"Who was it, anyway, invented the cool side of the pillow?"
Thirteen ways of looking
I call this raw pain. I was warned that it may be severe after today's final attempt if conservative therapy. Strong the doctor said. The literal translation of the German stark can mean severe or strong. I wonder if google translate knows the difference.
But strong means strength and this
pain makes me weak. During the days I could concentrate on all the various tests and treatments and visitors and hospital routines. At night I have exhausted the repertoire of painkillers the nurses are permitted to administer - bar opiates which I just declined again. And worse, no drip tonight. My last remaining venous access on my black and blue arms and hands collapsed this afternoon, while my left leg was still pain free and paralysed after the early morning injection into my spine.
I spent a giddy afternoon showing off the dead weight of a painfree leg to my visitors. I should have used my time better, should have slept while the pain slept.
Another night to wait, wade through all my tools and skills of distraction and concentration. Slow breathing and humming. A damp cloth to wipe over my face and hands. I would love to sit under a cool shower except - the risks, the rules. It is 2:43 am after all, at the trauma surgery ward. I have the room all to myself.
Calling on memories of floating in a volcanic crater lake, deepest black water carrying my body while my eyes follow the course of sharp white clouds in the summer sky above.
Remembering family xmas days and Sunday afternoons picking raspberries and walking along the east pier on a windy evening.
While the pain, a knife, a snake, a hot stream of molten lead runs from my spine into my toes.
And I recall the MRI printouts they showed me two days ago.
See that dark area, they said. We take it out if all of this doesn't work. Early next week.
Four more nights. Five maybe.
When we drove through the dark and empty city early on xmas day I expected to be sent home with the usual wait and whatever needed to be excluded as possible scenarios after 48hrs of quite awful lower back pain which dr google had diagnosed as mere sciatica.
Little did we know.
On a scale from one to ten, the pain last night hit 25 and I was drugged out if my wits. My right leg is a furry lump and most reluctant to participate in the business of keeping an upright stance. My right foot refuses to lift which renders my attempts of walking to a silly duck-like plop plop shuffle.
The long road of diagnostic work up so far has excluded any fracture. I should be so cheerful. Most of all I would like to have less pain and a good few hours of sleep. Somewhere down the line this is waiting for me. Keep your fingers crossed.
From the large window beside my bed I can see the sky and the tree tops.
And the unlimited supply of coffee is decent.
We are upstairs in the cozy room with the woodburning stove. The little black and white portable tv is on the desk chair. We are dancing to Top of the Pops. My toddler is doing elaborate jumping moves on the big sofa while I display my repertoire of shakes and fancy steps. Together we clap and snip our fingers and sing along at the top of our voices:
WAKE ME UP BEFORE YOU GO GO!!
Downstairs the big front door bangs shut and I can hear A walking upstairs. He leans on the door frame, hands deep in the pockets of his corduroy pants watching the scene and when I see the smirk on his face I call, hey what?
Agh, he says almost angrily, here is another one who has to pretend, another one of the millions who won't dare to come out.
But his feet are quietly tapping.
The music is crap, he mutters and with a sudden smile he turns to the jumping toddler, did you leave any dinner for an old man or do I have to come up on the sofa and dance for it? And S explodes into giggles.
After a lifetime of proper German holy xmas, all the beeswax candles and playing the recorder in the family carol quartet, the hushed atmosphere of quiet rituals (no tv, family only, classical music etc.), I walked into the hurricane of an Irish xmas.
The first thing that threw me was the tree. In my future in-laws house, the tree was situated in the corner of the front room. The front room, decorated in my mother-in-law's favourite pink, was only used for special occasions. For everyday family life there was the cramped tv room - or 'den', as it was renamed after my future in-laws had visited the US.
From the first of December, however, the front room was opened and remained so in order to allow visitors to view the tree. This was a small white plastic affair, hastily decorated with blue, red and pink tinsel, gold baubles and a couple of ancient play-do decorations from R's distant childhood. A string of multi-coloured electric lights kept on flashing irregularly and on my first viewing, I suspected a faulty connection somewhere - which was received with great laughter all round.
Throughout December, the regular string of visitors to my future in-law's house increased dramatically, and every visit included a viewing, a glass of sherry, a mince pie, the exchanging of xmas cards and the placing of a wrapped gift parcel under the tree. By mid December, the tree was more or less covered by parcels. These were daily lifted and shook by passing family members to guess their contents. Even bets were placed.
While the tree as such had been a slight disappointment in comparison to my mother's, I was more baffled by the card business. This is how it looked to me (and still does): People write seasonal sentiments on xmas cards and then proceed to exchange these cards in person while verbally repeating the exact same seasonal sentiments written on these cards.
I was told that there would be no stockings on xmas morning as these were reserved for small children only. It took me a while to get the hint and we provided one small child two years later.
