this one isn't convincing enough!)

Limbs are from Mars, Brains are from Venus
Jun 7, 2011 5:21pm
So when you have a stroke like mine the bleeding causes death to the brain cells in the area of the bleed and brain cells do not regenerate; they stay dead (an obvious misstep in the evolutionary process!). But all is not lost; the brain can often create a workaround with a bit of a rewiring job to reconnect the disconnected circuitry. The way it has been explained to me this process, while spearheaded by the brain, is a partnership--not unlike a marriage--between the brain and the newly disconnected body parts such as muscles. In my case the process requires a renewed commitment to communication between my brain and my right appendages. But also in my case the 2 parts have been in a relationship so long that as with male/female relationships of any length--say, more than 4 months!--the one partner has really stopped listening, with any intent, to the other partner. They have reached the point in their "marriage" where she (in this example, the brain) can be talking directly and emphatically to the foot, leg & arm muscles to do something and he (in this example, the disconnected limbs) are either ignoring the brain outright (as husbands are wont to do at times!) or at best responding, "Sorry, did you say something?"

The obvious result is slow progress toward the goal of reconciliation; hence there is an also obvious need for therapy in which the partners need to be led with help to find new ways to communicate with each other their needs and aspirations. Therapy does take time, is often hard work, requires mutual agreement to commit to, and isn't necessarily a cure-all. But the results are almost always worth the effort!


I am seeing progress, inch by inch, as my brain & limbs reunite, albeit often stubbornly. I am able to push myself to a standing position, stand w/o holding on for a few seconds, dress myself almost completely alone (curse you, bras and underwear!), shower almost completely independently sitting down, take a few "Frankenstein-like" steps with something to support me, and even practiced stepping up onto and down from a "step" with assistance (go ahead and cheer; I'm becoming slightly more tolerant of being the center of attention and will work on my bow!). There might be hope for this "marriage" yet!


Thursday, September 3, 2015

Eye on the Sparrow


Truthiness

I've been rather blue and agitated lately. Since this is not my normal demeanor when I experience such alien feelings I immediately search for the cause. It could be the sudden change in the weather. The last few days of August here have been mostly gray, often rainy and windy. It could be the unexpected power outages. Not being able to access electricity makes me cranky. It could be the uncertainty that is my life these days, particularly around our finances. It could be any of these things but on reflection I think I've uncovered something more sinister, more occult. Stephen Colbert might have summed it up using one of his signature terms: "truthiness," which was Merriam-Webster's Word of the Year 2006. In a nutshell, truthiness is "the quality of preferring concepts or facts one wishes to be true, rather than concepts or facts known to be true."

Actually it is not that I suffer from "truthiness." In fact, I think we are all suffering from a failure to know--without a doubt--what are "concepts or facts known to be true." What we are dealing with is an inability to even decipher what is truthiness and what is truth. In light of the conflicting "information" that comes at us daily via the media and the internet, I must confess that I am compelled to ask with Pilate, "What is truth?" We are dependent on others for so much of our "truth" as is it impossible to "know" and investigate everything. I try to be informed, well-read, and open-minded. I try to use common sense (which I realize is not so common). But as soon as I believe that what I believe is the truth, someone comes up with a convincing-sounding argument for the other side. And I begin to question my thinking. Do I indeed dabble in truthiness without knowing it?

I don't mean to imply that I am like leaf or a reed, easily swayed by the direction of the wind. I don't immediately jump to the opposite argument every time my "truth" is questioned. In fact the opposite might be true especially if it is a "truth" that I have long held to be so. But when the opposite argument seems reasoned and well-thought-out it can shake me to my core, cause me to question sources that I had thought to be trustworthy, and, yes, it can depress me. The depression arises out of a feeling of helplessness and helplessness arises out of uncertainty. I want to know that what I know as truth is truth. This is not to say that I'm inflexible. I am definitely open to new, alternative ideas and have been known to change my way of thinking to a more enlightened one. But what does one do when one feels the need to "know" what is right and to act on that?

Either the world's climate is changing and the experts in the field who know these things are telling us the truth or nothing significant is happening and the "97% of scientists agree" is a fabricated number. Either vaccinations are necessary to prevent the spread of disease or the pharmaceutical companies are scamming us and those shots we've come to depend on are actually detrimental. Either GMOs are perfectly safe and necessary in order to feed a burgeoning world or they are contributing to the decimation of our agricultural system and making us sicker. The problem is that many times either side can make compelling arguments, cite convincing statistics and quote well-respected experts; so then how does one "know" what is right and what is a smokescreen?

