Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Unimaginable Things

WARNING:  Spoiler concerning The Walking Dead, up to and including part of Season 3.  You have been warned!

WARNING TWO:  Very serious/controversial subject matter. You have been warned, again.

Let's talk about post-apocalyptic sex and its consequences, shall we?

On the one hand, we suspect that in the event of a zombie apocalypse, ardor would cool, given things like fleeing and fighting and scrounging basic supplies and fearing for one's life.  (Not to mention, a possible lack of available facilities for decent physical hygiene.) There would not be a lot of time for relaxed, intimate occasions.

On the other hand, though, there would also exist a very primal need to connect with another survivor, to escape the horror of the present and to seek out a molecule or two of pleasure.  Without normal social constraints, opportunities would no doubt be taken more often than one might otherwise expect. "We might die tomorrow."  Yes, people might.  And yet, they might not.

Therein lies the problem:  unprotected post-apocalyptic sex -- like unprotected pre-apocalyptic sex -- can lead to pregnancy.

In The Walking Dead, character Lori becomes pregnant. Can we imagine what is going through her head?  She is unsure as to the father of the baby:  it could be Shane, who protected her and her son Carl when they all assumed her husband Rick was dead; or it could be Rick, who surprisingly turned up still alive. How will Rick's near death and Lori's inadvertent adulterous relationship with Shane color how Lori feels about being pregnant?  How can she consider aborting a pregnancy created with a man -- either man -- for whom she has genuine, strong feelings?

We are reminded of a conversation Herself had, eons and eons ago, with her Long-Term Acquaintance.  They were walking down a street after some soft of function.  It was after Herself and her Beloved were engaged, but before they were married.  Herself does not remember how the topic of the timing of children and pregnancy came up -- it's not the sort of conversation she would initiate.  All she remembers is her Long-Term Acquaintance saying:  "Even if you're married, if it's not a good time, you can always abort and try again later."  Herself remembers being thoroughly appalled.  The very thought of aborting a fetus conceived with her Beloved was shocking.  It was a stunningly cavalier attitude.  Herself would never consider such a thing.  It is easily imaginable that other women would feel similarly.

But what about the state of the world? How will they survive? Where can they be safe?  What kind of life will the child have? A life of uncertain span, possibly fraught with danger at every turn.

Lori obtains Plan B from a defunct pharmacy, but after taking the pills, purposefully vomits them up again before then can affect her. (Side note:  it's doubtful that the pills would have, in fact, interrupted the pregnancy. Plan B is designed to delay ovulation or hamper fertilization of an egg, but will not interfere with an implanted fertilized egg.  Given that Lori has a positive pregnancy test, she is too far along for Plan B to work.) Even assuming she had a means to interrupt the pregnancy, though, her actions show that she has chosen to continue the pregnancy.

There could have been a fascinating and impossible plot point:  what if Lori had tried, and failed, to interrupt the pregnancy?  Her character would have had to live with the difficulty and guilt of having made such a decision, and then having to adjust to continuing the pregnancy to term. That would be a tremendously complex emotional state to try to portray.  It could not be done, though:  the world is not ready for prime-time viewing of reluctant motherhood.  So much of humanity harbors the hope that every conception is ultimately embraced by a woman. The miracle of life.

Leaving aside the viewpoint of the sacredness of life from the moment of conception (and leave aside this viewpoint we must, in order to fully parse the difficulty of Lori's situation), it seems clear that pregnancy would put a tremendous strain on survival.  Even in the hardiest of women, there is additional necessary caloric input required, as well as decreased mobility and ability to take on certain tasks towards the end of the pregnancy.  The potential for medical complications -- particularly when Lori knows that Carl was delivered by a necessary C-section, which might indicate possible labor-related complications -- could be high, particularly without prenatal care.  Even if delivery somehow went smoothly, how can one care for an infant when running water, food, and shelter cannot be guaranteed on any given day?  When zombies are attracted by noise - such as crying?  An infant puts not only Lori, but everyone in the group, in a precarious situation.

And what if the unthinkable happens, as it does, and Lori does not survive the delivery?  The child will grow up motherless, if it grows up at all. The group is left with a helpless newborn and no means to feed it.  Lori has drained group resources and added a burden, and then left the group alone with the situation. Was it selfish of her to do so?  Could it have been avoided? What else could have been done?

Is the child somehow a mysterious blessing?  A sign of hope for the future, a purpose and goal for the community - to raise the baby despite the terrible situation?  In truth, that's an unlikely outcome. Not impossible.  Just unlikely. We shall see, as we continue watching Season 3 of The Walking Dead, how matters are handled.

