Sunday, July 24, 2016

Why I resemble Donald Trump’s taglines more than I would like to admit, and why that means that I will not be voting for him.

I’ve lived through a lot of change in the past year.

One year ago I moved to Massachusetts from California, nine months ago we got married, and in a little less than three months we are going to have a baby. Whew! Do you ever wish that you could press a pause button when you find yourself in the middle of a slow day and just take a break from the pace of life? I do, but this has not been that kind of year.


When I’m processing change, I usually get a little more introspective.

This is an example.


At the same time as I’ve had a year of change, full of highs and lows, we have had a year of crazy politicking and quite a few shenanigans.

And lets push the pause button here so that I can tell you- I do not consider this to be authoritative political commentary, it is a personal reflection. If you and I were having a face-to-face personal conversation about my feelings concerning the 2016 election, this is what I would hope to say to you.


It’s been very easy to sit back and look at all the crazy things coming out of the coverage of these elections, and feel shocked and superior. The retort that “If Trump wins, we are moving to Costa Rica” has been a hit at (some) dinner parties. But, as I honestly look at many of the phrases that have become anthems for the Trump campaign, I can see more parallels into my own actions and thinking than I would like to admit.



So, here, in no particular order or significance, are the ways that I find myself resembling a Trump tagline.

“Build a wall.”

When I feel threatened, or when I feel like someone is going to drain my precious emotional energy, I tend to wall myself off and shut down. I’m not talking about appropriate emotional boundaries, I’m talking about ignoring people or situations where there is a real and deep need because it feels inconvenient or scary to take action. And I usually have some good excuses for acting this way- I had a long day at work (and I’m a hospice nurse for goodness sakes- what more do you want from me?), I’m newly married, I’m pregnant, etc – these are easily reachable reasons for shutting down in favor of “me time.” I find that it is all too easy to insulate myself from feelings of compassion, justice and the impulse to do something to help others. As long as I can classify that person, idea, place or thing as a threat to my energy, mental wellbeing or existing relationships, I can build a wall like the best of them and stay in my comfortable and safe space.


“I know how to win.”

Ah shoot, this one gets me right in the gotchas. I don’t know whether it is coming from a large, competitive family, being born in America, or being a gymnast for so many years, but I LOVE winning. And when I win, I tend to act like I won because I deserved to win, not because of any other circumstance. This means that I’m not always the most gracious person to play fun games with, that I like to have a sense of superiority, and that it’s hard for me to tell my husband, “You are right and I was wrong.”


And finally.


“I’m the only one who can fix this.”

As a nurse and a professional people helper, I act like this is true ALL THE TIME. I work longer hours because I think I’m the person who should be there with patients and families rather than someone else who might approach the problem differently.  I sometimes insert myself into situations believing that I am the only one who can fix them, and it is hard for me to let go and feel powerless in the face of disease, loss and death.



The problem is that all of these responses in myself are connected to a deep sense of insecurity and fear. They are not responses that I want to use as my modus operandi, especially not as a Jesus person.


Instead of building a wall, Jesus modeled vulnerability. He gave Himself over to people who were trying to kill Him. This was a kind of raw, vulnerable and bleeding love. This was a Love without the walls that we build when we are afraid. I want to live a life that is willing to be poured out for people, not a life that sees people as a threat.


Rather than winning all the time, Jesus won by losing. His version of success was poverty, obedience and death. He deliberately aligned Himself with those who were not good enough to “make it” in society. In the process of giving up any attachment that He had to his own advancement, He brought healing and Hope to the people who had been outcast and forgotten. I want to let go of the idea of competition and winning so that I can show that same Hope to other people.


And finally, Jesus modeled working WITH people to change things, rather than being the only one who could fix it. He gathered a group of disciples around Him. He taught them to work as a team towards a common purpose and goal. And He kept talking about a weird thing called The Trinity, which basically took God’s presence out of the neat confines of a simple cult of personality and made it so that God could be understood as the God of Israel- Father, God incarnate in a person-Jesus, and God as a presence that endures and stays with us here on earth- Spirit. I don’t want to be the only person who can change and fix things. I want to prioritize working with other people in the process of redemption.  I want to know my own smallness and walk with humility.





So, although I have found many parallels in my thoughts and behaviors to many of these slogans, I don’t believe that they are the right way of being, and that is not what I want to work towards either personally or with any political influence that I may or may not have. As such, I won’t vote for Trump. It doesn’t fit how I am learning to be as a person.

Saturday, February 13, 2016

Ashes and Dust

“You are dust and to dust you shall return, repent and believe in the gospel.”

Wednesday was my first time kneeling and receiving ashes on my forehead, and I felt an unexpected prickle of tears in my eyes to hear the words of the benediction spoken over me. I felt like staying there, knees to the floor, and letting some of the tears fall freely, but instead got up to make space for the next person who was coming forward to kneel down.



I am not given much to thinking about my personal sins and failings. I know that I have them, I just don’t usually give them the space and attention they deserve.


You see, I really like thinking that I am Right, and sometimes I am smacked in the face with the deeper repercussions of this mentality.


