I will go there with you.

In my last few posts, I’ve mentioned going back to the school for the first time in seventeen years. I’ve mentioned how much I learned in my two classes, and how much I absolutely loved taking them.

What I haven’t mentioned is something ever-so-critical affirmed for me outside of my classes.

In order to sign up for classes last semester, I had to take my school’s online intro-to-studying-here course. One section of that course was on violence against women;

this section included specific, explicit mention of stalking:

One in six American women is or will be stalked.

Since I’m studying public health, this was relevant to my studies. It was, however, more than that, relevant to my life: Continue reading “I will go there with you.”

On COVID-19 & a semester concluded

In the week since finishing my first semester in seventeen years, I’ve wanted to write about the semester. I’ve simultaneously been too bone-weary to muster additional words and unsure what, exactly, I wanted to write about the semester: the period that began my formal journey toward a public health career. I haven’t known what to say, at least not in a handful of words.

Wednesday evening, I came across an article that helped me clarify what I want to say, for now. The article movingly wove together themes showing up throughout the semester in both my classes; most noteworthy, however, was how it explicitly joined themes from final assignments in both my Spring 2021 courses. Continue reading “On COVID-19 & a semester concluded”

because: evidence.

I recently returned to school, part-time.

Unlike my earlier dalliances with school, I am deeply passionate about what I’m now studying. Instead of slogging through the motions for the degree at the end, then, I now wake up on Monday mornings ecstatic at the prospect of being able to explore the new week’s content.

(While sitting around reading is illuminating and I do a bunch of that, engaging with others on the material is partly how it truly gets “in the bones” for me. Chatting with professors and classmates, I am able to move away from abstract understandings and instead link up everything I’m learning with real life. It’s lovely, and inspiring!)

And yet: I come to my now-formal studies of public health with certain … perspectives. As much as being informed by all I read, these perspectives are borne from my own lived experiences with poverty and the various violences, both structural and interpersonal, with which they are correlated.

So when I began reading chapter 2 of the intro text for one of my courses, I felt a gut-level antagonism to its focus: Continue reading “because: evidence.”

to reach for the sun

A few weeks ago, my six-year-old and I planted seeds in paper cups.

We stuck the paper cups outside and committed to watering them. Daily, ish.

With such a vague “commitment,” we watered them every few days. In the intense heat of August in SoCal, the seeds failed not only to thrive, but to show even the merest hints of growth.

Last weekend, my six-year-old and I planted new seeds in paper cups.

We planted green bean, watermelon, and tomato seeds. We committed to watering these each and every evening. Continue reading “to reach for the sun”

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”

keep on asking!

My ten-year-old, Li’l D, and I have many times discussed the difference between “knowing” and “knowing-about.”

As human beings, it can be far too easy to confuse knowing-about with deep knowing, as I first demonstrated to Li’l D—years ago!—with elephants.

While I can’t recall how that conversation started, it began with Li’l D being confident in his elephant expertise. He remained confident until I started asking him nuanced questions about elephants: Continue reading “keep on asking!”

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”