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Archive for the ‘Health’ Category

A jar of miracle ... make do

“All the tales of miracles, with which the Old and New Testament are filled, are fit only for impostors to preach and fools to believe”
~ Thomas Paine

Growing up as I did with spells of Catholicism constantly cast in my general direction, the idea of miracle cures seemed … well … reasonable for a while. The film version of St. Bernadette’s escapades at Lourdes did much to solidify images of the manifestations made possible by just enough faith to draw the attention of the Man Upstairs toward the suffering of those who jumped through the right hoops and deserved to be healed.

I was probably about ten when it dawned that such concepts pretty much left anyone unhealed in the shit pile of undeserving, a concept contrary to all those warm fuzzies created through the magic of Hollywood and the smoke and mirrors of Rome, and although I will to this day still acknowledge occasional unexplainable restorations of health and the sometimes-effective wonders of modern medicine the idea of miraculous cures seem nothing but more marketing of snake oil in various flavors for the obvious benefit of those collecting the profits.

I do understand the motivation behind the desperately ill, the hopelessly condemned; when there’s nothing left to do but grasp at straws the option can seem sensible, but since none of us get out of this alive, perhaps more than a bit futile or at most a temporary reprieve.

When a miracle can be bought at a reasonable price … a trip to France, maybe, or some set amount of hours on the knees while fingering beads X number of times … it’s a viable option for passing the time. Waiting for the magic to happen isn’t a bad way to spend that eleventh-hour, unless by doing so those last bits of life are sacrificed in the process.

When, however, attempts at intervention come in a jar labeled “Utter bollox at great cost”, the evil of canned hope becomes apparent, as evidenced in this article:

A Tanzanian pastor has asked people to stop going to his remote home for a “miracle cure” after thousands flocked there, causing chaos in the surrounding area.

Rev Ambilikile “Babu” Mwasapile, 76, says he does not want any new arrivals until after Friday 1 April, to let the crowds die down.

Local media report that about 52 people have died while waiting to see him.

A BBC reporter says the queues to see him stretch for 26km (16 miles).

Belief in magic and the powers of traditional healers are widespread in Tanzania.

Some witchdoctors say that the body parts of people with albinism are effective when making magic charms, leading to the killing of dozens of albinos in recent years.

The retired Evangelical Lutheran Church of Tanzania preacher is sick and tired of the crowds of people who are yanking loved ones out of hospitals and making the trek to his village … while dying both before and after spending time and money … as “medical experts” investigate and debate the intrinsic value of his snake oil.

Yeah, sure … this is Africa and such mumbo-jumbo is part of the culture in many areas, but it’s not the only place claptrap flies to the detriment of others.

Although Africa is presently one scene of devastation in the name of remedy, that’s only because one cornucopia of crap has been virtually wiped out in the parts of the world that insist there’s a cure in them thar hairs.

Rhino populations in Africa are facing the “worst poaching crisis for decades,” say conservationists.

Over the past three years, gangs are said to have killed more than 800 rhinos for their horns, which can fetch £22,000 per kilo on the black market.

Experts fear the rise in poaching could undermine recent efforts to stabilise black and white rhino populations.

… t is estimated that 333 rhinos were killed in South Africa alone last year, with a further 70 being shot dead so far this year.

Conservationists suspect that most of the illegally harvested rhino horn are destined for the traditional medicine markets of South-East Asia, and the growing demand and high prices are fuelling the sharp rise in poaching.

We’re not even talking hopeless desperation here, since murdering a magnificent animal seems a fair enough tradeoff for comfort:

Rhino horn is a time-honored component of traditional Chinese medicine (TCM). For thousands of years, TCM has credited rhino horn with the potency to cure an unusually wide array of maladies, from headaches to pus-filled boils–and even devil possession.

… Rhino horn has been an essential ingredient in traditional chinese medicine for centuries. An unfortunate proximity to China explains why the combined total of the three Asian rhino species (Javan, Sumatran, and greater one-horned rhino) is still smaller than Africa’s critically endangered black rhino population.

