The prednisone taper has commenced in earnest and I am currently at 25 mgs, a reduction from the previous 60 mgs I was taking. My body has become a battle field, and most days I feel like pure shite. It is difficult to discern if the auto-immune disorder is causing some of the problems, or the prednisone, itself. Whichever is the case, they are engaged in a nasty game of tug-of-war, my body being the play-ground where la guerra is being waged.
At work I break out in spontaneous heat waves several times a day, and at night I marinade in my own juices. In tandem with this is an arrhythmia that suddenly manifested out of nowhere in order to torture me further, and which is sure to kill me. It occurs at least once a day if not several times, and generally persists for several hours at a stretch. I have been assured by medical professionals, (the same professionals incidentally who have yet to tell me exactly which auto-immune disorder I have) that the extra beats originate in the atrial chambers of the heart and as such are harmless. Try convincing me of that when I am unable to fall asleep because every third or fourth beat of my heart is abnormal or premature.
There is just no getting any shut-eye until my heart decides to return to a normal rhythm, which means trying to distract myself so I don’t go into panic mode and call 911. I’ve been averaging less than six hours of sleep a night, which means I am not at the top of my game at work.
Distracting myself from the all too obvious arrhythmia is not an easy task by any stretch of the imagination. I generally try to anesthetize myself with a good dose of Juan Diablo from the Mexican telenovela, Corazon Salvaje, but I can only watch two consecutive episodes before my brain begins shutting down from the arduous task of trying to assimilate rapid Spanish. After that I’m let to my own creative devices which typically means googling random things on the computer.
I generally like to start with myself. It’s always good to know what little gems are available on the information highway regarding ones self, that any stalker can bascially find with ease. Aside from my two recently published novels, and some flattering reviews regarding said books; a thesis written for my Master’s degree in social work; my profile on Linkedin; and my authors profile on Goodreads, I apparently lead a boring life. So, move on would-be-stalkers. Nothing to see here.
Armed with evidence that my life is mostly meaningful only to myself, I decided to move on to a new topic or person, with the hope that someone else’s life would prove to be more interesting than mine. I didn’t have to look far.
The brain works in weird and wonderful ways as we age. For instance I can’t for the life of me remember my lan line number from the last residence I lived in two years ago, but I can recall with startling clarity not only the telephone number of the house I lived in until the age of ten, but also that of my best friend, Patsy. I can also recite our civic addresses.
Now back to googling other people. In 1968, Franco Zeffirelli’s, Romeo and Juliette, which starred Olivia Hussey and Leonard Whiting (both names of which I can also recall with ease) was being shown in theaters across the country. The Shakespearean vernacular spoken by the actors was difficult to navigate through, but at the time I was wholly preoccupied with the unrequited lovers theme, and what appeared to be the flawless beauty of both actors. Barely understanding what they were saying to one another in Olde English seemed a moot point at the time.
Last night after bidding an affectionate buenas noches to Juan Diablo and googling my boring self, Olivia Hussey randomly popped into my head. With time to kill, I began wondering if the passage of forty six years might have altered my fourteen year old perception of flawless beauty. In 1968, the North American standard of beauty was narrow and ethnocentric. Television and the modeling industry were dominated by Caucasians, and almost a half century later we’ve yet to see parity.
I won’t lie to you, I’ve worshiped beauty like a golden calf, but in my own defense, not just the beauty of the human body. I also admire beautiful flowers, rainbows, the way things looks after a summer rain has fallen, and wide open prairie fields.
With regard to the beauty of humankind, it begins with the face, and particularly with the eyes. Whoever coined that old adage, “the eyes are the windows of the soul,” knew precisely what they were talking about. The eyes appear to say it all.
When I was fourteen, I couldn’t imagine two more perfect looking people; Olivia Hussey and Leonard Whiting. They subsequently became the standard of beauty by which I measured myself, and in doing so found myself miserably bereft.
When my mother left when I was ten, I lost the logical female role model who would have guided me gently through the rocky shores of adolescence. I was subsequently left to my own devices to try and sort things out. When my older sister suddenly announced one day that I was ugly while we were in the midst of doing dishes, me washing, and she drying, I therefore had no maternal recourse in which to solicit bull-shit assurances that it wasn’t true. Let’s face it. No mother thinks their child imperfect in any way.
From that day forward, I morphed into what I believed I was. Unbeautiful.
The mirror perched atop our cluttered dresser only served to back up my sister’s claims. I was too thin at a time when skinny was in no way considered vogue. My face was far too pale, my nose too ethnic, my hair a tangled birds nest, and my chest sub-standard in its refusal to put forth breasts. I was the girl those mean boys laughed at, making snide comments about my being flat as a board that no carpenter or anyone else for that matter would ever want to nail, and something about two fried eggs on a platter, an analogy lost on me at the time. I decided then and there that if I couldn’t be beautiful, then I would at least become invisible, folding into myself like a fan.
Then there was the issue of my school clothes, most of which were passed down to me from my older sister, who although only a year older than me, stood inches above me my tiny frame. By the time she had outgrown her apparel, they had become a hideous shade of tattle-tale grey, having been washed along with the whites. They were also too big for me as I hadn’t grown a single inch, and they were no longer in fashion, not that they had ever been to begin with.
The housekeepers my father hired when away for months at a time flying jet ranger helicopters in remote places, frankly couldn’t give a fiddlers fart about my wardrobe malfunctions, or the fact that my clothes were perpetually wrinkled due to never being ironed. The housekeepers were as perennial as summer grass and had been hired on the basis that they were women, somewhat attractive, had basic cooking skills, and agreed to sleep with my father from time to time. I am certain that nary a resume was ever handed in, and criminal record checks were virtually unheard of back then. Luckily for us, the housekeepers were mostly kind, nurturing, and interesting.
While Ruby could read the cards like a practiced charlatan, and explain the finer details of the facts of life to me, she was no help whatsoever with my flagging self esteem and notion that no boy would ever want me, so I kept my worries to myself. I was never going to be beautiful like Olivia Hussey, and would never net a prize like Leonard Whiting.
Last night after googling Olivia Hussey and Leonard Whiting and waiting for my heart to settle down into a regular rhythm, I was immediately rewarded by photos taken of them circa 1968, during their respective roles of Romeo and Juliette. Despite today’s changing standards of beauty, they both still took my breath away. They were as perfect as I rememberred them to be.
I hadn’t been wrong after all.
When I finally fell into a fitful sleep, I dreamt I was trying to leave my body so I could astro travel.
Yeah. I know.