Grumpy

September 28, 2009 at 9:16 pm (Life) (, , , , , , , , )

grumpy This was my expression throughout the majority of the Torah services, Yizkor and Musaf and the beginning of the Avodah (at which point, we left).

I have realized I am not cut out to be the member of a congregation as large as this. There were well over a thousand people present. This means it is loud, people are always talking, it is hard for me to concentrate on the actual prayers and it is super crowded. There was absolutely no room for me to move during the Amidah. Someone behind me was constantly basically shoving their book into the back of my head.

Again, the rabbi felt it was appropriate to ask for money. During Yizkor. OF ALL TIMES, DURING YIZKOR. Did it ever occur to him how incredibly rude that is? People have passed away and we’re trying to say prayers for them, and you’re asking us to reach into our pockets? The man moved further up my list of Obnoxious Things And People I Dislike. This is a rather affluent community, I’m sure he could have asked for donations for Israel Bonds or their synagogue at some other point. His stories and interjections were absolutely moot, pointless.

If there is a God, S/He will not make me go back to this place. Ever. Please, please, please let me have transferred to a different school and a different community by then. I can’t deal with this again.

I made sure to email all my professors about my absence, so everything was alright on that front. I finally managed to weave my way through the automated phone system operated by TriCare in order to inquire about getting new contact lenses through someone here in the area. It seems they are willing to cover it, but I apparently still need to talk to someone back in Europe as to how exactly we want to proceed. Simple, people – I need to see an experienced ophthalmologist who can deal with eyes that have been operated on, have a high astigmatism and off-the-charts diopters. Ugh. I hate life.

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A Curious Case

September 13, 2009 at 10:52 pm (News) (, , , , , , )

By now, the news about Caster Semenya is all over the place. My main concern with the whole deal is how poorly she (YES, SHE) was treated and how much of a disgrace the IAAF and SA Sports Management have been in the matter. It is in extremely poor taste to publicly demand gender testing and then publicize the results without contacting the person first.

All I see right now is a bunch of smug people saying, “I told you so,” because they thought Caster Semenya looked “manly.” And a lot of people, like myself, who are absolutely livid about the way Semenya’s privacy was violated. Would it not occur to officials that, oh, a young woman who – as it turns out – is intersex and still a teenager might need time to adjust to the results of her testing? Homosexuals and transgender folk go through a lot of emotional turmoil trying to figure out where they stand on their issues; why should it be any different, if not even more difficult, for someone who has been harassed about her masculine appearance her whole life?

I’m absolutely tired of people basing their opinions on her appearance. So what if she has manly features? There’s plenty of heterosexual, gender-normative women who have many attributes we would describe as masculine. I know a lot of men who have very feminine features. Appearance has absolutely nothing to do with her performance as an athlete, her right to identify as the gender she feels she is, nor has it any implication to her sex. Period. It is one dead horse I wish people would lay off. Get over yourselves; it is inappropriate and uncalled for.

Semenya is not the first nor will she be the last intersex athlete. The question is, do we really have the right to take away the one thing she loves and does best – running in competitive sports? She has always identified as female, regardless of her genitals or hormone levels. Even if she does produce more testosterone than your average female athlete, she still has lower levels than a male athlete. What are they going to do, make her compete in the Paralympics? Ban her entirely? Open up an entirely different category for transgender and intersex athletes? I do not believe it would be fair to ban her from her vocation, she didn’t deceive anyone on purpose and she was abused by officials greedy for medals to be attributed to their nation, and abused by officials wishing to call more publicity to their organization. I hope to God that poor girl is compensated somehow.

I wish this would trigger intelligent discourse, but I know it will not because the majority of humankind is stupid.

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So-so

September 1, 2009 at 5:35 pm (Life, School) (, , , , , )

Another successful day. I was at the college at an exceptionally early hour, but that turned out to be okay. One of the guys came over to talk to me because he was just as early as I was. Polishing up my social skills: success! I picked up both the recordings of the pieces we will be singing in chorus this year and the soprano part, so I should be alright. I also signed up for a practice room. I only filled out one time slot, on Tuesday, but I might check back for a second because I just don’t know how much I will have to practice just yet.

After my last class, I headed over to the student services building where I picked up the form I’ll need to fill out in order to get a confirmation letter from the college that I am enrolled in the fall semester. For what I need it, I do not know, but my father requested it and so I hopped to it. It’ll cost me five bucks. I can deal with that, even though it’s like, uh, I’ll be picking it up, so it’s not like you guys are paying postage. Seriously?

