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The Passive Aggressive vs. the Just Plain Aggressive

I have a friend who has spent many years getting very good at a martial art. I am not sure which one. I mix up basketball and football – so if you want any kind of honesty in reportage I can only say, it’s one of the ones with kicking and belts.

 

We once had a conversation where I asked her how she got started with the martial art. She explained that at first she was just interested in learning some skills for self-defense. I asked if she felt like she had them. She replied, “I do. I mean, I haven’t tested it, but I think I could probably defend myself.”

“What would you do?” I prodded.

“I’d [something with kicking and belts]…and you know, call for help. What would you do?” she countered.

“I’ve actually thought about this,” I replied. “I’d tell the guy that someone I love had just died and that I had been horribly abused as a child and that he could never really hurt me.”

She laughed and when she realized I wasn’t joking, said, “Wait. While he’s attacking you?”

“Sure,” I continued. “I mean, I’d just let him know that he doesn’t have power over me…”

“Because you’ve been hurt worse by life?” she asked smiling broadly. I thought that sounded pretty good so I said, “Yes. Exactly.”

“So, basically if you were attacked, your method of counter attack is to guilt your attacker into leaving you alone?”

“I don’t know,” I shrugged. “I mean, you’re supposed to let them see you as real people.”

“But you wouldn’t be real,” she insisted, “you’d be lying. I mean, nothing about your strategy seems like it would be very effective.”

I don’t know how this conversation ended but unfortunately it wasn’t with a Karate lesson.

Because this morning as I walked my two dogs, I came upon two school crossing guards. They smiled at us as we made our way toward them, and inevitably I smiled back. All of a sudden I heard someone go, “Who do you think you’re smiling at?”

I didn’t see him at first. It was a kid, probably 14 or 15 years old. He was shorter than me and wearing big Princess Leia earmuff headphones. The initial thought that flitted through my mind [in, apparently a British accent] was, “Why, these nice ladies crossing all the happy elementary school children! That’s at whom I’m smiling, young man!”

But even before I finished thinking it, the kid had punched me in the head – just behind my ear. My hat flew off into a bush. My teeth literally rattled – so now I get the meaning of that expression. Then the kid turns to the two kindly crossing guards who were staring at him with alarm and goes, “You want some of this too?” and did the tough-guy hands in, elbows out chest thrust.

The women were about sixty. I was wearing rainbow pants. I don’t think any of us wanted this or that.

He walked away as one of them said disapprovingly, “No, son, you just walk on.”

I waited a minute as the three of us sort of looked at each other, rendered mute by the strangeness of the incident. I put my hat back on and kept walking.

We were next to an elementary school and there were about 6 moms pushing strollers, 4 dads piggy backing children and about twenty school kids now separating me and Punchy.

 

The offending (offensive?) Rainbow Pants.

I was going to turn at the next block because I didn’t want to trail behind him and his bad attitude. But before I reached the corner he spun around and threw his hands up over his head like I was coming after him, ready to throw down in my rainbow pants and goes really loudly over the throngs, “Want me to kill you? Because you don’t want to fuck with me!” and parents are looking around wondering which 6 year old, elderly person or puppy the guy was talking to.

Suddenly crippled by a vision of the kid flying back through the crowd and punching me and kicking me despite our audience, I turned briskly and kept walking up the street. I started to cry.

So now, crying, I’m walking home thinking about all the things I should have said to him, all the ways I could have explained that he could never hurt me because I’ve. Seen. Things. and how I understood that the only way he could feel seen was by punching and yelling out in a crowd. I thought about, as my sister later put it, finding his parents for a quick kudos to them. I thought about embracing him for all the people who should have but didn’t love him, or fuck that,  martial art-ing him into a tree, a cop car, or even guilting him into believing that he’d just punched someone who’d recently been returned by pirate kidnappers. I thought about him – and what I should have done to him – all day.

After I ate breakfast with old friends, I walked out of the restaurant thinking, “I got punched today.” After buying a water, I thought, “I got punched today.” On the subway I looked around and wondered, “Who else got punched today? Who gets punched? Who punches a stranger [in rainbow pants]?”

