Monthly Archives: December 2009

Oh, a new year?

Everyone keeps telling me “Happy new year!” or some sort of variant, and it’s all I can do not to do a double take. New year? What new year? Who says? In some ways, it also feels like a birthday,when you check to see if you feel older. It doesn’t feel like a new year.

Time is a confusing thing. I begin to suspect, scientific disputes to the contrary ignored, that one can’t really measure time. I find it rather hard to imagine that seconds or minutes or hours or days or months or seasons or years is sufficient to really measure time. . .but that probably means I’m trying to say something I’m not saying. The fullness and experience of time does not seem to be contained within its technical passage.

I doubt that last sentence cleared the matter up any for you, but it satisfied me.

At this time last year, I was just beginning to try to get started volunteering at the local hospital, with some vague hope that would lead to a clearer understanding of what I was supposed to be doing with myself at this point in my life—and if it didn’t, well, I couldn’t make matters worse by helping people out, right?

In retrospect, of course, it the was the pebble that started the avalanche, the spark that started the explosion. So to speak.

The most absurd thing, through it all, was that this started a year ago. It all seems so familiar, that, like the greeting of the new year, I feel confused. Was it really ONLY a year ago this started? It seems it ought to have been two years ago—or perhaps even three. I seem to have had one year stretch out across many, only then to shove many years into one.

I don’t feel particularly different. . .only, imagining myself in this position, a year ago, seemed so foreign, so alien, so incomprehensible.

And then people ask me what plans I have for the rest of my life, and seem surprised when I say, “Life changes too fast; I’ll deal with it when it gets here.”

It does, though. The entire universe can get turned upside down in a day. A year can seem to hold more than the rest of your previous life. Trying to plan it begins to seem the ultimate silliness.

Some people seem to imply that looking back over the years can let you see your life-trail making sense. Somehow that seems as utterly confusing as looking to the future. It seems all we really do have is now.

Learning is FUN! (Said in your best Miss Sunshine voice)

It’s funny; even though I can’t help but be nervous about my clinicals (which feel like they will be one long, extended examination to see if you’ve really learned anything), I love it when I can start learning under the PTs at work. It feels like the way learning ought to be done.

It was very slow at work, so I got to do much more in the way of observing—and not just passively so. The PTs were willing to actively engage me in trying notice things, and to explain what was going on. Most patients not only do not mind me sitting in, they actually appreciate hearing more explained. I don’t know how much they can easily follow, since the PTs do not hesitate to speak to me in latin, but it’s nice to not feel like an intrusion.

JA threatened not to let me watch one of her evaluations, on account of me being a “nerd”, namely, after the last time she let me sit in on one of her evals, I sent her an email with a bunch of questions. I don’t think—I know she didn’t ever dream someone would do such a thing. Since she expected it this time, I couldn’t let her down. She explained the gait abnormality someone had, and gave me a name for it, and then dared me to look it up when I got home, so I had to.

She also let me borrow two of her college textbooks to keep me busy. I think she’s a little bit concerned I’m going to read them both cover to cover over the weekend. It would be fun to see her eyes bug out if I did, but I think they’re a bit long for me to actually manage it.

Randomitis

My random has gotten inflamed.

That sounds wrong.

Anyway.

(Technically, though, that is what “randomitis” would mean. I don’t know why I typed Randomitis. A random is certainly not a body part; though perhaps some budding Frued out there would say that our “random” is part of our psyche or something.

Or something.

I don’t recommend Frued, by the way.

I think I prefer to spell it Fraud.)

Random #1: 3D paper snowflake. I saw these hanging on some floor or other in the hospital when I worked last weekend, and I thought they were kind of cool. I was pretty sure I had figured out how to make them, but I decided to look them up and see.

Random #2: Alien Hand Syndrome. I vaguely think I’ve heard of this before, but my favorite OT assistant brought it up today. Apparently they think one of their patients may have this, and she found it very fascinating, and suggested that if I had some free time, I would enjoy reading it. When I looked at the print out she was showing me, I realized it was a wikipedia article! Wikipedia tends to get bad rap for reliability, but I suspect any encyclopedia would, if put under scrutiny. As long as you think of it as that—an encyclopedia, not the the complete, whole, final gospel truth—it’s very useful.

