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Posts Tagged ‘life’

my riches

Last week, I wrote about coming to understand how:

my siblings
and i are rich in ways 
others probably wish
they were, or
would if they
understood
such riches
are even
possible

Our riches aren’t in cash. Poverty started us in a money-pit, so that the three of us will be paying student debt for another couple of decades for the privilege of climbing halfway out of that pit.

No, our riches ran deeper than that. I just couldn’t figure out how, or begin to imagine explaining it.

And then … I found a book.

Near its entrance, my neighborhood library has a little table of books for sale. It’s been there since I started visiting this library, but I never bothered looking at it. I figured it had too few offerings for any to be up my alley. Read more…

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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

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

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

Categories: Family, Love Tags: , , , ,

grocery store sages

In April, I wrote about coming to understand people as processes, not fixed states. My reflections were inspired, in part, by former NYU professor Neil Postman, my favorite teacher yet on the art of perspectiving.

His lessons have been especially helpful at the grocery store the last few months. At the heavier end of my weight scale, I’ve gotten a lot of commentary about what’s in my basket. “Oh, that’s a lot of chips!” someone will exclaim. “Do you know where the greens are?” another will ask.

The first couple of times I got comments like these, I laughed aloud. I didn’t really get where these comments were coming from, but thought it was so funny that strangers thought I’d value their ill informed assessments.

The third or fourth time, I still chuckled quietly, but I was curious. What was going on, that 150-pound me got no grocery cart comments, ever, but that 200-pound me averages one a week?

Thanks to Neil Postman, the answer became clear virtually as soon as I began asking the question. These grocery store commenters were making snap judgments based on limited data. They were looking at me and seeing not a process but a fixed state; instead of seeing this moment as one frame of a very lengthy movie, they saw the moment and confused it for the movie.

After I figured this out, I kept laughing. How absurd, for these folks to think they know a person based on a frame’s data, and then to stage a mini-intervention!

Things that can be seen in a single grocery store visit: the shopper’s current weight; top layer of contents of cart

Things that cannot be seen in a single grocery store visit (non-comprehensive list): the shopper’s weight for the rest of their lifetime; the eighteen pounds of greens below the chips; grief; stress; childhood trauma that has enduring impacts into adulthood; the 30-60 minutes someone walks/does yoga/bounces on a trampoline daily; the 2-3 cups of greens eaten with virtually every meal, most of which are Paleo; the non-Paleo beer consumed for months to take the edge off pain; the 2.5 hours spent in traffic daily moving to and away from a desk job; etc.

Apart from offering me a chance to laugh, these grocery store sages have given me another gift. They’ve reminded me to remain aware of my own human propensity to confuse a frame for the entire film.

Neil Postman wrote, “You cannot avoid making judgments, but you can become more conscious of the way you make them.” I’m definitely not catching all my judgments, but I’m getting better by the day.

This was especially clear about two weeks ago, when I sat reading in a coffee shop. One particular sentence in the book I was reading, Kelly Brogan’s A Mind of Your Own, practically jumped off the page at me.

For a few months now, I’ve been looking at someone I love and assuming–with some bemusement–certain inspirations for certain behaviors. Brogan’s sentence revealed a whole different set of possible explanations, whapping me on the head with a reminder how little of that personal film I can see. From 1,000 frames, I’ve been filling in the millions I cannot see. I have not been doing so with nuance, instead using broad strokes.

As the pounds slide off me now, having set aside the beer and added meditation+, I’m sure I still have weeks to months of grocery store sage commentary ahead. I’ll keep laughing, naturally; that comes easily.

I’ll also aim to use their words as a reminder. I’m making judgments, too, and the grocery store sages’ words can be my ongoing call to not confuse my own limited perception with reality.

antici … pation

that feeling when
seven of the people
you love most in the world
rolled into town
just after
midnight

and you wake up early,
knowing they are
THIS close
to you and your home,
but also far from being
awake, and you want
to call them all
RIGHT NOW
(even though
it’s 0430)
because
HUGS

but instead
you sit and try
to read, knowing
the sun will rise
soon enough, and
not long behind it,
all those people
you can’t wait
to hug

Categories: Family Tags: , ,
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