resistance

Over and over
I resist
I stand at the edge
I stare at the torrent
The cliff
The falls
The abyss

Over and over
I resist

Over and over
I let go
I fall
Over the cliff
Down the falls
Into the abyss

Over and over
I am sure
I will drown
I will lose my way
I will not surface

Ecstasy is in the air
Between trapezes

I am elsewhere
I am other
No words
No thoughts
No body
No mind

The water is cold
As I expect
When I hit
I knew by the spray
Before I jumped

Submerged
Immersed
Subversive
Over and over

I am born
From the surf
I emerge
From the waves
I am delivered

Fear is my key
Grief is my key
In the places I do
not want to go
That’s where I must go

Over and over I resist
And then let go

people being people

There is a fascinating essay on the site everything2.com, titled Online Community Dynamics. I keep thinking about it. It inspires today’s poem.

people being people

people being people
they are often scared
huddle
in groups
it’s safest if a leader
identifies an enemy
so that everyone can come together
in hate

the leader
tells the group
who to hate
and why
whether it is true or not

I started out writing
under the title
mean stupid people

but that isn’t right
and anyhow I’d rather find a way
to forgive
again
and again
and again

so I started again
with the title
people being people

maybe we will mature as a species
some day

who do you hate?

now look in the mirror
and ask

who have you forgiven
today?

Adverse Childhood Experiences 12: welcome to the dark

Welcome to the dark, everyone.

When you think about it, all the children in the world are adding at least one Adverse Childhood Experience score and possibly more, because of Covid-19. Some will add more than one: domestic violence is up with stress, addiction is up, behavioral health problems are up, some parents get sick and die, and then some children are starving.

From the CDC Ace website:

“Overview:Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACEs) are potentially traumatic events that occur in childhood. ACEs can include violence, abuse, and growing
up in a family with mental health or substance use problems. Toxic stress from ACEs can change brain development and affect how the body responds to
stress. ACEs are linked to chronic health problems, mental illness, and substance misuse in adulthood. However, ACEs can be prevented.”

Well, can they be prevented? Could Covid-19 be prevented? I question that one.

I have a slightly different viewpoint. I have an ACE Score of 5 and am not dead and don’t have heart disease. I spent quite a bit of time thinking about ACE scores and that it’s framed as kids’ brains are damaged.

I would argue that this is survival wiring. When I have a patient where I suspect a high ACE score, I bring it up, show them the CDC web site and say that I think of it as “crisis wiring” not “damaged”. I say, “You survived your childhood. Good job! The low ACE score people do not understand us and I may be able to help you let go of some of the automatic survival reactions and fit in with the people who had a nice childhood more easily.”

It doesn’t seem useful to me to say “We have to prevent ACE scores.” Um. Tsunamis, hurricanes, Covid-19, wars… it seems to me that the ACE score wiring is adaptive. If your country is at war and you are a kid and your family sets out to sea to escape, well, you need to survive. If that means you are guarded, untrusting, suspicious and wary of everyone, yeah, ok. You need to survive. One of my high ACE Score veterans said that the military loved him because he could go from zero to 60 in one minute. Yeah, me too. I’ve worked on my temper since I was a child. Now it appears that my initial ACE insult was my mother having tuberculosis, so in the womb. Attacked by antibodies, while the tuberculosis bacillus cannot cross the placenta, luckily for me. And luckily for me she coughed blood at 8 months pregnant and then thought she had lung cancer and was going to die at age 22. Hmmm, think of what those hormones did to my wiring.

So if we can’t prevent all ACE Scores, what do we do? We change the focus. We need to understand crisis wiring, support it and help people to let go of the hair trigger that got them through whatever horrid things they grew up with. 16% of Americans have a score of 4 or more BEFORE Covid-19. We now have a 20 or 25 year cohort that will have higher scores. Let’s not label them doomed or damaged. Let’s talk about it and help people to understand.