That’s all.

I hope I haven’t disturbed your existence too much by typing “My random has gotten inflamed.”

Babies

Cleaning lady walks up to an obviously pregnant Massage Therapist, and stares at her stomach.

CLEANING LADY: [Demands] Okay, what is it?

MASSAGE THERAPIST: Puts hands on belly. [Pleased and proud] It’s an artichoke!

ME: Oh, you’re so lucky!!!

She later admitted it was a baby boy.

In our second second scene, a Physical Therapist is relating a story about her baby boy. Having been born both the right gender and at the right time of year, he got to play “Baby Jesus” in her Church’s nativity scene. Apparently, the church has the tradition of someone dressed up as Santa Claus walking up one side aisle, kneeling and saying a quick silent prayer, and then quietly walking down the other side aisle. This year, to her distress, they changed the program without telling her. Santa instead decided to PICK UP HER BABY and CARRY IT over to the priest, and she was sure he (Santa) was going to DROP HIM.

I tried so hard not to laugh at her. It was her first baby, and there is that whole mother-protective thing, and let’s just face it, we women generally know better than to trust breakable things to men, who generally destroy whatever it is that’s in their hands before they even become consciously aware of what they’ve actually picked up. But really, any guy who willingly goes over and picks up a baby probably has at least one kid himself; guys who do not have kids (or younger siblings) generally stay far, far, faaaar away from breakable little babies. The guy in the Santa suit was not going to drop her baby.

Then in our third scene—it’s the sad one—we have a general discussion about religion. At least one therapist confessed to have taken her son to be baptized, but when the priest/pastor/officiator/whomever asked her the formal question of why she was bringing her child to him, she had no particular idea. The other therapist had warning of such difficult questions, and she got to look up the proper answers in a book. But then her priest asked her the sticky question of, since you’ve named your child with a biblical name, do you know who the biblical figure was? Neither she nor her husband could come up with an answer. When they got home, they looked it up in a children’s version of Bible stories, but either she misunderstood/misremembered, or the story book messed things up.

Today, someone punched me in the nose.

Not really. Today, JA pretended to punch me in the nose. Upon reflection later on in the day, I wished I had cried out, snapped my head back, grabbed my nose and turned away. It would have been very amusing seeing how alarmed I could get her, seeing as she never had any intention of actually making contact. Instead, I stood there stupidly, wondering if she had any idea how dangerous that was.

Not for me. I wasn’t expecting it, but I’m always ready for a mock-punch. For her. Because she’s used to being the crazy one, used to getting reactions out of other people. It’s her game; she doesn’t expect other people to play it. She wouldn’t, for instance, be the slightest bit ready for me to block her incoming hand mid-way and make my own mock-thrust toward her abdomen. Not only would she be caught completely off guard, she probably wouldn’t know what to make of it. What she doesn’t realize is that I do this with my brothers all the time, and that this is as natural for me to do with them as it is to say good-morning. Sometimes I say good-morning at the same time as taking a whack at them, come to think of it. (Or responding to their incoming hand, if they happen to beat me to it.)

She’s never ready.

She’s not ready, when she complains for the third time (the first two times being responded with sympathetic noises) that she really doesn’t want to see this next patient and I tell her, “What do you want me to do about it? Buy you a balloon?”

She’s not ready, when she tries to get a rise out of me when I’m leaving to go home and she demands to know where I think I’m going, and I tell her “California. It’s warmer there.”

She’s not ready, when she sees me leaning over to clean an exercise ball, and prepares to bump into me on the way past. . .only I see her coming and deliberately bump into her first. (You should have seen how big her eyes got!)

Oh, she bounces back. But before she can get out her smart-aleck response, there is always a fleeting few seconds of shock on her face, unaccustomed to having to actually parry. No one else seems to know the proper response to her utter nonsense, and she’s grown used to catching people off guard, leaving people stammering for words, and generally causing people to throw up their hands and say “Heaven help me!” It amuses her endlessly.

