Friday, August 31, 2007

Body of Work

When I asked you to choose my next non-fiction adventure and the votes started rolling in for The Island at the Centre of the World – mor cast a phone vote - I discovered that after all that, I did know what book I wanted to read and it was Body of Work: Meditations on Mortality from the Human Anatomy Lab by Christine Montross. Naturally, I then engaged in a clever (?) bit of subterfuge and a deep cover agent volunteered to stuff the ballot box. The good news is that I didn’t have to – Body of Work squeaked by to win with one (real) vote. I do think that regardless of how bad I am at lying – and I’m very, very bad – I’d have problems convincing you that Jeffery Deaver, Mary Roach and Jessica Sachs all read my blog… (p.s. maybe my undercover agent can enlighten us about Jessica Sachs – I’m not sure who she is)

Moving onto the book. Although I am going to get more verbose about it, it can be summed up neatly in the following two sentences: I know things now that I didn’t know I wanted to know. I also know things that it turns out I most emphatically did not want to know, but am nonetheless glad I now do.

The book is, as the title indicates, a memoir of medical school, anchored in the experience of what apparently is called cadaveric dissection in the first year anatomy course. Chapters are built around each module of dissection - torso, stomach, pelvis, head, etc. - but within each chapter, the narrative flows from the lab, to the history of dissection (including the resurrectionists and Burke and Hare), to attitudes towards death in different cultures, to Montross’ life, reactions and thoughts. She does this so effortlessly that I didn’t notice how until chapter 9, but kept thinking “how’d she end up in Bologna looking at wax dissection models from the 18th century?” or weeping my way through an especially heartwrenching passage would wonder how I got there when we’d started out dissecting veins or stomachs.

And speaking of dissection, which given the book we’re talking about, we must. Montross several times uses the term “barbaric” when describing the tasks necessary in dissecting a human body to the point of there being almost nothing left. And barbaric it certainly is, causing deep reactions in the students (and the reader), reactions of such magnitude that studies have described a high number of dissection students to experience symptoms of PTSD. Woven throughout the book is the thought: is this necessary? And the more I thought about it, the more I agree it is. Apparently, the goal is for a doctor to develop what’s called ‘detached concern’ – the desire and willingness to help, without emotional involvement that will get in the way of the job. Cadaveric dissection aids in this goal as it begins to desensitize the student from the natural emotions you feel when dealing with people in distress. Besides, the practical part of me believes it’s important to actually get your hands into a body (as opposed to a computerized simulation) – how else could you practice such an unnatural act so you don’t freak out when the time comes to doing it on a live person?

When writing this review, I kept wanting to sidetrack into discussions of the 57 (at least) things I want to learn more about after reading this book. For instance – where the bodies for dissection comes from determines the students’ attitude towards "their" body and the emotional reactions to dissection. In Thailand, donation is rare and medical schools require students to honour their body deeply, to know his/her name and to be directly involved in its cremation. In Nigeria, bodies are those of executed criminals and subsequently lose their humanity in lab. I learned that dermatology and ENT are highly competitive fields and remain puzzled about Ear, Nose and Throat being so desirable a field (anyone out there who can enlighten me?), I learned why my TMJ comes from shoulder (not jaw) problems, that such a final thing as death can be incredibly hard to define and I could go on for hours.

Montross is a terrific writer – her background as a poet shows and makes this book about the poetry of medicine. She can educate you about the miraculous workings of the body, being factual in one sentence and move you with unbearable poignancy in the next. She doesn’t shy away from telling you just why dissection wreaks such an emotional toll, making you want to turn away, then tells you about learning to treat patients with empathy, tenderness and honour and you want to come closer.

This is my favourite kind of book – the author sends out strand after strand of diverse ideas, thoughts and topics and somehow, magically it feels, pulls them all together in the end, when she describes her feelings towards “her” cadaver, the feelings of gratitude, respect and honour (there’s that word again) towards the person who gave her the gift of learning to heal while taking their body apart.

Certainly, it’s a book to be read in segments. Not just because you need to walk away and think after every chapter – again, my favourite kind of book – but, quite frankly, so you can go away and repress what you read. Not for the faint of heart, it is nonetheless a book I'd highly recommend. Partly for the knowledge that is gained, but also because it made me think more deeply about death and dying and ultimately about whether I’d donate my body. Would you?