There was also no chance for breakfast in the morning as all female members of my future family-in-law, in their dressing gowns, were working their way through items on a secret task list in the kitchen, before getting dressed in splendid finery and leaving the house, in stages, to work their way through more secret tasks, such as going to mass, chauffeuring old folks to church, singing carols in some hospital ward, buying more cream (shops were open!!) and dropping off last minute presents and, yes, personally handing over more xmas cards.
By midday, the family was once again at home and for the next two hours or so the house began to fill up with a seemingly endless stream of coming and going visitors. Neighbours, colleagues, cousins, friends, friends of friends home from abroad, and a couple of priests. I was sent around with plates of canapés and R was taking orders for drinks. There was laughter and gossip and singing and yes, more xmas card exchanges.
When the last visitors had left, the family sat down for xmas dinner.
1 smoked salmon on soda bread
2 soup with Melba toast
3 turkey and ham, stuffing, gravy, mashed and roast potatoes, celery (boiled, unfortunately), Brussels sprouts
4 sherry trifle
5 xmas pudding - with flambé whiskey (?)
Before the trifle, strange longish parcels wrapped in shiny paper were held in a complicated cross-over chain of hands around the table and pulled resulting in small plops (or not). This produced great hilarity with funny little trinkets and small slips of paper, which were unfolded and found to bear important jokes to be read out loud.
By now I was totally lost.
After dinner all proceeded to the front room and after much debate a Santa was chosen, who, wearing a Santa hat of course, would spend the next hour lifting one parcel after another from under the tree, reading the gift tag and throwing it across the room to the recipient, while the dogs tried it catch it midair.
Parcels were unwrapped immediately with much shouting, running or crawling acros the room and hugging etc. while the dogs sniffed their way through the growing pile of torn wrapping paper in the middle (the coffee table had been thoughtfully removed).
That over and done, it was now time for a good cup of tea and the last mince pies.
After a brief interval, glasses of bubbly were passed around and the birthday cake for R's sister (who for obvious reasons is named Noelle) was carried into the room and the next party began. You know, candles, singing, cheers, presents etc.
This is only a glimpse. There was much more, incl. charades, reciting, singing, children dancing and crying. But this should give you an idea.
If you break your neck, if you have nothing to eat, if your house is on fire—then you got a problem. Everything else is inconvenience. Life is inconvenient. Life is lumpy. Learn to separate the inconveniences from the real problems. You will live longer.More about this quote of a quote here.
Life is not about knowing. Life is about feeling your way through the dark. If you say, ‘This should be lighter by now,’ you’re shutting yourself off from your own happiness. So let there be darkness. Get down on your knees, and crawl to the dark. Crawl and say to yourself, ‘Holy GOD, it’s dark, but just look at me crawl! I can crawl like a motherfucker.’
Shout! Do not stop being horrified. Do not hide behind jokes. Stop reassuring each other that it may not be so bad. Assume that it will get much worse. This is how it looks from China: the world is now ruled by Trump, Putin and Xi Jinping. And: America is fucked. Europe is tipping. The liberal West is a thing of the past. Democracy is seriously wounded. And now? What about our children?I posted these lines after the US election on Facebook. A friend replied: "Relax!"
I did that once. In Turkey. After the rushed election of Erdoğan. When he stood before the people and pretended to be meek. I did relax then, I told everybody: Give the man a chance. Well, I will not do that again. I've learned my lesson: We must take them at their word, these megalomaniacs, these narcissists devoured by their thirst for power and revenge. Believe them when they promise to sow hatred and practice retribution. I don't understand how we can pretend today that the world is turning as always. Something monstrous is happening. It happens now, at this second, it happens tonight while you sleep, and it will happen tomorrow when you wake up. Barack Obama just visited Athens. He spoke urgently about the flame of democracy. He also tried, so I read in the newspaper, "to take away the fear of Trump". Of course, he wants to keep a bit of influence on Trump. I think that will be disastrous. If Obama were honest, he should say, "Be afraid!"
What is now referred to as "the post-factual age", I've been living in for almost 20 years as a foreign correspondent in Turkey and China. Living with lies, propaganda and resentment, I've learned that in China and in Turkey. Existing among autocrats and budding autocrats. In societies where one lives in a minefield full of uncertainty and arbitrariness. But throughout I always had two consolations. First, I can always go back home and rely on the values I believe in. And second, the world is always striving to become a better place because people elsewhere also dream of freedom and human dignity. Well, the charisma of democracy has been disintegrating for years: America's wars in the Middle East, Abu Ghraib and Guantanamo. The revelations of Edward Snowden. What do you want, you hypocrites, people were asked in Cairo, Moscow, and Peking? The world has become a feast for cynics. For how much longer will my home country be a safe place I can feel proud of? Will Europe also fall?Do not let yourself be lulled. Not from the smell of your morning coffee, not from the subway that runs today as always The world is no longer the same as yesterday. Shout. Wake those who still believe in the comfort of hope, who lack the power of imagination. Wake them up. There's a monster. It stuck his gaze on us. Look him in the eye. Shout! And then go to work.
