Tuesday, November 23, 2021

The Age of Reason. And Kindness. And Flexibility. And Empathy.

Written November of 2017.

I've been putting off writing about Brock for a while. Two years almost. I cannot figure out how to put into words these huge, intangible ways in which he has changed. Matured. Progressed. Developed. There is just something about that first born. That pioneer of your child-rearing career. That kid you brought home from the hospital and thought, "what the #$%k did we just do?" You are simultaneously proud of your little, walking miracle and yourself for every milestone, phase, grade, achievement, accomplishment.  You remain in complete awe of the capabilities this little person you are trying your best to mold and guide to be the best human they can be possesses, yet never stop seeing more potential. You look back on the difficult times, the things you thought might never change, and would always be a struggle, and realize, somewhere along the line, we figured it out.

Brock was born with so much energy, curiosity, willfulness and anxiety that I frequently told people that I believed had he been born to a less energetic, curious, willful and restless mother, they might not have found his antics so lovable, but rather, insanely frustrating. There were moments over the years that I worried about his ability to pay attention, sit still and focus in the classroom. I worried that his anxiety and obsessive/compulsive-type nature would hold him back from trying new things, making new friends, finishing his school work and a multitude of other things. I worried he may need medications or therapy.

Brock has so many little quirks, and it's hard sometime to know how others perceive them. Are they socially acceptable? Are they a problem or simply an annoyance? Will his persistence cause issues. Will he be bull-headed, stubborn and arrogant or learn to accept that others think and act differenly, and that's ok. Though as much as I want all of my children to be successful, liked, and well-adjusted, mostly I just want them to be happy. So, I, along with all of our family, tried so hard to guide and teach him along the way. Help him to react to changes of plans in a constructive way. How to deal with disappointment and how to learn from it. How to be kind to others no matter what they say or do to you. But how to still follow your heart. How to do what you love. How to be YOU.

Parenting is such hard work. You second guess your discipline. Your guidance. Your actions. Your words. Am I strict enough? Am I too strict? Do they know I love them and think they're hilarious, but that I have to correct them and quiet them in certain environments.

It's as if age 8 is the year that Matt and I (and our village) got to see all of our hard work come to fruition.

When we went on a walk along Brush creek. He saw the homeless man, and saw his stuff and immediately felt bad. You could see he wanted to do something for him. He kept repeating that "he felt bad he had no place to live." Empathy.

A teacher witness, that when he spontaneously & wildly kicked a ball at recess that landed right on a girl's head - he ran immediately to make sure she was ok. Instead of turning the other way, trying to ignore what just happened, like many do. Responsibility & Accountability.

He was awarded the Flexibility Virtue of the month. This is something we worked on with Brock, TIRELESSLY. He absolutely prefers to think in absolutes. 

He is so kind. I have to hold back tears when I write those words, because his kindness is simply so genuine and overwhelming. You cannot help but love Brock because there isn't a mean bone in that body. Maybe it was the slightly hippy-infused upbringing I experienced vicariously transposed, but Brock is very much a "live and let live" kind of guy. He has learned how to keep his anxiety and fears mostly to himself, while perhaps cautioning others just a bit.

Brock has almost no temper to speak of. What he lacks in actual line-waiting-type patience, he makes up for, by leaps and bounds, in patience of his fellow human's nature.

Though, we've known from an early age, Brock is a bright kiddo, with probably a pretty steller IQ, I am coming to realize that I believe his Emotional Intelligence (EQ) might be off the charts. Amazing how far he has come from the days that we wondered if he might be a socio-path.

*insert "restless" story*

My sister had 7 kids at the zoo one day. Brock being the oldest (at age 8). The kids were bizarrely lingering quite long at the exhibit of a creek with ducks in it. I mean - this is the ZOO!! Ducks you can often see on your very own street corner! Kids are weird. Anywho, one of the 2 year olds finally became agitated enough to start squirming about in the stroller. So, Leah, said, "Let's move on kiddos, Walter is getting restless."

Hours or days later - I can't remember at this point. Brock was having a conversation with Leah in which he was describing himself. He says to her, "What was that word? It wasn't anxious? It wasn't annoyed? It wasn't tired? It's that thing, you know, when you move a lot, and can't sit still or stop? You know, you called Walter it at the zoo?" And she pondered for a bit and said, "restless?"  And he lights up, "Yes! Restless. That's what I am. That's me."

