Poem: The Demented


I move you

as you watch

through eyes reaching back

to dance floors hung with

cigarette smoke swirls

Your double-breasted jacket

brushing cozily against a firmly guarded chest

Slowly moving together

feeling forever young

until

the music fades away

And then you turn

to see me sitting next to you

Are you searching among

reminiscence and room?

The pirouette now is sedate and stiff

partnered hands upon cold metal rails

that follow your lead

It is not love that holds us up in the end

But the lonely grip

of the metallic burn

the flickering memories that dart

with us

in and out

as our dance partners

once did

 

 

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Heartbeats


It struck me today as I was busting a gut on the workout equipment at the gym, that I heard somewhere that we only have so many heartbeats in our life time. So here I am, with my heart racing away and I think: is it good or bad that I’m working out so hard like this and all the years I did it? If we only have so many heartbeats allotted to us, then if we raise our heart rate working out so much, won’t we use those heart beats up sooner? Or is the converse true and we create a stronger heart like the American Heart Association would like us to believe? Or doesn’t it really matter??

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Are the number of heart beats given to us figured out ahead of time? I’m sure some would say yes, along with the exact moment we are going to die, so who cares if we do this or anything else, because it’s all planned no matter what anyway?

And yet some of us work really hard to extend our lives by eating right, exercising, keeping our stress down, wearing our seat belts and doing all the right things. But we know, somewhere keep down in our subconscious, that when it’s our time, we can’t beat the facts. We maybe aren’t extending anything really because it will happy anyway–just the way it’s supposed to, when the beats are up.

Humans like to feel they are in control. So we keep on those treadmills, hoping that it’s helping rather than beating us closer to our allotted usage. Some like to test fate and do crazy things, but I’m not a gambler. I’ll be here far shorter than I’ll be gone. I plan to cherish it and play it safe as I can.

But if all the right things I have done don’t take me to all the heartbeats I hope to get to, well then, it hasn’t been a waste anyway. Because the choices I made were for other reasons too, so I’m perfectly satisfied I made them!

Wounds 


The wounds we suffer from an unexpected illness or traumatic accident or incident can go layers deeper beyond our physical being. The bruises, broken bones, scars, lumps or changes going on under our skin may be seen under a microscope or with an X-ray, but no one has a clue what is churning within  our psyche—sometimes not even us.

Certainly if an injury involves the brain at all, then it’s impossible to understand how we feel. Even a concussion can cause memory loss, depression and a host of other feelings the individual may not be aware are related to the injury.

We are such complex machines. We include part computer, pipes, motor, lenses and this crazy soul. If any one of these parts isn’t functioning, the rest limps along poorly. 

The odd part is that we may not even be aware something is wrong or unable to articulate what it is….

So in a system of health care providers that don’t care or are too busy to really pay attention, we are left with lots of people who aren’t being treated properly. If a patient is elderly or simply just too hurt or ill to understand what is going on, they will slip through the cracks and get poor care . 


So what do we do? 

I was one of these people a number of years ago after a horrific car accident. I had no clue just how brain injured I truly was at the time. I was a mess. Yes my physical injuries were bad, but the hidden mental, spiritual and emotional injuries lasted much longer.

Luckily I had friends nearby to help talk me off the ledge. My depression became cavernous. It snuck up on me. My memory was shattered for a while too. And the pain was like a lover that wouldn’t leave my side. It was dark times.


If we are lucky we will have an advocate  or at least someone who cares a lot and who still is in touch with reality when we are not. It’s hard to listen when our lives have been shaken and our bodies rattled. A part of us believes nothing will be right again.

But actually I believe these things actually do change us for the better. It’s like nature’s way of doing a rapid mutation, sometimes only lasting seconds, as in the case of my accident, but with everlasting positive effects.

