Thursday, January 31, 2008
Oliver Sacks believes musicopilia occurs in some deaf or hearing-impaired people because the musical portions of the brain are so bored with lack of stimulation that it makes its own sounds so it can have something to hear.
Cheryl C., the patient being discussed on the program, got a cochlear implant to see if that would end the continuous music playing in her head. It didn’t. Cochlear implants aren’t perfect, and the external music she did hear was flat and tinny, while her brain music was symphonic, beautiful.
Cheryl hears music. I have a voice that talks, or usually frets, nags or rants, to me endlessly. My husband said he didn’t have that voice, but then he began studying A Course in Miracles shortly after I started reading it, and discovered he just had his volume turned down.
A Course says the memory of God returns to the quiet mind. God is All and Everthing; that chugga chugga chugga voice is the little ego, strutting its importance above all and everything. Give the little ego some silence, and it will quickly grow bored and afraid, afraid it's not all it's cracked itself up to be, and will turn up the volume, writing epics and staging plays about how special and entitled and threatened it is--or rather, you are.
But no matter how enticing or beautiful or scary that voice is, it's best not to forget it's just a hallucination deviling up a little stimulation, because if you remember God, how can it be emperor of the Universe?
Wednesday, January 30, 2008
Yesterday was the follow-up appointment to the follow-up appointment for that little skin cancer thing diagnosed last November, where-in my dermatologist suggested I go to a plastic surgeon, since the skin blip, an age-and-sun thing, was on the bridge of my nose, and the plastic surgeon could nip more comely*. Only there appears to be nothing left to nip. For which I am more than grateful.
Still, I can’t help noticing my P.S. makes $2,850 an hour (if you count by the 2 minutes, tops, I spent with him) or only $475 an hour (if you count the ten minutes I was late). I have to believe I am subsidizing unfortunate women who need intensive reconstructive surgery.
Mommas, let your babies grow up to be plastic surgeons.
*What my dermatologist said was, "I would do this on an older person, but considering the location, for cosmetic reasons, I think you should go to a plastic surgeon." I was totally shocked, since I had been a patient of hers for years, that she would suggest anything to me for cosmetic* reasons, and she did not think I was an older person.
*It was once pointed out to me that I shared my fashion sense with a character in Eudora Welty's Delta Wedding who went to the closet and called out to her clothes: "I'm going to town. Anybody that wants to go, just jump on." All of my personal style is predicated on that oblivious, insouciance of apparantly living without mirrors.
And for those of you who do brain teasers to keep yourselves mentally agile, you can do algebra and figure out what my bill was. Actually, algebra isn't required, I guess, just dividing, but if you're OCD you could investigate to see if my math checks out.
Monday, January 28, 2008
Yet yesterday, after my vet’s assistant took out my pup’s fifty stitches, on my way out of the empty front office, I saw a Martha Stewart magazine, all red and alluring. The wife of the vet takes glossy, enticing, decorative, craftsy-with-recipes magazines that she leaves in the waiting room until they are thrown out in a timely fashion. When I have seen one that interests me, the receptionist has told me to take it, they’re through with it, so there was this shiny Martha Stewart, just lying there like it was on the discard pile. Nobody in town sells Martha Stewart, we are not that kind of town. I took it.
And underneath was yet another Martha Stewart with the old lovely, eggshell Martha Stewart colors that I’ve been looking for to paint my upstairs bedrooms. And I took that one, too, which did seem a tad bit greedy, but there was no one in the waiting room to ask.
When I got them in the car I noticed they were January and February, 2008 issues. Egad. If you feel guilty, is it stealing? Maybe it was stealing, but I was committed, and sped away before the vet folks could rush out of the building and start pounding on my windows, demanding to know why I was so crazy.
In the February issue Martha shows us how to make fabric FORTUNE COOKIES. And in January we are given the instructions on how to use our computers, photos and printers to make CONFETTI WITH PEOPLE’S FACES ON IT. It came rushing back to me why Martha and I split ways so many years ago. She had a section on how to make tinsel garlands of leaves for our Christmas trees. Aren’t tinsel garlands what gives 1,321, 851, 888 Chinese a leg up to the middle class? Is having confetti with your family, friends and pets’ faces on it so important you would take ALL THAT TIME to undercut another country’s labor market? Can you trust a woman who advises you to make personalized confetti for New Year’s Eve?