The Arctic's temperature is way above normal for the time of year. The water is much warmer after the summer ice loss and there is a flood of warm air coming up from the South.read more here
The unusually high temperatures reduce the temperature differential between the Arctic and lower latitudes and mean that the jet stream starts to slow down and meander bringing unusual weather to populated areas.
This is probably the fastest way that climate change will affect people in the heavily populated regions. Waiting for crops to fail when the temperature rises 2 C will take another thirty years and waiting for the ice to melt and raise sea levels is a slow business but this is quick. Reduce Arctic ice cover, temperature rises and straight away the jet stream moves course.
It can bring excessive rain and floods or it can bring dry weather becoming drought, but in either case it is quick, it is regional and it is very unpleasant and expensive.
The trick is to keep exploring and not bail out, even when we find out that something is not what we thought. That’s what we’re going to discover again and again and again. Nothing is what we thought. I can say that with great confidence. Emptiness is not what we thought. Neither is mindfulness or fear. Compassion—not what we thought. Love. Buddha nature. Courage. These are code words for things we don’t know in our minds, but any of us could experience them. These are words that point to what life really is when we let things fall apart and let ourselves be nailed to the present moment.
|picture credit here|
History will record that this was the decade when women owned funny. Or anyway drink this:
They lean in with the ingredients that they have been gathering for days, for years, to make the potion potent.
Eye of newt. Wool of bat. Woman cards, both tarot and credit. Binders. Lemons. Lemonade. Letters to the editor saying that a woman could not govern at that time of month — when in fact she would be at the height of her power and capable of unleashing the maximum number of moon-sicknesses against our enemies, but the nasty women do not stoop to correct this.
They drop in paradoxes: powerful rings that give you everything and keep you from getting the job, heels that only move forward by moving backward, skirts that are too long and too short at the same time, comic-book drawings whose anatomy defies gravity, suits that become pantsuits when a woman slips them on, enchanted shirts and skirts and sweaters that can ask for it, whatever it is, on their own. They take the essence of a million locker rooms wrung out of towels and drop it in, one drip at a time. Then stir.
They sprinkle it with the brains of the people who did not recognize that they were doctors, pepper it with ground-up essays by respected men asking why women aren’t funny, whip in six pounds of pressure and demands for perfection. They drizzle it with the laughter of women in commercials holding salads and the rueful smiles of women in commercials peddling digestive yogurts. They toss in some armpit hair and a wizened old bat, just to be safe. And wine. Plenty of wine. And cold bathwater. Then they leave it to simmer.
And they whisper incantations into it, too. They whisper to it years of shame and blame and what-were-you-wearing and boys-will-be-boys. They tell the formless mass in the cauldron tales of the too many times that they were told they were too much. Too loud. Too emotional. Too bossy. Insufficiently smiling. The words shouted at them as they walked down the streets. The words typed at them when their minds traveled through the Internet. Every concession they were told to make so that they took up less space. Every time they were too mean or too nice or shaped wrong. Every time they were told they were different, other, objects, the princess at the end of the quest, the grab-bag prize for the end of the party.
They pour them all into a terrible and bitter brew and stir to taste.
It tastes nasty. It is the taste of why we cannot have nice things, and they are used to that.
Perhaps if the potion works, they will not have to be.
The nasty women have a great deal to do before the moon sinks back beneath the horizon.
But that is all right. They know how to get things done.
|my mother knitted our matching blue coats with the white buttons|
Of course some women will continue to collude with these scumbags, they will vote for Trump, they will excuse him. Women are good at excusing men. If we weren’t, the human race would die out. Some women will look away, believing men can’t help it and carry on humouring the “banter”. You drop something in a restaurant and a guy says: “While you are down there love…” and you laugh because if you didn’t you might stick a fork in his eye. And you remember being 14 and being bruised from mere “groping” but thinking yourself lucky because the worst didn’t happen. You think about how you knew the practice of misogyny long before you heard the theory, so wonder how the good guys are slightly baffled by it.
For misogyny is not some secret society, a form of freemasonry. It is mainstream. It is endorsed by Trump. It is not simply unacceptable, it is murderous.
Kill it dead.
I have news for you—from a longer poem (I have news for you) by Tony Hoagland
there are people who get up in the morning and cross a room
and open a window to let the sweet breeze in
and let it touch them all over their faces and bodies
Some days I become a factory for sad thoughts: the night shift starts not when I go to bed, but when I decide to go to bed. As I turn the lights out. the factory lights come on. I used to make them by hand, the sad thoughts, but lately it's become more of an assembly line, the machines doing all the work: I sleep, and in the morning I have another consignment ready for distribution; for export, for import.
This film is based on a poem by Jenifer Toksvig called 'What they took with them', which was inspired by stories and first-hand testimonies from refugees forced to flee their homes and the items they took with them.
|1988, already steps ahead|
I suppose we are all products of our parents' joy and suffering. Their emotions are written into us as much as the inscriptions made by their genes.(Siri Hustvedt)