Sunday, June 12, 2011

Who wants to have a positive attitude all the time? It's that time of the month again, and so it's also time for another edition...long in the making...of Things That Piss Me Off. Since it's been so long, we're going to make it an alphabetical extravaganza of annoyance. Any letters I left out have been culled intentionally, because I want to and because I can.

A is for Air conditioning that's cranked up so high in the med school library I have to carry a parka with me (in 90 degree heat) so that I don't freeze to death in the stacks. Like that Neolithic iceman who was flash-frozen in a glacier, only instead of a spear I'd be clutching a copy of 'Neuroanatomy Made Ridiculously Simple."
B is for Sam Brownback, R-Kansas. He knows why.
C is for cicadas, particularly the orange and black monstrosities currently holding StL hostage. When they all start humming together, it's like someone is taking a chainsaw to your nerves.
D is for Depakote, the magical mood stabilizer that can make you stable enough to pursue an intimate relationship, only to stymie you with side effects of hirsutism and weight gain. Good one.
E is for exclamation points--the most overused of the punctuation marks, in my opinion. If a comma is salt (good with everything), and a period is like ketchup (again, a hearty work-a-day character), the exclamation point is like wasabi. I don't want a peanut butter and wasabi sandwich, get it? Be a little more judicious with your punctuation.
F is for flares. Solar flares, lupus flares, emergency flares--the word 'flare' is rarely associated with anything good. Someone's cellular communications are screwed, someone's losing their hair or someone smashed into a guardrail at 80 miles per hour. Boo to flares.
G is for grammar, which is being misused, abused and outright ignored more today than ever before. Don't end your sentence with a preposition. When you come into the clinic and tell me pain is "more worser" today than yesterday, I feel bad for you; in part because you're in pain, but mostly because no one ever cared enough to teach you the comparative and superlative forms of adjectives. Additionally, I judge you.
H is for headaches, particularly migraines. Or as I call them, "parties of tiny, meth-crazed elves wielding pickaxes inside my skull."
I is for ice-cream headaches. Because being hurt by ice cream is like being mauled by a Yorkie...you don't see it coming and that makes it even worse.
J is for July, rapidly approaching and my least favorite month of the year.
K is for the Kardashians. Against my will, I have had knowledge about these utterly pointless, spoiled people inserted into my consciousness. I can tell the Kardashian sisters apart. If this information were not occupying space in my brain I would be able to remember more about localizing strokes, or brain changes in depression. They are literally preventing me from finding the cure for cancer.
L is for localizing (specifically strokes). God gave us CTs so we could abandon centuries of methodical refinement of the neurological history and physical exam, right?
N is for NyanCat. Don't get it. Don't see the charm.
O is for OMGWTFBBQ!!! If you use abbreviations when you text, fine. I don't like it, but I'll survive. If you're going to the trouble of writing me a note, however, please write in complete words (this is a compromise...I used to ask for complete sentences, until I realized that was never going to happen).
P is for Peppercorn Ranch flavored Sunchips, which Frito Lay apparently decided were no longer worth making. They rank as my former favorite junk food EVER. This should probably be entered under Frito Lay, but I already have an entry for 'F.'
R is for raspberries. Delicious little bastards, but SO. MANY. SEEDS.
S is for summer. The heat, the profusion of red, white and blue CRAP every July, the bugs, the rashes, the bacne...it can all go to hell.
T is for ticks. As if sucking your blood weren't sufficiently horrifying, they also carry an overwhelming panoply of potentially fatal diseases! Swell (literally)!
U is for UV radiation. Fricking sunburn.
V is for video games. Am I the only person in my generation who doesn't 'game'? I feel like it sometimes. No, I don't play. I don't want to. I do other things with my time. Leave me alone.
W is for watermelon, that quintessential summer food (which is another reason to hate it). Messy, seedy and tastes like crap.
X is for XXX scandals. Good Lord, I am so tired of the whole "Weiner" thing (read also: the Schwarzenegger thing, the Bill Clinton thing, the 'every male politician/actor/some other brand of celebrity who has a hard time [ha ha, 'hard--that's a pun, son] keeping his reproductive apparatus in his pants).
Y is for yawning. It always happens at the most inopportune times. If you're like me, once you start it's difficult to stop, and once you think of yawning you start doing it. It's highly contagious, just like the common cold and herpes.