Is there a special hell for magazine thieves, one in which you spend an eternity fashioning household objects out of seashells, buttons or empty vegetable cans?
Tomorrow I’m sneaking those damn magazines back.
Friday, January 25, 2008
Enough. I wanted to download pictures during my snuggly session in the bed. I had to gather up the camera, the base of the camera, the cords, and the adapter for my lap top. The outlet is very inconveniently behind the bed. In order to plug in the adapter, I thought I had to unplug the air-conditioner. I lay down on the floor despite the creaky knees, and even though I once had several really nasty spider bites requiring visits to a doctor, I would not think of brown reculse spiders FESTERING UNDER THE BED. I tried to reach the outlet from first one side of the bed, then the other. No dice. For one thing, I’ve got this pain in my shoulder when I extend my arm which probably is a sign of poor eating habits and age. I’m not sure about the age part, because I never look in the mirror, but I am fairly certain about the poor eating habits. I tried to move the bed. Again, no dice. I tried to shift the mattresses. Still, no dice. I shoved my arm between the head board and the plank next to the box spring and mattress and jiggled the air-conditioner cord loose. I didn't know how I was going to plug it back in, but that was something to be done tat (tomorrow at Tara).
I discovered we had one of those extender strips in that outlet and I hadn’t had to unplug the air-conditioner. No matter now, I again shoved my arm between the head board and the plank next to the mattresses so I could plug in the adapter. It was a tight squeeze and it occurred to me my arm might get stuck. Though some wiggling was required, it didn’t.
Now I had to plug in the camera base. I remembered I might have an extension cord in the front hall closet. I did. Now I could plug the camera base in the outlet on the outside wall. I did. I jumped in the bed, ready to plug my camera into my laptop and play away while my little dog recuperated in the company of all his furry siblings. The table lamp went out. I had knocked the extender strip loose, and now the clock, the lamp and the laptop were unplugged. I stuffed my arm back in the narrow opening between the two boards. Almost reached it. Just jig that arm a little more. Done.
My elbow had slipped all the way between the two boards. I was stuck. I was really stuck. I couldn’t move the mattresses. I had the phone. Even if I called my husband to come home and he came, all the circulation would probably be cut off to the lower part of my arm, and it would probably have to be AMPUTATED. I considered going ahead and gnawing my arm off above the elbow.
No. I could do this. I pressed on the mattresses, I pulled my arm back with slow steady pressure, ignoring that it HURT, and felt like I was CRUSHING ALL THE VESSELS in the arm. Pop. I was released.
But my arm around elbow was probably going to bruise like hell, and I would probably get A BLOOD CLOT, AND IT WOULD PROBABLY DETACH, AND IT WOULD PROBABLY LODGE IN THOSE ARTERIES I AM PRETTY SURE I HAVE CLOGGED FROM MY BAD EATING HABITS, AND I WOULD PROBABLY HAVE A HEART ATTACK AND DIE, AND MY HUSBAND WOULD BE LEFT IN HIS GRIEF TO GO TO WORK AND TAKE CARE OF ALL THE FUR, AND IT WOULD BE ALL MY FAULT.
I’ve been this way all my life. I can obsess about myself, my kids, the pets, and if you hang out around here, about you. This is why you’ve found me tripping down the metaphysical path, looking for a better way. Because if energy patterns continue after death, I definitely want to be done with this one.
Wednesday, January 23, 2008
Now some scientists are saying observations of the universe expanding and accelerating away from us are a signal that the universe is about to flip. When that happens, blip, the time dimension is out-a-here.
And you thought it just seemed like time was passing faster than it used to.
Which also accounts for why I really don't have enough time to vacuum.
Tuesday, January 22, 2008
Buttercup told us she had the opportunity to buy a video business. What did we think? Netflix, over 90,000 selections without ever leaving your comfy chair, we said, it’s hard (because we were being gentle, we didn’t say impossible) for an independent bricks and mortar operation to compete.
But I want a person I trust to tell me what's good, she said, dismissing mail-order movie rentals all together, I would never rent a movie without recommendations.
