Posts filed under ‘Emetophobia’

Charles Darwin, the Emetophobe’s Hero

Quesy Darwin

When I was young, my sister got ill while we were at my grandmother’s house. I ran and hid in a back bedroom. After my grandmother finished tending to her legitimately sick grandchild, she came and checked on her wussy, scared one. Meek and in a corner, I explained, “We second graders have a thing with throw up.”

Two decades passed, and I still found myself running away from sick loved ones. This time, I was fleeing my hospitalized grandmother. I left her behind and refused to go back in the room even when a nurse assured me it was “safe”. I was twenty-five years old. It wasn’t “We second graders”. It was me. *I* had a thing with throw up. There was a word for it – emetophobia and abandoning sick loved ones was just the surface. What was once a quirky part of my personality was starting to effect all aspects of my life.

I didn’t want to travel because people could get air sick. I didn’t particularly like infants as they tended to spit up. Eating out was stressful, especially if chicken or mayonnaise were involved as I knew of people who got food poisoning. I worried I would never want to have children because the prospect of morning sickness absolutely terrified me. I didn’t even know if I would have the courage to get married. After all, I heard more than one tale of a bride succumbing to her nerves and getting sick the night before. Stomach flu season paralyzed me. I wouldn’t want to touch anything. I wouldn’t be able to sleep and then I would worry about not sleeping because that would weaken my immune system right when I needed it the most. And worrying was the worst. History taught me that when I worried too much, I would get nauseous…which would give me even more to worry about.

It is my phobic history that gives me a great, unwavering appreciation of Charles Darwin.

In 1831 when Darwin was 22 years of age, he left behind his friends and family and the comfort of home to board a boat… on the ocean. When I was 27 and living in the age of modern wonders like Dramamine and prescription ear patches, I turned down a FREE trip to the Bahamas because I was scared of an hour long ferry ride between islands.

What deterred me from the Bahamas is exactly what happened to Charles Darwin. He got seasick. He got horribly, horribly seasick. He found that “nothing but lying in my hammock did […] any good” and raisins to be “the only food that the stomach will bear.” His letters and diaries used words like “dismay”, “misery” and “wretchedness”. He felt indignation at “finding all ones efforts to do anything paralysed” by seasickness. And he, of course, had second thoughts about the trip.

At noon Lat. 43. South of Cape Finisterre and across the famous Bay of Biscay: wretchedly out of spirits and very sick. I often said before starting, that I had no doubt I should frequently repent of the whole undertaking, little did I think with what fervour I should do so. I can scarcely conceive any more miserable state, than when such dark and gloomy thoughts are haunting the mind as have to day pursued me.

– Beagle Diary, December 30, 1831

I may have run away from my sister and my grandmother, but Charles Darwin did not run away from the boat that made him so ill. He stayed with the HMS Beagle for nearly five years.

When Charles Darwin returned home from his voyage in 1836, his digestive woes were far from over. For the remainder of his life he would suffer from a mystery illness. He was plagued with heart palpitations, vertigo, trembling, stomach pains and… vomiting. Horrible, horrible vomiting bouts. In the eight years Darwin worked on “Cirripedia”, he estimated he lost two years to illness.

Darwin, always the observer, noted his condition was aggravated by anxiety and stress. He wrote how his “health almost always suffered from the excitement” of receiving friends and he would endure “violent shivering and vomiting attacks”. In 1837, he turned down a job offer because “anything which flurries me completely knocks me up afterwards and brings on a b[ad] palpitation of the heart”. If routine every-day stuff like visiting friends and taking jobs agitated his attacks, can you imagine what a controversy like On the Origin of Species would do to his constitution?!? He had so much guilt he described his work as “like confessing murder.” Needless to say, the writing of On the Origin of Species was accompanied by repeated attacks.

As sick as he was, Charles Darwin didn’t scrap the manuscript.¬† He finished it!

