We Buried My Father, Last Wednesday

He was 87 years old.part_1475243658006_resized_20160930_095139

He was 87, yet my family is in shock. Partially because he seemed to be in “good health for an 87 year old”. Partially because he comes from genetic stock on both sides that lived into their 90’s. Partially because we are American, and we don’t do death, well.

But 87 years represents an amazing quantity of life, here in America. Especially for a man of African slave descent.

It is the QUALITY of his life that I will write about. Because as he died, the quality of his life was waning, and I imagine that he is relieved to be “out of all of this chaos”…from international issues with The Trump Fiasco, to personal issues in his own home.

I’ll write with a broad sweep, this time around. Within two days of my dad’s death, an audiobook of Atul Gawande’s “Being Mortal” jumped off a library shelf into my hands.

http://www.goodreads.com/book/show/20696006-being-mortal

As I read, I deepen my understanding of the blessing of my father’s death.

He died at home. This is now true for less than 17% of our elders.

He was NOT resuscitated, and taken to a hospital ICU only to die after a week or two suffering, the way more than half of American elders die.

As I see him, he had all the things he ever said that he wanted to own in his life. A big screen T.V. Access to sports and movies 24/7. Computer skills that allowed him to cultivate “pen pals” as far away as Germany.  He lived among His Own Creations: from his intricate wood carvings and his complex paper creations. They were all around him. Just what he said that he wanted. And as I see him, he had become isolated from family, friends had “dwindled” and he was in ongoing pain from his arthritis.

In Louise Hay’s world of making meaning of physical illness, arthritis represents “feeling unloved, criticism, resentment, bitterness. Feeling ‘not good enough’ “. That sound like it could have some relevance to my father’s last decade of living.

He was 87 and had worn out his knee replacements from 15 years earlier. I always imagined that the orthopedists involved must not have expected him– being a Black man with an average life expectancy of 72 years– to outlive the knee replacements. But he did. And after his gamma knife surgery (really radiation) treatments years ago for a benign tumor behind his eye, the doctors probably didn’t realize that he would live for years and years and YEARS with a “side effect” of the treatment being exacerbation of arthritis in his neck area, limiting him to about 30 degrees rotation at his neck. And I wonder if the other “side effect” of that treatment– loss of his sense of smell– ever really returned. We didn’t talk about it.

But we did talk about the fact that he did NOT want to go back into the Hell Hole of conventional medicine for another round of bionic support for his back, knees, and spine at this the last stage of his life. The “side effects” from previous knee and back surgeries had included urinary retention, pain, and severe constipation that didn’t feel “side-like” at all.

So I can say that after the shock of hearing that my dad had died, my next emotion was RELIEF. I feel that he dodged a bullet in our culture that is increasingly challenging. That is, how to die with GRACE in a medical culture that doesn’t know when to say “enough is enough” especially at life’s end.

May you rest in POWER, Daddy.

 

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Back pain goes ARCHETYPAL

I boiled it all down to a belief that “everyone is getting EXACTLY what they deserve”…

That is what lives in my back. The spasm hits now every night, at around 4 a.m. It is sharp, wakes me from sleep and is located just under my left shoulder blade.

Just where I cannot reach it, for myself.back-pain

For the Mind:

I have analyzed, “felt into”, and dissected this phenomenon, and it’s timing and origin are telling. The first episode was one week ago exactly now, and occurred the night after having a great day at my corporation’s employee appreciation day. I stood in  line for the zip line at the Adventure Park that was rented out for 400 plus employees, a few folks back from our CEO on one lane and our lady janitor on the other. I rode home with my team of three; there was lots of commiserating in the car about sleep problems.

I bragged that I had only had one time in my life when I had trouble sleeping, and that was during active menopause, eight years ago.

I never should have said that. stock-vector-elderly-woman-with-cane-and-injury-of-the-back-pain-vector-icon-364413455

At 4:20 a.m. Friday morning, a sharp pain awakened me from a sound sleep. And that pain has been coming and going, ever since.

More coming, always around “the witching  hour”  (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Witching_hour).

More going, when I get body work of any kind, sit in a hot tub with a jet directly over the area, or TALK AND WRITE ABOUT BETRAYALS.

Yup. This seems to be all about Opeyemi’s relationship to trust, to community, and to speaking truth. Sometimes truth hurts. And sometimes NOT SPEAKING TRUTH hurts, more.

For the Body:

I am getting flabby on my “how to stay WELL” practices, and hadn’t been going twice a week anywhere to dance ecstatically. I know that “sweating my prayers” is what has kept me alive and sane for the last 11 years…

So as Nike would say “Just DO it.” Otherwise, I will be left feeling like my body is betraying me.

For the Heart:

I had just gotten back from four days in Montreal, where I feel like I could breathe for the first time since Trump accepted the Republican presidential nomination.  I saw no one rushing from place to place, eating “on the run” (everyone sits down to eat, even for their fast food, as far as I could tell). When I spoke French, I was not immediately identified as “from the U.S.” When I crossed the border coming back into the U.S. the border guy said “welcome home”. I felt like I had just put a corset back on. My car had been “selected” to be searched going and coming– other people’s weren’t (yes,  I do believe it is because I am BLACK, not because I was attending the World Social Forum).