I read a definition of misery memoirs today. I don’t scorn them. I don’t like the fake ones. I don’t read them, though I did read Angela’s Ashes. What I thought was amazing about Angela’s Ashes is that for me he captures the child attitude of accepting what is happening: when his sibling is dying and they see a dog get killed and he associates the two. And when he writes about moving and how their father would not carry anything, because it was shameful for a man to do that. He takes it all for granted when he is little because that is what he knows. One book that I know of that makes a really difficult childhood quite amazing is Precious Bane, by Mary Webb. Here is a visible disability that marks her negatively and yet she thrives.

A friend met at a conference is working with traumatic brain injury folks. They were starting a study to measure ACE scores and watch them heal, because they were noticing the high ACE score people seem to recover faster. I can see that: I would just say, another miserable thing and how am I going to work through it. Meanwhile a friend tells me on the phone that it’s “not fair” that her son’s senior year of college is spoiled by Covid-19. I think to myself, uh, yes but he’s not in a war zone nor starving nor hit by a tsunami and everyone is affected by this and he’s been vaccinated. I think he is very lucky. What percentage of the world has gotten vaccinated? He isn’t on a ventilator. Right now, that falls under doing well and also lucky in my book. And maybe that is what the high ACE score people have to teach the low ACE score people: really, things could be a lot worse. No, I don’t trust easily and I am no longer feeling sorry about it. I have had a successful career in spite of my ACE score, I ran a clinic in the way that felt ethical to me, I have friends who stick with me even through PANDAS and my children are doing well. And I am not addicted to anything except I’d get a caffeine headache for a day if I had none.

For the people with the good childhood, the traumatic brain injury could be their first terrible experience. They go through the stages of grief. The high ACE score people do too, but we’ve done it before, we are familiar with it, it’s old territory, yeah ok jungle again, get the machete out and move on. As the world gets through Covid-19, with me still thinking that this winter looks pretty dark, maybe we can all learn about ACE scores and support each other and try to be kind, even to the scary looking veteran.

Take care.

The AntiDating Patch

I wrote this in 2009. I was in one of THOSE moods, where I had completely given up on ever dating anyone or anything again. There are some anatomical terms in here but I don’t think it qualifies for x-rating.

The Antidating Patch!
New from Astronomical-Zenith!

Tired of dating? No one interesting around you? In fact, are the single people around you creepy losers who make your skin crawl?

You are not alone! You need the patch. FDA approved and tested, the AntiDating Patch will repel people of either sex who normally would want to date you. People are contrary beasts, so this will make them want to date you all the more, but you will remain aloof, pure and free of sexually transmitted diseases, as if you were hermetically sealed in a plastic bag or old refrigerator.

Herbal remedies make the same claim but they have not paid the large sum of money to the FDA to fast track their product or even to evaluate it at all. Also, 35% of dating sufferers using the herbal remedy are actually unhappy about their privates turning blue. We are unsure about the rumor that parts have fallen off. The herbal company did change its’ formulation recently, but they don’t have to tell you that on the label, because it is a natural product, no FDA evaluation needed, and in fact, it is treated just like other natural foods including carrots even though we remain unconvinced that it fell off the tree in patch form!

The Antidating Patch is safer, more thoroughly tested, doesn’t turn your privates blue (except for one person) and we price it to reflect those facts! For men, choose Thong, Old Lady Full Coverage Underwear, or Bikini style patches.* Consider shaving off all that nasty hair before applying to skin. You may want to wear it on your arm, where the ladies (and gents) can see it. NO, YOU ARE NOT, REPEAT NOT, TO STICK IT ON YOUR PRIVATES. THIS MEANS PENIS, WANG, DOINK, TUBESNAKE, DORK, BALLS, TESTICLES AND WHATEVER ELSE YOU CALL YOUR PERSONAL EQUIPMENT. DON’T STICK IT THERE. WE WON’T BE RESPONSIBLE FOR ANYTHING FALLING OFF IF YOU DO. For ladies, choose Boxer, Itsy Bitsy Tight Well Hung (ethnicity of your choice here) or Speedo. Don’t put it on or in your privates, but we know you have more sense then that. This would include boobies, tits, yumyums, mams, breasts, ‘gina, down there, silver beaver, box, cunt, slit, vagina, anus, hole and anything else you learned to call it.

