Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Waiting Room Poetry



I spend a lot of time in waiting rooms; anyone with chronic illness does. They are ill-lit as a general rule, plant-less, postered with cheap posters of eagles and shit, and populated by mean nurses, as you would expect in Broadway musical.

I try to find tidbits into which I can sink my teeth. For example, one waiting room had a live plant. That was pretty fabulous. A peace lily. Another had interesting carpet. I think it was wool. That says something, wool carpet in a waiting room, instead of the usual flammable Astrotuf-ish polyester in geometric pattern of grey on duller grey.

The "Insult The Suffering Patient" cake was taken yesterday at physical therapy, an applied heating pad that I could have done at home for free. Next time, I will. Anyway, there was a stool in the treatment room (see above.) So bitchy. So obnoxious. So this stool is not for you. .. I put my wallet on it. Take that, medical establishment.

Saturday, January 28, 2012

I'm Hugging You A Long Time

Stuff To Blow Your Mind, one of my favorite podcasts, recently had a show about hugging, Hug It Out. I learned the average length of an American hug is three seconds.

The therapeutic length of a hug? Thirty seconds. Thirty seconds. That's eternity if you're not used to it.

But all kinds of positive biochemical things happen if people hug for thirty seconds. Cortisol, the stress hormone, goes down, and oxytocin, the bonding hormone, floods our brains. We feel connection, trust, contentment. Our blood pressure goes down.

However, I'm a specialist in meaningless, bond-less hugs, teepee hugs, where I brush collarbones momentarily with my intended hug recipient. Sometimes I'm nervous that I went in for a hug at all. Hugs are stressful and uncertain to me, and I have never gone up to someone with my arms wide open, like a hungry bear in Yellowstone, and said, "Get In Here."

But studies say we all should.

Thursday, January 26, 2012

Francis Bacon

The artist painted lots of heads, mostly contorted, often screaming. Often the heads of popes, especially after Velazquez's Portrait of Pope Innocent X.

I used to hate, hate, hate Francis Bacon, his work so disturbed me; worse than Munch's The Scream which is also very mouth-centric. Now. What? I love Bacon? No. More nuanced. It speaks to me. Chronic facial pain. TMJD. Arthritis in the jaw. The words that are a horror. But just words. It's nice to find a painting because a picture is worth a thousand words.

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

On Illness

Women's diseases: arthritis, fibromyalgia, chronic pain, TMJ - did you know women more than men experience pain? Yes. There's research.

Would you care to see a tomogram of my jaw? A year ago I didn't know the word existed. Nor "arthritic changes" and it means pain and discomfort and spasm in non-medical jargon. Even the word spasm. To those who are healthy. I salute you. To those who are healthy, spasm should sound orgasmic, 18th century French description of it, a "petit mort."

Instead a little death is to me a little death, a big gorilla, wearing out the joint. This is supposed to be kind of thing that "makes you stronger," as they say. Illness. Seeing the positive. Suffering. Counting the muscle relaxers, I mean blessings. But as the late cancer patient Christopher Hitchens said, "Bullshit."

The Old World is out of sight. I read Hitchens, nod my head. The New World looks like gorillas on the beach, damp heat, malarial, infested. We're supposed to make camp where?

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Universal Mother

I have been in contemplation recently of kindness, metta.

How can I be less a jerk-like crone, enraged at at every pothole, and porthole that I can't seem to fit through on account of my thighs, more Mother Mary-ish. Mind you, I don't believe.

But I like the idea of Universal Mother, as in a Hindu goddess with multiple arms. Not The Divine Multitaska, making dentist appointments for the kids while perfectly applying the right color foundation.

Can you imagine the embrace of a multi-armed goddess of mercy? I imagine it would be like my Patou's Joy-smelling grandmother plus my 4th grade teacher Mrs. Jenkins plus my college French professor who was quick as a whip.

If you've read Madeleine L'Engle's A Wrinkle In Time you'll not be surprised that my favorite character in the book - and maybe in all of literature - is Aunt Beast.

Strange, yes. A kind, smart, furry, octopus-like creature that is blind. But isn't that the essence of what we want in our mothers?

Monday, January 9, 2012

How Not To Be A Jerk

I'm in a flight of books about being nice. It's like a flight of beer, tapas, a tasting menu of kindness. I can choose to use my turn signals, help a person with her grocery bags, and hope they won't think I'm going to mug them.

Some of the books say kindness is an inherent trait of humanity. I disagree; I've seen my young kids fighting over the last grape like great apes, teeth chiseled like silverbacks, and as scary. I've seen them succeed in biting each other. My sister bit me once. Horrified, my mom said, "We don't bite each other!"

We're like dogs. Trainable. Therefore I think kindness can be taught. I'm starting a dinner table practice tonight, where instead of demanding the ketchup and grabbing the nits from my children's hair, I ask politely beforehand, "How was your day?" and listen attentively.

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

My Five C's for The New Year

1) Connect someone to someone or something they'll get a kick out of.

2) Create something doesn't matter what, just something that wasn't in the universe this morning. Could be fabulous works of art done in gourds you know, for instance.

3) Compliment someone, like, hey nice cardigan, or novel. Whatever.

4) Comment and critique. Add your opinion to the vast ocean of opinionosity.

5) Chill. Make time for time. Check out Tumblr teacup pigs, or do some downward facing dogs or what clears your cobwebs.

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

The Art Of Giving Is Hard To Master

My husband's birthday is tomorrow. He expects a gift. Gifts, plural. He loves gifts and who doesn't? They're proof that your friends - and surely your wife - know you. A good gift is specific, like Cupid's arrow.

Here's the thing. I'm gift fail. Candles, linen hand towels, and subscriptions to The New Yorker I think: everyone loves these. Surely everyone loves embossed notecards.

They don't though. People are diverse, and confusing, in their desires for things like potpourri. So I flounder: gift card? Flowers? Cheese of the month club? Will he be satisfied that I at least tried, I chewed on the end of my pencil until I came up with - that's it! - bonsai.

Monday, January 2, 2012

"Arthritis" from Chronic Pain: The Musical

Tenor: "Your spine looks like a 80 year old's."
Alto: "What? Are you fucking kidding me, Doctor? I'm 36. I have arthritis?"

[The harp plays some glissandos for drama, then is joined by kettle drum, beating, beating beating.]

Tenor: Yes. It's in your jaw bone too. It's degenerative arthritis. Degenerative. Degenerative.

Alto: This is ridiculous... Doctor, can you tap dance?

[Then the music shifts from pathos into a soft-shoe number. The doctor and the woman embrace, laughing.]

Tenor: I know the news I deliver is hard on your liver.
Alto: It is. It is. I have a lot to consider.
Tenor: Delivering news like this is how I ended up upriver, in this city hospital downtown. Downtown.
Alto: If you're up a river, I'm shit's creek.
Tenor: It's true! Your canoe's sprung a leak.
Alto: I'm paddling, paddling, like a trooper. What else can I do?
Tenor: What else can you do, my dear, when life's made such a blooper?

[Curtain falls.]