Wednesday, March 17, 2010

The Vacuum of My Life: A.K.A. How to Really Suck

From the beginning of time, my mother has been a self-
proclaimed cleanliness fanatic. When I was a baby, it wasn't so bad. That is to say, Mom was able to control my behavior, so she didn't yell. To keep me occupied, she might sit me in front of the television during The Price is Right which, according to her, fascinated me at the ripe age of 3 weeks. She might also plop me down on the wool shag, area carpet with geometric patterns in varying hues of orange (what I most recall), where I would itch (but could not scratch- being a baby and all), but my building blocks would be neatly contained, nonetheless.

Not until I was older did I understand what fanatic meant: No water droplets on the bathroom sink counter top, no grazing for food in the "closed kitchen", no sitting on her precious sofas to watch t.v. (we had our own bedroom t.v.s for Pete's sake! and we might, accidentally, sit improperly on her cushions), never cleaning my room or learning how to properly do my laundry because I was not permitted... though in fairness, Mom tried showing me the proper way to make "hospital corners" while making my bed, though I believe my jaw dropped and my mouth was hanging open while my mind wandered-off in 18 million other places- this is precisely why I still cannot make hospital corners.

But above all else- No walking on her carpet.

I know what you're thinking, "She can't be serious! I mean, the carpet? Isn't a carpet meant to be walked-on?" That's right. I'm not talking about some heirloom rug that's worth tens of thousands of dollars and is isloated in one, fancy room of the house. We're talking wall-to-wall. And one night in 1990, when I was feeling particularly brave and defiant, I walked on the carpet, sat on the sofa, and turned on the television. Mom came home and in a voice unlike her sing-songy, normal voice, sounding like a cruel Disney villain she said, "Who-walked-on-my-carpet?" She saw footprints and noticed the lines she vacuumed-in were slightly askew.

To think I could shield my children from the familial madness by becoming fanatically messy and careless would be a mistake. You can ask my daughter what "Gram" did to her when she was two and was eating a cookie in the kitchen (silly me, where else in Gram's house would she be eating it?). I have spent years undoing the trauma of Mom vacuuming the baby by insisting to the poor kid that the vacuum can be FUN! hahaha! Hop on and let's zoooooom around the room!

In my life, not cleaning the house has meant comfort. I've fought my love for the smells of chlorine bleach and Lysol and attempted to replace them with cooking spices, candles and fine incense. After a lifetime of deliberate avoidance and oppositional defiance, I realize only now that I am a Closet Cleaner. I don't mean that I clean closets, I mean that I've been hiding my love for all things organized and clean just to punish my mother.

Recently, a friend who has a background in clinical psychology said to me, "Grow-up."

In other words, when am I going to stop being like an obnoxious teenager who acts passive-aggressively toward her parent? Because not only am I, as an adult, trying to make Mom suffer, but I am also living in a manner and fashion which I find to be rather distressing and which others who live in my home must also endure.

No matter the extreme, whether fanatical in cleanliness or in being sloven, comfort is lost. I find the fact that I can't find my keys equally as distressing as a sterile environment. Both extremes promote fear, which to me, is not a desirable goal for one to attain. A home, for me, should be a place of love, respect, safety, and comfort.

The same psychologist friend believes that, innately, as people, we spend our adult lives seeking that which we believe we sufficiently lacked as children. I know that the concept is nothing new and that we act in many ways which subvert or drive our overall success as individuals. Where it is new, however, is when I apply the concept to my own life.

Continuing to plague the world with one's sense of entitlement and ownership while believing the rest of the world can go hang is wrongfully audacious. It is not one's job, responsibility, or right to punish anyone for attempting to or successfully squashing one's ego or sense of self. How childishly insane... and people do it all the time when they have extra-marital affairs, drop-out of school, fight and bicker, consume harmful chemicals, and kill each other.

For as we punish others for our short comings, we also punish ourselves because no one in the world is responsible for an individual except that same individual. It's not only others who suffer, we suffer too when we decide to sabotage our perfection.

So, if a person sucks, it's his or her choice. Suck it up! The Universe has given us everything we've always needed, though some probably have a hard time believing me. We've all been so conditioned from birth to believe that we are special and different and that we deserve to be special. But if "special" means that a person will do anything to force the hands of the world to carry that person's weight because he feels it owes him something, I promise the world will inevitably drop him time and time again. What a vicious cycle that could become; for, you will always be disappointed in your expectations. Poor, poor souls who choose suffering over peace- dissatisfaction over contentment, suck no more.

Monday, March 8, 2010

Reality is One, Giant Placebo Effect

For decades, medical researchers have studied the Placebo Effect. Most people understand placebos to be "sugar pills" given to research participants in medical studies; oftentimes, medical research groups will be divided into two groups: one group will receive the actual treatment being tested, while another group will be given an impostor treatment, or placebo. Researchers use this method to test the efficacy of potential drugs by comparing and contrasting the results of both groups. Something that has fascinated researchers is that, sometimes, the placebo subjects' medical woes will dissipate or even disappear, especially in psychiatric trials. Now, new scientific data suggests that the Placebo Effect is much stronger than was previously recorded, which scientists are calling placebo "drift".

While some of this data is correlated with pharmaceutical research fraud, overall, this shift is significant enough to warrant concern in the research community. In the NPR report, The Growing Power of the Sugar Pill, data suggests that faith is a powerful medicine. Now, when some people hear the word "faith", it stirs serious emotions. Atheists and agnostics might fiercely defend their right to non-faith; while others whom welcome spirituality and religion, might welcome the concept.

But this faith doesn't require God or an absence of God. Rather, this faith deals with believing in science. People have faith when they go to the doctor that modern medicine will cure one's ails. Well, according to researchers, having faith that you're being cured might actually work. It's enough to skew data and make some scientist scratch their heads, because faith cannot be measured using the scientific method.

This news is welcome for people like me who would not consider themselves religious or sometimes frown at conventional spirituality, but who also accept that there are answers science cannot measure or answer. I consider myself a realist who takes full responsibility for my Self. This also means I believe that I can control every aspect of my Self, and not just deciding on whether to make a left or right turn, or choosing to treat people with common courtesy. I'm talking about the micro too: I should be able to control every aspect of my life down to a molecular level, and all with a thought. I can manipulate my external environment, so why not the internal?

Aside from placebo drift, I'm not the only one who believes this to be true. Tibetan Buddhists have believed the mind and body are interconnected for thousands of years.

Now, the test for me is to learn how to do it. How can I, with a thought, make myself hot and then cold? How can I, with a thought, heal diseases of my mind and body? If I can choose to control my external environment deliberately, I must also be able to use the same deliberation and presence of mind to control what is within.

We can already master our internal selves when we choose to be happy or sad, angry and passive- logically, I must also include the minute, microscopic, subatomic particles that make me who and what I am.

What effects do your beliefs have on your life? Perhaps a lot more than you think.

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