Side effects are rare but include and are not limited to hearing alien voices, high blood sugar, we swear that your privates don’t turn blue or really mostly not. That’s just a faint tinge. Fainting, homicidal behavior, acting like George Bush the Younger, delusions of grandeur (oh, we just said that, didn’t we?), jumping off of buildings, hating sex, loving sex, becoming pregnant (only one man so far and some ladies) and irritation of the privates. Also they can get cranky from lack of use.


*Little Girl style will not be marketed since even though many gents loved it in premarketing testing, those damn strident militant feminists** were up in arms again. We just don’t get it. Those whacko women also didn’t like the Little Boy style for women.

**I qualify for all but the militant bit.

grounded

This is a poem that I wrote in 2015 or before. It was previously posted here and on everything2.com. I just read a blog where two hockey dads are dead of covid-19. The author is writing about grief. I wrote this when I was struggling with grief and how to really let it in.

grounded

grief is an ox
that stands in the room with me
and overshadows
everything

no
grief
is a plow
pulled by an ox
I try to guide it
in the furrows

no
grief is the heavy ground
the plow turns it
the ox pulls
I guide it
in the furrows

no
I am grieving
I let it be close
I don’t push it
in to an ox
in to a plow
in to the earth
I let it in
I grieve

I have seen the frogs

I have seen the frogs
in the northwest

all you have to do is be quiet
near the puddles
or a pond

walk there very very quietly

in the spring they are singing
to each other
calling
a symphony of longing and joy
and they don’t hear me
when I walk very quietly
at the end of the world

as a child my father teaches me
to catch frogs

very quietly
approach the pond
or puddle

if the frog hears you
it will duck under water
you will only see a ripple
spreading out

or it will hop
into the woods
and hide

my father
would occasionally use frogs
as bait
to catch northern pike
a live frog on a hook
frogs scream
when you stick a hook through their back

I hope they go into shock then
and don’t feel much

one we’d seen this
my cousins and my sister and I
when my father got his fishing rod
we’d run through the woods
yelling “Hide the frogs, hide the frogs!”
and we would catch any frog
that was dumb enough not to hide
and quickly set it in the woods
to hide it from my father

we would check the puddles, too
feeling in the brownish muck
to make sure no frog was hidden
in the shallow puddle
come out, you must go in the woods
to survive

to catch the smart ones
normally
we would tiptoe to the puddle
hoping a frog was facing the other way
if they saw us, they were gone

slowly bend down, hand out
behind the frog
reach gently
grab just above the back legs
not too hard, don’t squish it

I was under ten
on a canoe trip
when I run to my father
“A frog! A frog! The biggest frog I’ve seen!
Papa, come help!”
My father comes.
An enormous frog is beside the canoe.
“Catch it.” says my father.
“Please! You catch it!” I beg.
My father creeps up on the frog.
His hand moves out slowly.
He grabs the frog, who tries to jump
and croaks, a bass, huge mouth.
“It’s a young bullfrog,” says my father.
“It will get even bigger.”
He hands it to me.
I take it carefully, shaking a little.
“We could eat it’s legs.”
“NO!” I say. I just want to hold it for a minute.
I turn it over and gently stroke it’s throat.
The frog goes limp, mesmerized.
I set it down gently, right side up,
near the water.
I squat by the frog and wait.
I am waiting for it to wake up.
The frog is so beautiful.
I wait until it wakes up
and returns home.

