one world

purpose: to connect, create value, stretch, and witness the mundane magical

April 13, 2016

nurse tragedy

I am glad that I didn't hear all of the details at first. I arrived a few minutes late to the shift-change meeting where they announced the death of one of our nurses from our sister floor. Some of my colleagues were crying. It wasn't until 14 hours later, when I described it to my housemate, the limited details that I knew, that it hit me.

Later the next day I saw on the t.v. screens further details. She had been beheaded and dismembered, and found in trash bins. I saw her image and recognized her, a spunky, smiley, fun nurse. She had teased me playfully when I worked on her floor.

My hospital floor had a subdued tone. Dustin* said that he hadn't slept most of the previous night, thinking of her three kids. Tracy* had nightmares. The two charge nurses whispered with their heads bowed together, unusually friendly in a quiet way. Food gifts overflowed on our break-room table. When a couple of nurses from her home floor came down, staff slowed from the bustle and stood in circle with them, listening and hugging.

It struck me the interconnectedness of us all. Loosing sleep together. Stricken with grief. Quieted and made more gentle. Us staff from the Phillipines, Belgium, New Guinea, Eritrea, Texas, Alaska, Washington, all nothing together.

I can't shake it tonight. On my way home I see the Columbia Tower, the tallest building in Seattle, sometimes lit in solidarity with France with it's recent tragedy a few months ago. Interconnected we are. I think of my mental health clients, so affected by the news episodes of police brutality and other episodes when they came in for weekly sessions. I think of our political climate, and how we reverberate off of each other. The people on the streets, regardless of their nationalities, seem to breathe a same consciousness, aware of each other... sitting on the bus together on my way home, watching, standing, looking, saying thank you, making space for each other.

How we affect each other, even from a distance, so profoundly at times. This woman I only worked with a few times, now gone, leaves her ripples across hundreds of colleagues in a major metropolitan hospital. We weep, fear, love more consciously, watch more carefully. 

December 25, 2015

Christmas morning

mural near Pioneer Park 
Merry Christmas all. Below are a few thoughts from this morning.

This Christmas morning I get to my hospital floor where I work and it was eerily empty. Asking around upstairs I find out that it was closed last night, and they forgot to call me, so I head home. Walking. It’s just getting light outside and I put on my headphones. Music and playlists and likes have become my new best medicine.

The world is slowed down. Practically no one is out, and I take my time traversing, exploring a few new streets downtown. Columbia tower, courthouse overlook, art murals. I pass the Union Gospel Mission and King Street Station, a red lady’s coat thrown on the sidewalk. First I get mad that some ungrateful person just chucked it on the street, probably not aware that she would be cold later, for somebody else to pick up… Then the metaphor of the discarded people of our society softens me, and I no longer have any harsh feelings. I’ve been watching the people that live in the shelters, tents, under bridges, storefront crannies. I always have, ever since I was a child. I want to do so much. My emotions are all over the place when I see my kin in the cold, under the free skies, getting wet, carrying shit, scraggly and… me.

I reflect how I’ve never been attacked, object of a crime by these marginalized, like the myth supposes… but I have been kissed on the cheek, hugged, sung to, and loudly talked to. Still I am careful, this is a city, strangers, brothers.

Yesterday I read in the paper how the mayor declared an emergency of homelessness earlier this year. And one of my patients says the beach she goes to in Hawaii is full of tents of homeless. I think of the rich getting richer, the poor getting poorer, Bernie Sanders, Richard Wolff on Marxism and capitalism which I’ve been listening to, and the swelling of this mass of humanity. Maybe we’ll stop trying to ignore it.

Them.

Us.

Loading my ORCA card (city transit pass), a slender pretty human with seal eyes comes and says Merry Christmas and asks if I have something to spare. I remove my earbuds and give her 5 bucks, not that I have them to spare, and look her in the eyes. Walking away I think that she’s gorgeous enough, prostitution maybe a thing at one time, kind and elegant.

Further on through Chinatown. I revel in the fog and sprinkling kisses. Asian courtyards and pavilions, early morning geriatrics limber routines. Brisk air. Pleasurable.

Under a wide freeway overpass I glance at a couple tents, a threesome on a mattress, and a duo sitting up in the piles where they sometimes have a fire. Soon I pass a man on the sidewalk curb sitting yelling out. Arms outstretched. I stop, but keep a respectful distance. Help me up he mumbles with volume. I see that he’s not going to swipe at me, but his hands and coat are oh so dirty. I ask him if he wants me to help him stand up. Yes. I reach out and grasp his forearms so that I don’t have to touch his hands, little wounds and rough. No, he says loudly, from behind, gesturing. I go around and tell him that I’m going to help lift him up, on the count of three together. We manage to stand up.

Bent over, he shuffles a couple inches. I ask him where he’s going, and he says to the bus.  I see that he’s not going anywhere, and I help him three feet over to a sign where he holds on. His name is Oscar, and he’s from Cuba. He lifts up his pant leg and shows me a very swollen leg, sock pinching the shin. He hurts all over and broke the leg two months ago he says.

