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Heidi
Jan 28th, 2018 by Dr Karma

I don’t remember my father punching my mother when she told him she was leaving, that she would not be cheated on again. I don’t remember her fleeing into the night, with me and ten dollars in coins.

I don’t remember being told that my father had died, though they must have told me, several times, for it to just seem like it was always known.

I don’t remember moving in with my grandparents, when I was two, when my mom couldn’t take care of me.

I do remember being taken back by my mother when I was five and hating it. And getting slapped for comparing myself to Heidi, in the middle part of the book, when she is taken from the mountain, from the safety of her gruff grandfather’s love.

I don’t remember each drunken argument between my mother and step-father. The most memorable ones were whenever we had to evacuate during a hurricane. Them and me and my little brother and two Great Danes in a van, with them always screaming at each other, threatening divorce.

I remember the time I had to ask why her windshield was cracked and her explaining that her husband had done it, jealous that she’d stayed too long at a female friend’s house.

I seem to remember each of the many times I was left at school, alone, wondering when my unemployed step-father was going to finally remember to pick me up.

I remember being told about strangers and about what they wanted to do to me.

And then night after night in a lifetime of insomnia.

And feeling a bit safer if I slept with a sheet on, even though it was too hot, because I hoped if a man ever broke in, he wouldn’t realize I was a girl and would leave me alone.

I vividly remember being a little girl and answering the phone and a man pretended to be doing a survey. It was only at the very end of the call that I realized he was masturbating.

I remember all the times my step-father locked me out of the house when I was out on dates, because he forgot I was gone. Or that I existed. Or something.

I remember my mother and step-father explaining that police were going to be staking out our house one night because a man had been overheard a bar saying he was going to break in, to rob us, to murder us in our sleep.

I remember being told that they caught him.

I remember all of the times I almost died because I couldn’t breathe. How I gasped for air between each word. Every winter. Several times. When I was with my grandparents, I was hospitalized several times. But away from the metaphorical mountain, I had to make do with the now off the market primatene mist. I slept with it in my right hand.

I remember lying there, day after day, barely breathing, and knocking my knees together. Bruising my knees. My mother would put pillow between them, which my knees would then deform with the knocking. I couldn’t stop.

I remember being relieved when she finally left my step-father, but then her explaining that she had only married him to give me a father and then prostituted herself to stay with him for me and how I should be grateful.

I remember her moving in with her new boyfriend when I said he was another abuser and when he said she had to choose between us.

I remember being somewhat relieved because my boyfriend was better about getting me to school on time than she was.

I remember her boyfriend attacking me.

I remember being bereft when my boyfriend–whom I thought I would marry–left me two weeks before I gave birth to our child, three weeks before I was eighteen.

 

People are talking about the NPR story about how childhood trauma correlates–strongly–with illness–cancer, asthma, chronic pain.

But I remember my doctor explaining it to me years ago, as I tried to understand how I can be so sick. So sick. All the time. And how my PTSD doctor confirmed it.

I remember explaining to my at-risk students that I am a chronic worrier because my childhood was chaotic–how my coping mechanism is to worry all the time, to try to understand what could go wrong, to script a solution, to futilely attempt to control the chaos.

I remember my students thanking me, saying they understood now why they can’t sleep, why their stomachs hurt all the time.

When Heidi was taken from the mountain into civilization, she became ill–so ill she almost died.

Not all Heidis make it back to the mountain.

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Medical Update
Jan 21st, 2018 by Dr Karma

In my last blog, I wrote about an ER trip last weekend. My neck is less swollen, but it still hurts; I also still have a stabbing pain in my back. Not sure if it’s more than muscle tension, which, my PT says, could be tied to the neck.
So no news really.
Psychologically, though, I’m much more anxious and sleeping much more poorly because of some work-related bullshit. And so my muscle tension has no hope of receding soon.
In other news, some might remember that I fell down some stairs in London in July. My knee is still acting up, so we’ve had imaging. On Friday, I was called into a sports doctor so he could “comfort” me that although there was a tear, it would heal.
I pretended to be grateful for his comfort.
I think I hid the internal monologue.
You couldn’t have just emailed me?
I have other shit to do.
*This* is not what I need comforting about.
You haven’t read the rest of my chart at all, have you?
Wait, did I just pay $20 for a pointless conversation?
Can I go now?

