October 24, 2014

Notes on the latest shooting

We need to care about everyone, but what to do with bullying people? There usually seems to be a leader bully of sorts who instigates this shit and then disappears, letting others do his dirty work for him.
So, what do we do? 
Best left ignored?
But what about when people rally round the bully? You can't ignore them. Think Nazi's. I often think about what might could have been done to stop the Nazi's. I don't think it was all Hitler's fault by any means but more the people who rallied around his message and then when that angry mass took over the very very worse in being human took over.
So how do we stop it? 
No one has been able to answer this question yet that I know of.
Education is the only answer I know but how do we educate people when they are lost in the prevailing winds? 
It's the stuff of long debates and questions and America anyway has yet to find a way to start talking as a whole.
So what can I do as an individual? 
Start talking. 

October 23, 2014

Long time no see

A colorized closeup of the hepatitis C virus, (James Cavallini/Science Source)
How intriguing is it that one person can find life absurd and another see life as all part of some perfect master plan?

I've missed you all. In your writing and stories you all bring to me a bit of your lives, a bit of your values, and a lot of your philosophy for living. Your take on the existential or your beliefs in a god. I feel like I've been your neighbor, watching you come and go, and you've each made my life a bit better for your telling of your story.

And so it is that I need to thank you for your caring and say sorry for not being here.

Lately, I've been more stymied, feeling up against a barrier of sorts and it all stems from not being healthy. Okay, from being sick. Some friends here know of how I was told I was going to die any day due to cirrhosis caused by my Hepatitis C. I was told I was dying and that I would not live over another two years or so. Well, that was a little over two years ago when I was living down south in a tiny hole-in-the-road town called Talihina and my medical care came from a small rural hospital.

Since moving to Oregon, I've found you can have cirrhosis for 20 years or longer, and I also found there is a treatment for Hepatitis C that gives me an 85% chance of reaching a cure. I started this treatment four weeks ago and so far so good. I take a couple of pills once a day for 12 weeks and then 12 weeks after finishing treatment I find out if the virus is gone.

My choice of Oregon was largely based on it being one of the five states in the nation that offers dignity with death. It is legal here, if you are within 6 months of death, to have a doctor give you a lethal dose of pills. For me, the thought of dying in a nursing home in rural Oklahoma was far far worse than the idea of dying in my home knowing I would not have to suffer the pain, indignity, and loss of mind that comes with death from Hep C and cirrhosis.

The irony of finding a possible cure rather then a place to die is not lost on me.

Where there is love there is pain. Where there is joy there is sadness. And where there is health there is illness. The Yin Yang of the world. The fine line where there is no line. This is life.

Like life, illness is interesting. Yes, interesting. It is miserable but through the misery I've found meaning. I've heard a lot of people say this. When you have a disease you can die from, will die from if something else doesn't take you first, you come to think of dying and with these meditations come not so much meaning but more a sense of there being no meaning. And that is a release.

What's really so sad about my being sick is focusing has become difficult and reading is now a chore of sorts. With the meds I take reading is now a hard-to-do task and so I feel more alone. We all have this sadness when left alone with our fears, coping with dread of what is to come.

But the revelation for me is that I will probably face my end thinking what is the big deal here? Being alone is not being alone. All we people and dogs and cats are all connected. This is a truth most of us have learned by now.

But how did I get here, talking about death when a new life may very well be over the next hill. Because, for so long now I've been feeling hopeless and thought I only had sickness left. I had no idea I might be cured. It has been a fight to get these drugs, largely because I am poor and there are a lot of politics involved with giving pricey treatments to the poor. But with a lot of work and a bit of a fight I was finally given the drugs that may very well be my life saver.

Today I found out I am undetected. The virus left in my system is so low that they can't quantify it, but this is what is expected. It seems that as long as you keep the drugs in your system the virus is kept at bay. We aren't really considered "cured" until 12 weeks after the end of our treatment. That means 7 more weeks of treatment and then 12 weeks of waiting to find out.