I can’t just walk home now. What can I do? We talk. He’s hard of hearing. He starts trembling. Nose dripping on the pavement. I ask him if he would be okay with going to the hospital. He looks at me and tells me last time the cops were rough with him. The nurses were just in the hallways chatting all happy. As the minutes rolled on Oscar’s trembling worsens. He wobbles back and forth, even holding on with both hands to the pole, and I think he’s going to fall. The fresh red scab on his forehead now seems more like from a fall instead of an assault like I originally thought.

He agrees to a call to the ambulance to go to the hospital. I think for a minute to frame my language in the most convincing and accurate manner. Prepare to combat on the phone to advocate. The phone call takes a while, I talk to the 911 dispatcher, then the medic, then then ambulance team, but at no point do I sense anything but helpfulness. The last lady asks me to tell the patient to collect his medicines. Ha. Sure I tell her. It will be 10 to 15 minutes before they arrive.

I tell Oscar, who has been trying to talk to me while I’m on the phone, so I had to walk away a few feet. I help him sit, hoping he doesn’t fall. Sit next to him on the curb. We wait under that freeway bridge, Christmas morning, coolness settling in under our gloves, and sigh. Relax a bit. He asks where I’m going next. Home I said. Feeling ironic. He looks at my scrubs. To rest in bed? Yes, I responded. Damn.

We switch to Spanish. I ask him about Cuba. He tells me about the other people under the bridge. They all do drugs. I only do alcohol. I should probably stop, it’s hurting my leg. We talk about crystal. I don’t like it. I couldn’t sleep. Marijuana’s better he says, you can sleep, and dance, and be normal.

The EMT’s arrive in their tall quiet ambulance. The kid with the male pony tail on top brings the stretcher. The new girl fetches them the blue latex gloves. Together we help Oscar onto the stretcher, I lift his legs up onto the platform. They unlock the brakes and elevate the device. Oscar says, “Oh man, que Dios te bendiga [may God bless you].” I follow them to the back of the vehicle and watch them roll him in. The girl asks if I want to ride with them to Harborview [hospital]. I decline and wave goodbye to the man getting his vital signs checked.

My walk home continues, earphones back in, Christmas music melting and stirring me. Our system is messed up, but in this small (and expensive instance), through emergency rooms, can our brothers on the streets receive medical care, if in dire crisis, for a few days. Man, the U.S. Reagan through Clinton years dumped all of our institutionalized people out onto the streets. Now we pay for it still, just through hospital emergency rooms. Stupid. Part of me hopes that the emergency rooms are flooded, maxing the system economically, until we start to do things preventively.

May God bless you he said. I think: may society help you, may people help you, and stop relying on some exterior idea to magically do something while we do nothing different. May legislation change. May people-systems change. May there be houses and beds for the “lazy,” and whatever other silly names we call each other to make distance and put each other out of sight. We cannot ignore the poor. One day that could be me.

I walk past the Indian Center. Then the bridge where just weeks ago I helped Vladimir step off the railing a dark morning at 6:30 a.m.. I look below at Nickelsville’s pink shacks. Stop to count about 40 tents and huts that the city of Seattle has allowed on this freeway twirl parcel. I look across other worn paths through the leaf-less trees and count another 50 or so tents. Belongings strewn. Just today, on my way home from work, I must have passed at least 180 people without homes on the streets. Or um muddy woods and concrete overhangs.

Well we can ignore the poor, until the numbers swell, and the crisis rooms are full, and the problem spills into the middle and upper-class freeways, and streets, healthcare systems, stores entrances, and everywhere else we try to brush under the carpet. Something is inside-wrong with the way we do things. Like inner demons we try to repress and pretend are not there, we can only pretend so long until the illusion is ruptured, and the other components of our psyche explode. Like terrorism, mass shootings, and violence, we can only externalize it so long until at some point we have to realize that the problem is also internal. 


Stepping off my soap box, riled up as I can sometimes wind myself, I take a deep breath. I’m home now. Sitting in front of my home’s Christmas tree. 
building-side a few blocks from Pioneer Park 

December 1, 2015

december update

hiking this fall, overlooking the Pacific Ocean covered by fog 
Hello. It’s been a long time since I’ve written here. I thought I’d keep you – generally friend and family readers who invest a few moments reading – up on a few things that are alive for me.
First, the relationship with the man who was my partner for 4+ years ended this summer. It was initially a heartbreaking and nightmarish many weeks. With time and lots of intentional work I’ve returned to functional normalcy. Grief intermittently surprises me. I am honored to have loved him and been loved by him so entirely for this period of time. While I had hoped that it would have been a lifetime, I am accepting that relationships can change. I have no regrets about dating him and learned so much about life, love, elegance, cooking, patience with technology, data, scientific-mind, not being intimidated by accomplishment, self-concept, surrender, gentleness, vulnerability, and kindness. I hope that all that interact with him will do so with fondness. After some time I hope for a resumption, even if in different locales, of an esteemed easy friendship.