Despite China being a signatory to the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES) and banning trade in rhinoceros horn and its derivatives in 1993, current rhino poaching levels suggest that the use of rhino horn continues unabated in traditional medicine markets.

According to Bernard Read’s 1931 translation of Li Shih-chen’s 1597 materia medica Pen Ts’ ao Kang Mu, rhino horn was prescribed for nearly everything: “To cure devil possession and keep away all evil spirits and miasmas. For gelsemium poisoning. To remove hallucinations and bewitching nightmares. Continuous administration lightens the body and makes one very robust. For typhoid, headache and feverish colds. For carbuncles and boils full of pus. For intermittent fevers with delirium. To expel fear and anxiety, to calm the liver and clear the vision. It is a sedative to the viscera, a tonic, antipyretic. It dissolves phlegm. It is an antidote to the evil miasma of hill streams. For infantile convulsions and dysentery. Ashed and taken with water to treat violent vomiting, food poisoning, and overdosage of poisonous drugs. For arthritis, melancholia, loss of the voice.”

Since rhino horn is made of the same stuff as fingernails … agglutinated hair … hiring nail biters to spit shards into a collection plate would make as much medical sense and perhaps save a species.

Of course, it seems our species … we furless bipedal wimps that we are … calculates our worth in profit-per-head, and it matters little if it’s grinding up albinos, raping child virgins or ridding the world of rhinos … tigers, bears, whatever … that generates income as long as someone can make a buck and others are so easily convinced to hand over their money for snake oil.

Perhaps there’s a way to turn this inborn stupidity to the advantage, however …

How about we try pushing the notion that powdered brain of greedy people will make one rich?

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I'll haunt the fuck outta you.

“The tender word forgotten, The letter you did not write, The flower you might have sent, dear, Are your haunting ghosts tonight” ~ Margaret Elizabeth Sangster

This post is not about a plea for sympathy, stirring up pre-grief or needing any bolstering, so, please, don’t react to the read with anything but the humor I intend to provoke.

The fact of anyone’s matter is that life is short, and then you die, so getting shook up about being assured that IS the future seems a silly, silly thing to do. We’d all live better if we did it as though each was our last day … the reality being each could be … and we do ourselves a disservice when we force such thoughts from our minds.

Sure, it all gets a bit busy and complicated to spend much time contemplating checking out, but letting the idea of the party continuing on without us soak in isn’t a bad thing. In fact, it helps a lot in enjoying the one we’re dancing in right now.

My biology dictates my life will not be long. My genetic code has more dashes than dots, minuses that shave minutes and hours and days and weeks and years from my tree of life, and that’s a fact I learned long ago to accept. Being rather okay with the idea that I’ll someday be dead, I’m grateful for the time I have … however long that might be.

I’ve made some really crappy lifestyle choices, often don’t eat right or get a good cardio workout nearly often enough. I have vices, am not picky about organic or GM, and have been known to have sex without a condom.

The fact that happened with “committed” partners and didn’t always provide protection brings up the other shit that has and will take a toll on my span … the effect of stress brought on by letting shitty people have power.

From the incompetent, lying peeps who are supposed to provide Internet connectivity, to the lyin’, cheatin’ scoundrels who pledged much more than that, disappointing results create huge pressures. Those who believe karma is the tit-for-tat to be expected would suggest I’ve earned the grief, and if that is the case I’ve most certainly paid off much of what debt I incurred in previous lives. (I must have been a real peach to have earned such pits!)

Today being today, I’m rather liking the idea of that haunting thing (Thanks for that, Jules!), seeing my face, a la Jacob Marly, popping up on door knockers … or someone else’s knockers … with a “Hey, asshole! Boo, fuckin’ BOO!, invading dreams (Why should YOU get any sleep, Fuckwad?), ratting pots and pans, creating havoc, breaking guitar strings mid-song over and over and over again, cutting Skype connections, hiding cell phones, giving icy-cold pinches to warm body parts … ooooh, the list goes on and on.