What if Lori's baby had been an intended pregnancy in its early stages when the apocalypse struck?  Would we have looked at that differently?  I think so. Though the ramifications of a pregnancy would have been similar, the attitude would have been very different.  It is the unplanned nature of Lori's pregnancy that makes it so difficult. Irresponsible. Dangerous. A Bad Idea.

Back we arrive at the initial topic:  post-apocalyptic sex.  What have we learned?

After the apocalypse, use contraceptives.  Even if you might die tomorrow.  Because you might not.


Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Ear

Grateful am I, when I have a migraine and my washing machine has died and one hundred other mundane metaphorical ducks too minute to mention are pecking me, to have a listening ear to whom I can complain about my aching head and my wretched appliance.  Even though my brain still hurts and my laundry is still waterlogged, I feel better for having spoken my grievances aloud.  Now I can move on and tackle All The Things once more.

Someone to tell it to is one of the fundamental needs of human beings. ~ Miles Franklin

Picture copyright 2013, Mediocria Firma. Used with gratitude.

Sunday, October 27, 2013

Dream

Once upon a time
A land of milk and honey
Quiet and comfort

Hold me in your arms
Tell me it will be all right
Then, I know it will.

Saturday, October 26, 2013

Eremite

I have an immense appetite for solitude, like an infant for sleep, and if I don't get enough for this year, I shall cry all the next. ― Henry David Thoreau


Friday, October 25, 2013

Shelter Me

I felt it shelter to speak to you. ~ Emily Dickinson


Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Spindle

A mysterious bump on Elderly Decrepit Daisy Dog's leg has been growing, slowly at first but more rapidly of late.  Since we had to take her to the veterinarian yesterday to have her lick granuloma bandaged, we asked him to investigate the bump as well.  He recommended a needle biopsy just to see what is going on. We concurred. And so it was done.

Elderly Decrepit Daisy behaved beautifully.  She showed her stuffed piggy to everyone in the waiting room, and held on to it in her mouth while the vet and the technicians cared for her.  She tries very hard to be brave, even when she is frightened.

Today, we found out that the bump is a spindle cell carcinoma.

The nuts and bolts: The tumor will keep growing, probably quickly as we've seen, unless it's removed. Treatment would consist of surgical removal of the tumor and radiation (chemotherapy isn't effective for this tumor, apparently). Removal is useless without radiation. The nearest radiation clinic for animals is 300 miles away. 

We think it's clear -- even setting aside the cost, which will clearly not be small -- that putting a 13 year old, very arthritic, nearly deaf, delicately digestion-ed, decrepit dog through surgery and radiation is not the best option.

The plan right now is to do palliative care, and to wait and see how she progresses.

Alas.  

Good dog, Daisy.  

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Deliver Me

...We all need a little bit of rescuing from time to time. It doesn't make us weak. ― Carrie Jones, Need




Monday, October 21, 2013

Clemency

Forgiveness breaks the chain of causality because he who 'forgives' you--out of love--takes upon himself the consequences of what you have done. Forgiveness, therefore, always entails a sacrifice. The price you must pay for your own liberation through another's sacrifice is that you in turn must be willing to liberate in the same way, irrespective of the consequences to yourself. ― Dag Hammarskj√∂ld, Markings


Sunday, October 20, 2013

In the Department of Mysteries

Those among us who tend to be introspective and to require a significant amount of solitude can oftentimes be overwhelmed by interaction with individuals with whom we are not entirely comfortable -- our Tricky People. Knowing that as winter approaches, we will be required to interact with certain Tricky People more often than we do in the summer, we accordingly try to brace ourselves mentally. Fittingly, it is a tricky process.  How do we prepare?  

Sometimes, we replay in our heads a past difficult moment with a Tricky Person. We ask ourselves: what feelings surfaced?  We revisit the emotions so that we can be accustomed to their presence if they arise again, and also so that we can validate them in our heads and lay them to rest.

While this exercise is useful, it should be performed only in small doses.  We have learned that if we allow our minds to wander from barbs to insults and on to veiled (or naked) judgements, we run the risk of becoming lost in a sea of indignant rage.  Tiny steps, one stone at a time across the river of memory, are necessary.