Covid-19: simplified self care

  1. I am a Family Practice Physician for 30 years. I have had pneumonia four times. I last got pneumonia on March 20, 2021 and I am still off work and on oxygen. This is the first time I have been on oxygen. No tobacco, no marijuana, no lung disease found to date but my mother had tuberculosis when I was born and my father smoked unfiltered Camels. With the hospital beds filling up, this is to help keep people out of the emergency room if they don’t need to be there and to help people track how sick they are.
  2. Learn to take your pulse. You need a second hand. Your heart rate is the number of beats in 60 seconds. Take it at rest (which means sitting or lying down). Then try taking it after you walk. It should be regular unless you have known atrial fibrillation. Also, if you are fifty or older, you may skip some beats so that you have early or late ones. That is not worrisome.
  3. Normal is 60-100. If you are very out of shape, you might go up to 120 after you run up the stairs or walk fast.
  4. If your resting pulse is 120 or higher, call your physician. If you are very short of breath with that or your lips are turning blue, call an ambulance right away.
  5. If your resting pulse is normal, say, 70 beats per minute, and your pulse after walking goes up 30 points or over 100, you are sick. If you are very short of breath after walking you may need oxygen. Call your physician and walk… really… slowly. When your lungs are swollen, there is less air space to exchange oxygen and your heart makes up the difference. If your heart is beating at over 100 for long, it is like running a marathon. Don’t stop walking completely because you are at risk for blood clots. But walk really slowly.
  6. If your resting pulse is normal and your walking pulse is ok, try a loaded walk. Carry something that weighs 20 pounds if you can. Then sit down and check a pulse again. If it is over 100 or jumps 30 points, you too have lung swelling, it’s just a little more subtle. You need to rest too.
  7. With practice, you will have a good idea what your pulse is before you do a formal count.
  8. You can use a pulse oximeter but you have to use it accurately. The fingers should be not moving and lying on the person’s knee or table or something. Otherwise it will give inaccurate readings and scare you. With a regular heart rate, look for the light to be picking up regularly before you believe the oxygen level. O2 sats under 87% need oxygen, but also if someone is going below 95% or is a child, call doctor or ambulance.
  9. Take a multivitamin. It is a lot of work for your heart to race fast. Rest, rest, rest. I have had 4 rounds of pneumonia with lung swelling. It took two months, two months, a year and this time I am five months post pneumonia and still on oxygen.
  10. Don’t use quack supplements and don’t take veterinarian ivermectin. Hello, you are not a sheep.
  11. Remember that if someone is hypoxic, they may act goofy, happy and unconcerned or be scared or have memory loss or just be confused. I write really weird rhyming songs when hypoxic and have the poor judgement to sing them to my doctor.
  12. GETTING VACCINATED IS YOUR BEST BET TO NOT DIE OF COVID-19. AND WEARING A MASK ALL THE TIME AROUND OTHER PEOPLE.

Good luck and take care.

Fuzzy Poet Doctor and the small child

I think I finally understand what I have been doing in clinic all these years. And not just in clinic. As a theory it explains both why patients, nurses, hospital staff and specialists really really like me and my fellow Family Practice doctors, particularly the males, and the administrators, really really do NOT like me.

I am on a plane flying to Michigan a few weeks ago. Double masked. N95 with another mask over it. Sigh.

A friend keeps saying that he can see into me. He can, but he can see thoughts. Not feelings. I am wondering if I see feelings. But I see the stuffed feelings particularly, the ones that people keep hidden. They are like clouds.

And then I think, oh.

I automatically scan any new person for their small child. The inner small child, who is often damaged and hidden. The small child is hidden under those stuffed feelings, which I think of as monsters. In Ride Forth, I am writing about pulling every monster feeling that I can find stuffed out and letting myself feel them. And that people do not like seeing me like that. Their monsters attack me!

Except that the monsters don’t attack. The monsters come to me and say, “Please, please, help me. I want out. The small child needs to heal.” The monsters lie their monstrous heads in my lap and weep.

Now WHY would I develop this skill? That is weird.

I develop it because my parents both drink. The myth in the family is that it was my father. But my mother’s diaries and also her stories make it clear that she drank heavily too. I think they were both alcoholics. And she told two stories about me trying to get someone to get out of bed to give me food as a toddler. As jokes. But it is not a joke. I have food insecurity. At every meal, I think of the next one and whether there is food available. My daughter has it too….. epigenetics.

I think that the only way I could love my parents was to have compassion for them. Once you see another person’s damaged small child, then how can you not feel compassion for them?

