Sunday, August 29, 2010

Checking in

It has been over three months since I stopped taking mental health medications. So far, I appear to be sane. Maybe more so than before. No more mood treks to the poles. In fact, I don't seem to stray far from the equator.

How mundane.

Sometimes, the patient knows what she knows and should be given the opportunity to be taken seriously.

But what do I know? I'm just a patient.

Friday, August 27, 2010

Literary excellence, truly.

I'm druuuuuuuunnnnnnnnk! Drunk. Yea!


May feels profoundly lonely tonight.

Please, no more reruns

Shingles. It sucks just as much the second time around.

Thursday, August 26, 2010

So, my needs top out at the bottom?

Researchers at the University of Arizona have declared Abraham Maslow's Hierarchy of needs "quaint," "outdated," and "wrong." In response to their new conclusions, they have rewritten the pyramid and placed mating and parenting at the top of man's innermost aspirations.

No. No, no, no, no, no. The idiots behind this study obviously didn't spend a whole hell of a lot of time speaking with me, my husband, or any of the millions (probably billions) of people like us who are childless by choice, and happily so. I have never, at any time in the last 49 years, had any desire to reproduce--at all. I knew by the age of 15 that I never, ever wanted to be a parent to anyone. Period. I used to joke that I was not only missing the mommy gene, I was ecstatic about the omission.

And, what about all of the people who just don't really yearn to hook up and find a or retain a mate--beyond the need for sexual release (plain old sex was on Maslow's model)? So, did the researchers just decide that people who are childless by choice don't have any relevance in the study of humanity and psychology? And what about the people who eschewed reproduction specifically to better the chances of achieving self-actualization? If our goal is not reproduction, then, what...we just don't exist? Is the University of Arizona even a good school? I mean, should they be taken seriously?

I'm so irked, I'm copying the entire article instead of just providing a link. So there. Click on the graphic to see it at a readable size.

Updated Maslow’s Pyramid of Needs
By Rick Nauert PhD, Senior News Editor
Reviewed by John M. Grohol, Psy.D. on August 23, 2010

A team of psychologists have updated a cornerstone of modern psychology — Abraham Maslow’s pyramid of needs.

Maslow’s pyramid describes human motivations from the most basic to the most advanced. According to experts, Maslow’s time-tested pyramid, first proposed in the 1940s, needed to be updated to reflect the last 50 years of research.

A team of psychologists, including two from Arizona State University, recast the pyramid. In doing so, they have taken on one of psychology’s iconic symbols and have generated some controversy along the way.

The revamp of Maslow’s pyramid reflects new findings and theory from fields like neuroscience, developmental psychology and evolutionary psychology, said Douglas Kenrick, an ASU professor of psychology and lead author of the paper, “Renovating the pyramid of needs: Contemporary extensions built upon ancient foundations.”

Despite being one of psychology’s most memorable images, Maslow’s pyramid hasn’t always been supported by empirical research, said Steven Neuberg, an ASU Foundation professor and coauthor of the paper.

“Within the psychological sciences, the pyramid was increasingly viewed as quaint and oldfashioned, and badly in need of updating,” Neuberg added.

“It was based on some great ideas, several of which are worth preserving,” Kenrick said.

“But it missed out on some very basic facts about human nature, facts which weren’t well understood in Maslow’s time, but were established by later research and theory at the interface of psychology, biology and anthropology.”

Maslow developed the pyramid of needs to represent a hierarchy of human motives, with those at the bottom taking precedence over those higher up. At the base of Maslow’s pyramid are physiological needs – hunger, thirst and sexual desire.

According to Maslow, if you are starving and craving food that will trump all other goals. But if you are satisfied on one level, you move to the next. So, once you are well fed, you worry about safety. Once you are safe, you worry about affection and esteem and so forth. Perhaps most famously, at the top of Maslow’s pyramid sat the need for self-actualization – the desire to fulfill one’s own unique creative potential.

