Tuesday, January 23, 2007

You Have Your Whole Life

A few of the men that frequented The Blade and Wing, an old Vietnam vet hang-out that I used to bartend at, were amputees. I'd watch them drink their boilermakers (the most common request I got -- I didn't even know what a cosmo was in those days) and keep my eye on everything to make sure everybody wasn't in any danger of fighting or falling off the barstool, both common occurences. I was reminded of these men when I read an article the other day on body integrity disorder -- put simply, people who want to amputate a healthy limb in order to feel whole. These people believe they've been born into the wrong body and go to dramatic measures to harm themselves so that a surgeon will have to amputate -- packing themselves in dry ice, putting their legs on train tracks, and so on. When I mentioned this to a friend, my friend said, Send their asses to Iraq. That'll do it.

I suppose what disturbed me most about the article was that everyone I know wants to change a little something about themselves at one time or another -- from most women I hear, If I could only lose ten pounds, I'd be happy. I used to believe this too until dieting caused my hair to fall out. But it's all a matter of scale -- whereas one person wishes to be a blonde, one wishes to hack her right leg off. Once a student of mine wrote a great story with a line out of a military instructional manual -- You have your whole life to get out of a minefield. Our minds, if nothing else, are those minefields, and I think of it often as pain, real and phantom, haunts me. Things that aren't there sometimes hurt just as much as things that are. We carry them around like an extra limb, all the while wishing that someone would make us whole.

Michelle's Spell of the Day

"If you want to know who your friends are, get yourself a jail sentence. " Charles Bukowski

Cocktail Hour

Drinking music suggestion: Music for Lovers John Coltrane

Benedictions and Maledictions

The beautiful scarf in the picture was made by my gorgeous, talented friend Stacey! And the car, of course, is my precious Snowflake.

You Won't Even Know I'm Gone

If it were easier, you'd send me back.
But all my original packaging is lost
and there is no receipt. Don't worry --
I'm returning a few things too. I'll save
you the trip, put myself back on the shelf.
I'm no longer your have to have, just
your it would be a relief to give up. Don't
be too sad, honey. This, like most things,
will hurt for a very long time. You won't
have to give up everything all at once.


Anonymous said...

"You have your whole life to get out of a minefield" is excellent advice. I think I'll try to remember to apply that to other walks of life.

Anonymous said...

What's the point of becoming whole? As soon as you do someone comes along and does their best to rip something else off of you.

Fuck it they want the leg, arm or eye if the can get it take it, i'll adjust.

Anonymous said...

Sometimes the longing is part of us, the part made out of murk and ethers. Take it away, and we're too dense and mortal, left in the here and now.
~I guess a little bit of hurt is beautiful, or at least familiar.

paul said...




Anonymous said...

That is a disturbing disorder, and one I'd never heard of. It's not exactly the opposite of a phantom limb--the occasion when someone's amputated limb still hurts--but it reminds me of that phenomenon, which I read about once upon a time when I was a reference librarian.

JR's Thumbprints said...

I've got more than I can bargain for. There seems to be something lodged between my two upper front teeth. After four days of flossing and agonizingly trying to dig whatever it is out, I've decided to go to the dentist. At least when I'm done, the extra bit I'll lose will make me whole again.

Anonymous said...

I believe there are no easy answers, and the appendage is not the problem. We do a fairly good job of schooling our children in the subjects of logic, but when it comes to emotion we have lacked in our teachings.

Laura said...

I thought that those people that cut themselves were weird, but people that want to take off a limb??? That's the strangest disorder I've ever heard of.

Anonymous said...

Body Integrity Identity Disorder

is the medical terminology for this desire

The thing about it that amazes me is there is actually ongoing debate in the medical ethics community as to whether surgeons should be allowed to remove completely healthy limbs to satisfy this mental disorder.

Uhhhhh doc i don't like my head will you take it off for me?