I could be good at this, but in the meantime I’ll enjoy the sunshine, the sound of birds, conversations with great friends and all the joyful wonders I have, and wait for an Internet connection to happen that will allow me to post this blog.

Betelgeuse! Betelgeuse! Betelgeuse!

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… And so it was done, and greed and hypocrisy spread over the Earth as god’s people went forth and divided.

It’s this article winding the Saturday clock today, titled: What the Flap Over Health Care Tells Us About American Religion.

That interesting juxtaposition of words caught my eye since the fact that there is a flap never ceases to amaze me and I’m often curious about religion, American or otherwise. Not curious in a “What’s it all about?” sense as much as “How does such a load of bollocks manage to fly?”, but curious, nonetheless.

One reason it does fly, apparently, has much to do with that hypocrisy thing:

We begin with the teachings of Jesus, for his message was clear.

He told his followers to care for the poor. In fact, providing for those he called “the least of these” was perhaps his highest priority. He didn’t say how to get that job done. He just said, Do it.

But in this richest nation on earth, where 75 percent of its people claim to be Christian, the poor — even the working poor — routinely fall through the cracks. One would think that Christians in this country would utilize “any means necessary” to make sure that no one in this country is homeless or starving or naked or without basic healthcare.

Indeed, one would think that the 75 percent of the nation’s population that claims to follow Jesus would rejoice when the government creates a tool to provide healthcare for virtually all the nation’s poor. And one would think that those same Christians would rise up in furious protest and righteous indignation when some politicians attempt to sabotage that tool — and thereby sabotage the nation’s poor.

But that seldom happens. In fact, many Christians denounce the health care law as a tool of the devil and support its repeal.

How odd.

Or is it?

The guy writing the piece makes a living off religion as “Distinguished Professor of Religion and Director of the Sider Institute for Anabaptist, Pietist, and Wesleyan Studies at Messiah College” … Huh? … so must be well invested in the idea that there’s value in them thar holy hills and pointing out an obvious disconnect is worth the effort it takes to do that.

To me, however, it seems a gianormous waste of time akin to trying to get Sarah Palin to shutthefuckup with the stupid shit by publishing every stupid shit thing she says. Wouldn’t it be easier to just state once and flatly that Palin is a moron and religion is a load of crap, then drop both subjects?

Is it helpful in the least to mention Frederick Douglas and Martin Luther King, as this article does, and their ponderings on the false virtue of sanctimonious pretense as an attempt at finger-wagging when sanctimonious pretense is the name of the game?

In fact, when Christians read the Bible through the lens of American individualism, limited government, and free-market conservatism, there is no way they can acknowledge what the Bible teaches about social justice and compassion for the poor.

A man who responded to one of my editorials, for example, complained, “No where does the Lord, or his Son, Jesus Christ, say that government should take care of the poor and downtrodden.”

Yeah … like that guy will be shamed by a finger-wag in his direction. Not bloody likely. But he will most certainly be proud as all get-out of his adherence to Christianity, consider it some sort of personal moral victory, trot it out often, wave it around and try to shove it down the necks of others.

A handy thing, a defining title, a membership in a club that conveys some version of gravitas; to be able to say “I’m a Christian” and have that taken to mean something significant.

The only question is this: how will America’s Christians respond?

I’m guessing … with greed and hypocrisy, as always.

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Inventive women …

A question came across my desk this morning, and after yesterday’s post on how useless I am concerning the practical matter of fixing things I thought I’d give this a bit of a follow.

Q. What do bulletproof vests, fire escapes, windshield wipers and laser printers have in common?

A. All were invented by women.

Cool.

Sure, some things attributed to the ingenuity of women may seem a bit girly … chocolate chip cookies, disposable diapers, ironing boards and the rolling pin, for example … but many are pretty damned butch and far more useful than just making it easier to keep things tidy.

It was a woman, Tabitha Babbitt, who in 1812 invented the circular saw and Stephanie Kwolek who came up with Kevlar, the steel-like fiber used in radial tires, crash helmets, and bulletproof vests, in 1966.

