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Sunday, March 24, 2013

Not this year

Each year for the past several, I have half joked, half seriously stated that the current year had to be better than the previous year, as it could not be worse. Last year, at least, seems to have reached that lowly goal. This year I fear will not.

I was not set back by a January operation. I cringed only a bit when the estimate I was given for the cost was only a twentieth or so of what the bill was, even though that bill will probably not be paid this year. I accepted my fate when another operation on an entirely different part of my body needed surgery a mere two months later, about exhausting my leave for the entire year - not to mention completely exhausting my body.

It's all good, right? This is why I have friends and a loving family. I can always count on them, right? And as the most horrible saying of the current era goes, at least I still have a job, right?

During the first week of my recuperation from my second operation, I received two telephone calls (not related to my job or my doctors) - one from my aged mother and one from a minister. The second week, I received an e-mail from the minister - who was on vacation, and a call from one friend who brought us a meal. The third week, I was able to venture back out into public a bit, but my husband - who has his own medical issues - was limited in his ability to take me some places I both wanted and needed to go and may not have the chance again to go for several weeks.

Tomorrow again, I have something I had planned on doing. My husband and I have assisted with transportation for others in the past, including some people we had never met before, so that they could participate in these various activities. I made inquiries into getting transportation, and the best I was able to get was someone (who was in no position to offer assistance) offering their disappointment that I would be unable to attend.

It's hard enough for a person like myself, who has always been independent and tried not to be a burden upon anyone else, to accept assistance when I need it. However, when I accept that I do need assistance and cannot find it, even from those whom I have assisted in the past, I find it disappointing and disheartening. I'm sure I'll feel differently when the sun rises, or at least when it has done so a few more times. For now, however, I am in the midst of my own, personal pity party.

Monday, September 3, 2012

Confessions of a nail biter

I bite my nails. I have done so for perhaps 50 of my nearly 53 years of life. This is assuming that I probably did not bite my nails in the fir year of my life, and allowing for those brief handsful of times when I found myself the surprised possessor of 10 fingernails long enough to get dirt underneath them.

First, let me explain what I mean by "biting nails". I don't mean a little nibble at the corner of a nail on occasion. I mean all-out war on that hardened adaptation of skin which protrudes from and near the end of one's fingers. I chew the nail till I reach the quick, peel back part of the nail once I've reached the quick, then attack the cuticle all around whatever may be left. Truly, it is not a sight one wants to behold.

However, as mentioned above, there have been a few times over the years - brief though they were - when my nails actually grew and looked quite presentable. I've looked back on those times, trying to figure out a common thread. I had thought I had figured out that common bond, until recently.

Each time I grew my nails back, it seemed I was under a tremenddous amount of stress. I was taking finals, getting married, starting a new job, making a speech, or performing some other stressful task or collection of tasks which - it seemed - simply kept me too busy to bother with my nails. It sounded too bizarre to be true, but at the time, I could think of no other explanation.

Let me pause here to explain why I believe I began this habit to begin with. I come from a large family. I am the youngest of several siblings. My father retired from the military, and my parents - while rarely if ever using corporal punishment - were strict disciplinarians. Putting all of these elements together meant that no matter what I did, no matter how minute the detail, someone was always at hand to tell me that I was doing it incorrectly, ever eager to tell me the "proper" way to do it.

Whether the task was string my shoes or making my bed or placing my toys in the toy box, it seemed that every element of my life had a "right" way to do it. I believe that biting my nails, no matter how many people told me to stop or what devices they used to force me to stop was the only element of my life I had any real control over, which is why to this day I am more likely to bite my nails the more someone asks me to stop doing so.

Recently, however, the stessors in my life have been dissolving away, for a variety of reasons. My children have grown up and moved away. My husband has retired. Our debts are manageable. Our pets are heathy, and my health and that of my husband are both under control. No one has recently died, married, had a baby, or had any serious medical conditions. Even the stressors I've had at work are dissipating. My nails are growing in just fine.

Obviously, I cannot claim that I have no time for nervous habits, as has been the case in the past. Therefore, what is the common thread between this time and the other times when I've grown fingernails, all of which have been after I begame an independent adult? I believe I have found the answer, and it relates strongly to the reason this habit began to begin with.

The reason is control. I currently feel I am in control of my life, or at last in as much control as one can reasonable be. During those stressful times in the past, when I was taking a final or changing my life in some other manner, I was also taking control of my life. Unfortunately in those instances, I quickly relinquished control back to whatever powers I had allowed to be in control of my life prior to that, or had permitted new forces to assume control. However, even though it often feels strange to me, I think this time, it is actually taking hold. Maybe the title of this post should have been, "Confessions of a Former Nail Biter."

