Monthly Archives: December 2009

Conversation from the couch

Medical Professional Two: “Are you trying to relapse?”

Me: “No.”

Medical Professional Two: “Then stop acting like it.”

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Where I’ll be

Scott Miller at the Mockingbird: Friday, January 15th. Show starts at 8pm.

Blacksburg Classic 10-miler: Saturday, February 20th. On-your-mark-get-set-go at 1pm.

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The blades on the turbines go round and round (and round and round and round and round)

I’m a lucky chick in that not only do I have a hyperactive gag-reflex, I am also susceptible to severe kinetosis (motion sickness on a whole other level). The obvious things make me sick and are off-limits:  ferris wheels,  porch swinging, riding in the backseat of a car, and please don’t ask me to read a map while the car is moving. But my vestibular system is so touchy there are things that set me off that probably seem totally begin to the rest of the population, including:

Flashing EMS lights (this was really cute for the 4 years when it was my job to be in the ambulance).

Long flights of stairs (think Bethesda Metro station), especially when going up and all that is at eye level is the next step. Going down, if I can see past the end of the stairs, isn’t as bad.

Traffic crossing in front of me (corner of Mason and Cantrell is where this kills me). This one is ridiculous. I’ll be at the corner waiting for the cross walk and cars will be passing in front of me. If I watch them drive past in rapid succession I get violently ill. It seems to be worse when they approach from the left and travel to the right, but the other way gets me, too.

Subtitled movies. The constant motion of my eyes from the acting to the reading of the subtitles on the bottom of the screen gets me sometimes, especially if the movie doesn’t keep my attention. If its good cinema and I’m engrossed in it I’ll fare better than if my mind is wandering.

And, apparently, this:

Driving home from my North Carolina-Kentucky-Illinois-Indiana Thanksgiving trip, I came upon a wind farm just outside of Bloomington/Normal, IL. Fascinating and encouraging but deadly to someone with am inability to resolve the input conflict between the optic nerve and inner ear.

The scientist in me is like a little kid in a candy store I’m so excited to have had the good fortune to drive through a wind farm. I stopped at the facilities management building and talked to the engineers and technicians (there was a sign that said it was open to the public, though I think I was the only public that has ever visited because they were shocked to see a civilian, though they seemed excited that someone cared enough to stop).

The whole thing was great, until I realized that trying not to watch spinning turbine blades is about as realistic as not thinking about pink elephants when someone says “pink elephants.” It took me about 20 minutes of driving at close to 65 mph to get through the farm, and the motion of the blades kept catching my eyes and mesmerizing me. Until I’d get sick.

I’m all for sustainable energy, but living within sight of giant rotating blades is apparently out of the question.

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Late (but still true)

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At what cost

The question should be, “is it worth trying to do?” not “can it be done?” – Allard Lowenstein.

I’ve searched but can’t find this quote in its original context, but given who Lowenstein was I think it is a pretty good guess that what he meant was that if something is worth attempting, it is worth attempting regardless of how likely (or unlikely) you are to succeed. While I believe that to be true, I find different significance in the quote.

I can do a lot of things. But just because I can do something doesn’t mean that I have any business actually doing it. There is an inherent cost to everything and sometimes the cost of doing something is such that actually doing it makes no sense. I’m not good at assessing the real total costs associated with decisions I make on a daily basis. If it will make me feel good in the moment, or even if it will just make me feel less bad – I’ll generally give it a go, long-term consequences be damned.

As 2010 approaches I have to make choices about many different things. Yes I could take a full course load, but is it worth the risk to my sanity? Yes I could run a marathon, but is it worth the risk to my health?