 

Two Thoughts For The Year


There have been two phrases ringing in my head recently that I feel especially appropriate for this new year and job. I’ve mentioned them before in my blog, but now seems a good time to bring them up again as they’ve been floating around in my brain. They must want to come out, so what better way than to share them with my blogging buddies.
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The first one is ‘we create our own realities’. This is a motto I’ve had for years. While there have been tough times in my life where I certainly didn’t remember it and therefore created some pretty bleak realities for myself, I truly believe that it’s true.

What we believe, think, say and gather around ourselves will become us. It’s a bit like magic. I’m sure we’ve all had those days where we ‘get up on the wrong side of the bed’–the alarm didn’t go off, our coffee spilled, we wore two different colored socks, the car didn’t start etc. From the get go, the day went down hill and didn’t stop.

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But if instead of freaking out about the alarm clock and believing the day was going to spiral down from there, we actually took an extra minute to re-coop and gather ourselves and restart. Would things would get back on track? Yes it is honestly true.

As a medic, I can say that most accidents occurred because of people not paying attention, rushing, stress, not taking time to learn something, anger and other negative things. And it’s been proven that disease can also be caused by stress and negative thinking and healed by the opposite. Even if you don’t believe this, what’s the harm in trying to be different? It can only make your life better. Even the word disease, when you break it down becomes dis-ease. 

Many spiritual practices use the idea of prayer to change things–like prayer circles. What more are these than creating realities? Believing in something to change it–many people together in fact….
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So, we can all do this on small scales for sure, but also believing in world peace and enough food. Why not? Just like Tinkerbells says: Believe!

The other quote I heard last year that I just read again in my journal and felt was so profound was ‘language informs behaviors‘. It’s similar in some ways to the above, but more specific. Words are very powerful tools, as all we bloggers know! That’s why most of us do what we do! They can help or harm. Words can change the path of someone’s life, for good or ill.

What this particular woman was saying though, if you speak prejudice words, then it will shape your behaviors. She was speaking about our politicians. What people say often will show what they will do (or not do). This is important to keep in mind when choosing our officials, friends, partners and anyone we keep near.

Listen with both ears wide open, check for clues! Some people may be subtle in their language, although many aren’t. Our language, whether spoken or written, is what makes us human. We must all try to think before we speak–a lesson that’s been hard-earned for me and one I’m still learning.

So with these two thoughts in mind, I face my year. The goal is to make my reality as positive as possible and make sure my language matches my behaviors. And ultimately that others may find me a decent person.

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Finding Heroes


beech tree1As I was done with my morning routine today and was leaving my sacred space, I spotted of photo a friend had given me. It was of the two of us someone had taken on a past holiday. The photo made me sad because we don’t talk much any longer as the way of friends–sometimes good friends.

But it gave me pause and made me think about the nature of relationships. How we pick our friends, who or why do we tend to attach to or look up to in a person? Is part of it that they become someone we admire? And do they, in some way, become our heroes?

For me, this is most certainly true, not just with friends, but with people in general I may admire. In my lifetime though, there are some special people who I can think of that are truly heroes in my eyes. And not for the reasons one might think…

While it’s true that I am in the emergency service business, one would most likely think I come across these people every day. But these aren’t really the people I am talking about. Honestly, we are trained to do a job and I personally cannot stand when someone calls me a hero. I am not in that sense of the word to which I am referring.

It’s the everyday person, that has no intention of doing something amazing, good, kind, brave or honest that raises them in my eyes to this special status. The folks that go beyond their limits, or the average person’s limits for someone else or even what they thought they could do.  And it’s not their ‘job’ to be a hero. These are truly the stand-outs.

To name a few:

The friend who extricated herself and her child from an abusive marriage after 10 years of isolation and fear. She did it alone with guts and with no knowledge of what would happen to her and her child, no money–barely any hope. Just a leap of faith and a knowing it was what she needed to do.

A friend who was fired after many years of being the Chief of an ambulance service. A woman who gave her heart and soul to the place, but was turned on by petty politics of small town. She only took one day to cry, then pulled herself together and found another job: as a grunt paramedic–and loved it; continued to serve the public she always had with dignity and professionalism.