Thursday, August 30, 2012

"Dirty" secrets

I have a dirty, rotten secret. I first recall being punished for it when I was 6 or 7, even though I didn't realize it was a secret until I was 10 or 11. However, I was then able to look back and see that it was there at least as far back as age 3. I had to hide it all through high school and beyond, and even now have only been able to disclose it safely to a select few. However, I have decided that at my age, the time has come to quit hiding.

You see, the secret that women especially must hide is intelligence. Men may flaunt it and everyone swoonss. Women, however, don't get dates, don't get friends, are seen as pushy, and are even seen as threatening when they interview for jobs - unless, of course, they choose to go into basically academic fields. Sure, teaching and research have their perks, but they are not and never have been for me.

One of my earliest memories is going to a theme park when I was about 3. There were sandwich boards taler than me reading, "No rain checks." I asked my mother was that meant. She asked where I heard that, and I pointed out the boards. People around stared at me.

A few months later, my brother started first grade. (Kindergarten was optional back then, and parents had to pay for it.) I told my mother that it was unfair that he got to go to school and I didn't. when he couldn't even read yet!

By high school, of course, I realized that being smart wasn't cool. The teachers, most of them at least, thought it was great to have a bright, engaged student. The other students, however, especially those who were used to being the shining star in their own circles, didn't appreciate having competition. I did a pretty good job of blending in as "smart, but not too smart" until the SATs. The smart-and-rich clique (which I was not part of) were comparing scores. "I got a 980!" "I got 1020!" I tried to sneak by, but to no avail. First I tried to say I'd left it in my locker, then that I didn't recall my score. Finally, I told them what I got, and that clique - which finally had been including me to a degree - cut me off completely.

I actually even joined Mensa for a couple of years in college, one year in my hometown and one year in another town. I quit after that because frankly, it was boring. I mean, look at it numerically. They accept the top 2%. That means one person in fifty is eligible. Four out of my graduating class. That's not all that exclusive. Not that I care about that, but I only met 2-3 interesting people in all the Mensa folk I met, and all of those were old enough to be my parents. The rest of the people were either snobs of just plain boring or simply wanted to party, not that differently from all the wasted druggies I'd also met in college. Why pay money to meet even more folks like that?

About this time, I became disillusioned with a lot of things in life. I dropped out of school and entered the labor market. One of the first jobs I applied for had an aptitude test. The guy interviewing me said, "Your're way over qualified. You could have MY job!" I didn't get hired. The next job was the same. I quit applying for jobs that required brains.

Smart women have trouble dating. Men are intimidated by smarter women, and smart men seem worried that smart women might be smarter than they are (which, of course, is sometimes true!) Hopefully, this isn't true for the current generation. Friendships can be difficult, because even other women don't always understand us.

After leaving college, I got married and had kids. I love my kids, and of course, they are all brilliant. However, none are quite as smart as I am. I've never let on, but I think they know. I think one feels competitive about that, because she was always the smartest in her class too, yet she always acts like she has something to prove in that area. However, she never has been able to relate to me, even though the others do.

My story does have a happy ... not ending, but conclusion. I returned to school - twice. Once while the kids were still very small and once while the kids were in high school and college, I went back to college for an associates and then a backelors degree. Since I quit worrying about how my peers feel about my success, I was able to surpass my own expectations at each.

Even at work, I do not hide what I know (except when people discuss politics and other off-work topics, up to a point) and will go so far as to tell certain ones that they should have listened to me to begin with when they ask me a question, do not listen, and then find out I was right all along. I don't make a big deal about it, unless it happens over and over with the same person in a short time.

Anyway, this post wasn't about bragging. It was about how even good things turn into dirty little secrets when the people who possess them receive negative rather than positive feedback for it for long enough.

Thursday, July 12, 2012

Oh, Piphyl!

Today, I shall take the time to feel sorry for myself. Everyone is entitled now and then, and frankly, I'm quite overdue. I've been ill with this or that since early May and haven't had the time to deal with it, other than to get stronger medications for known ailments which it was presumed at the time to be related to. However, on the last visit, it was discovered that I have suddenly become severely iron deficient, which is usually a very bad thing. Since I see the doctor to whom I have been referred for this tomorrow, tonight is the very best time for me to feel sorry for myself, if I am going to at all.
I recently heard a speaker who was talking about a man who, as a boy, was the "man of the house" while his own mother was sick in bed with some undisclosed but rather severe illness. The people who should have been there for the mother never even called to ask where she had been lately, while a group of strangers who happened to discover the family's plight came by and helped out every day until the mother was well and could resume her full duties as the mother and head of the household. I was impressed. I would never wish for, expect, or even want that amount of assistance. However, I would like more than a "live long and prosper" now and then from those to whom I supposedly matter.