You’d think by now I’d have enough life experience to know that doing something just to prove that I can do it can have disastrous results. And to some extent I do know that:  I have been keenly aware, recently, of how much my drive to prove there was nothing I couldn’t do was what ultimately ended my marriage. But now, just like then, I have this haunting feeling that I’m not good enough and have to justify my existence and the space I take up on the planet and that the only way I can do that is to accomplish things other people can’t. I’m certainly not worthy of existence just being me, but maybe if I do something phenomenal I can earn the worth that is simply inherent in everyone else.

Part of it is also that holding myself to superhuman standards keeps me busy. It keeps me from having time to breath, to rest, to think, or to reflect. I can’t think of a better way to more fully distract myself than training for a marathon and pulling a 4.0 GPA with 18 credit hours of upper level science courses. If I were to give myself some grace and acknowledge my limits I might actually have some free time at the end of the day, and goodness knows that would be completely unacceptable. I’d have time to process how much damage I’ve done to myself physically and emotionally, how much pain I’ve caused the people who I love the most, how much of my life I have wasted, how lonely I am, how hopeless I feel, and how terrified I am that I will never be well. And I’m not ready to go there mainly because I’m scared that if I let myself feel those emotions, if I open that door, I’ll never be able to close it and I’ll be lost and depressed for the rest of my life.  

What makes this crazy and sick, though, is that I can’t pretend I don’t know what will happen. It’s not like I’ve never done this before. But (Queen of Rationalization that I am) I tell myself, “this time it will be different, this time I will be able to jump into the deep end of the swimming pool and still stay dry.” Absurd thought, I know, to think I can swim without getting wet, but nowhere near as absurd a thought as to think I can continue to abuse myself without catastrophic consequences.

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Too much for even the Queen of Rationalization

I’ve tried hard to be social over the holidays rather than to revert to my “go to” position of isolating and avoiding. I’ve been succesful for the most part, even though this has entailed accepting invitations that I normally would have declined. One such invite was for dinner and drinks at a friend’s house just before Christmas. I went to the party knowing that I wasn’t going to know many people there and expecting to feel awkward and anxious the whole night.

Well I met a guy. I don’t even remember now how we were introduced or what initially sparked our conversation, but we instantly hit it off. We talked for hours about all kinds of things: the strengths and weaknesses of the Valley, how absurd the holidays can be, health care reform, divorce, how language influences psychology… we were all over the map. We talked about my research and he even had a progressive view of addiction and mental illness.

As we’re talking I’m silently assessing him and trying to find a solid reason to walk away, but I couldn’t find a single one. He was attractive, gainfully employed as an academic (but not as an academic whose class I would ever take), single, owned his own house, had a witty sense of humor, and was unexplainably interested in me. The age difference did give me some pause, but I managed to get over that by reminding myself that just because he was old enough to be my father didn’t mean he was my father. (I am nothing if not the queen of rationalization.)

So four hours into our conversation I’m basically sold on this guy. I wasn’t about to propose marriage, but I had decided that there was some potential, and even if the potential didn’t pan out, at least there was the possibility for some fun. The topic of conversation had meandered to  comparing our undergrad experiences and how they differed by being a generation apart when I mentioned that I’m actually a geophysicist by training, thought I haven’t worked professionally in the field in over five years.

His face lit up and he said, “Geology, huh? Then you must know something about climatology.” I told  him that while climate science wasn’t my thing, I like to think I know enough about it to qualify as an educated person. “Good,” he said, and continued, “then you must know that there is no such thing as climate change, or at least that human activity doesn’t affect climate and that all this talk about global warming is nothing but alarmist propaganda.”

I searched his face to any sign that he was joking or being facetious or trying to get a rise out of me. Nope. He was completely 100% serious. I would have been less shocked if he had picked up the wine bottle off the table and poured what was left of it over my head. And significantly less disappointed. As the queen of rationalization I’m sure I could have found a way to explain away wine dumping, but even I can’t find a way to rationalize climate change denial.  

Moral of the story 1: if something is too good to be true, it is.

Moral of the story 2: before you agree to give someone your phone number, make sure to first ascertain his position on climate change.

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