Perhaps the larger issue is that things are hardly ever so black-and-white. Gray is the color of most issues, gray like the sky outside my window. So for now I will retreat to what I know, that there are sparrows outside on the deck railing, resting from dining in the bird feeder, perching on the bird bath to sip water or wash the dust off their wings, flying as a group to the safety of the neighbor's tree. I will take comfort for now in what little I can really "know."

Thursday, July 2, 2015

Opening Day

"Sure, I'll go with you." I normally stay wisely in bed for the morning drop. Mine is more the reasonable afternoon pick up. I like crab but not enough to rise when the high tide is at 5:00 a.m. But I've been awake more or less since 3:00 so it doesn't much matter.

I'm crabby myself. Not enough sleep does that to me. And in spite of the record heat of June and now early July it is cool this morning and the windchill on the boat will warrant a heavier coat over my shorts. Skipper and I settle into our seat; David pushes the boat off from shore and idles past the piling.

The water at this time of day is smooth like a lake. The boat fairly glides over the small waves created by the first boat out. We pull away from the shore and there it is...the sun making its way up over the hills behind us. Morning is out in all her glory. There's a fine mesh over the mountains in the distance, the higher peaks caught in the web of a passing cloud. The water, now more rippled by boat traffic, comes in waves of alternating deep green and pale gray. The houses on the opposite shore are lit up by sunlight and look as though they've been strung together like gems on a necklace.

I rarely see the sunrise from the water for good reason. It is worth it though. And perhaps the worth will show in the crab pots as well.



Friday, May 22, 2015

A Writer Writes

Frequently, upon waking, my mind starts to run forward into the day before my head is even off the pillow. I have tried many times to reign it back in if it's too early and I want to sleep longer. But like a dog that is straining at the leash, it tugs and tugs at me until I just have to give up. Thoughts range everywhere from "what do I have to do today?" to "why did I drink so much wine last night?" and everything in between. Sometimes I actually wake thinking about writing, mostly chastising myself about not writing. On those days, I hear the voice of the character "Larry," played by Billy Crystal in "Throw Momma from the Train," admonishing his writing class students. "A writer writes!" he declares. And I get up determined to go downstairs to my computer and do just that.

But somewhere around the third or fourth step my mind has already wandered off in another direction and by the time I land on the first floor I've already forgotten the admonishment. Everything else gets in the way. A writer writes. Indeed. Perhaps, as I think I have tried to establish multiple times, this is exactly why I don't write. Perhaps it is because I am not one. Perhaps it is because, as evidenced by my moniker, I'm a thinker not a writer. And thinking is a much more dangerous thing.

One of my best friends brought back from a trip a little gift for me. It's a postcard which I use as a bookmark. It is a glossy pale gray with a black and white photo of an old typewriter. And in large print it reads: "I write because I don't know what to think until I read what I say." I'm sure she had good intentions; she thinks I am a writer so she probably thought I could relate. I don't know if it was so much a gift as it is a curse. I spend what some might consider an inordinate amount of time pondering that quote. I'm just not sure what I think of it. At the very least it annoys me because it reminds me almost daily that I mostly don't write. But it also challenges me mentally. Is that true for me, for one who is mostly not a writer? Or is it only true of those who physically write. I feel like I think a lot. And while I'm thinking I'm mentally typing words on imaginary paper. Is that the same thing? Does that count? I get so wrapped up in thinking that I don't actually write; I don't actually put thoughts down in actual words. Thinking might actually distract me from writing! See what I mean?

And so, once again, I am determined to set aside not only time but thinking, on a regular basis, so that I "just write." Just start putting something on paper so that when I do start thinking it might actually flow through my fingers and not out into the ethosphere. A writer writes. A thinker thinks. And maybe the two can co-exist.

Wednesday, March 18, 2015

Distraction

photo source: www.writersrelief.com
I heard the other day that Victor Hugo, when faced with writer's block had a unique method for getting back on track: he ordered his servants to remove all his clothing from his room, essentially hiding it from him so he would be forced to write naked to avoid all distractions. I know that most people think that writer's block is the worst malady a writer could suffer from but I would like to propose that distraction is worse. And unlike Victor Hugo, who might have been distracted merely by his clothing, writers today would have to hole up in a lead box with only a typewriter to avoid distraction altogether!