Last November, we were talking to my brother Michael on FaceTime and he asked what the biggest change had been since we got married. Without thinking I blurted out, “I don’t get to be right all the time!”


Michael had a long laugh when I said that. Upon reflection, I think that growing up as the only girl in my family meant that I got to think that I was Right more often then was good for me.




In my work, I have noticed that I don't always listen to the concerns of other people. I sometimes make up my mind ahead of time that I am Right in any given situation. I walk in to a family meeting, or a care-plan meeting, ready to perform a series of conversational gymnastics moves in order to convince everybody else that I know what I am talking about... And then I catch myself and realize that I need to get over my ego trip for a moment and just be quiet and listen.



Wanting to be Right also leads me to a deeper problem, it makes it hard for me to apologize. And in this Lenten season our church is encouraging all of us to look closely at places where The Church has hurt people and where we all need to ask for forgiveness.

It’s a series called Forgive Us, and each week our Sunday services (and other programs) will be focusing on an area where The Church has participated in systemic wrong or abuse against a group of people. Together as a church community, we will repent for our judgementalism, our racism, our sins against the LGBTQ community, our sins against women, our odd conflict with science, and our sins against those who do not share our faith.


This promises to be challenging, exciting and a little bit terrifying, just as it is every time I have had to say the vulnerable phrase “I was wrong and I am sorry.”


But I also feel a pull to share about this publicly. As someone who is not good at admitting wrong in front of others, and as someone who likes to have it all together, I think it will be good for me to own my part in the process.

If you care to come along, I will be attempting to write about the Forgive Us series weekly here. 




And if you identify as someone who has been hurt by The Church, then please know that I’m ready to listen. It sounds really silly to say that, but I don't think I've ever said it publicly before, so there you go... I may not have the right apology or answer for all that has happened to you, but I’m ready to say that I haven’t been Right, there’s only one person who can claim that position. I’m just trying to follow Him into This Love, which was raw and real and bleeding. 

Friday, September 4, 2015

(Some) Things Are Different Now


Well, so a few things have changed this summer. One, I had another birthday, and two, I moved across the country. You know, not that big of a deal.

I would love to tell you all about this in a much deeper and profound kind of way but I think that will have to wait for another day. Instead this will be a kind of show and tell.



I tried to write in my journal the day after my birthday and this is what happened…




For those who can't read indecipherable handwriting, that says "can't write date, sign of aging?" 


When I told Future Husband about this, he laughed and said, “But that happens to you all the time.” Which is true, I have some kind of dyslexia that causes my brain to substitute inappropriate numbers and words into writing and conversation when I’m tired. I think that’s a thing. We will just say that it’s a thing, ok?




Future Husband also laughed when I told him cheerily a day later, “Today I actually LIKE being older!”

I make my Future Husband laugh a lot, but no big deal. I am (sometimes) the funny one.











 A picture of me and Future Husband. He’s the tall good-looking one.










The second week that I was out here I came up with a mini-stand up routine about driving in Boston, which I like to call “Surprise! I learned life skills in Tijuana!”

This IS true. I learned how to be sick in the middle of the night in Tijuana, how to paint houses, how to dig ditches, and how to access my alternate “Fast and the Furious” personality and drive like a speed demon manifesting.

The streets in Boston take a major beating every year from all the snow, rain and ice and things, so they have a lot of character.  By “character” I mean that they have a lot of holes and surprising bumps and they are pretty hard on your shocks and suspension. Another delightful thing is that seemingly everyone feels the need to shout through car windows at other drivers just for driving on the same road. At first all of this yelling made me angry, because “Hey, I grew up in LA, and I am good at merging. Save your road rage for something that really matters!” But now I try to consider that these people might simply enjoy yelling and I try to let the waves of unnecessary frustration roll over me. It would be a very Zen experience if I was actually good at it, but I’m not.

Driving on the streets of Tijuana Boston is a loud and chaotic adrenaline rush, as you dodge pot holes, pedestrians, and hear voices raised in loud cries of indignation and despair. Instead of Federales demanding bribes, you may find that nearly every bridge demands a toll. You want 4 dollars for me to cross this bridge, really Boston, really?!?!?! I think my GPS is in collusion with the transportation authority because it always seems to take me by the most expensive "direct" route.




I’m working part time as a hospice nurse right now. Working as a hospice nurse in Massachusetts is basically the same as working as a hospice nurse in California, except for that I meet a lot of nurses named “Marie” and when things are not going the way they should be you are sure to hear about it. There is no polite “I’m fine” response in New England, which is actually something that I really appreciate. If someone is having a bad day, they will candidly tell you about it, no beating around the bush and no pretending.





Hospice nursing in Massachusetts comes with the same bodily fluids, family drama, and hilarious, soulful/tearful moments that it contained in California. But, during my first week on the job, I almost hit a porcupine that was crossing the road while I was enroute to a skilled nursing facility, and that was a completely new experience. Oh, and when they say that it is going to rain, it might actually RAIN, and you might need an umbrella. 

<- learned that last one the hard way.