Graduate school in counseling is coming to an end after over two years. It has been beautiful learning too. The last year I interned at an outpatient community mental health clinic. Most of my clients have experienced homelessness in the near last few years. The issues range from bread-and-butter anxiety and depression to post traumatic stress, bipolar, schizoaffective, anger, statistically unusual physical symptoms related to psychological stressors, panic attacks, social phobias, chronic presentations. As these 15 months end I will surely miss these relationships which in many cases have come to mean a lot to me. We have both helped each other. I am happy that increased healthcare coverage has meant that tens of thousands of people just in my state can now see a mental health counselor for issues that have plagued them for years. Another human being as an advocate goes a long way to healing, prevention, and long-term cost efficiency.

Many other things are going on, most of which I share in other places and circles. I continue my work as an RN. I Love Seattle. The world is still out there and beckoning, but this surely is a good home base for me. I look forward to having more time to travel when I’m done in the spring. Best to you all! 

July 23, 2015

letter to a straight guy

Letter to a straight guy,

Hi there. I thought you could use some tips.

1. You don’t always have to remind me how you disagree with me. I get it, you’re religious. You believe marriage is only between a man and a woman. Got it. Gay is bad. Got it. I believe otherwise. Can’t we just stick with the stuff we agree on? I really do value our relation. But I won’t always stick around if I feel badgered.

2. Be confident in your sexuality. You like what you like. Nobody, even at point of duress, can reverse your attractions. That fact that you have a gay person among your friends or family does not diminish you, make you look gay, or mean you want to sleep with him. It means you have the self-identity strong enough to not be threatened by someone being different than you.

3. Yes you’re cute, but no I don’t want you so bad. Can’t we just have a regular friendship? Really, please get over yourself. 

4. If a person of whatever gender or sexuality pays you a compliment, just say thank you. No need to think anything more of it. “You’re handsome.” “Thank you kindly.” Smile. Maybe you’re not attracted to them. That’s okay. You’re gonna be okay.

5. A philosophical point: Being called sissy, girly, faggot, queer, soft, is not the end of the world. What do these intended slurs all have in common, besides the insecurity of the caster (and the society from which they spring)? They hate the feminine. Misogyny. To be associated with the feminine is not the end of the world. In fact, many embrace it as a secure part of their overall human composition, a man comfortable with both his masculine and feminine drives, if we are to call them that. Be secure enough, thoughtful enough, to be an advocate too of the non-traditional-patriarchal-masculine.  

6. You'll score lots of points making a little joke or light-hearted play, occasionally, from the gay point of view. Just yesterday a straight fellow classmate ordered ice-cream behind me, "Yeah, I'm paying for me and my boyfriend." It not only cracked me up, it showed his self-confidence, and endeared me and others to him. For a moment he viewed the world from my vantage point. 


Thank you for being my friend, father, brother, co-worker, male-majority, classmate, and therapist, 
Percy 

July 6, 2015

supreme court and gay marriage

My sister Rita posted her thoughts in response to our nation's Supreme Court ruling on the equality of marriage for all people, including gay people like myself. Letter to My Children about Gay Marriage. Here is most of my response to her:

Dear Rita,
fourth of July

It will come to you as no surprise that I am sitting here tears streaming down my face at reading your email/post. That I inherited from Dad, and is a sign of good flow in life for me. I am very touched by what you write and feel. I sure hope that with your writing more people will feel compassion like you do, especially for their own children and circles, around these issues of sexuality.

May I share with you a few thoughts?

The Supreme Court decision has brought many marginalized citizens a feeling of immense joy and inclusion. We are not the outliers any more. Years ago I didn't think gay marriage necessary, but seeing the tears of joy brought by this gesture to couples up close on tv screens, and at meals together, has changed my mind. Why exclude same-gender couples from this significant ritual of love, especially when they want it so badly, and it harms no one in the process? Not only have polls changed to reflect a majority of our country-folk now viewing sexual orientation as a non-issue, but most states have passed inclusive legislation, and now the Supreme Court majority also reflects a more inclusive tone. This fear-mongering that children will suffer, that traditional values are going to pot, that somehow our society is the worse-off in a basic way is falling by the way-side. Homophobia, feminine-hating, and strict gender binary are thankfully easing their grip.

My facebook feed exploded with rainbows, and facebook announced that 26 million users used the rainbow filter on their profile pictures from Friday to Sunday alone. In the succeeding days my conservative friends have posted reiterances of their stance on marriage between a man and a woman, etc., including several fears. I have chosen to just keep scrolling and focus on the positive. I am not deleting anyone.
Returning here to Utah to visit Casey I am angry all over again. After the house-warming part Saturday a few of Casey's gay friends (couples, other doc's, neighbors) sat around the table. All too predictably they recounted their sadness at rejection from previous belonging groups, sadness over parents, perceptions of society of them as creeps, etc. They told stories of their explanations to family and friends, over and over again. Facebook posts they were going to write. Etc. Of course intermingled were funny accounts and happiness that the country was coming around (though not their home state), words of certain Supreme Court justices, comedians, politicians, and other supportive family and friends. I was saddened and angered to hear how live this nerve was. The same old conflict in still going on so strongly here. So much time spent beating over the same issue. Years. In Seattle it is generally such a non-issue. People ask about my partner like they ask about the weather and exercise routine. People aren't explaining, fighting, crying, struggling. Like a friend told me about San Francisco, we are so "post-gay." I've experience the same thing in Argentina, Canada, and Spain. I look forward to the point when our country no longer expends so much precious struggle on this, and it is a thing of the past.


