Monthly Archives: October 2009

Friday the 30th

Today I connected some dots. In bio lecture we learned about nerve impulses and muscle contractions, and how dependent they were on sodium and potassium. Little lightbulbs started lighting up over my head. So in bio lab I started harassing the teacher with questions. The first two were “can you describe for me what is going on during hypertonia?”, which he could, and “what is the function of copper in the body?”, which he couldn’t answer. Then we got to my sodium and potassium questions.

“So when you sweat, you lose sodium, right?”

“Yes, that’s correct.”

“So if you sweat a lot and loose sodium, will that effect how the muscles function?”

“Well, if you just sweat some, it’s not going to be enough to upset your sodium balance. . .” Please note that this professor is a true nerd, skinny and bespectacled. Images of my brothers literally wringing out puddles of sweat from their dripping shirts flashed through my mind.

“Yeah, but if you sweat excessively. . .”

“If you sweat excessively, then yes, you will lose sodium and it will certainly effect both your muscle and nerve functioning.”

“Do bananas have a lot of potassium?”

I’m not quite sure what he thought of my seemingly non-sequitur, but it did make sense. Really. See, I remembered that we also lose potassium in our sweat, too–two things absolutely crucial things for muscle contraction. And when you finish working hard outside in 90 degree heat, salty things are one you’re very drawn to eating. But I also know that if you, say, don’t eat breakfast and then go split wood all day, a banana is a big help. I had previously attributed this to presuming it had a high sugar/carbohydrate content. But now I know.

Today the 29th

Today I was complemented on the color my shirt; my boss said it was a very nice color on me. Actually, practically the entire department thinks I look good in colors, and complains that I always wear dark, boring colors like navy blue and brown, and says I should really wear colors more often. I felt like Jane Eyre.

Ha. Wonder how many people got that.

Jane always described herself as wearing plain, quakerish sorts of colors, like grey and black. That’s actually something I had picked up on previously. We don’t like wearing COLOR. It makes us feel like we are trying to get people to look at us, and it makes us squirm. I don’t wear “plain dresses” like Jane, but I’m probably pretty “quakerish” by today’s societies standards.

And then that dratted Mr. Rochester wants her to wear this awful pink dress–I’m sure it wasn’t awful, but it is awful if you like wearing unobtrusive colors. A kind of a brightish bluish-purple is as colorful as I can get, and actually I usually avoid that shirt because it feels too bright. The only reason I wore it was because now a navy blue shirt with the hospital logo on it the official sign that you are a computer expert with their new electronic records program, and I didn’t want to confuse anyone.

I went out shopping on Tuesday and bought (another) pair of black pants, a shortsleeved t-shirt (it was really cheap!), and a longsleeved crew neck shirt that was. . .dark purple. I almost got a grey and black print that I liked, but it looked too busy when I tried it on. And I tried on a dark green shirt, but I decided it was way too cheap/thin to spend my money on. The brown one wasn’t dark enough, and the red one was too bright, and blue-green isn’t my color.

It’s almost–almost–embarrassing how almost all the clothes I wear are all just about the same color, but that’s who I am. I like to wear dark colors.

Wednesday the 28th

Today I spent a good deal of time thinking about the future. Not important things, though, just things like How much money will next semester cost me? Do I really need to buy an iPod touch next semester like my professor says I do? Where can I do clinicals? Will the hospital I’m currently working at want to hire me as a PTA when I graduate? How hard will the course load be next semester? Will I still have any time to work? Why are all chairs so uncomfortable to sit in? Will I stay sane when I have to be in class from 8 in the morning till 5 at night, with no break but a half hour for lunch? Is being sane over-rated? How far will we get in muscles before the semester runs out? How hard is that physics homework I’m supposed to be doing? Will I be ready in time for the next medical terminology exam?

I am absurdly weirded out by people trying to make me a teacher, and I do mean absurdly. I’ve always helped whoever asked. I think I do a pretty decent job of explaining things, especially given the competition. And I can’t really say why it weirds me out, it just does.

Apparently, they don’t even have a teacher for one of the classes we just registered to take. The last one “isn’t coming back”, whatever that means. So my classmate, who has been getting just as good grades as me and rarely asks for help, says to me “Hey, you can teach that!!” And I know she’s teasing, but still.

I guess it makes me feel a little tiny bit un-human, and that makes me very uncomfortable.

Tuesday the 27th

Today I visited my grandparents. I mean, my grandmother.

I kind of really didn’t want to.

Well, logically and rationally I did. It’s important that she keeps getting visited, particularly now that it isn’t my grandparents. And plus, if you don’t squeeze it in whenever you can, then you never do. There is a certain amount of life that you have to do when you can do it, not when you want to do it, because 99 times out of 100, you won’t be able to do it when you want to. In order to avoid looking back and saying “I wish I had. . .”, sometimes it means you have to do things when you don’t particularly want to.

