Friday, February 8, 2008
I recall when I was a kid that certain things really sent me off the deep end if I thought about them for too long. First, it was human beings themselves. I remember when we first began learning about internal body parts, probably in grade school and on into middle school, and I started to really grasp that we living creatures were miracles—that a heart was inside each of us, beating of its own power, and that we were literally pulsing with life, with blood, with functioning and even regenerating parts… and all this happened constantly without batteries, without our being charged in an outlet each evening. We were just alive, and someday we wouldn’t be. Period. It really freaked me out.
In fourth grade, I think, we learned about the solar system, studied all the planets, memorized their names and order with some funny sentence about my mom serving pizza (a mnemonics gimmick—it worked at the time I learned it, but the order of the planets is never straight in my head these days, so at some point in the past 30 years the trick failed me). But what really stayed with me was the absolutely ludicrous notion that the universe it infinite. What is infinite? What IS that? How can it be? Someone, a former teacher or a cheesy sci-fi author or such, planted an idea in my head that there was a final boundary to the universe…and it was a giant wall plastered with advertisements. That was ridiculous, but presented quite a memorable image—one that has stuck with me in spite of its silliness. Still, I couldn’t linger on that subject for long. Even now, the idea of infinity is unnerving to me.
Planets were fascinating, but even more so was our very own little orb. How could we be rotating all the time? And revolving at the same time? And yeah, there’s gravity, I know, but how can it be just the right amount that we don’t float away, yet don’t collapse upon ourselves either? The distance from the sun, too—that’s enough to send me out of my head. How can it be exactly right for providing warmth? For maintaining our weather patterns? It’s just the perfect distance to cause photosynthesis, thus sustaining us through food sources. It’s the reason Earth has life on it—and I know that’s no accident. But even embracing the idea of a genius Creator doesn’t lessen the jumpy sensations in the pit of my stomach when I dwell on that subject.
Nowadays, I’m becoming rather nervous about the state of our planet and its possibly changing atmosphere, what with the horror stories about rising temperatures, melting icecaps, polar bears drowning because they’re not able to swim far enough to find icy ground anymore. (Scoff if you want, but first sit down and watch An Inconvenient Truth. Whether or not you like Al Gore, he sets forth some very convincing and convicting information.) I’m also feeling pretty uncertain about the economy, and our dependence on foreign oil, and the fact that our whole culture is based on buying crap and driving places. If the oil stops, we’re screwed. I can’t even think about it or I’ll spend our entire savings on canned goods, weaponry, and a huge generator that’s powered by an exercise bike. But I can’t talk about that anymore—you know why!
And I’ve come full circle on the freaky topics, because now I’m freaked out by my own body—again. I was too consumed and distracted when I was pregnant to realize the insanity of growing a life inside me, but in the aftermath, I’ve been left with a little parting gift from the kid: a heart murmur. It’s in there, all the time, but I’m really only aware of it in quiet moments, especially right before I fall asleep. (Now, there’s a soothing, soporific thought: your heart is out of whack. Sweet dreams!) It’s something called a prolapsed mitral valve, I think. The doc explained it as a door (translation—heart valve) that’s actually a little bit too small for the door frame, so that each time it swings shut, it tries to swing all the way through. Pretty comforting, eh? I realize it’s small potatoes compared to the weird bodily things going on in lots of other folks out there, and I’m not complaining. It’s minor. It’s not a big deal. It’s very common, especially in women. It doesn’t require treatment, at least not at this stage. And yet… I feel it in there sometimes, I feel the missed beat, the pause while the valve is trying to swing back instead of sticking in the frame like it wants to. I feel it malfunctioning, even for a second.
A n d i t f r e a k s m e o u t.