Montross ends the book with what I assume is the prayer said by Thai students to their body and so will I:

Great Teacher, I give you flowers
I carry your body to the funeral pyre
When you burn, may every space in you that I have named
Flare and burst into light

It was a terrific choice - thanks for voting!

Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Obstacle Course

Thanks so much for all the birthday attention - it nicely met all my Attention Slut requirements for the day. Which, by the way, turned out to be absolutely wonderful. And was a nice contrast from this past weekend, which was a smidge frustration. To wit:

This past weekend was Buskerfest. Again. Seems like they have it every other month or maybe it's just that it's so much "Fun" that time constricts. This year, it's expanded from the past 3 days to 4! Yippie!!

By Sunday, it became necessary to go to the grocery store. It's halfway down that condo on the right. Nothing ventured, nothing gained, thought I and besides, I'm out of orange juice, hummus and cucumber. Necessities, y'know.


As it was taking me some time to navigate the crowds - where's that compass and cattleprod when you need 'em? - I decided to take in a few performances. This one was good.


But this one rocked! I think?


I liked the cow, though.


Mission accomplished without driving over too many feet (more from moral restraint than anything else), I decided to go sit in the park and listen to my iPod to simmer down.

Nevermind.

Monday, August 27, 2007

45

Here it is. Or rather, it'll be here tomorrow. 45. Forty-five. Femogfyrre. Quarante-cinq. F├╝nfundvierzig. Cuarenta y cinco. XLV.

I'd hoped that by saying it over and over again, in different ways and languages it would lose its meaning. No such luck.

(OK, so I had to look up the last two. I don’t speak that much Spanish yet and am more than a little iffy about the Latin – it’s been eons since I was even close to half-way decent with that. By the way? Latin is pretty much the only high school subject that I know I use on an almost daily basis).

Ever since I was a teenager, I've looked forward to the magic of forty. I knew it would be magical because my mother told me so and she has never steered me wrong. Her theory is that as women near 40, they start coming into their own, become more confident, stronger and in general care less about what other people think and more about what's right for them. Turns out she was right - as I have watched myself and my friends near the magic number, all of us have changed in little ways and big. Maybe it's growing up, maybe it's that by the time you hit 40, enough crap has happened in your life that you know you can survive pretty much anything, maybe it's the beginning of the wisdom that comes with aging. Whatever it is, take a look at the women you know who are 40 and beyond. Betcha they’re badass.

The problem is, my mother never told me what happened when you turn 45. It's like there is a blank space there, one I've refused to fill out when the prevailing ideas of women who are middle-aged and older. Old women are invisible, aren’t they? Slow, dithering, etc. I know this is not true - looking at my mother and her friends who are somewhat beyond the mid-forties, I definitely know that this is the very opposite of what happens in real life, but in coming up with an alternative for this particular age, I'm at a bit of a loss. 45 is different than 40. When you hit 40, you're at the tail end of one part of your adult life. Forty-five, on the other hand, seems to be more about the beginning of the next stage. And given that I am a Virgo and hence hate change and uncertainty, this is going to be a challenge.

But when I think about it less in terms of the unmapped future and more with a view to where I’m at in the present, something shifts. My life has changed by leaps and bounds in the last 3-4 years - it's odd how intense pain can bring about intense changes, many of them for the better. I've had some pretty significant losses, especially in terms of my physical health, yet have begun to bring a dream to life and feel that my life has more meaning - with a capital M - now than it did before. And when I think of that, I get really excited to see what'll happen next.

As for the day itself, I have great plans. I'm going to spend one of my Audible credits (credits which are hoarded like they were gold) on the new Kathy Reichs novel, which is being released tomorrow in honour of my birthday. Maybe they didn't exactly plan for it to be in honour of my birthday, but I am the Birthday Goddess, for a very short period of time it will be All About Me and so, I would like to take this opportunity to thank Kathy Reichs for her excellent timing. I would also like to thank whoever is in charge of releasing After the Wedding tomorrow - I love it when Danish movies make it to this continent and it will be my birthday present to myself. I suspect I might have one or two calls of people singing birthday songs to me and in the evening, I will be having dinner with dear friends. Not to mention multiple lunches and get-togethers over the next few weeks, culminating in the grand family celebration on September 8 (we believe in stretching out birthdays in my family). Sounds just about like the perfect way to start a new phase in life.

