April 2018

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Rare and Peculiar

When I saw my naturopath about fatigue last week, I shared with her a new symptom: When I am moving—walking, riding in a car, flying in a plane—and then I stop, my body still thinks that it is moving, so my mind thinks that the world is moving and my balance is especially difficult.

To manage this sensation when I’m walking, I stop and pound my cane on the ground a few times before stepping off a curb. In this pause, I clear my senses and step onto a still street, instead of onto a moving sidewalk (like the ones at the airport).

My naturopath, Dr. Stretch, said, “Hmmm. I’ve never heard of that before. Let me see if I can find it in my naturopathic guide.” She pulled a tome as thick as my toaster oven out of her cabinet, its pages yellowed and slips of yellow paper jutting out from its pages, markers for important pages, I assumed.

Dr. Stretch looked at something three-quarters of the way into the book. She tracked the lines with her index finger as she read them, raised her eyebrows at one point, then lowered them and shook her head. She turned to the tome’s beginning, the Table of Contents I assumed, and scanned for –what, I’m not sure—flipped to a page and read it with her finger until she shook her head and returned to the Table of Contents to try again.

After a few minutes, she shook her head and looked up. “This is what we call ‘Rare and Peculiar’,” she told me. Rare and peculiar symptoms are almost always important. I will have to do more research.”

I was delighted. Rare and peculiar! I’ve always wanted to be rare and peculiar! I understand that my symptom, not necessarily my self, is rare and peculiar, but I want to think of myself that way anyway.

For a long time, I thought of myself as normal. How dull. I preferred to be odd. When I read Emily Dickinson’s poem “Are you a nobody?” in high school, I feared that I was a somebody. Emily wrote:

I'm nobody! Who are you?
Are you nobody, too?
Then there's a pair of us — don't tell!
They'd banish us, you know.

How dreary to be somebody!
How public, like a frog
To tell your name the livelong day
To an admiring bog!

I wanted to be nobody, a pair with Emily. I did not want to be dreary, but feared that perhaps I was the worst kind of somebody, a failure at even that: a wanna-be. I felt I was like a frog whose bog is not admiring.

But now I’m rare and peculiar. I’ll bet Emily would like to be rare and peculiar, too. In fact, I’ll bet she was.

As my friend Chris drove me home from class last week, she told me, “One of the things I like about you is that you’re attracted to odd people.”

I never thought about it that way, but it’s true. I am.

Perhaps we’re all odd, when you get to know us. I like people who let their freak flag show (to borrow a line from Laura Love) and those who cover their freak flags in a veil of normalcy, especially when I get a glimpse of their freak flag.

A friend today said about his colleague: “He’s very ordinary.” He did not mean that as a compliment.

Extra ordinary’s what I want to be. A nobody. Rare and peculiar. Odd.

My brain tumors have taught me that I'm rare and peculiar, and I love the discovery. I’m cultivating my oddness. Join me. There’ll be a pair of us.

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