With patients I learned to be very very delicate and gentle about asking about the cloud. Just gently. Sometimes people open up on the first visit. Sometimes they shut tight like a clam and I back off. Sometimes they return the next visit or the 3rd or the 8th or after a couple years… and say, “You asked me about this.”

It’s nonverbal communication. The reason why I take the WHOLE history MYSELF at the first visit is for the nonverbal communication. When the person doesn’t want to answer a question, veers away from a topic, switches subjects: there is my cloud. That is where the hurt is. That is where the pain is.

The first cracks in the United States medical system collapse are appearing. Not doctors quitting, not nurses, but medical assistants. Here is an article about how clinics all over can’t hire medical assistants. Because there are tons of jobs, employers are offering more money, why would you do a job where you may well be exposed to covid-19 if you can do something else? And make as much money or more….

The cracks will widen. Ironically doctors are doing what I have done for the last ten years: “rooming” the patients themselves. Ha, ha, good may come out of it, after the disaster. Which is getting worse fast. If people don’t put their masks on and don’t social distance and don’t get vaccinated, I predict more deaths in the US this winter then last winter. Sigh. And in the US we will run out of medical assistants, doctors and nurses.

It is ok to gently ask a patient about that cloud. It is not polite to “see” it in a Family Medicine colleague or and administrator. I can’t “not see” it. I can’t turn it off. However, on the plane my behavior changed even before I could put all of this into words. The words are that I have to be as gentle with everyone as I am with patients.

And the trip felt so odd. I was putting this into effect before I had words. That is how my intuition works. But everyone, absolutely everyone, was kind to me on the trip. A Chicago policeman helped me in the train station and was super kind. It was weird, weird, weird, with bells on. It took me a few more days to be able to put it into words.

Problem intuited, after 60 years of study. Implementation of solution proceeds immediately. Logical brain struggling to catch up, but results satisfactory long before logical brain gets a handle on it.

Pretty weird, eh? I think so. My doctor said that an episode of Big Bang Theory could be written just by following me around for a day. I think it was both saying that I am smart AND that I have no social skills. But I have implemented the social skills program already. She’s just upset that I gave her justifiable hell two visits ago and also…. I do hide my brain. Because sometimes colleagues are jealous.

But maybe they should not be jealous. Maybe they can learn it too. Maybe I can teach. Maybe….

pigs and fishes

is it ok

if I don’t make sense for a little while?

this is hard

it’s really hard
sometimes
to communicate

I never did
join the mainstream
of medicine

I went to class
to medical school
and wondered
and noticed
that the classes resembled
descriptions of cults
how they train people

and I thought
I am not joining any cult

and I kept my mouth shut

in the elevator
when another student says
“The other day
I threw out all of my husband’s plaid shirts.
I hate them.
They are too low class.”
If he loves them, you’ve hurt him, right?
and I think
I could say
“Yes, I hate it
when my husband
wears my plaid skirt
he stretches them all out
and ruins them.”
I would be outed
even more than I already am
as weird.

I don’t say a word
I just think
words

Medical school is four years
Residency is three
I am quiet there too
impression that I am shy
which is a lie
even so, the faculty fear me

I hear, 25 years later

and I am surprised

5 foot four
130 pounds

what the hell is there to fear?

though a boyfriend says
“You turn into an ogre
when you are angry.”

but I am quiet
in medical school
in residency
except when a patient
needs me
to speak

morph to ogre
morph to werewolf
if needed

as I get older
slowly
slowly
I learn
more subtelty

mostly from my children
who are subtle
and very very smart

at any rate

I never bought in to
the give opioids to everyone

and eventually
it turns out
that my intuition
or instinct
or whatever the hell you want to call it
study of addiction from the experience
and reading in college
matches
the studies
that come out

now I have another one
an intuition

the data is catching up with me

it’s funny
in my small community

I feel so lonely
after 21 years
mother’s death, sister’s death, father’s death
divorce
single mother 2 children
niece don’t go there
I am labeled by the medical community
I hear that the senior doctor
in the community
tells a woman midlevel
at a party
that I am crazy

maybe so

but I was right about opioids

pigs and fishes

is it ok

if I don’t make sense for a little while?

