Sunday, September 28, 2014

Red Letter Daze

“Gimme a ticket for an aeroplane
I ain't got time to take a fast train
Lonely days are gone, I'm a-goin' home
'Cause my baby just wrote me a letter” The Letter by the Box-Tops

“You can ruin our reputation and our life with a few well-chosen words.” Marquise de Merteuil in Les Liasons Dangereuses by Pierre Choderlos de Laclos.

Letters, in spite of modern technology, social media, and pop cultural shifts, are still powerful means of communication. Letters can build up or discredit. Letters of recommendation can secure your ability to win that scholarship or get an interview. Love letters can intensify a connection between two people.  There are so many types of letters that differ in purpose. Letters of support . Letters of reprimand.  Dear John letters. Letters to Santa. Letters of resignation.  Letters to the editor.  Chain letters.  The list is varied as are the reasons for writing letters.  How can one to two pages of words truly capture and/or present a situation or an individual? 

I recently had to write an important letter and though I consider myself “good with words”, I found myself at a loss on what to write. As someone who spent a greater part of my career teaching young people to choose and to read words carefully and most of my life writing as an outlet, I now felt overwhelmed by my writing task. I agonized over words and phrases at first. Then I pushed forward, the printed word expressing opinions and emotions in ways I rarely do in person, as it tends to do. Nunca he logrado ser una persona sin pelos en la lengua; only through writing have I been able to truly express my thoughts fearlessly. With this particular letter, my purpose was to support someone with whom I have a great relationship. It is less challenging to write well of others when you think highly of them. If I dislike or fear someone, I may want to soften my words but why?  What do I gain by not being clear and concise? Why spare the person's feelings if their negative behavior has prompted a negative response? 


It’s been a lifelong journey for me to learn to speak my mind openly and aloud. There are situations when I would prefer to write a letter.  Ironically, I may have an opportunity in the next week in which I will have to do both.  I will wear red that day.  

Saturday, September 20, 2014

All I really need to know I learned watching The Exorcist

“Especially important is the warning to avoid conversations with the demon. We may ask what is relevant. Anything beyond that is dangerous. He’s a liar. The demon is a liar. He would like to confuse us. But he will also mix lies with the truth to attack us. The attack is psychological, powerful. So don’t listen. Remember that. Do not listen.” Father Merrin to Father Karras, The Exorcist



For most of my life, my fear of evil understandably overwhelmed me. From my childhood ponderings about good and evil to my adulthood grappling with evil in the people I encountered in my personal life, I often felt passive and powerless. I often felt as if I had barely escaped a terrible fate. Working as a teacher and administrator in environments where violence was a harsh reality, I began to realize that societal evil could be battled through strength of mind and heart. If I could be stable, focused, and compassionate, I might be able to reach those affected by the negativity and hatred in the world. An incident with a particularly memorable student helped me reframe my thinking and lessen my fears. (Half-hour with the Devil, 2006) Changes in my personal life helped build my strength.

But evil ain’t goin’ nowhere. It’s everywhere. In  Ferguson.   In Oakland. It might even sit across the table from you at work. I come to the table, both literal and figurative, with all kinds of experience and training. But some people and the situations they create require a different set of skills and more importantly, a unique mindset. So I go back, way back, to a moment that shaped me. I go back to the movie that has had a strong impact on me, The Exorcist.

Lately I have realized that the horror film offers some practical advice. In preparing themselves to face a monstrous demon, the two priests must strategize.  The veteran exorcist(for y’all who haven’t watched and dissected this movie dozens of times like I have, the title refers to the man with a tough job, not the poor girl victim)mentors his younger helper. He points out that even conversation can kill.   


Y alli lo tienes. Because if you’ve read this far, you know I’m not talking about the movie. The advice given can apply to any situation in which you meet with someone who takes actions that purposefully hurt you or others and whose words are weapons. Speak your truth and shut out their negative energy. 

I played this clip three times yesterday, once on my desktop and twice on my phone.Do Not Listen from The Exorcist 

I played it before I went behind closed doors with my mentor to confront evil.  We walked out safely. But the battle has just begun. 

Perhaps I should acquire some holy water. 

Friday, June 27, 2014

Emancipation

“…The exquisite realization of health;
O I say these are not the parts and poems of the Body only, but of the Soul…” Walt Whitman

“No tears, no time to cry
Just makin’ the most of life” As sung by Mariah Carey

"I sing because I'm happy
I sing because I'm free..." Civilla Martin and Charles Gabriel 

Lately, I have received good news about my health with little fanfare. No jumping and down. No shouting. No fist-pumping or high-fiving or end zone-dancing.  I think about it.  Instead, I take it in and breathe.   All that training in mindfulness is put into practice for several moments of serenity.  It has made these milestones sweeter somehow. 