So why didn’t I want to?

I don’t know.

I guess I felt like it was still such a fresh wound barely covered over that I didn’t want to pick at the scab and open it up all over again. I guess there is a part of me that is still in denial–not that he died, but that I will ever have to consider that fact. That I can avoid it and ignore it, and not consider that that little black box is the ashes of my grandfather’s body. That as long as life continues to go on as normal, I can just “pretend it never happened”.

Maybe, in some ways, it is just me pretending that I’m in control. That even if I can’t be in control of what happens, by golly, I’ll be in control of how I feel. And since I can’t control how I feel when I consider or reflect on such things, I avoid thinking about them.

And that’s not right, either, not any more than avoiding my grandparents because it isn’t grandparents any more. You shouldn’t avoid your grandmother when your grandfather dies, and you shouldn’t avoid your own thoughts just because they’re painful. Sticking your head in the sand and humming loudly is never the wise course of action.

Monday the 26th

Today I ran into a childhood acquaintance in a public restroom. I’m sorry, that just sounds wrong on so many different levels. Maybe if I was properly civilized, I would have neglected to mention it was in the restroom. I would have said, “I ran into a childhood acquaintance in the library.” or “I ran into a childhood acquaintance on campus.” Or some other vague explanation. Instead, I come home and say, “I saw so-and-so today!”

And people say, “Oh, were did you run into her?”

And I say, “In the bathroom.”

And that sounds really, really wrong.

But it wasn’t a mutual place of study. It wasn’t in a normal, civilized location. We ran into each other purely because we both had the necessity of a bathroom break. I was heading in, she was heading out, we stood in front of the sinks and talked like it was perfectly normal to run into old acquaintances in the bathroom, and we went our ways.

This world is a very, very weird place.

Also today, the Governor decided that healthcare workers didn’t need to get a flu shot of any kind.

This world is also a very stupid place, often times.

Yes, I already have both. Yes, I knew that as soon as I had both, we wouldn’t need them. I laughed and laughed and laughed. It was either that or cry, and some people looked like maybe they would like to do that.

Today I was also called a “NNNNNNNNNNNNNNEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEERRRRRRRRRRRRDDDDDDDDDDD!!!” But not by any of my classmates. They ask me to explain physics and tutor muscle class, and what did the teacher mean? But they don’t call me a nerd. At least not to my face.

Actually, I wish they would. It would make me a lot less uncomfortable than being told I was smart (of which I don’t feel particularly, but you can’t say that when you keep knowing the answers). Plus, it would be more like home, where, when I pull out the dictionary, people plug their ears and proclaim they are allergic to looking things up. (And then finish, sometimes, by saying, “Well? what did it say?”) I am used to being an annoying older sister, and people are being polite. It’s eerie.

(It wasn’t a family member that called me a nerd, either. It was a PT from where I work. We get along well.)

Friday the 23rd

Today, for the first time ever, I did not leave my English class feeling almost physically ill, with my stomach all clenched up.

First it started with plea-bargaining, in which I explained that to have to go to class on Wednesday was screwing up life for me, my brothers, my entire PTA class, and even my PTA professor; could we please make some other sort of arrangement? She agreed that if I came in on Thursday for one-on-one for half an hour, I wouldn’t have to come to class on Wednesday.

So Thursday was our first one-on-one. During this half hour, the awful truth came out: at the point of my life that I was currently at, I really was not interested in honing my writing skills. The reason–the only reason–I came to college was to get my PTA degree, and they told me I could not get a PTA degree without this English class. But that was all.

She decided that we might as well turn it into independent study, and in some way have it complement my PTA classes. And I should write, and ignore whatever the rest of the class was doing. You mean, I asked, I can use my laptop during class? Yes.

So today, I spent 45 minutes ignoring the class, our text, and her (although mostly in the reverse of that order). I sat in front of my laptop and typed away. And I enjoyed t.

I can’t say what I wrote was exactly how I would have written it, if I hadn’t had to send it into her. I left a lot of stuff out. It was maybe a tad more liberal-arty than I’d have been inclined to do. And, looking over it now, it was rather sloppy. But it was 727 words of the writing of my choosing.

God is good.

(I’ll post it tomorrow, for better or worse.)

Thursday the 22nd

Yesterday I was thinking about how funny it was that both my brother and I have been writing posts, in a lamenting sort of way, about how well things are going for us. You know you’re a first-class whiner when you can whine about things going well. Be it him complaining about soaring toward the sun or me complaining that I’m getting good grades and everyone thinks I’m smart–neither of us seem to be able to find any contentment.