If we are in danger of becoming mired in emotions of the past, we switch tactics and mentally examine a more practical route.  We ask ourselves:  in a single difficult moment, what better response could be used (instead of lapsing into piecemeal reply or confused silence, as is our wont)?  That is the more challenging task. Sarcasm can backfire, and at any rate, it is not a skill that we have mastered even remotely.  Speed and timing is essential; for far too often, we succumb to l'esprit de l'escalier.  Too late.

The hardest part is simple anticipation.  We oftentimes cannot imagine exactly (or even adjacently) what might transpire.  Perhaps it is naivet√©, or errant optimism, that causes our inability to foresee difficult moments with Tricky People. We just have to learn to bend with the flow.

Sometimes we wish we could carry around other individuals -- our Safe People -- in our pockets.  We could pull them out as needed and ask them to please address the difficult moment, so that we may see how it should be done properly.  We know, though, that we must face our Tricky People by ourselves.

All the same, we are not truly alone.  Our Safe People are always in our hearts. They ease the discomfort inflicted by the Tricky People. For that, we are grateful.

Our final preparation:  we try to clear our minds and settle our souls as best we can in anticipation of battle, and we ensure that the pathways to a Happy Place are clear and in sight in case we must momentarily retreat.  We remind ourselves: we are strong. We are brave.  Most of all, we love, without reservation and without strings. That alone will get us through.

"There is a room in the Department of Mysteries," interrupted Dumbledore, "that is kept locked at all times. It contains a force that is at once more wonderful and more terrible than death, than human intelligence, than forces of nature. It is also, perhaps, the most mysterious of the many subjects for study that reside there. It is the power held within that room that you possess in such quantities and which Voldemort has not at all. That power took you to save Sirius tonight. That power also saved you from possession by Voldemort, because he could not bear to reside in a body so full of the force he detests. In the end, it mattered not that you could not close your mind. It was your heart that saved you." ― J.K. Rowling, Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix

This Department of Mysteries picture was found here

Friday, October 18, 2013

Apoidea

Thoughts in my head like industrious bees in their hive:  buzzing, bumping, busy in their individual tasks of feeding their young or defending their territory or tending to the queen.  I sit quietly and watch them. Soon, I know, one will fly out of the nest, and we will be able to write about it.  Which shall it be?  

Help us, Muse. We need direction.  

“Biting my truant pen, beating myself for spite:
"Fool!" said my muse to me, "look in thy heart, and write.”

― Philip Sidney, Astrophel and Stella

Picture copyright 2013, Mediocria Firma. Used with gratitude.

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Come Sit With Me

We sit silently and watch the world around us. This has taken a lifetime to learn. It seems only the old are able to sit next to one another and not say anything and still feel content. The young, brash and impatient, must always break the silence. It is a waste, for silence is pure. Silence is holy. It draws people together because only those who are comfortable with each other can sit without speaking. This is the great paradox. ― Nicholas Sparks

Picture copyright 2013, Mediocria Firma. Used with gratitude.

Monday, October 14, 2013

Why You Are Magnificent, Even When You Don't Think So

We are going to die, and that makes us the lucky ones. Most people are never going to die because they are never going to be born. The potential people who could have been here in my place but who will in fact never see the light of day outnumber the sand grains of Arabia. Certainly those unborn ghosts include greater poets than Keats, scientists greater than Newton. We know this because the set of possible people allowed by our DNA so massively exceeds the set of actual people. In the teeth of these stupefying odds it is you and I, in our ordinariness, that are here. - Richard Dawkins

Picture copyright 2013, Mediocria Firma. Used with gratitude.

Sunday, October 13, 2013

Among The Rocks

We spent most of yesterday visiting Rockhound State Park. The area was peaceful, the interesting insects were numerous, and the hiking was enjoyable without being taxing.

We'd missed being outside in nature.  It was good.

Among the Rocks

Oh, good gigantic smile o’ the brown old earth,
This autumn morning! How he sets his bones
To bask i’ the sun, and thrusts out knees and feet
For the ripple to run over in its mirth;
Listening the while, where on the heap of stones
The white breast of the sea-lark twitters sweet.

That is the doctrine, simple, ancient, true;
Such is life’s trial, as old earth smiles and knows.
If you loved only what were worth your love,
Love were clear gain, and wholly well for you:
Make the low nature better by your throes!
Give earth yourself, go up for gain above!

- Robert Browning

Picture copyright 2013, Mediocria Firma. Used with gratitude.

Thursday, October 10, 2013

Sunshine

Today, we think about all the little things. 