With emetophobia I was lucky. I visited one cognitive behavioralist for about 18 months, suddenly I could go days without worrying about vomiting. Then weeks, then months, then years. I was no longer scared to eat. I was no longer scared to travel. I could live a normal life.

Charles Darwin was not as lucky. He visited over twenty doctors over the course of 500 months. He tried treatments. He tried spas. Of all the puzzles he was able to piece together, the cause of his illness alluded him. Speculation continues today– did he have Chagas disease? Did he have an anxiety disorder like me? Maybe he was lactose intolerant.

Charles Darwin died in 1882. After so many miserable moments, his final hours were filled with nausea and intense vomiting.

From the moment the Beagle set sail to his death, he faced nausea, regurgitation and worst of all– helplessness. Charles Darwin’s life was an emetophobe’s worst nightmare. And yet, he persevered. He accomplished great things.

Vomit, be damned!

February 15, 2009 at 11:57 pm 10 comments

The Peace Eagle

My favorite bird really didn’t do much to earn its title. It’s the chickadee and the only reason it was propelled to the top was because it was my maternal grandmother’s favorite bird. Sure they are cute, but I really did not embrace them until 2000 when my grandmother died. After that, anytime I saw a chickadee I was reminded of her and it made me smile. And from there my love of those little birds with the black caps grew.

BUT– my second favorite bird earned its right on its own volition. And, unlike the chickadee, I think it’s a less traditional candidate. It’s the turkey vulture or, as I indiscriminately call them and black vultures, buzzards. I ran into a few yesterday as I drove to Deerfield Bike Path for a walk.

Three “buzzards” just hanging out – the two on the left are actually black vultures and the one on the right is a turkey vulture.

I love these birds. A buzzard’s floating silhouette was a near constant fixture in sky when I was a child. They always looked so tranquil. Now whenever I see a buzzard above, I feel closer to my family and closer to home.

Turkey Vulture (Photo by Ms. Kathleen)

On the subject of childhood, buzzards evoke a memory that still makes me smile. One day my father was especially displeased with my younger brother. I was out in the yard with a gruff Dad, and he noted a group of buzzards circling above us.

“They know I’m about to kill Jay,” he said. ūüôā

Painting by my brother, who was not in fact devoured by buzzards.

Buzzards are also sentimental to me on the emetophobia front. In winter 2002, I was visiting my parents and had a horrible bout of anxiety and appetite loss. One morning my father asked if I wanted to go to breakfast. To me, that was a terrifying request (and not because he suggested McDonald’s).

“I don’t know,” I said with tears in my eyes, “What if I get there and I’m not hungry?”

My father was not phased by this obstacle in the least. “Well, then we bring it home and feed it to the dogs!”

Sounded easy enough. I got in the car and went with my father to McDonald’s. I cautiously ate a few bites of a Yogurt Parfait before my fearful esophagus would swallow no more.

On our way back, Dad got enthusiastic, “Oh Vicky, you’ve GOT to see this!”

He took a few turns and suddenly we were at a townhouse development. Typical to Northern Virginia architecture, all the houses looked exactly the same. But then there was one house in the row that stood out. The roof was COVERED with buzzards… and subsequently had its fair share of buzzard crap as well.

“There are here every morning,” Dad said, “And then after lunch, they go and fly across the river.”

We laughed and pointed and laughed some more. We speculated. What was it about that ONE townhouse that made it such an appealing roost? How come they didn’t sit on any of the adjacent townhouses? Did they used to have a tree in the same spot? Do the owners of the house know they have visitors while they are away?

Eventually, we returned back to the car where the yogurt was waiting in the cup holder. I was now relaxed and happy and as we drove back to the house and continued to marvel about buzzards, I finished every bit of my breakfast.

The root of my worries that day was a fear of vomit. And here a bird whose defense mechanism is to vomit on its threats was my salvation.