That's okay. I've waited 40 years for that day.

July 19, 2014

What Kind of Person are You?

Most of us have people, and usually our people are much like ourselves.

Do you know your kind of person? My kind of person is a type of Diane Keaton or a Patti Smith. Both seem to me to be independent, funny, kind and intelligent. Others might think Keaton is just plain old goofy or Smith a bit radical. That's fine. I like you anyway.

This may be reaching, but it's kind of like how we choose a talisman. My mother in her later years took to wearing a small leather bag with a crystal in it rather like the one below, and honestly I wouldn't mind having one myself. I wonder if Diane and Patti would like it?

I remember when Princess Diana was killed and how seriously and openly people grieved over her death. I didn't get it, but then Di was never my kind of person.

That's how most of us tick. We have our friends and we want to please them and belong to them and have them be like us.

Some of us prefer the ocean over the desert and mountains and others would only thrive on the plains. Go figure. Some of us like dogs. Some cats. Some both. Some can't imagine life without high heels while many of us would die without our Chuck Taylor's. And what to make of someone who likes both!?!

The real point here is while we all have people we identify with and things and places we prefer and thus, groups or tribes we can divide up into, we are all still people, most of whom want to live in peace and prosperity.

And I wonder why can't we do that. Why do we always have to be bickering, fighting, and killing each other because the other is different?

If you have a person in your life, why can't you have a world?

And why do we take our tribes so seriously that we are willing to kill others just because they are part of a different group. Well, life never has made a lot of sense to me so I don't expect answers but still, sometimes I wonder why we have such a hard time letting others in and why do we work so hard to keep them out.

May 14, 2014

No One is Going to Love You if You Don't Love Yourself?

Love myself, what does that mean? Self-respect. What else I really don't know cause I've always hated these sort of pithy little sayings and besides the question is so nebulous anyway. You could write huge papers on what it means to love yourself, but let's go with Maslow and his hierarchy and assume that loving one's self means being authentic.

Authenticity I can understand.

I took part in a focus group on jobs tonight and there was this woman there that I have kind of a hard time with because I find her pretentious and controlling and way too serious. Anyway, kind of out of nowhere she said "let's not forget the importance of self-respect", and of course that started my mind rolling to where for the rest of the workshop I kept thinking about just what is self-respect anyway and does having it really help you find a job. It didn't help any that I was sure the comment was aimed at me.

I suppose I took it to heart since a couple of people have told me recently that I need to quit putting myself down. I do. Put myself down. But I tend to think of it as my fantastic sense of self-deprecating humor. Like me and Woody Allen. Yes, I am a huge Woody Allen fan.

So since it is easier to look at another person's traits rather than one's own, I looked at Allen's insecurities and how he copes with them and then brought it back home to me. I have always been an insecure person and probably my favorite coping mechanism is humor. Meanwhile, I've always thought of self-deprecation as an indication that a person is comfortable with themselves.

Think Phyllis Diller or Tina Fey. Neither takes themselves too seriously and that is a good thing right?

Obviously, I'm not going to go into a job interview or a meeting and make fun of myself. I have learned a few things over the years.

Among these things is one that only came to me recently--the secret is to know who I'm talking to. People who hate Woody Allen are not a good audience for my self put-downs as are serious people or the not so bright because they just don't get it. Not that that's a bad thing. They just are different.

Ah, but sometimes it is simply so irresistible to look myself in the eye and then not comment on what a bitch I am after I've joined in the local gossip. Invariably the innuendo is lost but I have found a certain strange pleasure in placing myself above my peers.

And this brings me back to the gift of authenticity. I've always thought an authentic person is one who can be themselves with no airs and nothing pretentious about them. I have a problem with arrogance and thinking I know it all or at least am capable of finding it all. A good example is how I always think I know more than the doctors and here I want to defend myself with, well, I actually do know more than most doctors but inside I know this is simply not true. I suppose knowing it all gives me a sense of having some control where I really have little.