I came home and half worked, half stewed, half zoned out. I am not physically injured. I am clear that I had nothing to do with this morning’s attack and that I am fine – if a little rattled, and frankly knowing Jiu Jitsu wouldn’t have helped me even if I had a black belt. Nothing would have. My head was the closest thing to a person’s fist in a moment he needed to freak out and punch something.

But I think, just for kicks [and belts] maybe I’ll check out the martial arts.



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Uphill After an Ice Storm Without Ice-Storm-Appropriate Footware

 

Tomorrow, an article is coming out about my family and our gene written by an amazing investigative journalist – but I’m not supposed to tell you who it is – like that time I was on the Ricki Lake Show and I couldn’t tell anyone because they wanted it to be a secret. (That show got canceled. I see no lessons have been learned.) On Sunday I am giving a Tedx Talk at the TedXGowanus about my family and what it means to be a founder population for a one-in-a-billion mutation.

 

I’ve been trying to get a platform for this story for 5 years – as anyone with a rare disease will tell you – because my sister and I are in the fight of our lives for resources and attention. But this moment in time (and also yesterday’s blizzard) has me thinking about something that happened to me almost 20 years ago. It feels almost like it was a parable that was designed for exactly this moment.

It begins with an ice storm – 

I was going to college in Boston, which is where many of us first become familiar with the weather condition known as the “ice storm.” At the time of this incident, I knew about ice storms, enjoyed photographing the way the light glinted off an ice-encased tree branch or walkway, and generally liked when they warranted a snow day in particular because of an ice-encased walkway. So I was not, in this moment, uninitiated.

Tufts University: The offending pathway is to the left of these very steps.

On this brisk afternoon, I was making my way across campus. I know I wasn’t wearing ice-storm-appropriate footwear because…well, hang on…we’re getting to that.

My footwear was not a vanity selection, because I am a lot of things, but vain-about-my-footwear is not one of them. Chances are, I had opted for whatever shoes were not covered in my collegiate hoarding problem. Seriously – ask college friends – there had to be dead cat carcasses under that mound of clothes, mostly-empty food containers and pre-internet papers –  in 20-year-old Joselin’s dorm room.

Eventually on my walk, I arrived at a sort of crossroads: The gateway at College Avenue, across the street from the Engineering Building. I lived around the corner from these steps, to the right. Now, this gateway possessed three pathways. The main one took you down a wide set of campus-regulated de-iced steps to a broad, double-doored gate at its bottom. To either side, narrow cement pathways lead down, each to its own single gated doorway.

I always took the path to the right because it saved me fifteen steps getting home and to a heavy pot and cigarette smoker, those fifteen steps are meaningful. On this day, in those shoes, I should have made a different choice. I should have taken the marginally de-iced central pathway. But instead I made what will heretofore be known as:

Awesome Decision #1.

As I took my first treacherous step down the icy passage, I could not yet know that all hell was about to break loose in my just-post-teen-years, like Dylan breaking up with Brenda for Kelly on 90210, except on ice and without kissing.

The good news for my late-adolescent humiliation spectrum was that I was basically alone. There wasn’t anyone around. Classes that hour had not yet ended when I slipped on the path for the first time, then slipped a few more times getting up again. But eventually I figured out how to use the momentum of my slipping to at least careen in the right direction. I was so completely focused on the ice immediately in front of me, that I didn’t notice, as I slipped and fell and slipped getting up only to fall again, that the gate at the bottom was shut…and locked…with a chain.

This is roughly what I looked at the time, except in a puffier coat.

As I stood staring at the locked gate – there to warn people who might think to walk up – that the path was in fact frozen and unnavigable (thanks for the heads up!), I was near tears.

I had two choices. I could climb across to the central gate, but that would involve scaling ice covered bushes and eventually a brick wall to get onto the steps and out the main gate. Or I could climb back up the path from where I’d so recently – and daintily – fallen.

I decided to climb back up. A decision we will now call:

Awesome Decision #2.

To be clear, there was no climbing. “Climbing” invokes an image of a body, nimbly hoisting oneself using the actual muscles of the miraculous human form. I was crawling. And mostly completely at the mercy of ice and gravity. So like, up an inch, down a foot.