Vicky’s unlikely hero (Photo by Vicki and Chuck Rogers)

“Turkey vulture” and “buzzard” aren’t exactly appealing terms. The scientific name is a little better– Cathartes aura where cathartes means “purifier”. But I think the Cherokees came up with the best name. They call the birds “Peace Eagles” because buzzards don’t kill to eat. They simply recycle.

From my perspective, “Peace Eagle” is the perfect name! When I see a buzzard gliding around in the sky, “peaceful” is definitely a word I would use to describe their flight. Their ability to make me think of my family and feel as if I were home again brings along a sense of ease, a feeling of peace. And one day way back in 2002 when even a meal was a scary notion, it was a group of buzzards who brought me the most important type of peace.

Peace from one’s own mind.

May 23, 2008 at 4:00 pm 16 comments

A Lesson From the N Key

Earlier this week I got a new keyboard replacement, so I have a working N key!!!  Believe it or not, for a while there I actually struggled more with the new keyboard than the broken one!  I still kept hitting Ctrl-V out of habit and I started to have to consciously think about hitting the N key.  I had used the N key since high school.  I had only used Ctrl-V for two weeks.  Yet Ctrl-V was my default keystroke.  It is amazing how the human mind can change its behavior and habits. 

This may sound like a trivial example of a behavior change, but do not underestimate the power of precedence, no matter how small.  In fact, it was small examples that helped me feel equipped to change my behavior towards vomit.

In 2002, I started to see a cognitive behaviorist to address my emetophobia (fear of vomit).¬† This seemed like a daunting task– an impossible task.¬† My brain had two decades worth of training to react with fear and anxiety.¬† I spent two decades worrying about food poisoning, the stomach flu, motion sickness, morning sickness and even drunk people puking on me.¬† How could¬†I possibly undo behavior that was so engrained into my being?¬† Infeasible!¬† Then I remembered I had done it before… on smaller scales.¬†

From my 4/14/2002 Journal Entry:

One thing I realized is that I can teach myself new behavior.¬† I taught myself running – to become a running person¬†even though I’ve hated it all my life.¬† I taught myself to love fresh brocolli.¬† And here’s an interesting one.¬† I taught myself to change the way I write the number two.¬† All my life it has been like this:


One year when I was doing Christmas cards I made myself make my twos in a different fashion because I thought it looked nicer.


I had to think about it for a while and make myself do it, but now it is so natural to do it.  In fact, drawing those other twos felt weird now even though that format reigned for two decades.

I have in the power of my mind to change my behavior and you know what.  I think this [, tackling my fears,] can be done.

I was right!¬† It could be done!¬† I didn’t happen overnight (more like 12-18 months), but eventually those incumbent¬†reflexes were replaced by¬†fresh reactions.¬† Just like with my 2’s and the Ctrl-V N, it took conscious thought, practice, time… and the mind’s natural ability to retrain itself.

It was frustrating at times this week, when I went to type an N and I found a whole paragraph of clipboard text inserted in its place.  But overall, I celebrate those mishaps.  It reenforces the lesson I needed so desperately in 2002.

I can change.

May 13, 2007 at 1:43 pm 7 comments

Video: Thanksgiving 2001

Yesterday while I was cleaning the computer room, I¬†found an old video tape which included our Thanksgiving 2001 celebration.¬† That is the Thanksgiving where the oven broke– which threatened not only our Thanksgiving Day meal, but also our traditional cookie decorating for the Day After Thanksgiving.¬† At the last minute Dad called around and found an oven that fit our unique measurements.¬† He rushed out to pick it up.¬† Alas, by the time he got to the store, the oven with the measurements he needed was already taken.¬† (“How could it be gone?!? I thought you were holding it for me?”¬† “Well sir, we thought that was you!”)

So for Thanksgiving, our entire clan ended up eating at Market Street– which is a buffet.¬† It’s safe to say Sean was not impressed.¬† On the way in, Mom¬†mentioned that Market Street used to be my favorite restaurant, which is true (When you have emetophobia and you are never sure what your nerves will let you eat, buffets are perfect– you don’t have to commit to a single dish).¬† Sean quickly snapped his head around, “Wait a second, let me get this straight– this was your favorite restaurant?!?”