The research team – which included Vladas Griskevicius of the University of Minnesota, Minneapolis, and Mark Schaller of the University of British Columbia, Vancouver – restructured the famous pyramid after observing how psychological processes radically change in response to evolutionarily fundamental motives, such as self-protection, mating or status concerns.

The bottom four levels of the new pyramid are highly compatible with Maslow’s, but big changes are at the top. Perhaps the most controversial modification is that self-actualization no longer appears on the pyramid at all.

At the top of the new pyramid are three evolutionarily critical motives that Maslow overlooked – mate acquisition, mate retention and parenting.

The researchers state in the article that while self-actualization is interesting and important, it isn’t an evolutionarily fundamental need.

Instead, many of the activities that Maslow labeled as self-actualizing (artistic creativity, for example) reflect more biologically basic drives to gain status, which in turn serves the goal of attracting mates.

“Among human aspirations that are most biologically fundamental are those that ultimately facilitate reproduction of our genes in our children’s children,” Kenrick explained. “For that reason, parenting is paramount.”

The researchers are not saying that artists or poets are consciously thinking about increasing their reproductive success when they feel the inspiration to paint or write.

“Reproductive goals are ultimate causes,” Kenrick added, “like the desire of birds to migrate because it helps them survive and reproduce. But at a proximate (or immediate psychological) level, the bird migrates because its brain registers that the length of day is changing. In our minds, we humans create simply because it feels good to us; we’re not aware of its ultimate function.”

“You could argue that a peacock’s display is as beautiful as anything any human artist has ever produced,” Kenrick said.

“Yet it has a clear biological function – to attract a mate. We suspect that self actualization is also simply an expression of the more evolutionarily fundamental need to reproduce.”

But, Kenrick adds, for humans reproduction is not just about sex and producing children. It’s also about raising those children to the age at which they can reproduce as well. Consequently, parenting sits atop the revamped pyramid.

There are other distinctions as well. For Maslow, once a need was met, it disappeared as the individual moved on to the next level. In the reworked pyramid, needs overlap one another and coexist, instead of completely replacing each other.

For example, certain environmental cues can make them come back. If you are walking down the street thinking about love, art or the meaning of life, you will revert quickly to the self-protection level if you see an ominous-looking gang of young men headed your way.

The new pyramid already has generated some controversy within the field. The published article was accompanied by four commentaries. While the commentaries agreed with the basic evolutionary premise of the new pyramid, they take issue with some of the specific details, including the removal of self-actualization and the prominence of parenting in the new pyramid.

“The pyramid of needs is a wonderful idea of Maslow’s,” Kenrick said.

“He just got some of it wrong. Now people are talking about it again, which will help us get it right.”

The paper was published in the journal Perspectives on Psychological Sciences.

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Why religion does not make the world a better place

For most of my adult life, I have harbored the belief that religion--organized religion--is a bad thing. It's group-think. It's social control. It's for people who lack critical thinking skills and an understanding of the most basic sociological realities.

Many a conflict in this world had its roots in religion. Too many religions do not preach, "Believe and be saved" as much as they preach, "Believe--or else. And while you're at it, you must recruit as many new members as possible or you can kiss your own salvation goodbye."

Then there's the whole doctrine of "If you don't believe as I believe, you are evil and must be eliminated." Many a conflict, war, slaughter, oppression, holocaust, conquest, and discriminatory act have been based on this. Research any religion and you'll conclude there has been bad behavior all around. Believing in a deity is one thing; forming an entire social construct around it is a recipe for narrowing minds.

Although I am an atheist, I like to believe that as long as other people keep their religion cooties off of me, I'm fine. I don't try to convince anyone they should believe what I do, nor do I even feel I have any right to dissuade someone from holding onto cherished beliefs. Believe whatever you want; just don't expect me to believe it, too, and please don't try to engage me in a conversation where you get to tell me how wrong I am. I believe I tolerate all faiths and I expect my beliefs to be tolerated equally.

A week ago, a news story caught my attention. It made me realize that I'm not that tolerant. The story was about the rising anti-Islamic sentiment in the United States. The story made me realize that I need to make some room for tolerance in my own heart.