Opponents of gay marriage are now in the minority it seems. Welcome to how a minority has felt all of their life. I see the fears, and as you say "fist-waving" and "feet-stomping" as demonstrations of an underlying fear and smallness. Scarcity mentality versus abundance mentality. I see posts by some family and other religious friends mostly seemingly out of fear. I hope they will see that their fears are not warranted, and feel more secure as time goes on. I choose not to spend much of my time answering or engaging the segment of society that opposes me or gay marriage. I surely am glad that many thousands DO engage, talk, explain. On some level it needs to keep happening. But I've done that for so many years, am tired of it, it's not helping me, and prefer to spend my energy building a future instead of trying to placate the worries of the paranoid. (Harshly spoken perhaps, but my current truth.)  My therapist has asked me questions like, "Percy, why do you keep explaining things?" "Why does their opinion matter so much to you?" "What would you do with your energy if you didn't spend time doing that?"


On another note, I thank you for your affection .... and in the same breath I very much hope that you do not idealize (or demonize) me. You first-hand have seen how unreasonable or withdrawn I can be for several hours when I feel triggered. You know that I nude-hike and camp with friends. I refer you to my post: oneworldp.blogspot.com/2013/01/will-you-still-love-me.html, not all ideas of which are simply hypothetical. Part of me accepts that I will be rejected again, sometimes cyclically, by those close or proximal to me. I have seen it already. You have seen it somewhat in your life with this adoption subject. I will be admired for a time, then reviled - thought evil and gross, then admired again, or relationships severed. C'est la vie. I life my life for me. I only live this life once. I want to experience the most happiness, presentness, compassion, transcendence.

Goodness this is getting long... almost done :).


Your blogging has again made me realize what a powerful tool it can be. You and I are both persuaders of sorts. It makes me want to keep blogging more for my oneworldp blog.


Thank you for not only being an ally, but an advocate. I look forward to being the same for you as fully as I can.


Love you tons, Percy

June 15, 2015

rent your opinions


“Rent your opinions, don’t own them, for they change.” – a very wise retired professor

at school with classmates
I was so sure of so many things at one time. I would have 10 kids, some of them adopted, be married to a woman, maybe a bishop. Lazy people took welfare. Homosexuals were terrible people. Guns were my right. God knew everything. I belonged to an extended tribe of whom I would always be a part. I had a lot of answers.

Now I am partnered to a wonderful man the last five years. I’ve found out that gay people are pretty phenomenal as a whole. I choose many in my current social group. I have mixed feelings about abortion, but I don’t believe male politicians should be able to decide for a woman what she does with her own body and reproductive health. I don’t believe in punishment as the cure-all. I believe in helping all people medically, with housing, food, kindness. If a person comes forward with a broken leg, we as a group are better off when we fix it. Especially out hearts. Physicality and pleasure are good, not bad. The terrorist is not just an external enemy. What part of the terrorist can I own as a part of my nation, my group, my daily interactions?

Yet there’s not room to be moralist or high-minded. Views I advocated so strongly twenty years ago, I now sit squarely on the opposite side with some. I remain open to influence and persuasion, still checking everything with my thinking, my experience, my internal wisdom. Who knows where I will have shifted in 20 more years? What truth that I hold fiercely now will be slapped from my hands by life events, new love and understanding of a person I esteem, collective consciousness, or technology? Part of me is admittedly unsettled. Another part of me refuses to hold a position simply for tradition, especially if it damages me or keeps me small.

I will never go back to some of the constructs that cause me to dishonor myself.

There are many things that I hold to after all of these years. Thankfully. Remembering them gives me sense of continuity. They include sitting at the piano lost in the stirrings of the chords and voice, without an audience, appreciation for kindness like water in a desert, joy over older couples holding hands, delight in watching little kids move about, a view of animals as peer creatures, Nature (with a capital N), camping, the helping professions, public service. Despite differences and ambivalent life experiences, my immediate family remains mystically important to me. Each individual relationship is its own unique space, but the group psyche still recurs.

I return to the foresight of the wise elder: Rent your opinions, don’t own them.

July 3, 2014

splitting

While at grad school for psychology I’ve discovered yet another defense mechanism that I have been using that now isn’t serving me. It’s called splitting.

old-growth tree
It’s a primitive defense mechanism, used to protect oneself from harmful individuals, initially. The infant or child classifies another person as either helpful or harmful, friend or enemy. A person who causes them trauma is avoided, or the guard is high, say excessive corporal punishment, abuse, emotional scarring. A person who meets their needs is labeled as helpful; food, love, belonging, aliveness.

Not having the ability to articulate or differentiate very well, this categorization is done simplistically. A negative emotion is felt, a need can’t be expressed, and the child shuts out the other. Dissociates. For the kid experiencing a trauma, this is a helpful defense mechanism. Genius. Life and fragile ego-saving.

Most people aren’t either all friend or all enemy though. They are a little bit of both perhaps. Growing up as an adult, most of us don’t have to experience the lack of autonomy and helplessness of a child. So later as an adult the key is to learn not to dissociate and regard others in tense situations as the enemy.

