reflective

This if for Blogging from A to Z, the letter R. Virtues and views, feelings….

When do you feel reflective?

What does reflective mean to you?

I took this picture thinking of photrablogger’s Mundane Monday Challenge, now #106. The photograph is from Fort Worden, one of the gun emplacements on the bunkers. But it is returning to moss and green and the sun was out and sky reflected.

Here is Dictionary.com reflective:

adjective

1.that reflects; reflecting.

2.of or relating to reflection.

3.cast by reflection.

4.given to, marked by, or concerned with meditation or deliberation:
a reflective person.

Reflections can be beautiful. Not always, though. Thinking of reflection brings this poem up:

Reflections

Sometimes the growing pains
Are hard
Sometimes when you move on
It hurts
Put away childish toys
Friends have gone other ways
Even family
You love them
Still
You’ve changed

They resist
Don’t like the evolution
Upsets the plans
Changes the rules
Don’t you love me
As I really am?
The authentic
True
Real
Me?

Or only the hazy
Image
You had in your head
Of who you thought I was
Friend, daughter, cousin
Suddenly I am eight feet tall
Ogre
Threatening
Stunned by silence
Abandoned by your withdrawal

But my skin is shed
I spread my hood
And rise
And flick my tongue
Not to threaten
But to smell
To taste
Your curious presence

When you rear back
In alarm
I am startled

I see a cobra
Reflected in your eyes

(written about 2002)

 

new growth

I’ve been thinking about the A to Z challenge again. I did it last year, with 7 sins and friends. I wrote about an emotion each day…. and I planned to do it this year starting with the 7 virtues. Bet you can’t name as many virtues as sins…. though I don’t think any of the emotions are sins. They are part of us. They are part of the way we respond to the world and survive. We have to learn to pay attention to them and not label any of them as negative or bad. We cannot excise grief or fear or anger from our psyche and remain human. Instead we need to learn to be curious about each emotion….

…..and there has been a shift in my life, three parts all shifting at once, this week. It is very odd to have all three go at once. I may leave the virtues until next year, because this sudden freedom is strange, peculiar, unfamiliar…. I need to expand in it and explore it….

New growth….

Wellness

What is wellness and what is illness?

Many of the people that I see in clinic want healing. But healing is complicated. Many people define healing as “I want to be the way I was six years ago when I felt good.”

I delve into the time when they felt good. Sometimes when I start asking about it, they were very busy. Often very stressed. Often not paying attention to their own care, caring for someone else, a parent, a child, a partner. Or overworking with great intensity. “But I could do it!” they say, “I didn’t feel bad!”

…Maybe not. But the self care was deferred. The body struggled on as best it could, absorbing trauma after trauma, being ignored until a tipping point was reached. Then the switch was thrown and the system crashed…

When my sister died of cancer at 49, the family fought. Lawsuits. I promptly crashed and was out sick for two months. I nearly died too, of sepsis. I thought, I’m not going to be that stupid again. Well, except I was. My father died fourteen months after my sister and I was executor, dealing with a 1979 will. I was sure that I would be sued. I did not cut back work and I didn’t rest. I worked on the estate and cried, evenings and weekends.

After a year, I crashed again. Sepsis, again. I did not die, but this time I was out for ten months and then had to work half time for ten months. And I thought, oh, am I stupid or what? I didn’t take time off when my father died. I just pulled my boots up and kept working, two jobs. Executor and physician.

I made the rounds of specialists. I coughed for six months. Pulmonary. My lungs were slowly improving, very slowly. My muscles were lagging: neurology said they would get better. “When?” I said. “We don’t know,” said the neurologist, grinning. “I hate doctors,” I said. He laughed. On to Ear, nose and throat, then Asthma/Allergy, then Infectious Disease. “We don’t know how to keep you from getting it again.” says the Infectious Disease specialist cheerfully. “No idea.”

Back to work. Half time for ten months. And now my new “full time”. My goal is not to work more than forty hours a week. I spend 4.5-5 hours seeing patients and 3 hours reading and making decisions about labs, specialist notes, ER notes, inpatient notes, pharmacy notes, garbage from insurance companies, medicare’s new and improved impossible rules, continuing medical education, pathology reports, notes from patients and phone calls. And then I go home.

I would have qualified for a diagnosis of chronic fatigue six months into the illness. I didn’t seek it because I didn’t care. I was quite certain that I would get better, though I didn’t know how long it would take. I was quite certain that I would have to behave differently or I would crash again. If I get it again, I don’t think I will be able to do medicine and I like doing medicine. Also, if I get it again, there is a 28-50% mortality rate. Not good odds. So I need to pay attention, rest when the stress reaches the level of stupid, and take care of myself.