I have no issue with the Muslims I know--and I know many--and it upsets me to hear people demeaning an entire faith without considering that it is made up of individuals. I don't know any Muslims who are trying to conquer the world. They just want to be left alone and allowed to follow their faith without persecution. I always thought it was a good thing for moderate and casual Muslims to come to the US so they could practice their faith in a normal, rational way, and not be subject to the violence of radicals.

Then, in the middle of the news story, I heard this quote: “I don’t care for their religion, I don’t care for their politics…I don’t want them here, opening Mosques in every city…they don’t belong here." At that moment, I realized that this defines exactly how I feel about arch-conservative, right-wing, evangelical Christians! Please don't open a church near my house. I don't want them preaching to me, or knocking on my door, or blocking women from entering clinics, or shoving their literature into my hand on the street, or traveling en masse to foreign countries with the sole intent of converting people to Christianity under the assumption that any other religion is just...wrong.

I'm not that tolerant after all.

My understanding is that Jesus Christ, whose followers are Christians, preached tolerance. The entire New Testament--the map of the Christian Way--is full of this principle. As I listened to the Christians in the story spout their hatred and intolerance, I couldn't help but think, "Wow, Jesus must be so proud of his followers who are hosting 'Burn the Koran Day' in Florida, and chasing away and threatening people who don't fall in line to follow Christianity."

I guess we haven't progressed very far since the Crusades.

In Tennessee, Lieutenant Governor Ron Ramsey suggested last month Islam is a cult and may not be protected by the First Amendment. How about David Koresh? The Mormons? Scientologists? Aren't they cult-like, too? They have no problem enjoying the protections afforded by the Constitution. I have the right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. It would make me very happy to smack a pie into the face of every Mormon/Baptist/Jehovah's Witness who trespasses onto my property and rings my doorbell with th intention of shoving their religion down my throat as far as possible, but I'm not allowed to that. I have no rights in this regard.

In Indiana, Republican congressional candidate Marvin Scott often portrays all Muslims as extremists. He recently went on record saying, “The question becomes, when are young people indoctrinated into the Muslim ideal, and how much are they willing to carry out? I mean, it’s no different than the Japanese kamikazes.”

Hey, I received the "sacrament" of confirmation at the age of eight. The Catholic Church demanded that I commit to the faith with all of my body, heart, and soul, a little Papist soldier of Christ, promising to do whatever I was told to do in the name of Christ. I was in the third grade. Had I been told it was God's will to blow up Protestant children, I probably would have done it out of fear that disobeying the command would have led to my spending eternity in Hell. My madrasa was a well-respected parochial school in the Philadelphia suburbs. I was taught that Catholics were the only people who had any chance of getting into heaven, and everyone else who couldn't be converted should be not just be avoided, but shunned.

Yes, candidate Scott, when are children indoctrinated into their parents' religious ideal? Why is it OK to brainwash a Christian child, but it is evil to do so to any child of any belief you've probably never even bothered to learn about? Have you, personally, spent any time with any Muslims? Hindus? Jews? Atheists?

Tolerance. I must try to be more tolerant of those hypocritical, reactionary dunces who are all indignant assumption and zero education. It's not going to be easy.

Monday, August 23, 2010

I think it's back

It appears I am having a recurrence of shingles. No rash yet, but the pain is taking my breath away. The graphic (from shows common shingles pain areas in orange. My pain area is circled in red, but also includes the underside of my right arm, as well.

This sucks. A lot.

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

What's the answer?

My cousin posted this on Facebook...
If you think, that putting up a mosque, 600 ft. from ground zero and have the inauguration, on the anniversary of 9/11/11, is immoral, inhuman and a complete lack of respect for the memories, of all that perished there, on that day and their survivors. That politicians are doing a grave injustice to the fallen heroes, ...their families and all the people of New York City, THEN PLEASE COPY AND PASTE THIS TO YOUR WALL

In response, I posted this:
My understanding is that it is (1.) not a mosque, and (2.) several blocks from the far northeast corner of the WTC property. It will not be visible from any part of WTC property, nor will it allow a view of anything within two blocks of the site. The blocks surrounding the WTC site are full of bars, pawn shops, and porn: Does this honor the victims of 9/11?