The others weren’t quite as skeptical.¬† It turned out to have its benefits.¬† We had¬†a giant TV where we could watch football.¬† My cousin, Frank, got to eat lasagna instead of turkey and no one had to clean up.¬† It was such a hit, my mother talked about doing that every year.¬† That following Easter, we made a return trip.¬† Luckily for Sean, since then we’ve opted for the more traditional home-cooked meals instead.

Anyway, Sean gave me a quick tutorial on digitizing the video and a lower quality copy is below.¬† I think it is probably of more interest to family members or¬†friends who are familiar with the Occoquan house.¬† I’m missing a lot of key footage to fully relay the details above, but the stuff I do have summarizes the experience and hints to the four-dog chaos of a Sawyer Thanksgiving.¬† Plus it has my late Grandpa in it.¬† That was such a welcomed surprise to see him again.

One day, I’ll have to do a version my “directors commentary” or something along the lines of “Popup Video” to point out little details that are meaningful to me¬†five years later.¬† For now though, you can read my timestamped notes.

Remaining Time In Comment
07:06 00:11 I love Dad’s theory about how the oven got broken– sabotage!
06:58 00:16 This shot shows my Dad’s beloved conference room table. He got it from some office and it used to be the kitchen table. When my parents moved to the new townhouse, my father insisted his table come along. It’s in the computer room now. I also like how an issue of The Enquirer is present in the foreground. To me that is part of the experience of visiting my parents— reading The Enquirer.
06:30 00:46 You can see my priorities. Mom is making a list of everything that she needs the oven for our feast and the first item I mention is the cookies on Friday. Nevermind the holiday and all the guests— what about the cookies?!? Oh the humanity!
06:19 00:56 An ashtray was caught in the shot. In the old house, my parents smoked inside.
06:03 01:12 You can hear Mom’s finches singing in the background.
05:42 01:31 I did not cut out any suburban footage. The sound of the diesel engine and the sight of a white suburban will always remind me of my father, particularly him picking me up at high school.
05:40 01:35 Mmm…. all that polluting goodness.
05:09 02:05 Dogs are locked up, a measure we still use today.  We now lock them in carsРless barking, but there is a downside.
05:05 02:10 This is the end of Mom telling the surprised guests we are going to a buffet.
04:46 02:28 Frank looks so young! Who knew in a few years, he’d be throwing Jordan around like he was a rag doll!
04:40 02:34 Aww…. my heart melted to hear my late grandfather say, “Aren’t you a good dog? Aren’t you a good dog?”¬†I heard¬†him saying that to Hans too.
04:39 02:36 I like that you can hear Henry sniff the camera.
04:07 03:07 Timmy reprimanding Sunny.
04:04 03:10 Grandpa is telling a story about a woman sharing liquor with him. Meanwhile, Grandpa is inadvertantly sharing liquor as he speaks.
03:41 03:34 They are looking at Mom’s wedding gift to my cousin. Mom sent the wedding invitations out to get custom framed, but by the time she got them back, the new bride had already left the marriage.
03:22 03:50 I love Maria’s cheering. “Do it yourself!”, “Aww, you blew it!”
03:11 04:03 This is how desperate we were to keep the cookie tradition going. We were cooking batches of six at a time— in toaster ovens!
02:52 04:21 2001’s gravy looks much better than 2000’s. Somewhere I have video footage. My parents proved the saying about “Too Many Cooks” by contradicting each other’s efforts.¬† Dad would add more flour and immediately afterwards Mom would add more water.¬† The end result was this nasty mess that no one ate.
02:35 04:40 I love Mr. Yuk!
02:31 04:42 Sunny’s wearing an electric collar for the invisible fence. At my parent’s new house, the dogs¬†have a regular fence.
01:59 05:16 I stitched those spice labels (thus the attention)
01:23 05:53 My Dad was sporting bed head long before it was a fad.
00:32 06:43 My parents love to buy in bulk. That explains all the Chunky Soups.
00:27 06:46 My mother used to always buy Wedgewood for her mother. When grandma died, my Mom got all the Wedgewood back. So it was sort like she was buying gifts for herself all those years.
00:21 06:53 I love Sean instructing Henry in the background, “Go see what’s scary.” Henry did not obey.
00:12 07:03 I got that framed collection of pressed flowers for Mom for Mother’s Day.
00:03 07:11 Dad always eats the more disgusting bits of the turkey (somewhere I have video footage from another Thanksgiving where he takes the neck out of the trash, wipes off the cigarette ashes, cooks it and then eats it like corn on the cob).