Women also invented street-cleaners, lamps and telescopes for submarines, the rotary engine and the medical syringe; all handy items the world would be less without.

It comes as no surprise at all, when you think about it, that it took a woman to think of such things as mufflers for engines, as guys are happy enough with big noises that can be translated to mean “power”, or that electric hot water heaters came to mind, then fruition.

Unfortunately, it’s impossible to track the results of womens’ genius back very far. In the US, it wasn’t until the late 1800s that women were allowed to own a patent, so when they did produce strokes of brilliance the credit had to be given to some guy, often a husband, to get the whatever recognized, protected and produced.

We’ll probably never know how many women inventors there were. That’s because in the early years of the United States, a woman could not get a patent in her own name. A patent is considered a kind of property, and until the late 1800s laws forbade women in most states from owning property or entering into legal agreements in their own names. Instead, a woman’s property would be in the name of her father or husband.

For example, many people believe that Sybilla Masters was the first American woman inventor. In 1712 she developed a new corn mill, but was denied a patent because she was a woman. Three years later the patent was filed successfully in her husband’s name.

This brings to mind the perspective that still exists in far too many minds and cultures that the female gender is somehow less than, a weak and wobbly stance supported by statements that go something like:

So … if women are do damned clever and equal, why was all the great stuff in the world produced by men?

Double-barreled, that, as Virginia Woolf so elegantly pointed out in her essay, A Room of One’s Own where she brilliantly illuminated dark corners where women were relegated rarely allowing personal and financial freedom to create much of anything other than a slew of children.

Woolf’s ‘invention’ of Shakespeare’s sister rather shot the whole notion of women-as-inferior in the foot for the reasonable:

In one section, Woolf invented a fictional character, Judith, “Shakespeare’s sister,” to illustrate that a woman with Shakespeare’s gifts would have been denied the same opportunities to develop them because of the doors that were closed to women. Like Woolf, who stayed at home while her brothers went off to school, Judith stays at home while William goes off to school. Judith is trapped in the home: “She was as adventurous, as imaginative, as agog to see the world as he was. But she was not sent to school.” Woolf’s prose holds all the hopes of Judith Shakespeare against her brother’s hopes in the first sentence, then abruptly curtails Judith’s chances of fulfilling her promise with “but.” While William learns, Judith is chastised by her parents should she happen to pick up a book, as she is inevitably abandoning some household chore to which she could be attending. Judith is betrothed, and when she does not want to marry, she is beaten and then shamed into marriage by her father. While Shakespeare establishes himself, Judith is trapped by the confines of the expectations of women. Judith kills herself, and her genius goes unexpressed, while Shakespeare lives on and establishes his legacy. For Woolf, Judith Shakespeare is an exemplification of the danger and waste in denying women education and the means to determine the course of their lives.

“A Room of One’s Own” is, by the way, a book I buy for almost every young woman I know, as it’s required reading as far as I’m concerned. Aside from providing a great name for a Smith’s song and a band, the thoughts and words conveyed in go a long way toward giving girls some context and encouraging growth in quite a few generations already.

I should probably be sending as a companion edition some how-to-it manuals and tool kits …

So, maybe I can’t fix my door handle or re-electric the hoogygidgets that aren’t doing what they should, but this has no reflection on the capabilities of women in general … and me individually … to change more in the world than a light bulb.

Not that I’m not bloody grateful for the stuff in my house that now works better than it did a week ago, and I’m quite happy to give credit where credit is due.

(Thanks, David.)

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Dawn is cracking loud today, or maybe it’s the Pistols on the iPod shredding the infamous songwriting duo Kierkegaard & Nietzsche’s classic “Nihilism, So DaDaDandy” I’m confusing with the break of yet another week.

Yes, it’s THAT sort of morning after THAT sort of night following THAT sort of day yesterday having me think THESE sorts of thoughts.

Good morning, World … and how about that idea that we’re all nothing but a tube?

