gently

I try to be so gentle with you
trauma drama boy

I know just what it’s like
though mine is not the same as yours

you run away, though
again and again

saying that you would never try
to hurt me ever

that is a shut down
really

since you disavow all intention of hurting
you do whatever you want

your attitude is that if I am hurt or sad
it’s my own fault

you take no responsibility for failures
as a friend

trauma drama boy, you run away
once more

and this time
I’ve had enough

This time
I let you go

Beloved bless you and keep you
for the days you have left

sending love
goodbye

Embodying a dream

I wrote about the two dreams I had one night, with seven people. Two babies, a boy and a girl. Two professionals, a woman physician and a male policeman. Two rebels, a woman and a man, the man lying or at least misleading the rebel woman. The rebel woman trying to do something that she suddenly realizes is not important and is, in fact, foolish and dangerous. And a quiet woman.

I have been thinking about the quiet woman ever since. My Meyers-Briggs type in medical school came out INTJ, but we are not one thing or another. We have preferences, but we all have to use all the skills. I can be extroverted. I had to work on feeling, that was the really difficult one for me after a frightening childhood. I can pay attention to facts though I sweep them into the intuition very quickly. Medical school is facts and facts and facts, except then there are parts that turn out to change as science changes.

The eighth person is a quiet man. He is not present in the dream. I am thinking about him. I wonder if I will have another dream when I am ready.

I am attending some workshops on line for treating trauma. It is quite fascinating. They talk about working with clients who have aspects like my dream: a small child with trauma. A “fake adult”, aka “adaptive child”, with the tools that the child develops to survive in their childhood. Helping the “fake adult” recognize that some of coping tools may not be helpful or necessary any longer. First, they thank the “fake adult”, for protecting the traumatized child and for surviving at all and for not giving up. I think this is so important, to acknowledge that we have to thank that part of ourselves that did what it had to, that did what it could, to survive. And this can include things that we are ashamed of or fear that others would hate us for if found out. We had a temporary doctor at the hospital who described being a boat person escaping Vietnam at age 8. They were picked up by pirates. “We were glad to see the pirates, because we had run out of water. If the pirates had not picked us up, we would have died.” So there is perspective: death by dehydration or pirates? And she went from a refugee camp and then through medical school and became a physician. Survival and success and I hope that she is thriving.

I like it when a dream has such recognizable symbols. My now retired Unitarian Universalist minister says that we can sit with dreams for a time. What do the symbols mean to me? What is the dream telling me? My dream is in part telling me that I do not need to have the rebel woman lead: she can rest and let the quiet woman take over. And that I am very tired of rebel men who mislead me or run away. I woke up and thought, oh, yes, I see! I am tired of that and ready for change.

Change and transformation can happen throughout our lives, at any age. I welcome it.

Blessings and peace you.

___________________

The photograph is Sol Duc and Elwha enjoying doll bunkbeds. And acting like siblings do sometimes. And then they curl up together.

happy

Ok, this is a weird little poem to my sister Chris, who died a decade ago. My father died thirteen months later. My mother was already dead. Mother and sister of cancer and father of emphysema, damn the Camels. There was no family slaughter, unless it was by cancer. There was a family meltdown on my mother’s side. Sometimes you have to let people go.

Sister sister mister miss her
look, Chris, I’m happy

Cancer cancer crabby dancer
look, Chris, I’m singing

Daughter daughter family slaughter
look, Chris, I’m healing

Healer healer wheeler dealer
look, Chris, no drama

Wombing wombing quiet blooming
look, Chris, I’m growing

The photograph is of a family cabin in Ontario. It is called “The New Cabin”, “Helen’s Cabin” (after my mother) or “Chris’s Cabin” after my sister. As you can see, it is suffering through neglect worsened by Covid-19. I put those screens up a decade ago, but they are not surviving the winters and the porch roof has a hole. It was a lovely porch to sleep on. I was last there in 2018, and up on that roof trying to tar holes as a temporary fix. We did not dare go on the porch roof, too late for that. Things change and fall away and sometimes we have to let them go. Especially if they are beyond repair. The photograph is taken earlier this year by the people who care for the cabins when we are not there.