There’s a lot of places one could go with that. . .how nothing in this life satisfies, how we are more prone to see the bad than the good, how we are aware that none of this is a result of ourselves, how people are prone to anxiety—any number of places.

Instead, I was transported back to a memory of myself, at a younger age, reading the story of Joseph. First, Joseph is hated by his family and shipped off as a slave, which is–you know, kind of a rough time. Next, it says, “The Lord was with Joseph, and he was a successful man; and he was in the house of his master the Egyptian. And his master saw that the Lord was with him and that the Lord made all he did to prosper in his hand.

Then Joseph gets accused of a crime he didn’t commit–and in fact when out of his way not commit–stripped of all his authority, comfort, freedom, etc., and thrown in jail. Which is about as unfair as you can get. And then it says, “And the keeper of the prison committed to Joseph’s hands all the prisoners who were in the prison; whatever they did there, it was his doing. The keeper of the prison did not look into anything that was under Joseph’s authority, because the Lord was with him; and whatever he did, the Lord made it prosper.

It always confused me.

The narrative in the Bible always took such a “zoomed-out” view, and made you wonder what it really looked like to Joseph. Could Joseph really get hated by those who ought to love him, thrown out of his house and homeland, sold into a stranger’s household as a slave, and say, “Lo, my God is with me; whatever I set my hand to prospers”? Or did he muddle through the hurt every day, doing his best at whatever came his way during the day, wondering and crying out to God at what seemed a cruel and unfair turn of events?

It says Potiphar saw God was with him. It says the jail-keepers saw that God was with him. Did it really look so obvious to Joseph? You would expect that after all that happened to Joseph, he would have been a very hurt, bitter and angry man–and rightfully so, by our judgment. He doesn’t sound like the slightest bit of any of those three, when he reveals himself to his brothers. Then you read what he named his children—“. . .the name of the firstborn, Manasseh [literally, making forgetful]: ‘For God has made me forget all my toil and all my father’s house.’ And the name of the second he called Ephraim [literally, fruitfulness]: ‘For God has caused me to be fruitful in the land of my affliction.'”

Was that “it’s all good” attitude all retrospective? Was he hurt, bitter and angry for most of his life?

And then I would wonder, what would my life and the lives of my family look like, if it was told in a Biblical, “zoomed-out” sort of way? What would be written, as though it were obvious, that we could not see at the time through our clouded eyes? I could never imagine it. It seemed like those accounts only picked up on the major landmarks, the meaningful events, and those things never happened to us.

I haven’t thought about Joseph in a long time, I guess. Looking back on my thoughts, I can see that I was starting pick up on, in some small way, what it means to keep your eyes on the things above instead of the things below. I might have used thought-concepts like “zoomed out” and “if our lives were written into the Bible”, but it was a realization that God’s points spanned so many years. He would always tell it like it was a deliberate, neat, planned-out story–which of course it was–but that never meant that was the way it felt at the time.

And now, as memories of those thoughts came flooding back to me, it makes me smile. Here I am, raging against the unfairness and frustration and toil of all these petty things around me–professors and flu shots and too much information and not enough time and it’s hard, and on and on.

And God is writing, “And what she put her hand to prospered, for God was with her.”

The secretary at work just about threw something at me when, in response to her questioning, I told her that “I got a 99 on my physics exam, but only an 88 on my medical terminology.”

“Only!” she cried. “ONLY!” she was fairly spluttering.

Yeah. Only. Also, one could have gotten 106 on my bio exam, and I only got 99.

Somehow it was easier for her to see that I was “prospering”, though I rather suspect her first thought wasn’t that it was God’s fault that I was. And somehow, it is easier for me to get fixated on the fact that it isn’t my doing, and I’m just waiting for my true humanity to betray me. How hard I work is not making this happen, and it isn’t my brilliance, either.

I can’t help but feel that my response to how well I’m doing is sadly lacking. I don’t think I should be “proud” of myself. I’m not “beating myself up” over my 88 in medical terminology. I feel like I’m scared, and getting dragged along more than riding on top. I wish I could just see it as the gift and a blessing from God that it is, and rejoice in it. I wish I was better at letting go of my frustrations and angers. I wish that, in recognizing that it was all from God, I could let go of my anxiety and fear, and rest in trust and peace. I wish I would not get so caught up in thinking it is my story, and pay more attention to the story God is trying to tell.

And I know that this is horribly longer than 300 words, but I had to say it all.

Wednesday, the 21st

Today I began to once again get that sinking feeling that my reputation is spreading further than I might like. There are too many people asking me if even I am afraid of the next medical terminology test, too many people asking if it was me that got the 99 on the physics exam, too many people sitting next to me saying they hope the smart brainwaves rub off on them, too many people certain that I couldn’t be struggling with anything. And I am not helping matters any by doing things like beating my head against muscles and nerves all Saturday until they make a little sense, and then forwarding my sensified text file on to everyone else.