Before I go off to start the celebrations early - don't look at melike that; by 6 p.m. Toronto time it's already my birthday in Denmark - I'd like to do a shout-out to a special kid named Cody (who lives here - might help if I remembered to put in the link - as much as one can be said to live in a URL). He's only just beginning to figure out what knitting- and other blogs are all about. SInce it's (almost) my birthday and all, could I ask that if you leave a comment, please include an internet wave to Cody?


Wednesday, August 22, 2007

Hodge Podge

Today’s a bit of a cop-out – I’ve got a deadline that needs wrangling (the bleedin’ thing’s like herding cats) and all my wee grey cells are therefore occupied. Well, mostly they’re getting distracted by anything shiny that passes by, but I’m going to force the wee fuckers to focus and produce something worthwhile today. I hope. In the meantime...

I forget who recommended Philip Pullman’s books to me – Bonnie? Diane? Someone else altogether? – but I’d like to say a hearty thank you! I started The Golden Compass last week and I am entranced, charmed, obsessed, etc., with the wonder of this world. It is an astounding book – Pullman has created a different world, both so familiar and so fantastical that I don’t want to stop reading. I suspect the next two in the trilogy will be acquired the minute I finish #1. Thanks for introducing me to this world, whoever you were. As for the rest of you? Go get these books. Buy, don’t borrow – you’ll want to read them again and again.

Got a question for the cat people. Mojo has a seriously thenthitive GI system – we suspect food allergies, but she does so poorly on the hypoallergenic food sold by the vet, that it’s hard to pin down exactly. Due to some bad chin acne (apparently, she’s hormonal – pretty accomplished for a cat with no reproductive organs), she got started on antibiotics, but got very nauseous, barfed, etc., so I’m giving her a chance to fight the pimples on her own. However, she’s taking a while to bounce back, has completely gone off her dry food after the barfing incident, leaving only wet so far, with which she has a really complicated relationship and she gets a stomach ache after she eats. Can’t give her Pepcid AC – it bothers her stomach (I know. This is what she’s like. Very contrary physically. Apparently, the universe believes in giving me a challenge). Although yesterday was the first day she seemed to be close to better, we lost some ground in the evening. I’m wondering if any of you know tricks for soothing an irritated feline stomach?

And now for something completely different... I’m pretty darn excited about this (scroll down to contributors).

I'm also pretty jazzed about this.

And so this doesn’t become solely book babble, cat questions and self-aggrandizement, a few links for your entertainment. First, why I will never, ever go through Heathrow again. Did it once about 20 years ago, hated it, avoided it like the plague since. With good reason.

This clip left me awed and teary-eyed. Read the notes to the right about the background before you play.

Monday, August 20, 2007

One of These Things is Not Like the Others

Picture this:

I’m at a corner at the start of a quick run for groceries. The opposite light turns red and several cars, a van and a large firetruck stop in front of the crosswalk and I start to move across the street. Halfway – exactly halfway – the chair stops. Not the “clunk, one motor stops, I spin around in a circle” that has happened before. No, stop. Dead. Both motors. No clunk. I push the joystick, heart hammering like a piston. Nothing. I lean forward to look at the display – it’s on, in speed 4, no error message. I turn the chair off, noticing the distinct shake in my hand, aware that the countdown to red has started, that several cars, a van and a large firetruck are preparing to go. That I am seriously in the way. I turn the chair back on, it beeps, I push the joystick and…. it moves. I start breathing again, chanting justgetmeacrossjustgetmeacrossjustgetmeacross and miracle of miracles, it does. I sit on the sidewalk. Tremble for a while. Start weighing options – limp home immediately and call for the repair guy or finish shopping, risking not having any dinner if it’s a while before he gets here? I decide the latter and chant my chair through the grocery store (pleasegetmehomepleasegetmehomepleasegetmehome), get home, Dave the Wonder Repair Guy arrives and checks the error messages. According to the manual, it’s essentially a hiccup in the controller. Normal, what with all the electronics in there. If it happens again, maybe it means I need a new controller. Wait and see.

