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Sporadic photos and notes from a Psyche-midwife, cheerleader, anthropologist--aka clinical social worker in therapy practice. Photos are usually mine except for those of historical events/famous people. Music relevant to the daily topic is often included in a web video embedded below the blog. Click on highlighted links in the copy to get to source or supplemental material. For contact information, see my website @ janasvoboda.com or click on the button to the right below. Join in the conversation.

Saturday, October 29, 2011

A poet, a hunger, and life goes on...

 Went to see Brian Turner, Poet Laureate of New Zealand, tonight at the OSU library.  It is so good to live in a college town.  It was interesting, and sort of sad, to observe that 3/4s of the audience was grey-headed.  Poor old poetry-- competing with the World Series, and CSI, and Friday night bars.  But what a treat for those grey haired or getting there that did show up.  Turner was described in the PR as funny and unsentimental, a helpful reassurance for poetically worried sorts.  He writes about rugby, nature and our place in it, and the Human Condition.  He's delightful: unassuming, straightforward, and of course articulate in a very Kiwi mumble-y way.  Can't think of a better way to spend a Friday night.

I'm a would-be poet.  I ran a web group of poetry games, and used to have a weird hobby of making strangers write poetry for me.  I still have notebooks full of poetry by waitresses, gamblers, shoe-shiners, Welsh firemen.  I love the written word.  I don't have a lot of truck with flowery prose, but that grab-you-by-the-gut stuff--  oh, the beauty of economy in language!  Turner is good at that.  My favorites of the night were his short pieces, in which a short story was taking place in three sentences.

dreaming of food
I haven't written much poetry in the last few years.  Not sure why, but I tell people my muse done fled. Of course, after listening to a poet, I get inspired.  Maybe that muse will peek back in.   An audience member asked Turner how he knew if any of his poetry was any good.  I liked his answer: "I don't.  But I can't help writing it" (or something to that effect).  I think creativity is like that.  We put out, and we hope it resonates with someone, but even if it doesn't, it feels good to our soul.

felted daemon, 10/11
I got a call tonight from an old friend, one of my poetry conspirators back in the day.  He asked how I was, and I said "Not so bad considering".   He didn't know exactly what was under consideration. I forgot we hadn't talked in months, since before smell fled me and then Bad Smell moved in.  I told him the long story: how everything I could smell, after four months of no smell, smelled rotten.  Like nearly everyone I've told this story to he'd never heard of anosmia or parosmia.  I've acquired a whole new vocabulary this season. Stephen knows a few things about me, and he knows I loved food and olfaction.  He expressed deep sorrow for my loss, and I appreciated it, since this particular one doesn't strike most people as particularly interesting.  But I get reminded of it often-- like, for instance, tonight.  You can't listen to much poetry without hearing something about smell, and its triggers of memory and wonder. Stephen asked if I'd noticed any compensation in my senses since smell fled.  I remarked sarcastically that I can now bend spoons with my mind.  Stephen reminded me that I probably won't become a super-hero, and wondered if any of the other four senses were brighter.  I said I had been hoping that I would at least get a heightened visual acuity, but so far, no good.  Smell was it for me, sense-wise.  I've never been much of a visual person. I get lost all the time.  Touch is good; who doesn't like it?  But smell was my number one Four-D sense.  Hearing-- well, ok, I love that.  Sometimes it is 3D, mostly with nature sounds or music.  I'm slightly synesthesiac.  When I hear voices, I often have a textural association.  But smell has always, always been at least 3D for me.  And without it, the world seems awfully flat.

I had a visit from an old friend and her family a couple of months ago.  They'd moved away four years ago, and I'd not seen them in a long, long time.  They didn't know about the anosmia.  I hadn't seen their boy, now eight, since then. The dad reintroduced me to him, saying, "Do you remember Jana?  She always used to smell your head when you were little."  I teared up right away, even while reassuring him he didn't need to worry about that now.  He'd been the youngest in our circle of friend's children, and I do, or rather did, love the smell of a baby's head.

The pear I really want to be eating
Sometimes now I go a day or two without thinking so strongly of what I miss.  I do think I have learned a few things about loss and grief and acceptance.  But I miss smell.  And tonight, writing this, I am thinking mostly about my hungry belly.  I came home from work peckish, and could find little I wanted.  I came home from the poetry reading ravenous, and could find nothing tolerable. The parosmia puts most foods off-limits. The upside:  I've lost my "kummerspeck"-- a great German word that translates as "grief bacon", and means the weight you gain after a loss.  I gained 15 pounds following a couple of significant losses a few years ago.  I now weigh less than my driver's license record of a few years ago.  On the other hand, I'd take back the pounds to be able to enjoy a delicious meal of fall's bounty.  But there you go.  We don't get to choose our cards, as they say, only how we play them.  I am trying to learn grace in the game.  It's a slow go some days.

Back when I cooked food, and liked it, and was the poetrix for the word game group, we had an assignment to write a recipe into a poem.  Click here to read my Gumbo recipe on the wonderful Very Bad Poetry website.   It's bad poetry, but good gumbo.

Off to dream of eating something satisfying...


Rebecca said...

Hello Jana. I just read your blog for the first time after seeing your posts on an anosmiac web forum. We are sympatico beings, you and I. It's an uphill struggle to explain this loss to most. Hang in there. The pear will smell good again. Love, Rebecca

Jana Svoboda, LCSW said...

Ah, thank you, sister R!

Ardalan said...

u brought tear in my eyes!im tryin to handle this situation but god knows how hard it is!
i want to flashback 4 months ago!
life has no meaning now!

Jill Ginsberg said...

Brilliant! I lost my smell in February and remember clearly the moment when I realized it might never come back. I cried to think I might never be able to smell the heads of my (yet-to-be-born) grandchildren. Your writing is wonderful. Jill

Jana Svoboda, LCSW said...

Ardalan, keep looking for meaning. I know what you are saying. But now we just have to look harder. I hope you are getting lots of support. Jill, and all you others out there, let's make a stink about it a little and encourage research and understanding. It's amazing to me how little doctors know about smell disorders and their effects.
Thank you, all three, for reading and commenting.