As a working mother, a product of the '80s and '90s, I was the great multitasker. I could change a diaper while talking on the phone while getting dinner on the table while starting another load of clothes while helping another child with his science project while balancing the checkbook. This was born out of necessity: there is no way that the millenials could have survived to become the greatest critics of the baby boomer generation without mothers who could make a sandwich while driving the gang to soccer practice. And, sorry dads...it was the mothers who did all the multitasking. This is entirely the fault of Revlon's Enjoli commercial, launched in 1978. I hold the ad executives who created this commercial solely responsible for at least two decades of suffering by young working moms. Because of them we all felt that we should be able to "...bring home the bacon, fry it up in a pan, and never, ever, let you forget you're a man..." And so, we did...at least we tried. I'm not sure about the last phrase but I did my share of bringing home bacon and I definitely was the one, more often than not, that fried it up. Along with completing every other household chore. So for me, to not multitask meant more than failure to live up to an ideal; it was my gender imperative.

Now, of course, brain experts will tell you that, in fact, the brain can only really focus on one thing at a time and so in truth we cannot really multitask. For that you would need a computer, which is where the term started. But mothers of the latter part of the 20th century will tell you differently. We did multitask and we did it actually pretty effectively. I mean, my children got their homework done, dinner was tasty and edible (translated: not burnt), bills were paid on time, the dog and cat were fed, the garden weeded, the volunteer calling done, and that was after putting in my 8 hours on the job (and sometimes during that job). I mean, it nearly killed an entire generation of women but look at the great generation of kids that came out of it!

Now here's the rub: the problem with learning to multitask is that it's even more difficult to unlearn. And technology has not been our friend in this. Instead of computers making our lives easier they have succeeded in making them more cluttered. I remember the day my husband excitedly unwrapped his new IBM 8086 computer and announced to me that his friend, Don (the closest thing to a computer nerd we knew in 1984) was going to give him lessons in how to use it and that I should join them. I also remember thinking he was insane (and probably told him that). I had just given birth to the second child in 2 years, had a large house and yard to take care of, ironing, washing, cooking, etc. and had absolutely no time left over for such silly things as a computer!

Wow was I naive--about a great many things but especially about the infiltration of technology that would quickly take over our lives, rendering us helpless without it and creating within us a powerful addiction. Fast forward 31 years and here I sit, in front of my HP Pavilion dm4 laptop with 64-bit operating system, 6 GB of installed RAM, and a 2.20 GHz Intel Core CPU (already outdated the minute I removed it from the box about 6 years ago). And I'm now connected to the world through Facebook (where I have control over 11 pages, have more than 400 personal friends, and like/follow more than 470 pages), Twitter (where I follow more than 225 accounts and have more than 135 of my own followers), Instagram, Outlook email, Gmail (where I have/control at least 5 accounts), Blogger (where I personally have at least 10 blog sites) , online newsletters, subscriptions to other person's blogs, etc. And then of course there's Pintrest, LinkedIn, Nextdoor, Skype, YouTube, and Messenger. And then there's my iPhone with texting and phone calls going on all day. Suddenly multitasking has taken on new meaning and dimension. And so has the problem of distraction.

To exacerbate the situation, I use my computer to write. I mean, who doesn't? The very act of sitting down and turning on my computer provides me with a plethora of opportunities to multitask and a multitude of distractions, even if I'm just innocently using Google search to do research on what I'm writing. Suddenly I find myself brain-deep in the "rabbit hole"of the internet, two hours have gone by, and I haven't done a lick of actual writing. If writing was difficult in the days of Victor Hugo because of distractions, how much worse is it now and does it have the capacity to get. Today writer's block can't hold a candle to the internet.

Mr. Hugo: I meet your wardrobe and raise you one computer connected to the world wide web.

Sunday, March 15, 2015

Birthdays and a Funeral

Against my better judgment I was headed out this morning to walk the dog. It was cold and windy and my fibromyalgia is really acting up. Needless to say, it's probably a good thing I have a dog who needs to walk to do his daily duty or I would spend more mornings holed up inside rather than getting a meager amount of exercise. Anyway, we were just starting out when our neighbors and good friends, a couple who live two doors away were also headed out in their car. They paused en route and she rolled down the window to greet me. As if to answer my predictable question before I uttered it, she "responded" with "Birthdays and a funeral." "I'm there with you," I said, thinking about the memorial service I'm supposed to go to this afternoon. And then they waved good bye as they drove off.