Thursday, June 09, 2011

Forest Park:

The emerald leaves
and the sky's bright blue expanse
Break my heart open.
Other People's Funerals

I went to a funeral last night. It was at my church, and the choir (of which I'm a part) was singing an anthem. Some of my friends knew the deceased and I wanted to be there for them. These at least were the reasons I gave myself for going. Yet I also felt drawn there, somehow; drawn by something bigger than these reasons, which, serviceable though they are, could still be written off by a person with a busy schedule and an advanced degree in rationalization. I wanted to go. I needed to. And I wasn't completely sure why.

We sang a song during communion that I remembered from my days as a youngster at church camp--the kind that has accompanying hand motions. I am not generally comfortable with such things, but the singing...the familiar melody, the words known so well that they spill from the mouth without a thought...opened something in me. I am not a crier, but I was doing my damnedest to sniffle my way through without completely sobbing. And then I looked down at the program in my hands and saw the date. June 8th. And I remembered.

My uncle committed suicide on June 8th last year, after a lifelong struggle with bipolar disorder. He was cremated, so there wasn't a funeral per se for a while. There was a 'memorial service' shortly after his death, but it was at an unfamiliar (to me) evangelical-to-the-nth-degree church. The pastor took the opportunity, in his sermon, to remind us that suicides go to hell, and especially "unsaved" suicides like my Uncle Jim. It was not an experience of closure. I did not leave feeling held and supported. It was not healing. It left me feeling angry, hurt and saddened.

In a way, this "other person's funeral" yesterday offered me a chance to grieve an old (but not so very old) wound in a familiar place, with people I love and who love me. It served as a Jahrzeit, the Jewish custom of remembering the anniversary of a death with prayers and blessings. Last night we buried Dee's ashes in the plot outside the church, and various people stepped forward to throw handfuls of earth into the grave. It was a poignant reminder that funerals are not so much for the dead as for the living; that even in small actions, like the willingness to dirty our hands to remember a friend who has passed, we stand together. We do not go out to the grave alone. We do not struggle to carry the coffin by ourselves. There are pallbearers; there is a procession out to the graveyard. And as we say during the Episcopal burial service, "Even at the grave we make our song: Alleluia, alleluia."

Saturday, June 04, 2011

The Animal That, Next to Spiders, I Probably Hate the Most (And Really, I Love Almost All Animals)

This is a Canada goose (Branta canadensis) I managed to capture on film while on one of my usual runs in Forest Park. See how it's eyeing that jogger over there on the right? That's because it's trying to decide whether or not he's worth chasing. Canada geese are not, in fact, capable of eating human beings; that does not stop them from trying. They are evil beasts.
My hatred (is that too strong a word? Perhaps. I do not feel for them the loathing I feel for child-abusers or certain members of the cast of Real Housewives of New Jersey) began in middle school, where our outdoor track played host to dozens of these creatures. They would liberally coat the running surface with a layer of their green (really, it's green) excrement, then wait until we came outside for track practice and literally CHASE us around the track--which was probably good from a training perspective, but still...middle school is traumatic enough without worrying about winged death from above.
They incited a primal fear in me that I am afraid did me discredit as a member of the class Mammalia (mammals, unless they are very very small, are not supposed to be afraid of birds). However, my fur-bearing skin and mammary glands offered me little solace when faced with a demonically honking avian moving towards me, wings beating malevolently, at what I would estimate to be 10,000 miles per hour. They have very powerful wings, perfectly capable of breaking a human's arm under the right circumstances.
They are also foul-tempered, entitled (as evidenced by the aforementioned takeover of/crapping upon our track), and unreasonably large, coming into our country without the proper documentation and stealing the jobs of hardworking American geese. *The More You Know!*

PS. They're also endangered...but don't let this fool you; it's only an underhanded ploy for sympathy, intended to lull you into a false sense of security.

One a.m (for ABB and CG Jung)


Again I awake
to find myself wide-eyed and trembling
at the edge of some terrible truth;
At the cusp, in that liminal land
where words are no longer of use
and there is only the silence that screams.

Where only heartbeat
and blood and bone remain,
that ancient answer
of the body
to the questions I dare not ask,
not even in dreams.
-AG