I feel like my country is betraying me.

I am aware that the location of the spasm is happening at the EXACT spot that I cannot reach, in my back, by /for myself. So I am nightly facing a reality of sleeping alone, when I imagine that the easiest treatment for my spasm would be to roll over, have a lover stroke my back, pat me, or simply hold pressure there so that I could really BREATHE into the pain and tightness.

I feel like my poly lifestyle is betraying me; luscious lovers, but geographically challenged!

I clearly have a body that believes every word that I say. And, as I did my loosey goosey body wisdom practice, I got clear on the psychological details of my betrayal story. My body wisdom affirmation of “Everyone is getting EXACLY what they deserve” is a scary one.  Because that means everything from wildest dreams, to worst nightmares, and 100% responsibility for self.

For the Soul:

Then there’s the Past Life Stuff. I use my magical tools, and I see myself running across a field, towards what looks like a stockade. I pound heavily on the great locked gates, with my left hand. Someone is after me. “They” do not open the gates. I am locked out. A spear comes flying from behind me and skewers through my back, impaling me to the wood of the gate…looming-locked-wooden-door-ed59wg

Yes, that is exactly what the pain feels like, and exactly where it is located.

Maybe this week I was selected by Spirit to hold all the angst and gory glory of Being The Betrayed/ and Being The Betrayer. Because I also “saw” that whatever I was running from was something that I BROUGHT DOWN upon my own community. And that was the reason that the gates were closed against me.

WOAH. World Of Awful Horrors.

locked out

I am willing to be present with all of this, for a while longer. As long as I can schedule massage therapy (great practitioners in my neck of the woods, listed below), use a day spa for a reasonable rate (http://www.colonialmotelspa.com/brattleboro-spa.html) of $15 a pop, and (of course)

WRITE.


 

So, thank you for reading my therapeutic missive. Time to got get that massage.

 

Black-lady-stone-massage-1000

 

 

Great massage, in Connecticut River Valley:

http://fmhealingarts.com/project_category/gary-einsidler/

http://brattleboroholistichealth.com/

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GENDER FLUID… at a price?

Last night I had my fifth police stop since I began counting 18 months ago.

I was on my way to the comfort and solace of an anti-racism event in Northampton, Mass. I live in South Eastern Vermont. The trip was about 40 minutes from my work place starting point to my destination. I was stopped by an officer of the Vermont State police about 15 minutes into my travels. I was driving my (new to me) RED Toyota prius, and the New Hampshire inspection sticker was to be replaced with a Vermont sticker within a certain number of days of purchasing the car.

I was outside that time line by a week.

Thank GOD. Because I forgot about that state inspection timeline,  the nice officer was able to turn the entire encounter into a respectful warning to “get the matter taken care of…” as soon as possible.

As I debrief and dissect the interaction, I see that something has happened in policing up here that I wasn’t expecting. It feels like a “Fraternal Brothers will STAY STRONG” response to policing and to the violence of last week. I watched officer Diaz (yes– a BROWN MAN, just like Castillo’s murderer in Minnesota, and George Zimmerman in Florida) go from stony professional intimidator to confusion.

Because, I may have looked like a young, brown-skinned male, but I am not.

Not male. Just short of hair, and doing gardening work that day, and on my way to a community protest, so wearing my PURPLE Price t-Shirt with “The Artist formerly Known as PRINCE” insignia. 20160712_182216Not young. Officer Diaz took my driver’s license and probably checked it a few times (he seemed to be gone a long time, but what do I know, I was in traumatized freak out mode), because I am in my 60th year and I don’t look that old.

Not young, but definitely intimidated. My hands shook throughout the entire “interview” with the police officer.  I am imagining that Officer Diaz– being here in Vermont– doesn’t even stop that many people who look at all like me. So, I am wondering how he experienced his own response to the effects that his position of power had on me. On my physical body.

Mike Keefe cartoon, from the Denver Post

Mike Keefe cartoon, from the Denver Post

After it was all over, I felt like I was going to puke. That’s a first for me, in response to  police stops. I used to feel annoyed. As they continued, I have progressed to aggravation. Then (after a Mass state police office yelled in my face– see youtube video, referenced at the end of this essay) I progressed to traumatized. Blue flashing lights have made my heart race and my hands sweat for the past few years.

Now it appears that the police make me sick to my stomach with disgust. I wish it was fear, but it’s not. Fear lives in my kidneys, and that is not what I felt. What I felt was disgust for “la policia” who stopped me “la abuelita y la curandera de los corazons”

I wish that I could have told him that. In Spanish. But my truth is, I was scared to death that he might not SPEAK SPANISH, and that would be “one toke over the line Sweet Jesus” for real. “Which side are you on?” seems to be a real question, as we continue to separate into two distinct American cultures of “us” and “them”.