Birthdays and a funeral. I pondered this phrase as I walked down the street. Birthdays and a funeral.
commons.wikimedia.org
Bookends to life. Birthdays--the day we enter this life and then the subsequent celebrations of continuing to reach those days yearly; funerals--"celebrations" of life we euphemistically call them now. Both happen every day. It's just ironic when one encounters them in the same day. Or perhaps not.

Birthdays and a funeral. Beginnings and endings.  Yin & yang. Every day we experience beginnings and endings. We start a book; we finish a book. We start a task; we complete a task. Life ends; life goes on. There is a natural order to things and life is full of beginnings and endings.

But I know that one of the birthdays my friends were going to celebrate was that of one of their granddaughters who just turned 19. And the funeral was for someone much older. The memorial service I was going to was for a teen-aged boy--not much younger than their granddaughter--who took his own life just last week. There is a natural order to things and that is not the way it is supposed to be. It is widely accepted that you just don't jump to the end of a book. You're supposed to start at the beginning and gradually work your way through it. We consider it cheating when someone reads the end first. Young people aren't supposed to die, particularly by their own hands. At 17 there is, conceivably, more life to be lived, more of the story to be told or revealed, more birthdays to celebrate. We should not be "celebrating" the life he lived but rather celebrating with him the continuance of life until some other much later time. Until the task is finished, until the book is completed.

The book doesn't end when we always expect it to and sometimes it has a surprise ending. Birthdays and a funeral.

Friday, March 6, 2015

“Once more unto the breach, dear friends, once more...*"

(From my MamaCamel blog)
Oh, dear William, here we are again. "the blast of war blows in our ears..." and so we "...imitate the action of the tiger.” or else we'll "close the wall up with our...dead"* weight! I've been at this long enough to know that this might just be another unsuccessful skirmish but what's a veteran of the weight wars to do?

The last time I wrote in this "journal," some nearly 6 years now, I was focused on an entirely different concern: the safe return of my eldest son from captivity in Nigeria and the subsequent news on fate of the film that put him in harms way. That was a different sort of war, one of mostly words--and tears and prayers. But that crisis is behind us now; he is safely ensconced in the democracy of the new world and not, luckily, in any imminent danger of being detained except perhaps by his 4-year-old son.

No, this is a battle of a different sort; the battle to free the more slender version of me from the captivity of this prison of obesity. I know I'm still in there somewhere and I'm trying once again, as Shakespeare admonishes me, to "Stiffen the sinews, summon up the blood, Disguise fair nature with hard-favour'd rage..."*

And so, this time I am trying a version of a diet, in which I follow a strict protocol of what to eat (easier than listing what not to eat!) and take natural supplements including HCG (human chorionic gonadotropin) drops. Apparently you can get the HCG in an injection (ouch!) but I personally like the play on words provided by "drops." As in, I plan to "drop" enough "drops" so that I "drop" the fat/pounds/weight before I "drop!" I know, I've read the stuff on the drops--the good and the bad--and frankly, the truth is that like King Henry V, I'm desperate and will try just about anything as long as I lose weight in so doing.

The first two days of the "diet" (Phase 1) the soldier is supposed to stuff herself, primarily with carbs, primarily to store up stores for the body to retrieve as on day 3 (Phase 2) the rations will cut dramatically. We are even told we should plan to gain significant amounts of weight in those first 2 days (and not to worry). Can I just say, I stuffed myself and gained a grand total of 1 (one) pound?! (also, not to worry) I wonder what this means? But while I wonder, I have to confess that as in most human endeavors (it seems to me anyway) the breathless anticipation of actually having to eat (No one heretofore has ever told me I MUST eat. I'm not sure why...) far exceeded the banal activity of actually doing so. I found myself not wanting to eat, to actually being nauseated by the very thought of having to stuff more food into my satiated stomach.  And this was not because of the culinary options! I made sure to provide myself with fattening foods that I love (apparently a lot) and all the alcohol I could consume safely. And it all Made. Me. Sick.

What evil cunning and deceit is this, designed to make me nearly desperate to abandon all my favorite foods and drinks so that I want only the meager and plain foods of this diet! I couldn't wait for my "loading" days to be over! And so, they are. And so begins Phase 2.  Ah, chicken breasts, garlic and spinach I love thee!

*William Shakespeare, Henry V"

Collector of Words

I am a collector. There. I said it. Not a hoarder, mind you. At least I hope not. My mother was one long before they had a term and a TV show about that particular malady. But while I take after my mom in some ways, I eschew clutter; and while I am prone to letting it get away from me at times I am also constantly fighting it off.

