Saturday, August 29, 2009

So for the last few days I have been in...a bitchy phase. Premenstrual. Cheez-it cravings (for someone whose normal diet includes foods that sound like the punch line to an uncharitable joke about hippies--lentil loaf, bulghur salad, soy burgers--and for whom eating saturated fat is akin to promising my firstborn child to the dread lord Satan). Profound lethargy. Tearing up at the thought that someday my dog is going to die. And, most surprising and uncharacteristic of all, being visited with the urge to bludgeon a sizeable percentage of the people around me with blunt objects.
Wednesday night roomie brings boyfriend over at 11 pm. Fine. Whatever. I'm trying to sleep. Our rooms are on either side of the bathroom, and the heating/cooling ducts connect all 3 rooms, but most particularly hers and mine, so that one can hear, through the ducts, exactly what is going on in the next room. Roomie and boy are talking. Annoying, but what am I going to do, tell them to shut up? Plug in white noise machine, turn it to 'waterfall,' crank it. Then they start...well, I don't even know for certain what they were doing. It sounded like it might have been one of those little 'personal' shredders, or like they were using hair clippers for Christ only knows what reason. Turn up waterfall. Apply pillow to head. Imagine applying pillow to roomie's head, at high speed.
Sitting in class, watching as five (literally, simultaneously, five) people take out apples and start eating them. Feel guilty about having Cheez-Its for breakfast. Wish people at this school weren't so damn health-obsessed all the time (it's not like it's a medical sch--oh, wait). Listen to the crunching. Feel my last nerve being plucked, dangerously, about to give way. I am not a huge fan of eating sounds, in myself or others. Let's be honest, especially not in others. Two people sitting behind me begin to talk, cramming as many polysyllabic, pretentious words into their back-and-forth as humanly possible--which makes it not only distracting but grating and prickish. If I wanted to watch two pricks in action I'd rent a porno, I think to myself.

Jung said we must all confront our shadow sides in order to be truly whole. One week a month I see mine. I am generally well-controlled enough to prevent my bile from spilling into the world at large (I say perhaps 1% of the truly appalling things I think-- I don't know if this is a larger or smaller percentage than the average).

Sunday, August 23, 2009

I'm not usually super-forward about being of the Christian persuasion (I'm probably more out about my gayness than I am about my Christianity), for two reasons:
1) I hate the idea that people might automatically assume I am the same 'brand' of Christian as Pat Robertson, or James Dobson, or for that matter the Pope (who, God help me, I still think looks a lot like Senator Palpatine from the Star Wars movies)...'cause in fact I'm pro-choice, anti-death penalty, feminist, sex-positive...
2) My views could perhaps be better explained as Quaker/Episcopalian/Wiccan/Buddhist. I don't know that that makes me un-Christian; maybe I'm just not a very good Christian.

But I received in my email inbox an invite to the Christian Medical Association's first meeting this year (I attended briefly last year) and the focus of discussion is going to be on processing the first-years' initial experiences with their cadavers in anatomy. And I started to thinking--for all the anti-body, 'Satanic urges of the flesh' B.S. that's been appended to Christianity over the years, it is at its core a profoundly embodied religion. The center--the lynchpin--of the faith is the physical death, and later physical resurrection, of a facet of God. The most sacred of the sacraments is communion, a physical meeting of God with human--an act of ingestion. The very definition of 'sacrament,' according to the church, is "an outward and physical sign of an inward, invisible grace." The body is described as 'fearfully and wonderfully made' in the Psalms, not as a dirty thing to be denigrated or ignored. The Jews, to be honest (even with the observation of restrictions like niddah) are much more body-comfy than Christians are: be fruitful and multiply is a requirement, not an 'extra.' Rabbis should be married--a much more reasonable position, to my mind, than requiring priests to be celibate. Just doing a little thinking. It doesn't seem coincidental that a disproportionate number of the women I've met in eating disorders treatment have been Catholic...again, just thinking.

Friday, August 21, 2009

Sweet suffering Jesus, I can tell you I'm not going to be an ENT specialist (ear nose and throat--though it sounds much less impressive than 'otolaryngology,' which is the official title of one of our courses this block, and which I remember learning to spell when I went to the state spelling bee in middle school. Yes, I was as impossibly dorky then as I am now).
Granted, a lot of ENTs spend time doing hearing tests, prescribing antibiotics for refractory sinus infections, and cleaning the cerumen (fifty-dollar word for earwax) out of people's auditory canals.
But they also deal with things that are...I can't really put it any other way...disgrossting.
Para ejemplo, in our first lecture we saw a case of sinusitis complicated by orbital infection (imagine your eye socket getting filled with pus) and a trauma case in which a motorcyclist had his face ripped off and crushed in. Which was exactly as stomach-churning as it sounds. And which was a joy to look at half an hour after lunch.
Hey you. Yeah, you. My other blog is medicalschoolmayhem.blogspot.com. You should totally go there.