January 28, 2007 at 12:09 am 4 comments

Vicky’s Business Travel Essentials

Tomorrow afternoon, I leave for a business trip.¬† I’ve traveled quite a bit for business the last three years.¬† Since I’ve had a lot of practice, I’m very adept at my packing procedure.¬†¬†For example, my Bowman Handbags Travel Cosmetic Bag is always perched in a basket on my sink.¬† All I have to do when I leave, is put in my deodorant and toothpaste and I’m off.¬† Everything else has a permanent residence inside the bag.

But it isn’t toiletries and clothing the help me make business trips personal.¬†¬†For this post, I thought I would highlight some of the items I carry with me that provide fulfilling trips with memories besides conference rooms and server closets:

  • Rollerblades – It is my policy to travel with my rollerblades.¬† I have a business trip to Traverse City, Michigan in 2001 to thank for this.¬† On that trip I spent an evening walking the beautiful TART trail.¬† It was a lovely walk, but it was marred by envy.¬† A number of rollerbladers whizzed by me and each time I cringed and longed for my own skates.¬† Now they come with me (even overseas) and I make it a point to skate in new states as I go.¬† With Massachusetts in October, I’m up to 17 states. (Related Post: Rollerblading – 16th State)
  • Journal – This is an absolute must.¬† Waiting at gates, riding on trains,¬†and spending evenings alone at hotel rooms is the perfect time for me to catch up on journal entries.¬† London is near and dear to my heart and I wonder if it is the city I love… or the fact that I get so much writing and introspection done there. ūüôā¬† (Related Post – Travel as a Learning Tool in Journal Excerpt: An Evening with Talib Kweli)
  • GPS – Rollerblading is my priority, but I also like to take my GPS with me on business trips.¬† It allows me to explore the area and find some off-the-beaten-path parks and novel areas¬†while searching for geocaches.
  • Dramamine –¬†I started using this stuff when I was in the throws of emetophobia.¬† It would give me the comfort of knowing I wouldn’t get motion sickness.¬†¬†That is no longer¬†a worry of mine, but much like Viagra was originally envisioned as a treatment for hypertension, I found¬†a side effect of dramamine to be much more valuable.¬† I’ve come to appreciate the ability of guaranteed sleep.¬† I pretty much sleep on planes regardless, but the dramamine ensures a timely decline and a restful¬†slumber.¬† Delays, turbulence, uncomfortable seats and bad entertainment don’t bother me when I’m in my own induced hypersleep.¬† And when we land, I’m typically ready to go and start my adventures.¬† When I am only in town for 25 hours and I want to rollerblade, geocache and explore– being rested and ready to go is a¬†wonderful thing.¬† Of course, my practice may bother the other passengers.¬† When we went to Las Vegas in 2005, my colleague, Mark Duncan, reported that he could hear me snoring¬†even though he was seated numerous rows away! ūüôā
  • Cell Phone and Cell Phone Charger – I rarely call my husband on trips anymore.¬† Instead we text message.¬† When I¬†travel a lot, even when I’m discovering a lot and seeing great scenery, there are still points where my mood is dampened and I miss home.¬† My husband seems to have uncanny timing during those times.¬† I’ll suddenly receive a text message or picture from Sean, usually some kind of inside joke or reference,¬†that is just downright hilarious.¬† I crack up and I’ll feel connected to home.¬†
  • Address Book and Stamps – I love letter writing and for the girl on the go, what better means than post cards?¬† You have no choice to keep your message short and quick, but you still get to reach out to the people you’ve been thinking of.¬† I’ve also taken advantage of hotel time to catch up on full blown letters.¬† I specifically remember writing Kevin Dublin from a hotel in Michigan and writing Emily Hackett from Kentucky.
  • Running Shoes and Workout Clothes – I like to take advantage of the free gyms facilities in hotels– particularly the eliptical machines and the stationary bikes.¬† There are exceptions, but for most business trips, I’m exercising every night– be it geocaching, rollerblading, walking or taking advantage of the gym.¬† I find exercise to be absolutely essential.¬†
  • Eugene Sheffer Crosswords – I’ll print out a series of Eugene Sheffer crosswords to work on during my trip.¬† I’ll work on them at the gate, on the plane¬†and most importantly, I’ll work on them when I go to dinner alone and am waiting for my food.¬†¬†(Related Post – Crossword Coincidences)