Do I think this location has been made too controversial by inaccurate reporting of what it is? Yes. Should they move? Maybe. Maybe not. Mosques have been in lower Manhattan for decades. Do we next ask all of them to shut down?

As this story unfolds, I keep wondering: How far away will be considered appropriate to build ANY property associated with anything Islamic? How far do we push and restrict until we have rewritten the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution? And what religion is next?

Check out this OpEd piece from the Washington Post. Balanced food for thought:

(So far, no one has agreed, disagreed, or liked this comment.)

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

The way I see you

You with the sad eyes
don't be discouraged
oh I realize
it's hard to take courage
in a world full of people
you can lose sight of it all
and the darkness inside you
can make you feel so small

But I see your true colors
shining through
I see your true colors
and that's why I love you
so don't be afraid to let them show
your true colors
true colors are beautiful
like a rainbow

Show me a smile then
don't be unhappy, can't remember
when I last saw you laughing
if this world makes you crazy
and you've taken all you can bear
you call me up
because you know I'll be there

Lyrics, Steinberg/Kelly. Photo, OrganicMom

How do you measure progress?

I recently took a huge leap of faith and invited Elizabeth to read my blog. I didn't think she actually would. I worried she would. The whole thing is so self-absorbed. Then again, it's the only thing in my life that honors me. God knows, nobody else puts much thought into me. Except Jolie.

While I'm off from work, I decided to spend some time each day reading my blog from the beginning. It helps me gain perspective on my progress as a patient and as an ever-evolving human being.

Now that I know someone else is reading--someone I know--I read with a different view. I wonder as I go along, "What the hell must she be thinking if she's reading this post?" I was surprised to see that I had mentioned Elizabeth three years ago. Timing is everything in relationships.

I'm not egotistical, but my blog is self-serving. I write for me, to benefit my own mental health. The fact that anyone else is interested just fascinates me.

Here is what I know so far:

  • I am not so angry now. I've gotten better at neutralizing the traumas of illness and unreliable people.
  • I need to make some friends.
  • I really do whine a lot about exercise.
  • My writing skills have not suffered during this time of brain compromise.
  • I am emotionally healthier than I've ever been since 2003.
  • I never want to have shingles again
  • "Shingles" and "Oz" are the two most-searched terms that land people on my blog via a search engine. Huh. Interesting.
I'm still tired and ugly, obsese, confused by the medical system, and confident that a good, solid lottery win will go a long way in making my life better.

Monday, August 16, 2010

Another point of view

Keth Olberman provides some insight into the "Ground Zero Mosque." I learned a few things, reconsidered a few, too.

Sunday, August 15, 2010

Abandon hope

Dear President Obama,

I like you, really, I do. I like the idea of you and what your election represented for so many Americans.

When you came into office, it was immediately apparent that the desperate people of America had tasked you with an impossible to-do list. Their hopes were huge and they wanted you to be the savior to fix everything that had gone to Hell in a handbasket in the preceding ten years.

You indicated that this would have to be a two-term to-do list.

I've watched you now these many months, and I'm worried that you aren't really focusing on the things that need to be priorities. Where is your fight? What is your plan?

I am not among those who wanted you to "take action" when the oil spill regurgitated itself all over the Gulf coast. Unlike so many others, I do understand that corporations can't expect the government to be ready and willing to mop up messes like this one after those same corporations have fought tooth and nail to make sure the government can't be involved in anything businesses do. It's not the job of the government to clean up after corporate America. Personal responsibility goes hand-in-hand with personal freedoms, so let's just say I understand this, even though you're getting the blame for this disaster.

Your choice for the newest Supreme Court Justice, well, I have to admit I'm baffled by that one. It seems to me that you'd want a hard-core Constitutional scholar in that position, or at the very least, someone who has worked as a judge before. I'm sure you have your reasons for this choice, but for now, the evidence does not point to your selection's deep experience in the field.