Let’s start this Monday off with the thought that we are plain and simply biological creatures born to live, then die, whose entire raison d’etre is to take in nutrients, excrete … well … excrement and reproduce, and grandiose concepts like some spiritual component, a soul, are nothing but a load of wishful hooey.

Most of science certainly points us in that direction, after all, and easily implicates bio reasons for just about anything going on in us. Everything from our fears to our joys to our passions to our annoyances can be traced to our DNA.

We love our kids because our brains grew big enough to require long childhoods for development, so we grew attached to the little buggers so we wouldn’t boot them out of the cave before they could walk … or eat them.

We dream because of electro-chemical processes. We ponder the stars and the moon because doing so paid off in longer life spans.

We create art and music out of a mandate to communicate that facilitates eating, passing along our genetic material and not being killed for our share of the mammoth.

We fall in love out of primal urges … and fall out of love for those same primal urges. (See reproduction.)

At some point our brains expanded enough to leave room for more than grubbing for grub and screwing, so started wondering about stuff. What we couldn’t explain got stories and stories became habit forming and led to religion and writing and science.

There are no few folks who subscribe wholeheartedly to this concept and appear to be comfy in the knowledge that born-live-die is all there is to it. Some tout freeing aspects in the idea that you only live once, so make the bloody most of it.

I get that. I do. But what I don’t get is the point.

Because it is dictated we must eat, we must survive, we must breed, it’s not like like it’s a party. For many it is really fucking hard and no fun at all, and if the only reason to put up with all the crap is to bring another generation in to put up with all the crap, well, seems saving them the effort wouldn’t be a bad thing.

But, see? That’s where we’re bound, trapped like a bug in amber. It’s in our DNA.

Even our fear of death is rooted in our code because without it … and with nothing else going on … we’d be topping ourselves right and left as soon as we figured out how fucking pointless it is to struggle and suffer for however many decades we’re allowed to struggle and suffer through.

Whoopie.

If we’re looking for meaning, it must come in flashes, in moments the chemicals in our brains pump out warm fuzzies and set us awash in sweet juices. These keep us going, they translate as hope … and are addictive as hell, so we plod through days and weeks and months and years and decades searching for fix after fix.

Anyone want to talk me down from this precipice?

Gawd, I hate Mondays …

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Not exactly an iPhone ...

On a rainy Friday in Seychelles I get a call from Mexico informing me that the Chinese calendar will be bringing me a year of good luck starting on the 3rd of February, prompting me to share that possible reprieve with friends in the US, England, Germany, Italy and South Africa.

Yep. Within about 30 minutes eight countries were buzzing about my radar, and that was without going anywhere near facebook.

It never ceases to amaze me how this world of ours has gone so tiny, yet stays so bloody big. Yeah, sure I can conference call … for free … with a half dozen people in as many countries when effectively connected, and that’s wonderful, but getting up-close and personal with anyone off this rock? That’s not so simple, is it?

It wasn’t long ago the Internet and its wonders were beyond the scope, but within a few short years it’s more common in my world that peeps have it than don’t. Not only can we now communicate globally easily and far more cheaply than in the days it took a pricy phone call to reach out and touch someone, we now have Internet ON our phones. Just take a moment to imagine how shocked we would have been had we been told ten years ago this would be at our fingertips? And with a touch screen, yet!

Yes, we’ve seen HUGE changes, but at the same time so much stays the same.

Ease of communication has leapt and bounded, but transport? Not so much.

It was 40-some years ago James T. Kirk and Co. were stepping up for getting around of the dissolve/stick-together-somewhere-else sort, but the only real change in how we’re able to move about that’s happened over all those decades is the size of the planes that cram us in, then subject us to endless hours of torture.

Oh! You can now make calls from your own phone on some airliners and connect to the Internet, but that seems just rubbing it in if you ask me.

I’ve been waiting for that Beamy-uppy thingy ever since I moved halfway around the world from my roots and shoots, but in vain.

So, what is it with all the sticking-to-the-planes deal? I admit my lack of science-y expertise may be tricking me into thinking it should be an easier row to hoe, but since I was equally clueless on the WorldWideWeb, I’m in no mood to allow any excuses.