When I look back, I’ve seen so many neat places and have gone on so many great adventures.¬† Some of this I do have to attribute to my company– as they chose to send me and they took care of the bill.¬† Some of it, I have to attribute to the customers– they welcome me to their facilities and treat me so very well.¬†

But the financial backing of my company and the hospitality of my customers alone is not what made the trips great.¬† I’d like to think it’s the choices I make on how to use the downtime, that really makes the trips shine.

Here’s hoping for another shining trip! ūüôā

December 17, 2006 at 9:27 pm 7 comments

Misery – Tom Waits and Mao, Jodi and Me

Misery is the River of the World

As Mike E and I commuted back and forth on our trip to the Great Smokey Mountain National Park last month, he introduced me to his favorite artist, Tom Waits. There were a number of songs that I was fond of (especially from a live album Mike played), but my favorite song was Misery is the River of the World. That song has a very methodic rhythm to it, reminiscent of tides or currents. I especially liked trying to make my voice deep and rough to mimic Waits’ gravelly vocals and try to sing along. But, it’s the title of the song that is proving to be the most lasting impression:

Misery is the River of the World

The notion that misery flows throughout and feeds the entire world reminds me of a quote I read by Mao Zedong:

A long period of peace, pure peace without any disorder of any kind, would be unbearable…and it would be inevitable that peace would give birth to waves… I am sure that once we entered [an age] of Great Harmony, waves of competition and friction would inevitably break forth that would disrupt [it]… Human beings always hate chaos and hope for order, not realizing that chaos too is part of the process of historical life, that it too has value…

So according to Mao the absence of misery (aka “pure peace”) would bring forth boredom and unrest. My tournament bridge experience may support this theory. At times, I managed to upset myself with a poor play more than I upset my partner, otherwise known as “Dad”. In those cases, my father would remind me (paraphrased):

If we played perfect every time, it would be boring. There’d be no point.

Another thing I find notable about the Mao quote is his thought that “chaos too is part of the process of historical life, that it too has value.” Historically the times of war are accompanied by periods of innovation, invention and increased productivity. WWII brought forth a number of inventions and new products ranging from the atomic bomb to M&Ms. It also brought strides in quality control processes as well as recycling. Misery brings with it necessity and necessity brings forth revolution.

Misery is the Unit of Measurement (for Vicky)

Waits and Mao paint misery as inevitable part of life and Mao extends it to a necessary and valuable part of life. In my life, I don’t think I actively seek out misery (some may point to my work schedule and cite that as contradictory evidence). However, I have a whole slew of recent examples where I am unnerved by the absence of misery. I’ve grown accustomed to using it as a subconscious unit of measurement. When the misery does not match what I expected from the task at hand, I feel out of sorts.