Sunday, August 16, 2009

Somehow my sleep cycle has gotten totally out of whack, to the point that I am currently awake, and that for a while now I've been falling asleep around dawn, then waking up (at last) around 2:00 pm. Obviously, with the coming of school and 9 am lectures, that's going to have to stop. Insomnia has been my bete noir since childhood; my pineal gland and suprachiasmatic nucleus seem to think it's funny to set themselves to Tokyo time despite my physical presence in the Midwestern United States. I hate it when I feel like my organs are putting one over on me.

In my experience, it is possible to 'reset' the circadian rhythm in one of two ways: either by sleeping your way through (last fall I really did have a weekend when, except for a few bathroom and food breaks, I slept 24 hours consecutively...and more than 36 hours total, when it was all tallied up...God knows why; maybe I was fighting off an infection or something), or by staying up a full 24 to 36 hours. Considering that I'm awake now--despite having taken Ambien at midnight-- and I have things I need to accomplish tomorrow, I think I'm going to end up taking the second option. Bonus: I'm quitting smoking (for real this time, really and truly, honest, I swear) and when you stay up for extended periods of time sometimes something clicks in your brain and it's possible to rewire the ol' neural circuits. For example, the first time I ever did the up-all-night thing, for the next six months or so I couldn't handle caffeine very well. I would have a soda with lunch and feel positively wired (keep in mind that prior to this I was drinking about 2 liters of soda a day and barely felt any effects). It's weird--sleep deprivation leaves you in this very 'limbo' place where it seems like lots of things--quitting smoking, or falling asleep standing up--are not only possible, but likely. Doable. Let's hope this turns out to be the case. And if I look like an extra from Night of the Living Dead tomorrow...well, at least you'll know why.

Friday, August 14, 2009

Why Men Go For Guns, or the George Sodini Massacre...heard of it?

Probably, because I've heard of it, and I'm generally the last to know about current events now that I'm in med school (and never watch TV). I learned about the attack, which happened a few weeks ago now, via Dan Savage's current "Savage Love" column. Go read it. So what exactly happened?

Dude had been rejected by lots of women. Worked out at a fitness club in Pittsburgh and thus was in a position to see a lot of fit, 'objectively attractive' (if such a thing can be said to exist, and it can't) women, in tight workout clothes, panting and sweating and...well, deal is, a fair number of people have said (without realizing exactly how much like the Taliban they sound) that the poor guy just couldn't help himself. To be sexually rejected and at the same time surrounded by those sweating, gyrating, nubile gym tarts...seriously, isn't a woman in bike shorts and a sports bra just asking to get shot in the face? (HEAVY, HEAVY SARCASM ALERT). Oh, they say they're just trying to get to their target heart rates, but I think we all know they're just wanton temptresses in Spandex (not that the occasional woman in my yoga class hasn't gotten my heart pounding a little faster than the asanas alone, but damn...). Sodini hadn't had sex in almost twenty years (he put this on his website, in an angry, neanderthal 'journal' that detailed his plans). Maybe because people intuited what a creepy-ass person he was. So he walks into the fitness club, into an aerobics class, and kills three women and injures nine others. That'll teach 'em. Then he kills himself, which is sad but probably just as well.

All these shootings...the Virginia Tech, Columbine, Paducah, the Amish school shooting in 2006 (where, again, the shooter specifically targeted females, though in this case they were little girls--all prepubescent--and the shooter additionally brought restraint devices and lubricant with him, which he seems not to have used before finally killing himself)...people talk about the epidemic of 'school shootings' or 'senseless violence' and what never gets said is that THE. SHOOTERS. ARE. MALE. Granted, they are all also quite mentally ill, but you'd think in a country that claims to want to know "the reason for this violence," someone would have looked for a pattern and found the smoking guns, so to speak, that are testosterone and societal imprinting. Sondini was raised, as a white male in America, to feel entitled--perhaps most especially, through the influence of sources ranging from advertising to the book "How To Date Young Women: For Men Over 35" (it was found on a table at his house), to the woman and sex of his dreams--and he didn't get it. In a society where greiving, or 'settling,' or acknowledging the primary fucked-upedness of the paradigm is impossible, the response most readily available for men is rage, and unchecked/unsublimated rage leads to aggression, as any armchair psychologist (me, for example) can tell you. So Sodini, while obviously a bastard, is also a symptom of a sickness that preys on the Western male, and finds its most heinous and vicious expression in attacks like these on the unsuspecting and powerless (see also wife-beating and child abuse, but those unfortunately don't make headlines).