Iraq and Afghanistan, Guantanamo Bay, Darfur vs. China--now these are things that get my attention, but maybe not so much of yours. This troubles me. In addition, I cringe when I hear the ignorant opinionaters of this country demanding to see your birth records (do they really think no one checked?) or when they insist that having a Muslim parent makes you a Muslim, too. Hey, I was raised Catholic and I'm an atheist through and through, so I know that argument is nonsense. Apparently, there are people who think you don't enjoy freedom of religion, or that all Muslims are evil. They think you've been installed in office as part of a vast Muslim conspiracy.

These are the people who are not going to shut up about your ethnicity, your heritage, or your name. Their voices will clatter like pots and pans as they drown out reasonable arguments and even facts regarding who you are and what you stand for.

This week, you may have sealed your fate for 2012. The year is supposed to be a disaster, anyway, but when you came out in support of the mosque at Ground Zero, you pretty much admitted to not wanting a second term. Is the Democratic National Committee grooming someone at this point?

Here's the thing. Your statement about freedom of religion was sensible, factual, and backed by the Constitution. Still just because it is possible and legal to do something doesn't mean it should be done.

This mosque issue is an emotional one. There is no way the average American is going to see the wisdom of celebrating the Muslim faith two blocks from where jihadists gouged out the soul of this country in the name of Islam.

Can they build there? Yes. Is it legal? Yes. Is it their Constitutional right to practice their religion wherever they want? Yes. Is it in poor taste to demand use of that particular location? Absolutely. Is it going to foster understanding and a bridging of cultures? No, because America is horrified. The message is lost in the greater sea of grief and anger seeping from a wound that is still raw. What Americans hear is a voice declaring, "We want to crush you and everything you value. We violated you because we want you to be more like us. Let's start here, where you're sure to feel we're rubbing your face in it." This is followed by a voice much like Ann Coulter's screeching, "SEE? We told you so!"

I have read extensively on this topic of the mosque near Ground Zero. The people involved appear to have good and honorable intentions, but they still don't have a clue about the power of perception.

It's a matter of principle for both sides. The organization doing the building believes they should go forward because they have a right to do so. The public and many in government are appalled by the lack of sensitivity and believe that this building belongs somewhere--anywhere--else. The state of New York offered a land swap, but the Islamic center developers rejected the offer because they want what they want where they want it. How can this be perceived as anything but a hostile act?

President Obama, your statement about freedom of religion was a noble one--and accurate, too, but no one has said Muslims are being denied the right or opportunity to practice their faith. No, the point is, it is arrogant and in poor taste to build a mosque there, on that particular spot.

Mr. President, I think you missed the point, the big picture, and quite probably, the re-election.

"About a million members"

Hey, here's a friendly heads up: If your religion requires you to go out and pound the pavement to recruit new members, you are in a cult.

I have never had any interest in sharing this experience with you, and I've made this clear.

Get the fuck off my property.

Note: We are not ambiguous on this point. There is a sign next to the doorbell that reads: "No Solicitiation. Definition: We do not want to hear about your religion. We do not want to buy anything. We do not want to sign your petition. Basically, if you are not USPS, FedEx, UPS, or a friend of ours, you are trespassing, so do not ring the doorbell."

Saturday, August 14, 2010

Maybe she'll get a movie or sitcom and be gone

Kristen Wiig is so ufunny and excruciatingly irritating, I have had to stop watching Saturday Night Live. To make matters worse, she's in almost every sketch.

Is she Lorne Michaels's girlfriend? Does he really think she's funny? I find every one of her characters to the point of being unwatchable.

Maybe she'll move on to movies or something and I can have my Saturday night show back. For now, I'm heading to bed.

Friday, August 13, 2010

Blogging on a plane

Wednesday, August 11, 2010.
Somewhere over the desert

Away. I’ve been away since about sunrise Saturday morning, making this my fifth day many miles from home. I’ve made this particular trip twice before. This would have been the fourth time, but last summer, Jolie wasn’t really up for the task of hosting me.

