Thursday, March 23, 2017

Dogs, Sons, Perfection

It is some kind of national puppy day today. In our house, every day is puppy day. We:
1) make food for our dogs which involves beef, because store-bought food is kind of sketchy
2) put up wth dogs who choose to shit in the hallway instead of outside
3) allow certain dogs bed access
4) just love them so much, unconditionally

Awhile ago,  OK over a year ago, Buster died. He was a Border Collie who loved to run, who herded stones and who could probably outdo Donald Trump in an IQ test.

We have Miles, Zoe and Shasta now. Miles is addicted to running. Since I could find no support groups for Standard Poodles with Running Addiction, I just decided to run with him on a regular basis.

Zoe is old but spry. She does not enjoy exercise. She does enjoy leisurely walks and food.

Shasta has dementia, cataracts and a strong desire to eat. She is old, beautiful and annoying.

Dogs are relegated to pet status. That is, they serve our needs, and we try to make them happy and responsive to our needs. The question that arises for me is why are dogs our minions? Should they be expected to be obedient, unobtrusive. protective, happy to be on leash and polite in the human sense?

I am not sure anymore. I do think that it is nice that they don't kill us, because they could, with those teeth and that strength. But I no longer buy into the idea that they are supposed to be perfect. Dogs are alive, fairly smart except when they are not (and the same could be said for humans), they want a relationship with us and they are not privy to our fickle sense of polite.

As for me, I am glad to be greeted with unequivocal delight when I come home from work, and I appreciate the love of outdoors and running. Also, the dog spine pressed against mine at night is reassuring.

As for sons? Mine is in jail. But let me tell you this: He is not bad. We have decided, as a society, that good equals academic prowess, or athletic prowess or financial prowess. Just look at our current President. He is a billionaire, so we elected him. My son, behind bars, has more smarts than he does, and more compassion. But my son was:
1) adopted
2) bipolar
3) addicted

So, he was written off as less than. Less than Donald Trump, who has demonstrated that being smart, compassionate and self-aware is not a prerequisite to being the leader of the "free world." But we are not really free anymore. If you are Mexican: screw you. If you are from a country on the Muslim travel ban: screw you. If you are poor: screw you. If you are a woman: screw you, literally. If you are a dog? Well, I do not know Trump's stance on dogs, except to say he does not have one and that might be a sign. Dogs smell bullshit from a block away. Trump is mean, uneducated and rich. Dogs prefer nice, well-read and not so rich that they cannot stand some beach sand in the back seat of their car.

I might be biased, as my dogs are especially cool.

Back to my son: our local website (Lost Coast Outpost) that publishes instant news about criminals and local news has declared my son is evil and my husband and I inept. Here is what I have to say:
My son is beautiful.
Drug addiction is harsh.
Mental illness is real.
My husband and I try our best, and have two other kids who are highly successful.
We do not care what you think.
But why do you? And why are you so mean?

Happy National Puppy Day. If you have a dog, remember they are beings who deserve respect apart from us, who have an existence we cannot fathom and who could literally rip our throats out at any second, but choose not to.

Happy Parenting. If you have a child, young or grown, remember they are beings all onto themselves. They try their best, they are struggling to find their place in the world, and academic and athletic prowess is nice but certainly not the be-all, end-all of success. Success is that they go into the world with humility, respect, kindness and hope.

I am an expert. I have kids, dogs, patients and a chronic illness. I love my kids, love my dogs, accept my imperfect body, and continue to get out of bed every day. Yet, I am not an expert, because I never know for sure what I am doing is right. I just want to express love, respect, and hope.

My final piece of advice is this: Trust Beethoven. That guy was deaf but still wrote the best music ever.  He could hear with his soul, and he loved macaroni and cheese. What else do you need to know?

Wednesday, March 15, 2017

Hashtag No Excuses

As a music major, a hashtag is always a sharp. Not a sharp in the sense of the medical world.

Rather, a sharp indicating a half step higher than the usual note in music.

A double sharp is an X. Meaning two half steps higher on the musical scale than usual, at least in music. In medicine, it is a chromosome associated with females. In movie ratings it means--ick. In sports, like the X-games, it means you are doing a sport which is potentially life-threatening by its very nature.

But I digress before I even begin.

What is on my mind today is not quitting. Not quitting life, not quitting parenting, not quitting running, not quitting music, not quitting hope, not quitting trying, not quitting trying to plant a vegetable garden even though the Redwoods blot out the sun, not quitting checking the microwave to see if Obama is in there somewhere and planning to rescue us anytime soon.

I watch a lot of people struggle in their daily life and try my best to offer some advice on healing. I watched people in Guatemala on my recent trip there, where I was part of a group fitting paralyzed people, mostly children, with wheelchairs, and I saw their struggle and also the mundanity of that struggle. Struggle does not belong to others. Struggle is the human condition. My kid and I learned to fit these people to wheelchairs which reduced the need for their family members to carry them everywhere. Carry them everywhere. Consider that. Like this 14 year old guy with Muscular Dystrophy.

My kid and someone else's kid, Guatemala, 2/2017

Why not give up? In Guatemala, we met a woman who walks a marathon twice weekly to go to the "laundromat" with her family's clothes, which basically is a cement tub that she scoops water into, sort of like taking the clothes to the river, but in the hills, where the Mayan people (who are > 60% of the population, mind you) were pushed, there is no river or water.

The "Laundromat", Guatemala, 2/2017

What compels her to keep this up? I mean she is not getting any race medals or swag. I assume her family appreciates it, but in my experience as a mother, there is not a whole lot of verbal gratitude for doing the scut work of parenting life.

I like to look for examples of geriatric acts of athletic stupendousness. Like this 65 yo sub 6 minute miler. Or like the Iron Nun:

It helps me shift my perspective of the possible. It helps me feel less sorry for myself. It helps me see there are not a lot of great excuses.

This is not to say we should all be doing Iron Man level athletics, or X-Games level daring, or even walking a marathon to do our laundry. Would it not be nice to have a way to do laundry closer to home? But greed begets struggle, and therein lies the rub. It is a First World problem to need to create struggle (Iron Man Triathlons, marathons, going to the gym, and all that excellent stuff). It will be interesting to watch the next 4 years unfold, as struggle for basics becomes more of a reality for many Americans. For the record, by the way, I met no "bad hombres" in Central America. But man, they drive like crazy people. Way worse than even Californians

Why do we create struggle? I defer to my philosophy gurus to answer this, but ultimately I think we need to feel connected to each other (which is a struggle), connected to our bodies (ouch), connected to a higher purpose (what does it all mean?????) and recently, connected to our electronic devices. I cannot count how may times my watch has told me to "Move!" It is disconcerting, honest and fairly hilarious.

Last night, after work, despite my excuses:
-on call 24/7
-worried constantly about my kids and patients
-a horrible parent, I feel
-gas tank almost empty: in my car and in my body

Despite all those valid issues, I drove north and ran some hilly, sandy, rocky, heart-shattering beautiful terrain.

Trinidad, March 2017

I ran. Not away, but to, not in struggle, but in gratitude, not unaware but awake.


Twitter is ridiculous and kind of fun. I am trying to picture the Guatemalan laundromat women posting on twitter.

Marathon and laundry! In my skirt! Take that, gringo gym rat. #no excuses

Struggle on. It is what we do, us humans.