Things are different now, because Massachusetts comes in all these amazing shades of green, and in the summertime The Green is a living force that has it’s own sound and smell.  This never ceases to amaze me.




 But most of all, things are different because now I’m doing everyday life with Future Husband, the tall good-looking one, and that has been the best, most crazy “Is this real life?” experience ever.














(I assume you have seen the now famous "David after dentist" viral video, but if you haven't then you should jump on that right now. Herego laugh a little bit) 


And while we are on the subject of memes and viral videos, I would like to tell you all, that with all these changes I sometimes revert back to my crying llama ways… You know the one, the angst filled llama that cries “mememememememe” all the time? 


As I grow older, I have become more and more aware that my default dysfunctional setting is selfishness and feeling sorry for myself, especially when I feel overwhelmed. But I’m working on it. Some things are different now, and other things are still a work in progress. Am I older and wiser? Maybe. 


Thursday, July 30, 2015

Mortality

I came home last night after another day of hospice work tired and worn.

The emotion always seems to hit me after I leave a death, after hugging the family, after calling everyone who needs to know, and after all the paperwork has been turned in at the office.

Afterwards, my thoughts take a different shape. I think about breath and the still silence in the room after it is gone, and I think about the difference that I have seen in some rooms, full of peace and tears and quiet, versus others, full of bargaining and fighting and struggle. Fear of death seems to be a part of what makes these scenes so different from each other.




I had a patient once who would ask me with every visit, “What do you think about god?” She told me that she was convinced that there would not be enough space for her soul in the universe after she died, and that she didn’t think that God was big enough to hold “all the souls of the people and animals that have ever existed.” She pictured all of those who have passed floating somewhere in the dark, alone.

I told her that I’m pretty sure that God is way bigger than we can ever imagine. If He did create us, then He can contain us.

In her mind loneliness was large enough to swallow all of us whole, but Love was not. In my mind, Love was present, ready, and waiting to embrace each one.




The fear of being alone is what makes or breaks it for me in the places where my patients are dying. When there are people gathered, loving on those who are leaving and those who are left behind, it changes the atmosphere of the place. When there is no one there to whisper “I love you” and “I am here,” or when those gathered beg the one who is leaving to stay I feel the weight in my chest.

Sometimes I think that we fear dying because we have never experienced the crushing magnitude of Love, or we have experienced it but never let it IN. We have never let Love make us feel small, and so we wonder where we will go when we die- where we will find space.




For me death is a reminder to live for the kind of Love that makes me smaller and softer.
Maybe I’m just practicing. I’m practicing living on a diminishing scale; less of me and more of the mystery, less control and more surrender, less defense and more vulnerability. I am not good at these things, which is why I need the practice.

My hospice days cue me into my role in life, which I believe is a grand rehearsal. I will die someday, mortality is a reality for me as well, so every day is a precious opportunity to practice.



Sunday, April 5, 2015

All of the Saturday People

A few years ago, when I first started working in hospice, Easter felt like it took on a deeper significance for me. I cried when I went to the Good Friday service and thought of Jesus dying a physical death like the ones that I had seen. It struck me that He knew what that felt like. Then, on Easter Sunday I wept again to think of the promise that our bodies can be made like new and death is not the end of the story.



This year, the part of the Easter story that struck me the most were the days between when Jesus was crucified and when He was raised, those days that are mentioned briefly in the gospels but are not fully described.



At Good Friday services in the Evangelical church people often say, “Today is Friday, but Sunday is coming.” This year it struck me that the disciples immediately after Jesus’s death did not know that “Sunday was coming.” They were just trying to function and make sense of their lives while they endured through the Saturdays- the nebulous days between the death and resurrection.

It also struck me that when His followers did see Jesus again they hardly recognized Him. They mistook Him for the gardener when they met Him near the grave, they did not believe that He had appeared to the few gathered in the upper room, and they had full conversations with Him on the road to Emmaus without calling Him by name.

I would like to call the disciples at this point in the story The Saturday People. The Doubters and Faithless, the ones who helplessly watched Jesus die, the Grief Stricken, the Depressed and Anxious. 




A lot of that sounds very familiar, and this fills me with a strange kind of Hope.



We could be like the disciples, utterly lost and confused- Faith broken and Hope scattered, hiding out in small groups for fear of discovery- and our only task is to know Him when He comes.

We must recognize Him.




Many times this year I have felt like one of The Saturday People. Faith has had new holes ripped in it and Hope has seemed like something far beyond my reach. But people have been Jesus to me this year. They have bled out their love in quiet service and by silently witnessing moments of heartbreak and despair. For all of this I am so deeply grateful. I want to continue to know Jesus as He shows me Himself in new ways this year- through words, music, nature, Love and tiny babies.




So, if you, like me, are one of The Saturday People on Easter of 2015, I would like to say that I think it is alright for us to doubt, to struggle and mourn, to loose and to hide, and to be bad at this spiritual life. And if I could do one thing right now it would be this.

I would bend in close and whisper, I still that think He’s coming. Lets keep our eyes open so that we don’t miss it.