It is now thirty months since I got sick. I do actually feel like my muscles are back to normal. My lungs aren’t quite. I can tell when I play the flute that there is some scarring, after three bad pneumonias. But I can play and sing and I am slowly getting back to shape.

But note: I am NOT going back to where I was. I am paying attention. I am changing my job and my life so that I stay healthier. I am not returning to unhealthy levels of work and stress. And if stress in my personal life flips to high, I take time off from work. I have to, to stay healthy.

When I meet a new patient, the ones that are hardest to help are the ones who want to turn back the clock. They want the exact same life back that crashed them. The life that they got sick in. Think of a veteran getting blown up: we don’t expect them to be the same. Think of my 90 year old patient who went through both brain and heart surgery. He was better. He was able to hunt again which was his goal. But he said, “You have not made me feel that I am 20 again.” I laughed and said “And I am not going to. Talk to your higher power.” He was teasing me, but he was also acknowledging that his body and his endurance and his health at 90 was different than at age 20.

We need a new paradigm of wellness. Wellness is not staying the same for one’s entire life. You will not be 20 for 70 years. Wellness is changing as your life changes and paying attention to what you and others need. Wellness is accepting illness and deciding how our life needs to be changed to be well.

I took the photograph of Mount St Helen’s five years ago. The mountain changed too, as we all do.

that

Whenever I think

that
is what I don’t want to be

the Beloved laughs
and orders me
to be that

as if I’ve called it
that

the angels surround me
curious

it’s my passion
anger
fear
that calls them

motes from heaven
fall on me
from their wings

and I weep

and step forward
and fall
fall
fall

becoming
that

quit

I’ve quit

again
stop start

stop
quit

I don’t think I’ll go back
it wastes the days
makes me so sick
takes so little for me to overdo

I resent lost time
and suffering

my body doesn’t want it
and tells me so
ferociously

alcohol you say?

that too

but I was talking about men

 

The photograph is my mother’s father’s mother. I have one of the originals. The back is stamped: Battle Creek, Michigan. So she was having a “rest cure” at Dr. Kellogg’s famous health retreat.

Advice to young people

My biggest piece of advice to young singles and young couples is: put half of each take home salary away. Married or not married, and I don’t care how committed you are.

I know people who lose their house when one half of a couple is sick, and the other can’t pay all the bills on one salary. We don’t want to think about illness or cancer, but it happens. Young parents, with one very ill and the other with a job, children and a sick spouse. Having a reserve is way more important than keeping up with the Joneses, unless you happen to inherit like Mr. Trump.

If you each put half of your take home salary away, then when life throws surprises at you, you will have a reserve. A big reserve if the surprises hold off for a while. Divide that half into retirement and half into money that you have access to in emergencies.

I listed the top ten causes of death in the US in 2012 here, but lets look by age: http://www.cdc.gov/injury/wisqars/pdf/leading_causes_of_death_by_age_group_2012-a.pdf.

From age 1 to 44 the top cause of death is accidents, unintentional injuries.

Suicide is second from age 15 to 44.

Cancer takes over as number one, malignant neoplasms, at age 45 to 65.

After 65, the number one cause of death is the heart, and that is where the biggest numbers are. But if a younger cause of death affects your family, it feels unfair, wrong, as if we all expect to like to age 78 or beyond.

Untintentional injury, that is, accidents, are broken down here: http://www.cdc.gov/injury. When I do physicals on teens, I ask them what the number one cause of death is for teens. They all know the answer, even if they have to think for a moment: motor vehicle accidents.

But lets look at accidents in the age 25-65 age group: poisonings. What? Poisoning? And NOT intentional…. what is going on there? It is drugs, legal and illegal, but more legal. Sedating drugs in combination are effective at sedating people enough to stop breathing and die. Alcohol with benzodiazepines (valium, ativan, etc.), opiates and opioids, sleep medicines such as ambien and sonata, withdrawal from methamphetamines, cocaine, crack….people die. And supplements may be contributing as well.

75 years of US mortality data: http://www.cdc.gov/nchs/data/databriefs/db88.pdf#x2013;2010%20

At birth now in the US the life expectancy averages 78, but not everyone reaches that….some people still die younger and some live longer.

The age of death is rising, world wide. In the US, many of us have a world envied standard of living and yet we have a significant number of people who are anxious and depressed and way too high a rate of substance abuse, alcohol, opiates and opioids, benzodiazepines and yes, marijuana is addictive. How do I reconcile this? How do you reconcile this?

