I am getting ready to head back to the Bay tomorrow with your temporary lift in my car.
I am so excited for you that you are in the bay! How amazing! I wish I could have seen you when you got in. seeing you for the first time a week later just seems wrong. i hope you are having amazing times and loving the sun and the access and learning from older crips! That last part still blows me away. It would have changed my life to have gotten to live with and learn from a comrade who had my disability when I was your age. So, so powerful. It gives me hope for the kind of community that we are building for and for our work for disability justice. It is so rare to find intergenerational disabled people of color (queer) community, especially one that explicitly centers disability justice and names our stories in it.
I have been thinking a lot about community. Been thinking about how we want to be with each other, especially when things are hard. Been thinking about growing up in a small, rural place where you just had to learn how to work through things and you didn’t have a choice about who you would work/play with. The luxury of “finding new people” didn’t exist like it does in many metropolitan places. Growing up on an island, the idea of “leaving” was so different. It wasn’t like you could drive to a different county or state, the only way off the island was by boat or plane. You had to see people everyday, even if you didn’t like them, even if they hurt you, even if you hurt them. I graduated with 26 people in my class.
In a lot of ways I hated it. It felt so small and suffocating at times, you would see everyone you knew everywhere. It seemed like there was nowhere to go to be by yourself. Everyone knew everyone’s business (so much drama all the time) and growing up, there was no concept of “finding new friends” when things got hard. Most of us were pretty much stuck with who we had. There were times when I would have given anything to leave. There were times when I wished no one knew me and I could just be anonymous.
At the same time, I loved it. I loved the feeling of people greeting each other on the street and never having to wait too long to make a left turn in your car, someone would always stop to let you through. I loved the feeling of knowing every single person you saw everyday and them knowing you. I loved what it taught me, especially as a disabled person: how to invest in relationships, how to not think about your relationships (all of them) like they existed in a vacuum, how to think about the people around you as the people that you needed and would depend on, how to not think of people and relationships as disposable. In so many ways, growing up in a small, rural place helped me learn how to survive as a disabled person. Just like growing up as a disabled child taught me so many things that helped me to survive as an adoptee.
I don’t want people to romanticize it, the way that people often do about living on an island, being from the caribbean or being from rural lands. There were many hard times, of course, and it wasn’t always pretty or good, at all. there were many things I learned and loved about living in a city, once I got to the States, that I carry with me as well. St. Croix, like anywhere else, is complex and beautiful and hard and deep and boring and ordinary. I could never share all of it and I am grateful for what I received and I know that everyone’s story is different and valid.
I miss you and can’t wait to see you. my small town, rural heart is so excited to begin to build community the only way I know how to (again): like we know we are each other’s survival and we will be here tomorrow and the next day (and the next day) faced with how we treated each other.
"And that’s why you do Paediatrics,” Dr. B. (my consultant) said after the woman with the gurgling baby girl left. We were in outpatient clinic, and on this occasion most of his appointment had failed to show. I beamed at the disappearing stroller. When they were out of sight, I sighed and looked at him, registered he’d said something belatedly and laughed when I realised what it was.
A helpless gesture: “I’d never learn anything. I’d be too distracted by how cute they are.”
"You’ll get over it," he smiled and looked off as if remembering something funny. "I was always very clucky. Then I had some kids of my own and got less clucky—"
"Ah," I said darkly, remembering a midwife saying the same thing. It’s always worse when you don’t have your own. I was a very, very long way off to having my own. I’d never survive the training.
"—and as they got older, I got clucky again."
I caught the glint of his wedding ring reached for a folder or a piece of paper.
How does a clucky man manifest at my age? I couldn’t think of a clucky person in my year with the same outgoing humour he had. A.K. seems like a good bet, but he also was quiet; somewhat awkward because of his height and hair. His girlfriend was beautiful. He was the nicest guy. Dr. B. by contrast — he had the smallest feet - I’d been staring at them all day, because most of the time his back was turned at the computer and his feet were the only thing I saw. Also, his hunch meant he lost at least 10cm of height. Probably because he was used to talking to people shorter than him.
A hunch due to kindness. Of stooping to the eye-levels of a hundred thousand people, or however there are in our lives. Or even young children, his patients.
He does things like lament at how frustrated my ‘generation’ must get at the hospital infosystem, try and print out a summary page on scanned medical records, and hand me a piece of blank paper with some printer-fail message, chuckling at his own failure. “Here you go,” he says, “Very useful for you.” When I say thank you (sarcastically, smiling at the contageousness of it all), he replies “You’re welcome,” in the same serious tone he uses on his patients.
I guessed him to be a few years younger than my mother and thought his kids were lucky to have him.
C. once said something about happy bosses passing down the happiness through the workforce and this reminded me of one of those times. You can’t not be influenced by this. I don’t think anybody could believe in the end of the world (2012, supposedly) if people like this continue to exist in the universe.