I’20160713_114615ll just keep living at my own (and every body else’s) edges, and switch it up and get “femmy” every now and then…

 

20160713_114548

But knowing that I would get less police attention if I had long flowing hair, and or carried a blonde wig in my car isn’t at all funny. It makes me realize that I don’t have the carefree privilege of experimentation with self expression on gender.

20160622_15370320160622_153315

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Just the increased risk of getting killed.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vtERNJ22ugA

Posted in Navigating the Space Between Brilliance and Madness, Race Relations Commitment, Uncategorized | 4 Comments

Creative MALADJUSTMENT WEEK, Anyone?

Raggedy Colored OThe quote is from Martin Luther King, and goes: “THE SALVATION OF THE WORLD LIES IN THE HANDS OF THE CREATIVELY MALADJUSTED.”

I claim my vocation, as a Creatively Maladjusted Change Agent.

Twenty years inside conventional medicine, eleven years “out”, and I still struggle to find ways to Speak Truth to Power, dancing at the  edge between my mind-killing fear, and my righteous indignation.

My media diet for Good Mental Health and Wellness is down to five minutes of national news/ five more minutes of International news (when available through Al Jezeera or the BBC), twice daily. That is it. Any more and I find myself sinking into despair and depression.

EXACTLY as the media fear mongers would have me respond. Pay attention readers, to how your feelings and thoughts may be being manipulated.

Since leaving medicine, I have found my “wellness toolbox” stuffed more and more with absurdities, silly-nesses, confounding creations, and imaginative illusions.

For instance, you probably wouldn’t imagine that the stunning image someone caught of me in all my rainbow colors reflects a carefully thought out approach to racism, classism, and general cluelessness, as I go about my Life in Largely White Folk Environments. In that photo with the lyrical laughing face, I am also a minority woman at an event about 90% white. So traveling as “a Raggedy Assed COLORED Girl” allows me to stay in control of my environment. Any sideways glances, and nasty comments and I am dressed and ready to fire back a litany of more and more witty responses, “Cyrano style”:

Thanks to Waffles The Clown, for what he has taught me, of sacred clowning:

http://www.tedaltenberg.com/waffleman/

Whether a Green Energy Fairy…   o swirling

 

 

 

 

 

or an escapee from Aladdin’s lamp who travelled North with Morgan Freeman in this Robin Hood film:

(it can be challenging to find a way to “fit in” at a Mutton and Mead Renaissance Faire with brown skin; thank The Mighty Ones for The Enchanted Forest )

The thing is, I get myself beyond scared and angry. Get through, to the other side of The Cosmic Giggle.

As a suicide survivor, I have NOTHING to complain about.

EVER.

Because either I am alive, and there is a God/Goddess/God-US that made such a miracle happen…

Or,I actually died, and this crazy assed world I live in is just a figment of my overly active BUT DEAD psyche. Perhaps I  twiddle my thumbs in a purgatory of my own making, “Occurrence at Owl Creek” style:

Whatever the circumstances, JOIN ME SATURDAY (7/9/2016) for Brattleboro’s contribution to Creative Maladjustment Week. I will lead a workshop on Cultural Diversity and MADNESS, some time after lunch. here’s the description:

“What boats did YOUR people come over on? With respect to issues of race and ethnicity, which wave of emigration folded your family/ancestors into the U.S. melting pot makes a difference in how you express yourself, respond to conflict, manage crisis. This workshop explores those differences. Come prepared to move your body, within a safe container negotiated by the workshop participants.”

Lunatics of the World (especially the Ladies) UNITE!

 

 

 

 

Posted in feral M.D. blogs, Navigating the Space Between Brilliance and Madness, Race Relations Commitment | Leave a comment

Weather Report, for the White Chicks Out There

Ayuasca Mother imageI have lived and worked in Southeastern Vermont for about six months, now. I am HOME. Meaning, I have found my lifestyle, my people, my home base. I notice that I can BREATHE FULLY, in a way that I haven’t experienced since I made the decision to go to Mount Holyoke college and unconsciously chose to shut down an entire part of WHO I AM.

That is, I went to sleep to how perniciously toxic it has been to live in a hive of WASPS. I am speaking about White Anglo Saxon Protestant descent woman. If that describes you and offends you in the description, perhaps you should stop reading now. What I have to say is intended for YOU, but I am no longer attempting to explain myself. I am now conducting an exit interview.

As Hillary Clinton sits poised to ascend the throne of a crumbling Amerikkkan empire, and Bernie Sanders struggles valiantly to keep Americans AWAKE to the deep deep damage to our “no-longer?/-or-never-WAS?” democratic system of government, I acknowledge my own fears. And, I choose to breathe my fears into excitement.

If my fellow Americans are foolish enough– have been POISONED enough– to actually believe the crap coming out of the mouth of a white man who is buying their votes and cultivating hatred, then it is time to seek a new home. If the darling of ALL media (yes, NPR included) continues to lead as an entertainer, not an educator, it is time for me to seek a new home.

I am leaving the keys to The New Kingdom, in the hands of my white sisters.

