Thursday, July 22, 2004

Titles and titles and piss on it What is this,...

Titles and titles and piss on it

What is this, what is this, a nose hair?  Scratching my head and climbing the walls.  How many years go by before you learn the lessons you were learning when you weren't learning anything?  Christ.

Trying to write a paper tonight.  Not due, exactly.  Due to other students, by "8 o'clock Thursday."  Bothers me that I didn't have something complete for them.  These people are not without absurdly busy-ing other committments, kids and jobs and things, but they all produced wonderful papers well before eight.  I offer, meaning no disrespect to their efforts, god help me, a three quarters, if that, finished rough as coarse sand in a bikini draft at eight--and then my e-mail didn't want any loving from Word!  Well, fuck them both.  Or rather, fuck word and fuck windows.  Actually, I don't know who was responsible.  Fuck us all.  Anyway, it's only a draft, right?  Yes, but it's the question of respect that makes me sick.  The other folks all have really nice products ready to go.  I want to applaud them--none of them know I blog, so I can applaud with immunity--and to applaud the teacher.  This is a class I'm taking to fulfill graduation requirements only, as is everyone else in there, but, but but, the teacher is great.  A surprise.  A consistent, great planning, passionate, honest teacher--in an entry level class no one takes except to fulfill requirements!  If anyone deserves respect, such a one does, and I--I with the not so great, and last minute draft.  Yeah, fuck it.  The final will be much better, it's already at work in my head.  And that's my problem.  I write shit out in some ethereal hyperspace and am lucky if the ink dries before St. Peter weighs my nuts, you know?  We'll see.  I feel like such an ass, but it's not the end of the world.

How's this for navel gazing within academics.  A paper on the efficacy of lavender, when inhaled, for reducing anxiety:

On March 19, 2004, my dad died, a few months shy of his sixty-eighth birthday.  Until a few years ago, he was as healthy as anyone wants, as happy as he wanted to be, of course, he was also a prodigous smoker.  Cancer is a mean trick, I do not wish it on anyone.  I spent much of the last year traveling or living in Washington, D.C., to be close, to help out.  Anyone who has loved someone with cancer knows helplessness.  The desire to do something, anything, to heal, to encourage, to comfort, finally to kill pain.  Larry gamely underwent absurd numbers of tests and treatments.  His original “sentence” was for two weeks.  Two years later he had reason to think he could keep going.  Unfortunately, there are times when no matter how positive you are, no matter how strong you are, life just makes you its bitch.  The last month of my dad’s life was surreal.  The details are irrelevant to the subject at hand—which, believe it or not, is about to be revealed—but in the last few months cancer affected my dad’s mental capacity in a negative and progressive way.  He was unable to reason, even to recognize common things, or use speech effectively.  However, he was clearly aware of these defects, and of their progressive nature.  He was aware that his life had come to the one place he wanted to avoid—incontinent, demented, painful weakness—but with incoherence making it impossible to communicate a desire to continue treatment, or to cease it.  One animal to another, fear is very plain.  We do not need language to know when a cat is scared, when a dog is scared, when a cornered raccoon is afraid and unpredictable.  We recognize fear, and when we see it in those we love, who does not wish to alleviate it?  Larry was very anxious.  In his case, our doctors presented the options, drugs, or nothing.  Valium and morphine—both with lots of unpleasant side effects such as constipation, disassociation, nightmares, addiction and withdrawls—or, nothing?  Well….

     Before he had become too debilitated, Larry had regularly driven himself from our home in the center of D.C. out to a holistic massage center in the suburbs.  At a certain point, when he began chemotherapy, they refused treatment, but they did give him a vial of the massage oil, a blend, primarily lavender.  For the last two weeks of his life, confused and panicked, one of the only ways Larry could calm down enough to fall asleep was if I suggested he deeply inhale holding the bottle of oil under his nose.  He indicated it was both pleasant and relaxing, that it made him feel calm.  Yes, it was transitory—in contrast to the Valium which knocked him out for hours—but he was able to be present.  When you only have a couple weeks left with your loved ones, being present matters—one hopes it matters at other times as well.  My mother and my brother were somewhat skeptical of the aroma treatment—combined with hopefully soothing speech and, at times, a straight lavender massage of incredibly dry legs—but no one as sleep deprived as we wanted to argue with results.     Despite the circumstances, and the following weeks and funeral planning and paper shredding and catch as can grieving, I wondered about that oil.  I wonder still what was happening inside that poor man’s head, if some chemical signal was affecting the neural pathways governing anxiety and sleep.  Did it really help him?  Was the aroma of lavender truly effective to calm him, or was it only the attention, the soothing words?  That is really the question then, does a treatment help?  Does it have side effects?  Are you being misled, poisoned, sold on false promises, or scholarly unease in admitting impotence?  Those are the sorts of questions one asks regularly while undergoing treatment for cancer.  How you hope something works!  How you grasp at studies and clinical trials, how you argue with doctors and insurance companies over efficacy of some barely studied regimine.  Compared to studying treatments for cancer, the use of lavender to effect anxiety seems a simple subject.  One finds the research to be inconsistent, contradictory, confusing, and colored by desire and economics.  But what about average healthy people?  If I’m feeling anxious, can a whiff of lavender help me get through a test, a job interview?  Can it help tire the hamster in the wheel of worries which gets going every night as I go to bed?

No, don't worry.  There are about twenty journal articles scattered around me know, actually relevant to the subject.  It's just that I care about writing...and I care about research...but writing about research--how, once you find the answer, are you supposed to care enough to argue persuasively your findings?  I could just tell everyone in the class that, yes, lavender is probably effective at reducing anxiety, but that the effects will vary depending on your condition and your duration of exposure.  That's fucking it!  That's it about anything.  The rest of it is arguing about the color of dog shit, as my father used to say.  Brown...or is it, taupe!?!

Who knows, who knows.

Treading water, as usual.  Inch and a half long jalapeno.  Excited.  Once, with rows of peppers, now with one plant, and it's even more exciting.  Good lord, it's still quite the daylight here in St. Paul, and a family of six racoons, mother and children just foamed between my garage and the neighbor's fence, to ghost across her yard and down the bluff.  What are they doing out at this hour?

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