Wednesday, November 30, 2011

How Not To Be Cool

You know what's cool? Never letting your passion for something make you vulnerable.

I am not cool.

In high school, the dominant code was to be cool. When I look back on my time there, though, I realize that the most interesting things I remember were the moments when individuals weren't cool. The times when we were wrapped up in things that could hurt us, extending ourselves over the precipice; that's where the color is. If I have a regret in my life, it is that I spent too much time trying to get back to cool (which is a place I never could find anyway).

Last Sunday I turned 35. I went to see Gillian Welch and David Rawlings perform in concert. Let me make you a list of things that are not cool:
*Refreshing your browser every five minutes on the morning that a band plans to announce tour dates in your area.
*Hustling your toddler into the car and driving an hour to stand in line waiting for the ticket window to open.
*Buying a t-shirt, and a tote bag, and a signed poster, and an art print of the album cover.
*Having a total meltdown because you were in the ladies room when rock star (whom you had seen the day before in concert and whose t-shirt you were wearing, albeit covered in sardine juice from an in-car eating incident), stops at same rest area to buy a burger and your husband fails to waylay him.
*Running out of the theater after the show and standing at the loading dock for an hour in hopes of intercepting rock star on her way to the car. Because, of course, you know what they drive.

Now, none of this is cool. But you know what is? This:

And these:

So I give up on trying to be cool. If you want something, if you love something, try for it. It's pretty cool in the grave, I'll be cool then.

Sunday, November 20, 2011

The Shoulders of Giants

I was thinking about Townes, and Dylan, and Gillian, and Tom Waits, and how art gets made. I wrote a poem about it. Here it is:


I spoke to you in the sleepless dark as if you were a deity
Your voice was my wings and my crutch
I followed your words into the wilderness and wept in the wastes
In ruined temples I tore out my heart and offered it to you
You hold it
like a vice holds an egg

Sunday, November 6, 2011

Ask Your Doctor...To Shut Up

Does the diagnosis "Failure To Thrive" sound like something you would want to hear about your infant? If your pediatrician then recommended supplementing your eight-month old's breastmilk diet with formula(!) and solids, which subsequently made him sick, would you be stressed-out? If her sole reason for this diagnosis was that he is in a low weight percentile according to the American Academy of Pediatrics chart, which is heavily weighted towards formula-fed infants, would you get suspicious? If she then told you that her practice sees (not "diagnoses", but "sees", as if it is some objective truth to be observed rather than interpreted) this "condition" in a third of their patients, primarily in families where the babies are exclusively breastfed and the parents are conscious of careful nutrition and physically active, would you start to get pissed?

If you were diagnosed with an aggressive cancer and the doctors recommended surgery, radiation, and chemotherapy, and then more of the same when the first round failed, would be feel distressed? If no one mentioned that
  • the studies used to proclaim the "success" of chemotherapy don't count people who died in treatment because they didn't complete the course, 
  • that some research concludes that as many as 80% of tumor cancer patients do not see any meaningful benefits from chemotherapy 1, 2, and that the improvement in five-year outcomes is partly related to the inclusion of non-lethal cancers and early detection (which has nothing to do with chemo), 
  • that prolonged exposure to chemotherapy will cause organ failure and, possibly (probably?) death (no citation needed here, just read the side effects from the drug inserts)
Would you feel betrayed?

If you were a college kid and the doctor told you that you had to have "minor" surgery on your cervix or you would get cervical cancer (and during the surgery she screwed up, and you could see the fear of a malpractice suit in her eyes when she apologized), and then you found out later that this condition and the associated virus often resolve without treatment, would you feel frustrated?

If you suffered from minor medical maladies for years and the doctors all suggested it was psychological and prescribed some superficial treatment, and then you healed yourself by dramatically reducing your exposure to HVAC and altering your diet, would you be annoyed?

If you took your toddler to a doctor for the first time in his life because of odd stools (that ultimately resolved without medical treatment) and ended up in the pediatric urologist's office with a specialist
  • recommending surgery with general anaesthesia for a 22 month old because the fluid around his testicles might annoy him at some point (which it did, of course, after the doctor messed around with it), and 
  • telling you to forcibly break the foreskin adhesions because, er, well, just because, 
would you shake your head and walk away?

If you had personal experiences with all these things, would you stop listening to doctors?

Do I sound unusually negative today? I guess the extent of this malpractice is weighing on me. These are people's lives! Practitioners in the allopathic tradition have either forgotten to stop talking when they don't know, or they have forgotten that they don't know. If you have a doctor, that relationship needs to be a partnership, not a professorship or a dictatorship. If you are a client, listen to your instincts and participate in the diagnosing process; YOU are in charge of  the healing process! So, most respectfully, I suggest that, when the doc says something that sounds strange, you politely ask your shut up. Just for a little while.