When I say I'm a "collector" I mean that I have several small collections of random things. Well, not random to me. Perhaps to others. The things I collect I do so for, I'd like to think, a reason or two. I collect(ed) lighthouses, for instance. I add the (ed) because I'm officially done with collecting those and am happy with the collection I currently have. I think there is a reasonable limit and I feel I have achieved it. I have lighthouses--both those that just stand at various sizes and colors and those that can be plugged in to cast a little light--, lighthouse candles, lighthouse books, lighthouse frames, lighthouse paintings and photos, lighthouse Christmas ornaments, lighthouse placemats, lighthouse pillows, a lighthouse blanket. I even have a faux-lighthouse at the top of my stairwell (otherwise known as a cupola). I think that is enough lighthouses. I started collecting lighthouses because of a speech I heard years ago at a fundraiser luncheon. The speaker used the metaphor of the lighthouse to demonstrate how people can help others in need. Her presentation really spoke to me and I saw lighthouses in a, well, new light. So my lighthouses remind me daily of that.

I also collect some things because I just can't help myself. Like beach glass. This sort of collecting probably more resembles that of a hoarder in that it is no longer just a hobby. It has become an obsession. And the beach outside my door is the enabler. What more can I say? Someday I may actually do something with the literally tens of pounds that we've collected or maybe we'll sell them when the value hits $10 a ton. Although...I find it hard to part with a single piece.

Today I realized quite by accident that I am also a collector of words. Every day www.Merriam-Webster.com deposits a new word into my email. I read those emails pretty consistently unless I see in the "feed" that they are words that I feel pretty confident that I know well. Some of them are pretty benign; others are actually quite comical. On occasion the word is one that I just can't quite delete. I noticed my growing "collection" today as I moved the daily word email to my folder in Outlook labeled "Word of the Day."  

Perhaps I think these words could come in handy some day when I'm writing something, like my first novel (an "opusculum"). These are words like "importunate," "frowsy," or "ennui." I imagine myself in the middle of a sentence and trying to choose just the right word (or "mot juste"). I go to my word collection and voilĂ !

Other words in my collection are there to help me feel smart ("cerebrate"). Just by virtue of them being in my collection I feel a tad more erudite. These words include: "quotidium," "force majeure," and "abjegate." Still others seem to fit ("portend") my mood  at the time: "weltschmerz," "eolian," or "lodestar." And then there are those ("sockdolagers") that inspire me : "virescent," "conversazione," and "sea change." Lastly there are those words that are just plain silly sounding that make me giggle inside like an adolescent (or "retronym") hearing a potty word: "argy-bargy," "frog-march," and "grok."

There ought to be a word for word collectors. After all, by virtue of my sand collecting I am an arenophile. My hubby is a "helixophile," as he is intrigued with the art of corkscrews. But alas, I have found none yet. As much as I love collecting them, there is apparently no "word" to describe me!


Wednesday, February 11, 2015

Doldrums

I'm in the writing doldrums. Probably by my own doing. If I could just sit my butt down in front of the computer and forget about the dishes, the vacuuming, the emails piling up, and the dog that needs walking I could probably write freely. In an odd dichotomy I am stuck in the doldrums because life if moving too fast.

I'm fascinated by words that have multiple meanings (double and triple entendre opportunities!) and words that relate to life as well as the sea. In life--as well as writing--the doldrums mean "a state of inactivity or stagnation" or "a depressed or bored state of mind." (www.dictionary.com). Stagnation fits my writing habits "to a T" (that's right; it's "T" not "tee" or Tea" probably short for a "tittle" or some other mysterious origin). I have soooo many writing projects, some dreamt up, some actually started just sitting there in limbo, in stagnant water.

Which brings me to the other meaning of "doldrums," the nautical term: "a belt of light winds or calm along the equator" and "the weather experienced in this belt, formerly a hazard to sailing vessels." (British Dictionary) Living at the beach as I do I truly resonate with this imagery. Most days the water is moving, sometimes slow and steady waves, frequently waves that rush at the shore intent on breaking it down. But then there are days, like this morning, when a fog has obliterated the island across the way and the horizon and water, fog and sky are one color. And the water is simply, strangely still, save for the ripples sent out by diving and surfacing golden eyes and buffleheads. Although there are not many sailboats in our area, having been replaced with power boats that support the locals' habits of water-skiing, crabbing and shrimping, fishing and duck hunting, I can imagine what it might have been 200 years ago when British naval ships made their way into our little, shallow bay exploring areas to exploit. On a morning such as this they would have remained stationary, unable to move under any power but the wind which is hauntingly absent.