Point taken. The idea of 90,000 choices might be a tad too many for Buttercup.
It's easy for me to see the repeating pattern in Buttercup's life, but in mine? Surely not. Surely I'm making my decisions on the facts, m'am, the present situation, not on some mental quirk I picked up while scrambling for a foot hold years ago.
Monday, January 21, 2008
I don’t like to watch movies I haven’t already seen. I don’t like surprises.
He: I wonder what happened to Peter Cushing. He was looks like he was in his 40s in the 60s, and looks like he was in his 70s in the 70s.
Me: (so I had the computer open…hard as it is to believe, even Kung Fu vampires from the premier British producer of cheesey horror don’t capture my complete attention, therefore I can check Wikipedia very quickly.)
Wikipedia: Peter Cushing (May 26, 1913-August 11, 1994) “In 1971, Cushing withdrew from the film Blood from the Mummy’s Tomb when his wife died. …He and actress Helen Beck had been married since 1943. The following year, he was quoted in the Radio Times as saying, “Since Helen passed on I can’t find anything; the heart, quite simply, has gone out of everything. Time is interminable, the loneliness is almost unbearable….”
Sunday, January 20, 2008
Over the years, mostly plastered to my side, Spunky lost most of those teeth, gained a little weight and some confidence. She took to snarling Sugar up when she could, Spunky perched by me on the couch, Sugar dancing and prancing and ignoring her from the floor. This could go on for weeks, months even, until Shug had enough, usually over some bit of food, then it was all bring-it-on-Sistah, and dogs leaping in the air, gum gnashing and air biting until my husband or I could separate them. We would grab Spunky in our arms and toe Shug to back down. Often Spunky would be broken for days after.
During the last bitch-snapping my husband was able to grab Shug and move her out of the gum line of fury. Everything calmed down, but then we noticed a strange phenomenon. Spunky thought she had WON. She was now Alpha. Even stranger, apparently Shug thought so, too. Who knew?
“The changes you can cause when you don’t understand the underlying cultural structure,” my husband lamented. He was lamenting because we all quickly tired of Spunky as Alpha Princess. Where Shug knew her place in the world, and had always held it, she could allow minor infractions until she was having an off-day, and had to set some dog in her place. Spunky, though, had always feared the terror of power and craved it for herself. Now Spunky is constantly speaking to Shug about how things are supposed to be, growling and barking, sometimes to the point we can’t even hear ourselves telling her to SHUT UP.
Recently we were on the couch, eating and watching T.V., the dogs gathered round for their little bits. Spunky went into her I-Am-Boss-Of-You frenzy, snarling and lunging across my plate at Shug. “You did this!” I finally yelled at my husband. “Just PICK HER BUTT UP.”
Friday, January 18, 2008
What Elizabeth has for dogs, I have for old ladies, which is how I ended up with some responsibility for a great-aunt who has had a major talent for driving folks batty. A life long habit, carefully honed over eighty-nine years. I have proven no exception. Did I tell you she never acknowledges what I do for her, but often blames me for the loss of her life before the nursing home, while extolling the virtues of the good nieces, the rich nieces, the way-out-of-town nieces? (These nieces are great women. I happen to like them a lot myself. Still, I'm here. They're not.) I am fairly thin-skinned and over the past year, I’ve often felt what skin I do have is being ripped off. It has made me very cranky. When one of my friends, knowing the upheavals my great-aunt had been through, said, “Bless her heart,” I snarled back, saying, “You’re blessing the wrong heart. I’m the victim here.”
You might ask why I am doing this? My husband has often asked the same question, but has come up with his own conclusion about me: See a windmill and she shall tilt. My reasoning is that there is no one else to do it. That, and there must be some cosmic lesson I am supposed to learn from all of this. That, or I need to develop a thicker skin for my next incarnation.
I was particularly dreading the day I had to requalify her for Medicaid. Medicaid has stringent requirements, including keeping receipts for everything, and she had insisted on handling her own finances this past year, and a few things were totally screwed. Also Medicaid was requiring documentation from her bank that her bank said they could not legally provide. The night before this auspicious day, my dog kept me awake for hours. By morning I hated her—my great-aunt, not the dog. My dog likes me.