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?

hope molting and growing new feathers

A friend away a friend some day
a friend can’t stay all the day
a friend won’t pray a friend can’t play
not today is what they say
a friend they say a friend always
a friend who may return some day

in a way you might say
hope molts and regrows feathers today

I think my inner four year old wrote today’s poem. I am thinking about the song my mother taught me, very young, for when I was frustrated.

My sister and I loved this song and others, Samuel Hall and “I don’t want to play in your back yard, I don’t like you any more. You’ll be sorry when you see me, sliding down my cellar door.”

I gave a young friend a book of rhymes. He looked at me with some horror. “These are nursery rhymes.” I grin at him. “Look again. It’s a book of insulting playground rhymes, suitable for all occasions.” He looked at the book again and held on to it.

The photograph is from the National Museum of Women in the Arts again. Another fabulous painting that seems to fit my theme.

Sing from the sea

This is another poem where I did not know where it was going when I started it. I was thinking about the sea and sirens and singing. My poems go where my heart thinks I should go, but I don’t know where that is until the poem is done. And it’s clearly a song and next I need a tune. And chords. And more practice.

I sing from the sea, from the sea, from the beautiful sea
tied to the mast, you won’t come to me

unplug your ears, unblock your heart
before it breaks and truly stops
listen to my lonely heart
we’ll make music and never part

I sing from the sea, from the sea, from the beautiful sea
hear my voice, listen to me

our hearts melt together like stone
in the depths of my volcano home
you shut your heart down, run away
lava strings like glass, all the way

I sing from the deep, from the deep, from the beautiful deep
small child calling, she still weeps

volcano boiling from ocean floor
new island built as lava roars
small child with faith as adult caves to fear
small child holds your heart dear

I sing from the land, from the land, from the new born land
don’t be afraid, take my hand

hope has feathers, a poet said
in the darkest time, hope is not dead
I morph to dragon, to kite, to bird
your resistance is so absurd

I sing from the air, from the air, from the smoke filled air
vision dark, can’t see where

circle in flight, hope you too
listen to the small child hidden deep in you
a promise is a promise, you know it’s true
I do not give up on you

I sing in the wood, in the wood, in the beautiful wood
five elements sing as all things should

In the wood in the trees
on an island in the sea
in the heart of the volcano
my heart is free

I sing from the sea, from the sea, from the beautiful see
no matter what happens, my heart is free

_____________________________________________

I took the photograph at the National Museum of Women in the Arts, a painting by Shinique Smith.

Healing

I realized I had pneumonia for the fourth time on March 20, 2021. It has been a year and five months now. I do not have an “overarching diagnosis” for why I am so vulnerable to pneumonia, though not for lack of trying. I have seen twenty specialists since 2012, including four pulmonologists.

Most specialists dismiss me as soon as their tests don’t fit me into one of their boxes.

I have one now who is not dismissing me. He referred me to the Mayo Clinic. They did not call back when I did a self referral three months ago nor when my primary care physician referred me. However, they called within a week of his referral.

Mayo Clinic called yesterday. I may need a prior authorization or something, I have a number to call today.

I am healing. I still am on oxygen for singing, flute, night and heavy exercise, but pulmonary rehabilitation is working. I have built up steadily on the treadmill for 6 weeks. I have 5-6 more. Many of the pulmonary rehabilitation people are on oxygen and will not get off oxygen, so I am an outlier here too.

I feel better than I have in seven years, since the 2014 pneumonia. I had strep A pneumonia in 2012 and 2014 and really did not fully heal after 2014. I was tired all the time. I think I went back to work too soon and just did what I could. Not returning to work is helping immensely. I can’t return anyhow, unless the Mayo Clinic or someone figures out my “overarching diagnosis” and how to make me less vulnerable to pneumonia. Seems unlikely after 19 years. My first round was influenza in 2003. Maybe choosing a different career than primary care would have made a difference, though maybe I would not have survived a pneumonia without being a primary care doctor. We aren’t supposed to treat ourselves, but if no one believes us, well, there is not much choice, is there?

The photograph is from a beach hike in November 2021.

For the Ragtag Daily Prompt: heal.