Again, simply an example of his lifelong desire to be accurate and precise, as well as well spoken, and extremely insightful.

Thursday, November 18, 2021

Perspective - A Patient Encounter

When I first met her, I perceived she was nervous. I could sense the doctor skepticism. She simply had a negative aura about her. An Eeyore, if you will. A "no" person. A drag.

To my absolute non-surprise, she declined all screenings that a woman of her age is recommended to get. No labs. No pap. No mammogram. No flu shot.

I wondered why she had even come to the doctor.

I think she wondered that too.

I proceeded with the appointment in my usual manner. Attempting to keep the encounter warm, inviting, welcoming. Explaining, lightly and with a smile, all the reasons why these things are recommendations. What they are testing for, protecting us against, how tons of studies and science have deemed the benefits to far outweigh the risks. Ultimately, though, I always finish in earnest that I'm not here to force anyone to do anything. I am a steward of health, shall you choose to take my advice. Or not. I am obliged to educate. I take no offense.

Almost to the exact date, she arrived in my office, again, 1 year later. Same air of anxiety. Same negative aura. Her hair grey, her eyes grey, and even her skin a slight grey tone. As it was the year prior. To my surprise, she accepted the lab testing. She still refused the flu shot and the pap. She wavered on the Mammogram.

This time, she came forth with some extra tidbits. "The last time I had a mammogram, it turned into a whole ordeal. Another imaging test, a biopsy, and a lot of medical bills all for nothing."

I couldn't argue with that, except to say, we know that now, and won't retest the same spot, but it's still highly recommended. She said she'd think about it.

I considered that a win.

5 months later. Results of a mammogram came across my desk. She had gone, and it was abnormal. She had lymph nodes, that on report, didn't look great. My MA called her. She refused US for further imaging. She was sure this would result in all the bills and the same result.

I called her. I suggested she come in for me to examine. She obliged.

After I examine a patient, when I am trying to reassure them about lumps or bumps or all the things that Dr. Google has informed them is likely cancer, I say, "Trust me. I've felt cancer. More than I'd like to admit, and it gives me an immediate visceral reaction. I feel sick to my stomach." Cancer looks and feels completely unnatural. Inorganic. Wrong. "I didn't get that feeling. It's fine. We can just watch it."

When I felt the lump in her armpit. I couldn't say any of that. I felt sick.

After some gentle explaining, she still refused a biopsy, but was ok with an US.

The US confirmed our (the radiologists, mine, the patient's - despite her denial) suspicions. She agreed to a biopsy.

It came back invasive, stage 3, breast cancer.

I did what I do for anyone in this situation. I set up all their appointments. I get them in within days to see an oncologist. With in a week of diagnosis they have a plan and have maybe already started treatments. I call them. A lot.

"Are you ok? Who is your support system? Do you need help getting to your appointments?"

Yes. My cats. No, I'm fine.

She had no one. This home-body, single woman. Loner. Eeyore. As one might expect, had no one. Her parents dead. No siblings. No kids. I was stunned and stressed for her.

I reached out to people to find her a partner, or a group, some sort of support. But she quietly went on her way, through therapy. On her own.

I watched from afar. Via electronic medical record notes. She, as all my cancer patients do, abandoned my office for her new medical home. The oncologist, the infusion center, the lab, the imaging center. I don't need to add to her appointments.

I thought of her often. Seems to me cancer needs to be surrounded by strength, and warmth, and love to be destroyed. I worried her cats weren't enough.

Nine months later, she lands on my schedule.

I wondered why.

I quietly, and admittedly, nervously, knocked on the door as I stepped in to find a bright woman in a warm brown wig. With these shining blue eyes. A smile.

I hoped she didn't notice my second take and look of shock.

I smiled, I shook her hand, I remarked, "you look great! Tolerating treatment ok?"

She smiles and proudly says, "Why yes. I even started rowing while on Adriamycin!" (Notoriously an Awful chemo drug). She goes on to describe how well she's tolerated all treatments. That things are going well, she just has two more doses of her current med, and radiation is still an option.

We make eye contact the entire visit. I am just blown away. In front of my face, I'm seeing that a stage 3, dire and life-changing cancer diagnosis, has actually brought someone to life. She completely transformed. Her aura and energy bright and light.

