The extroverted feeler and “bad strangers”

My son is an extroverted feeler. I’m an introverted thinker. He’s a bit of an alien, but then we all are, really.

When he was four we flew to New Orleans. We were waiting in our herd. It was when you were assigned to herd A, B or C to load on the plane.

My son started talking to people. He went up to a stranger and held out his hand. The stranger shook it, slightly bemused.

“Hi,” said my son, “I’m (name). I live at (address). My phone number is (number). What’s your name? Where do you live? Would you like to come visit?”

The stranger answered in a rather bemused way and my son moved on to the next person and repeated the conversation. He worked his way through most of the herd by the time the plane loaded.

Even though I thought it was hilarious, I also thought we should have a talk about “bad strangers”. I waited until we were at the hotel in New Orleans. I said that it wasn’t always a good idea to tell strangers one’s name and address because some of them might be bad. He was quite enthralled by the idea that there might actually be a “bad stranger” that he might actually meet.

That night we ate dinner in a section of New Orleans that the hotel concierge sort of warned us about going in to after dark. Afterwards my husband went to meet a friend and listen to music.

My son had recently acquired a plastic bow and suction tip arrows. He had taken it seriously and had already gotten quite good at shooting them. He did not have them with him loading on to the plane, but of course brought them to dinner in New Orleans. Our understanding, I hoped, was that shooting them at people would result in immediate loss of bow and arrow privileges and result in confiscation.

So after dinner my husband had left and I was walking back to the hotel, a five foot two, 130 lb female, with a four year old who was holding a suction cup bow and arrow. Loaded and ready. I would describe my mood as alert, especially when my son started talking quite loudly. He was on the alert too.

“I hope we meet a bad stranger. I’m ready for them. I’ll shoot them with my arrow. I’m ready. No bad stranger will bother us.” He continued in this vein all the way back to the hotel.

As we walked through the fairly dark streets back to the hotel, I hoped that the “bad strangers” were too busy laughing in the alleys to bother us. No one did bother us.

And that’s how my extroverted feeler son learned about “bad strangers”.

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First published in 2009 on another website. For the Ragtag Daily Prompt: stranger. I took the photograph quite a few years ago.

Practicing Conflict

An essay from my church talks about the writer avoiding conflict, fearing conflict and disliking conflict. This interests me, because I do not avoid conflict, I don’t fear conflict and actually, I like it. Our emeritus minister once did a sermon in which he said that when you are thinking about two conflicting things at once, that is grace. I have thought about his words many times, especially when I am not in agreement about something.

Does this interest in conflict mean I fight all the time? Well, sort of, but not in the way you think. I don’t fight with other people much. I fight myself.

What? No, really. Most topics have multiple sides. Not one, not two, but many. Like a dodecahedron or a cut gem. Hold it up to the light, twelve sides, each different. I argue the different sides with myself.

I learned this from my parents. My parents would disagree about something, they would discuss or argue about it, and then they would bet. Sometimes they bet a penny, sometimes a quarter, sometimes one million dollars. Then one of them would get up and get the Oxford English Dictionary, or the World Atlas, or some other reference and look it up. This was pre-internet, ok? 1970s and 1980s.

Sometimes my parents would even pay each other. The penny or quarter. My father spoke terrible French and my mother had lived in Paris for a year after high school, so he could get her going by insisting that his French was correct. It wasn’t. Ever.

There were other arguments in the middle of the night that were not friendly and involved yelling, but the daytime disagreements were funny and they would both laugh.

Once my sister is visiting after my mother has died. My father is present. My father, sister and I get in a three way disagreement about physics. I’m a physician, my sister was a Landscape Architect and my father was a mathematician/engineer, so we are all three talking through our hats. However, we happily argue our positions. Afterwards, my gentleman friend says, “That was weird.” “What?” I ask. “That was competitive and you were all arguing.” “It was a discussion and we disagreed.” “I won’t compete.” “We let my dad win, because it makes him happy.” “That was weird.” “Ok, whatever.”