I believe what she has yet to fully comprehend is that I have nine brothers. It is a fact that she technically knows, but does not yet realize it’s implications. (Among other things, it’s probably not wise for her to dish out to me what she is not prepared to have automatically returned in kind.) For my part, I agree with her; it is fun catching people off their guard.

Sunday Song: The Comforter Has Come

O spread the tidings round, wherever man is found,
Wherever human hearts and human woes abound;
Let ev’ry Christian tongue proclaim the joyful sound:
The Comforter has come!

CHORUS:
The Comforter has come, the Comforter has come!
The Holy Ghost from heav’n—the Father’s promise giv’n;
O spread the tidings round, wherever man is found–
The Comforter has come!

The long, long night is past, the morning breaks at last,
And hushed the dreadful wail and fury of the blast,
As o’er the golden hills the day advances fast!
The Comforter has come!

CHORUS

Lo, the great King of kings, with healing in His wings,
To ev’ry captive soul a full deliv’rance brings;
And thru the vacant cells the song of triumph rings:
The Comforter has come!

CHORUS

O bound-less love divine! How shall this tongue of mine
To wond’ring mortals tell the matchless grace divine—
That I, a child of hell, should in His image shine!
The Comforter has come!

CHORUS

One of the reasons I’ve always wanted to learn to play and/or sing is that then you are not limited to the songs someone else has chosen to preform. I’ve never heard this song (written by Frank Bottome, 1823-1894) played by anyone other than me, plinking out the melody on my keyboard.

This song would probably never make the contemporary cut. It’s too long, to begin with. For another thing, it takes more time to sing the verses than the chorus, and the modern is song is all about the chorus. Also, it doesn’t use the words “me” or “my”—contemporary songs tend to be very. . .”personal”.

Just because a song is old does not necessarily mean a song is good. But there is a certain amount winnowing the passage of time does; some songs aren’t memorable enough to be carried down. Something that I think plagues a lot of contemporary songs is that, well, they’re too contemporary. Not only do they not pass through time well, they seem fixated on the present—and by “present” I include the performance of the song. They tend to be shallow—considering only a brief thought, or a very temporary period of time or situation—and meant to evoke the emotions of listeners cranking the stereo volume. Rare is the contemporary song that allows your mind to explore many thoughts contained in one theme; rare is the contemporary song that makes you want to haltingly learn it on your keyboard. It becomes more about how the song is presented—the fleeting performer and the even more fleeting performance—than a song someone can hear and carry inside of them and pass along. It is of the moment, not of the being.

What makes a story inspirational?

So while I was stuffing my peanut butter and jelly sandwich in my mouth, I perused the “Book Page” Mom had brought home from the library. They give it out for free; it’s full of reviews of books, interviews with authors, and all of those sorts of things.

My word, I can’t remember the last time I saw so many depressing books referenced.

People growing up in Communist Russia, people with overbearing mothers they never got free of, people who were continual disappointments to their fathers—actually, people with overbearing mothers growing up in Communist Russia. . . Why does this stuff get published? Why does it get read?

I can come up with several theories, but none of them are particularly flattering.

—Misery loves company. Everyone wants to know everyone else is miserable, too.

—Misery loves lording over the more miserable. At least then you know someone else has it worse than you. Also sometimes called perspective.

–The non-miserable love lording over the miserable. It’s a good way to feel smug and superior, I guess.

And. . .that’s about all I can come up with. These aren’t stories about “love amidst the hard times” or “persevering through great trials” sorts of books. If the reviews are anything to be believed, they sound very autobiographical, to the point of blatant whining because you never had a happy life. No moral, encouragement, advice, or unique perspective included. Also, sans humor.

Is it because the consumer is more interested in “sensational”—and nothing is more sensational than misery?

And as a rather absurd tie-in, I suddenly remember this post from 6yearmed. Essentially, people have forgotten what an “emergency” is. “Emergency”, nowadays, means “I want it now.”

Is it possible. . . I don’t know. I don’t want to down-play their heartache, for I’m sure they were miserable. But I sometimes wonder if maybe this nation has also forgotten what misery is. I think they think you’re supposed to be miserable if you can’t get your hands on an iPod touch. Is that really as bad as it gets?