Now, this would have been fine, or at least a mere tree-falling-in-the-woods personal koan, if classes could have stayed in session for like the rest of the day. I would have continued my slow and steady momentum, unfettered. But then a literal flood of biblical proportions made up of an entire student body appeared from every direction.

So, I did what any cool kid would do. I stood up and pretended like suddenly all the ice had melted and I was going to get back to the top of the hill like a civilized human being. One foot in front of the…WHOASHIIIITTTT!!!!

So, now, this nightmare is suddenly happening – with an audience. I am slipping and clawing and occasionally shouting out expletives beyond my physical control. I am praying that I don’t break anything as I eat pavement to both my left and then to my right. I pray that I don’t cry and that no one asks me if I need any help. Actually, mostly I just pray, probably out loud, that no one notices (that Jerry Lewis is performing some physical comedy to his or her immediate right). But I am not invisible. So everyone notices.

Not to put too fine a point on my metaphor but up until now, my family has been slipping up our own icy medical pathways and falling back down again in relative privacy. So it’s scary.

Going public is really scary.

Eventually I literally crawled my way back up to the top of the path, hands and knees, and the silent admonishment of my peers – or maybe it was their silent glee – makes me in turn horrified that this actually happened, and also (thankfully) on occasion, deeply, deeply amused.

So, I shook myself off without meeting a single eye and paraded casually down and out the main gate.

I did what I thought I had to do to get home that day. And I made it home. No broken bones, no permanent scars. And a funny little inside joke I have with myself (and now you, person who accidentally got tricked into reading this blog). It wasn’t graceful. It wasn’t cool. But it makes me wonder, if I had asked for help that day when I really needed it, would I feel better about it having happened…or worse?

I don’t know.

I guess I’ll have to get back to you… 



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New Jobs for People Who Say (With a Straight Face), “I’m a Writer”

What we think we do.

Today at the dog park this happened among a group of hipster-types and I overheard it (because I don’t have friends at the dog park, I am just creepy):

Girl: What do you do again?

Boy: I’m a writer.

Girl: Oh? What do you write?

Boy: I write for a blog, you probably haven’t heard of it…mumble mumble.

Other Girl: What do you do?

Girl: I’m a writer. You?

Other Girl: Yeah. A writer.

If we had been in like Wapakoneta or Poughkeepsie, this would have been a huge coincidence (spelling challenges aside). I mean, what are the chances? Not only are the three people actually having the conversation writers, but the weird stalking chick overhearing the conversation is as well!

But this is Brooklyn. You seriously can’t throw a stone at 9AM on a Monday at the dog park without thwacking someone who just spent an hour begging someone at Gawker to take a piece on How The Kardashians is the The Truman Show – and poor little Kardashian offspring because they are owned by corporations…etc.

And that’s what’s weirder, who the hell is paying/not-paying all of us? Because not a day goes by when I’m not asking another of my “I’m a writer” friends how the hell you monetize this shit. So if we’re all doing it, how is that possible? And if we’re not really doing it, how is that possible?

Because, let’s face it, what writers do, EVERYONE can do. And the truth is (brace yourself) it doesn’t even really matter if we do it. No one’s going, “Seriously Jos, if you don’t finish your Love-Story-In-the-Style-of-Bridget-Jones, what will we EAT??” And as far as reporting the news or commenting on our culture – well, here I am. Reporting. Commenting. How’s everyone feeling? Can I get a Whoot Whoot from the bleacher seats?

What we actually do.

I don’t want to say it isn’t possible. That there isn’t room anymore for the lowly writer. In fact – if only writers had a little gumption, they could build a whole new enterprise out of their dog park networking.

A career in writing ain’t what it used to be – says the toothless person whisking the cake batter with a fork. The age of the writer is no longer red lipsticked and stepping off a two engine plane in the middle of a war zone. It isn’t selling out to Hollywood or writing features for Vogue. So what is it? What is the new writer Right Now? I don’t think it’s anything. But WHAT COULD IT BE?