As the years pass, I am coming more and more to understand that it is the common, everyday blessings of our common everyday lives for which we should be particularly grateful. They are the things that fill our lives with comfort and our hearts with gladness -- just the pure air to breathe and the strength to breathe it; just warmth and shelter and home folks; just plain food that gives us strength; the bright sunshine on a cold day; and a cool breeze when the day is warm.
 ― Laura Ingalls Wilder


Wednesday, October 9, 2013

Forgetful

When Herself uses her elliptical trainer, she often passes the time with one or another of various television programs on Netflix - recent examples include Fringe and Eureka.  Both of these series have had as plot points, what seem to be unexpected pregnancies for main characters.  Herself wonders:  why?

We all know that unanticipated pregnancy certainly does happen.  Yet how commonplace is unexpected pregnancy among seemingly well-educated women who have authoritative and complex careers?  Wouldn't such women be especially careful to avoid becoming pregnant unless they were fairly certain that the time was right, career- and family- and support-wise?  In this day and age (both in life and in television programs set during this time period), there are multiple methods of highly effective birth control readily available. Why would they and their partners not avail themselves?

In contemplating such questions, Herself was reminded of an ages-old conversation she had with her Long Term Acquaintance.  At the time, Herself was professionally employed and the sole breadwinner while Beloved Husband finished graduate school, and had just found out that they were expecting Offspring the First.  In discussing the good news with Long Term Acquaintance, Herself remarked that she had been surprised at how easy it had been to get pregnant.  (It had been, in fact, remarkably quick given Herself's slightly complex medical history.)  It was plain remark on the facts, nothing more.  And yet....

Days later in another conversation, Long Term Acquaintance stated that when talking with her friends and relatives about the pregnancy, she had said:  "I told them you forgot to use birth control."

What.

No.

Herself supposes in retrospect that Acquaintance had made an assumption based upon Herself's blossoming career and status as financial supporter of the family; Acquaintance couldn't fathom a pregnancy as being anything other than accidental and disseminated her opinion accordingly. As a result of Acquaintance's imaginings, though, Herself found herself in the ridiculous position of wanting to explain to various people -- near strangers -- that she had, in fact, deliberately chosen not to use birth control.  But what was the point of such a conversation?  The damage had already been done.

Although Herself knew Acquaintance's friends and relatives by sight, she did not ever communicate with them beyond brief polite conversation at rare mutual gatherings.  Now, a flock of individuals had formed an opinion about Herself based on her alleged forgetfulness/carelessness, and Herself had no way to provide her point of view or to contradict Acquaintance's remarks. In essence, Acquaintance had delivered an affront to Herself's intelligence and decision-making capacity and even to her sexuality -- a surprise public shaming at which Herself had no opportunity for self-defense.

To know that her pregnancy with her first child was tied to the seed of a falsehood in others' minds was tremendously upsetting.  Herself imagined, though, that seething in a powerless, resentful rage would likely not be good for her health or the health of the tiny bean of a human within.  She let the matter go.

She has never forgotten, though. And she knows never to make assumptions.  Ever.



Monday, October 7, 2013

1Q84

I have read this book, 1Q84. It was strange, complex, and simultaneously detailed and unrevealing. I enjoyed it, though it was sometimes a difficult read. I had not realized that the book centered around gradually revealing the feelings that two main characters had for one another and ensuring that they reacquainted themselves with one another in time.  I think that I might have read the book differently had I known so.  I inherently dislike stories that involve love in this manner.  (Mercifully, the love in 1Q84 was ultimately requited.) 

I normally avoid any form  -- written, visual, aural -- of narrative about unrequited love. I find such chronicles exceptionally painful to behold.  There was, though, one passage in 1Q84 that made me see such matters in a different light.  Perhaps I might be able to tolerate such stories now, realizing that if love must remain unreciprocated, this is the way to find meaning in it nevertheless.

Wasn't it better if they kept this desire to see each other hidden within them, and never actually got together? That way, there would always be hope in their hearts. That hope would be a small, yet vital flame that warmed them to their core -- a tiny flame to cup one's hands around and protect from the wind, a flame that the violent winds of reality might easily extinguish. — Haruki Murakami (1Q84)


Sunday, October 6, 2013

Hork

Tiny Dog must have eaten something untoward in the back yard yesterday, for she is ailing a bit today. She's been ill in such a manner before and bounced back, so it is not a grave concern; nevertheless, we're keeping a close eye on her to make sure she does not take a turn for the worse.  She is spending a great deal of time ensconced inside Herself's sweatshirt, which seems to provide her comfort. Hopefully she will be back to her regular playful self soon.