The grant that funds my employment and that of 20 people who work with me is not adequate to cover our salaries for an entire year. For this reason, we take off six weeks each year, unpaid. The time is divided out throughout the year, so as not to create a large financial burden in a single pay period.

It does not bother me that my vacation time, though more than justly earned, comes without pay. I’m fortunate to be employed in a job that I find meaningful and that pays me adequately. This being said, when vacation time comes, I am ready for it because I usually arrive at this point exhausted—depleted emotionally and physically. The last few years have been especially difficult, given my often disturbing yet amazing journey through self-discovery (Jolie, dear, that sentence was just for you).

I rarely pull out my laptop while on a plane, but today I have the entire three-seat section of row all to myself. I’m too frugal to pay for a seat upgrade with extra room. I’m not even 5’ 2”, so it doesn’t offer me any perceivable benefit, and today I would have had people next to me. If that had happened, there would be no room for a laptop and a glass of chardonnay, as this requires two tray tables, and I’ve yet to find anyone willing to share.

I have relocated from the aisle seat to the window, and my binoculars are on the adjacent seat. Unfortunately, flying so late in the day means that clouds have had many hours to collect the few water molecules that come together over the desert, so there’s not much to see.

Vacation. Jolie lives amid a shimmering oasis of affluence surrounded by ruddy and rusty stretches of desert. It amuses me that so many people who live there are trying to outrun the natural aging process by way of cosmetic surgery and a seemingly unending abundance of available dermaceutical processes. What they really need is to move out of the desert to more humid, less sun-intensive climate.

I digress.

Not visiting Jolie last year left a hole in my summer that I struggled to fill. Keeping busy wasn’t a problem, but being interested in my own company was a challenge. Even this vacation, I followed through on my promise to Dr. S and I got some form of exercise or movement every day.

Overall, the visit went well. I’m horribly self-conscious when I’m out of my home zone, especially when I’m around people I like. It’s no secret that I can be exceptionally annoying—and it’s likely the reason my only close friend is one who lives far away.

I can’t imagine what it’s like to feel well or to feel confident, or to feel at ease with myself, or to just enjoy where and who I am at any given moment. My mind stays firmly fixed on doing what I need to so as not to be perceived as a fat, dorky, loser.

I know that Jolie needs a lot of rest, but she was a good sport who played along with my wish to get out and do touristy things. It’s going to take her days to recover. It’s going to take me days to recover. I tried to be a low-key, low-maintenance guest, but sometimes I forget to be hypervigilant, so I’m sure I could have done better all around.

Now, to figure out the rest of my vacation.
My pictures from the Sonoran Desert

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

See, it was genius

Almost exactly two years ago, I shared fat-girl tip on how to avoid getting terribly chafed inner thighs when wearing skirts in summer. You can read about that by clicking here. Go ahead--I'll wait, and it's still funny.

Now I have reason to believe that the people at Lanacane have been reading my blog and stealing my schemes of genius. It's true.

While flipping through TV channels last night, I came upon a commercial for a new product made by Lanacane. It features folks a bit more on the portly side and it delicately hints that fat skin gets rubbed raw when two surfaces come together. Their solution? Anti-chafing gel.

Once again, I have a great idea and miss out on my millions. Have I ever metnioned my idea for a three-sided scratching post with choice of surfaces?

I can go lower

Today I heard the following statement while listening to a science story on NPR:
Scientists have found that orangutans use less energy, pound-for-pound than any mammal ever studied, except for the tree sloth.

I beg to differ--or at least, to clarify. It is a fact that I have a lower metabolic rate than any orangutan. This scientific finding hasn't appeared in any journal simply because these scientists have not yet studied me.

At 1200 calories a day and minimal physical activity (although far more than any orangutan), I continue to maintain a weight of 175 pounds packed onto a 5-foot-2-inch female frame.

Those primates got nothin' on me.