Doing The Best We Can

When I was a teenager, I ended up in a heated debate with an older friend of a friend. This man, who must’ve been more than twice my age at the time, looked a bit like Jim Carrey and had a great deal of earnestness about him. As we sat with our larger group at a local diner, we became embroiled in an argument about whether we could really expect people to make a greater effort in their daily lives. According to him, people who were slovenly, thoughtless, or just plain lazy in their daily dealings couldn’t be faulted because they were inevitably doing the best they can. I, as an angry teenage firebrand, adamantly insisted that we could hold people to task for their failings and shortcomings, because they always had the capacity to do better.

The debate was long, interminable, and never satisfyingly concluded. Somehow, life managed to go on in spite of the this, and we continued along on our respective journeys.

Lately, though, my mind has been returning to that debate. I think about how my life has changed since then, and with it, my attitudes. When I was a troublemaking teenager, swept up in a sea of hormones and uncontrolled emotions, and picking fights with the cosmos, I was paradoxically quite convinced of my absolute mastery of myself – this in spite of the fact that I didn’t know a damn thing about anything, least of all myself. But now that I’ve quieted most of my inner struggles and molded my life into more or less what I wanted it to be, things feel a bit grey and monotonous, like there is nothing left for me to push my will against. And now, I feel like I’m doing the best I can, too. Adulthood feels like something that we shuffle our way through, trying not to trip on the speed bumps, and just doing the best we can. Read More

A Very Dengue Christmas

Thanks, Mosquito Joe!

As someone from a fairly sedate country with fairly sedate diseases, I have long felt that the tropics have a near-monopoly on the nastiest, most horrifying infections, including the ones that lay eggs in your brain.

That said, during my nine years in this part of the world I’ve managed to only be afflicted with fairly prosaic infections: a good number of bacteria have crawled their way inside my respiratory tract; I’ve had to receive enough rabies and tetantus shots to inoculate an accident-prone elephant; and perhaps I’ve had a horrifying mini-stroke or two, give or take. But as far as I know, nothing has ever laid its eggs inside my brain.

However, last week I received a bit of a crash course in tropical diseases. It started off innocently enough: at my work Christmas party on December 21, while entertaining my colleagues with my karaoke renditions of The Little Drummer Boy, The Christmas Waltz and other seasonal classics, I started feeling a bit weak. By the time I made it home a few hours later, I felt certifiably gross, and wasquite feverish. I slept until late the next morning, thinking it was one of those quick-to-come, quick-to-go flu infections – the kind where the primary symptom, extreme tiredness, leads elegant into the best treatment, bed rest. After about twelve hours in bed I did feel better, but later that day the fever attacked me with renewed vengeance. Read More