Walking. With Headlights. (Lightly Child, Lightly)

5:15 a.m. 918 consecutive (almost) days of this daybreak walk at Cove Island Park. Like in a row.

I wasn’t going to post this. Nope. I’m so much bigger than this. I am.  No I’m not bigger than this. Not close. As petty as they come.

It’s 6:04 a.m. and I’m at the backside of the park. And there he is again, on the other side of the cove, his headlights on, high beams no less. A-hole sits in his car, doing Something, God knows what. And his f*cking lights have to be on marring the landscape with an ugly coating of man-made light across the shoreline and the inlet. This A-hole is parked right here about 50% of the time, headlights always on. He apparently has his morning ritual as well.

I’ve taken to walking directly into the light, right up to the water’s edge. I swing my camera over my shoulder to free up both hands, and give him a 1-finger salute with both hands, and shout out “hey a**hole.”

I’m a pacifist, with violent mood swings and anger management issues. Untameable. The mind drifts. I shift the shoulder-fired rocket launcher, setting it comfortably on my shoulder, uncock the safety catch, peer through the sights and let the heat guided missile find its target, a thin line of smoke trailing behind…

It’s cold. I’m tired. I’m irritable. I have no 4-legged friend joining me, Wally, is fast asleep. [Read more…]

it was my calling, the way a bird is drawn to the song of its own kind

I could get into med school.

Couldn’t I?

I could. I would. I did. But there was a complicating factor. Right after a thick acceptance letter arrived from Mac, another envelope came. This one had a postmark from the U.K. I was being offered a full scholarship to go to Oxford for a PhD in English.

The medical school acceptance letter was printed by a computer; the package from Oxford included a personal invitation on crinkly yellow paper to drink sherry with tutors. I could picture my new Oxford life: I’d have a bike with a basket, and spend hours at the Bodleian. The real white cliffs of Dover. Weekends in Paris. Wool sweaters from the highlands, and a hearth and a stone fireplace older than anyone I had ever met. Bookshelves full of Yeats and Tennyson, and a room of my own, like Virginia Woolf’s. A place where the words could pour out of my heart and onto the page, and maybe someday those pages would find their way onto other shelves, maybe even the Bodleian itself.

But lying awake on those tortured, miserable nights, working it all out as if it were a formula with an elusive right answer, the “Go” or “Stay” columns were really “tutors with sherry” versus my sister in her wheelchair, bent over at a forty-five-degree angle, holding her head in her hands and asking if I could please take her to the summer fair. Those tutors wanted to know my interests within postmodernism. My sister had a more basic question for me: When are you coming home? …

I didn’t need to study English at Oxford to learn the power of words. I’d already had my most important teacher. It was that doctor, yelling at my parents, There’s no brain left. He taught me that people with power have a duty to speak with care, because they have been entrusted with something fragile they have no right to break. He helped me understand that medicine itself was a very specific kind of power, one I would never, ever abuse, because I knew it was sacred. And anyway, I wasn’t drawn to power. I was drawn to medicine because it was my calling, the way a bird is drawn to the song of its own kind.

That was the only contest Wendy won in her whole life. She drew me home. Not out of pity, but out of love and its attendant duty, and a sense there might be things in life that would matter more to me in twenty years than whether I had a PhD from Oxford or had seen the Bodleian. So one day that summer, I was able to look Wendy in the eye and tell her something she would forget a few minutes later: because of her, I was going to be a doctor. And in a few years, I’d be coming home.

Jillian Horton, We Are All Perfectly Fine: A Memoir of Love, Medicine and Healing (HarperCollins Publishers, February 23, 2021)


Notes:

  • Highly Recommended. And if you can listen to it on Audible, narration is absolutely the best.
  • Book Review: cecescott.com

Monday Morning Wake-Up Call

So, if you can’t go back, what’s the harm in looking back? Twelve Step programs counsel “Look back, but don’t stare.” Wonder why? Because it’s fcking painful! I’m sitting comfortably at this lovely computer in my homey home office and almost everything coming to mind is about what an asshole I was and am still capable of being. So many stupid mistakes. So much selfishness and ego-driven thoughtlessness to bathe in. Sure, I recall the victories and joys and laughs and lovers, but for reasons beyond me, those happier remembrances are cloudy, dimmed, and distanced. I have to reach for them. Whereas the miseries and hurt, every mistake, misfortune, and betrayal I endured or delivered remains conveniently at my fingertips. The guns are loaded, the knives still cut, and the adage “Time heals everything” makes a lovely lyric but is a fcking lie. Time heals nothing…