Hospital situation

I was working on a hospital floor and the nurse that was training me bothered me. She knew her stuff and went through the motions well, but something about her manner seemed condescending. I couldn’t quite put my finger on it, but as the hours and days ticked away the stress in me built and built.

One day I was very hungry so I went to eat the banana I had in my locker. She found me in the break room and told me that I was not allowed to leave the floor without giving report on all my patients to another nurse, etc. I responded that I did not leave the floor, that it took me about the same amount of time to down a banana as it did to pee, one or two minutes, and that this was not an official break, just the equivalent of a bathroom stop. I reasoned that giving report took several minutes between finding the other nurse and having them write things down. She insisted that I was wrong, and that I needed to follow procedure. At that moment the split happened. She went from human being to enemy. Unable to verbalize or meet my needs, I now viewed her as someone to defend myself against, an unreasonable foe.

For the next two or three days I could hardly bring myself to greet her, much less chit-chat. These were going to be a long several weeks of training. Even the way I looked at her was different. After a half day she noticed, and tried to make easy conversation, but I responded with one or two curt words. Not because I was trying to punish her, but because I couldn’t access any of the kindness in her, or myself. The look in her face was surprised, big eyes, startled, maybe even a bit afraid. She also did not have the verbal-emotional skill to communicate.

I hated that she was afraid of me, or some feeling I couldn't put a word to. After all, I had really said nothing, I thought. I hadn’t called her any names, verbalized any judgments, or raised my voice. But there was that uneasy tension. And I seemed to be hijacked by this negative emotion towards her, and now towards myself. That’s adult splitting.

Afraid

I recognized that same look from a few other people in my life when I got silent: other nurses, students, a sibling, even my partner. Damn I hate when people are afraid of me. I don’t want them to be afraid of me, I just want to get certain needs met, like eating when I’m hungry, feeling respected, a sense of autonomy, being heard… The point is that this was a pattern I saw, but couldn’t quite put my finger around.

Needs I didn’t know how to articulate. Kindness and mentoring I didn’t yet know how to access for myself or others.
Calling them back

When victims of war trauma come back and seek treatment for Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, a therapist has a few techniques at her/his disposal. If she has built a trusting relationship, s/he can call back a patient back to their presence. In the recollecting of a traumatic memory, like witnessing a comrade get shot in the back, the survivor may get hijacked by inexplicable fear and forget where they are, have difficulty breathing, seeing, controlling their emotions, even after years. The trusted therapist in this recollection process can call them back by name cueing them to breathe, maintain eye contact, reminding them that they are there for them, where they are. Whatever it is that they’ve discovered works. In the initial stages this could happen 3 times a minute, 50 or 60 times in an hour. It gradually becomes less necessary as the survivor learns to cue and self-soothe themselves, while not avoiding the difficult grief, anger, or whatever emotion or image coming to them.

She’s talking to you

I recognized this technique in a union rep I had while a teacher. In a difficult conversation with an administrator, she reminded me, “Percy, look at [administrator], they’re talking to you.” This helped me stay engaged, where she saw that I was dissociating. Using my name and encouraging eye contact brought back the humanity.

Expressing what they can’t express

I’ve seen people doing this spontaneously to each other, more often in South America, but here in North America too. Around a meal table to include a silent or shy one. To a child who’s tantruming. We don’t leave them alone, we engage them, help them express a need that they might not be able to express.

Gay kid

Being a gay kid growing up in a super religious family, with messages of damnation everywhere in the church and community, my ego learned to protect itself in certain ways. In ways often unconscious. When I finally did come out, many people no longer spoke to me, or had lots of hateful things to say. With large numbers of people expressing conflicting opinions and thoughts, some people expressing their great “love” for me, but in their next breath saying that it was better that I had not been born, and literally fearing for my life or bodily harm sometimes by the threats, in broad strokes I learned eventually to have the sense to eliminate people who stirred such negative emotions in me. It was an appropriate response of self-preservation at the time. People who did not express support, but sat silent while others bullied and shamed me, were too brushed aside as enemies in my mind. Collaborators I assumed.

Not that simple now

Now that the years have gone by it is time not to place all people in two categories: haters and lovers. It’s not that simple. People are more complex than that. Some people are not to be trusted, others have demonstrated that they can be trusted. Sometimes a person messes up, but then proves themselves trustworthy, or friend. We develop a sense of discernment with people and learn to take them on a case by case basis. With some increased sense of identity, love, and stability, it is time to stop splitting as a defense mechanism, whether it be about sexuality, work situations, partner scenarios.

Flying back

Flying back from grad school a month ago I felt both terrible and wonderful. Terrible that I was still doing this splitting. Frequently. At work with the rude transporter, the born-again nurse speaking ill of the “gays’ lifestyle,” my partner when he forgets sometimes that there are two of us when he’s making coffee, my neighbor when he talks over me. Enemies no more. And wonderful that I could see it, as the days turned in to weeks. And I could choose instead to maintain the eye contact, and keep speaking, and verbalize what I need, and claim what is my right to claim with gentleness (eat when I am hungry, pee when my bladder is full, use my time as I see fit). Empowered with this new self-knowledge about splitting. Now strength with grace. Separation with connection. Friends and complex human beings, just like me. Ungraceful at times, beautiful at times. Both.