My gentleman friend is also shocked when my teen son challenges me at dinner. My son says, “I am researching marijuana and driving for school and there isn’t much evidence that it impairs driving.”  I reply, “Well, there is not as easy a test as an alcohol test and it was illegal, so it has not been studied.” We were off and having a discussion.

Afterwards my gentleman friend says, “I am amazed by your son bringing that up. We weren’t allowed to discuss anything like that at dinner.” I say, “We pretty much discuss anything at dinner and both my kids are allowed to try to change my mind. About going to a party or whatever.” He shakes his head. “That is really different.” “Ok,” I say.

This habit of challenging authority, including adults, did not go over well when my son was an exchange student to Thailand. It did not occur to me to talk to him about it. He figured it out pretty quickly.

Back to my internal arguments. If I take a position, I almost immediately challenge it. I think of it as the old cartoons, with the angel on one shoulder and the devil on the other. The devil will make fun of things and suggest revenges and generally behave really badly. The angel will rouse and say, “Hey, you aren’t being nice.” Then they fight. The internal battle very quickly becomes comic with the two of them trading insults and bringing up past fights and fighting unfairly. When it makes me laugh inside, I can also be over the driver who cut me off, or someone who spoke nastily, or whatever. My devil is very very creative about suggested revenges. When the angel says, “You are meaner than the person who cut you off!” I am over it.

When I was little and disagreeing with my family, my sister could tell. “You have your stone face on!” That meant I was attempting to hide a feeling, especially fear or anger or grief. Siblings and family are the most difficult because they can read us and see through us like glass. My physician training also teaches control of feelings. I have sometimes wanted to grab a patient and scream “Why are you doing this to yourself?” but that really is not part of the doctor persona. I am doing it inside, but I can put it aside until later. Then the devil goes to town! And the angel tries to calm the devil down.

Maybe we all need more of this skill. Pick a mildly controversial topic. Argue one side of it. Then switch positions and argue the other side. Go back and forth until it gets ridiculous. Let each side get unreasonable and inflammatory and annoying. This can play in your head and not on your face. Once you can do a mild topic, move on to something a bit more difficult. If you only know the arguments on your side, read. You can find the other side, the internet is huge. Start gently.

A friend says, “You always argue about things.” I say, “I prefer to think of it as a discussion.” “You always take the other side.” “Well, it interests me. And if there is no one to discuss something with, I discuss it with myself!” “Weirdo,” says the friend. I think he’s jealous, really I do. Don’t you?

Stages of PEACE

We have stages of grief. Now if we are going to make peace, we need to break it down into the stages that we need to go through. I think this incorporates and embodies the stages of grief. We need to plan peace. We need a map to get there, and it is not a simple road. We can’t just say I am peaceful. We must do the work. Here are the stages I can think of and I have certainly gotten stuck in some of these stages. What about you? No…or are you in denial? And if not you, I would bet money that you can name someone who you think or feel is stuck in one of these. Takes one to know one though, right? No, maybe that’s wrong. Stop confusing me!

And maybe we don’t all go through all of these stages. Or go through them in the same order. When I watch families grieve after a death, they often fight. They fight about how to grieve. The family members may be in very different stages, or the family may have stages or roles assigned to certain people, who may or may not accept the assigned role. My maternal family has anger assigned to me. I don’t really care any more. Since I am not angry, presumably they can’t handle anger and need to outsource it. I got tired of saying “I am not angry” and being told that yes, you are angry until I would get angry… you see the problem, right? It got ridiculous. My sense of the absurd kicked in and then I would try to really enjoy being angry. You are supposed to give things your best effort, right? Snort.

Message me if you think of some stages that I’ve missed! Then we can all get to work, on working through these. MAKE PEACE, PEACE OUT, PEACE ME, PEACE YOU, PEACE THE WORLD! Might take a while. Get on it, get to work.

Twisting words

Confusion

Denial

Bargaining

Anger

Bitterness

Revenge

Acting Out

Oppositional Defiance

Acceptance

Forgiveness

Healing

Hope

Reconciliation

Peace

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What does the helmet have to do with this? Nothing… I just like the helmet. I keep thinking that it could be a breastplate instead of a helmet. And it is a clue to my May blogging… where am I? Where is this helmet?

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….