"Doctor, thank you for calling me that day. Thank you for explaining to me that sometimes things in life are hard. Are too hard, in fact, to do them alone. That it's ok to find help, and that there are people out there who want to help. After this diagnosis, I realized how miserable the last 10 years of my life have been. How much I needed to change my job. I wrote down my regrets and realized I didn't want to keep them anymore. I am going to cancer support groups. I've made a friend. I'm sleeping better. I hope to one day help people in my same condition. Is it weird to say that this diagnosis helped awaken me to a better life?"

A normal person probably might have cried at that moment. I nearly did. Instead, I smiled, and said, that's not weird to say at all. Cancer provided you your silver lining...to life!

I hugged her, said, keep up the good work. And we parted ways.

I'll see her again.


Why?


 "And, there's nothing you wouldn't want to change on your body?" She asks incredulously. 



As if someone being perfectly comfortable with their physique is not a real thing. And by "She" I mean all of them. The collective she. Probably the "hes" too. Is anyone truly happy with their body and all the things that lie within? Where is the separation of physical - emotional - mental - spiritual? Is there a line?

I'm always met with such skepticism. Disbelief. I am hiding something. I am in denial. I am not being authentic or truthful with either you or myself. So much so, that I often wonder if she isn't right? Am I unhappy with a body part? Am I ignoring some inside itch to be someone else? Have something else? Secretly hope to not have some glaring blemish - as generally perceived by the outside world? 

Sometimes, I feel my thoughts are so different, and so against the grain, that I have to ask myself, "Am I crazy?"  When all parts of me feel so whole. Right. Comfortable. ...and fluid...

There is no permanent part of me. Not even my life. Ever changing, evolving, experiencing, withering, growing. We are so, so, so fluid. Like the water I lived in. Love. Enjoy. 

Are there things I might change at this exact moment? Sure. Like anyone, I can come up with a few imperfections. Are they things that I believe I CAN change? On my own? With the right training, research, discipline? Absolutely. I've always known I can accomplish anything -yet achieve nothing. In completeness. 

You do know, perfection doesn't exist, right? 

I've long since made peace with the proverbial mechanical hare. The moving target that I will never reach - and like our little Italian Greyhoud, Tater, who oft caught his prey then instantly panicked with a yelp: "wtf do I do now!?" - I think I would simply do the same. Where do I go from here?

Unlike, what I've observed {from what seems the majority} of my fellow man, I don't have a lot of arbitrary desires. If I want to change something, it's for a specific goal. Ideally, a multifactorial gain. I regard time & energy in the highest esteem. Don't spend it unwisely. 


"To what end?" Is my genuine, nonjudgmental and deeply curious reply.

Such a terse reply. I'm almost not allowed to ask it. So often she reacts with defensiveness - We are supposed to be unhappy with ourselves! You are doing this wrong - She whispers to herself.

If changing something about one's physique whether by diet, exercise, weights, surgery, injections, beauty products, supplements produces a result that fulfills a dream, a goal, a desire - please, don't ask permission. 

Don't seek acceptance for something so personal. Even if it's simple. Goals don't have to be lofty. Life altering. Goals are for you, and you alone. 

Don't misunderstand me, they can include others. You can want to be a better partner, mother, doctor. This will affect others, but it's still an individual change, desire, want.

It's all individual. To be the person you want to be is all up to you. It's inside of you. There's nothing initially external that will help you reach your goals. Improve your esteem. Get you a job. Nor a joyful relationship. And, the first stepping block isn't to change what you think society wants you to change. It's not to be like someone else. 

It's to be like YOU. 

And to become and live the most genuine "you" is to continually, truthfully, honestly and repetitively ask yourself the scariest of all questions: "Why?"  Over and over - until you get to the very core of your desires.

Why? Why do I want to change?

Or don't I?


Friday, September 24, 2021

The Hidden Art of the Lollygag.

George comes up to me one morning in the midst of the school and work readying frenzie and says to me, "I just don't get it. Mitch is the first one ready everyday AND he gets to play video games for like 30 minutes every morning. It's like he just wakes up, gets dressed, eats his breakfast and then sits and plays video games until we leave for school."


I say, "Right. That's exactly how it works. He gets up, does all the necessary things without dilly dallying or distraction, then gets more time to do what he wants while still getting out the door on time. What part do you not get, George?"