This isn't to say that women don't rage, but for most, conditioning (and the fundamental LACK of entitlement that most women are inculcated with--yes, I ended with a preposition, deal with it) leads them to direct rage and aggression inwards rather than out. So while school shootings and such aren't so much female territory (which again isn't to say that they couldn't be), self-mutilation, depression, self hatred--particularly directed at the body--and eating disorders are how the ladies act things out.

Thursday, August 06, 2009

So the story cuntinues. HA!

I'm feeling dispirited. I'm certain this is NOT the etymology I remember from Ms. Muscio, which was empowering and kick-ass, while this one is tepid and passive, akin to the (very real) origin of the word 'vagina,' which is ancient Latin and means 'sheath for a sword.' I'll keep pointy bits away from my genitalia, thanks.

So I went further, and typed "cunt etymology" into Google, praying to the good Lord that the inclusion of the second word would decrease my probability of being swamped by the nastier sites associated with the first. And, lo and behold, I found this. It's convincing, but not as convincing as Barbara Walker's entry in "The Woman's Encyclopedia of Myths and Secrets," which, coincidentally, is another fantastic book very much worth owning. It says that 'cunt,' far from being a slur, was originally a word of positive power, a title of respect; furthermore, it
-comes from the same root as county, kin and kind.
-is related to cunning, kenning, and ken (ken=Brit-ism for 'know')
-is, and here I quote Walker directly, "Derivative of the Great Goddess as Cunti, or Kunda, the Yoni of the universe."

A far cry from something you'd see scrawled on a bathroom wall, no?

Wednesday, August 05, 2009

It's not offensive. It's etymology (no, not bugs. That's entomology). Let's have fun learning about words!

One of the things my first girlfriend left me (besides a few words of Chinese and a broken heart) was a book. I've had it nearly ten years now. I love it--it's one of my favorite books ever. However, I have to keep it on a bookshelf in my room. I can't leave it lying around in the living room, or put it on the bookshelf downstairs. When I went into the hospital last time, I brought the book with me, and when one of the therapists met with me in my room she looked at the book on my bedside table and said, "Excuse me, but does that book say cunt?"
It does indeed. The book is "Cunt: a declaration of independence" by Inga Muscio. One of the most engaging, inspiring feminist books I've ever read, taking into account the combined sister-powerhood of Gloria Steinem, Naomi Wolf and Betty Friedan. Go buy it, now...NOT at amazon, damn it. Go to your local, independent bookstore, or failing that, hit up powells.com.

So how did I get into the sort of frame of mind, on this particular evening, that would lead me to write about the origins of the C-word? Well, it goes like this (skip this paragraph if you don't care about my life or any humorous references thereto and want to get down to business, as it were). I was researching a Traffic song online, which had popped into my head this evening and which I had just purchased. Said song is entitled "John Barleycorn Must Die." I heard it for the first time in my dad's old Honda when we were driving together on I-70. I must have been seven or so, and I remember it was the most haunting (ie, beautiful, but also...um...disturbing) song I'd heard in my young life. Seriously, go look up the lyrics and tell me they aren't BEYOND sick. Barley, the crop, is personified, and said anthropomorphic personification is 'cut off at the knees,' stabbed with pitchforks, bound to a cart, pulled skin from bone, ground between stones...to make whiskey, y'see.

According to Wikipedia this folksong is positively ancient...the earliest version roughly 500 years old. There have been suggestions that this song is related to the ancient practice of sacrificing a king (or a 'king,' ie, a commoner conned into wearing a funny hat for the proceedings ["Wow, this robe is nice, and this crown, and this mead you keep pouring me--'s terrific...Why are you looking at me like that, guys? Guys? Let's put down the knives, guys. Oh, fu---" THUD.]) at some suitable solstice to ensure the continued/returning fertility of the land.

And there's a hyperlink to an article on human sacrifice. And from there to Norse practices in that regard more specifically (the Germanic peoples weren't as into it as, say, the Celts or the Aztecs...if the Aztecs told you there was something really great to see at the top of all those temple stairs, you would be well advised to take a rain check). And there, in the middle of a description of hangin' and immolatin' I saw a word I'd never seen before: apparently the word for 'wise woman' in some Nordic tongue, "volva." Pretend there's an umlaut over the o. What's this? I thought. Some etymologic relationship? The trip from volva to vulva is short (though thrilling, I'm sure...after all, it's the quality, not the quantity).

So I look up "vulva" in the online etymology dictionary I use, and it tries to feed me a line of BS about Latin, 'vulva' from older Latin 'volva,' related to turning and returning, an enclosure or pouch, twisting about, related to modern Spanish volver, to return...and I said, fool, what?