Look at it this way …

The first telephone … the precursor to our modern communication wonders … was patented in 1876. The first car … the beginning of travel that didn’t require draught animals … came along about 200 years EARLIER, and the first gasoline engine cranked over almost in sync with the phone.

An automobile powered by his own four-stroke cycle gasoline engine was built in Mannheim, Germany by Karl Benz in 1885, and granted a patent in January of the following year under the auspices of his major company, Benz & Cie., which was founded in 1883. It was an integral design, without the adaptation of other existing components, and included several new technological elements to create a new concept. He began to sell his production vehicles in 1888.
A photograph of the original Benz Patent-Motorwagen, first built in 1885 and awarded the patent for the concept

In 1879, Benz was granted a patent for his first engine, which had been designed in 1878. Many of his other inventions made the use of the internal combustion engine feasible for powering a vehicle.

I know there’s a huge difference between the internal combustion engine and the Star Trek transporter, but so is there between the gadget you see Alex G. Bell mouthing into in the photo above and instantaneous video calls around the planet.

“I signed aboard this ship to practice medicine, not to have my atoms scattered back and forth across space by this gadget.” ~ Dr. McCoy

Yeah, yeah … it’s a bit of a scary concept, but if Bones could get over it, anyone can.

So … get on the stick, folks. I hate flying, always get a fuckin’ cold when I’ve had to freeze my ass off for 12+ hours and ingest the breath of 250 other people who are as just as uncomfortable as I am, and I don’t like the food.

But …

If 2011 actually IS my year … me being a metal rabbit and this being the year of the rabbit and all … I’m not wasting any of the luck that may come my way on R&D for rapid-er transit.

Nope.

I’ll be keeping all that for health, wealth and wisdom for me and mine, thankyouverymuch. And if that puts my ass on planes, so be it.

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One response …

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I’ve been asked to come up with some thoughts on Alien Beings … this is what spilled out.

I am often invaded by thoughts that would to someone else feel alien; weird, formless phantoms that interrupt my work and set me to following bright, shiny objects instead of concentrating on matters at hand.

And what do I do when so annexed? I pull up a chair, pour some tea … or wine, if the hour is right … and invite my visitor to settle in for a while and share whatever it is they’ve popped into to ponder with me.

Today my alien is an alien, and although alien is the most easily accessible word for this guy, he’s not actually alien in the least …

… unless, of course, we all are.

And we are. Or, at least, I am. I don’t presume to speak for anyone else and understand many are distinctly uncomfortable with any notion suggesting they’ve ever been anything else or have even the smallest shred of anything else anywhere in their makeup.

Like the legions of folks who resent the hell out of any implication there might be shared DNA between them and … say … a chimp, others are right pissed off when handed a card reading: What you see is NOT what you are.

Sputter … gasp … choke … but, but, but …

But as I said, I’m only speaking for myself here, and this is what I am, and am not: a human woman of a certain age living on a small island in the Indian Ocean on Planet Earth.

It’s true. But not the complete truth.

I am also:

1) A result of millions of years of evolution

2) A system of biological functions

3) A transport service for a bunch of other beings that digest my food, live in my eyelashes and occasionally make me feel like shit.

4) Energy

The first three are a brief sum of what I am NOW. The fourth is what I am ALWAYS.

Given our biology and our residence, albeit very brief, on Earth, it’s an easy thing to forget the bigger neighborhood. FFS … how many people in Podunk, McMiddleAmerica forget Africa? We get all wrapped up in blankets and burritos and Manolo Blahnik and begin to assume this is what it’s all about … and all there is.

Boring. Limited. And a fucking waste of time and energy if it were the case. But it’s not, at least not in my world.

And, yes, I have a world. I’d say we all do, but that would be pushing the edges of this post’s envelope since I’m sticking to just me and my alien.