You are the ones that I went to Ivy league schools with (f**k the grammar; I KNOW that is not a correctly structured sentence). The ones who believe that Hillary Clinton has not totally corrupted herself by striking deals with a devil of a corrupt corporate body. And, I am hopeful (but not optimistic) that the Young Adults who are so excited about Bernie are not abandoned by YOU– their MAMAS, again. The movement that is following their grandpa figure of an assimilated  Jewish man– a socialist leaning icon who symbolizes pulling the entire crumbling system APART–should NOT be disenfranchised by their mothers.

Yes, their MOTHERS.

On this Mother’s Day weekend, as the Kentucky derby runs and wealthy (look that word up) white women don fancy hats and sip mint juleps, I speak truth to power and name what I see.

This fall, the election decisions for the next steps and the direction of the UNTIED States of Amerikkka (no typos, all deliberate) will be in the hands of wealthy white women, versus The Children of the Apocalypse as the democratic party takes it’s next steps.

I dream of a land where wealthy white women connect with the Millenials. Where white women with privilege and power claim parentage of ALL of Our Next Generation, denying none. I dream that white women will learn to dance a cha cha with the Millenials (two steps, one-two- three/ one step, one-two-three), and that I get to witness and support this as the rest of the primary season rolls along, towards July.

I will continue to believe in miracles, while simultaneously preparing to watch the entire mess go down in flames.angel quote

Posted in Channeling the Muse: Resources and References, Race Relations Commitment, Thirteeth Fairy Stories | Leave a comment

A Tribute to Harriet Tubman

Yesterday’s announcement that Harriet Tubman would be the face of the woman on the new $20 bill was truly something that I thought I would never see. But, here it is!  I cannot begin to describe my JOY at imagining a woman  (and one who looks AT ALL LIKE ME) on any of the currency that I am forced to use every day for transacting the business of my life.

My personal memories of discovering this AMAZING woman date back to my 30’s, when my now 32-year old daughter was in second grade year at a Waldorf School.

The second grade curriculum at Waldorf has an emphasis on the child learning how to make moral decisions  and uses Christian Saints as examples. My daughter’s Buddhist teacher wanted more cultural diversity than is represented by Christian saints to draw from for these conversations. The homework assigned all the parents was for us to reach deep into our own cultures, and find biographies of folks that fit this broader definition of Saint or Elder:

” a person who has a transformative life event,  that puts them on a path and that path emphasizes good work in the larger world”

That ‘s when I found Harriet.

cash rewards of $400 to $500 offered...

cash rewards of $400 to $500 offered…

I read about her life and was totally bowled over. I nominated her to represent for the African-American/woman part of my daughter’s heritage. Total truth: the teacher (who knew less about Harriet Tubman than I did, as we started) was initially concerned that “I didn’t really GET the assignment”. She felt that I really shouldn’t place Ms. Tubman in the same category as the likes of Rabia Basri (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rabi%27a_al-%27Adawiyya) or Milarepa (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Milarepa). Like me as I started, she knew nothing about Tubman’s life, other than what she remembered from her high school history book.

Then we all began to educate ourselves, about this amazing woman…

How she survived, as a slave, a head trauma at age 17 that left her with unpredictable narcolepsy for the rest of her life (http://www.biography.com/people/harriet-tubman-9511430#synopsis)

How her personal life had story after story of courage, patience, and daring, as she fled slavery/ turned back when her brothers retreated/ escaped, again/ went back for her free husband (who refused to leave with her and had married another woman in her 2 year absence)/ went back and recued her own parents and made sure that they escaped all the way to Canada (as the 1850 fugitive slave act made escape north of the Mason-Dixon line insufficient)

How she rescued over 300 slaves, over 11 years, “never losing a passenger on her underground railroad”

How she trusted God, and followed her own intuition and insights.

How she was a spy for the Union Army, and became a suffragist after the war.

Harriet Tubman became that second grade class’s favorite Saint and Elder. Listen to a song telling her life story, read her biography, or just share my blog piece:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-6MpN2GfBCQ  (The Song, by Walter Robinson– song by my two favorite feminist singers Ronnie Gilbert and Holly Near)

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NQ_gRFYgXMo  (a student history project, 4 min long!)

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uQ85z9vggYM  (less than 3 min)

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KGO-2mPRh5A (a 30 min cartoon, for your children to watch)

Books:

http://www.amazon.com/Harriet-Tubman-The-Road-Freedom/dp/0316155942

http://www.amazon.com/Harriet-Tubman-Conductor-Underground-Railroad/dp/0064461815/ref=pd_sim_14_3?ie=UTF8&dpID=51oDdoKuaFL&dpSrc=sims&preST=_AC_UL160_SR107%2C160_&refRID=1KPBYWRRMSPKK2GYG02T (my favorite!)

http://www.amazon.com/Bound-Promised-Land-Portrait-American/dp/0345456289/ref=pd_sim_14_2?ie=UTF8&dpID=519Qj41qP2L&dpSrc=sims&preST=_AC_UL160_SR104%2C160_&refRID=1KPBYWRRMSPKK2GYG02T

And let’s see if “they” can find a way to undermine this historic event (as happened with the “Susan B.” silver dollar–http://www.coinvalues.com/blog/susan-b-anthony-coin), the $20 bill being the most commonly used denomination of paper money!

found here: http://pre04.deviantart.net/e10e/th/pre/i/2011/256/b/0/harriet_tubman_by_graphiteforlunch-d49smtk.jpg

found here: http://pre04.deviantart.net/e10e/th/pre/i/2011/256/b/0/harriet_tubman_by_graphiteforlunch-d49smtk.jpg

 

 

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Women’s GIFTING CIRCLES, UBUNTU STYLE

Tis the Age of Diversity where everybody wins. All for One...Won for All

Tis the Age of Diversity where everybody wins. All for One…Won for All

Okay, I think we’ve  GOT IT…

Finally, we women are ready to truly TEND AND BEFRIEND one another.

