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Archive for August, 2017

anthropologist

I studied anthropology in college.

For all I studied, I’m prone to forget what it means to be an anthropologist.

When I lived in Japan, I was keenly aware of how my students and colleagues monitored each other’s appearance, attire, and behavior. As a foreigner, I was exempt from being called “piggy” or mocked for not eating natto* with everyone else.

I was glad to be American. Back in America, we were way too concerned with our own lives to constantly worry about what others were doing unobtrusively with theirs. We Americans didn’t have to worry about social controls the way Japanese people did.

LOL.

Read more…

at the same time

Someone said something
that catapulted me back
to February 2009

I had to try working
and try raising a
five-month-old
and try saying
goodbye
to my
dying
mom,
all at
the
same
time

One morning,
I sat in a corner
of my mom’s
empty, cold
house, twenty
feet from where
she lay dying, and
burst into
tears on
a conference
call:

Not only
could I not
answer a question,
I could not do right
by my son,
and I could
not ease my
mom’s pain,
and I could
just not
be
enough

To feel then
and now, together,
from within a community
of people who understand
is a blessing

I did what I could
with what I had,

And,
of course, I know
from my mom
“enough”
does
not
mean
“perfect”

I answered
the questions,
provided the care,
and said the farewells
that I could

From here,
I see that it was
enough, for me,
for my son, and
for my mom,
who was mighty
proud at how I
could work
and parent
and say goodbye,
all at
the
same
time

each here, and each now

A few months ago, I wrote about visiting a new-to-me nurse practitioner. She was less interested in the mole I wanted checked out and more interested in my anxiety.

She recommended that I look into kundalini yoga. I said, sure, I’ll definitely do that.

I did nothing of the sort.

A few weeks ago, I read a book by a doctor who recommended kundalini yoga for its stress-relieving properties. Yeah, yeah, I thought, it’s magic, but no, thanks.

Then some serious insomnia hit me. I figured just about anything would be better than staring at my ceiling, wishing I were asleep. I followed a routine I found online, and was asleep within a few minutes of wrapping it up.

A couple weeks have passed and I’m starting to feel great.

Well, mostly.

I tried a new routine yesterday. “Ha! This is easy!” I thought, for the first 70 seconds or so.

Now, naturally, I’m sore all over. But you know what? Even the soreness every time I move is kinda nice. It reminds me what it’s like to be truly lost in the moment–in the movement–instead of thoughts and worries. 

Each little twinge reminds me that “here, now” is a pretty sweet place to be, each here, and each now.

power to change everything

One year ago, I couldn’t have told you how World War II began. Sure, I’d studied it in high school history classes, but that was more than twenty years ago.

Having immersed myself in history and politics for the last year, I understand more now. Most significantly, I understand how economic distress fueled Hitler’s rise.

Germans were not a uniquely evil people. They were a distressed people, susceptible–in those specific circumstances–to finding both the wrong villains and extraordinarily wrong solutions.

On Sunday, I wrote about how neoliberalism created the conditions for the weekend’s tragedy in Charlottesville.

Yesterday, a dear friend replied that she’d seen the pictures. The racists she’d seen pictured weren’t economically oppressed, but well dressed and clean shaven. They were privileged.

I’d reply today the same as I replied yesterday. That is to say, I’d reply by noting I’m no fan of privilege theory, which conceals (grave systemic failures) much more than it reveals (anything actionable).

But I wondered: How could I express the pain of enduring economic squeeze to those who haven’t yet felt it? Read more…

a hamiltonian history

Last April, I made a small but fateful decision in a grocery store line: I bought a copy of the Hamilton soundtrack.

For the first time ever, history came alive to me. It came so alive, I decided to read the biography that inspired the musical, Ron Chernow’s Hamilton.

“Oh, Deefy. You take such silly pictures.” — my husband, today

What I read fairly well stunned me. Sold, somehow, on the notion that history was a linear progression toward the betterment of humankind, I discovered instead that Americans today are having the same fights that our forebears did two hundred years ago. That those fights were extensions of fights that had been held elsewhere for decades to centuries prior.

While the state of technology has progressed, I saw that the state of the States … hadn’t, in fundamental ways.

I’d been a lifelong Democrat when I picked up that musical in the grocery store line. Democratic officials cared for the little guy, I thought, while Republican officials cared about the little fraction of the population that could fund grotesque, human-crushing legislation. That was pretty much my entire understanding of politics before I heard and then read Hamilton. Read more…

so-called imbalances & so-called cures

In 2013, I began to suspect that mental illness was more than a simple matter of “chemical imbalance.” I didn’t say much about this suspicion, because I had very little–apart from personal experience–to substantiate it.

I’ve spent the last couple of weeks reading Robert Whitaker’s 2010 Anatomy of an Epidemic: Magic Bullets, Psychiatric Drugs, and the Astonishing Rise of Mental Illness in America. Above and beyond confirming my suspicions with abundant (non pharma-funded) research studies, he tore apart the whole idea of mental illness as resulting from “chemical imbalance.”

Whitaker’s research suggested that “science” here was designed to fit very profitable pills from the beginning. Furthermore, and most alarmingly, he discovered strong correlations between medication and worse long-term outcomes. It was as if, he hypothesized in the book’s early pages, the medication itself was responsible for today’s mental health epidemic, with outcomes far worse than those reflected in a century’s worth of mental history data and for far, far more people.

There’s no way to summarize nearly 400 pages of meticulous documentation here. I won’t even bother, though I will encourage you to read the book if you’re curious what science actually supports.

What I do want share is a startling segment from the 2015 research afterward. It’s one thing to have a critic suggesting standard wisdom is far from wise; it’s another to have a member of the critiqued group confirming the same.

In a section titled “The Death of the Chemical Imbalance Story,” Whitaker includes an excerpt from an article written by the editor-in-chief emeritus of Psychiatric Times: Read more…

they were here

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