I’m loving Paediatrics, loving that I get to spend more time on it (perhaps for the last time, if I don’t decide to go down this path in future). Tiny fingers, hands, toes. Examinations that involve playing tickle attack you’re really trying to look for lymph nodes. Shooting a little boy your thumb and index finger in the shape of a gun and having him collapse in the chair, clutching his chest with a smile on his face (his mother: “What is it? Are you in pain? No? In love??”)
For a minute there I thought he’d nod.
Who wouldn’t love a culture of joy, and of caring for things that grow? Things that have no reason to believe in the best of everyone, everything. Of life? :)
If I’m learning, it’s that hope is not the enemy here.
“He didn’t come out of my belly, but my God, I’ve made his bones, because I’ve attended to every meal, and how he sleeps, and the fact that he swims like a fish because I took him to the ocean. I’m so proud of all those things. He is my biggest pride.”—John Lennon, about his son (via rulesformyunbornson)
Day 1, Paediatrics: I realised that it would take a lot of courage to become a NICU (neonatal intensive care unit) doctor. One of the babies, the only surviving baby of a multiple gestation inutero lying there, grossly swollen like no human should — her face more skin than features, 3x her weight in fluid. It was upsetting. More upsetting than I thought it would be for someone who has 2 clinical years behind her. Maybe I’ve been away from fragility too long, or it’s the way I feel around vulnerable things. All around her were other babies born before their time, fighting to stay in the world. But their bodies on the outside looked perfect. She looked like she was one of those souls who could have just as easily died. Some may argue who should have.
Her age? Added up together with her gestation time, she still wasn’t ‘to term’. She’s still catching up her time.
C., the fellow, said of another girl, “I thought she was going to die.”
In the adult world, that sentence can be said without much emotional kick. You see an adult alive, and you hear that statement, and you think, well ok good save. You see a little toddler, beautiful, giving you a high five just 2 days after the incident that sparked that statement and you think, I’m so grateful for modern medicine and whatever force in the world that saved her this time.
And you [want to] believe in God a little.
Maybe that’s why Paediatrics is such a joyful place. There’s a sense that instead of fighting against time or fate or disease, everyone there is restoring the natural balance of things. Children are meant to live. Adults are meant to die. Isn’t that the underlying order of things?
I like my consultant a lot. One of the reasons I chose this rotation other than liking Paediatrics and feeling that I didn’t know enough about infectious disease, was that I remebered him. At the time I’d thought he was a fellow, mostly because he was so easy going and he came to ward rounds every day. I wasn’t on his team back then, but I snuck away to go on ward rounds on quiet afternoons. Mostly I remember him as someone who would hold the door open for his entire team to go through before himself — something I’d never seen anyone else do before. He makes everyone feel at ease, which is, I think, an amazing feat. Along with my old Obgyn consultant from 2 years ago, he’s possibly the most disarming person I’ve ever met.
So of course I choose to picture his personal life filled with laughter, love, a new-ish house somewhere unpretentious and BBQs on sunny weekends. C., the fellow (a lovely woman, someone who I would want as my kids’ Paediatrician), mentioned something about young children. It makes my eyes crinkle.
In life, I want to have that effect on people.
If I were honest, I’d say that in the past (read: 2-3 years ago) I used to fall headlong into huge crushes on people, purely based on wanting the things they had. A family, mostly. A home. Stuff like that. People like him, who of course belong to a different generation — all their toiling behind them. The wilderness years over.
Catrina said last year, of one of those terrible phases, “It wasn’t a very healthy time in your life. You can build your own happiness. Why long for other people’s ideas of happiness?”
"But what if their idea is exactly your idea, and you had given up hope that a kind of life could exist until you saw that it was entirely possible?"
To that she had nothing to say.
Analysing all the people I’ve had crushes on, they were mostly based on a family of at least 2 kids, and a simple kind of home (nothing like a mansion or anything). And if they did have a mansion (or something like that), it was more that they had a large family whom they mentioned often in casual conversation.
Of course, this isn’t a new revelation.
I look at all the people in my life and think, it’s surely enough. A lovely housemate for the time being. Some really good friends. A family I think of often from afar. A nice medical unit to be under the tutelage of.
But it’s true what they say — as you get older, you are more and more sure of exactly what you want (and sometimes, even what you need). It’s a mixed blessing. :)
I came back to Melbourne in the midst of humidity thick enough to lower swim through, though that part may be due to the rain. A huge difference from when I’d left Auckland airport — a beautiful sunset which it felt like we flew into. Impossible, isn’t it? We were supposed to be flying west, unless we took off in the opposite direction.
Another year. Another place to call home, however temporarily. The same old me, however. I took a good hard look at my face in the mirror, pale with lack of sleep at having to get up so early.
Now, sitting at what I rate as the best room I’ve ever rented since coming to Australia, I’m a bit regretful that this is all temporary. This room belongs to another student, who through a breakdown of communication with the lease holder, forgot to tell her that he’d already sublet it when she let me move in. The student being a friend of hers who had been living here for a long time, it was clear that I would need to relocate.