It’s just—bazaar, I guess, the things you hear people say. I was studying in the library one time, and heard someone detailing how they were going to keep switching majors so they could stay in school until the economy improved. I guess, one way or another, they had free school. So why leave school? It was safe and cozy. Until they left school, they didn’t need to face the real world. Hence, stay under the covers until the monster leaves.

I guess I always thought inspirational stories were about surviving through the difficult times. Now it seems like they’re all either “how to avoid ever having a difficult time” (e.g., run and hide, pretend, lie, bury your head in the sand, etc), or “whine because you are in a difficult time”. I don’t feel inspired; it’s all hugely depressing.

Can I tell happy stories, or stick-to-your-guns stories, or God-is-good stories, or. . . is there entirely no market for people who are generally content? Even if, you know, they don’t have iPod touches?

Roll; bend. Do not break. Or blow up.

So the other day I checked to see what my final grades were for my first semester. You know, that fancy GPA I’ve never had before in my life, because we didn’t keep track of things like that when I was homeschooled? And people at worked had asked me if I had a 4.0 GPA, and I could only say, “I think so,” since I hadn’t seen my final grades yet. So I checked. And it was something like 3.895 or something. Maybe it was 3.985. Anyway, I looked and looked to see why it wasn’t 4.0. Everything had an A.

Except Psychology.

Which had an A-.

Which is absurd. I think I had only lost, like, 3 points out of all the hundreds of points that were available to be got. Except that I still hadn’t seen my scores for the last module (this is an online class), so perhaps, for some unfathomable reason, I had done exceptionally worse on the last module. So I went to check my individual Psy grades.

I discovered my last module hadn’t been graded.

Not graded low; simply not graded. And when I checked the points system, I realized that if I subtracted the points available from doing the last module from my standing score, it would indeed give me an A- instead of an A.

I sent the teacher an email, but I am not too hopeful. This is the same teacher who never got back to any of my emails for weeks, and sometimes answered vaguely along the lines of “Oh, I thought I already responded to this email, but I guess not.” This is the teacher who never showed up except to hand out grades, and normally two weeks late at that.

But it makes me mad, because I hated doing Psychology, and if I made myself do the last module, I by golly want my points for it!!

Sort of similarly, I have been rather obsessively checking my email. See, I told my boss I am available to work all during break. . .and she never tells me except at the last minute. So since I could have “could-you-please-work” jumped on me at any second, I keep checking and checking my email, hoping for a few hours extra notice.

Well, she did it again today. Not quite the last minute, since it’s for this Sunday, but I knew this was going to happen. No, really, I knew. When I was in at work last Friday, I checked the bulletin board. They keep a printed out list, running for several months, of who is staffing weekends and where there is still no one “volunteered”. Knowing, as I do, how the weekends are normally jumped on me at the last minute, I scanned it to see which weekends had a blank spot for “aide”. And this Sunday was one of them.

But she didn’t say anything last Wednesday, when at something like 4 o’clock pm she asked me if I could work Thursday or Friday. And she didn’t ask me Thursday or Friday or Monday or Tuesday. . .or any time before that. And she’s the one who makes that list.

It is, quite frankly, driving me nuts.

But, even more frankly, they are ultimately not the ones in charge. Not my boss, not my professor. . . but God. He is the one who ultimately decides what my grades will be and how much notice I will have before getting called in to work. This seems to mean only one of two things. Either He is trying to teach me I do not have control over everything in my life, get over it, stop trying to insist everything ought to done your way on your time frame, and besides, in the grand scheme of things it really doesn’t matter anyway.

Or He is trying to keep me on my toes and see how often He can get me to check my email.

My brain hath shut down; I cannot stir it.

Yesterday E demanded a piggy-back ride. E is taller than me and about the same height as me. I called his bluff; I gave myself a wide base of support, and touched on a nearby counter-top for good measure, and told him to hop on. So he did.

“Ok,” says I, “Where to?”

“Up the stairs!!” He says, attempting to call my bluff.