Keep your reserve, young singles and young couples…..

http://www.worldlifeexpectancy.com/usa-cause-of-death-by-age-and-gender
As of the day I am writing this on 5/2/16:

POPULATION
318,857,056

Numbers to be corrected, first set was wrong, wrong, wrong.

I took the photograph yesterday evening: there were the most amazing Maxfield Parish clouds…. life and death are a mystery.

Wean yourself

SoFarSoStu has tagged me for the three days, three quotations and tag three other people. This is day three, only I am a day late.

The rules are to post 3 quotes over 3 days and nominate 3 bloggers each time to carry on with the challenge.

Today I choose Rumi’s phrase “Wean yourself” and post his poem. This is one of my two favorite Rumi poems.

Wean yourself
Little by little, wean yourself.
This is the gist of what I have to say.
From an embryo, whose nourishment comes in the blood,
move to an infant drinking milk,
to a child on solid food,
to a searcher after wisdom,
to a hunter of more invisible game.

Think how it is to have a conversation with an embryo.
You might say ‘The world outside is vast and intricate.
There are wheatfields and mountain passes,
and orchards in bloom.

At night there are millions of galaxies, and in sunlight
the beauty of friends dancing at a wedding.’

You ask the embryo why he, or she, stays cooped up
in the dark with eyes closed.

Listen to the answer.

There is no ‘other world’
I only know what I have experienced.
You must be hallucinating.

_____________

I love this poem. To me it’s about our human development and I love that we go from a searcher after wisdom to a hunter of more invisible game. Have you ever had the feeling that you have figured some part of your life out, that aha! moment? Smooth sailing now, you think…. only to find out that new challenges present.

I use this poem in clinic. When I am talking to a new patient I have to find out where they are, what some of their medical beliefs are, what their level of education is, what their prior experience with allopathic medicine is, do they see a naturopath, are they taking ANY pills? Prescription, over the counter, alternative, herbal, homemade? I read Rumi’s poem as a discussion about our levels of development: we come out of the dark to be an embryo. Where do we go from there? I have to understand at least some of my patient’s background in order to communicate with them: I have to meet them halfway. Sometimes I fail. Sometimes my doctors fail…. we experienced that when my mother was in hospice. We were not given instructions for how to take care of her nasogastric tube at home…. and it got blocked. I think that the inpatient nurses made assumptions and the hospice nurses may have too… or just didn’t know.

This poem also relates to how my thoughts about healing and health keep evolving. Currently I keep reading on the internet and hearing from patients that they want a stronger immune system. There are all sorts of “immune system boosters” being sold. I think this is interesting and I think it is a wrong approach. Why?

I have gotten seriously ill four times. Each was triggered by severe stress in my life: mononucleosis at age 19, influenza in 2003, systemic strep A in 2012 and systemic strep A in 2014. So… do I think that my immune system needs boosting? No. When I got symptoms in 2014, my thought was “I am so stupid.” My father had died in 2013. His will confused me, the house was full of his things, my mother’s things, my sister’s things, my grandparent’s things, all dead. I would work in clinic and then go out there and try to get things done and mostly sit and cry. I did deal with the estate, but what is wrong with this picture?

I ignored what I would tell a patient to do…. I did not take time off to rest and to grieve and to take care of myself. Rather than a failing immune system, I pictured my immune system marshaling troops. “She won’t rest. We are going to have to take her down AGAIN. Won’t she ever learn to listen to her body? When will she learn to REST? Let’s see, who do  we have to knock her down…. ah, strep A! Great! Here, the door is open, take her out.”

And boy howdy, did it. I was out for ten months and ten months later am still on half time work. And I could have kicked myself! How stupid I am! If there is a major emotional loss in your life, cut back and rest and take time to let yourself heal!

So when people say, “I need an immune booster,” I wonder. I wonder what is happening in their lives, what their level of stress is, are they taking care of themselves. I worry that our culture thinks that we just need the right combination of supplements and then we can keep going and drive our bodies into the ground, instead of stopping and saying: “Oh. I am really cumulatively tired. I really need to rest, and sit at the beach and stare at the waves, or lie on the couch and read a silly novel, or just have a cup of tea and do nothing.” I don’t really like pills. I think that pills are often a band aid on a deeper wound than we admit. If I had rested, I would not have needed high dose penicillin: though I am deeply grateful to have another try at healing and health.

And three people to tag to do the three days of quotations if they so choose… everyone may be too busy at this busy time of year:

hargunwai

mindlovemisery

ohmyglai

The pink edged cloud looks like a giant paramecium or other bacteria, up in the sky….