Now, before I get started on the ranting, let me make it perfectly clear that I am not in any way blaming Dave, The Wonder Repair Guy, who is divinely talented when it comes to repairs, nor am I blaming the vendor who sold it to me. Nor, come to think of it, am I excessively blaming the manufacturer for releasing a model/generation of controller that still has bugs (said manufacturer not being alone in having the 'oops' factor create problems after release of a new model/generation of wheelchairs).

But here’s the thing: after I'd stopped shaking - which took about an hour - I got to thinking. When all was said and done in the sales process, my portion of the cost of this new wheelchair exceeded $10,000. Not surprisingly, this money materialized courtesy of VISA. I wouldn’t mind so much having a crushing debt load that will take me decades, maybe a lifetime, to repay, if only said new wheelchair would act like a new wheelchair. And that's when some part of my brain implemented the sound of screeching brakes. Excuse me?! Over 10k for something that randomly spins out of control or stops? Imagine this was a car – not exactly the same thing, as my chair’s more like my legs, but since it's certainly cost as much as a car, we’ll stay with the image. Imagine a new model of car being released that randomly spins around or stops in the middle of driving somewhere. Would the owners of the car be told that it was "just a hiccup, it's to be expected, what with all the complicated electronics in there", to keep using the vehicle? How long do you think it would take the manufacturer to a) recall the car/part; b) ensure that all customers had a functioning automobile; and c) it being splashed all over the news and be a major public relations nightmare for aforementioned manufacturer?

So why isn't that happening when it's a wheelchair? I'll tell you why. It's because people with disabilities are rampantly un- and underemployed - the last estimate I heard was somewhere around 80%. It's because people with disabilities do not receive adequate social assistance, making them unable to not only pay for the "normal" things like rent and food, but making it utterly impossible to afford the many additional expenses associated with disability. It's because people with disabilities have no money that they have no voice and no power. This is why any initiatives done for people with disabilities have the stench of being charity for the poor cripples. Something to make everyone feel really good about themselves. This is why there is no employment equity legislation mandating that employers be accessible, both in terms of the physical structure and employment systems. It's why nothing is being done about, e.g., WheelTrans being an unholy mess that more often than not is anywhere from 30 to 90 minutes late (more here - link added late due to Monday morning brain). Parallel transit system? My arse! What employer will hire you if you cannot be guaranteed to get to work anywhere close to on time? If you manage to get a job, it is usually one that not commensurate with your abilities, because the education system is so inaccessible that an alarming amount of people with disabilities are not educated to their full potential. Leading to no money and no power and no voice. It's why we don't matter, except to be shoved in a human interest story at the end of the news, featuring either the Horribly Tragic Cripple, the Oh, How Inspiring, Look at the Cripple Overcoming Vast Obstacles or Look How My Contributions to Charity Help the Poor Cripple. And I am sick to death of it.

I am sick to the point of puking of having to ask nicely. I am sick of it being my responsibility to make others feel comfortable in my presence. I am sick of having no money because any money I do have go to paying for things like my wheelchair, miscellaneous supplies, over-the-counter drugs, drugs that aren't covered, repairs to my wheelchair and numerous others of a myriad and varied list of expenses that I only have because I have a disability. I am sick of having to call ahead anytime I want to go out to make sure the place is accessible. I am sick of the fact that most places aren't. I am sick of places that are accessible not actually being so (hint: that button for the automatic door opener? Doesn’t help if it’s up high, placed so the door slams into my chair when it opens or not turned on). I am sick of people like me being mutilated and killed for the convenience of others. I am sick of living in a world that refuses me access to education, to employment, to recreation, to influence in my community, to influence in my government. I am sick of being disabled, not by arthritis, but by the barriers in the society that my taxes support.

I am sick of being negligible. I am sick of being irrelevant.

I am sick of being Other.

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

A Rant in the Key of Big Brother

We’re about midway through the eighth season of Big Brother - yes, today is about a reality show, but be patient, there is a major rant coming - and for the first time in nearly 8 years of faithful obsession to the awful brilliance that is BB, I’m considering dumping the show.