This was not the feeling I wanted. A tiny thought came to me. I would spend the day being an emissary of God. Don’t ask me what God is, because you know It’s All and Love and Is, and being God’s emissary, that’s a pretty spiffy position. And there’s more. Not only was I God’s emissary, everyone I talked to was also God.
I was batted between great-aunt and nursing home and bank like a badminton birdie, but I just sat back and enjoyed the show because God’s emissary is powerful. You don't make the rules, so you're not responsible for making things happen. You just have to be present. Plus, you are there to represent God and you wouldn’t want to show Him up in a bad light. And the person across the desk or the room? That’s God, too, talking to you. God is on your side, so it’s best to listen instead of making waves.
The day went like butter. Bureaucrats and clerks jumped hoops to help me. I also had time to have lunch with a friend, take her shopping and get back to my own town in time to get my car inspected for a road trip the next day. Everything that needed to get done got done, and when I stopped by for the last time to speak to my aunt, she was prattling on in her batty way about better nieces than me when she paused, looked at me and said, “I really appreciate everything you’ve done for me.” I’m an approval slut. I loved it. By the time I reached my own little house, I was floating on the beauty of one glorious day.
Now this I know. Being an emissary for God worked on this day, and I wanted it to work always, but I know enough to know very quickly it would just become a ritual to ward off evil, a magic trick, not a resting in the heart of God. Still, the day after the Medicaid mission, I was in the car, going to the big city with another old lady (old being at least twenty years older than me). She was being difficult about some minor point, adjusting the car seat, or where we would eat lunch, when I looked at my friend and remembered I was God’s emissary. Suddenly love flowed from me to her, love and more love building, a river of love, an ocean of love, a universe of love, an eternity of love. It didn’t seem to be of me, but instead moving through me, and washing me as it flowed. At that moment I relaxed. I was officially off-duty and really happy.
Emissary of God. Great job. Terrific benefits.
Tuesday, January 15, 2008
Okay, Eat Pray Love by Elizabeth Gilbert is one of those books that make me feel like beating everybody over the head with it, all the while yelling, READ THIS BOOK. No, not after you finished the one you just started. Now. Well, I don’t know about my born-again Christian cousin, I might just have to sidle up to her and whisper, have you read this book? If you have read it, I want you to talk to me about it.
It’s rare for me to find a book that reads completely right to me, but Eat Pray Love is one of them. Elizabeth Gilbert has been a seeker for the heart of love all of her life, all the while creating her own form-world path in order to pay the bills. After a bad divorce and a bout with depression, she strikes out on her own to explore first pleasure in Italy (which involves a lot of gelato and pasta) and then spiritual devotion in India (where she experiences transcendence), finally traveling to Bali to balance the two.
When Keetha practically begged me to read Eat Pray Love, I thought it was going to be something less rigorous than I required from my spiritual reading, but I bought it for my niece for Christmas. Keetha is a good reader, and young, so I thought it might be a young person’s read. But then on impulse I bought it for myself for Christmas, one of those stocking stuffers Keetha also goes on about. Still, it took me another month to read it.
Folks, I am begging you to read this book. All the way through it I carried on a dialogue with Elizabeth (I do feel we are on a first name basis) and first one friend and then another. I was talking to myself, of course, and felt close to fainting more than once at the rightness of what I was reading.
Elizabeth talks about life’s metaphors, and I believe this book contains many of them. No matter what your religious convictions or nonconvictions may be, this book will speak to you. If it doesn’t, you might want to let some defenses down, and laugh a heck of a lot more. And maybe eat a lot more gelato. Though we might not leave home, we are all on a journey of discovery, and deserve to give ourselves the love, kindness and courage that Elizabeth found has always been available for her, within the fabric of her being.
While you are at it, you might want to check out this essay on writing here.
and from you tube:
What are your inspirational sources for living?
Monday, January 14, 2008
More trees removed in our tree-depleted neighborhood? He liked the gym? He had been fired?