I am still a little jet-lagged, but what else will you expect? I made it until 09.30pm yesterday and then collapsed into bed. I felt a little ill, so I couldn’t sleep at first. Downed a phenergan. Sleep was imminent. I have found that packing my stuff the night before allows me to sleep a little longer if I want to. I might even start laying out my clothes like an elementary schooler again if it saves me time and stress in the morning. Getting to school early saves me a lot of money because I only have to pay for the bus fare in one direction. I am also still waiting for the books I ordered to arrive. I need my schoolbooks, Amazon. I can only deal with irritated professors for so long. On the other hand, I don’t feel as though they have any right to be snappy – schoolbooks cost a fortune. Even with the discounts and the books being used, it still made me cringe; it’s no wonder everyone is heavily in debt. Jesus.

I have also started keeping a hand-written journal again. I figure it is a quaint, if slightly anachronistic, thing and that such written forms keep for a while. Who knows? Maybe my future self may need it or find it good for a laugh. If nothing else, if anything happens to me, there will be something in paper for people to hold on to. I would know that feels; Lena’s box has been in my bed ever since I picked it up from the vet because it helps me sleep better. It makes her memory feel a little more tangible, even as I hurt inside.

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Adjusting Period

July 27, 2009 at 7:13 am (Life) (, , , , , , )

On July 24th, we went in to have my sweet baby girl, Elena, put down. I hadn’t seen her since we’d brought her in on Wednesday morning. It was heart-breaking. The second she saw me, she started crying and whimpering. Her eyes had that slightly drugged-out glaze you get when you are constantly on pain killers so your existence becomes bearable. Her customary greeting dance made her even more frustrated because her body was not doing what she wanted it to.

The only reason she was sitting at all was because the vet staff had propped her up against a wall. She nearly fell over in her desperate attempt to reach me when I entered the room and settled down in her cage. All she knew was that she wanted to leave and go home, that her body was not working. Her hind legs and tail were limp, her stomach swollen from all the air she’d swallowed with her frenetic panting and the fact her bowels were not expelling anything without help from the vet technicians. It took a while for me to settle her down enough so I could prop her up onto my lap. She struggled. She thought we were going home.

She cried for the entire time I held her. Multiple times she attempted to get up and leave on her own. I managed to keep it together for most part with some brief lapses into crying. I’d tried avoiding that. I didn’t want to upset her any more than I had to. At some point, my mother joined us and took pictures because my brother had requested them. She only left for five minutes to take care of arrangements; a private cremation, paying the bill, checking to see if the vet had cleared out the waiting room yet.

The vet and the technician settled her out onto the floor. He held this absolutely gigantic syringe full of medication – my mother later told me he’d used a third more than he really needed to in order to ensure Lena’s end would be quick and absolutely pain-free. The consultation was brief. I was basically prepared. I did not, however, know how quick things went. I just watched in horror, Lena’s head in my lap, until my mom told me, “She’s going. Say good-bye now!” I ended up whispering, “I love you, I love you, I love you, I love you” over and over even when I felt her just go . . . limp. My mother says the dog settled against me in her final seconds, contentment obvious, and just heaved a sigh of relief, which was to be her last breath.

I started sobbing pretty much immediately. The vet’s face looked a little drawn, he didn’t like putting animals down any more than any normal person would. “Why did you go out and do that, you stupid dog?” I stroked her face for a while the vet checked her pupils for signs of life. I then realized how downright obscene it felt to hold the mortal remains of my best friend, that it felt like holding a ragdoll, that it was just downright freaky how just every bit of tension had left her body. Even when dogs sleep, there’s a small amount of tension in their bodies that lets you know they’re still among the living. Lena was just completely still, her eyes open and staring lifelessly. I dropped her head like it was an intensely hot object and scrambled away, then ended up breaking down as my mother held and rocked my. The vet technician was clearly hurting, too – she asked if I wanted to spend a moment with her. I think I was so distraught I ended up half-shrieking that that was no longer my dog even as she handed me a few tissues. I was hysteric. A mess. Now I wish I had taken her up on the offer, but at the time, all I wanted was to get away from that thing, that disturbingly limp semblance of my best friend.

I wound up walking out of the back room in a half-catatonic state. The back room, where the vet technicians take turns answering phones, billing and whatnot, also houses their pets when they’re at work. Three very curious, friendly noses had already greeted me as I walked through to the kennels. I didn’t have the energy to fend them off on my way out. I sat on the floor and let Lotti, the tripod doxie mix, and Madison crawl all over me in their efforts to console me. I’m not sure I would have made it through the day had it not been for those two dogs.

The vet staff was incredible. They let me sit there for as long as I needed, talked to my mother and I and were generally supportive through that intensely traumatic experience. They cared. That was a blessing.