June 16, 2014

depression - andrew solomon


All of us have dealt with depression at one time or another.

This talk, also introduced to me in grad school, is as poetic as it is masterful.
  
Take a few minutes while you are washing dishes, folding clothes, or having tea to hear this TED-talk that will deepen your understanding, maybe help a loved one.

May 22, 2014

hillman and aging




Hillman states several grand points about aging. In a society without much help and teaching on aging, these concepts are like water to the thirsty.


Some points that stood out to me:


Life breaks us all.
Grandparents often exude confidence, while parents can exude worry.
The night is a place to live.
I like to think of the process as having meaning.

January 20, 2014

parenting article - huffington post

Author Christine Gross-Loh says some interesting things:


1. We need to let 3-year-olds climb trees and 5-year-olds use knives.
2. Children can go hungry from time-to-time.
3. Instead of keeping children satisfied, we need to fuel their feelings of frustration.
4. Children should spend less time in school.
5. Thou shalt spoil thy baby.
6. Children need to feel obligated.

While admittedly using the shock factor of saying some very counter-cultural things, I think she has some excellent points. #5 caused me to think especially.

See her Huffington Post article.

December 27, 2013

letter to nephews and nieces

eating fish in Spain
- summer 2013
Dear nephews and nieces,

When I was a little boy I noticed that many adults ignored children. They acted like I wasn’t there. They didn’t say hi to me, even though they said hi to all of the adults. They didn’t talk to me or look at me – or other kids. I felt like saying, hey, I’m a person too! I decided then that when I was an adult, I would say hello to everyone, including kids. Kids think and feel and notice.

Well I haven’t always done that. When you are an adult things can get complicated. Some adults think that their kids belong to them, and they don’t want other adults to talk to their kids or look at them. Kinda like if you don’t want other people to pet your dog. So adults end up acting like kids aren’t there. I think that’s bad manners, even though lots of people do it. Kids are not pets or objects to own, but they are younger people that must be protected.  

Other times adults are afraid of each other. They want to protect their kids from other people who might hurt the kid, or talk about something that the parent doesn’t want their kid to talk about. Adults sometimes don’t know who will do something inappropriate, so they could be afraid of everyone. Maybe they only want certain people to talk to their kids.

*****

When I was a boy I thought that I was a bad kid because I had a secret. When my parents or other people told me that they loved me, I thought, “Yeah, but if they really knew who I was, they wouldn’t love me.” My secret was that I really wanted to talk about sexual things, and I was really interested in other boys. Most of the other boys, when they got older, were really interested in girls. So I was different. And very bad, I thought.

When I got older I told adults about my secret. Some of them hugged me and told me that they would always love me. They were nice and stayed my friends. Others were angry and upset. Some cried and said that they wished that I was dead instead. Some of them stopped talking to me forever, some just for a few years.

Some of them were scared. I was scared too. Some of my brothers and sisters were scared because I was different. They had been taught that people like me were bad. Some adults were taught that if a man wants to marry another man, he also wants to marry children! Or do things that married people do with children. Silly shit.

Others of my brothers and sisters kept inviting me to dinner and sending me Christmas cards and birthday cards. Thank goodness.

I am glad that I shared my secret. I feel better to have other people know me, and see all of me. I don’t share all of me with everyone, but I do share all of me with some people. I am not bad. I am good. Loving men, enough to marry one, is a beautiful thing to me.

*****

Some of you nephews and nieces I’ve felt very close to. I’m happy for that. I value you. It is a privilege and an honor.

Some of you I have not even said hi to when I saw you. So I have become that adult that doesn’t say hi to kids, and pretends like they are not there. Up until now I’ve felt like I had a good excuse.

But you know, I don’t want you to feel bad about yourself. Or think that your uncle Percy doesn’t like you. Or somehow think that you’re doing something wrong. I have to give you credit, because when I was a little boy I just thought that those adults who ignored me just had bad manners. I did not internalize it. Maybe you just think I have bad manners and am an inconsiderate self-absorbed adult who doesn’t see you standing there in the room.

You know, I’d rather you think that, than tell yourself something negative about yourself. But the truth is that I really do think about you often. And in my dream world I would probably jump up and down when I saw you, and run over screaming like a silly excited person and hug you, and laugh, and maybe dance up and down in a circle, or ask you how you were doing, and rest my arm around your shoulder, and just glow listening to you. Then we’d go jump on the trampoline, or play soccer, or sing around the piano, or watch funny youtube videos, or just be in the same space.

In my ideal world we would be a support to each other for a lifetime. A big network of a family. A family with lots of participants, lots of eyes, lots of ideas, conversations, adventures, history, whether scarce because we live in different cities, or frequent because we live in the same town or spent a summer or trip together. When you’re young I would talk with you and listen to you, play games, build things, adventure, protect you, teach you, go on trips, and take care of you. I would feel satisfied and happy, excited, alive, and in love. When I’m old we would still talk and listen to each other, you’d visit me, play games with me, visit me, go on trips, adventure, protect me, teach me, and take care of me if I needed it. Like all of us would for each other.