Backpacking in the Smokies
When Mike, Kipp and I went backpacking in the Smokies, we carried our heavy packs for 8 miles and ascended up (and back down) roughly 2000 feet. Although I struggled a lot that first mile and had my fair share of discomfort and doubt, I certainly did not have the magnitude of misery I expected. I expected it to be harder than all other hikes I’ve attempted. I expected to want to turn around; I expected to want to cry; I expected to have to force my legs to keep moving on. That just never happened. So when it was all said and done, it did not feel like we ascended as much as we did. It still doesn’t.

User’s Conference
Last week was our annual User’s Conference. Like last year, I had some speaking engagements. This year we had almost twice the amount of attendees, so the audience was quite a bit larger. Now, although I did have some nerves before I spoke, it was no where near the amount from the year before. In fact, I believe last year my hands quivered at the very beginning. This year said hands were steady. So this year, when my speeches were over, I found myself thinking, “Wow, did that really happen?” The sensation didn’t solidify in my head without the nerves.

Back when I suffered from the self-induced misery of emetophobia (fear of vomiting), traveling proved to be an ordeal wrought with all sorts of anxiety. It would start weeks ahead of time. I’d worry about getting the stomach flu or food poisoning when I was so far away from home. I’d worry about turbulence causing motion sickness on the plane. I’d worry about losing my appetite from worrying. Why? If I lost my appetite and didn’t eat, I’d get so hungry I’d grow nauseous and when I grew nauseous, I’d gag. Even when I was already on a trip and I had some successful meals behind me, I’d still worry. Will I be hungry for dinner? What if I’m not hungry? If I am hungry, what will I eat? What if they don’t have anything I like? I didn’t realize it at the time, but all that worrying and anxiety really monopolized and taxed my body’s resources. I would completely drain myself, adding to the misery that was already there.

Welp, it has now been years since I’ve been liberated from that worry and I’ve certainly traveled up a storm! Without all the worry and anxiety, even the most unpleasant trips and circumstances, are so peaceful and pleasant. In other words, external miseries (flight cancellations, lodging mishaps, etc) are absolutely no match for the internal misery of my past.

Despite all the years that have passed and all my successful travels, it still feels very weird to me that trips do go so smoothly without any mental anguish. Very frequently, it almost feels like the trip did not happen. I marvel about the sensation in my journal entries from numerous trips. Here’s an excerpt from my trip to London in January 2005:

These latest trips I‚Äôve been taking ‚ÄĒ it feels like they aren‚Äôt real ‚ÄĒ they feel like a dream. Why? Because I have no anxiety. It still doesn‚Äôt feel like a trip if I don‚Äôt have a horrid ado in my head for weeks beforehand.

I wonder how many decades will have to pass before I adjust to the missing anxiety?

Misery is the Unit of Measurement (for Others?)

I may not be alone in feeling surprised by the absence of misery. Last weekend, Sean and I visited Brian and Jodi in their new home in Charlotte. During the evening, Jodi and I were talking about the birth of her daughter. The couple’s blog reads, “In what can only be described as ‘very fast’, Jodi had to push only 8 times across 3 contractions before Alison came out.” Jodi’s account confirmed that as she described how quick and easy the actual act of pushing and delivery went. When she was done, she said (paraphrased):

It felt like it should have been harder. It feels like it didn’t really happen, you know?”

I’ve never given birth, but I knew exactly what she meant!

November 12, 2006 at 1:42 am 1 comment

Fatigue and Fatigues

Shortly Sean and I will be living to catch a plane to Boston.¬† Knowing I did not have to get up this morning and work, I stayed up super late….doing work.¬†¬† My sleep afterwards was intermittent as Henry was up to some unusual antics.¬† Combine that with getting up early to pack, I did not get much sleep last night.