Now the house just seems too quiet. Wherever I look, there’s something to remind me of Lena. The food and water bowl are still in the kitchen, the latter filled sometime on Wednesday when I was still trying to convince myself Lena was going to come home. Her toys are strewn throughout the house. Her leash is on the floor of my bedroom. Her bed is tucked between the wall and my bed, there is dog hair all over the floors. Lena’s ashes will arrive in about two weeks, give or take. I am still unsure as what to do with them. Part of me wants me to stop being so obsessive about this dog and just bury it somewhere, but another part of me, the one that is still hurting and probably never will cease hurting, just wants to keep them in an urn and just take them wherever I go. I don’t even know how the hell I would take an urn full of ashes through an airport. With my luck, my suitcase would be selected for a random search and they would wind up tossing everything in the garbage.

It will take some time getting used to the silence and the hurt, and the void that is left in my heart. I do feel like a part of me was ripped out, trampled on and then left for dead. Every day is a struggle to go on. The days drag by and I somehow manage to keep my shit together during the day, but it all comes crashing down in the evenings, when dark creeps in on me and takes away any bit of rationality I may have left in me. Sleeping is an ordeal. I seem to hear Lena falling to the ground and screaming every time I close my eyes. Sometimes I just end up curled up in a fetal position, hands over my ears in a failed attempt to block out the memory. I can barely drag myself out of bed in the mornings.

My mother tells me I am at that point where I am processing, solely missing. But I don’t think it’s true. I just feel numb. I keep hoping I’ll wake up and it will all turn out to be an awful, elaborate nightmare. And I’ll look down, and there she’ll be, splayed out on her side, nose and paws twitching, snoring and snorfling in her sleep. It’s hard. I wish it had never come to this.

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Life Goes On

July 15, 2009 at 7:16 am (Fun, Life, Music) (, , , , , , )

Since I am in England and this is where I can get all my health care, I decided to do the full shebang. I went in for a refill appointment last Thursday and am now all stocked up on the various medications I was running low on. Yesterday, I had a dental appointment since it has been over a year. One small cavity and a cleaning – I get the cavity taken care of next Tuesday.

The technician doing the cleaning was a lovely, bouncy young lady, maybe five or six years older than myself. Her office was covered in music paraphernalia, including an ukulele on the wall, various pictures of Elvis, some certificates of competitions she’d entered and several decorative guitar statues. Our shared love for music made for a good time.

When it was time for my cleaning, she handed me her iPod and told me to pick what kind of music we’d listen to. Navigating an iPod Touch was a little confusing at first, but I managed after a while and then settled for Lady GaGa telling her that she amused me. The technician laughed and said, considering I was majoring in classical music, that was a strange choice. “Yes, but she’s so absolutely batshit crazy that you can’t help but sort of like her. Besides, she actually has TALENT.”

We proceeded with the cleaning, all the while talking about Lady GaGa. At one point I stated I hoped her second album wouldn’t be about fame again, because it just gets tacky after a while.

“I heard she’s gone bankrupt, like, four times now!” the technician exclaimed. “How does that even work? I mean, seriously. She’s making a lot of money.”

“In that case, I suggest a cover of ‘Gold Digger’ for her new album.”

She laughed. It was probably my wittiest moment in weeks.

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I Call Shenanigans

June 28, 2009 at 1:04 pm (Writing) (, , , , )

I was rereading Shirley Darsgaard’s series last night when I came across a section in “Witch Hunt” in which the protagonist’s friend, Darci, is putting up with a MAJOR red-flag guy. Ophelia, the protagonist, notices this and immediately bitches and moans about it. Her grandmother, Abby, is supposed to be this loving mentor figure who understands everything.

And, guess what? Ophelia points out Danny’s red flag behavior and all Abby has to say about it is to the effect of, “Some men just want to be the center of their partner’s universe. That’s Darci’s problem, not yours.”

Seriously, ma’am? I get that you’re older and were raised in the Appalachians and whatever other stupid-ass excuse you can come up with. But how DARE you hold Abby up as a prime example of good female knowledgability and matronliness, and then have her say something like that?

Danny is a red flag male. He controls Darci, pushing different clothes and different beliefs on her. He tells her what to think and what to say. He tells her it’s “for her own good.” He isolates her from her friends and loved ones and forces himself on her by pushing Darci to let him move in with her after a murder occurs in her house instead of letting Darci find other real estate. That kind of behavior is a warning sign of future abuse to come, and you basically have your character green-light this because it’s “Darci’s problem”?

I call bullshit. I feel angry enough about this to actually write to the author.

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Nonsense!

June 19, 2009 at 2:15 pm (Life) (, , , )

When I was eight or nine, I got sick.

At the time, I was very independent. Sleeping with my parents was for babies. But I was so sick my dad put me into our parents’ bed because the room was fairly dark. It meant I would be able to sleep. I was running a really high fever, so high I started having auditory and visual hallucinations.