Well, let me tell you – other person besides me reading this one-of-a-bazillion-Brooklyn blogs. Let me tell you:

1. Media Troll*

Media is moving in this direction: Websites like Huff Po vet a whole bunch of writers and “experts” and allow them to post (for no pay) under their umbrella – whenever they want. These blog-like journals share insights into whatever that writer/expert is equipped to discuss. They are only minimally edited and never fact checked.

So how can a writer make a buck? 

Troll that content – especially the items that gain a lot of solid traction and build a bigger article! If a post is lacking a particular POV or worse, is blatantly incorrect, YOU write it, you fix it. Make that your thing. Do it every day until you have a sale-able body of work. Then pitch yourself as the Media Troll for a larger media outlet. Or see if they’ll hire you as a freelance Media Troll. Maybe wear a costume.

2. A Brave New Reporter

Back in the day, a reporter covered a “beat” – in fact the whole world was separated into beats – from the Middle East to the Lower East Side. A beat was your area of interest – a neighborhood, a branch of government, a facet of society – and as a reporter, you looked into or attracted stories about that specific area. Today, the people who best cover beats are the people who are actually in the beat – in other words, teachers cover education, people in Harlem cover Harlem, staffers cover government. The reason is simple – Technology. A reporter used to have to show up with a camera and a notebook and prove a thing was happening. Today, everyone just pretty much stands around tweeting it.

So, what’s the new job of a reporter?

The fruit of our labor.

Get a beat. Okay – it’s actually the old fashioned thing. But seriously, since no one really does it, make yourself an expert. Every day write up something about a specific place, thing or ideology and eventually you will be the expert on that place, thing or ideology. Your blog will be called “This Specific Place, Thing or Ideology” and it will be a resource people will pay to have access to. You can allocate literally one hour a day to this thing – especially if you live close to it or have dealings with it on a regular basis. As long as you are looking outside your living room and outside the interweb, people will respect you for getting the f#$% up off the couch. Seriously.

3. Series Writer- or Serious Writer (because they sound alike)

In the olden days someone would hire you, a magazine or a movie studio or a TV show and you would write shit for them in a serial fashion. Like, every week or day or month you would give them more info about a group of characters (Friends) or the public at large (Dear Abby). Today, there is a dearth of loyalty in the biz and basically everyone is looking for the next new thing (Thank you, Lena Dunham).

So how can you monetize your ability to keep writing about the same bunch of people over and over?

Write it. Even if you were once the writer on a TV show, unless you come up with another TV show, you are probably worried about moving back in with your mother. So write the new TV show right now, after you get home from the dog park. And if that one doesn’t take, write another one. If you are more of an Ask E. Jean sort of girl, start up an advice column on Facebook or Twitter or on a blog and then try to sell that to someone with money. (Seriously, try to sell a column about alumni to your alumni magazine! These outlets are paying large sums of money for content. This is not a joke.)

4. The Next Fiction Writer No One Cares About Specifically, But Generally, They Care

Back in the day, you sold a book to a publisher who then really worked to sell, not just the book, but the writer. Once you had a following, your second book came out, and so on. Today, you do all your own promotion and then keep hustling for your next deal which is completely unrelated to your first deal – even if you made the publisher some money. They are always looking for the next new thing (Thank you, Lena Dunham).

So what can you do to make money?

Self publish. Are you still hesitating because McGraw-Hill has a big building across from Rockefeller Center with its name on it? Or because you think you will be like the Yanni of literature if you do it yourself? The truth is, you will be the only writer making money if you publish on Amazon or any of the other sites I can’t name off the top of my head because I keep letting publishers publish me for no money because I think this gives me street cred. (It doesn’t. And I need a new jacket.)

Writing is hard.

5. The Sell Out Who is Also Fashionable

Everybody who is eating and also has a summer home has done this. You want to do it. You just don’t know how. So here’s the tip, ask someone you know with a job if they want to hire a writer to do all of their company’s on-brand blogging, social networking and even website branding articles. Then you tell them that you will do it for them for free for one month if – afterwards, they will pay you $5,000 per month.

Then after your ONE HOUR A DAY JOB, write On the Road and shut the fuck up. 

