Tuesday, March 25, 2008

De Novo

"De novo mutation, a genetic mutation that neither parent possessed nor transmitted."
I am continuing to work on Orphano, which has a stronger drive (probably connected to the total fiction element) than the "family novel" did. There's a fair amount of background science involved - though I'd prefer the book to be "speculative" fiction rather than "science" fiction, the fact is that I set up a premise which relies on somewhat accurate, or at least, believable future science, in order to work out for the other factors - the characters, how they got there, what the settings are.

This I stumbled on while reading an article in the Sun, in fact, an essay by a woman who was trying to decide whether or not to "keep" a son who would likely be born with a genetic mutation in her family that is carried by the women and exhibited in the men. She mentioned that Abraham Lincoln had Marfan's Syndrome, and, as Laine and I are always curious about Lincoln (fascinating guy!) I mentioned it to him that night and we did some research. In reading about Marfan (it turns out most people think that the "parents of children with Marfan" group of the times made it out to be a case that hasn't actually been proved), I discovered this reference to "de novo mutation", as it seems that 25-30% of children with Marfan receive it not from either parent, but just out of thin air, so to speak.

Perfect. This was the puzzle piece I was missing. I know so little about mutation, and I didn't know what my chances were of making something believable come out of thin air. Turns out, without getting into specifics, that they are quite good. Bad for potential parents, worrying about the health of their upcoming kids, good for novelists in need of a deus ex machina.

I also related to this new concept in my own personal way, as is my way. De novo - of new. Fresh start. Visiting with my therapist yesterday we talked about how things have been going. I started some SSRI meds to counteract what had become quite severe PMDD, and although I have been hypersensitive to side effects, the actual desired effect has been great. We talked about how removing those two weeks of high anxiety (some months!) from my life has really cleared the air so I can deal with emotions on their own level, and actually enjoy the successes of teaching, for instance. Then, he congratulated me on being so successful so soon (I had to add another class of 7 this time around so that I could accommodate all the new students from the Isthmus article a couple of months back) and even though earlier on in the day I had written about how *I* got myself here, how much *I* am responsible for this success, I needed a moment to turn around something and credit things I think of as "negative" characteristics of my parents - my father's work-aholism and my mother's extreme sensitivity to others - as being part of the whole picture. I realized for the first time since seeing my parents more and more as "real" people with "real" faults that everything has many sides, and, as the Buddhist parable goes, enlightenment is just as much in a pile of feces as in a wheat or flower field (paraphrase).

Of course, he turned it back on me, and gave me credit, making sure I didn't pass it all to my parents. But it was good to see all three, then all the other factors of course which (or in some cases, whom) have contributed to my being here, right now, doing what I am doing and doing it well. Every day feels so new - sometimes hard new (one student wrote this week about the Eleanor Roosevelt quote - "Do something frightening once a day" and she said "sometimes getting out of bed is that one thing"), sometimes delightful new (I actually feel like the last two weeks off *were* vacation for the first time in a long time!), but always new.

This is reality's one guarantee. A life of constant mutation.