So you know what, next time I see you, I’m doing to do things differently. No matter who your parents are, I’m at least going to say hi and smile at you. If things are cool, I’ll use your name and shake your hand. If things are even better, I’ll hug you and talk with you.

*****

I think I’m going to keep that promise that I made to myself when I was a little boy. I’m going to say hello to everyone, including kids. Starting with some people that mean a lot to me: my nephews and nieces.

December 5, 2013

my indigenous uncle jeff

Uncle Jeff is one of my Dad's six brothers. Story-teller, makes you laugh, kooky, sentimental, says-hi-to-absolutely-everyone-everywhere, cry-easy, risk-taker, wild-man Jeff.

Some of my favorite memories of him growing up were his bearded haka-dance (ancestral war cry of the Maori people) after his mission to New Zealand, the proud guided tours of his backyard garden and rabbits, one time he sitting at the piano singing loudly to descending octaves bar chords - with his shirt ripped off from sheer energy, demon snow-mobiling up dangerous snow banks and zigzagging telephone poles racing us in the pick-up, and canoe trips.

Now he's had multiple heart surgeries. When his heart rate lowers dangerously, a pacemaker resets it with a punch "like a donkey kicking me in the chest," he smiles big. I'm not that comforted. He's more gentle with his thinner body. He eats healthy. I'm surprised by the crow-feet wrinkles of his thin facial skin and the redness. His voice doesn't boom as loud. Still it barely contains his zest. Eyes twinkling. Body tired. Soul wild. Eager to say hello and chat a while.

I remember him teasing me in college, where are the girlfriends? Why are you bringing your roommate over for dinner, where's the girl? Damn he's ugly. Playful.

And later him struggling with Andrea. We estranged cousins talking on the phone lamenting our family's judgments and awkward loving. A few years later I was tickled to hear that he motorcycled cross-country with her. Dad and daughter. I leapt inside at the news. Parallels to my own journey and distances covered.


Now I reflect in grad school on philosophical underpinnings. What animal(s) am I like? How close or far am I from the cycles of nature? How did my childhood influence me, and where do I go from here? Who are my people, my culture? What dream figures awaken? Where is my home?

I muse at how I revel in the sky patterns, notice expressions and animals, touch a tree (and even steal a hug when I think no one is looking), cry at a silly commercial, dance like a mad-man to electronica and city beats, write and tell stories, run to feel better, connect more wildly than I ever dared before.

And I think of my Uncle Jeff, noticing the elk or deer on the horizon, pointing out the eagle nest, glorying in the Snake River, looking at his cows standing there looking back at him. Then something in me remembers that this memory or awakeness is not entirely my own. These fondnesses are not just mine, my Uncle Jeff's, or remnants in my genetic line. They are the DNA-affections of millions of my kind.

Modern rhythms deafen. Clamor. But if I unearth some stillness, see the plants reaching up from sidewalk cracks, smell the crisp air, notice flocks swooping to catch the sunset insects, then I come home to a way, a manner that is in my blood, a music-making poetic eloquence that is the way of our collective us.

November 25, 2013

silence and its implications


a bench under a tree at the grad school I go to in Santa Barbara


What am I saying when I am silent?
when the insecure kid bullies
when the preacher condemns
when the congregation shuns
when some family rejects
 
What am I saying when I am silent?
when an adult rebukes
when neighbors deride
when a parent calls names
when the fight leaves a bruise
 
What am I saying when I am silent?
when the years have gone by
child wonders alone
when I don’t speak up?

justice and reparation

Justice is not just punishment and retribution.

The other side of the coin is reparation.

paragliders off Whidbey Island this summer
Having spent six weeks in prison as a nurse I’ve been especially attentive to articles and radio shows that talk about incarceration and punishment. I’ve thought a lot about the men I see and talk to who live their years behind metal bars. Thousands. I contemplate their sentences and their crimes. I’m called to the scene after they’ve been pepper-sprayed. A young man is brought in to me when he wants to kill himself. I call the doctor, and they lock him up in a supervised cell with a mattress on the floor, in a special restrained gown.

 I check the man pacing in the cell. Open your mouth. I want to see if you’ve swallowed the pill. Then diabetic line. The men say thank you and please.

80% of them are from 23 to 44 years old. I read about the war on drugs, and see how by the thousands we lock them up. Non-violent offenders we call them. Then they get in here and do harder drugs than they ever did on the outside. And get more violent. The United States incarcerates 2.7% of its population. The next highest nation jails 0.6% of theirs. We imprison more people, by far, than any other nation on earth.

I wonder about punishment. And what good it does. Who does it make feel better? What does it repair?

Our country is based on this religious ideal, that the wicked must be punished. So we jail our young men. And when they come out, they are no more equipped to live any better life. In fact they are angrier, more aggressive, less socially skilled or normalized, more frustrated, more apt to snap, or withdraw, or commit an even greater crime.

What about education? What about job training, anger management, emotional literacy, sex education, writing catharsis, financial instruction, social skills, and teaching to care for self?