Ride forth

I wrote this poem more then ten years ago, but since I want to reference it in an essay, I am putting it up here now.

Ride Forth


My grandmother
Packed all her troubles in her saddlebags
And rode forth singing

My mother
Packed all her troubles in her saddlebags
And rode forth singing

My father
Was the only one
Who ever saw the contents
He tried to drown them

My mother was loved
For her charm

I ride forth
Sometimes I sing
Sometimes I weep

My saddlebags are empty

Prayer flags flutter
Slowly shred
In the wind

I write my troubles
And my joys
On cloth
And thank the Beloved
For each

My horse is white
When I sing
Black
When I cry
A rainbow of colors
In between
The whole spectrum
That the Beloved allows

After I emptied
My saddlebags
I tried to leave them
But the people I meet
Most, most, most
Are frightened

A naked woman
On a naked horse

I had to leave my village
When I learned to ride her
Made friends with her
Beloved
My village does not allow tears
When she turns black
Their saddlebags squirm and fight
The people try to throw them on my horse

In other places
The horses are all black
The white aspect of the Beloved
Frightens them
And they attack

I carry saddlebags
And Beloved is a gentle dapple gray
And the illusion of clothes surrounds me
When we meet new people
Until we know
It is safe to shine
Bright
And dark

I hope that others ride with the Beloved
In full rainbow

I ride forth
Sometimes I sing
Sometimes I weep

Even the color lonely
Is a part of the Beloved

outfits inappropriate for work 3

Ok, maybe it is not inappropriate for work. But it would be a little weird for work… I was going in the woods with my oxygen tank. “Local doctor of 21 years found eaten by cougar, which then died because it couldn’t digest the oxygen tank.” Heh.

Listening to this, fabulous!!!

On covid-19

I am going to post a series of short essays I wrote on another site at the end of 2020. Because we have to work together and these are relevant. I will post one every day or two.

From Tuesday November 24, 2020:

I have just had a call asking for a Covid-19 test.

Not for symptoms.

Nope. Traveled from Washington to California with a buddy and “My sister thinks I should be tested.”

Me: “Oh, does your sister want you tested before you come to Thanksgiving?”

Patient: “Uh, I think so.”

Me: “First of all, the priority is for people who have symptoms or have been exposed. Secondly I am not ordering a test for someone who has no symptoms, chose to travel and then thinks it’s ok to go to a Thanksgiving dinner in another household if they get a negative. It’s not ok. You can test negative one day and be shedding virus the next. The quarantine after exposure is 14 days. The medical advice from the CDC, from the surgeon general and from me is STAY HOME.”

Others are asking for antibody tests. We don’t know if the antibodies mean you aren’t infectious. We don’t know how long they last. Typically with other covid viruses they don’t last long. In contrast, chicken pox virus gives lifelong immunity. We don’t know if a person can get Covid-19 again, though there have already been some cases. No, I won’t do an antibody test because the person “Just wants to know.”

STAY HOME STAY HOME STAY HOME.

Game ball

Warning: this post contains some time out words.

How do I process the game you played?

I am the subject of the game.

Or the victim.

Or no, I refuse. It is your game. I was not playing. I am the honey badger, metabolism so fast that I have to run from one meal to the next or else I will starve. I eat whatever I can find: cobras, bees, anything. I eat or I die.

You have tethered a honey badger to oxygen by playing a game.

I am the football and you have been kicking me, throwing me, catching me, slamming me to the ground as hard as you can in the end zone.

And now that I am worn and damaged and torn, you’ll toss me away, not even notice me, and find a new ball.

You will need a new football. To play with.

I don’t envy that person.

The truth is, it will be one of you. The group will rest on their laurels, oh, we nearly killed her, wasn’t it great? We showed her. She is so stupid, took her what, 21 years to fucking figure it out? And she thinks she’s so smart.

I was looking for food because I am always hungry. The food insecurity goes back to infancy. Maybe to the womb: my mother says she was not to gain weight and spent the entire pregnancy longing for a gigantic ice cream Sunday. Think of being in a womb, attacked by antibodies to tuberculosis, and starving all the time. Might be a little bit worried when birth happens. Fuck, I am going through a tunnel, what horrors await me here? But maybe there will be more food.