maybe
just maybe

they could listen to me this time

but I don’t think

they
will

that would be ok
but it is hurting people
and I can’t bear that

so I put myself
back in the traces

once in a massage
I thought
I can’t bear this
I am not strong enough
and suddenly I was in a dream world
where my back was enormous
huge
unending
and I thought, oh, I can bear this
thank you
I think

I put myself back in the traces
I am an ox
I plant my hooves

I begin
to pull
hard

pigs and fishes

even as I cry

The photograph is from 2014. Two pairs of glasses frames ago….

practicing grandmother

My sister sends me a t-shirt years ago.

It said, “I don’t know if I am the good witch or the bad witch.”

I burst into tears and put it in the trunk of my car. I never wear it. I am the designated bad witch for half my family. We won’t go into that.

She gets a shirt too. Hers is the green one. Mine is black.

She is dead, in 2012, breast cancer. It’s hard to describe the fallout. Toxic and radioactive. But… I have decided not to be a witch.

Instead, I am a practicing grandmother.

Really I’ve been one for a while. There was a young couple who lived down the street with two children. This was in 2014. I was a Facebutt friend, so sometimes noted what was happening. The father has to travel for his job. The mother is trying to care for two kids and work and so on… been there.

In 2014 I am recovering from my third round of pneumonia. This third round it takes six months before I can return to work. Short of breath and coughed if I talked. The state medical watch doctors went to disable me but I fight them tooth and nail. I win.

I wander down to the neighbor and offer my services. She already knows me. She is instantly grateful and two year old T is introduced to me, again. He doesn’t really remember me. She explains that he is coming to my house for a little while and then back home.

T and I walk towards my house.

A nuthatch calls.

I stop and reply. In college I took ornithology and the teaching assistant could do a barn owl call so well that the barn owls would do a territorial fly over at night to see who had the weird accent. Marvelous.

The nuthatch and I went “enh” back and forth. T is amazed. This woman talks to birds. Then we see the nuthatch! I point out how nuthatches come down a tree head first. “If you hear that call, it’s a nuthatch. Look for it.” The nuthatch is very cooperative. Magic.

We get to my house. T is clutching a book. “He’s taking it everywhere,” sighs his mother. “I’m not sure why.”

So first we read the book. It is a board book about a farm. Each page has a central picture and then there are pictures around the edges with the word under each picture. On one page T says, “Haaaaay.”

“Oh!” I say, delighted. “You can read HAY!”

His face lights up. An adult who gets it! Yes! He can read HAY!

On another page he says HAY. “Oh,” I say, “That is straw. Straw is a lot like hay but it’s not exactly the same.”

He is very serious absorbing that information.

I show him my closet. There is a stick horse. Only it isn’t a horse: it’s a unicorn dragon, with a forehead horn and wings. When you press a button it’s eyes flash and it roars.

Ok, that’s pretty scary. He wants the closet door closed and he does NOT want to play with the dragon.

Next is pouring. I get out a towel and put it on the kitchen floor. I get out a rather nice expresso set. Bright colors. Orange and green and yellow and blue. I fill the coffee pot with water and invite him to sit on the towel. “You can pour the tea.”

He looks at me with surprise. He picks up the coffee pot. He looks at me again. “Go ahead. It’s ok.” He starts pouring into a cup. He pours until the cup overflows and the saucer overflows and he keeps pouring. The coffee pot is empty. He looks at me a little warily. This is technically spilling and he knows it.

“Would you like more in the teapot?”

He nods.

I refill the coffee pot with water and he starts again, with a different cup.

When I return him to mom, after two hours, he’s damp. “Sorry, he got a little wet, but it’s just water,” I say cheerfully. Mom is too harried to do much more than look resigned at a change of clothes.

Next time he comes with a change of clothes and his large stroller, in case he goes down for a nap.

And first off, he goes to the closet. Time to hear that dragon roar again.