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Last night’s ER trip
Jan 13th, 2018 by Dr Karma

I haven’t felt right all week. My shoulders and neck are visibly swollen and painful to the touch. I have a stabbing pain in my mid-back on the right side.
I’ve been so exhausted that I have to give myself little talks–assuring myself that I will in fact make it across the quad without falling down.
And then yesterday, my heart was racing and I was sweating.
And I told myself it was nothing.
And then another voice said, “these are the symptoms of a clot or a heart attack.” And then it added: “you have talked about these things with your pre-meds before–about how people need to know that women’s heart attacks often present as severe neck pain, exhaustion, etc.”
And then I was talking to our HR woman about my file, and she said, “Are you okay?”
“No. And I’m aware that I’m changing color right now.”
First, she was afraid that a technical glitch with my file (my application to keep my job and to get a raise) was giving me a heart attack. I had to assure her that it wasn’t, that I would call the advice nurse, etc.
So I called.
“I’m hoping you’ll tell me I’m over-reacting.”
“I’d like you to call 9-1-1.”
I didn’t do that–I called my son. He’s cheaper than the 800$ ambulance. And I walked to my classroom, cause class was about to start. Lacking coherence, I explained what was happening and that we were still going to stay on schedule for their draft next week.
The boy took me to a packed ER–the flu had it filled. But they took blood and did a chest xray and an ekg right away. And then I sat there for several hours.
And then those tests were clear, so they ran more tests on the blood.
Two more hours.
And then it was time for me to go home. Something is wrong–they want me to see my primary guy right away, but I’m stable. ish. The medical mystery continues.

ER doc: Sorry I don’t have an answer for you.
Me: If you were able to diagnose something right now, the news would be really bad.
ER doc: Yeah, you’re right. I never thought of it that way.

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2017 By The Numbers
Dec 31st, 2017 by Dr Karma

Daddy’s funerals: 1

Deaths I will never get over: 1

Seeing Hasan Minhaj film his stand-up special here at Davis: 1

Other Mondavi shows: 3

Major Pet Injuries: 0

Dinner parties hosted: about 51

Book contracts obtained: 2

Benefits for Charity with my Stand-Up Club: 3

Countries visited (Colombia, Wales, England, Scotland, Australia): 5

Books read: a lot

First-Aid trainings: 1

Courses taught (including independent studies): 17

Plays seen: 23

New Atwood series binged: 2

Countries with Nando’s visited and enjoyed: 3

Koala butts touched: 1

Kangaroos seen: a bunch

Live platypi seen: 0

Body parts sprained while falling down stairs: 2

Canes my son made me buy: 1

Unsuccessful dates: I don’t wanna go back and count them

Formal whiskey tastings: 1

Castles/Palaces/Prisons toured: 7

Stand-Up Performances about Chronic Pain: 2

Nieces and nephews I got to spend time with: 6

Times I finally got a smartphone: 1

Churches visited: a surprising amount, but never during a service

Visits with the Out of Fucks Writing Group: 1

Times that Margaret’s gluten intolerance got us an amazing free meal: 1

New used cars obtained: 1

Mysterious synchronous flat tires on old car: 2

Salt mines with salt cathedrals entered (of the Virgin of Salty Water): 1

New recipes tried: a lot (and almost all were great!)

Sleepless nights: too many

Conferences Presented at: 8

Weird hotel rooms in Australia: 1

Overheard tourists who had no idea what Alice in Wonderland was: 2

Alice Days in Oxford: 1

Weeks in Oxford: 5

Times I made jokes about studying at Jesus college: too many

Times I’ve met Raj Patel now: 1

Fairy penguins seen: lots!

Aardman exhibits: 1

Harry Potter Studio Tours: 1

Tests of Spinal Cord Stimulators: 1

Museums and Galleries: a lot!

Wonderful students: almost all of them

Times I’ve asked a man holding a machine gun if I can go into the space he’s blocking (in Spanish): 1

Times that’s worked: 1

Reasons Melissa and I will never live in Colombia: 2 (they aren’t a wine drinking culture, and you can’t flush toilet paper)

Margaret Atwood seminars taught: 1

Wisdom teeth removed: 1

Asses I’ve made of myself: a bunch

Medical appts: about 4 a week

Piles of unorganized files, cds, flash drives, etc. that I inherited from Daddy and have to go through and organize: enough to last a lifetime

Sense that I inherited Daddy’s organization skills: diminished

Trips with my work wife: 4

Nights of seeing stand-up: 10

New exotic meats tried (kangaroo): 1

Heat waves in other countries: 1

New favorite Australian fish (barramundi): 1

Amazing bars found in Cincinnati: 1

Nights at the amazing bar in Cincinnati: 2

Mix CDs made: 3

Doctor Who courses taught: 1

Doctor Who Experiences in Wales: 1

Boyfriends obtained: 1

Monkey went with me.