In Twelve Step work we look back to identify the bad stuff we are responsible for and, if it’s possible to do so without causing more harm, we make amends for our wrongdoing. I recommend this cleansing exercise of exorcising. Suddenly, glancing over your shoulder is less frightening. There are fewer shadowy figures following you. You are freer to move about unencumbered, knowing that the scary shit of the past has been peaceably entombed. Unfortunately, entombed is not destroyed. It waits quietly in the dark for someone to dig it up again. Bad shit is patient. So, here I am with my work clothes on and my shovel in hand. If you’re willing to listen, I’m willing to dig.

Harvey Fierstein, from his Preface titled “Look Back, But Don’t Stare” in “I Was Better Last Night: A Memoir” (Knopf, March 1, 2022)


NY Times 11 New Books We Recommend This Week (March 10, 2022)

Good Morning, Monster

Making psychological changes also provokes anxiety. It’s very hard to break a habit, especially when you’ve adapted yourself to a particular pattern that, however maladaptive, has kept you alive. The unconscious is powerful, and it will fight to the death to keep an old pattern in place.

Catherine Gildiner, Good Morning, Monster: A Therapist Shares Five Heroic Stories of Emotional Recovery (St. Martin’s Press, September 22, 2020)


Notes:

  • Highly recommended.  Gripping stories…
  • Amazon Best Book of September 2020
  • CBC.radio: “Catherine Gildiner is an American-born and Toronto-based memoirist, novelist and former psychologist. In her latest book Good Morning, Monster, she focuses on five patients who overcame their personal trauma, a process Gildiner defines as being heroic.  ‘These five people that I write about always came back to me — out of the hundreds of people that I had seen.’ — Catherine Gildiner.

Tuesday Morning Wake-up Call

Everything that she used to take for granted produces a sense of revelation, as if she were a child again. Tastes—the sweetness of a strawberry, its juice dripping onto her chin; a buttery pastry melting in her mouth. Smells—flowers on a front lawn, a colleague’s perfume, seaweed washed up on the shore, Matt’s sweaty body in bed at night. Sounds—the strings on a cello, the screech of a car, her nephew’s laughter. Experiences—dancing at a birthday party, people-watching at Starbucks, buying a cute dress, opening the mail. All of this, no matter how mundane, delights her to no end. She’s become hyper-present. When people delude themselves into believing they have all the time in the world, she’s noticed, they get lazy.

~ Lori Gottlieb, from her new book titled Maybe You Should Talk to Someone: A Therapist, HER Therapist, and Our Lives Revealed. Chosen as one of Amazon’s top 10 Books of the Month for April 2019.


Photo: via Newthom

T.G.I.F.: I wish. I do. I hope.

He starts singing. “‘Half my life is over, oh yeah. Half my life has passed me by.’” I roll my eyes, but he keeps going. It’s a bluesy tune and I’m trying to place it. Etta James? B. B. King?“ ‘I wish I could go back, change the past. Have more years, to get it right . . .’”

~ Lori Gottlieb, from her new book titled Maybe You Should Talk to Someone: A Therapist, HER Therapist, and Our Lives Revealed. Chosen as one of Amazon’s top 10 Books of the Month for April 2019.

T.G.I.F.: still for the count of one, two, three . . .

I’d made the appointment hoping to get advice on how I might help him. After giving me advice, the therapist, a kind, smart and soft-spoken man by the name of Jeff Pollard, asked simply, “And how are you feeling these days?” I felt my body go utterly still for the count of one, two, three . . .

Pam HoustonDeep Creek: Finding Hope in the High Country 


Photo Credit

T.G.I.F.: It’s been a long week

Parked outside my therapist’s office, I watched another therapist attempt to parallel park. When you grow up on a rural reservation, you only have to park parallel to the earth, so I was impressed as she parked skillfully in a very narrow space. But I guess it wasn’t quite parallel enough, so she pulled out of the space and tried again. And again. I thought she parked well, but she thought otherwise. She parked, pulled out, parked, pulled out, parked, and pulled out for at least ten minutes. Finally, she parked in a way that pleased her. Or maybe she just abandoned the effort. But as she stepped out of her car and walked toward her office, I thought, “Damn, I want that one to be my therapist.”