The remaining contestants are:
Dick. I find him fascinating. There are times when he's walking caricature, an Id on legs and there are times when he is the closest real-life approximation of Tommy Gavin in Rescue Me I've ever seen - equally aggravating, yet at times so poignant it breaks your heart. On one hand, he is loving, generous, loyal, funny and smart and then every now and again he breaks into intense verbally abusive rages. He wears his heart and his hatred on his sleeve, appears to be rebelling against something still, is working very, very hard to reconcile with his daughter (Daniele, below) and when he used his hard-earned Veto to take her off the block it got to me (yes, I know it's just a game, but still...). I am bowled over by how unapologetic he is about his life and choices and - can’t believe I’m saying this - think I've learned something from him about being fearless. I don’t much like his intimidation tactics, but if you're the kind of person who loses your shit on a regular basis, why not make it into a strategy? Yet at the same time, many of his outbursts appear to be scripted and rehearsed and if you pay attention, instead of being lost in the offensiveness that can be him, you start to notice that he doesn't target people that he respects.

Daniele. At barely 21, she is very, very young. She made a cardinal mistake by isolating herself with Nick early on in the game and once he was voted out, she only has her father in her corner and it looks like he's going to be voted out this week. Not a smart game move, which is too bad, because she is one of the few people this season who is otherwise a pretty decent player.

The floaters:
Jen. Initially, I hated her. I've since come around to find her particular brand of obliviousness quite charming. She is providing many laughs and once she dumped the vindictive nastiness, I quite like her. Along with Dani, she represents one of the very few people who may be playing the game with some degree of skill and strategy (I’m undecided whether her ditziness is real or an act).

Zach. A man in search of an alliance. Unfortunately, he seems to be incredibly awkward, lumbering around trying to become part of conversations and soundly rebuffed by everybody in the Turd Herd (more below). Be careful, idiots, that arrogance might bite you in the arse soon.

Which brings me to the new Nerd Herd - except they are so nasty, they had to be renamed. Remember season six? When hating Cappy and his groupies was fun? Hating this season's alliance of "good people" is not fun at all.

Jessica. Again, disliked her in the beginning, but it seems to be that her bratty behaviour against Carol was acting (apparently, the producers were desperate for another team of rivals). She seems fairly normal and might be a pretty decent person who is finally exhibiting some signs of gameplay.

Amber. Or Wahmber, as she has been renamed, due to the constant exercising of her tear ducts. I'd feel sorry for her - as an addict in recovery, she's clearly psychologically unequipped for this game - except she is turning out to be a complete bigot and hypocrite. I cannot believe the ignorant crap that comes out of her mouth.

Dustin. Or, as I've started calling him, Dustbin. Started out liking him, then he showed himself to be a cowardly, arrogant, mean-spirited little snot. Has gone up as a pawn against Dick this week and I would dearly love to see his hateful arse evicted. Now, that would make for excellent television and would completely throw the house for a loop!

Jameka. She of the blinding hypocrisy. Initially appeared consistent and sane, then two weeks ago in the Veto competition, she passed on $10,000 and banned herself from participating in the next 5 Head of Household competitions (essentially ensuring that she goes home) and promptly lost her composure, spending the next 20 minutes having a meltdown (see the brilliant editing here, with Jen’s beautifully oblivious wandering back and forth in a bunny costume). Haven’t recovered since, proceeding to some truly astounding re-interpretations of god’s messages, completely based on what’s good for her in the game and showing a real nasty side (apparently not inconsistent with her faith). When Dick gets evicted, she’s asked everyone to stay on the couches to demonstrate their hatred of him (normally they walk the evictee to the door and hug) and has called his mother names in a fight with him. You can say much about Dick’s rants, but he keeps it personal and doesn’t drag in people’s families.

Eric. Being America's Player is absolutely not an easy gig and one that requires deviousness, but he's showing his true colours and boy, are they ugly. He confided to another houseguest that he’d tell the house Amber’s dirty little secret when it’d work the game in his favour. When he narrowly escaped eviction last week, he got unbearably arrogant and smut-talked Dick all over the place, mentioning that he thought his “constant pawing” of his daughter was sexual and he wouldn’t be surprised to come upon them in the act. Some fathers are like that (mine among them) - it’s called displays of affection, you vile little cretin! He’s repeatedly called Zach a child molester and I’ll stop here before we all barf. I'd rather have Dick screaming in my face than spend any time in the proximity of that nasty little piece of shite. He makes me feel like I need a shower and I've decided to henceforth refer to Eric and his overacting eyebrows as America's Weasel.