The most dapper on-site coordinator

Things I want in 2018: 8

More movies, more plays, more comedy, more time with friends, more countries, more adventures, more new recipes, more sleep.

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On Days and Diaries
Dec 17th, 2017 by Dr Karma

I used to be good at keeping a diary.
Now, unless I’m traveling, I almost never do–except here, for you, which is different. This is not just a space for me–there is an audience with needs, to whom I give background, for whom I try to be coherent.
Diaries unfortunately lost their appeal for me when I was married in my late teens.
My brief disastrous marriage had a lot of wrong in it–readers might remember that my ex liked my looks a lot, but not me–not my smarts, not my drive. He misrepresented himself, hoping that marriage (and his god) would change me.
What I haven’t written about as much is his jealousy. We had a bad dynamic. I wanted to be trusted, but he wasn’t capable of giving it. I had watched my mother date possessive man after possessive man (most of whom were cheating on her), so I hated that sense of being watched, being accused. My ex’s mom had been cheated on too–and thus he said he couldn’t trust people.
And so there we were.
Our marriage deteriorated very quickly, and I pulled away emotionally. And I wanted out. And that caused his jealousy to rise. And that caused me to pull away and to want out more. And so on.
And then he started reading my diary. He justified it by saying that married people didn’t need secrets from each other–they were one flesh and all. As soon as I realized that I couldn’t have privacy in my home, I stopped writing.
But he kept reading, going back in time.
I remember once coming home to find him upset and jealous over some guy I’d had a crush on when I was fourteen.
Him: Why didn’t you write about me like that?
Me: I was 14!
I lost everything I wrote when I was younger, so that it couldn’t be used to pressure me, to judge me, to guilt me.
I burned my diaries.

 

 

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Before I Moved to California
Nov 18th, 2017 by Dr Karma

Before I moved to California, I had never

had Indian food

had decent wine (you know, the kind from a bottle instead of a jug or box)

met an out kinky or poly person

had gin

met a Hmong person

had goat cheese (or any good cheese, really)

had lamb

had been able to send my son to a school where they had enough money for classroom supplies like toilet paper and thus didn’t make each family buy a big list of stuff

tasted Thai food

met a Jewish person

had Vietnamese food

experienced a drought

known there were “asian” pears–and that they’re awesome!

had a good tomato that hadn’t been refrigerated prior to serving

seen heavy snow

seen an apple in the grocery store that wasn’t a Granny Smith or the ironically named Red Delicious

met an out transgender person

understood how black and white my upbringing had been

tried Afghani food

had to think about writing less American-centric prompts, since I only had American students

met a Sikh person

felt an earthquake (although it was so minor that I thought it was the neighbors waking me up with exceptionally brief sex that shook the wall)

had the opportunity to join a union

gone wine tasting

had access to healthcare as an adult

 

Some of this is because I was in Florbama . . . there are more cosmopolitan areas of Florida.

Some of this is because I was raised fairly white trash. It’s probably possible to get decent wine and cheese in Florida–I just didn’t see it.

 

But still–I had never had INDIAN FOOD!

If I had consistent access to grouper out here, y’all, I might never go back home.

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Close Reading in Kindergarten
Sep 18th, 2017 by Dr Karma

My kindergarten teacher taught us an old rhyme:
Sing a song of sixpence,
A pocket full of rye.
Four and twenty blackbirds,
Baked in a pie.
When the pie was opened
The birds began to sing;
Wasn’t that a dainty dish,
To set before the king?

A Conversation From My Youth:

Me: What does “dainty” mean?
My teacher: Small.
Me: A pie with 24 blackbirds would be really big. Are we saying this wrong? Should we say “undainty”?
[Long pause.]
My teacher: No one else has ever had a problem with this.