Maybe someone will love me. Maybe there will be someone for me to love. And feed. We can give each other food.

My advice to you is don’t be the ball. I was the ball for 21 years. I was so hungry the whole time, for food and for love, that I kind of noticed but dismissed it as unimportant. Food and love were more important. Work and my patients were more important. You don’t matter and your games are trivial.

It will be the weakest one who will be the ball. You worry that you are the one. You should worry. You had better look strong right away. Post some horror. Write something really tough. Don’t show anyone any niggling doubts. Um, the ball is wearing oxygen. I am feeling a little bad about this. Are you feeling bad about this? The ball isn’t just crazy, it’s hurt. Actually crazy is an illness too: I know that you discriminate and think that cancer is a legitimate illness and that mania isn’t, but you are assholes. No, you’re too small and pathetic to be an asshole. You are a one celled animal that is clinging to a hair on an asshole and you get shat on daily. And you know, deep deep in your tiny shrunken heart, that you deserve it.

I am so glad I am not you.

I am tethered to oxygen. But I am healing. I don’t think you can. You are locked in your small sick pathetic triangulation competition and pretending that it’s a game that it’s ok that you are just playing.

Ick.

Meanwhile, the oxygen is portable.

I have food and I have love and I have work to do that lifts me on wings. I will go too near the sun and light on fire and fall burning, but that’s ok. I’ve done it before. The ocean heals me, always. It is so much fun to fly!

This is in memory of my mother, my father and my sister. I miss all three and I love them and they love me. Today is the day my mother died. The longer we live, the more days are days when someone that we love died. But they are still here. They are in the rocks and the sky and the trees and the coffee cup. They are not in sugary donuts or foods that cause heart attacks. But they are all around us, cradle us, still love us. Joy to you and the memories of your loved ones who have gone on. Blessings.

in praise of opposititional defiance

I am oppositional defiant.

I can and will argue about anything. ANYTHING.

And guess what? I can and will argue either side.

In fact, when I am sick there is only one person to argue with. Myself.

So that is what I do. Autopilot. I think of something and then instantly question it. Is it true, do I really agree with it, what arguments are on the other side. Sometimes there is an angel on one side and the devil on the other. Sometimes it’s two scientists or politicians or I’m arguing the male viewpoint as far as I can versus the female as far as I can.

One time my mother in law was visiting when my son was around nine. She looked out the window. My son was pacing back and forth in front of the garage.

“I am worried about him.” said my mother in law

“Why?” I said, glancing out at him.

“He’s bored.”

“Why do you say that?”

“Just LOOK at him pace.”

“He’s not bored.”

She was shocked and slightly outraged.

I said, “Go stand by him.”

She looked confused but she did it.

After a bit she came back inside. “You are right, he’s not bored.”

Because, you see, I knew what he was doing when he paced there. He was narrating a story out loud. It usually involved spaceships, dinosaurs, other planets and explosions. He did sound effects. It was the opposite of boring. It was very very exciting.

When I needed his attention I would say his name. If that didn’t work, I would start adding sound effects. I would add explosion noises and squeaks and dinosaur calls at inappropriate times. He would stop and glare at me.

I have to say that now I am not surprised that he was a late reader. I am actually surprised that the teacher could talk through the explosions and dinosaurs and spaceships at all….

Anyhow, pick a controversial topic. Argue one side of it. Then switch positions and argue the other side. If you can’t, you need more information from the other side. Do a search on google. This will confuse the hell out of your feed, which knows very well that you are not a fan of oil drilling or hunting elk. But it’s GOOD to confuse your feed, it needs to know that you are a versatile thoughtful very smart human being.

And have a great time arguing with yourself. Be sure to put the blue tooth in your ear so that no one calls the people with nets to take you away…..






stealthie in the grass

Stealthie in my yard, two days ago. I like the current crop of grass and weeds.

Music: Simon Lynge Hallelujah: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iIHpeaHJJ9s

His website is here: https://simonlyngemusic.com/. Hey Simon, when do we get another local concert? Concert in the grass? Hugs, ya’ll.