Much as I despise the Turd Herd, they might be fun to dislike if it wasn't for the Weasel. His increasingly disturbing commentary has made me not only think about writing CBS in protest, but made me thisclose to stop watching. Which, come to think of it, might actually give me my life back...

Monday, August 13, 2007

Random August

I've been invited to Facebook a few times – the last a couple months ago where it was accompanied by a short message saying "it's a great way to keep in touch with friends!" and as my instant reaction is "that's why they invented the telephone. And email", I didn't sign up. However, this weekend my lovely sister - who can make me do anything - told me that she was on it and she found a bunch of friends through it and... well. I was bored, not in the mood to watch the Very Serious Movie in my DVD player and long story short, I lost most of the remainder of my weekend to playing around on Facebook. One note, though. In a moment of extraordinary techno-twittiness (it is too a word!), I apparently instructed the contraption to send an invitation to be my friend to everybody in my email account (i.e., to anybody I've ever emailed who are also on Facebook). Later, I was informed by someone who knows better than I did that Facebook is not like MySpace, because on Facebook your "friends" are people you know in your real life (family, friends, colleagues, etc.). Apparently, I have violated the Facebook etiquette. This means that if you have received an invitation to be my friend and you feel that Facebook should be limited to real life people, feel free to ignore/remove me - I won't take it personally. That said, I can’t help but wonder if now that I have a blog, email and Facebook, I will ever actually speak to my friends again...

And now for the link-o-rama part of today's post:

Pearl's last performance (you did see the first one, didn't you?).

Somewhere in the Philippines, there is a prison warden with a seriously demented sense of humour. Thriller was fun, as was the algorithm march and the interpretation (link added when I realized I'd been a moron) of Sister Act.

Have you ever wondered what would happen if you microwaved various things? Find out here (and save the eggs for last).

I don't care where that this is staged or not, it is a wonderful reminder to find joy anywhere you go.

Last, but not least we move on to the Kindness of Blogfriends. Sometime last month, I appealed to the knitters in the crowd to help keep my mother's toes warm while she healed and was yet again reminded that knitters are a special group of people. Several of you not only signed up to be Samaritans, but you had fun with it. Initially, I got all flustered as prior to receiving these lovely gifts, my mother gone to the fracture clinic and they had removed both casts (she has now started weight-bearing on her left foot). However, they replaced the plaster cast on the right foot way is an air cast thingy of approximately the same dimensions, so it all worked out.

Denise (alas, blogless - I am a double moron today. Denise has a blog here) sent toe socks that she dyed herself with Kool-Aid and food colouring. Although they fit the replacement cast, mor uses these to keep her left foot warm. As an extra perk, it's also really helpful when transferring from chair to other places – we haven’t found good shoes yet and it helps with providing a bit of traction.



Lucia sent "toe condoms" (don't look at me like that, she's the one who came up with the term) in two different colours that go nicely with two different skirts:


And Diane went all out and came up with the following, which have caused much laughter from residents and staff:


Thank you all. They not only keep my mother’s toes warm, but were a great surprise and made her very happy.

Thursday, August 09, 2007

Meant To Be?

"... may your god go with you”
- Dave Allen

Last week's walk on the edge of controversy and the resulting comments were so much fun that I’ve decided to dive into another usually taboo topic. Politics? Nah, makes me too angry. I know! Let's talk about religion!

But before I move on, I feel that a wee preamble is in order. My idea of controversy very firmly does not include disrespecting other people's beliefs - what can I say, I am both Danish and Canadian and thus tend to implode in a paroxysm of politeness at the slightest provocation. I fully respect faith and your right to believe in whatever you wish, be it the Christian God, Allah, Shiva, the Goddess or a purple polkadotted platypus.

Anyway, back on track. You all know that I unashamedly adore pretty much any aspect of reality shows, but there is one thing that annoys me well past a zombie eye roll and right into incoherent sputtering and that's when a contestant starts asking God to help them win a challenge. Like last week on Big Brother 8 when Jameka opined that not only did God intend for her to play for Jen in a challenge (I'm keeping this as generic as possible in order not to annoy/confuse/bore those of you who are not transfixed by the goings-on in the hamster cage) but that The Guy Upstairs had already chosen the winner of the $500,000 and that contestants were merely acting out their parts in the script. I am pretty sure that if there is a God, he/she/it has better things to do than assisting someone to win money in a game where the purpose is to backstab and manipulate other contestants. For instance, there's the Sudan. And the floods in Bangladesh. And Britain. Etc.