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Chronic Pain is Chronically Confusing
May 16th, 2017 by Dr Karma

Tomorrow I’ll have an impacted wisdom tooth taken out. I’m in agony today, but it took me a long time to figure out what was happening.
This kind of thing occurs frequently: chronic pain causes misunderstood pain.
I have TMJ–a disorder of my jaw joint. There’s arthritis there too. I’m in PT (it helps to keep me eating and talking).
I thought it was particularly bad last week.
And then I thought it was getting particularly worse.
And then I wondered at the pain spreading–making the whole jaw sore.
Last night, I couldn’t read, couldn’t focus. My eye on the right side even started to hurt, from the pressure.
And then a little voice inside my head chimed in: haven’t you still got a wisdom tooth up there? wouldn’t it be right by that joint?
Intense pain isn’t unusual. Today–the day before a surgery–is better than most because I have a solvable problem.
But I’m frustrated that I had no idea how to answer my dentist’s question: when did this tooth pain start?

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Oh, no–I think my OCD got mistaken for something else!
Jan 20th, 2017 by Dr Karma

So I pulled up outside my office building, got my bag out of my trunk, and then checked to make sure my car was locked.
There was a van parked beside me, with a guy unloading it.
“Hi.”
“Hey,” I said.
“Checking that you locked your door, huh? Well, you have a nice day.”
I walked into my building, confused.
Why was he making fun of me–does something about me just scream that I always double check my car, that I always double check my house door, that I always make sure the oven is off before I leave for work (sometimes even if I haven’t used the oven)?
How did he know? And why was he teasing me about it?
And then it hit me–he thought I was checking the car because of him.
I was already inside.
And there’s just no way to put that right.
If I’d gone running outside to try to explain, it would have made it worse.
“Hi, umm, I think you think I’m racist. Or maybe classist, or something. I am just a little neurotic. We could call my son right now–he will tell you that I’m unable to leave the car or house without saying, “did I lock it?” Please don’t think I’m a bad person.”
I just hope I’ve been more time being neurotic about this conversation than he has.

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The Continuing Adventures of Karma’s OnLine Dating: Entry 48
Jan 15th, 2017 by Dr Karma

Two guys have been trying to set up dates with me. Both have been annoying because they keep insisting on me going to Sacramento for a first date, leading me to think they’re not really that interested.

Today’s thrilling updates:

I’ve been turning down Guy 1 for a while. I explained to him that I couldn’t see him this weekend because my car is acting up and I don’t want to cross the causeway until I can get it to the shop.

I thought he might propose coming here.

Guy 1: Hi, any car update how about tonight?

Me: I’m not going to be able to make it in to the mechanic until Wednesday.
I’m sensing a great reluctance to come to Davis. 😉
Do you not have a car?

Guy 1: Yea no car these days ..:9

Me: Ah. Wish you’d just told me that in the beginning–I was confused by you asking me out a lot but not seeming willing to cross the causeway for a date.

Now, I’ve gone out on dates with Sacramento guys who didn’t have cars. However, they were upfront about it, rather than skirting the issue until pressed.

Guy 2 has been coming off as strange in a couple of ways–there seems to be an arrogance/control thing, though I could be wrong–there haven’t been all that many messages. He might just seem that way because he only wants to do the minimum to get a date.

At any rate, he kept pushing for Sac, which isn’t always easy for me (and sometimes annoying because if I have a doc appt in Sac during the day, I really don’t want to head back there for a first date, esp for someone who isn’t exactly smooth in his courting).

Guy 2 [a while ago]: When can u come to sac​

I thought I should signal my displeasure:

Me: I’m not sure. I’ll be in Sac later this week, but I’ll have my son with me–we’re going to a show.

Neither of us seems too eager/able to make a special trip across the causeway to see the other person.

[Many days pass. Cut to today.]

Guy 2: Hey u. Would u like to meet​

Me: I’d meet if you wanted to come to Davis, especially since my car is acting up and I would want to take it to the mechanic before I took it across the causeway. But my impression is that you aren’t keen on heading this way.

And then I postulate to myself that two guys are having the same underlying issue, so I send another message.

Me: Or is it that you don’t have a car?

Guy 2: Lol no i do have a car

I have a bad headache today, but is there some pattern I’m missing?

Perhaps understanding human behavior is futile.

Also, on this headache day, I would like to say I didn’t send a message meant for car Guy 1 to car Guy 2.

I guess we can’t always live our dreams.

😉

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