What about reparation? – Working to give back a gift commensurate to the one you’ve taken, even if grossly inadequate. Does it not do a human good the opportunity to repay, in whatever way possible, the debt? This debt which he can never really repay, but perhaps make symbol and amends? Make a path for his redemption? Perhaps the family, individual, or neighborhood wronged could be the personal recipient of these efforts to repair. Money, art, books authored, songs, furniture built, buildings, personal reparations. Can the soul ever redeem itself?
Are we not all indebted in some never-repayable way, but which it does all parties good to at least try to give restitution? Is not some of our effort valid? Does not this effort change us in some way deeply for the better?

There are and were simpler tribal cultures, where the elders asked the offending member to do a work, allowing his psyche a path back into the mainstream.

I’m not talking blood restitution. That’s punishment. I’m not so sure I want to punish.

I want to make safe. For everyone. Some people DO belong in prison. That small percentage who, no matter what, will continue to kill, or hurt, without a second thought. No remorse. Yes, keep them apart to keep us safe. Not to punish. To keep us safe.

The others, non-violent, greater majority, let’s mend their souls. Address deficiencies directly. Not leave people in cells to rot. In gowns restrained. Yelling and crying. Mental, social, emotional issues must be addressed. Coping skills, mechanisms, patterns seen, taught, encouraged.

These our brothers, sons, neighbors, uncles, nephews, cousins, somebody’s child, our own selves. Somebody’s future husband. Somebody’s future dad. 

I hear about a Scandinavian country that is closing down the majority of its prisons. They’ve found that their education programs are so effective, that their recidivism rates are almost non-existent. Offenders are housed and rehabilitated in facilities resembling the communities and patterns to which they will soon return. Equipped with new skills.

All these thoughts pass through my mind when I hear a program on NPR (National Public Radio) saying:
 
Justice is not just punishment and retribution.

The other side of the coin is reparation.

November 21, 2013

mental illness

The term mental illness is one that I've long thought needs replaced. We say mentally ill and mentally disabled, which is still better than crazy or nutty, which society used to say a couple of decades ago. We're improving, but we're not there yet.

A mental condition, like schizophrenia, or bipolar, is one that most people are born with, or acquire in life. It is not something that they chose. It is something that happens to them, over which people only have some influence on how to handle and try to live.
in a forest near Seattle

Just a few years ago people were calling me and people like me sexually sick, perverted, wrong. For being gay. Heck, people still do. Over a way of being that I did not choose, that is just a part of me, a central part of me. It is not ugly, or shameful, or "fixable." Wouldn't it be nice if we just celebrated and helped each other live well?

So I don't like any human soul being called sick that is not mainstream. Implying shame over something over which they don't decide. We don't do that for people with cardiac problems, diabetes, stature variances, skin diversity (well, we're trying), cultural medley's, sexual identities, abilities, so let's stop doing that for people with mental uniquenesses of various types.

Let's make them a part of us. In a country saturated with nearly-weekly shootings, gun-violence by individuals who are unsatisfied or marginalized, let's prevent at least some of this by including people into the mainstream, helping everyone feel welcome and valued (even if a person has a head tick movement, or doesn't respond to nuance, or hears voices). Let's acknowledge that some of the terrorist exists inside each of us, not just outside of us in foreign territories. And knowing that, we can recognize our own part in marginalizing others and making people outcasts in their own homelands. Think: how does it feel to be on the other side of hearing these labels?

Next time you see a headline in the newspaper, or hear a conversation about them mentally ill, perhaps you can bring some non-violence to your little nook by speaking about all people with compassion, and maybe use other words more suited to what you believe. And when you see a beautiful person like this on the bus, in the grocery store, in your church, you can be a personal friend. Be someone that includes, prevents, protects, knows, understands, reaches out, blesses, calms, and celebrates.

October 28, 2013

october 2013

Hello. Here's a little log of some of the things that we've been up to.

This past week was the week of dinners. Wednesday we had our neighbor Laurin over for a delightful dinner and long chat. Thursday we had dinner with new friends David and Keith. Saturday we had our wonderful Mormon friend Kristin over for the same. Casey has known her for years through school and work, and we continue to delight in her company. Sunday we went to the 24-years-together celebration dinner for Tom and Dennis, accomplished medical people.

I returned from my weekend of grad school in Santa Barbara, had an interview with the Jail to work there possibly, oriented at a new hospital, and saw the musical Anything Goes with Casey. Love these full and diverse weeks.

Last month we were also able to go to Spain with Gary and Tod. I was impressed by the heat and olive groves of AndalucĂ­a, many of which were planted by the Romans a couple of thousand years ago. After several hours of riding a bus through as-far-as-the-eye-can-see hills of olive tree rows, Gary commented that he couldn't possibly see how everyone in the world could eat this many olives. We could see where he was coming from. The people were amiable, the history rich. I was impressed by how alike, in some ways, the people were to South Americans, more than I would have thought. I was also impressed by the egalitarianism and the dignity which is afforded all citizens.

We continue to revel in our neighborhood, and in having found each other.

above El Alhambra in Granada, Spain, at Generalife