Many years ago, my daughter had a major surgery which kept her home and in bed for six weeks. Her church friends called several times, came by a few times, and sent a number of cards. Her school friends - at least those in the choir - sent a poster everyone signed. I got time enough off of work for her surgery and to come home to relieve the person staying with her while the visiting teacher was there each day, along with enough bills almost to bankrupt us.

Some time later, my husband had a series of hospitalizations, including for a serious injury which by rights should have killed him. One group of friends brought us a meal. His coworkers sent some snacks a couple of times. From my work, I got a phone call, asking whether they should hire a temoporary until I returned. From the hospital, we got more bills.

My company, at least the local office, likes to refer to itself as a "family". The personnel often has fundraisers for this person or that one, or little parties for someone having a baby or whatever, with approval from upper management. One fundraiser, just after I returned to work after my hsuband's injury, was for the adult son of an employee, who had injured himself on a motorcycle without a helmet and without insurance. We were still recovering from the financial impact of my husband's injury at the time. How do you explain to well meaning but clueless people that you cannot contribute to their office fundraiser, because you really need one of your own?

So now it is my turn. I most likely have something rather mundane and relatively simple to deal with, like an ulcer or gallstones. However, since I overthink things so well, I am now well-versed in the many conditions I could have, most of which are life-threatening, and none of which quite seem to fit my symptoms. Could I have more than one problem at the same time? I lost a very dear friend who thought she needed her to have appendix out and found out instead that she had pancreatic cancer.

It's rather difficult to live a quality life to age 120, as I fully intend to do, if your internal organs all turn to mush before you get even halfway there. At least I know that should something happen to me, my husband will be well provided for; unless of course, any illness were to be long, protracted, and expensive. Whoever thought I'd find myself hoping for an ulcer?

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Empathizing with Zeus

I recall as a kid being first introduced to Greek and Roman mythology. One of the more memorable stories was about how Zeus had a headache; someone grabbed an ax and hit him in the head - splitting his skull - and out popped Minerva or someone.

I'm about ready to try that remedy. In the past month, I've had 4 major attacks. By major, I mean the type that is so debilitating, that you can't work, can't drive, can't think, can't do anything except lie in bed with a pillow over your head, or perhaps lie on the bathroom floor so that you are close to the toilet when the next wave of nausea hits.

This has been a way of life with me, but it hasn't always been this bad. When I was a little kid, I got nosebleeds. We're talking, all the adults panic and wonder whether to take you to the ER type of nosebleeds. Then, just before puberty, the nosebleeds went away and the headaches started. In fact, not long after I got married, I had one so bad that my then-husband took me to a minor emergency clinic, which mostly just netted me some suppositories which knocked me out cold. This was good, as I then felt no pain. (Some wicked dreams, but I've always had those, too.)

A couple of years later, I became pregnant with my first child. The one question I had of my doctor was, can I take my migraine medications? The answer was "No!", by the way. However, as it turned out, migraines had become a thing of the past. My kids were spaced fairly closely together, and I don't think I had a single headache ... until the youngest was about 3 or so. I did, however, revert to those God-awful nosebleeds during this time.

Alll good things come to an end, and so did my respite from migraines. However, in the years without them, medications had improved. Now I could take a pill and about half - later most - of the time, I could keep on with my day. Before this, I'd take a pill and go home to bed (or to barf, as the case might be.)

Recently, I hit menopause. About time, I thought! I figured this would be when the migraines went away again, and the nosebleeds returned. I was prepared, having learned better management of nosebleeds from having had kids in the house. I was wrong.

I as write this, it is about 4:30 in the morning. I felt good yesterday, until I drove home. By the time I came home and fed the pets, I could barely function. Finally, about 90 minutes after I got home, I crawled into bed and hibernated. About 4 hours ago, I woke up again, completely unable to sleep further.

