Poem: Redemption


A missing gem

among the living

never there to begin with

The universe figured out

the reality of the ending

before it even started

Then we figure out

how to plug the hole

that ended up

being left

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A Thanksgiving Perspective


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As we near Thanksgiving I was ruminating on the President’s speech on immigration last night. I don’t like to get too political here on my blog, but I feel compelled to share a few thoughts.

First, I have to say (and which will possibly surprise or annoy some), Thanksgiving is my least favorite holiday. My feelings are based on a few reasons: it bothers me that we pick a ‘day’ to be thankful when it feels to me that so many of us don’t feel thankful much of the time (just listen to people around you); people overeat and stuff themselves on this day when so many in this country and others are starving and we continue to be so wasteful with food in this country–not to mention how unhealthy we are around food in this country; and finally the origins of this holiday seem profoundly hypocritical to me given the suffering of the Native Americans in this country today. These are my feelings, so I often spend it working, alone and/or fasting. Plus as one maitre de at a restaurant once said: Thanksgiving is a rather tragic holiday for a vegetarian. (Now I’m a vegan and gluten-free!! )

So here we are in 2014 with an immigration war raging again. It’s not the first time the politicians have fought this battle, and it’s far from over. But I thought about this war, and I thought about Thanksgiving. And I thought about those Pilgrims and the first steps they took on this land when they emigrated here. How they had hopes and dreams for a better life. How they had suffered dreadful seas and weather and lost friends,  family and left the homes they knew. They did it because they had a glimmer that maybe they could have something new, forge new fields and build a new, freer government.

They were met by strangers when they set down. Those immigrants who put their feet on this land, not their land, but the land of other caretakers who had lived here for centuries and followed the way of earth. They came in droves after and pushed the natives back. Killed the animals and brought theirs. Cut down the trees and planted their crops. Brought disease and alcohol. More immigrants came from other lands and this nation of ours grew and grew. Cities flew up. Pollution filled the skies. Cars filled the streets. The natives were placed on small tracks of lands and were told this was all they had now.

And now generations of those immigrants call themselves Americans. We, the descendants of those immigrants, call this country great. New immigrants want to come because it is a great nation with opportunity, money, jobs, education. Other immigrants, just like those first ones want to come here because they have the same hopes and dreams to make a better life for themselves and their children.  They climb fences, swim rivers, deal with police, get shot…anything to come to our wonderful country and to get away from terrorism, drug dealers, and murderers.

So on Thanksgiving, when people sit around their tables to give thanks–remember your ancestors. Remember where we all came from and why we are here and free. Think about why others might want to be also. Remember we’re not perfect either. We took when we came. Maybe we need to pay it forward now by doing right to some new immigrants because it may certainly be too late to make up for what we’ve done to the Native people who were already here.

Being On My Game


A weird thing happened to me on Friday on the ambulance. I’ve been an emergency worker for almost 20 years and can say that only one other time have I been hurt by a patient.

We were called to meet the police for a patient. Anything that involves the police is usually never good and this certainly was the case for this call. The patient was face down in a driveway surrounded by way too many police officers.

On closer inspection and after hearing the story, we came to find out he had been assaulted with a baseball bat and was extremely drunk. Over the years I’ve dealt with many intoxicated patients and they are usually happy or angry. This guy was the latter. Pissed off and very aggressive.

This should have been my first clue we should have brought PD with us. My partner was quick enough to realize that I shouldn’t be in the back alone with this guy, but luckily extra people were showing up because it was change of shift. Unfortunately, the wrong person ended up in the back with me.

It’s our job, no matter what, to try to keep a situation under control and to try to remain professional and under control ourselves. Sometimes this can be extremely difficult given the harsh conditions we are expected to perform under and the unpredictable patients. This was one of the cases.

The partner I ended up with in the back that night has also been under his own stress and personally does not have a high tolerance for abusive patients. So this was a volatile situation waiting to happen. I suppose I should have realized it.

From the get go the patient was mouthy and rude, swearing and pushing all the buttons he could with both of us. It becomes very hard to feel the compassion and sensitivity to help a person when they are calling you every name in the book! But try we must and realize that it’s maybe the alcohol, personal pain or some other reason that makes the person act the way they do. It’s never our job to judge. But still….it’s not easy!

So the situation became more ramped up and the patient kept demanding us to move him, and the more we explained what we were trying to do, the more angry he got. My partner ended up moving him (because he got angry and upset himself) a bit rougher than he would have normally.