It was the last we spoke. The wife spotted me walking my dogs and glared. I felt like an instant enemy though we avoided her yard assiduously, and my dogs never jumped their cat. I saw the daughter in her mother’s car maybe twice. The man, when I did catch his eye, smiled a poop-eating grin, like saying hello to me was something he had been given orders against. He drove a big manly truck and had a motorcycle that he often used, too. The truck he parked in the side drive and the motorcycle lived under the front carport, next to the decorative baby cradle.
He had gone right to work, hauling out rotten lumber and sinks and toilets, filling the rubbish pile with paint cans and strange pipes and building debris. The place buzzed with activity. The work never stopped. The rusting shed in the back yard was carted away, rotting gutters were replaced, and true to his word, trees were cut, including the wonderful tulip tree in the front yard, the stumps ground into pulp. The house was painted an unfortunate celery green, and the shutters a flat black that was almost purple. All of that work to the house, and most of it that I could see I thought was unfortunate.
Before the paint had time to dry, a For Sale sign went up in the front yard. At some point the truck and the motorcycle and baby cradle had disappeared. The wife’s car continued to come and go, but we did not even pass enough to avoid eye contact. The car was now parked under the carport, next to the kitchen door. I no longer saw the cat or the girl, though as I said, the girl had been pretty much invisible.
One day the For Sale sign was lying on its side. Sometime last week, it was gone. The truck is back. I haven’t seen sign of either the motorcycle or the cradle it used to share the carport with, though yesterday I spotted the cat lurking behind the garbage bins in the church parking lot.
Saturday, January 12, 2008
Personally? Halloumi is pretty darn good, but if I’m going to sin, I choose a plate full of cornmeal-breaded fried catfish with a side order of turnip greens. Caught, cooked and cleaned up by someone else.
Friday, January 11, 2008
But listen. Last night I started reading a new book: Eat, Pray, Love by Elizabeth Gilbert. Keetha recommended it so highly last year I bought one for my niece for Christmas, but did not read it myself. It didn’t actually sound like my kind of spiritual book.
It is. Forty pages into it, I am already ready to read it again. I don’t know if it holds up, but I’m at the stage I want to tell everyone. So I’m telling you.
Tuesday, January 1, 2008
What I discovered I liked best about striking out on my bicycle was that the farther I got from home, the more interesting and unusual my thoughts became. I discovered I could think things in a new landscape that never would have occurred to me at home or in my own well-traveled neighborhood. I was just a boy, of course, and my thoughts were those of a boy and, as such, probably no different from the thoughts of thousands of other boys my age, but they were new to me and seemed as strange and unaccountable as the recent transformation of my body, which now required new shoes every few months. My mother had recently taken to buying my pants several inches too long, cuffing them thickly, then slowly letting them out as I grew. When I set out on my bike, it was usually with a sense of anticipation, not just that I might discover something new, like a cave in Whitcombe Park,or someone new, like Gabriel Mock Junior, but also I might think something new and unexpected, as if I were letting out my brain, its thoughts, much as my mother let out my pants’ cuffs. And when returning home from my travels, I had the pleasurable sense that I was a different boy from the one who’d left and half expected my parents and neighbors to notice the change.
But also this. If setting out into the unknown was thrilling, so, in a different but equally strange way, was coming back. I almost never rode home directly and instead wove a route through all the streets of our East End neighborhood, taking inventory of the houses and sheds and chain-link fences to make sure nothing had vanished or been swallowed up by the hollow earth while I was away, that everything was in its correct place, as if to reclaim all of it as my own. It occurred to me that I was just becoming a route man, like my father and Mr. Marconi and like Bobby on his paper route, leaning how intense the pleasure of the familiar can be, how welcome and reassuring the old, safe, comforting places of the world and the self.
Years ago, my friend and I made acquaintance of an Iranian student. He had been studying in America, but he missed his country and its demure women and conservative ways. He would never change, he vowed, sitting in that Raleigh bar, talking to two unknown American women. “Yes,” my friend said, “but you have already changed. Now you can never have not been to America.”
As much as that was whiskey wisdom, it is also true. Once you have been to America, whether you like it or reject it, you have changed. The experience will be with you always. When you change your thoughts, when you change your mind, the world changes. And that’s Genuine Foreign Adventure, no matter how it occurs, and even if we return, grateful for a place we call home.