We are coming to clear communication. We are connecting, with authenticity. I just watched one of my communities raise thousands of dollars in emergency funds for a family in less than a week. We have the internet technology to instantaneously share information, the plastic debit and credit cards to move our dollars around, easily. We are moving forwards, out of a long, long, LONG legacy pattern.

Because ALL of us living here in the Untied** States of America (I left that typo in—it felt like a “spirit message”) have been TRAUMATIZED by a worldview of scarcity and NIGGARDLINESS.

Niggardly:

adjective 1. reluctant to give or spend; stingy; miserly. 2. meanly or ungenerously small or scanty: e.g. “a niggardly tip to a waiter”

PLEASE NOTE THE ORIGIN OF THIS WORD:

“The words niggard and niggardly are sometimes misinterpreted as racial slurs because they sound like the highly offensive word n****r. However, niggard dates back to Middle English. The first element nygg-, nig- was borrowed from a Scandinavian source, and -ard is a pejorative suffix. The English word niggardly is a modern English formation from niggard. Therefore these two words are not etymologically related to n****r.” (http://www.dictionary.com/browse/niggard)

WOW! Such a nasty sounding word turns out to be the ESSENCE of White Anglo Saxon-ism, combined with the Vikings who invaded!

Which brings me to my second learning…

We women are many tribes, even when we believe we are ONE FLAVOR. We are white/ “newly white”/ socio-economically privileged/ on scholarships/colored women/gender-fluid/sexually complicated. We can bump up against one another, and bruise each other without being aware that we are doing it. So, let us continue to move towards ongoing connection and empowerment, using UMBUNTU the way it was meant to be used:

‘A person is a person through other people’ strikes an affirmation of one’s humanity through recognition of an ‘other’ in his or her uniqueness and difference. It is a demand for a creative intersubjective formation in which the ‘other’ becomes a mirror (but only a mirror) for my subjectivity. This idealism suggests to us that humanity is not embedded in my person solely as an individual; my humanity is co-substantively bestowed upon the other and me. Humanity is a quality we owe to each other. We create each other and need to sustain this otherness creation. And if we belong to each other, we participate in our creations: we are because you are, and since you are, definitely I am. The ‘I am’ is not a rigid subject, but a dynamic self-constitution dependent on this otherness creation of relation and distance” ( Eze, M.O. Intellectual History in Contemporary South Africa, pp. 190–191).

https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ubuntu_(philosophy)

http://www.harisingh.com/UbuntuAge.htm

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=skPOYtIWMlc#t=49

The Way We DID IT WRONG:

http://eyeswideopenlife.com/blog/alexis-neely/womens-gifting-circles-secret-scam-or-saving-grace/

http://www.candgnews.com/news/women-warned-about-%E2%80%98gifting-club%E2%80%99-pyramid-scheme-0

http://www.lightworkersworld.com/2013/09/top-10-reasons-join-womens-gifting-circle/

 

I am ready to support women in continuing the momentum we have just experienced, with a catastrophic community event, and be prepared to create ongoing, “crowd-sourced style” tending and befriending of each other.

Forever and Ever.

Amen.

Blessed Be.

May it Be So, and So it IS!

Posted in Channeling the Muse: Resources and References | Leave a comment

A Brief Encounter With An Annoying WASP

wasp 1

I got stung by a WASP yesterday.

A White Anglo-Saxon Protestant female. In my own community. In  my own cooperative (where I’ve been a member for 7 years).

Meaning, that I got “shushed” by an uncomfortable white woman. Her words (as near as I can remember) were “I’m EMBARRASSED for you… I can hear what you are saying, on your call!”

“Women’s roles within the Puritan communities were comprised …”

Say WHAT?????

This is happening at 6 p.m. at my neighborhood co-operative market, in the café section. The place where, on weekends, a group of regulars discuss everything from dinner last night to the political candidates.

Loudly.

So, what exactly have I done? I am sitting with a cell phone in my hand, talking with my Dominican friend in New York City (Harlem, to be exact). What is it that has made this thin-lipped, grey haired, old Yankee Stock female “embarrassed for me”?

The topic? Or, the very fact of me daring to have an animated conversation at the same volume that people would be speaking across a table, rather than in hushed tones?

Or both?

Does it matter?

finding ways to LAUGH through trying experiences

finding ways to LAUGH through trying experiences

Because what is astonishing me, is the phrasing of her intended “shut the f**k up, please”, as “I am embarrassed for YOU”.