The biggest problem with writers is that we are terrible self-promoters, and lazy. But there is hope. Because unless those three people in the dog park are trust fund babies or married to bankers, there just has to be hope!

But yeah, they are totally trust fund babies and married to bankers…I know…

 

*I have written up a few job ideas for writers and cleverly named them.

 



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Naming Things: If Lassie had been Named Buzzkill And Why My Illness Doesn’t Have A Name

The first thing I did when I began my blog is I named it – because that’s what people do. They name things. It’s how we organize and order them. Names, out of the gate offer clues into what a thing is. Right? Like whether it is living or inanimate (a “plant” vs. an “appliance” for example). Whether it is male or female (“Suzy” the cat, rather than “Jonathan” the cat). Names are associations, clues and a first-foot-forward. Impressions are of course also made up of appearances – say you run into a guy wearing a 3 piece tux and a little salt and pepper in his side-burns. You might decide this guy is somebody. Then when he shakes your hand and says, “It’s a pleasure to meet you, my name’s Gypsy Taco,” your whole impression changes – especially when you realize you are standing on the Coney Island boardwalk at 7AM on a Tuesday.

Names are important like that.

When I named this blog, “By Any Other Name Would Smell” I had this idea that all the entries would in some way refer back to names and naming things. I don’t think I have overtly lived up to this intention. But I have actually considered and maybe even said out lout in earnest after a few glasses of wine and a hit of pot that when you think about it, dude, writing words is basically the naming of things without having to talk about naming them, so…like…What were we talking about?

Anyhoo, we named our first dog Dee Dee Ramone because frankly, she resembled the Ramone’s bass player of the same name (See the pics below: Right? Uncanny.) Our second dog arrived with the name Denzel. He is a Rottweiler-mix, and the idea of a couple of white people calling out “Denzel” to their big black dog on the streets of Brooklyn  just felt wrong. So we changed his name to Orson. Now everyone goes “As in Wells?” when I tell them his name. Last week I would  shake my head no and tell a whole story about how I wanted to name him Ender after a really great character in a 1980′s sci-fi book. But my husband was all, “Ender? Are you high?” So I agreed to Orson – after the writer of that book, Orson Scott-Card.

I knew Orson Scott-Card was a Mormon conservative. But I like his fricken books, okay? I am the first person to change my profile picture to an equals sign in a pinch, or smile at the sight of naked people marching anywhere with rainbow flags. I dance at gay weddings. I only vote for gay-loving politicians. But Ender’s Game is one of my favorite books. It just is. And I’m not alone. The thing won the Hugo. I’ve since read about 6 other books by the man, and I think he is a major douch-nozzle that should stick to fiction and not speak. But I named my dog after the part of him that is a great writer.

And names are important. When I named my dog I wasn’t anticipating the political fallout over a movie I didn’t even know at the time they were making (but I am so so happy they are making it. There I said it. #FirstInLine and then I’ll come dance at your gay wedding…)

Every time people go, “What’s the name of your illness?” (because lately people know there is an illness) I go “There is no name,” and this is also a problem. In some ways this is a bigger problem than even a black dog owned by white people in Brooklyn named Denzel. The lack of a name means there is no point of reference, no initial clue, no consensus on what this is. And worse, there is no introduction, no, “Hi, my name is Cystic Fibrosis, what’s yours?”

My friend Amy is pregnant and we have already spent a lot of time talking about the name of her unborn baby. I have spent even more time thinking about the name of her unborn baby on my own. Because I really like naming things. I like the order that comes with a name.

But naming an illness – a new disease – is a pretty complicated thing. I mean, the first thing you have to do is prove that in fact it is a new disease. Like, maybe it’s an offshoot of an old disease – like some exposure to a bad bacteria in your McNuggets that has caused good old fashioned pneumonia to look like liver failure without the failing liver part of liver failure. This is not actually a thing, but the medical powers that be need the people with the naming power to do the leg work.