My Mom, who after years and years, could finally admit that our relationship was less than it could be and agreed to make it right with me. This is not easy for someone her age and generation.

And my oldest daughter, who had struggled with drug addiction, but has been clean for years. She kicked it on her own and now has graduated with honors from college, has a wonderful job and is doing beautifully. She fought demons and won.

One who had turned her young life of living with alcohol into a healthy life of gardens and good food, and then found herself facing cancer. But she has battled it bravely and honestly, doing it her way despite the paths of others. She now has a new body and continues to come up against new struggles at each corner, but she is undaunted and doesn’t complain, continuing to honor and love life.

Another dear friend who grew up amidst sexual abuse but never gave up her struggle to be whole and free. Always kind and loving, never letting her inner suffering turn outward onto others; instead her love is always felt by those around her and we are always grateful.

Of course, the countless reporters that put themselves at risk doing stories in violent places when they could just as easily could be here at home; or the medical people who go to help in countries where people have diseases like Ebola; or teachers or workers that go to places to help at their own discomfort; or the dreamers, scientists, philosophers, musicians, artists or anyone that steps outside themselves or comfort level for someone else’s benefit. It’s hard to pick them out with the news filled with pain and suffering, but these heroes exist among us!

And finally, this may sound selfish or lame, but slowly I am unearthing the hero buried deep within myself. She has laid dormant but is starting to awaken. She is the person that wants to be on the edge of human need, face her dragons head on banish them, face every day with joy and courage and try to love a part of each human she meets. This may be the true test of a real hero!

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A Hard Process


In the jobs I have had in my life I have been up close and personal with death on many occasions. As a paramedic for many years I’ve seen people die in traumatic accidents, I’ve had my hands on chests that have pumped their last heart beat and I’ve even had patients tell me they were going to die and they did. My position as a Medical Examiner took me even one step closer to death, the families and their grief. Because at this point, they knew their loved one was truly gone. When we pick them up on the ambulance, they still have hope we can save them–but when I would come wearing my other hat–the Medical Examiner hat, there was no mistaking death.

So I’m no new comer when it comes to dying: I’ve seen it, smelled it, touched it, tried to stop it from happening. I’ve cried with families, consoled people, put my lips on babies to try to breathe life back into them. You could say I’m comfortable with death if one can ever be so. At least I’m not afraid of it.

But now I am experiencing something different and I’m trying to cope with it. And that is to watch a dear friend of mine dying of cancer. Not only is he a friend, but he is a Captain of mine on the fire department.  So at times I am his friend, other times his caregiver. It’s a fine line.

Cancer always plays games. It was a ‘bad’ cancer to begin with, but he was a fighter, so we were all hopeful. And fight he did, and rally and beat some good odds. He’s gone on way longer than anyone said he should. He had the love of being a fire fighter that kept him going, so go he did. But with cancer, it seems, there is only so much one can play those odds. And then the beast takes over.

While he has changed some physically, it’s his personality and will that is so hard to watch diminish. We took him to the emergency room again today and I broke down crying in front of one of our ER doctors. It’s just hard to know he’s in pain, has given up, isn’t himself, is discouraged and feels badly he’s burdening us. Of course we don’t care–we want to help him, but he doesn’t want our help. He just wants to be his old self…and of course, that’s what we all want too.

I have no idea how I will deal when the end comes near. While I know death inside and out and have shaken hands with the grime reaper more times than I care to know–in this case I just want to tell him he’s got the wrong guy. To take his cancer, pack it up and toss it in some garbage dump. Let my Captain heal and be well.

But I know this won’t happen and I have to prepare myself for the inevitable and try to help him through the process of dying. It’s not the same as someone I don’t know and love. It hurts a whole lot more and I can’t feel comfortable around  this one or compartmentalize it. It’s too close. For his sake though, I will be strong. And take care of him until the end.