Me Too?

_DSC0351I have been in deep reflection over this “Me too” phenomenon.  I have been giving it careful consideration trying to tally those moments that would allow me to say, ah yes, it has happened to me, too.  It turns out, I don’t think I can say, “me too” quite that easily.

There was this one time when I was a teenager.  I was waiting at a bus stop when a creepy guy in a wheelchair wheeled himself right up next to me and grabbed my knee.  He was easy to escape.  I just got up and walked away.  I turned back to make sure he wasn’t hot on my heels and noticed that he was missing the same exact knee that he touched on me.  Maybe he was just feeling nostalgic for things passed.  Maybe he was just copping a feel.  Either way, I jumped onto the first bus that arrived oblivious whether it was the right one to get me home.  Thankfully, it was and the creepy wheelchair guy with his missing leg shrunk into the distance.

As a freshman in college, my rag tag friends and I decided to spontaneously drive to New Orleans from Tallahassee for Mardi Gras.  Unfortunately, we didn’t have a car between us.  I remembered Drew from philosophy.  He had a car.  We convinced him to join the fun and without any idea where we were going, where we’d be staying, we all piled in his car and took off for the Big Easy.  In this story, Drew was a perfect gentlemen.  It’s the crowds that were the aggressor.

I just remember the massive, oppressive, stifling crowds that could so easily just sweep you up and carry you off, grabbing and groping tits and ass along the way (never pussy, that’s just wrong, but really isn’t it all wrong??).  The hands came out of no where and everywhere.  I had to get out of that fucking crowd.  There were no faces so you couldn’t admonish the attackers.  After a few hurricanes, it didn’t matter quite as much.  I also remember sitting on the side of the street watching the parades, catching beads while sitting next to the actress that played Punky Brewster.  We got plenty of beads and the funny thing is neither of us ever lifted our shirts.

What I do know is that as a female I have had to quiet myself.  I have had to subdue my shine. I have had to lower my head, avoid eye contact, as to not welcome an attack.

When I was in residency, one of my attendings had my creep meter resounding at full blast.  I wasn’t the only one, our whole group noticed and met with the administration to voice our concerns.  I didn’t instigate this effort, but after that meeting he somehow turned his focus on me. He also went to administration and complained about my attitude.  They recommended that I seek counseling.  I didn’t have to, but I obliged.  The Psychiatrist said he wasn’t sure why they made me come, told me to just put my head down and get through it.  Don’t make waves.  Don’t say anything.  Just finish.  Graduate.  And get the fuck out of there.  He said it just like that.  So I did.  I quieted myself.  I dulled my shine.  I endured.  And I hated myself for it.

Years later, I ran into another former resident.  She told me to look up that attending from years before.  She wouldn’t tell me why, just said check him out.  Turns out that asshole had lost his license to practice medicine because of inappropriate behaviors and prescribing practices.  This is not so easy to do.  Doctors almost never have to give up their licenses.

There have been numerous instances over my years of study where I had to make myself small.  Quiet.  Unheard.  Dim my shine.  To be fully me would be to overpower, subdue, not physically, but mentally the men in my vicinity.  I learned that early on.  Maybe even from my father.  When my mother stepped out of line, he made sure she got right back in.

For some odd reason, I chose a career dominated by men.  Men who are often quite brilliant and quite insecure.  There were many times that I was embraced (and not in a pervy way).  They saw my shine and encouraged it.  Both men and women.  Because women aren’t completely innocent. When a woman sees another woman step out of line, she knows it brings attention to us all.  It puts us all in the crosshairs.  Instead it was those people that encouraged me that I chose to emulate.  My shine recognizes the shine in you and I want to encourage it. That’s why I do this job.  The funny thing is when someone is bright and shiny, it doesn’t diminish those around them.  We combine our brilliance.  We become bigger and brighter together.

Me too.  I have responded to the fear that those in authority have tried to use to control me.  I have let the fear win.  I won’t do it again.  Nothing, no one, is worth diminishing your shine.

 

 

 

 

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How to Start the Perfect Campfire

_DSC0393Unfortunately, for you -the reader, the title of this blogpost may be a little misleading.  You see, I really don’t know how one starts the perfect campfire.  I didn’t grow up camping.  I never learned to start a fire with a flint, stoke that fire, or cook an edible meal over an open flame.  I lived in the city.  I found camping later in life, a comfortable kind of camping where you get in your RV and drive your living room and bathroom facilities with you, park it in a desirable location, and essentially camp in complete and total comfort.