Now, the second thing that has to happen is that you have to have a group of people with naming power. This we have. The people at the Seidman Lab at Harvard have the power to name things. But first they have to prove things – like that we don’t have morphed pneumonia. Since we have a mutated gene, the next thing is to take all the people who have the gene and make sure that they all share both the mutation as well as the symptoms. That’s easy right? Except it isn’t. Because we don’t all share the symptoms. In fact, the symptoms vary wildly. Some people have no symptoms. Some people have some but not all of the symptoms but are also 90 years old like my grandmother. The problem with this becomes the reality that because we are related our problem might be more than one mutation – we share a lot of protein sequences. Or a specific combination of genes that are causing this disease, and not simply the one mutation. In other words figuring out what the thing is causing is as important as figuring out what is causing it.

So the Seidman Lab says that they have two ways of proving that what we are suffering from is directly related to one specific off-protein in a sequence of proteins on our X-Chromosomes. 1) We mutate this chromosome in an unrelated body – like that of a mouse, or 2) we find it in an unrelated family.

What should we name you? CanYouHearMeNow? Earie? Bernadette?

A few years ago they successfully mutated the gene in the mouse but the mouse could not reproduce. I never saw him, but I heard he was a little overweight and not such a good dancer. Due to costs, they have not repeated the test. Instead they tried laying out and mapping the exome of three people in my family who are as far apart relationally as possible – so in our case that might be a great-uncle with a great-niece, or a pair of second cousins and a great-uncle. Since we are only 4 generations out from the mutation, as far as genetics go we share a very close genetic relationship to everyone – we may as well be identical twins, there will be so many genes in common. Like a person with Cystic Fibrosis in one family will have a largely different genome, other than the shared mutation for CF than someone else from a different family with CF. But not us. We’ll inevitably have a lot in common.

The genome mapping test similarly failed to prove – at least for the likes of the medicinal governing powers-that-be, that the gene was the cause of our health-misfortune. To put it in layman’s terms, it ALMOST proved it, like my doctor goes, “It’s totally the gene…” but it failed to prove it beyond a shadow of a doubt, which is what has to happen in order to legally name it.

So our disease remains nameless. So I like to call it “Darcy” – just kidding. Wouldn’t that be funny if I just turned this blog entry into things I like to call my failing body? Like “Nigel” or “One-Eye”?

My next step, as a writer and someone with access to the media (if by “access” I mean my University alumni magazine and a friend’s blog about furniture), is to go public. Like as public as I can. I will try to go more public than ever before. Write a book-public. The New York Times-public. Town cryer-public. And see if we can find a family with something similar going on in their bodies. Or see if we can find doctors who have heard of such things happening in birds they study or worms they’ve seen or catfish they’ve fried. We have to find someone who can compound the findings of the Seidman Lab and name our illness.

Then it can be published in order to begin a public discourse that won’t just help us, but will help people who are struggling with ACTUAL liver or heart disease. But it will also help us.

Today someone asked Orson’s name and after I told them they asked, “As in Wells?” I thought of the anti-gay crusader I had honored and said, “Yes. Exactly. Wells.”

Names are tricky. But they are how we identify things, how we identify each other. How we begin to form an understanding of who each of us is. They are important. And I am on a mission for a name.



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My Abdomen is the Tower of Babel – (is a weird thing to admit)

There was once a giant tower built up to the heavens and a single population of people all speaking one language. But the reigning god decided to confound people because they should not know all – and this god destroyed the tower and scattered the people and the languages around the Earth.

When I was in high school, I inherited my sister’s blue Ford Taurus which came with a Toad The Wet Sprocket tape stuck in the tape player. What this meant was, either you listened to Toad the Wet Sprocket, or you didn’t listen to anything. I mostly didn’t listen to anything. But sometimes I listened to Toad the Wet Sprocket. And eventually I knew every word to every song on that tape. And one day I couldn’t hear any of those songs anymore without wanting to flay off my own skin or scratch at my eyeballs.

At some point the car was sold or the tape was freed and I was no longer bound to that exhaustive record, but then, occasionally thereafter it felt good to replay those familiar songs. It took me right back to a very specific time and place: To being a teenager in Columbus OH, to looking for ways to dance at campus bars (you had to be 18) or drinking Mad Dog – kiwi flavored – driving in that Taurus (not together…necessarily.)

