Not to be confused with midi-chlorians or mitochondria – though all three have to do have to do with health, I guess.

I am not a hypochondriac by nature. I take a multivitamin, try to eat healthy, and wash my hands. I argue with my body when it gets sick. If I lose the argument, I get sick and then eventually get better. That’s that.

Traveling and being alone bring out my worry, despite my best efforts. Being removed from the familiar, all by myself with my gnawing fears, it is hard not to think on the worst. For example, I’ve had a sore chest for the past two days. It aches right above my sternum. Now, my fear kicked in and said I was having a heart attack – for two days. That I was going to drop dead in my nice little hotel room in mainland China, to be discovered by the cleaning lady in the morning. My books would go unpublished, my name unknown.

Now, the more likely diagnosis is I’m not sleeping in a good position. And I know I am sitting around too much, working on lesson plans by day and playing video games by night. Fixing my posture will probably help, as will getting up and stretching regularly. Some of you have seen me crack my sternum – it makes a really loud popping sound as it goes back into place. I’ve done that recently, and it did not fix anything.  And I can’t seem to stop my brain from painting all sorts of emergency scenario pictures. What if my sternum is crushing my heart? What if instead of a heart attack I’m having some sort of horrible heart-slowing episode? What if I caught some bug which is killing very slowly? Who am I going to call? Where am I going to go? Should I fly all the way back home to have a chest x-ray? My increasing-chondriac-edness comes into direct conflict with my bleak practicality, which reminds me that if I am indeed suffering a series of heart attacks I will most likely not survive a trip back home. More to the point, do I honestly think flying back home is going to make me live any longer ultimately? We all have set times, and perhaps mine is up.

Apparently, underneath my bright and bubbly personality is a frighteningly cold realist. She only comes out when my chest hurts, or my knees ache, or some new joint starts popping. If she were a Neil Gaiman character, she’d wear unwrinkled linen and sit with her legs crossed, and she’d always take a long, bored inhale before speaking. “Jean,” she’d sigh. “You think you’re going to live forever? That’s as laughable as twerking. And yes, your life and twerking are comparable in the Fathoms of Time.” Then she’d dissolve into void or something, leaving me to…eat scones despondently I guess.

So what am I to do? I am not sure how to get out of this mental whirlpool. On the one hand, I’m sure that if it were serious some other symptom would manifest – I wouldn’t be able to breath *knocks on wood* or my arms would go numb *knocks on wood* or I’d feel light-headed *knocks on wood* or nauseous *knocks on wood*. Yet I don’t *KNOCKS ON WOOD* have any other symptoms except a chest ache. On the other hand, chest ache is not good. I’ve got to get out of my own head! Tomorrow I’m visiting Chengdu again – that will be good. I’m taking Vega along to help me translate. I want to visit the Tibetan Quarter and try yak butter tea. That will be my “checklist to live” goal – I must live through tomorrow at least to try yak butter tea, and then come up with a goal for the next day until I feel better.

Times like these I realize I don’t have a will, and I never finished the “Jean’s treasure map funeral” plan I had.  I also realize that I’m creating these horrific scenarios without the aid of the internet. I don’t go to WebMD or anything like that, knowing full well typing “chest pain” will only result in words which might actually give me a real heart attack (knock on wood).

Just to be on the safe side:Let the record stand that I love my family dearly, and I want what pittance I have in savings to go towards making sure Daniel goes to museums, cultural events, and gaming conventions.


2 thoughts on “Middlechondriac

  1. Jean:

    Wonderful blog!

    I remember watching a Simpson’s episode where Bart is signing yearbooks and he signs some girls as “don’t have a cow” or one of his catchphrases, and she says “Ahhhh, he writes how he talks!” That’s how this blog feels! The pictures are gorgeous too, and the color scheme and construction are refreshingly minimalist, which fits the theme you’re getting across – a return to one by surrounding oneself with many. So deep Jean, well done (admittedly tongue in cheek – BUT I DO SERIOUSLY LOVE THE STYLE).

    Anyways, I’m envious of your courage in exploring – I would never walk until I got lost in a country where everyone notices me and I don’t speak the language and they don’t speak mine. I’d be probably be Modern Major General Two in the Bookworm trying to get my knowledge of the country from visiting explorers and those controversial “dime novels” and “penny-dreadfuls.” The local populace is simply too barbaric, I say! God save the Queen and all that!

    I’m going to refrain from talking to you directly via phone, Skype, or texting because I don’t want to add to your globalizationphobea. Also, I feel like that’s cheating you out of the real experience of being alone. Consider this my contribution to your development. Besides, I’m sure Dad sends you pictures of the dogs, Daniel, and his food every day anyway.

    Your chest-pain might be because of the pollution in the air…I mean you were there for two weeks before you even saw the sun, and you descended into a brown mist in Beijing. Just a thought: wear that mask you bought (or meant to buy).

    You should walk around in circles if people follow you. That way, if enough people follow you in a long enough line/group, you can turn the tables and follow THEM!

    Final piece of advice would be to pick up a book on Taoism while you are in China, specifically works by Lao Tzu or even some Neo-Confucianists, though I would avoid Confucianism in general, mostly because I don’t like how structured and Western it seems. Mozi wrote some deep stuff too that basically has that Iron Giant mantra “You are who you choose to be” (“…SUPERMANNNNNNN”) in it. Chinese Buddhism is OK, but it ended up getting pretty regimented later on in the years which, like all organized religion, took away from its original spirituality. Stick to the Four Noble Truths and meditation and you should be good. If I come across any other spiritual guidance that you can take advantage of, I’ll let you know.

    Love ya, even if you left me out of your impromptu will.

    Be safe, stay lucky

    “Empty your mind, be formless, shapeless — like water. Now you put water in a cup, it becomes the cup; You put water into a bottle it becomes the bottle; You put it in a teapot it becomes the teapot. Now water can flow or it can crash. Be water, my friend.” Bruce Mofucking LEE

  2. Patrick! Nice to hear from you!

    “I’m going to refrain from talking to you directly via phone, Skype, or texting because I don’t want to add to your globalizationphobea. Also, I feel like that’s cheating you out of the real experience of being alone.” Smooth, little brother, real smooth.

    And good call on the air pollution thing – I had sort of forgotten what I’m breathing in every day. As if on cue, I’ve started hacking. So, not my heart – it’s my lungs which are protesting.

    Thanks for making me laugh!

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