When I hear someone say "you need self-respect" or "love yourself" I wonder what they are really talking about and if there is some hidden agenda in the comment. It is only lately that I've come to understand myself and know fairly well who I am, but do I respect myself? Sometimes I do but there are times when I simply prefer to act the fool. It entertains me.

I think the main thing people look for in someone they want to hire is someone who is like themselves, and if I were hiring I would love to find a person with a self-deprecating sense of humor and someone who does not take their self too seriously. Someone light and friendly and kind. Someone who whines occasionally. A person who takes a stand for what is right and good. And if they should know how to do the job, that could be a good thing also.

April 12, 2014

Sun Shining on Mt Hood at Sunset with Moon Rising

The tiny white triangle at the horizon -- Mt. Hood as the sun reflects off the snow. Moon rising and Union Station down in the lower right corner.

Better seen in person as my phone camera obviously does not do justice to the beauty of the mountain, the moon, and even Union Station with its sign lit up in blue neon. You have to be here.

I love the vastness of the sky, and am reminded of Japanese paintings where the landscape and nature are all important and human beings little specks of the greater whole.

If only I had Petra's camera and her skill. Check out her photos and living stories of foreign lands and deserts at Talulaah's. She takes some truly awesome photos and her life is always fun to follow as an armchair tourist.

Sorry I haven't been around to every one's blogs lately but I've been going through something of an attitude adjustment lately. It's hard being the new kid on the block, but I'm fine now. I've found some what's up friends in the building and enjoy talking in passing. Soon there will be someone who meets the "click" test to have coffee with on a street corner.

Oliver and I have been riding around Portland on the street car getting to know the town, and it is an amazing place in so many ways. On Sunday we may even venture out to the Unitarian Fellowship. Oh, I guess it wouldn't be appropriate for Oliver to go since it is Easter. I think. A neighbor invited me to an Easter dinner but I don't think I'll go since I never was a friend of the day. Doesn't make much sense to me.

Hmmm, evidently Easter is not this Sunday but rather the next. They have these marathon practice run things on Sundays here and block off all the streets in this part of town for the morning, making it impossible to get out by car and I need the car to visit the Unitarians so Oliver will have a place to wait. It seems the neighbor bangs on the walls when he barks or whines and freaks him out.

The hotel my window looks out over opened for business today, and it is interesting seeing people move about the rooms. And oh yeah, I saw an eagle flying today just outside that same window. Amazing! I'd been told there is an eagle who hangs out around here but this is the first time I've seen it.

I started a new book--Bandini Quartet by John Fante and am loving his plain down to earth writing style. None of the flowery sentimental complicated wordy stuff of many of our modern books.

Well, that's my life in the fast lane for now. No chaos or drama about. Lots of fresh air and sunshine and trains passing in the night.

April 10, 2014

My Dog is Me

Does your dog look like you? Or act like you? Or should I say, do you look or act like your dog?

Today on the streetcar a woman nicely told me that my dog looks like me, rather like you'd tell a mother her child looks like her. I've thought about this before; the idea that we choose dogs like ourselves but this is nothing new. Check out the owners of pit bulls versus the owners of Yorkies. Seldom do you see that pit bull owner type with a small dog.

When I originally saw Oliver's photo on the humane society website, I thought he was a bit homely and also a bit like me. His hair kind of sticks to the top of his head like mine does on a bad hair day.

But much more than looks, I believe I was attracted to his heart or his spirit, or perhaps his sheer essence. You know how some people who you meet you are instantly attracted to or instantly dislike. Maybe that's just me, but with an occasional person there seems to be an instantaneous reaction to their being and I either really like them or don't, and of course there are all the others in between.

Well, Oliver was one of those instant likes. He's a very good dog and not the problem child they told me he would be, except for one thing and that is his terrible separation anxiety. He is scared crazy of being left alone and can't even sleep without watching me. I am not kidding. He can look to be sound asleep but if I move to set the computer down, he is up and ready to go.

