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.

broadcast

For the Ragtag Daily Prompt: broadcast.

“Were you, like me, brought up on listening the the radio? Or do you prefer more modern ways of communication? How do you broadcast your news? And how do others broadcast to you?”

I was not brought up on radio. More record player. No television until I was nine, and I think my parents mostly got their information from newspapers. And they discussed articles and ideas…

But the deeper answer to this question is that mostly I don’t.

I am introverted and shy. I also failed small talk in school very early and learned to shut up. I was comfortable talking in my family and would talk to friends after I’d known them for years. We moved every 2-5 years while I was in school so my peer friends were really my sister and cousins. When we moved, I pretty much would only talk to teachers for the first year. After a year, I might try to make a friend, having studied everyone. After a year, they might or might not be interested.

I got to know one woman from high school after we’d graduated. After a while she said, “I thought you were shy in high school.” I laughed and said, “No, I just didn’t talk.” This is really about opinions: I was way more opinionated than she realized and when I got comfortable enough to talk, I could talk a lot.

I also found that smart women are not admired, so I hid it. There are different ways of hiding it: mine was to be multi talented. I played instruments, scored equally well on the math and english part of the SAT, read voraciously, and mostly talked to adults. My parents’ house had a wild array of interesting and unconventional adults. Artists, trumpet players, singers, world travelers, university professors, rich women, poor women, beggerwoman, thieves, doctors, lawyers, native chiefs. I didn’t discover sports until college, other than hiking, skiing and swimming. My high school had no swim team.

My daughter complained about small talk in preschool. Why were kids she didn’t know talking to her? And why did they talk to each other when the teacher was talking? If everyone would just shut up and listen, they could move on to more interesting topics. I sympathize but also think that we all have to live with and care about each other. So how do we do that when we are so different?

In clinic all of my patients are smart. I treat them all as smart and the result is they ARE all smart. Now, that doesn’t mean that they immediately do smart things like quit smoking or quit drinking a 6 pack of coke a day or quit eating too many donuts….But change is incremental. It is hard to change.

Also, all of my patients ARE smart, about something. It could be car engines or church organs or comic books or Russian. I have an elderly woman who is fluent in Russian and feeling rather lonely. Another turns out to be a silversmith, though her lungs won’t tolerate it now.

I had a new patient recently who said that she didn’t understand what I was on about. I slowed down, explained the meaning of some of the words, and I think she understood. At least some of it. I am very happy that she felt comfortable saying, “I don’t know what that word means.” I was talking about a pathology report and needed to back off and define the words. I feel the same way when I talk to my accountant: wait, what does that word mean? I don’t know the language. I need bookkeeping for dummies…

I wish that we all broadcast that everyone is smart. Imagine what it will be like when we all assume that everyone has secret talents and genius.

The introverted thinker and the giant

My mother tells this story:

“The introverted thinker is three. I tell her to clean up her toys. She has a mat with cardboard houses and cars. I hear her in the other room, talking. First a low voice, then very high voices.

Low voice: “Stomp, stomp, stomp.”

High voices: “No, no, help, help! Run, run!” (small crashing sounds).

Low voice: “I am a giant, stomp, stomp.”

I peek in the room. The introverted thinker is kicking all the houses and cars over, being a giant. Then she cleans up the houses and the cars.”

And my mother laughs, and everyone who listens.

 

And do adults feel like giants to children sometimes? Giants in uniform who take their parents away? And can the child do anything? How helpless they may feel. 

My son took this picture of his sister.

The introverted thinker in the garden

My second earliest memory is between age three and four. We have moved to upstate New York, Trumansburg, and are living with my grandmother. I am old enough to know that I can’t pick random things outside and eat them. However, my grandmother has a currant bush: red currants.

I am amazed to see her picking and eating something outside. Does she not have to follow the rules? And then she lets me eat some. And I do not instantly die.

“You may pick them and eat them off this bush whenever you want.” says my grandmother.

I remember the color of the currants and the taste and the miracle of having permission to go eat something on my own recognizance, outside in the great wide wild world. I was so thrilled and entranced with the currant bush and my grandmother.

Here are red, black and white currants from the farmer’s market yesterday. I put them in a fruit salad with a honey melon that was so ripe that is dripped, and added apples and blueberries and lemon juice. Mmmmm, bounty. The tartness of the currants is delicious with the sweet melon.