We’re one and the same, you see …

I was born Sandra, but before I was Sandra I was. (Okay … maybe not before, since time is an option, but for sake of not spinning this head off my axis and setting out after another shiny object, I’m sticking to linear for reasons of convenience.) It’s very likely I was born before, in the sense that I emerged from a human woman, grew, walked around and all the stuff I do now, only under different circumstances and geography. I have memories and experiences from stuff that happened impacts stuff that happens.

Some people and places draw me, some situations terrify me, some things give comfort and others make me extremely uncomfortable and I have no doubt reasons reach back further than my years.

Because I am, for the moment, human, it is not within my realm to assimilate experiences I had when not human, nor are those relevant. For one thing this little brain I have, all biochemical and wired for NOW, couldn’t process the data, but I do get to access it once I shuck the biological shell.

Not at all Earthcentric, I don’t assume every dance I’ve been to happened here; no, I’m sure my card has been many times filled with waltzes I couldn’t presently recognize if they stomped on my toes and called me Sweetie.

This is a big-ass hanging universe … and it’s just the one we have some idea of presently … and stuck here, as I am, on this little blue marble in my skin I have a lot to deal with through my three-score-and-ten, or whatever I end up with. I’m here for reasons I knew before I arrived, but programed to forget; a set up I like to think of as my way of making sure I don’t cheat.

I’m a blob of energy … even on those days I don’t want to drag my ass out of bed … doing the Macarena through time and space paying no attention to speed limits (I thumb my nose at 186,000 miles per second), temporarily confined to quarters. I’m a single cell in a massive organism free to move about after doing whatever it is I’m to do here and now. I’m an alien being from another world doing time on Earth. I’m a harbinger of doom, a ray of hope, dark matter, bright light.

Ah … what the fuck …

As Popeye so succinctly put it: I yam what I yam.

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Sounds almost pleasant, doesn’t it? It’s not. Oxymoronic in its essence, free-floating anxiety sees the anxious bit hijacking anything that might be considered free and the sucker floats like a anvil.

Anxiety that lacks a definite focus or content.

And that, folks, comes before the first cup of tea.

I have always lived with demons … depression being the biggest bugger with the fiercest bite … but anxiety is rather new to me. Sure, I’m a worrier. What woman isn’t, especially living alone and having kids to raise? But it’s not often my worries cause me to lose sleep.

In fact, I usually sleep fairly well; I drop off without effort, and if disturbed have little to no trouble drifting back into slumber. Yes, my sleep is dream-plagued/blessed and often not as restful as I’d like, but I do sleep and for the allotted hours.

No, it’s not the sleeping that’s my issue, my demon … whatever … but the waking.

Before my eyes open I now realize I’ve shifted from sleep to awake by the sudden onset of that free-floating anxiety thing. It takes a bit of time to recognize and even more to run it through the filters: I’m late; I’m early; I’m breathing; kids are okay; nothing horrible happened in the night; scan the list of what’s on for the day; yes, I’m here alone. Check. Check. Check.

So, why am I shaking and where is this panic over a new day coming from? Am I sixth-sensing portents of doom? Has a shit asteroid been plummeting toward me in the night? Why is every drop of sadness in my body rushing in to welcome another twenty-four hours of the same old crap? Is the day now tainted? Have I contaminated the glass of opportunity by dropping in a dollop of shite with my quaking hands? Will these backed-up tears cloud my vision? Or drown me?

Tea. I need tea.

And thus begins my day.

It’s not every day that starts this way. Thankfully, I do go through periods where I wake up like a normal person, slowy and with a lovely touch of fog misting my corners. On those mornings my eyes open, the view presents itself in all its glory and potential rolls out in front of me. Those occasions take a second cup of tea to bring recognition of and appreciation for the ease of sliding into what had been tomorrow.

More often than not, however, it’s choking sad and shaking panic that form my salute to the sun.

I can trace the roots of this relatively new … what? … affliction? … waking nightmare? … free-floating anxiety … yeah, that’s it.

Close to eighteen months ago my waking moments changed drastically with the 6-am-ish phone call that told me my son was dead. And although this will not only sound trite, but obvious, I’ve not been the same since.