He sort of looks at me like I'm a crazy person as he fiddles with a cereal box, searching for a pen to do the maze on the back of it, with no shoes or socks on, and says, "I don't get it because I don't dilly dally!? I do the same thing as Mitch, but I don't have the time to play video games!"

And, I just laugh. "Bud, you are literally messing with a cereal box and telling me a whole, long, drawn out story about how you don't get how you don't have the same amount of time as Mitch, INSTEAD of actually just putting on your shoes and socks."

He laughs. "Ugh. Ok! I know! But there are so many more interesting things than just getting ready for school". He says using air quotes and deep change in inflection.

"So, you do get it then?"

I honestly can't offer much advice, as I suffer from the same affliction as George. Lollygagger's Syndrome.

In fact, I'm writing this "just real quick" before I go on a walk then eat lunch then continue planning our 20 year high school reunion then planning our weekend events - including Mitch's 8th birthday party - while also sending in all the meds and finishing all the charts from the morning and fielding texts from work, home, friends and family all during my 2 hour lunch break. (Before you get all amazed at my time management abilities - I WILL NOT accomplish even half of this. Especially, now that I'm typing.) 

Meanwhile, my lovely spouse, Matt is Mitch. I'll head up to bed 20 minutes before Matt with nothing to do but brush my teeth, change into pajamas and go to bed...yet, he ends up in bed with all these tasks completed before me, every time. Every time! I mean, the man simply finishes his routines, functions, projects, etc without distraction. So, I get it George. I really do. 

The thing of it is...I rarely regret my lollygagging. It sometimes {rarely} produces lovely, creative writing pieces. It most often results in plans for a fun weekend or evening. Or brightening someone's day {I hope} because of a silly photo or meme I've passed on to them via text. 

I run into kids, parents, teachers, family alike, and occasionally I'll get a "you won't believe what Mitch did" or a "I have a funny story to tell you about Mitch" or even a "love that kid" comment regarding Mitch. But I almost ALWAYS get these types of comments regarding George. 

Don't get me wrong. Mitch {and Matt} are awesome dudes. I love them more than anything. They offer many, many things that George {and I} do not. I truly could not select a preferred personality type. 

All I know is...for entertainment and procrastination purposes, you want George and I on your side. If you would like to *actually* accomplish your desired goal...bring in the other guys.

And thus, concludes, my somewhat pointless ramblings but chosen afternoon distraction activity for the day.


Saturday, March 13, 2021

Sedona.

TRAILS:

Devil's Bridge: Very cool, if you want to walk out on (or get a picture standing on) the bridge, you want to do this on a low traffic ay (like middle of week) or slightly poor weather. Otherwise, you will be waiting a few hours for the pic.  

Sunset we drove up to a spot that gave 280 degree views, very pretty, don't know the name.

Soldier's Pass: This is an awesome hike, and you can make it as long as you want (lots of trail break offs). This is where you can climb inside a cave, and also see the 7 sacred pools.  Possibly me favorite.

Fay Canyon Arch: We did this in the afternoon when we were sort of exhausted, short and easy.

Church in the Rock: So many people recommended it, I felt it was meh. Very populated, despite rain.

Cathedral Rock: Most advanced climb that we did. A bit nerve wrecking in spots, but definitely worth it. Very cool views at the top! Also THE MOST busy location be far. So, again, middle of week or bad weather is best bet. 

Birthing Cave: Super short hike, but a really cool little spot. You could also rent a bike and do the SUPER long trail around it. 


Soldier's Pass


Devil's Bridge

Fay Canyon

Soldier's Pass

Devil's Bridge

Church in the Rock

Sunset

Cathedral Rock

Birthing Cave

Soldier's Pass

7 Sacred Pools (Solder's Pass)

Birthing Cave

Cathedral Rock

Cathedral Rock

Solder's Pass

Fay Canyon Arch

Soldier's Pass

Devil's Bridge

Devil's Bridge

 We ate at this awesome little Brewery, Sedona Beer Company - highly recommend!!

Gerardo's for a nice dinner was fantastic. 

Secret Garden Cafe had very fresh, yummy food. 

Creekside was the best breakfast place we patroned. 

Dinner at Hideaway, had no complaints there either. 

We ate a few other spots, but they were definitely replaceable.