Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Canaries In The Caves

According to the New York Times, something mysterious is causing bats to die off by the thousands. Bats, who are supposed to hibernate during the winter and stay safe in their caves during the day time, have been spotted flying out of their caves in daylight, and even during snowstorms, only to fall to ground and die. Many of them are covered by a white fungus that biologists think might be a secondary effect of whatever is causing the deaths. In one cave, the population dropped from over 15,000 bats to 1,500 bats in approximately 2 years.

Bats dying is bad news for humans. Bats eat insects, and without them chowing down it's probable that insect infestations could cause big problems for humans, not just at dusk on summer nights, but to some of our major food sources. The ecosystem is so complex, there are also a myriad other consequences of a potential bat extinction of which we are not even aware. What I find even more disturbing than all of that is what the (potential) mass extinction of any species says about the health - or lack thereof- of our ecosystem, the one we live in with the bats. If things are out of balance, if there are new predators out there that are causing mass extinctions to one species, it's only a matter of time before we are affected.

Take for example the case of CA MRSA, a virulent staph bacteria that can lead to death in 1 out of 5 cases, resistant to most normal antibiotics, that used to affect only hospital patients, but is now loose in the public, affecting unsuspecting Manhattanites, among others. I have no idea how I got it, but I've realized - and become quite freaked out - by how many possible ways I might have caught it: holding the subway rail, shaking someone's hand, patting someone's arm, taking change after making a purchase, opening a door, using gym machines, etc. If you think about how many times during the course of your day you encounter someone else's skin, or an object just recently touched by someone else's skin, you start to see all the possible ways you could pick up some nasty little bacteria - regardless of how hygienic and careful you are.

As I'm still radioactive, in addition to protecting myself from new infusions of germs, I've also had to make efforts to protect my friends and work colleagues from my germs. It's been such a surprise to me how often I now have to stifle the urge to touch my friends. It turns out that I'm rather touchy-feely. I hug my friends when I see them, when I leave them, I pat them on their arms, and they do the same. Of course, now that I'm a pseudo-leper, I have to maintain my distance. I douse my hands in hand sanitizer that I keep next to my computer any time I touch something "new," and I offer my friends handi-wipes when they leave my office in the event that they have to open the door by turning the handle. Being full of germs is no fun, nor is being a germaphobe, but I'm having to deal with the former, and I think I might become the latter, as survival tool. I have no interest, whatsover, in catching MRSA again, or anything else for that matter.

But, back to the bats. Unlike us humans, they don't have handy bottles of purel that they can douse their wings with hanging from the stalactites of their caves. They don't have protection from the new micro-predators, an example of which is AC MRSA, that are developing at alarming rates, some of which, studies indicate, we humans have created with all of our anti-bacterial soups and lotions and antibiotic fed cows. Is there a direct connection? I don't know. But the fate of the bats (not to mention the fate of bees, who have been mysteriously disappearing) is certainly connected to our own fate.

Reading the article made me think of Oryx and Crake, one of my favorite books, in which one species after another died off, and humans - the ones who could afford it - were forced to move off of the toxic, barely inhabitable surface of Earth into sterile corporate space pods, leaving behind the poorer humans to scavenge among the refuse. In the book, before humans were forced to leave Earth, before things got really bad, species started to die off, and kids played a computer game based on betting which species would become extinct next.

The animals are the canaries in the coal mine. If they go, we're next.

Sunday, March 23, 2008

Before & After: Bath and Bed

In the last week - especially concentrated into the last 48 hours - I've put together four pieces of IKEA furniture, hung a wall cabinet and two mirrors, and painted my bathroom and a third of my bedroom. Lord knows I love the Swedes. They are my countrywomen after all. But, I can't tell you how happy I'm going to be once I never have to look at another one of their funny shaped "special IKEA" screws again (which, by the way, get stripped if you try to screw them in with a drill, get stuck and cause you to lose about a half hour trying to coax them out).

Although a productive Easter, I would not voluntarily repeat the experience next year. I much prefer the soothing ritual of egg-dying and snacking on mini eggos over forcing 9 feet long pieces of stubborn wood to form themselves into reluctant rectangles. But that was the crux of it: with all those boxes of pieces waiting to be assembled and walls waiting to be painted, there was no time for egg-dying. I'm so tired! And sore. Really, really sore.

