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Archive for August, 2017

the humanity in you

“it would probably
sound weird saying this
to just about anyone else,
but … i think we were
profoundly lucky
to have the mom
and childhood
we did”

i told my sister
this last month,
and she agreed

but how,
with all that trauma,
could we be lucky?

i understood it,
but not in a way
words could touch

on saturday,
i read a passage
in a book that made me
go, “oh. oh.”

i got closer
to finding words

on sunday,
i joined two friends
(and others) for their
birthday brunch; as
brunch ended,
bill friday brought
tears to my eyes
with what he
said in farewell,
and how he
said it

and then
my brother-in-law
emailed me his draft
residency application
essay, and it was full of
both recognition of
the traumas of
poverty he
witnessed
with my–
no, OUR–
family,
and of
love

with his
just-the-right-words,
i was closer still
to unearthing
my own

and then,
back home,
my husband
and i talked
about our long beach
family, and i was
THIS close to
getting it where
words can reach

on monday,
a friend presented
on a book she’d read
and i finally, deeply
got the ways my siblings
and i are rich in ways
others probably wish
they were, or
would if they
understood
such riches
are even
possible

so now, i
get it. i have
the words for this born-from-pain
kind of blessedness …
and i may someday
share them here,
when i have a
bunch of hours
to spare

but for now,
i just want to say
sorry
for being so focused
on one kind of suffering
i know intimately,
and which i know so many people
endure today,
that i stopped
seeing other sufferings
and all the things
all this suffering has
in common

i see the
humanity in you,
including the love
and the suffering,
and i wish you
so very
much
peace

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Categories: Family, Friends, Love Tags: , , , ,

family medicine

Three years ago,
I watched my brother
(-in-law, so long a part
of my life and family, those
hyphens seem silly) receive
his short coat as he
prepared to begin
medical school

He visited
last weekend,
and my boys and
dog were SO happy to
see him, but …
not nearly as
happy as
was I

We spoke of
many things, but
what I remember most
was telling him
how proud
I am of
him

I didn’t mean
to say as much here,
but he just sent an essay
for critique, and its contents
were the kind I’ll need time
to digest before critiquing
because, honestly,
I just have to sit a while
with all the memories and feelings
first

My world would
have been a much
sadder world without him,
and I know that the world will be
a little less sad
to have him
as a doctor

Categories: Family, Love Tags: , ,

hidden people

“Wait, what?” I asked myself, rereading three words I’d just read. I confirmed they were exactly as I read them: “The West agrees.”

I was flabbergasted. Was this phrase really printed in a newspaper? Even for an editorial, this reflected an astonishing lack of nuance.

Who exactly is “the West”?

The western region of a country? If so, then which country? Which regions? Which neighborhoods? Which associations from those neighborhoods? Which portions of “the West” disagree with this position? Why aren’t they permitted to be enveloped in the blanket term “the West”?

If a collection of countries, which countries, exactly? Which portions of those countries’ populations? Day laborers or politicians, caretakers or corporate executives? If there’s no way of determining democratic consensus, why do some opinion-holders get to be “the West” while others get to be, what? Those not well enough informed? If someone’s determined there’s “the West” and “those not well enough informed to be ‘the West,'” who is that? Why do they get to make that decision? Who agrees with them? Who disagrees?

English nouns like “[the] West” aggregate things in ways that narrow listeners’ field of focus. The aggregation conceals important information: Specific people and the specific actions they take. Read more…

starfish

This August has been beautiful. I may well be happier than I have ever been.


Me of last August could not have conceived of this. In a world so full of so much suffering that need never have been, how could joy be permitted? How could hope be reasonable?

Last September, I created a separate blog to learn to speak Politics. I (usually) didn’t want to bore or inflame people here, and beside that, life and politics were two mostly unrelated, easily separable things.

Simply put, I understood the world far, far too narrowly.

By documenting so much of my journey there, much of it was lost here. I helped sustain the illusion that life and politics are separate, and that they can be treated as such without consequence.

What does this have to do with happiness, anyway?

Quite a lot, actually. And explaining this has a lot to do with … starfish.

There’s an inspirational story where a person comes upon someone throwing starfish washed up onto shore back into the ocean. 

“Why throw a few starfish into the ocean when there are so many you can’t reach? What does it even matter?” asks the passerby.

“It matters a whole lot to the ones I throw back.”

There’s good in that story, of course, but it’s only part of the story.

How did all the starfish get there? Was it by natural forces absent humans, or did humans have a role? If humans had/have a role, what role? How do we change the outcome of multitudes of starfish left to dry out and die on the sand? If we treat only the outcome, and only for a few starfish, have we really done much worth praising, or simply forestalled death–for a few–for a few days?

A year ago, I didn’t know to ask such questions. Six months ago, I was pretty certain all was futile, but I kept asking questions in case I could reach a less grim conclusion.

Now, the questions flow easy, and I have a solid understanding of the gargantuan starfish-expulsion machine that lands so many starfish on the shore. It makes the sea pristine and spacious by extracting all unwanted–to it–life from areas it perceives as its domain.

I see the machine and I think, yeah, we’ve gotta throw back as many starfish as we can. Because even if we’re just buying those cast back into the ocean a few days, those could be the days that matter. Those could be the days it takes to break the machine and restore a more natural, kinder order to more living creatures.

Though I’ll slowly move many of my L2SP posts over, it’s not because I still believe all is eternally, hopelessly grim. It’s not because I want you to agree with me, or because I care if you do. 

It’s because a lot of work went from crashing into despair to rising back into hope.

This is where I have chosen to tell my story as it unfolds, so this story–about starfish and salvation–belongs here.

Categories: history, politics Tags: , ,

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.

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