Really?

What am I taking about is this: I am offering my Dominican friend support with a mutual friend, who is dying. A friend who was originally given a prognosis of less than a year to live, nine years ago. She has lived well, and we have all been grateful for that miraculous decade. And now it looks as though her miraculous journey is nearing its end.

This friend is dancing day to day though whatever it takes to hang in there, just a little longer. Her daughter graduates in the next two week. She is brilliant, beautiful, and seventeen. I have commented on the daughter’s acceptance at a great college of music. And about her playing at Carnegie Hall. Did I mention death? Probably; as I remember it, I was mainly responding to excitement about the prospects for this friend staying alive long enough to see these wonders with her second child come to fruition, knowing how much she could have missed. Gracious, but sad about how much is yet to come, as she holds on, while preparing to let go. My conversation with my Harlem friend is my prayer for safe presence and—when the time comes—safe passage for Our Strong Sister.

The WASP was embarrassed for ME? Well, I was embarrassed right back, for HER.

After a moderately charged (not too long) rant about cultural differences between African Americans and white Americans on self-expression, I returned to my call, shortened it (I do well, but I am NOT immune to criticism), and decided to check in more, with this woman of Northern European Descent. Because I imagine that I know this WASP’s history. There are no words for her; just those of the hierarchical groups considered below her. Nasty, derogatory words.

Irish woman pipe smoker

Irish woman pipe smoker

Biddy: informal offensive a woman, especially an old gossipy or interfering one (usually the Irish Catholic maid…)http://www.thefreedictionary.com/biddy

Scold: a person who often criticizes other people in an angry way : someone who scolds other people too often http://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary dunking stool

Witch: a woman thought to have evil magic powers (http://www.oxforddictionaries.com)

All women who—in puritan times—were placed in stockades, in pillory, nearly drowned on ducking stools, whipped, had their tongues pierced with a hot awl for speaking out of turn, or were placed in gossip’s bridles

http://www.history.org/foundation/journal/spring03/branks.cfm

Just looking up this history and being reminded of the reasons that uptight and tight-assed white women do the things they do/behave the way they do is helpful to me, as I move through my righteous indignation.

I interpreted the look on the WASP’s face as extreme discomfort, as I forced myself upon her, for a two minute conversation (no… she did NOT just try to ignore me speaking to her; modeling the correct way to sit at a Vermont café…I must have imagined THAT slight…)

I killed her softly, with my words… About my friend, dying. About my friend’s daughter.

I thought about the cultural differences that might have made NOT listening to me speaking slowly and (to the WASP’s ear) loudly with my Harlem friend more challenging. I saw the obvious right before us both; there was an entire 10 feet of unoccupied table, directly next to her and further away from my intrusive words WHERE SHE COULD HAVE EASILY MOVED. Amazingly, I found some compassion for her challenges, coming out of 200 years of controlling behaviors designed to take white women’s voices away, and leaving them allied with their own oppressors, hell bent on “keeping the PEACE”.

Can't we all just get along???

Can’t we all just get along???

I can imagine a day when stinging Wasps and Biting Back Black flies can play together, nicely.

 

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I have great FAITH in the Millenials

Sometimes, we Old Farts can be on our high horses, and not see the forest for the trees…

I was introduced to Nathan Schneider, a 32 year old phenomenon, through his interview with Krista Tippet in her NPR program, “On Belief”:

http://www.onbeing.org/program/nathan-schneider-the-wisdom-of-millennials/6911

aprd_nathanschneider

As I researched his background, his philosophy, and his writings, I was very much reassured. Schneider– with a Jewish father and a protestant mother– was raised, much the way I tried to raise my children. Schneider was gifted the space to create his own relationship to religion, economics, and race. Much of the time, I worry that I was “too far out ahead of the pack” as a parent. Too into being a part of a lifestyle and a commitment to a post-racial, post-gender, post monogamous relationship, post CLASS world. I made my politics very personal, modeling as best I could the practices I believed, intending to “fake it, until we made it.”

Well, clearly we haven’t “made it”. In fact, the back lash is evident, in everything from our outrageous political meltdown this season, through ongoing  repression of women’s rights, to the pain of a public waking up to the reality of life for the chronically disenfranchised in America, in Black Lives Matter, refugee status conversations, minimum wage issues, and more clarity on who gets to go to good schools, and WHY…

love_revolution 2

Listening to Schneider gives me back my hope for the flowers. Rather than believing the dominant media story that “millenials” are self-absorbed and superficial (The Atlantic actually has an article that beings with the sentence “The Millenials are the worst”), I have found my way into a world of exciting youth who are combining the skills they have developed as the inheritors of the information age with real open hearts and thoughtful soul searching as the generation cursed with an ecological crisis created by their elders.