Even though I lived in the city, I always enjoyed visiting the wilderness.  I enjoyed spending the day hiking through the woods, sitting by a crackling fire, swimming in the lakes, and picnicking under ancient trees.  I also liked leaving, sleeping in my own bed, where there are no bugs, in the coolness of air-conditioning.  That’s why camping in an RV is so appealing.  In an RV, one can visit beautiful and remote places while finding respite in the comforts of home.

I once spent the night in a tent.  This was likely one of the worst nights of my entire life.  When I was about 17, my cousin and uncle invited me to hike part of the Appalachian Trail.  Even though I had not grown up hiking and camping, I had always dreamed of being the kind of person that hiked and camped.  There is something both brave and adventurous that I associate with a person who can easily use the restroom behind a tree.  I wanted to be that kind of person.

Our plan was to spend a week on the trail, carrying all the gear we needed for survival on our backs, and sleeping under the stars each night.  When I arrived and we began the trek, it was quickly apparent that my cousin and uncle were not in hiking shape.  After only a few hours on the trail, my uncle looked like he was going to have a heart attack and my teenage male cousin only cared about finding a stream to wash his hair.  It wasn’t even time for lunch yet, but his sweaty hair was already unacceptable.  We only lasted one night.

I must admit that although I always dreamed of being the kind of person that could hike the Appalachian Trail, I was relieved when we plodded our way back to the Honda Accord which was surprisingly close to where we camped (we hadn’t gotten far), packed our gear in the back, and took off for the comforts of civilization.  I was happy to leave because I had spent the entire night trying to find and remove a rock that was poking me in the back through the floor of the tent and listening to my cousin lament the loss of clean hair.  The thought of an entire week of such discomfort was more than I could bare (If only one could sleep in an RV along the trail what a better experience it would have been!).

One of the highlights of the entire 24-hour trip was the nighttime campfire.  After a day of hiking, we found an adequate campsite and set up our tents.  My uncle wanted to start the campfire to cook supper.  He told me the kind of wood to collect for the perfect campfire.  It wasn’t hard.  He needed some sticks, some dry brush, and some larger dry logs.  I collected the items on the list and my uncle layered them according to size, the larger logs on the bottom.  Before long, we had a lovely raging fire and a pot of boiling water for Ramen noodles.  As the shadows grew long, our bellies fool of cheap college food, we settled in around the fire watching the flames frolic and dance.  The fire was a lone beacon of light in the vast darkness of the wilderness, a kind of an analogy for our place in the world, small, bright, and fierce with all the potential to burn down the forest but contained by the boundaries of its kindling.  The campfire beckons.  It calls us home to a place beyond our understanding, somewhere in the subconscious that understands how the ghosts of our ancestors used its power for survival and to forge the foundation of our civilization.

The quest to build the perfect campfire is easily obtained.  Any way will do.  You don’t need me to tell you that.  The campfire itself is the goal.  The fire will find its way no matter how you stack the logs.  The prefect campfire is the one that you start and tend.  The one that you pursue in the wilderness.  The one that you and your family sit around, eating and laughing and telling stories, making memories.  The perfect campfire happens every time our family hits the road in the RV, sets up camp and pulls out the fixings for s’mores.  It is perfect every time.

The fire illuminates the past.  It connects us to the beginning.  It is a reminder that even with all the comforts of our century, like internet, air conditioning and sleeping in the comfy bed of an RV, we are lost without the foundations of nature, the firelight in the darkness that calls us home.   Being in nature, no matter how we go about it, whether in a tent or in an RV, brings us back to the source.

 

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Trump unfiltered is a health risk that is tough to avoid

Last night I dreamt that I smoked one cigarette after another. I was ravenous. Light it up, suck it down, and do it again. This went on and on. It made me happy, enveloped in a cloud of smoke with a goofy smile on my face. The weird thing is that I don’t even smoke. […]

via Trump unfiltered is a health risk that’s tough to avoid — THE SHINBONE STAR

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Hurrican’t

IMG_2343You really can’t understand the mentality of a Floridian unless you are one.  You could never really imagine what it’s like standing on your front porch while a hurricane bears down on you from all sides.  Witnessing the shear power of the wind to bend and twist, to unearth and shred the steadfast landmarks of your life until nothing familiar remains.  The sound is reminiscent of a freight train barreling down the tracks at full speed while you are tied to them.  You hope you are tied to them, anyway, lest you be pulled into the vortex.  Only in the very beginnings of the storm can one truly witness this.  To be out too long in the weather would be deadly.  The fear starts to overcome the curiosity.  There is a perceptible change in barometric pressure and the deepest parts of the brain send chemicals to the rest of the body signaling –it’s time to go, this shit’s about to get real.