The patient immediately knew what was going on, and that’s when he just flipped out. His swearing escalated and his anger soared. He ripped off the collar we had put around his neck to protect his spine and flung it. It hit me square in the face! I was stunned and it hurt.

But now all bets were off. I knew this guy meant business and while my partner wasn’t right, we were potentially in danger in this little box. So I rapidly drew up some medications to calm the guy down and some pain medications too (which I planned anyway). It was explained they were to help him and he willingly received them.  And everything finally became in control.

Police were waiting when we arrived. The patient apologized to me (although he was still angry at my partner), but I explained to him what he had done to me was uncalled for because I had done nothing but try to help him. And I told the police he assaulted me.

After the call, I did talk to my partner and explain that I felt what he had done was unprofessional. He hadn’t realized what he had done or how upset he had become. We are all only human after all. He felt this guy kept screaming that he was choking and wasn’t listening, so he ‘rapidly’ moved him.

It was a good lesson to us both to be more diligent. We should have brought the police from the beginning. My instincts had kicked in long before he hit me that I should give him something to calm him down. Sometimes verbal reasoning is futile as in this case. Substances blur all reason.

I have no idea what this guy is like normally. Honestly, I have no desire TO know. But we were lucky this time. I could have been hurt much worse. But it scared me. And I know who to be in the back with now in the case of a dangerous patient. We have to trust our partners with our lives in my business. And we always have to be on our game. Because we never know: we can save a life, or lose ours.

The Power Of Support


Recently I experienced something different with a new and dear friend. He took me to one of his AA meetings. While I’ve heard about them for years and had contemplated attending one when someone close to me was struggling with addiction, this was my first. I was awed.

While many of them don’t allow visitors and are closed, this one was open and they warmly welcome family members, new alcoholics or people simply interested or needing guidance. For me as a paramedic, an empathetic person and a family member of an addicted person, I found it profoundly moving. That a group of complete strangers can gather together to tell their individual stories and help one another is a concept that many groups could take a hint.

I was first struck by the varied and heterogeneous group I saw! The room was filled with men and women both young and old, bikers, business people, well dressed, dressed down, tattooed, pony-tailed, smoking, non-smoking, coffee-drinking, water toting, bandannas, pierced, fresh-faced, lived hard,gray haired, no hair, bleached blonde hair and with kids in tow– but all with one thing in common: alcohol. Some had been dry for a day, some for 40 years!

It was a meeting where some from other groups got up to tell their stories: who they were as alcoholics and who they were now and how AA had helped them. The honesty and raw human sharing brought me to tears. I haven’t had a drink in many years, and never did have a problem with it, but I’ve had my share of demons. And I know what it’s like to face them and lose and face them again! These were some of the lucky ones that found a way out, a way through their pain, their darkness into the light and into a supportive atmosphere. They are on the path to healing.

So many of us stay tucked in a ball of ourselves when we are in pain not wanting anyone to know we are hurt. They call it ‘guarding’ in the medical field when you have a part of your body that is hurt. But I saw the power of what sharing your pain and your story can do. Maybe you will fall again, but in the right group, or with the right person, they will help pick you up. If you are alone, you will stay curled up and hurt.

Learning to ask for help can be the hardest thing to do. Admitting and knowing we have a problem is the first step toward healing. Once we reach this step, reaching for the hands on the top of the stairs will pull us up to the top of the landing. And from there we will see the horizon ahead: the blue sky, the sun and the hope that we can’t feel laying alone at the bottom of the staircase.

So remember, if you know someone who is in need of support–any kind, remember to reach out and lend it. Gently, lovingly and with your caring heart. It’s a gift money can’t buy.

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Fighting Litter


 

Every year around Earth Day, my town does a cool thing: they provide these blue bags for residents to collect litter on the side of the road. But better than that, after it’s filled up with garbage, you can simply leave it and the town will pick it up. They do this for 2 or so weeks. The rest of the year, you’re on your own if you want to be a good Samaritan–and mind you, many of us are in my neighborhood. But those of us that are, are then left to bring the bags to the recycling center.

Today, when I filled two of these bags, which I did on my own (you can collect with a group), I was awash with a mix of emotions. It ranged from anger, pride, disgust, annoyance, dismay, hope and sadness.