I will continue to explore what they are doing, where they are doing it, and give them as much “Chicken Soup for their Millenial Souls” as I can pass forward. I am content that the baton is being passed to a hardy group with good intentions and fortitude.

angel quote

 

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Because DREAMS AND NIGHTMARES can sit, side by side…

I try to take my daily news in increments that I can digest and integrate. But the Huffington Post’s “12 Reasons this is the Most Depressing Election Ever” just really got to me:

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/entry/12-reasons-most-depressing-election-ever_us_56e2c64ce4b065e2e3d58e9b?isyycik9

I need to upchuck that crap.

I post a lot about being a suicide survivor. Rationality got me nothing, except a cornered position full of despair and hopelessness. Having made myself a promise that I would never again let my existential ANGST over a collapsing system of (some?) humans attempting to dominate EVERYTHING ELSE ON THE PLANET drive me to despair that way, again: (http://www.amazon.com/Hope-Beneath-Our-Feet-Restoring/dp/1556439199 see my essay “Waking From Despair”), I will believe in MIRACLES, and do my best to see that they come into being.

Towards that end, here’s an open letter, to the communities where I hope my personal stories can make a difference:

FOR THE OHIOANS out there:

When I was born, in Cleveland Ohio, back in 1957, there were only three places in the U.S. where a Black person who wanted to ACT/ learn theater arts was truly welcome. Karamu House was one of them; and where my parents met: http://www.karamuhouse.org/cms-view-page.php?page=history

Now I live in Vermont, after a rich life “out in the Real World as a Bohemian Refugee from Negroland” (meaning, raised and philosophically committed to the idea of the U.S. getting PAST race, onto other things, but from a place of real naivete and PRIVILEDGE). I left medical practice for complex reasons; I live in Vermont because I can get the kind of health care that fits my needs. My senator—Bernie Sanders—worked very hard to make that happen. While the Affordable Car Act has made life better for many Americans, it is a long way from “universal access to health care”. It is Sanders, not Clinton (and CERTAINLY not Trump or any of the other Republicans) who has ideas that can move the Democratic party forward, AND shift our priorities away from spending GOZILLIONS on the military industrial complex:  military

As for That Race Thing? The number One depressing thing about this election season, the Huffington Post says, being “racial anxiety”?

My truth: if we ARE going to continue to look at the Boomers and not the Millenials for leadership (that is a veiled hint that either Democratic candidate would do well to select someone younger than FIFTY as a running mate), can we remember where the candidates come from?

Bernie-Sanders-Arrested-in-Chicago-for-Civil-RightsSanders, in 1963:

Hillary started as a Goldwater Republican, but had switched to McCarthy by 1968. (http://www.factcheck.org/2008/03/hillary-worked-for-goldwater/ )

Hmmmm….

FOR THE ILLINOIS CROWD:

I was a family doctor, serving out my National Health Service Corps agreement in Champaign, Illinois back in 1984-7. I left Illinois for many reasons. Not wanting to raise my bi-racially Irish-American African –american children in that community was number one. Number two was seeing the fallout from a health care system that was unjust and frivolous. I had a patient so ill with their active tuberculosis that I mistook it for lung cancer, when I first met them. The patient was as ill as he was, because Champaign County had voted down ANY budget for the public health nurse. So, the patient had been lost to follow-up. The patient’s T.B. had worsened, without follow-up by a public health nurse. When the patient finally arrived at my clinic for care, everything went into high gear (with forced hospitalization, laminar flow rooms in hospitals, and tracking of the T.B. patient’s contacts) at a cost thousands of dollars, instead of the salary the public health nurse.

Penny wise, and pound foolish, for real.

When I heard that presidential candidate Bernie Sanders had drawn a crowd of close to 4,000 for a Saturday rally this past week I was astonished, and hopeful. I mean, that community is a BIG TEN FOOTBALL TOWN…nothing trumps (pardon the pun) football on the weekends! I remain hopeful that the community of folks who used The Frances Nelson Community Health Center will recognize the vast differences between a Donald Trump, a Hillary Clinton (bless her heart, I LOVE a woman running for president, but I hope to push the democrats into open discussion of democratic socialism), and the diligent, persistent INDEPENDENT politician who has aligned himself with Democrats to Get The Job of Democracy done—MY senator and political representative, BERNIE SANDERS.

For THE FLORIDIANS

16 years ago, I gave my teen age children my vote to cast in the 2000 presidential campaign. They decided to vote for Al Gore (and NOT for the candidate that I would have voted for—Ralph Nader). I was living in Massachusetts at the time. We watched Florida returns, and we all went to bed as CBS declared Al Gore the winner, around 11 p.m. Then we woke up the next morning, to a nightmare of deception, confusion, and hanging chads. They had feared that voting for Nader would “ruin things” for Gore;  over the next few weeks we watched a velvet coup, supported by the judicial branch. What a lesson in Real Politic I had inadvertently given my children!

Dreams can turn into nightmares (and vice versa). No amount of rational thinking can get us out of the mess that has become this year’s election process. So I will cope by being delusional and irrational, and continue to expect miracles. I sit in Vermont, gainfully employed at a job that I enjoy, with good health care benefits, and growing connection to “the nicest white folks I have ever lived with”. I know WHY they are “so nice”—it has a lot to do with being embarrassed and guilty about a very sordid past with respect to race and ethnic cleansing ( http://www.uvm.edu/~eugenics/ ). Kind of like Germany now having a constitution with more human rights guarantees than the U.S. due to it’s shameful past, and post World War Two reparations.

