13 December 2008

Boob Smashers

Talking about getting older, of course, is not so interesting, especially for those who don't feel they are doing it. In our American culture, in our time, old people and their knowledge aren't exactly irresistible. Old people tend to be slow, conservative, unproductive, grumpy, even. At any rate they are likely to circuit in reference to memories rather than foment around plans. In this culture we seem to "feel old" at all ages, and it never feels good.

The result is that some things about getting older can come as a complete shock. Or maybe some specific things about aging are just different for everyone. Or, more likely, we do hear specifics about getting older, but for whatever reason it just doesn't sink in, it's too abstract, it seems impossible. As a random example, there is the subject of boobs and what they are eventually subjected to. This is something I am certain I didn't get any warning about.

One thing that you may know is that after forty you're supposed to get a mammogram every year or two. What you won't realize is that when someone says (but no one ever actually says this for some reason), "I'm getting a mammogram today," what they really mean is, "Today I will stand beside a mean Russian technician who will squash each of my breasts between two shelves."

This poem from someone's blog further illustrates this point:
She stepped upon a pedal,
I could not believe my eyes!
A plastic plate came slamming down,
My hooters in a vise!...

Excruciating pain I felt,
Within it’s viselike grip.
A prisoner in this vicious thing,
My poor defenseless tit!...

“There, that’s good,” I heard her say,
(The room was slowly swaying.)
“Now, let’s have a go at the other one.”
Have mercy, I was praying. (whole poem)
So that pretty much explains it. In my head, I know that breast cancer is a leading cause of death among women, and that thousands of years of medical wisdom have crystallized into this hooter-crushing yet benevolent wonder of modern science. Truly, it is a privilege to be subjected to it. I just wish I could appreciate it more.

08 December 2008

I was going to write about getting older

I wrote a blog about being 45 and getting older in general, but it was sort of depressed, so I am instead posting this odd picture of me and my mom.

03 December 2008

"I feel like a pig shat in my head."

This image is from the Mayo Clinic website. It's a microscopic creature that's related to spiders, the common dust mite, magnified several thousand times.

And what is the nature of human interaction with this creature? Well, each of us sheds hundreds of thousands of particles of dead skin every hour - about 1.5 pounds a year - and these creatures gain sustenance by eating it. Then, they do what all creatures do: shit occasionally, and die eventually.

So if you're allergic to dust like I am, you are actually allergic to the shit and dead bodies of dust mites, which we call "dust." We are surrounded by and permeated with forms of life too small for us to see.

I seem to be on a roll in terms of writing about health. This time it's because I accomplished the dreaded task the other night of sorting through my books, organizing them, and getting rid of 3 big boxes of them. But they were very dusty, and by the time I finished the job I had been feeling ill for some time. When I woke up, I suddenly heard in my pressurized head a voice from the movie Withnail and I, saying, "I feel like a pig shat in my head."

Strangely, feeling this way reminds me of my 7-week ordination retreat in 2001. The retreat was in an old monastery in Tuscany, Italy. I felt this way much of that time, but worse. It's not really the runny nosed type of thing that most people associate with allergies, but more like environmental illness. Thankfully it doesn't happen very often (7 years since last time), and it's not like I'm in a lot of pain or anything, just somewhat nonfunctional. But it does seem kind of crazy, because dust is pretty much everywhere, it's almost like being allergic to air...


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