The thing is, I am all too aware I am human. And I’m not particularly thrilled with the idea of setting up myself an audience for when I invariably face-plant. And it would be just so juicily ironic if I bombed this next muscle exam, what with me first giving everyone else a leg up. If I am staying on top of my material, it is only just barely.

Having said that, I still struggle with the desire to re-write the entire PTA curriculum. I have no desire to be a professor, with all that red tape, but nothing is being taught. Facts and concepts are being thrown out in an entirely random and unconnected manner. People are struggling. When you realize that 3/4 of your teachers haven’t got the slightest clue about how to teach, you suddenly realize why—one of the reasons why—public school kids struggle so much. And I hate to see people struggle.

I know beyond any shadow of a doubt that if I’m only just barely keeping my own nose above water, there is no possible way I can help the strugglers in any meaningful way. It is merely a reflection of my utter frustration at sitting around and watching people not get taught. It feels like somebody ought to do something about it.

Tuesday the 20th

Today I need an attitude adjustment. Actually, every day we all need our attitudes adjusted, but some days I feel my lack more than other days, and today I’m really feeling it. I am majorly annoyed at three out of my 5 professors, and disgusted by my homework. I am wearing a first class scowl. I am ready to tell the world that if it wants to be that stupid, I’m not going to even try to do a better job.

Among other things, though, the world at large doesn’t care what you think, and the only one you’re poisoning is yourself. Yes, it is stupid that since radicotomy is an incision into a nerve root, you got the problem wrong when you said that yes, they should expect an incision into a nerve. (Apparently, it doesn’t consider a nerve root to be part of a nerve.) Yes, it is even more annoying that the professor who administered the test had no clue the question was on there or why anyone would be cutting a nerve. But what you are supposed to do is laugh, realize that an 88 is perfectly acceptable in any case, and take the re-test that’s available to everyone on Wednesday.

Not stew.

It doesn’t really matter how much of a “right” I have to stew, or how long I can make the lists of “frustrating things in the last 2 weeks”. Because the problems really aren’t external; they’re internal. And that’s where they need to be dealt with. And, by God’s grace, my English teacher will never find out exactly how hard I have to bite my tongue when I’m around her. (Without it, I’ll not be able to sit through the rest of her classes.)

Internal problems acknowledged, I still wouldn’t mind a medicinal dose of chocolate right about now.

Monday the 19th

Today we were told the school had been suddenly shipped a bunch of H1N1 vaccine, but only 400 doses, and we needed to all go make appointments quick, before it was gone, because when it is required by NYS and we need to go on clinicals, then there will be no H1N1 vaccine and no facility will take us.

We are hugely annoyed.

I got annoyed-er when the teacher referred to it as “the deadly H1N1”. I said it wasn’t any more deadly than the regular flu. She said it had already killed more people this year than the regular flu ever does. Well, guess what? I just did a paper for my English class, and looked all this stuff up. I said, not according to the numbers I saw! She said, oh, well that’s what they said this morning on TV. Maybe they just meant over a certain time period, or something. Anyway, go make an appointment.

And because I didn’t feel annoyed enough, I suppose, I went home and tried to find her numbers. I found lots of news reports saying, huh, really nothing awful has happened yet; it seems like the worst is already over, and other such things. Then I read a NYT article, which was fine, but then I made the mistake of looking at the comments. In the comment section, a bunch of uneducated, selfish people called any healthcare worker who didn’t want the vaccination a selfish, uneducated person. Who apparently shouldn’t have the right and honor of taking care of the rightly-to-be-adored-and-admired commentators.

Is there not one sane person left in the universe who realizes this strain and occurrence of H1N1 in the US has been dramatically and wildly overblown for the sake easily panicked, shallow, know-it-all commentators?

Everyone wants to make this about the vaccine, but you know what? What about H1N1? If you saw statistical evidence you were more likely to die by driving your car somewhere than you were to die of the H1N1, would be trying to mandate vaccinations? If you saw that the majority of people who contracted H1N1 had nothing more than symptoms of a “mild cold”, would you be throwing a freaking snit that a judge decided to slow down the proceedings and hear what people had to say? Do you think that if there is an off chance that I “may” be, at one point or another, willingly taking care of you, that you have the right to say how I ought to be taken care of—that it’s your right to decide if I get drugged up, so that you maintain your right to refuse any medication we try to throw at you?

Maybe, if you think I should be put on a rack to spare you a sliver, I don’t want you as my patient. Go suffer with your nasal congestion some place where I can’t see or hear you. Life is nothing more than a process of dying, anyhow. Why not go out some exotic way and make the headlines? You need your 15 minutes of fame sometime.