As I scrolled down the Dictionary.com site I came to the American Heritage©Science Dictionary's definition: "A region of the globe found over the oceans near the equator in the intertropical convergence zone and having weather characterized variously by calm air, light winds, or squalls and thunderstorms. Hurricanes originate in this region." Wait! As they say..."the plot thickens!" The doldrums, at least as far as scientists are concerned, are not identified by one characteristic or personality trait. They are, in fact, characterized by opposite ends of the spectrum--bipolar if you will. They are either calm and somewhat listless or raving maniacs wreaking havoc either way. My eyes settled on the last phrase: "hurricanes originate in this region."

From a weather-related point of view, hurricanes are not a happy event, something to be watched carefully and planned for diligently. But in writing I think hurricanes could mean something else entirely. I could see a hurricane as a sudden burst of inspiration that leads to a period of intense literary activity. There is hope in the doldrums! If only I'd just sit my butt down...

Tuesday, January 20, 2015

Asclepius Lost

The Sanctuary of Asclepius. Photo Credit: Briantist

I'm back at it, that is to say, back at a medical facility being assessed by occupational and physical therapists. Why? Who knows...my neurologist like other doctors I've seen since the stroke seem to be reluctant to accept what I've come to accept as my situation for the last nearly 4 years: I had a hemorrhagic stroke that permanently damaged the nerves in my brain's control center that tell my foot and leg muscles what to do. Permanent. That's my understanding. Nerve damage. Not repairable. But here I am...again.

In order to get here my son drove me to the clinic and then I had to take an elevator to a lower level where I followed a sterile, empty corridor tunnel from parking building to clinic. The woman at the information desk said that it would probably be safer to take the tunnel than the street. Sad commentary. But as I walked alone in a winding hallway with only my cane for protection I wondered at that. Seems equally likely that someone could accost me there with no one to hear or see. Keep walking...

I said the corridor was empty. This is not entirely true. There were a few shut doors labeled for employees only and then, every few feet a different poster with a different photo and story of some patient who was helped by this medical center. One was a ballet dancer; one was a firefighter; one was a middle-aged woman...everyone with glowing reports about how their lives were made better by their treatment here. I can't help comparing it to another corridor I walked down, years ago when I could still technically walk.

The ancient city of Pergamon, now in ruins outside the modern city of Bergsma, Turkey, was the site of many structures including the Sanctuary of Asclepius or just The Asclepion. Asclepius was the Greek god of healing arts (medicine); some even believed that he might be able to raise the dead. So it was here, to his sanctuary, that multitudes of pilgrims came to be healed of their infirmities. And healed many of them were. But the clever doctors at the sanctuary had many tricks up their sleeves that could help insure their success. The first was the approach to the sanctuary, which was a long corridor or colonnade. A patient had to be able to traverse this corridor in order to reach the physicians so if he/she was able to make it there was a good chance he/she could actually be healed. Along the colonnade were strategically placed sculptures of body parts--an ear, an appendage, etc.--with inscriptions of quotes from patients who had been healed at the sanctuary. These sculptures were intended to be encouragement for the patient making the long pilgrimage to the center, thereby using mind over matter to convince the patient he/she was in good hands with the physicians there--another trick employed to ensure a higher healing success rate.

I can only assume that the posters and the long corridor down which I hobbled are a modern day version of the methods used at Asclepion. But I was not one of the lucky ones. The doctors I saw today confirmed what I've been told--what I know to be true--that this is as good as it gets. This is permanent. No clever tricks will raise the dead nerves in my leg. Asclepius has failed me.

Gone

It's quiet now. Too quiet. Strains of "Old McDonald" still filtering through my head. Stuffed animals in my bed. I can hear the clock, both clocks. I can hear the fan in the convection oven. I can hear the organic sounds swishing in my auditory canal. The toys are still scattered around the room; farm animals on the dining room table; a mangled car track on the floor. All silent now. The animation sucked out of them. It flew out the front door with the giggles, the roars, the "play with me, Nana"s as though a mighty wind came through and blew them all away. The same wind that is blowing you home, away from me til you are just a tiny dot and I am left here with just the clocks and the silent animals to keep me company.