Monday, November 20, 2017

Clang Clang

I love you. The whole of you. The skin, in its variations. The heart, in its generosity. The body, in its elastic variability. The spirit, in its multiplicity of faiths. The heritage, in its global possibilities. The you who gives love and receives love. The gendered you. The unhindered you. Whatever part of you others use to justify leaving you in the margins, or calling for your disappearance, well, I love that too.

If I have big(ly) ideas, or talk plenty, or create loud movements

-but don't have love-

I'm just causing more noise. Just disrupting the air and the peace. Just rending and tearing and adding violence.

I love even you - the one who can't love me back. With your fear, and disorientation, marching toward me and my rainbow of human siblings in anger - I'll love into any crack in that armor I can find. I'll stand beside and before my siblings, hating the ugliness and violence of your ideology, but loving the terribly frightened you encased in lies, myths, terror(ism).

(Originally written in response to the white supremacy marches in Aug 2017.)

Monday, September 18, 2017

For a Living

It's hard for me to make sense of what I do "for a living." Those quotation marks denote sarcasm, in this case. I went to university for greater than four years to learn a set of skills and knowledge that would prepare me to blur the boundaries between your life and mine for 12 hours out of the day.

Sometimes I see the bad news before you do, and I let myself go cry in the bathroom so you can have a solid presence when you learn it yourself. I hold your hand. I hold your spouse. I hold your family in my heart for the rest of my days.
I let you lie to me, over and over again, so I can keep you in the hospital long enough to heal your sickness - knowing full well your addictions will swallow you whole when you leave the safe space I'm desperately carving out for you.

Sometimes, I have to let you leave, when it's not time. I have to let you be the grown up in your own life, even though I know that grown up is headed toward an unnecessary death. I tell you I honor your choice, even as I screw up the courage to confront you with the reality of what it means for you.

I'm funny for the you in this room, because that's what makes you feel loved and safe and seen. I'm somber with the you in this room for the same exact reasons. I give a little of me to every single one of you, and your presence and person smudge all over me - changing me forever.

While all this lovely emotional work is happening, I'm using my sharp mind, skilled hands, and years of experience to tend to your body. I'm recognizing when your respirations dip toward death, and giving you medication to pull you back from that brink. Or, I'm noticing when your body is no longer tolerating what we do to keep it living, and teaching your family how to love you in the letting go. I'm watching your vital signs for subtle shifts that will be missed by your physicians (remember, I think about you and know you for hours and days at a time) to recognize when you're sliding toward deathly illness, and put a stop to it.

And, I'm really, really proud, and really, really tired to be this Registered Nurse. Because, all this was yesterday, or days ago, or years ago, and I'm still wearing you. I'm still loving you. I'm still grateful that, even for the abusers and liars, and of course for the helpers and growers, the world got you in it. That for a time, I got to reach deep into your life, and regardless of how you lived it outside the walls of the hospital, I loved you. I honored you, your body, your person.

This is a "living" in a much deeper sense of the word. It's my chosen mode of living - my ethics, my faith, my heartbreak, my hope.
#registerednurse #nursing #healthcare

Tuesday, May 2, 2017

It turns out your shenanigans and missteps and oopsies may be an important part of what people love about you, when things are said and done, and you inch your way through your last breaths.

Your grandkids may take your nurse in the hall to laugh/cry their way through stories of drinking beer with you when they were way too young for such things, and sneaking you to the VFW for a little R&R.

It may be that you won your nurse over in the first place by telling her, "I don't give a shit." She gotta respect that, right?

So when your body settles in, and settles down, all your good decisions for building relationships are, of course, important. AND, all your capacity to be human, to mess up, to make a riot, to sow some wild oats -- these things will be present in the room too.

If you, like me, worry the bones of every mistake, and agonize about the misspoken word or deed: STOP IT. Do your best. Love big and messy. Win hearts. Make sure the people you make your biggest mistakes with know they were also your biggest joy.

Cheers to you, you pain-in-the-ass. You made a few days of my life colorful. No idea what the privilege of growing up with you could do, but judging from the stalwart guard of family surrounding you -- something very good indeed.

I wish you good rest. Good peace. A good end.

Wednesday, March 22, 2017

What Matters (when you can't take care of you)


Some of us will make it within spitting distance of 100. Most of us will some day depend on other bodies to care for our body. I have the privilege of providing that care right now, and observing what matters in these years. For instance: 

You taught your children self-sufficiency. You gave them full awareness of their own personhood. When it is time for someone to represent the voice you no longer have, they aren’t still striving to maintain a falsehood of needing you with them. With great loss, and tremendous courage, they advocate on behalf of your body and soul.

You built love with a partner based in truth, compassion, and passion. It helps if you laughed a lot, because when this partner has to face tending to your most undignified needs, you’ll want them to get you so tickled you toot in the bathtub. And, this partner knows you too well to cling to a shell of you.

You opened borders and created community. A walled off life is a secluded one, in health and sickness. The crowd at your bedside get smaller as the years go by, unless you created a legacy that parents shared with their children, and that got soaked up by grands and great grands of the genetic, adopted or spiritual varieties. A little diversity here is extra special.