All the remedies (and they are legion!) that I find online seem fairly useless. Either they are, "Go soak in a lavender-scented bathtub," or they are, "Order this product online and your problems will disappear!" Many of the recommendations directly contradict each other. For instance, "Take an Excedrin or drink a diet Coke" versus "Avoid caffeine, sugar, and artificial flavors and colors." Drink lots of water is a good suggestion, but I've been drinking enough to float away, and it hasn't helped. "Massage the area ..." versus "Massage will just inflame the area" are other suggestions I've found. Again, sometimes it helps and sometimes it doesn't. "This prescription worked wonders for me!" is great for whoever "me!" is, but that won't hold true for everyone.

So I am brought back to Zeus. I'm finished with my child-rearing days, but if a fully grown adult were to pop out of my head, it would be worth it if the headache were to disappear. Pressure on the area between thumb and forefinger hasn't helped, nor has "tinking happy tots", warming the hands, or applying head or cold to various areas around the head or neck.

As with hiccups, no one seems to know what actually causes a migraine. No one, therefore, really seems to know how to cure one. Everyone has theories, because everyone has seen at least one person with a headache (possibly themselves) which went away when some action was performed. However, the same action probably won't work for everyone, and odds are, it won't work every time for the one who swears by it. Maybe running head-long into a brick wall will help. It's about the only remedy I haven't tried, other than using that ax.

Saturday, March 17, 2012

A Disturbance in the Force

I have always had "vivid dreams", which makes me wonder how I'd know if I had that as a side effect of one of many prescription medications I see advertised on television, were I to need one of them. The other night, I had one of the most vivid and possibly the most disturbing dream I ever have had. The dream was so disturbing, in fact, that while I mentioned to "Mr. Piphylbod" having had a disturbing dream, I still refuse to go into detail with him. However, I will touch briefly on the dream here.

I had a less-than-ideal childhood. Many of those on whom I should have relied upon for safety and support not only failed miserably, but actively invaded my innocent sense of safety. In my dream, I was who I am now, a reasonably secure and self-confident adult. The worst of the perpetrators came to me, feigning complete innocence, while making it clear what this person's intentions were.

I told this person to leave me alone. The miscreant looked innocently at me and asked, "What? I was just ..." I shouted, "Go away!" and - oddly enough - the person immediately left. One of the other individuals from my childhood - not one of the vile sort - then entered the room and asked what was going on. I answered, "Nothing," and marveled to myself that I actually had made the evil person stop. At the same time, I was disturbed that the evil-deed-doer still (in my dream) had intention to cause harm to me, and was still in denial of ever having done so.

That's pretty much the whole dream. It was a much shorter one than I usually have, stayed on topic, and had a definite ending. What I don't understand is why I had it, and why it still disturbs me. I suspect that I feel disturbed, because I firmly believe that most dreams are the result of the mind sorting out things which have happened recently, are still happening, or were very traumatic when they happened. Yes, this was traumatic; although, I did not realize at the time how traumatic, innocently believing as do most children that other children's lives were like my own.

However, I thought that the bulk of this had been settled in my psyche years ago, through a very intense and honest treatment I chose when I became a parent, so that I could feel certain that I would not pass this behavior down to another generation. The reason I am so disturbed, then, is apparently because this old ghost (though no one involved has yet died) has come back to haunt me, for no apparent reason. Why now?

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

It's much simpler than you think.

A lot of people think I am a very complex individual. Even the Kiersey Temperment Sorter© seems to indicate that I am rather complex. However, I am really quite simple.

I believe in truth and justice. I know, it sounds like I'm plugging to play Superman, but it's true. I try to be honest, sometimes to a fault, and I want other people to be fair with each other. I like to do a good job in whatever work I am doing and expect others to do likewise. When I buy a product, I expect (or want to expect) it to perform as advertised.

I try to give respect to each person, until that person acts in such a way as to lose that respect. In return, I want to be respected as a human being, unless and until I violate someone's trust or prove myself unworthy of their respect. I also want to love and to be loved. I don't believe in random, meaningless expressions of affection, but encourage genuine ones; however, I am not comfortable showing or being shown affection in a public setting.

I try to be compassionate to those who are poor, helpless, or incapable; but I am intolerant of incompetence. Incompetence includes accepting someone's word about something - anything: politics, religion, anything subject to debate - without considering the available facts for oneself. Likewise, when one offers a dissenting opinion, I expect both sides to listen to and  to try to respect the other person's opinion, whether or not they agree with it. Everyone has a history, and if you consider a person's history, you may at a minimum understand why they feel as they do.

I will treat you fairly, and I hope you will do the same for me. When someone, or some thing, has treated me unfairly or unjustly, I need time to regroup. I recognize that few people actually understand me, but I wish more people would try. I really am much simpler to understand than you might think.