~ Sherman Alexie, “You Don’t Have to Say You Love Me: A Memoir


Portrait: Sherman Alexie

He looked down, she just gave him a little lick, and suddenly I couldn’t stop him from crying

Zereeseis Player, age 12: “They taught me how to be respectful, they taught me how to listen, they’ve taught me not to be disobedient to others, and treat people like they want to be treated.”
Farrah Akbar, age 8:  “I would say, if you’ve never seen a horse or touched a horse, just touch it. Because if you touch it, then you’ll feel the soul.”

At equine-therapy programs like Compton Jr. Posse in Los Angeles, inner-city adolescents find a refuge from drugs and street-gang culture by developing equestrian skills and learning to regard the knowing gazes of 1,000-plus-pound horses and guide their beguiling power. In return for striving in school, the program’s participants, ranging in age from 8 to 18, are taught to ride horses, groom them and clean their stables. These experiences keep them within the horse’s “personal circle.” Horses have a profound effect on humans. “Whether they have a physical handicap or an emotional handicap or a mental handicap, when you’re around a horse,” Akbar says, “the energy is so powerful that it tunes the body up…

Something extraordinary occurs when we’re in the presence of a fellow sentient being. When we let go of language’s tacit conceptual constraints and judgments, we allow ourselves a kind of time travel toward our own inner animal. Science is revealing the ways that the physiology of our psychology can be found across species: the common neuronal structures and attendant nerve wirings that we share in varying measures with a startling array of both vertebrates and invertebrates, including fellow primates, elephants, whales, parrots, bees and fruit flies. Animal therapy makes us aware of this cross-species interconnectivity on the purest, subconscious level…It has been established that the tactile element alone in animal therapy releases endorphins, so called feel-good hormones that counteract the trauma hormones of adrenaline and cortisol.

…therapists involved in such programs speculate that their benefits actually derive from shutting down for a time some of our brain’s higher and sometimes cacophonous cognitive functions…Rather than augmenting higher-level consciousness, a substance like psilocybin actually shuts down our brain’s ego center, which, under duress, can confer crippling fear, guilt and insecurity, and instead allows people access to their unfettered emotions and sense of childlike wonder. Allows them, in other words, a mind-altering walk in the wood with no names…

“He looked down,” Martin recalls, “and she just gave him a little lick, and suddenly I couldn’t stop him from crying. Just that connection set free all of this stuff inside of him. She was the catalyst. There’s that ‘Some Enchanted Evening’ thing that happens. That’s real.”

~ Charles Siebert, excerpts from Why Close Encounters With Animals Soothe Us (NY Times, May 18, 2017)

 

Trail Therapy: Watch. Just Watch.


Steve Fugate lost both his children–his son committed suicide, and his daughter overdosed. Sixty-four years old, Mr. Fugate has walked across the United States seven times to raise awareness for depression and suicide and to inspire people he meets to “love life.”

Stick with it to the end…This Man is something special.

War

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You don’t know why you’re exhausted?
You’re fighting a war inside your head every single day.
If that’s not exhausting I don’t know what is.

My therapist


Credits: Quote – Borderline-ings Playbook via Eumoirous. Photography via Eclecticity Light

Plant myself at the gates of Hope

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I have a friend who traffics in words. She is not a minister, but a psychiatrist in the health clinic at a prestigious women’s college. We were sitting once not long after a student she had known, and counseled, committed suicide in the dormitory there. My friend, the doctor, the healer, held the loss very closely in those first few days, not unprofessionally, but deeply, fully — as you or I would have, had this been someone in our care.

At one point (with tears streaming down her face), she looked up in defiance (this is the only word for it) and spoke explicitly of her vocation, as if out of the ashes of that day she were renewing a vow or making a new covenant (and I think she was). She spoke explicitly of her vocation, and of yours and mine. She said, “You know I cannot save them. I am not here to save anybody or to save the world. All I can do — what I am called to do — is to plant myself at the gates of Hope. Sometimes they come in; sometimes they walk by. But I stand there every day and I call out till my lungs are sore with calling, and beckon and urge them in toward beautiful life and love…

There’s something for all of us there, I think. Whatever our vocation, we stand, beckoning and calling, singing and shouting, planted at the gates of Hope. This world and our people are beautiful and broken, and we are called to raise that up — to bear witness to the possibility of living with the dignity, bravery, and gladness that befits a human being. That may be what it is to “live our mission.”

~ Victoria Safford, excerpt from “The Small Work in the Great Work


Notes:


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