You let others sit with you in your suffering. You let them see a few warts. They grew to admire your courage and generosity all the more because of them, and won’t be afraid to face the diminished you.

You took terrifying leaps of fun and adventure. You drift away from full physical strength, and toward death with a heap of memories; and no regrets about forgetting to stray from the American dream, and the Protestant work ethic in favor of a day at the park, or a journey abroad, or deeps acts of charity.

You tended to your body. At this point, how little or much your thighs jiggled in youth won't matter. This isn’t about bringing sexy back. Rather, about priming your body for the years when other bodies bear the burden of moving you, and supporting you. You’ll live longer, and enjoy the waning years more with moderate attention to tune ups.

Modern medicine gives us so many extra years, but we forgot to prepare along the way for what comes at the end. The grace, courage, and love you infuse into your world now, will follow you all the days of your life.

Sunday, March 19, 2017

"I want to go home. It's so very cold here."

Yesterday, a patient, shaking, naked, and bereft of the control over his body that he's had since toddler years told me, "I want to be normal. I want to be me again. I want to go home. It's so very cold here." The extent of conversation he'd had to that point was caregivers instructing him to get back in his bed, because he's too weak to be up. We are right.

And wrong.

Right to recognize the limitation of his body, when his mind can't. Wrong to not explore the capacity of his mind and body. Wrong to not fight for a more humane approach to his health, lack of health, and inevitable death.

Last week, in a similar situation, I asked an oncologist why we weren't having a conversation with the family about hospice. He replied, "I'm not ready to write him off yet." In fairness, this is a very compassionate doctor. I looked him in the eye and said, "I'm not writing him off either. I'm facing all the potential directions his illness can go, and wanting to keep an open mind to all the possibilities for how we treat him. He will die. How will we treat him until he does?" An hour later, the family came to me in tears - adjusting to the conversation the physician decided to have with them, and determined to bring meaning and comfort to whatever days they had with their dear one.

We stand over our patients, literally and figuratively. We address them with the same tone we do our children. Dismissive. Concerned. Coaxing them back into clothes, into bed, into the masks and tubes and lines they "need" to maintain the numbers we want to see from them. We neglect to find the strength in their weaknesses.

I crouched below this fellow human, and told him, "you're so very sick. And, you're in the hospital. Please tell me what you want." He looked into my eyes, and expressed the thoughts above. He talked to me of his "most wonderful wife."
When I swung into his room, just ten minutes before, trying to catch him from falling, and simultaneously direct his body back into the bed, he struck out with his hands and arms. Disoriented. Disrupted.

There's something here, on a grand scale about how we treat all humans. How we let every person maximize what they have. How we sit in silence, waiting for someone to reveal their pain, their wants, their needs.

There's also something very direct here. Talk to your loves. Learn what they want in the waning years. Tell them what makes life so livable and meaningful for you.

As for me: don't chase the numbers. Keep me close to the lives that bring me purpose and joy. Love me with presence, not interventions. And, listen to me. Ask me questions, and wait long enough for a disorganized mind to gather a response. That's living, now, and always, for me.

Sunday, January 1, 2017

moving forward

This dreadful year. We chose power over peace. Rhetoric over dialogue. Boundaries over generosity. Strength over vulnerability. The present over the future. Anger over mercy. Retribution over justice. Self preservation over humbleness. Our full tummies over the hunger of the poor. Our housing market over the homelessness of millions of displaced persons. Shouting over learning. Judgment over radical acceptance. Comfort over comforting. We gathered our power and hoarded it and shored it up. We invested in the myth of our superiority, to avoid the gritty reality of our fallibility, and the suffering of our fellow humans.

We could make the argument that it's human, or natural. But, one human lived the most human life ever and chose humility, generosity, conversation, mercy, empathy, and ultimately, death over all things self-preserving.

In 2017, I want more of my life to reflect the thoroughly human life of Jesus. I hope to Us folks will gather together in pursuit of this unconventional, subversive, wildly loving way of living.

Also, I'd like my kid to be healthy.

Tuesday, December 13, 2016

tubie* god

A thin cord snakes down the length of a pole and into the belly of the baby sleeping in the manger – feeding her. Today, god is a tubie*. Pierced and disrupted, already. And what do you let that do to you? 

Does it disorganize you to consider a god who willingly chose a form so disruptable and piercable? Do you cling to a Greek god inspired Jesus - all muscles and masculinity and stoically abstaining virility? To a god of all-knowing, all-presence, and stoically abstaining potency? 

… 

It softens me. My baby is a tubie. Disrupted. Pierced. Fragile. 

Strangely, a god unable to partake in the same sufferings – incapable of the same design errors – makes me angry, rather than secure. 

This is about more than ability inclusion in modern day nativities. It’s a homing to a being participating in the same world and rules I live in. A god who doesn't stand in observation of our travail and nativity, smirking in knowledge and sympathy, open-handed and willingly ineffective. Rather, a god who is his own cycle of lament, and advent, and Christmas. Just like my baby.

*a "tubie" is a baby dependent on a feeding tube to meet their nutritional needs. My daughter has a special, implanted tube that allows us to put liquid formula directly into her small intestine - although other babies may receive food into their stomachs.