Ella, Downton Abbey, and Hospitals

This afternoon, Cecelia and I watched well over seven hours of Downton Abbey, as she finished up viewing the second series, and among the many things that occurred to me as I lay curled on her guest room bed was just how awful it is to be trapped in a hospital when you’re sick.

Now, I’ve never been to war, been shot at (with something more lethal than an airsoft gun), or even been a situation where I’ve had to truly fear being attacked, but I do know what it’s like to spend extended time in hospitals.

I was reminded of February 2010 and being strapped to a gurney and racing to the hospital in an ambulance. It was snowing and the highways hadn’t even been plowed. The part of me that had always wondered what the inside of an ambulance looked like was massively disappointed, and being physically restrained by the straps and blankets was terrifying. I was entirely imprisoned, incapable of doing so much as shifting my weight. Before they loaded the gurney, I couldn’t even shield my eyes from the rapidly falling snowflakes and finally had to close them because the dissolving water stung.

I kept insisting that I could sit up, that I wouldn’t move, and that I would feel so much better if they even loosened the straps a tiny bit. But procedure is procedure, and I spent the next thirty minutes staring at the white metal ceiling while I had my vitals checked for what felt like the fiftieth time. There’s the feeling of being constantly lied to by the doctors and nurses and having information withheld and given to parents or other caregivers because “it would be too much for you to handle.” And the utter helplessness of not being allowed to make any of your own decisions.

I was one of those difficult and also easy patients. It took six nurses and my father to hold me down when they wanted blood and I wouldn’t let anyone touch me without being told exactly what they were going to do and massive amounts of persuasion, but I chatted and was pleasant otherwise. I was skilled at being charming around adults and authority figures before, and it certainly came in handy then. Being liked by the nurses and doctors means extra yogurt for breakfast and longer showers, which when you’re spending days without seeing the outdoors, feel like extravagances.

And in some ways, it gets worse once the initial emergencies are over and most of the healing is done, when you’re stuck in a bed knowing that you’ll be trapped there for ages as you get dragged through a dull and depressing schedule for days on end. Sure, they’ll be people to talk to and ping-pong tables (Who knew that those existed and were popular during WWI?), but you can’t do anything that matters. You’re in a holding cell, watching the endlessly revolving door of nurses and doctors switching shifts and other patients leaving and arriving. You find yourself more than ever wishing that you were one of the number of the people rushing about and looking tired and over-worked.

Later, you sometimes wake up in a panic, thinking that you’re still there, trapped in a tiny bed, with nurses watching your every move. But it was just a dream–there’s no one hovering over you with a blood-pressure cuff or thermometer. You don’t have to rate your pain on a scale of one to ten whenever someone so much as pokes their head in the door. There aren’t kitchy murals painted everywhere and the awful knowledge that someone might have died in the very bed you’re sleeping in right now. You can get up and move without worrying about setting off a million alarms and decide to eat collard greens for breakfast while sitting on the kitchen floor.

No matter how you’re hurt, being in a hospital is nasty business, and when I look at the men staring into space or begging for a sheet of paper and a pen, I feel a very weird sort of kinship. Perhaps that’s odd and perhaps I’m just a little too tired after two days of very little sleep and listening to lots of screaming in the house, but I feel it just the same.

Lentils and Ella’s Evil Plan

As it turns out, there is a huge difference in the amount of time it takes to cooked green versus red lentils, and if you don’t feel like eating close to nine, you should take this into account before beginning to cook. I did not learn this the hard way, of course.

I have succeeded in getting Cecelia addicted to Downton Abbey. My work here is done, I think.

Ella’s Very Bizarre Relationship With Mirrors

The readers have spoken, and with a clear majority of 66.67%, my very bizarre relationship with mirrors won tonight’s post competition.

I have to admit that I am the sort of person who looks at themselves in mirrors a lot. Like a lot, a lot. But it’s never been because I’m checking my hair or makeup.

Mostly, when I look in the mirror it’s to make a silly face. For example, a few months ago, I decided that I wanted to be able to raise one eyebrow independently from the other in order to expand my repertoire of goofy expressions. Of course like with any new expression, I need to strengthen the facial muscles so that I can do it in the most exaggerated manner possible, so every time I see a mirror, I automatically start practicing. I have been caught doing this many, many times, and I must say that people in public restrooms give you funny looks if you’re pulling faces while washing your hands.

However, it must be noted that my tendency to make weird faces at myself is a huge improvement over what childhood Ella would do. I used to–and I kid you not–have this running “tv show” with myself where I would pretend to be a newscaster or a political talk show host.

Of all the times that I have been walked in on in the bathroom, the by far most awkward experience was when someone opened the door to discover ten-year-old me still standing in a towel after a bath, talking about the weather to the mirror. We also have extensive videotape footage of me doing the same thing (but this time fully clothed) complete with “guests” to interview and “graphics” (achieved by holding a copy of the newspaper very close to the camera).

I also spend an awful lot of time observing people very carefully, so I’m always interested to know what I look like when I’m doing different tasks. If I’m writing, I often need to go watch my face or the way I do something in order to depict it properly. It’s akin to getting up to go smell coffee or touch cashmere. Also, I enjoy the humor in how ridiculous I often look, particularly when I’ve bundled to go outside in the winter–I end up looking like puffy marshmallow from the ski jacket and numerous scarves with a very small, multi colored head.