Fifty years ago, when I was a teenager, I participated in the very first Earth Day. Back then I was a kid and it was a fun thing to do, but I had no real sense of the long-term impact of what I might be doing. Although I was a person that did have certain leanings, even then, I can’t say that I felt the same passion about the planet that I do today. But the seed was planted.

As I walked outside on this lovely New England today, I reflected on how much hasn’t changed in these 50 years. That we still have to go around and pick up after other people who continue to toss their garbage outside as they drive along. I guess I was kind of dumbfounded. I did a survey of what I picked up and here were the top findings:

1. Soda cans

2. Alcohol bottles

3. Fast food garbage: bags, plasticware, boxes etc.

4. Cigarette boxes/cigarette butts

5. Coffee styrofoam cups or plastic cups

6. Candy wrappers

7. Plastic bags

I found this rather interesting. It’s tempting to make a judgement here, but I won’t. You all can make your own. I personally keep a garbage bag in my car. I’m not sure I can understand what possesses someone to toss something out the window? Why, if you are eating fast food, you can’t simply wait until you get where you are going to dispose of your waste there?

Remember the days where there was a deposit on bottles? Then people didn’t just toss them! They would go around TRYING to find them so they could make a buck! Maybe these coffee places should make more of an effort to make everything recyclable if their some clientele may just throw stuff out their windows? Like those recyclable peanuts they use to wrap things–could this same material be used for iced coffee?

But what it comes down to is a change in attitude. I do see it in the grocery store. Thirty years ago I was the only one bringing in my own bags–now I see lots of folks doing it AND the stores promoting it! Some even give you a discount if you have them! Maybe coffee shops could do this by telling you to bring your own drinking cup and get a discount? Or you could get a card that would get stamped every time you had your own cup. Eatable candy wrappers? Deposits back on bottles? Come on people, this is America! We have to be smart enough to figure out how to make this better!

When a bagger in the grocery store still rolls their eyes at me when they have to pack my bags (which is rare now), I tell them (because they are usually young), hey I’m doing this for you! The less garbage we all produce, the longer this earth will be here for you. Does it sink in? Maybe not. But it makes me feel better to say it.

Scrooge Of Thanksgiving


As some of you who follow my blog know, I’ve been attending my local UU church a little more regularly. Today was our ‘harvest supper’. UU’s would never call it a ‘Thanksgiving’ dinner, because that would be labeling it something traditional and potentially politically incorrect for some. That doesn’t particularly bother me. What does bother me, is the Thanksgiving holiday itself.

It happens to be one of my least favorite holidays. I’ll probably offend people here, but this holiday has gotten under my skin for many, many years. To me it is the epitome of so many things that are wrong with American society.

A holiday that promotes gluttony and over-eating in a country that is already ripe with over-eaters is crazy in my mind. Food, food, food presented in excess and eating until you’re going to bust just really, personally, turns me off. Especially when you keep in mind the millions (billions?) of starving people in the world today. I used to fast on this day just to make a point. Giving out free turkey in a soup kitchen, now that’s a good thing.

And then we look at what this holiday is celebrating: the pilgrims and the “Indians” coming together for a meal and sharing food. Don’t even get me started on the state of affairs of the Native American people now in the this country! How the white man has devastated the land that was theirs and took most of it. Now we have currently left them in poverty, poorly educated with many of them turning to alcohol. Their whole way of life was robbed, yet we celebrate this day! Do you think they are thankful?

I hear so many people talking of the stress of it too: going to their families and trying to blend. For me, years ago being a vegetarian trying to fit into my in-laws was like a nightmare. This is NOT a vegetarian friendly holiday. Now being a vegan AND gluten free…well, forget about it! Thank goodness I’m divorced. Usually I just sit at home, work a shift or go out to eat. As a maitre de once said: Oh, Thanksgiving is a tragic holiday for a vegetarian! Too true!

And as far as being thankful: why save it up for one day? I try to be every day. Yes, I understand sitting around a table with friends and family and have a mass of thankfulness, but it seems very contrived. Just another Hallmark moment.

Or maybe I’m just a Scrooge of Thanksgiving? Maybe some ghostly turkey will visit me tonight and scare me half to death. And instead of Tiny Tim’s crutch there will be empty beer bottles to make me feel guilty. And scenes from Thanksgiving to come flashing before me…. and yet, and yet…. Nah, I still think I’d rather stay home and read a book.