Something positive, however, in addition to my new furniture, came out of the experience: Before & After pics! Who doesn't love a good make-over? Unfortunately, I still have 3/4 of my room to paint and half a wardrobe to put together because IKEA forgot to ship me all of the necessary hardware, so things are not quite perfect enough to give you the full "after" effect in both the bedroom and bathroom, but I can show you some tidbits.

Behold, one corner of the bathroom, before & after: Note the vast improvement a paint job, cabinets from Bed Bath & Beyond, and a black wicker basket can make on a girl's space for products.

Because the closet/wardrobe is still in progress (code for: lying in inconvenient pieces all over my bedroom), I can't show you that just yet. I can, however, show you my bed.

Behold, BC's bed, before & after:

I don't think the pictures do it justice, but the difference - to me - is remarkable. The transformative effects of a bed frame, as opposed to the hideous metal box spring support I've been laying on top of for the last 12 years can not be over emphasized.

Three times today, in between battling the wardrobe, I found myself drawn to my bed, fluffing up the pillows, and just laying back against my headboard, taking a load off. I never used to do that when all I had behind my head was a book shelf. I've decided I love headboards. They're my new favorite things, along with swiss coffee colored walls (I was so unbelievably sick of that lilac color).

By the way, the inexplicable something, which is considerably improved on Day-4 of what will be a 10-day course of super antibiotics, has a name. It's called CA MRSA, and it's probably in a gym or on public transportation near you, so look out!

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Inexplicable Something

I am dying today as a result of some crazy systemic bacterial infection that I appear to have picked up god knows where. It started on my hand, then my foot, and now the inside of my leg. Attractive, no?

It's alarming and slightly scary because I don't know what it is, but the most disturbing and incredibly irritating part of it is that it itches like nothing I have ever felt before. O. M. G. I have often thought that itchiness would be worse torture than pain - although that might just be because, thankfully, I seem to encounter itchiness more than intense pain. Be that as it may, I Can Not Stand Itchiness. It's terrible. I woke up every few hours last night wanting to claw my foot off.

Because my primary care physician can not crack the case, I'm off to see an infectious disease doctor. Is this not crazy? My primary care physician asked me yesterday if I had "been anywhere exotic," and the only place that came to mind was India almost a year ago. It's funny that people always assume inexplicable things are picked up abroad - and in many cases they are - but what about the subway? What about the millions of people clutching the same metal poles that I clutch, breathing into the same tight spaces that I'm smashed into, wiping their noses and coughing and no one washing their hands or covering their mouths?

Obviously, I've started carrying purel everywhere I go. It hasn't done anything for the thing I've got, but hopefully it will prevent me picking up anything else.

This is terrible! (I say, even though I know it could be worse, and - trust me universe - am very grateful that it's not).

Thursday, March 06, 2008

Patience Is Not My Virtue

I've been thinking a lot today about patience, and contemplating whether I'm a patient person. In general, I think I am fairly patient. When I'm waiting on people to do things during the course of my day, I don't get impatient or snappy. I try to understand where people are coming from, and go with the flow as much as I can. I don't expect things to be done instantly for my benefit, don't take things personally, don't jump to assumptions, and generally remain pretty even-keel.

All of that goes out the window when it comes to relationships. I do not like existing in a state of uncertainty. It freaks me out. I want to know the status of things, how I feel, how they feel, and I want to know it all right now. I don't like waiting. I really don't like waiting for communication. It's annoying and aggravating and despite myself, it eats and eats at me. I don't feel that I should have to wait, so I try not to wait. I go about my day, which is busy and filled with tons of things, and I tell myself I am not waiting. My hairdresser says, "Don't wait" like it's as easy as switching off a light switch, and I commit myself to not waiting. But, I do. That's the part that really, really irks me, that gets under my skin and squeezes my chest in a miniature vice grip. It also pisses me off at myself.

I say to my Self, "Self, do not wait. Do not care."

And my Self replies, "But I do care, and I am waiting."

And, I respond, "God damn it. Why do you have to be so freaking honest all the time?"

The other night, I picked up one of my old journals at random and started reading. I have no cable or TV at the moment, so I've had to go to alternative means to entertain myself. The journal was from 1998, in my senior year of college, when I had just come back from studying abroad and being "long distance" with my boyfriend. This is the guy that I ultimately broke up with a year after college and then for years later remembered only the great things about him and our relationship. I used him as a comparison to other boyfriends and found them wanting. In between relationships, and sometimes during, I kicked myself for throwing away something which had been "wonderful." When it came up in therapy years later, I couldn't remember why I had ever broken up with him.