Unfortunately, in our house, the large antique mirror we have at the base of the stairs is in clear view of the window in the front door, which has led to me being caught looking at myself numerous, numerous times, which is always horribly embarrassing. I always feel very vulnerable knowing that I’ve been caught doing something wacky and a bit socially unacceptable. People who look in mirrors a lot are thought to be vain and petty, I don’t consider myself to be either, and I certainly hope that others don’t think I am.

Of course, I am sure that what I am describing is a lot less weird than it sounds in my head. Who isn’t fascinated by the reflection of ourselves. It’s only natural to want to know what we look like, and I am sure that other people enjoy making faces and pretending host weather reports.

One of the best things about being alive is knowing that you are never the only one to feel a certain way. The moment I realized that everyone else is insecure and worried about how the rest of the world is perceiving them and their actions, life got a lot easier. It reminds me of Postsecret, a project where people send in secrets on homemade postcards to a man who posts them on the Postsecret blog every Sunday. He’s always talking about how he receives multiples of almost every secret and how people find solace in knowing that they’re not the only one.

The more I think about that, the more I read, and the more I observe of others, my amount of empathy towards others and comfort with myself only increases. Things like what I do with mirrors are funny, yes, and perhaps a bit abnormal, but they’re never shameful. I like sharing eccentricities and discovering how universal and common they are.

So if you’ve managed to get this far in the post, I’d love to know what you think.

  1. What do you do with mirrors? Do you know anyone else who does the same thing?
  2. What do you think about other people sharing the same emotions and eccentricities about you? Do you think it’s true?

As I only got six votes total on these two polls so far, I’m keeping the voting open for about a week longer. I’d really like to know what people did and didn’t like about my daily posting in 2011, and what they’d like to see in 2012. Finally, you can vote at the bottom for what you’d like to see in Saturday’s post.

And as always, you can also find me on tumblr at http://emleng93.tumblr.com/, if, you know, you’re into that kind of thing.

The Results of Being Trapped

As it turns out, being locked in a room until five a.m. is an incredibly exhausting activity, especially if you weren’t feel well in the first place and hadn’t taken your medication. It will also give you chills and make you dizzy. In short, I don’t recommend it. You should also always check to see if a door has swelled before closing it tightly.

I would have very much liked to spend a portion day hanging out with Eliza instead of lying in bed, working and trying to warm up my hands.

In other news, why don’t we get Q.I. in America? It is seriously the best thing ever. I absolutely love it (and anything else involving the BBC and Stephen Fry). For those of you who don’t know, it’s a comedy quiz/chat show hosted by Stephen Fry with celebrity contestants.  Here’s one of my favorite episodes:

And as always, you can also find me on tumblr at http://emleng93.tumblr.com/, if, you know, you’re into that kind of thing.

On Sitcom Binges

Tonight went a little like this: You know, I could write that long and sappy post about how much I’m going to miss everyone in my small learning community, or I could throw mice for the cats and watch Parks and Recreation. Guess which one I chose.

To be fair, this is not a choice I often make. I’m more of a read-news-magazines-and-the-paper-while-sitting-upside-down-on-the-couch kind of person than a lounge in front of the TV or laptop type. But I figure changing things up once in a while is good. A very large dose of TV once or twice a year is not going to kill me. Besides, Pippa does this all the time, and she’s turned out okay. In fact, I certainly could benefit from being more like Pippa (though I still refuse to say “epic” and “fail” in the same sentence). She’s the cool and confident one to my nerdy and anxious.

I only started watching this show because it was on after last night’s The Office. (Man, do I love that show.) The cats were on my lap, and I was in the middle of a self-made feast, so turning the TV off and heading back to homework seemed entirely illogical. Ten minutes in, I was hooked. It’s funny, the characters are all kind and well-meaning, and it’s got Amy Poheler, who is not quite as awesome as Tina Fey, but awesome enough for me to totally idealize her. So when I got home from seeing Machinal, going on Netflix and Hulu seemed like the perfect way to spend the evening. Yesterday had left me wanting to know more about the characters and the plot line, and nothing better to do.

So far, I like the show. It’s no The Office, but it’s fun. The dichotomy between the pilot and the last episode is astounding, and I really enjoy the relationships between the characters. I don’t know if this will turn into any sort of a lasting pattern, but it sure was a nice way to spend an evening.

On another note, googling “can my cat eat ____” gets you really funny results.

Newscasters Say the Darnest Things

I was watching The Office this evening when the news cut in. It was one of those watch-the-news-at-eleven promos, and they said the following:

Will texting and tweeting give you wrinkles?


It’s questions like these that make me feel optimistic about the future.

On Stupidity and Here Comes Treble

I like to consider myself the sort of person who is quick on the uptake. However, I did not realize until ten thirty tonight while driving in the car with Cecelia that Andy Brenard of The Office’s a cappella group’s name “Here Comes Treble” is a play on “here comes trouble.” I had just thought that it meant that treble notes are coming closer to the listeners when the group sings.

And it’s not like I just learned about Here Comes Treble yesterday. I’ve been watching this show for THREE YEARS.

In other news, I have the AP Literature test tomorrow. If I fall asleep on my desk, I will kill a small animal in my mind.