If you haven’t lived through a hurricane, you could never understand the feeling of being equal parts afraid for your life and more alive than you’ve ever been.  It’s exhilarating and horrifying.

I’ve been there.  I’ve done that, and to be honest, I never want to do it again.

I feel a kindred spirit with my Floridian sisters and brothers who chose to stay despite the dire warnings.  There is a undeniable urge to bear witness.  Not so much for the spectacle, but because it feels like it’s part of the plan.  This is your home, your stuff, your family, your neighborhood, your neighbors.  There is a need to be there for each other, to hunker down, survive, crawl from the wreckage, and rebuild, together.

Life is like that.  We must be there for each other in the good times and the bad.  And even more so in the bad.  When it’s bad, that’s the signal to step up and do the right thing.  Humans have survived through the millennia because we discovered that there is strength in numbers.  We are better when we are numerous.  We are better when we work together for a common goal -to survive.

To stay is bold.  To stay is brave.  To stay is batshit crazy.

After the storm, it is eery.  It is too quiet.  Even the birds are gone.  People start to move out of their shelters, slowly at first, cautious steps into an alien world.  The sky is grey -lined with white clouds in strips moving outward like ripples in a pond.  There is a cool crispness in the air.  That’s strange, but welcoming since the air conditioning will likely not crank on for weeks.  Nothing is as it was.  It’s as if the great winds had blown the entire town backwards in time, before cars and power and cell phones and grocery stores and shampoo and running water.  It’s like starting over from scratch.

After the storm, the first place I wanted to see was the beach.  I wanted to stand at the place where the storm came ashore and tried to tear my town apart.  It missed by about 50 miles and I wanted to tell it so.  I stayed.  You missed.  This time.  Standing there, I knew we got lucky.  The ocean was still angry, the beach sand now covering the roads, dotted by unrecognizable twisted bits and pieces of condos, as if thrown about by a toddler in a tantrum.

Looking at the ocean, I had faced the fear, but still felt fearful.  I would never do this again.  The next time, I knew, I would leave.

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Southern Charms

I don’t think Southerners are aware, but outside of the South, no one really cares about the Civil War or its monuments. The world has moved on, the country has changed. It’s on to bigger and better things. It has forgotten about the battered and wounded Confederate soldier, the burned and desecrated white plantations. It […]

via Southern Charms — THE SHINBONE STAR

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Sunflower Power

133535Everyday for the past 3 weeks, I have driven the 35 miles to work and watched this little patch of sunflowers grow on the side of Interstate 40.  I am enough of a narcissist to think that the little patch of flowers is meant just for me.  I know it is the work of a road crew that plants seasonal flower seeds on the sides of the interstate in North Carolina.  It’s probably some government mandated beautification project.  It matters not.  Those were placed for me.  They make me smile even when I don’t want to.  Those are my sunflowers.

The minute I turned 18, I got my first (and only) tattoo.  I didn’t know exactly what I wanted, I just knew I wanted one.  My mother gave me the money as a birthday present.  My dad had no idea what we were up to.  I don’t think he would have cared, but there is an awkwardness to growing up when you are a girl.  You tend to keep your dad in the dark for as long as possible.  He seems the most vulnerable and damaged by the relentless onslaught of womanhood that envelopes his little girl.

My boyfriend researched the place and took me to Tatt’s Taylors in Fort Lauderdale.  He said it was the best.  I looked through books and the endless pictures on the wall and I fell onto a lovely little image of a black and white sunflower.  That was it!  I wanted that one!  The tattoo artist took some liberties with the simple image on my right ankle and colored it with yellows and browns and purple highlights.  It wouldn’t be long until I was off to college with my sunflower tattoo in tow, like a kind of talisman of freedom.

Over 20 years later, it’s amazing how faded the tattoo now appears, the purple and yellows barely perceptible, but the spirit of the image remains.  I often think that someday I need to get it touched up.

