possible

Early yesterday morning, I took my sons for drive-through hot chocolate. Rather than heading straight home afterward, I drove surface streets for a few minutes before hopping on the freeway.

Even for a Friday morning in pandemic times, traffic was unbelievably light. For a few miles, then, we got to do one of my favorite things in the world: unhindered by bumper-to-bumper traffic, fly down the freeway in SoCal sunlight.

My heart soared, despite the outward mundanity of the act.

I grinned as I told my kids how much I loved the feeling. I’d only just voiced curiosity about the source of this feeling when I found my answer, which I shared with my kids. Continue reading “possible”

with passion for liberation

I recently bought Ibrahim X. Kendi’s book How to Be an Antiracist.

I haven’t read very far. And yet, only a few pages in, I’m so grateful to have–thanks to Kendi–added the word “antiracist” to my vocabulary.

For years, I fumbled for words to explain to some white friends that their being quietly “color-blind” wasn’t really a kindness to people of color. The closest I could come, over and over again, was saying variations of, “You can’t be neutral on a moving train. Being quietly ‘color-blind’ doesn’t stop that hurtful train from rolling right over people.”

So many conversations. So many hours. So many words.

Finding the word “antiracist” brought me a sigh of relief: Silence is a vote for racism, while speaking up, with a passion for justice for all, is its opposite, antiracism.

Having the word “antiracist” helped me troubleshoot a related flaw in my own thinking elsewhere recently.

I got to thinking about how it’s obviously obvious to anyone who meets me for even three seconds that I wholeheartedly support equal rights for LGBTQI people–doesn’t almost everyone by now?!–when I caught myself mid-thought, flashed to Kendi, and went, Continue reading “with passion for liberation”

to be: healed

In late April, I read about an ER doctor in Manhattan who had committed suicide. Her father said, “She tried to do her job, and it killed her.”

I tweeted a link to the New York Times article with the below text:

The MD BIL who persuaded me to pursue #publichealth instead of social work told me #moralinjury could kill me:
being deprived, systemically, of the ability to do the right thing.

This doctor was—IS—a hero.
Had we better systems,
she could have remained a *living* hero.

I followed up that

The one person still in my life since I was born is a nurse. She told me she’s trying to survive these days without serious trauma.

I told her it sounded like she was describing trying to survive moral injury. She said that was exactly it.

Today, I saw on Twitter that the doctor about whom I read in April had been profiled in the New York Times. I read the article with aching heart, after which I tweeted a link with the words:

“Still, when the casualties of the coronavirus are tallied, Dr. Breen’s family believes she should be counted among them.” After reading this, I agree. Completely.

I followed up that

Recently texted dear family friends, married nurses, on being reminded “once again, how much care and fortitude are involved in nursing. I am so grateful for you & so absolutely livid that you are, it feels, being punished for your caring. You deserve better.” Dr. Breen did, too.

What’s funny about my April post is that I called Dr. Breen “a hero.”

I don’t believe in heroes. As I wrote three years ago, I believe in hero-ing. That’s to say, I believe in “hero” as a verb, not a noun. I wrote about this last month:

“hero” not as a binary trait attainable by a few
but a verb achievable
every day, by
everyone
still
living.

When I wrote these words in June, I wasn’t thinking about the dangers to so-called “heroes” of using “hero” as a noun. I just loathed how hero-as-noun deprived most of humanity, unjustly and potentially catastrophically, the opportunity to hero out of the blue today or tomorrow, should such opportunity arise.

(Does humanity benefit more from heroes, or from everyone understanding they may be called upon, and may choose to, hero today, no matter what they did every other day before today?)

Today, I began to see the personal dangers of doctor-hero-as-noun thanks to one in a thread of tweets inspired by the NYT’s piece on Dr. Breen. Wrote Dr. Esther Choo:

I think the “hero” rhetoric, as well intentioned as it was (seriously, we appreciated the compliment) also makes it harder to admit feelings of despair, defeat, and fatigue.

I still haven’t quite worked out my definition of what it means to hero. I think it comes down to being willing to improve someone’s life at potential expense of one’s own, but that’s a very, very tentative working definition.

I don’t believe in heroes. I do, however, believe that some people might be particularly inclined to hero. I think it’s okay to acknowledge that, while not denying anyone else the joy and privilege of heroing.

And so, when I think of Dr. Breen today, I think, “Man, did she know how to hero!”