Still, what a nice place. Everyone seems so friendly. The bed is so comfortable. There is a bookshelf. Why that is so important is a silly question.
I’m staying up late, trying to adjust my holiday clock. Unregulated, it means sleeping at 4am and waking up at noon in extreme cases. I’ve been much better since early uni years. Midnight, and then nine in the morning. Nothing to boast about.
That quote from Janet Frame’s 'Owls Do Cry' that I used to know by heart — the one that describes the adult world from a child’s mind as a deepening of silences… it comes back to me every now and again. Times like this, really. Sitting up with tea, reading a novel, searching up articles, daydreaming outside, on the train, watching horrible pictures of the floods on television… all I can feel is silence.
A lot can be said about silence. A lecturer once said that the capacity for human beings to filter out white noise was infinite. Atom hitting our ear drums technically registers in our brain, but we filter it out. A willingness not to hear silence.
I remember those lectures amazingly well. Not because they were memorable, but because I spent hours in the basement of Hardgrave Andrew library with Dan and Alvin and Brian copying chapters of lecture notes by hand, sketching micro-anatomy. I learn best that way — the simple act of doing, and of touch. A muscle memory, as well as a mental photograph. Sometimes, when I’m alone very late at night and doing something incredibly boring I think of this.
And of silence. And of places I’d like to go someday, if I got the chance.
Recently I read ‘Kafka On The Shore’ by Murakami. Murakami always makes me think about deep places with hollow echos. In my mind those places seem almost synonymous with silent things too — only empty places echo. And emptiness always reminds me of notingness, which in my mind, swallows sound. A paradox, I guess.
The book is very old. I got it out of the Matherson library, home to Arts and Economics books of all generations. An Alfred K. Knof publication, New York, the mustard hardcover has nothing on it and is frayed. The binding (navy blue) is ripped and faded, and it’s bound in a way that books printed before a certain time almost always is. The edition date is 2005, which seems like a lie. Five years and it’s been destroyed. The title on the spine is barely legible. What wore it out so badly? I run my hands over the covers. It might be things like this. Hands like mine.
At the back there is a single page between two blank ones titled ‘A Note On The Type’. The text of this book was set in Electra, a typeface designed by W.A. Dwiggins(1880-1956). This face cannot be classified as either modern or old style. It is not based on any historical model, nor does it echo any particular period or style. It avoids te extree contrasts between tick and tin elements that mark most modern aces, and it attempts to give a feeling of fluidity, power, and speed.’
I read it all in one go, like devouring the heart of some small living thing. Outside wind roared and the shutters clanged awfully. I got up a few times to make more tea.
On page 148, he wrote this: “Kafka, in everybody’s life there’s a point of no return. And in a very few cases, a point where you can’t go forward anymore. And when we reach that point, all we can do is quietly accept the fact. That’s how we survive.”
Whenever I read Murakami I’m struck by the isolation of his characters. Their own inner world seems to exclude them in some way, even when they interact with others. Maybe it’s the translation, but there’s something disjointed about his narration too. The same appeal as listening to someone with strange way of ordering words speak.
Someone has drawn a line in the margin to underline that quote. After I read the whole novel I realise it’s the only passage underlined or highlighted in some way in the book. Maybe someone else was drawn by this too. It’s a warming thought.
Moving forward…some people are really good at it. Like a obstinate little engine just carrying boxes and boxes of stuff, never opening them, adding new crates at every destination. Others handle each of the boxes by hand, cradling them in their arms, opening each one. Feeling the weight of each thing, and the weight of the value they place on them — a physical weight in this kind of reality. Then all you can do is stand there and balance and focus on carrying each thing.
That’s when you get stuck. It’s hard to know what to do.
Anyway. Just wanted to share some thoughts and say that I’m thinking of you guys in Auckland. Enviously, I guess. The weather here’s been dramatic. At work lots of people call up, upset by images of flooded Queensland and parts of Victoria playing over and over in front of our eyes. It feels like every year at the Australian Open there is something to hold a charity match for.
Uni is starting next week. Very excited to be working with children again. :) That happy magical place that is Paediatrics. More to come soon.
“I think… the secret is to just settle for the shape of your life takes…Instead of you know, always waiting and wishing for what might make you happy.”—from ‘She’s Come Undone’ — Wally Lamb (via fuckyeahliteraryquotes)
Last night some of Been’s friends and I found ourselves watching fireworks explode in the reflection of buildings, and the skytower, and over the skyline last night.
I love how in the crush of the city, bumping into extremely drunk people who look like they could beat you to a pulp could be resolved with a smile and shouting ‘happy new year’ at each other. And the people dancing in the street. And how beautiful Aotea Square has become, and the flags at town hall which had never been there before.
So bright and lovely to be alive!
Happy new year everyone! Let 2011 be AMAZING. :)
P.S. Wish you had been there Jenny, but I hope you have a lovely belated chilled out celebration on the 2nd! xx