Herself thoroughly dislikes when the animals are unwell.  Sick people? She looks after them with sympathy and without a problem. Sick pets? That's a different story. For reasons she cannot enunciate, Herself finds a suffering animal to be very worrisome. She feels a visceral discomfort, bordering on (yet different from) fear. Perhaps it is a form of empathy.  And while Herself can turn down the degree of empathy she allows herself to feel towards people -- and must, lest the weight of the afflictions of humanity become too heavy -- it appears that she seems unable to do so when animals are concerned.  She jokes that she clearly must have been some form of small pathetic animal in a former life.

Feel better, Tiny Dog.


Saturday, October 5, 2013

Eight Beat Measure

I would love to be able to sing well.

Friday, October 4, 2013

I've Fallen and I Can't Get Up

Poor Ancient Decrepit Dog.

This morning, the doorbell rang, and Tiny Dog leaped up to go bark at the door.  Ancient Decrepit Dog noticed the commotion, and shuffled out to bark, too.  In her haste to get to the door, though, she must have wiped out, because when Herself arrived in the front hall, there was Ancient Decrepit all sprawled out with her feet every which way. She scrambled a bit, and then just sat, rear legs out to each side like a frog.

She was stuck and couldn't get up.

Ancient Decrepit Dog doesn't like help (and in fact growls at people who attempt to assist her) so Herself just moved one of Ancient Decrepit Dog's back legs enough to facilitate lying down, and gave Ancient Decrepit Dog a blanket.  Ancient Decrepit Dog wagged her tail briefly as if to say, "I meant to do that, I'm just going to sit here for a minute to make sure no one else rings the doorbell, I'm OK, really".  Herself left her alone to gather her strength and the shreds of her doggy dignity.  She rested for about ten minutes before she could heave herself back to her feet again; then she went to get one of her stuffed toys -- a sign that she was either happy to be able finally to get up, or slightly embarrassed about the whole thing (or, more likely, both) -- and brought it to Herself, asking to be patted.

Our hearts break just a little bit for you, Ancient Decrepit Dog.  You have your pain pills, your bladder pills, your antacids, and your special food.  You cough, especially at night, and your arthritis makes you so very stiff.  You are Old.  We wonder whether you have seen The Grim.  Your days are clearly numbered, but how many there are, we do not know.

When it comes Time, Daisy Dog, do not be afraid to go.  You will be with Thorbert.  I see how much you miss your ottoman-shaped companion, and it will be delightful for both of you to be together once more.

In the meanwhile, we shall do everything we can to make you comfortable here with us.

Thursday, October 3, 2013

Corner of Consolation

Blessed are we to know where our corner is.  

We have probably wondered in our many lonesome moments if there is one corner in this competitive, demanding world where it is safe to be relaxed, to expose ourselves to someone else, and to give unconditionally. It might be very small and hidden, but if this corner exists, it calls for a search through the complexities of our human relationships in order to find it. -- Henri J.M. Nouwen

Photograph taken whien camping in the Gilas, July 2012

Wednesday, October 2, 2013

Fameishness

Eons and eons and eons ago, the Offspring enjoyed watching Blue's Clues.  Herself did too.  There was something ever so soothing about the show -- the host Steve's quiet enthusiasm,  the kindness of the characters, the animation.  Everything, really.  Even after Steve left the show, we still had all of our Blue's Clues videos and books and toys to enjoy.  We made our own clues and had our own notebooks and put blue pawprints on all sorts of things.  And it was good.

A few years later, Steve put out a (non-Blue's Clues-related) album, Songs for Dust Mites.  The songs had many scientific references, and were marvelous and unique.  The album got Herself through some tough moments when she was facing some difficult medical issues -- the music helped her to maintain, just as she needed to do. And it was good.

Years later, the Offspring have grown far beyond Blue's Clues, and Herself's medical issues are (mercifully) addressed.  Nevertheless, the Songs for Dust Mites are still on the iPod, just in case they are needed.  Every now and then, they are.  And just today, we came across this video of Steve recounting a tale from his Blue's Clues days.  We admire him all over again -- for his thoughtfulness, his candor, and his storytelling.  It is still good.

Thank you, Steve.




Tuesday, October 1, 2013

Kummerspeck

The first day of a month is always a good point to turn over a new leaf.  And so, today we begin once anew to try to improve our habits of eating and exercise.  Time to shed the grief bacon.  Wish us luck. 

Mmmmm, bacon.