This morning I pulled the card in the photo below, as a part of a meditative practice:

Osho Zen tarot image for 9 of clouds

Osho Zen tarot image for 9 of clouds

It’s meaning: “LAZINESS: not sitting on one’s laurels, but recognizing that there’s something AWFUL creeping up behind you..and if you just sit back and refuse to see it, it might just shatter your world…”

Don’t despair. And don’t be cynical.

A MIRACLE HAPPENED (almost) HERE. That was Canada’s election, last year of Justin Trudeau.

Miracles can happen here, too. The one I pray for today is that Bernie Sanders, a determined and steady influence on the American political scene for fifty plus years, can continue to influence the direction of the Democratic party, and therefore of America.

 

optimist quote

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Response to a Fan, As My Country Collapses

negrolandYes, I said a “fan”. I didn’t know that I had one!

I haven’t posted to this website since November of 2015. My last post was that sobering one about “What I’m Thankful For” — the punch line being “NOT hating white America (although I often feel entitled to feel righteously pissed off)

My fan wrote this:

“My comment has been in moderation for months now, and you haven’t posted again. We hope that you’re okay. My mate and I have been reading your blog for a long time. Chris says: Your comment is awaiting moderation. November 29, 2015 at 3:32 pm I wish that you hadn’t scrubbed your site of so many pertinent posts. Perhaps you’ve had a cyber-stalker, and wanted to protect your privacy. I hope that you have a happy holiday, however you wish to celebrate them. ”

It was worse than a cyber-stalker. Somehow someone attacked my site and eliminated many, MANY of my posts. I don’t follow my own flights of fancy, imagination and musings enough to even know WHAT actually went missing…just that lots of my writing vanished into thin air.

And that is hard on someone who writes to maintain their sanity, like me.

So, I switched over to voice memos, that I have continued to send out to a handful of friends. And, I rationalized the violation. I told myself that the timing couldn’t have been better; I had just started a new job in a more corporatized environment, so perhaps a smaller “cyber footprint” was a good thing for me. I told myself that my ego was being tamed, and that I shouldn’t be so attached to things.

Well, that was winter. Now it’s spring. Time to Rise Again, like all those other spring things: flowers…sap in maple trees…Jesus…

I’ll do my best to continue to be an observer of my (barely?) United States of America from the unique opportunity that I have, as “A Bohemian Refugee from Margo Jefferson’s Negroland:

https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/24040176-negroland

Which happens to be my six word description of Who I Am these days, for the Race Card Project:

http://www.npr.org/series/173814508/the-race-card-project

Thanks, Chris, for the fan mail. And, look for me soon at the “Mad in America” blog:

http://www.madinamerica.com/

(in the “personal story” section sometime later this month)

vanzant quote

 

 

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What I am Thankful for, Today

…is that I was not raised to HATE white people. Because I could have/should have been.

As I continue to wake up to the reality of the history of European Americans presence on this “New World” continent, it is so very much worse than even I had known. As I spend my Thanksgiving alone (by choice), I checked out of the library a series from The History Channel: “10 Days that Unexpectedly Changed America” I was barely able to sit through the first episode. It recounts in graphic detail the reality of “The Pequot War”; which wasn’t a war at all, but a massacre by Puritan settlers and their Native American allies of the “top dog” Native tribe on the Eastern seaboard– the Pequots. Native people had never seen European style warfare– the kind where utter annihilation of “The Enemy” is the goal.

If you want more info, I suggest you find The History Channel hour, because wikopedia remains sadly biased, and I don’t intend to edit it:

Next up was a fast forward to the LAST of the 10 days chosen: June 21, 1964. It is the day that the three civil rights martyrs’ bodies where found, and the episode is titled, “Freedom Summer”. It became very, VERY clear that this would not have been a turning point, had not two of the three dead students been WHITE.

And, that is a very hard thing to bear. The pain of all of this, being American in 2015, being the product of the mixing of races, having contributed to MORE mixing, in my choices of how I live and love, is at a boiling point for me, on this Thanksgiving Day.

I am thankful that I was not raised to hate white people. Because I would be very tempted to fall into that, had I had any “help” as a child leaning me towards that rational conclusion.

But some days, like today, I find myself in need of solitude, to maintain my hope for HUE-manity.

Truth be told: every African American, every Native American, most Chinese-Americans, every Japanese-American, most Mexican-Americans, most Korean-Americans, have the rational RIGHT to decide to become suicide bombers.

Today I am thanking GOD/Goddess/ God-US for the narcotics my African Slave descent communities have been given: false promises of rising to the top…winning the lottery…becoming The Huxtables…that hold this tinderbox away from it’s flashpoint. We won’t add the drugs, and the “carcerality” issues.

Happy Thanksgiving, to any who would be open to reading this through to the end. My world is very painful these days. How is yours?

optimist quote

Posted in Race Relations Commitment, Uncategorized | 5 Comments