“Ok,” says I, and head for the stairs. He got so nervous he almost jumped off, but he doesn’t like to be a chicken. So he just made “Ohhh, I’m scared!!” noises.

I stepped up onto the first step, and he took a deep breath.

I’m not exactly sure if he took another breath until we reached the top of the stairs. At any rate, he was very, very, very quiet and still the whole time long.

“Ok,” says I, “Now where to?”

“Nah, this is good enough.” He says, hopping off speedy-like. “I think I gave you enough exercise for one day!”

In other news, E. also made me a computer program. He was going to make it a billion times more fancy than I needed it, but I persuaded him that I really didn’t want it that fancy. It’s sort of a random number generator, except, as I was lectured by L., it’s not random, it’s shuffled!! (For pete’s sake!!) It’s for randomly picking a muscle every day. Then I will send out an email to my other type-A, obsessive-compulsive, already preparing for the next semester. Every day, we will try to remember all the details about various muscles, and we won’t be able to remember a bit of it. We crammed and dumped. I can tell you the names of the muscles we studied in the first few weeks of the semester, but not their nerves. Haven’t a clue. That’s why I need practice. (He was going to make the program automatically question asking and emailing, but I need to be the one to do that. For the practice. But I appreciate the thought.)

Monday, December 21

Today E asked me what my great big important plans for my break were.

I looked at him. “Great, big and important? Not really.”

“Well, productive plans.”

I looked at him.

I do have plans. But when I started my planning phase, I had an honest conversation with myself about overbooking myself, the unpredictability of my schedule, the shortness of my break, and the need to instill myself with several good habits (of which I am normally “too busy” to attend to).

That last item rather became the focal point. Rather than trying to schedule every last minute with productive producing—which could be blown out of the water at any second, and would wind up being a rather stress-inducing break—I decided to pay more attention to habits and routines. Habits that, quite frankly, I should have properly learned a long time ago—like packing up after myself. I hate packing up after myself. It’s boring. But I do enjoy working in a properly cleaned and organized area.

So the important part of this morning was not that I pulled out a sewing project and made more progress than I’d expected. The important part was that, after I made myself stop for the day, I packed up. Even though it wasn’t much, even though I fully intend to work on it again tomorrow, even though it’s my sewing room and if people don’t like my projects out, they can leave.

It was a huge step.

I had a whole internal conversation about it.

“Oh, come on! I’m just going to be getting everything back out tomorrow!”

“Hah, that’s what you think.”

“It’s only like, three things! And it’s lunch time!”

“It will only take you, like, 3 minutes! And you aren’t that hungry!”

“I understand about packing up your messes, but this hardly counts as a mess.”

“That’s what you always say! And then look where we wind up! You can’t make excuses if you’re trying to start a new habit. You have to do little steps—consistently!”

Needless to say, I lost the argument. Or won it. At any rate, I packed up.

And that’s a pretty good representation of what my break looks like. It’s all about arguing the principle of the thing; hopefully it will be productive as well, but honestly, that’s a secondary goal. It’s not as much about getting something made as it is working on my diligence and discipline, on doing things I don’t want to but know I should.

What? you say. Isn’t that what going to school is all about? No, school is about doing what other people think you should do. That really isn’t the same as things you know you should do, but don’t want to do. The professor checks to see if you’ve done your homework. Nobody tells you to clean your sewing room, because it’s yours, and it’s none of their business. But I know I should, and I know I don’t. Because I don’t want to, because it isn’t fun, because I’m undisciplined.

In some ways, too, I’m trying to head off at the pass what I see as a common, extremely understandable, affliction. You come home, and you don’t want to do anything. So you, essentially, do nothing. Moi, aussi.

I can give you the laundry list of excuses—it was my first ever semester of college, I had 19 credits, I was still working sometimes, I needed time to unwind, etc, etc. Some of them are exceptionally true; but brutal honesty admits I often struggled with diligence and discipline when I wasn’t at school. It’s a me problem, not a situation problem.

I don’t want to come home from work and do nothing. That means learning self-discipline, which is hard. It only makes sense to try to sink some roots in before my laundry list of excuses comes back.