It’s a fact of life that the older we get, the longer our loss list grows. Over the past few years I’ve lost a lot … a son, a husband, a great love, all semblance of security, the last vestiges of youth, a load of nerve, hopes, dreams, wishes … even, from time to time, the will to live. (Yes, I have a list of gains, too, but I’ve just passed a week being thankful and that’s not what this is about this morning.)

I can deal with each and every loss … one-by-one, please … but first thing in the morning and before I’m fully awake? Not so well. Not at all, actually, since dealing isn’t what happens when I’m trembling and feeling the sting of tears before my eyes even open.

The result, of course, of this free-floating shit is an effort to flail a lasso about and pull it close enough to examine just what the fuck it might be. That sure pulls out the list, and as my mind leaps like a frog across sinking lily pads I am forced to recollect most every crappy thing that has happened, may happen or will happen. And I haven’t even peed yet …

At least I get words out of it, heh? Here are a few from this morning:

Good Morning, Sword

Within my realm I awaken each day
to a view of the sea and bird song
It is in my power to make what I may
But the first works I utter are:
What’s wrong?

I don’t see the sword hanging over my head
but I know that it’s there and suspended
by something no stronger than one single hair
if should break means the world is
upended …

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I woke this morning doing the backstroke in a mire of melancholy, the blue funk that too often drains the color from my days, and with the mental image of a disembodied monkey’s paw reaching toward me; a consiliatory gesture, I suppose, that started me thinking of all I have wished for and what I would wish for now if I had wishes left.

After spending much of the past week paying careful attention to the many blessings in my life and processing the appropriate gratitude, I’m not surprised by this equal and opposite reaction today; Newton was, after all, a pretty bright guy, and he called it in that third law of his.

Over-thinking, as I do, I can’t just eat turkey thankfully … and I was SO thankful! Nope. The initial cranberry joy-burst must be followed by digestion, and although not a ruminant I do know the flavor of cud: It tastes of fear. It tastes of grief. Today it tastes of my mother who is not well and thousands of miles away, of Jaren, of lonliness and anxiety over whatthefuckhappensnext.

It also tastes of tired … tired of wishes.

Years ago I wrote a story I called “Beggars Would Ride”, a tale about a wish coming true. There was no talisman required, just a simple dedication to repeating the wish often and believing for a very long time it would be granted.

Although it involved no consequence as dire as as the horror of The Monkey’s Paw, it did speak to the futility of wishes made casually and persued without insight.

I don’t want to think in terms of a paw, but if I had a magic wand to wave would I? And if I had the nerve to give it a swish, what would I wish?

Of course, I wish for my children to live long and happily prosper, but know too well how little a wish, no matter how fervent, controls events. I could wish some things that happened hadn’t and others that hadn’t had, but where’s the good in that?

“Seek not that the things which happen should happen as you wish; but wish the things which happen to be as they are, and you will have a tranquil flow of life.”

~ Epictetus

Sure. I can do that … I wish I had a cup of tea. Viola! I wish my dog would stop scratching. TaaDaa!

Easy enough, heh? Right up to, “I wish my mother wasn’t so miserable … “, and, “I wish I could be around to see Sam and Cj grown … “, or even simply, “I wish we were going to Mexico for Christmas …”.

It seems a wish is nothing more than jingling keys meant to draw attention toward the camera … say “cheese” … a bit of shiny fluff.

In some ways that’s fine, I guess. What’s the harm in, say, fantasizing about a world created by your own wish? How many hours are pleasantly spun out globally by people imagining a future after winning the lottery? A waste of time? You bet, but not without value to bleak lives.

For me today, though, it would take more energy than I would choose to muster for something so useless. Instead, I’ll work. Rather than wish this book I’m writing done, I will come closer to making it so.

I’ll also do what I can to arrange for tomorrow to be a better day. Wish me luck …

“Beggars Would Ride” is included in my book, “Papaya … and other seeds”, and was adapted for a short film called simply, “Wish” …

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