On my drives to and from work on the interstate, I watch the way the sunflowers move to face the sun.  What a brave flower it is!  It faces the sun!  It finds the greatest source of light and follows it as it moves across the sky.  It doesn’t know that most of us shrink from the sun; it is too bright, too hot, too intense.  But this flower doesn’t wither.  The fierceness of the sun only compels it.

I once interviewed for a residency position in Asheville, NC.  If you have any experience with Asheville, you would know that it is kind of weird.  Not to be outdone, the residency interview in Asheville was weird, too.  From what I remember, there was a point in the interview where a group of us interview-ees came together in one room.  We were given paper and pencils, markers, etc and asked to draw something that represented us.  Then we had to share it with the group and explain what our art project meant.  In some ways, this tactic is brilliant.  It forces typical left-brained med students to flex their right-brained artistic side.  I had repressed my right brain so completely by now that I absolutely floundered.  I drew a sunflower and I remember talking about how it followed the sun, about how it was fearless.

Other people drew pictures of themselves helping children in third world countries during their summer break.  I wasn’t so worldly or selfless.  Maybe I just wasn’t quite weird enough.  Needless to say, I didn’t get an acceptance letter from Asheville.

Today, as I drove past the same flowers, now standing tall against the 92 degree heat, they seemed a little more wilted than usual.  The heat appeared to evaporate the life out of the bright green leaves.  The flowers, however, still looked bright and yellow, staunch and proud.  I wonder how much longer my lovely flowers will greet me.  How much longer can they resist the oppressive summer sun before they start to wilt and become brown?  What will it be like to see them fallen over, each leaning against the other trying to be supportive in their last days?  Do they know their time is coming to an end?

I, too, am like the sunflower.  I stand proudly, thinking I’m strong, not realizing my helplessness.  I do not know my vulnerability to the blazing powers that sustain me.  I am oblivious.  Does it really matter that the radiation and heat will burn me from the outside in, as long as I stand my ground, relentlessly resisting until my resistance relents?  It’s the stand that matters.  Taking a stand.  Come what may.

 

 

 

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A Call to Arms

140618113400-12-iconic-vietnam-war-restricted-horizontal-large-galleryI have never been a fan of 45.  The reason is simple, the origin of my dislike is clear.  He takes the thing that I value most, the thing that speaks my innermost secrets, conveys life and death, healing and forgiveness, and he spits it out like rotten caviar.  He has no regard for the power of words.

Words require thought.  One must carefully choose the little gems, rolling them over, chipping away at the rough parts to reveal the beauty before they are thrust into the world.  His words are not vetted in such a way.  They are hurled and spat, leaving bits of white spittle in the corners of the mouth as they leave their remnants hastily behind.

Words bring life.  Words can also bring death.

Proverbs 12: 18-19 The words of the reckless pierce like swords, but the tongue of the wise brings healing.  Truthful lips endure forever, but a lying tongue lasts only a moment.

Mere words can thrust nations into battle, the lives of millions in the balance.  For some, his words feel like freedom.  He speaks his mind.  He says pussy and fuck and the Christian brothers and sisters don’t bat an eye.  If I say pussy or fuck, my Christian friends will ghost me and pray for me and politely turn their children’s gaze away from me.  For some, his words speak their innermost desires.  To make America great again.  To make America whiter, prouder, richer.  No more living off the government you good-for-nothings.  While the social security and disability checks of the great white masses are being cashed to buy funny red hats and Confederate flags.

Even my words are affecting some.  Some people are becoming angry, some are nodding in agreement.  There is power in that, but imagine the power when your words are heard by the entirety of the world.  When every human within the range of a broadcast can hear the words “fire and fury like the world has never seen.”  To yell “fire” in a crowded movie theatre when there is no fire will get me arrested.  To yell “fire” to the entirety of the world will plummet us into a nuclear war the likes of which, he is right, the world has never seen.

Revelation 20:9 And they came up on the broad plain of the earth and surrounded the camp of the saints and the beloved city, and fire came down from heaven and devoured them.

For some his words lit a fire inside of them, a call to arms, to lift up the bayonets of the past revolutionaries to battle the evil tyrant oppressors of the world.  To some his words unleashed the cries of a million grieving mothers, holding the American flag wrapped up in a triangle, a sad, barren replacement for the lives of their beloved children.

For me his words filled my soul with sorrow.  His words do not reflect mine.  His words are harsh and mean, careless and cruel.  His words do not promote life.  They promote fear.  Upon hearing his words, I felt myself cower inside.  War is coming.

 

 

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