I just wish … we had systems that had enabled her to hero on her own behalf.

If we did, she might be alive to hero again today, and tomorrow.

If we want to enable more heroing, we need better systems:

systems that enable people to acknowledge, without punishment, when they are hurting,

to hero twenty times one day and then barely be able to crawl out of bed the next fifty,

to love and appreciate people whether or not they ever,

one single time,

are able

to hero.

When we acknowledge that everyone, everywhere is capable of hero-ing,
we take a load off those we currently expect to be “heroes”—
by evidencing understanding that being human is messy,
and hard, and hurt-filled, and confusing
(on the best of days),
and giving everyone a chance to not only hurt
but to be the inspiration
for hurts, at long last,
finally, given a chance
to be:
healed.

how we (get to) remember

Twitter has often been an unhealthy place for me.

That’s changed recently, and it’s changed because:
I now mostly check list filled with doctors and public health experts
who sometimes despair at the odds they’re up against,
but keep fighting, with data and love, anyway.

Now, when I check Twitter, I tend to stick to these lists,
which means I leave not with a depleted heart,
but a fuller one:

These people LIVE IN MY WORLD!

They inspire me, and I am
so glad to know (about) them.

If you’ve read more than two posts here, you know that Nassim Nicholas Taleb is my favorite author. His early words about the threat of COVID shifted me from thinking, “What’s the big deal?” to, “Oh, boy, we’ve just entered Extremistan, haven’t we?” Continue reading “how we (get to) remember”

TO LIFE

Yesterday afternoon, I stood near my dining room table and proclaimed, “I can’t find my Tumblr!”

“You have a Tumblr?!” my husband replied. “I didn’t know that.”

“Not really. I posted, like, one original post there a few years back. I’m trying to find that post.”

Soon afterward, I found that Tumblr, and I found that January 2018 post. “That post” was the last one I shared on Tumblr.

I read it and let its core sink, again, into my bones. And I wondered:

How had I forgotten what had once
lived so deeply in my bones?

Looking at my Twitter profile yesterday, I saw too. many. images of police brutality not hidden under sensitive-content warnings.

Don’t get me wrong. I’m glad these images are being captured. I’m glad this history is being documented and made accessible. I’m especially glad attorney T. Greg Doucette is aggregating these incidents into one Twitter thread; in one single week of protests against racism and police brutality, his documented incident ticker is up to 334. Continue reading “TO LIFE”

on face masks & my sons’ future

In my neighborhood, more people roam without face masks than with them.

I don’t usually give this too much thought, but one encounter last weekend has lingered in my mind.

My kids and I were finishing a walk around the block. We were, for reasons described in my early April post “A bandana the right direction,” all wearing our face masks.

While my ten-year-old (Li’l D) and I were walking, my six-year-old (Littler J) was pedaling slowly on his hand-me-down Ninja Turtles bike. I saw a couple without facemasks approaching on the sidewalk. Remembering Littler rolling right into a neighbor who’d been standing still just a few days prior, I thought it unlikely he’d be able to skirt around moving targets. I nudged him into the street to enable the couple to pass. Continue reading “on face masks & my sons’ future”

there in love

Waiting in line at the bookstore a couple of months ago, I saw copies of Atul Gawande’s Being Mortal.

I’d checked out the audiobook from my local library before, but I’d never listened for more than two or three minutes before falling asleep. I’d later awaken to some random excerpt, think that’s lovely, and then tumble right back to sleep.

Seeing a copy of the book in print in line that day, I thought I might enjoy actually reading it—all the way through, from its beginning to its final word.

Until finishing Being Mortal last week, I’d read three or four pages at a time.

Having spent the years 2016 through 2018 plowing through a couple of non-fiction books a week, I’ve slowed down when reading those books that touch my heart. In a world currently so full of fear and condemnation, I want to touch in frequently with those things—those words, those hearts, those authors, those places—that fill me with the wonder of being deeply, achingly human. Continue reading “there in love”

Balm for my heart

This morning, I chatted with a friend on the phone for fifteen minutes. I had to fumble for the right words after many days largely homebound, but just hearing her voice was balm for my heart.

After I got off the phone, I realized I wanted needed more real voice-to-voice connection with people I love. I tried video-calling my sister Rache, but couldn’t reach her.

My family and I scrunched into frame to wish one family friend a belated happy birthday. She was out looking at adopting a puppy, so our call was short, but the loving connection very real. Continue reading “Balm for my heart”