My journal explained it. It's filled with entries over the course of several months starting off with, "Kai and I had another fight last night." Back then, my 21-year old self was super annoyed with Kai because he was insecure and clingy, but also acting out by not calling her. Do you know how my 21-year old self reacted to Kai not calling her? She didn't react. She noted it, got pissed about it, and then went about her way basically with an attitude of "oh well, it's his loss." She was awesome.

The same journal entries that talk about how Kai did not call the day before and probably would not call again that day because he's so annoying and predictable, mention those facts in passing and then go on to list everything else that I was focusing on at the time, like studying, working, seeing my friends, and participating on various committees. At the time, I clearly was into Kai, and I clearly wanted him to call me. His lack of calling left me feeling a little hurt and lonely, but not in an overpowering way. It was something I took note of and didn't like, but I didn't take it personally. I'm not sure I would say that my younger self was more patient. I just think she was like, "whatever, it's Kai's issue, not mine." She had things to do, and she did them while letting the saga of their relationship play out over time.

One time, Kai tried to break up with me. I remember it distinctly. We were sitting on the porch swing outside of my house. He was tense and fidgety and he was refusing to look me in the eyes. He said, quite dramatically, that he wanted to break up with me. I responded, "Kai, don't be ridiculous. You don't want to break up with me, and we're not breaking up." I was 100% convinced of Kai's love for me, and I was 100% convinced that he was trying to break up with me, not because he didn't want to be with me, but because he was scared and trying to make a self-protective preemptive strike. Silly Rabbit. He seemed so transparent and insecure to me back then. It was touching. We didn't break up until a year later, when I decided that I wanted to date other people and broke up with him.

Back then, my actions were not at all based on fear. It's questionable whether they were based on love. They were definitely based on certainty, confidence, and an absolute conviction in my own power of self-determination. I was patient because I didn't feel anxious, so I could afford to be patient. I felt completely in control. I had time to let things develop and I didn't gnaw apart my stomach waiting for things to happen. I didn't gnaw. I didn't wait. I observed, took care of what I needed to, and trusted that Kai would come around and that everything would work out for the best (in my favor) in the end.

Now, if someone "tried" to break up with me, I would be out the door so fast I wouldn't even hear it swinging shut behind me. I feel sometimes like I'm sitting on a tiny tree branch, my wings half extended in the air, ready at a moments notice to take flight. I've become the self-protective one, though I battle this and try to be honest and upfront with my feelings. I'm so much more open and vulnerable now than I ever was then, but with vulnerability comes that sense of being gnawed apart from the inside out. Vulnerability brings with it desires and expectations, feelings of disappointment and insecurity, and anxiety. It also brings with it impatience, impatience to end the feeling of vulnerability.

My 21-year old self did not feel impatient because she did not feel vulnerable. She was strong, confident and impervious to pain. She was also emotionally detached, critical and judgmental, and lacking in empathy. Insecurity in anyone used to repulse her. Between the two of us, I'd have to say that I like the more developed, mature, and sensitive me of today, then my college-age self. Clearly, however, I could take a few pages from her book now and then. Today, I think I will channel her confidence and certainty.

A boy not calling is indeed annoying, but it's about him and not me, and I have better things to do than to wait on him. Instead, I'll push it out of my mind, keep it confined to the words in this post, and move on. Things will ultimately work out as they are meant to.

Wednesday, March 05, 2008

Hillary and Obama Together?

I'm somewhat stunned, and pleasantly so, that Hillary came back and won Ohio and Texas. I'm happy for her that she's not out of the race and I'm happy for Obama that he won Vermont and still has small lead in terms delegate numbers. As things now stand, I would be disappointed if either one of them failed to get the nomination.

Obviously they both can't get the nomination, but how great would it be if they could both be on the ticket? Hillary hinted at a joint ticket earlier today. Obama responded by saying she was a "tenacious" opponent and that it was too early to start thinking about joint tickets.

If they did a joint ticket, I would be thrilled, although I'm not sure who I would want as President and who as V.P. I could go either way on that because I think it's clear that in such a scenario we would be looking at a very close-knit President-V.P. team. Of course, someone has to have the last word, and that would be the President, so I guess it comes down to who I would want to have the last word? Again, it's a draw. I like them both and I want them both to lead the country.

The big question for me is could they, on a joint ticket, beat McCaine? Or, do both of them - standing alone or together - need an infusion of something different (i.e. something more conservative) in order to beat the Republicans?