Toad the Wet Sprocket Fancy Album Cover

There was one song – “Pray your Gods” – that took the longest to truly irritate me because it had the best lyrics – which you know…let’s face it, it wasn’t Dylan – it was Toad the Wet Sprocket – they gave themselves that band name. But I really liked that song the most of all the songs on that not-necessarily award-winning record. And even now I sometimes crank it up just to sit with it for a minute.

At the end of the song a woman with a way better voice than the nasal-y lead singer starts repeating “dona nobis pacem.” Until today, I never looked up what that phrase meant. I knew it was in a Christmas song we sang in choir at some point – but in high school there was no google. So I sang it blindly, loudly, probably assuming it wasn’t declaring something about sex with animals or clubbing baby seals.

It means, “Grant us peace.” (Thanks google!)

There are two things about knowing the meaning: 1) What a nice thing. And 2) Not knowing the translation for so long but singing it about a million times in spite of the not knowing is very like me.

I have a “tramp stamp” on my lower back in a foreign language. I thought it meant “The power of the feminine.” It means “Woman,” and it’s on all the bathroom’s in China, my friend Sarah once told me. This is a mistake I would definitely make. I can’t even be mad or embarrassed about it.

So the disconnect that has become very real in my body as our family gene does it’s seemingly-unfathomable work – seems pathetically in-character. The fact is, much of what my body is doing just doesn’t make medical sense. So treatment is sort of abstract – like speaking to someone in a foreign language without accompanying facial expressions or charade-hands.

As I proactively address some of the things that are happening in my body – I am realizing that my body is mumbling. Or maybe a better metaphor is that it’s speaking Pig Latin flecked with Urdu and the clicking language – and no one understands it and vice versa.

This becomes further complicated when my doctor and I stop communicating effectively:

Me: The beta blockers are giving me very bad asthma.

Him: Try this other beta blocker.

Me: Great. So, this beta blocker doesn’t cause asthma?

Him: No, it also causes asthma.

Me: ???

Handsome Orson and Stuffed Orson. Because it's cute.

So my concern that walking had become difficult due to decreased oxygen in my muscles meant that I was going to have to go to the man in the mirror for some soul searching – see if me and my body could come to some kind of an understanding despite linguistic differences. Two weeks ago, I took myself off the beta blockers and read up on lowering my blood pressure holistically. This has lead to a two week cucumber, hibiscus tea, meditation and kiwi overload. Three times a day, every day.

Feeling really good off of the pills – well hydrated and spiritually connected – I decided to take myself for a victory lymphatic drainage massage on my right leg which is swollen and gets painful when in the heat of summer I can’t wear my compression stockings due to humidity. (This is a game of lesser evils, I am finding.)

As I lay on the table and the therapist gently manipulated my lymphatic hot spots, I closed my eyes and pictured my blood pressure slowing. I breathed deeply. I meditated on a low abdominal BP.

Then the therapist said calmly, breath into your abdomen and exhale with a “Shhh.” So I complied. We did it five times. Then she fumbled around my belly a little aggressively while I laid there thinking, “Please don’t make me have to tell you I have delicate pop-able blood vessels all up in there…” and just as I was panicking, she stopped and said, “I am trying to get your abdominal blood pressure up.”

WHAT?

So I said, “What?”

And she explained, “We are trying to pull the lymph up from your leg and we want to increase the pressure in your abdomen…” and just like that – my multi-lingual body needed the thing it needed the least. My pig latin speaking/performance art loving body. I was a living dumb modern art rendition of an upside down bathroom that didn’t make any sense. I needed low abdominal blood pressure and high abdominal blood pressure at the same time. A fallen Tower of Babel in one stupid abdomen.

The rest of the massage was standard upward rubbing. But by then I didn’t know whether to mentally lower my abdominal blood pressure, increase it or just start interpretive dancing to Pat Benetar’s Love is a Battlefield – which is one of the best, most satisfying songs to interpretive dance. Seriously. Try it.

So, dona nobis pachem. Right? Because that’s kind of all that’s left to say…



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