When I was a small child, my father was in the Army and we moved about a lot. Born in Japan, and at two we moved to the states and then turned around and went back to Japan for another three years, then on to Germany and various bases in the U.S. Enough moving to scare any small child, and then to be left alone with various caregivers who often did not speak much English is the making of an insecure and anxious person.

I know what it is to be afraid and helpless and even today have not out grown the fear. I am terribly anti-social and yes, so is Oliver. We are both afraid of people and being alone and perhaps because of this fear are destined to be alone. Except for each other.

When you are scared and anxious at an early age maybe it becomes learned behavior to shy away from people. I can remember throughout grade school sitting in the corner of the playgrounds afraid to join the other kids in their games. Teachers would drag me into a baseball game or a dance but as soon as I could escape it was back to the corner to watch.

To look in and never be a true part of. And so when we go to the dog park Oliver sits under the bench beside me watching the other dogs run and play. A couple of times I've dragged him into the active area, but he just snaps at any dog who comes up to him, and so we return to our bench.

Is this merely coincidental or did I choose a dog so like myself that we feed each other a certain kind of caring and companionship that few others could meet. Do I love him because he needs me? Yes. And this caring for him is helping me to see myself and pulling me out into the world of people. Alone, I stay home on my computer.

For Oliver, I go and reach out.

Oliver is me.

Just as everyone else in this world is me along with the plants and rocks and insects. We are all one but at certain times in this earthly life I think we are more attracted to a part of all of this that feeds and nurtures us. And so we serve each other well.

I'd have one of us together but he's down for the night. Hopefully. :)
This is the best I could do earlier --

He looks anywhere and everywhere but the camera.

March 16, 2014

The Clearing

This is the story about a doctor who listens.

Perhaps you've already heard of a recent style of practicing medicine in which the doctor listens to the patient tell their story. Yes, the doctor listens.

Narrative medicine - treats the whole person, not just the illness; an opportunity for the patient to tell their story to the doctor who listens to them; restoration of the human elements of medicine; a connection between literature and medicine. (http://ce.columbia.edu/narrative-medicine)

Sound too good to be true?

Dr. Rita Charon, Professor of Clinical Medicine at the College of Physicians and Surgeons of Columbia University, found patients very willing to share their symptoms when they tell the story of their lives. In the Ted talk link below, Dr. Charon describes how caregivers and patients can come together in a clearing to make contact. 

Dr. Charon refers to "the glare of death," as the acknowledgement that we will die. We are thus, in the "glare" of this knowledge. When we are faced with the fear of death as a patient, this fear can often keep us from getting better. 

Being seriously ill causes us to face who we truly are and in telling our story we share this knowledge. When a doctor listens to her patient's story she understands this fear and is able to form a connection or bond with the patient. 

Without death life does not have meaning. Death sets a limit on our lives so that we can find meaning in those things such as family and art that endure past ourselves. 

It is our stories that give us a clearing to come into with others and as our truth is exposed medicine can give us company. In the clearing no one has to be in the glare of sickness or death alone. We all join together in the clearing. 

No one need die alone. 

Sounds like the stuff of fairy tales doesn't it? Just about. If you've ever been to a large academic medical center, then you have more than likely experienced a feeling of being but one more cog in a large machine. I have found myself lost and alone and unheard because of feeling I have no voice within this mechanism. Rather than finding a cure for my illness, I often have felt more ill after leaving such a doctor visit.  

I feel like a young child who is supposed to listen to the doctor and to be quiet unless spoken to first. I've been to two specialists I will never return to, preferring my young family practice doctor even if she is less knowledgeable. 

In my last visit she had someone else doing the typing, a resident perhaps, and asked me to talk to her about what was going on. By the end of the visit I was teary eyed. I felt that I had been heard and acknowledged. It was not story telling and there was no narrative going on, but there was the opportunity to be heard and in turn to not feel so alone in my disease.

This is healing.