I've always had problems with the idea of preordination. I can't tell you how many times I've had strangers inform me that God had a reason for putting me in a wheelchair and aside from the fact that I think it's rude to impose your ideas about God on someone whose belief system is unknown to you (unless invited to do so), I've had arthritis since I was four and I find it impossible to believe that a benevolent deity would do something that nasty to a child. (As an aside, those strangers have all been able-bodied and sometimes I wonder if that statement was intended to comfort me - the rant regarding the gall assuming I need comforting is for another day - or to make themselves feel comfortable when facing The Cripple). I've read books written by people who firmly believe that God gave them their disability for a specific reason, usually helping others in similar situations, and whereas I respect that belief - after all, they have the disability and therefore the right to approach it any way they see fit - I can't quite get behind the idea. The reality of disease and disability is so often so awful and the divine energy in which I believe is not a sadistic shit. But I think I might be getting sidetracked.

Iguess it's the existential issue - looking for meaning in a life and a world that can be randomly brutal and unfair. A couple of months ago, someone asked me about meaning - what it is, where it comes from and why seek meaning in the first place - and I guess this long-winded, meandering post is an answer. Fuzzy and not quite fully grown yet, it's the only answer I have so far.

I've had this conversation before many times, especially in conversations with people who are struggling with illness or other trauma - a bolt of destruction laying waste to your body and/or your life naturally leads to an instinctive desire for knowing why. Me, I've reached the point where the best reason I can come up with is accident, genetics or the ever-popular “shit happens”. But just because I don't believe that there is a divine meaning to say, my wrecked joints, doesn't mean that you can't create meaning. Maybe it's a crutch. Maybe there's no reason for anything, maybe everything is random, but if it is, I would rather make my life have meaning and mean something instead of not. It’s not meant to be, but I make it meaningful.

And so, given that my life, who I am is the sum total of everything about me, I choose to give my disability meaning, to use it and what it’s taught me to (hopefully) grow and if I can, be a force for good. Whether the intent, the nudge that drives me to do so comes from a source divine or from within myself is ultimately irrelevant - the end result is the same.

Wednesday, August 01, 2007

Last Minute Musings

I forgot what day it was, what with the Harry Pottering and… well, really, only with the Harry Pottering. I'm in the middle of chapter 31 and since about the mid-20s, I’ve had an overwhelming urge to go read something else for a couple of weeks, which is what I do when I love a book/series and it's coming to an end. Zoom through most of it, then take forever to read the last 50 pages, but I can't do that this time. Michele will kill me if I don’t hustle, because she’s been waiting since last Monday to speak to an adult about it and is not exploding with the waiting at all - I’m sure it’s merely altruistic interest in my health and well-being that she calls me daily to ask where I’m at in the book. Another reason for the desired break is the nightmares. Did I mention I’m a tad impressionable? Anyway, so there I was, hurtling out the door to a bright-and-early morning meeting - why must they make me think so soon after I wake up? - and all of a sudden, I realize it’s Wednesday and I have no post. So now that I’m briefly home between appointments, I’m just going to throw this thing at you I thought about yesterday and if you were looking for something more interesting, go back to Monday's post (and by the way? Most excellent commentary! More than once did I get caught unawares and spewed tea all over the keyboard. You people are seriously funny...).

Anyway… Have you ever played that game with yourself where you repeat a certain word over and over and over again until it loses its meaning? Sometimes I feel like that about watching people walk. I think I've mentioned before about it being so long since I last walked that I no longer seem to have a muscle memory of the act. I don't know if that's the reason or if it is the same phenomena as the thing with the words, but every now and again, when I watch people walk, it becomes very a very strange thing. Aside from the fact that legs are sort of weird when you really notice them, the movements involved in putting one foot in front of the other, the shift in weight, the bend of the knee, the differences in gait… it becomes incredibly surreal. If I had a video camera, I'd do my own artsy movie, composed only of 90 minutes of legs walking. Do me a favour - park yourself on a bench today and watch people's legs while they pass by - not for appreciative impact, but for the mechanics of walking separated from the whole of the person (hips down only) and then report back. Is it me or can it become almost alien (for lack of a better term)?