In my Out of State Ian Fund Efforts post from Colorado, I talked about the practice of offering trials up.  There is another thing I find myself doing during trying timesРI think about the men of D-Day. 

For example, when I used to be terrified of flying (and why was I so scared?¬† It had nothing to do with death– I was scared that I or someone was going to… throw up) and our flight hit turbulence, I would think about all the paratroopers and pathfinders flying in the wee morning hours and all the uncertainty and flak and erratic bumps they had to face.¬†

Last weekend while hiking in the Smokies with a heavy pack, I found myself rattling on to Mike about how the D-Day soldiers carried packs that were 60 pounds.  Not only did they carry a lot more weight that I, they were doing so through water and sand and had death-inducing machine gun fire to contend with.

Finally, the example that applies today!  On days where I am lacking sleep, I think about how in the months preceding the D-Day invasion, Dwight Eisenhower only got 2 hours a sleep a night.  If Eisenhower can plan the most complicated amphibious invasion in history with consistent fatigue, then I can certainly suck it up for one work day. 

There are times, though,¬†where my Eisenhower thought does not work.¬† Here is a barely legible quote from my November 11, 2005 journal.¬† It was written when Mark and I foolishly took a flight that left Las Vegas at 1 AM and had to switch planes at both Minneapolis and Detroit before arriving in Roanoke.¬† As Bill C so aptly summed up, “If you are going to take a red-eye, make sure it is a direct flight!”

Minneapolis Airport
~6:20 AM CST

In the months preceeding the D-Day Invasion, Dwight Eisenhower got about 2 hours a sleep each night.¬† I’m trying to imagine planning and strategizing the way I feel now.

Dwight wins.¬† I’m exhausted!

Is it blasphemous of me to think about the D-Day soldiers instead of Jesus suffering on the crucifix?¬† I hope not.¬† I¬†find the tales of these soldiers to set a slightly more obtainable precedent.¬† These are not feats the son of a diety performed.¬† These are feats of mere mortals.¬† Not just that, some of these mortal¬†men were only 17, 18 and 19 years old.¬†¬†These were the feats of “mortal kids”.

So I get to ask myself– if mortal kids can face what they faced, then what’s my excuse?¬† ūüôā¬†

October 11, 2006 at 7:36 am 5 comments

“It’s Different With Your Own Dog”

Back in the days where I was very much troubled by emetophobia (fear of vomit), I would wonder with a sinking heart how I would handle a sick child.  I once fled my grandmother's hospital room when she threw up.  I ran away!  I didn't return to the room the rest of the night– even after a nice nurse assured me, "It's safe now." 

In that particular case, my mother was there to help my grandmother and comfort her.  So there was no harm in my flight.  However, can you imagine a poor child under the same distress watching its own grown mother trip over items as she rushes out of the room? 

Back in the day, mothers I knew would reassure me, "Oh it's completely different when it's your own child that is sick."  They sounded very credible, but without personal experience it was a theory I had to take with faith.

Well this morning, I witnessed an occurence that supports the speculations of all those reassuring mothers.  Sean and I are watching a friend's dog.  In the wee hours of the morning, I awoke to hear that dog getting sick.  Now– having two dogs of my own (nine and six), I am quite immune to dog vomit.  I've seen and cleaned up the works– pumpkin seeds, tin foil, oatmeal explosions, candy bar wrappers, even pieces of dead animals.  Once I even had the honor of working with "self-cleaning vomit".  The beagle ingested and regurgitated a bar of soap.  As I scrubbed– it lathered!  Anyway, the point is– I have plenty of experience with dog vomit.

This morning, though, I could barely look at that other dog's present, without feeling the urge to gag!  I got it cleaned up, but it was definitely a very different, and more disgusting, experience.

Science has set a precedent of drawing theories about humans based on experiments on animals.  In that same time-honored tradition, I declare those mothers are right!  It is different with your own child… because it is certainly different with your own dog!

March 28, 2006 at 9:23 pm 4 comments

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