I kept hearing drum beats. Superimposed over the view of the wall, large steamrollers threatened to flatten me. I couldn’t move. I kept having visions of myself swollen, my arms stick-thin but my outer extemities, fingers, swollen and infected. I had the same sensation you get when you bite into something too-sweet and gritty, the texture sending my body into shivers and jerks. The drumming was all-encompassing and I’m sure I must have started yelling. The light coming in through the window was too bright and it allowed for unholy shadows to lurk around it. We don’t have curtains in our houses because of me, they collect dust.

I remember Papa, who worked at home at the time, waking me up. I was drenched in sweat, tangled in sheets and yet the pounding in my head was still there. It wasn’t a physical sensation, it was the actual sound of drumming. The large rollers were still at the edge of my vision. My limbs still felt alien and swollen. I kept getting those grit-biting jerks. Papa took me to the Emergency Room, where they just looked at me and said I would be fine.

I got that sensation again last night, as I lay in bed. All of the sudden, I was struck by the image of my swollen arms and the jerky shiver ran through me. Next thing I knew, I was semi-awake and responding to a text message bringing bad news.

I don’t know why I wrote this down, but it felt right.

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Braincrazy

June 18, 2009 at 1:37 am (Life) (, , , , , , )

Mental illness is a recurring theme here. My family has a history of it in various forms. I am severely unstable when not medicated and, while it makes me a little sad, I realize that this is in no way my fault. My body has a faulty configuration. I have no influence over how much or how little serotonin it produces – my medication patches up a hole in my body’s programming. I will not find out for quite some time how effective this medication is or will be in the long run; I have had too many breakdowns – episodes of major depression, if you will – that went untreated  to say how long I will be on medication.

I was told two years for one or more major depressive episodes. More than that, and a patient is never taken off the medication.

I sometimes forget how fortunate I am to have grown up in a family where, for most part, it was understood that I had little to no influence over my irrational, sometimes violent, behavior, my self-injury, my low self-esteem and my anger. It was understood that it was a matter of genetics. It was never something I had much control over – gaining even a modicum of control takes years of cognitive therapy. I have no ability to put that much trust in one person nor the strength to start over each time as I physically move away and have to find a new therapist. I am not seeing anyone right now and I am quite comfortable with this.

It’s outside of my family that the misunderstanding and the queer looks started. People do not know how to separate the symptoms of the invisible illness from the personality of the person fighting it. In the minds of the unafflicted, they merge and you, I, we become the disorder. Suddenly a nameless, looming, silent evil part of the psyche has a face. Suddenly they do not know how to treat you anymore or describe you.

And thus, we remain silent to save face. We become bearers of a stigma and feel as though we carry the plague into the unwitting masses. We are taught by others that our illness could be contagious, even when we rationally know it is not. When we are found out, we are shunned as lepers for something beyond our control.

My aunt’s friend has a severely ill daughter who was recently hospitalized for her mental issues. This friend, let us call her Joanne, had never let on how sick her daughter – henceforth Hanna – truly was. Hanna spent her first night in the high security ward under suicide watch and remained in the institution for a week. She was released on a combination of three medications, mood stabilizer, anti-depressant, anti-psychotic. I had assumed Hanna was severely depressed and had equally awful body dysmorphia. What I did not know was how she would sneak up on her mother when Joanne was brushing her teeth until she was inches from Joanne’s face, only to start screaming incoherently. What I did not know was that Hanna randomly threatened to kill herself in order to pressure her parents into pitying her. What I did not know was that Hanna’s therapist was somehow unaware of his client’s behavior and the true extent of her mental illness.

I am sad that Joanne did not feel as though she could turn to either my aunt or someone else she trusted. I know Hanna was sick; sometimes, in those rare instances when Joanne and I had a spare moment together, I would reach out. I told her my parents had almost institutionalized me at one point. I told her I, too, was ill, much like her daughter, and that it would pass if they all pulled their share. I told her Hanna would have to be ready to make changes because her parents were currently doing all the work. Medication and treatment would make Hanna better, I promised, and if there was anything I could do, I would do it. I offered to reach out to Hanna once she was ready.

My own experiences make me capable of empathy, but I also find it almost too easy to be judgmental. Hanna is deeply entrenched in her illness at this point in time. She does not see that she is acting immaturely, that her hostility will eventually wear even her sweet parents’ patience thin. I do not expect her to make sudden changes and see the light of how stupid she was acting, but I still find myself wanting to be angry about how she treats others.

I did this. I should know better.

I hope I did the right thing in opening myself up to Joanne that way. I wanted to let her know that her experience was not out of ordinary, that it happened to other families as well. I wanted her to see that, with the right help, her daughter would be alright. Most of all, I wanted to comfort someone who needed it.

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