In the last two weeks, I took on a new role.   While resuming my professional duties, I also became my own nurse. My morning routine once again shifted to include a wound care session.  Every day, I gathered my supplies: mirror, scissors, gauze pads, wound cleanser spray, and a Muppets bag M got at Subway containing skin protectant film, swabs, large Band-Aids, and Aquacel dressing.  I would remove the previous day’s bandage and shower (oh the joy of a real, warm shower without the incessant beeping alarm or the soggy plastic bags). Then I’d pack my own wound and tell my body to heal, heal so I can be cleared to travel and cleared to exercise. Once a week, I would take measurements as my home health nurses used to do and I began to see rapid progress.  Even before yesterday’s appointment, I knew I would hear good news.  Still, it was nice to hear my nurse say, “You’re free.” 

Of course, this journey is far from over. I will continue to dress my wound with topical ointment. My wound will close in a week or two. The scar from my surgery won’t heal for several months. I will have to be aware of any changes in my body, to see if the IGM is responding to my daily medication. In the immediate future, I will resume exercise to regain muscle and cardiovascular fitness.

I know I could have tied on my new running sneakers last night and gone out for my first run since February’s Superbowl Sunday 5k.  I know I could have worked out this morning.  But as with the removal of the Wound-Vac, the removal of the wound packing felt odd.  As before, I felt vulnerable and exhausted.  I slept better than I have in a few weeks.

 This morning, Rambo and I watched a movie about the end of the world and how one family faced it with serenity and with love.  Because along with wound care technology and the quality medical professionals I am fortunate to work with, I know I have made it through this experience  because of my will, the love of my family and friends, and the serenity that comes with accepting God’s grace. 


All is blessing.  

Thursday, June 12, 2014

A big bear hug


I did not samba in the parking lot when I left the hospital yesterday afternoon. In my mind, I pictured myself joining the roda. That celebration will come in time; perhaps after these first two weeks of being Vac-free.  But my good news wasn’t real until I saw my daughter. The look on her face was one of genuine joy, hope, and gratitude.  Our hug was one of homecoming. 

After 44 days, I’m no longer attached to Mr. Backpack. I will be slowly resuming my normal routine.  I will return to work Monday. I’m still restricted from exercise: half-marathon training and SambaFunk classes are on hold until the doctor sees more progress in my healing. My wound is not closed but is 1.5 centimeters close. The surrounding skin, sore and blistered from weeks of adhesive tape and air-tight sealants, will need to heal.  As for the cosmetic healing, that will be a longer process, six months or more and one I choose not to ponder for now. 


Strangely enough,  after the Wound-Vac was turned off, I felt exhausted and experienced a level of pain I hadn’t felt in weeks.  I didn’t let it intimidate me. It is my body's turn to take over the healing process. I will continue to take my recovery one day and one moment at a time.  Lots of bear hugs won’t hurt. 





Monday, June 9, 2014

My youngest dance teacher

When she steps out on the stage, she smiles widely and shows off her dimples. She looks out into the crowd with such joy and love that I often wonder if she can’t see her father or her grandparents through the stage lights or bright sunshine. She is dancing in the moment.

.


These past four months haven’t been easy for M. She has struggled with behavior issues at school. She has pushed back at home. Focusing and listening have been challenges.  As much as we have wanted to shield her, M has had to deal with the new normal in our household.  Most nights, she prays for Mommy to feel better. Though she nicknamed the Wound-Vac, she looks forward to its departure so she can give me a real bear hug.  It is both inspiring and heart-rending to watch her deal with these changes. She is one tough little girl.  I learn from her daily.  


I am grateful she shares my love for dance. She can forget her worries when she dances.  She deserves those moments.  


Sunday, June 8, 2014

Why them and not you: a short poem

Why them and not you

Because they love me
Because they love my child
Because they see the real me
Because they value me
Because they pray for me

See, we have no connection
We as in you and I
We are bound by obligation and duty
We have been told it must be so
But I refuse to choose you

I choose them
With them, I am part of an us
We are part of a family
We embrace and cherish

We hold

Fifteen reasons to pray

What I miss:
Bear hugs with my daughter
Running
Dancing
Feeling completely clean
Getting up from sitting without having to carry the vac

What I won’t miss:
Bandaging
Blistered, irritated skin
Pain
Knowing my daughter is suffering from stress
Being disappointed by others  

What I appreciate:
Being infection-free for five weeks
A renewed sense of humility
The love of my immediate family
The unflagging and unconditional support of my close friends and dance community
The opportunity to value the blessing of health