A New Year and an Accomplishment

I’m glad 2018 is over. It was a difficult year on many levels, with some wonderful moments scattered about. I’m neither optimistic or pessimistic about 2019, but rather I’m working on the idea that I can handle whatever happens this year, even when it feels like I can’t…and that there will be many good moments again. I am ready to be surprised by what happens.

One thing I accomplished in 2018 that I am very proud of is that I took an intensive EMT course. Ever since I got involved in NERT (Neighborhood Emergency Response Team) in San Francisco to be better prepared to be useful in the case of an earthquake or other disaster, I got the bug. I went on to join the California Disaster Corp, which involved a bit more training, but I still had this nagging feeling I wanted to take it further. But I also didn’t see it as a career transition, so it seemed silly to take the time and spend the money to do it.

After over 7 years of telling myself that, I finally took the step. Part of what prompted me what that my nephew who is in college did the training, as well as becoming a volunteer fire fighter. And the daughter of close friends also did it. I decided if they can do it, I can do it. It was really just a matter of deciding it is a priority for me, and even if it makes no sense, I could make the decision to set aside time and money to do it.

I signed up for a three-week intensive course in Wilmington, North Carolina because the timing and price felt right. And I was able to get a friend to sign up with me! We stayed on the “campus” (really a stretch to call the place a campus) in cabins with no electricity of heat…just two bunkbeds, for three weeks. The classroom (doubling as kitchen, warm place, study place) was where we spent most of our time. And intense it was.

I haven’t taken so many notes since grad school, and although I’ve had a few tests over the years, the every other day tests were a little overwhelming. Our textbook was 1,581 pages. And the amount of information we took in every day was mind-boggling. Took in may be too strong a word, and the first days definitely had me wondering if I could hack it. The number of acronyms alone made my head spin: CPAP, COPD, AMI, ALS, CHF, and on and on.

After 6 straight days of classes and practice, we had a Sunday off. Off for studying and getting ready for the test on Monday morning. My friend and I did a “jail break” and went into downtown Wilmington for breakfast. Real food, not cooked in a microwave! And then we went to a cafe to study, and with the help of the Khan academy and just talking things through I finally felt like, yes, I can do this.

I got the hang of the written tests and realized I would be able to pass those if I put in the time. The practical test is what now scared me. I have done scenarios a lot of my disaster training and I know that feeling a going totally blank when you are presented with a situation. I thought I had triage down when I was first doing NERT, but the first time I entered a room in a disaster scenario it felt like I knew nothing. My mind was blank. After doing it again and again over the years, I finally got the hang of it. But this test was going to happen at the end of the course and we were learning about so many diseases and symptoms, medical and trauma, from infant to geriatric. I just had to believe that enough would sink in.

We had two 12-hour ride-alongs with paramedics. Those days were long and exhausting, but also a great window into that world. They say 80% of calls do not actually need an emergency response, really the heroic, save a life stuff you see on TV and in movies is only a tiny part of the job. I wasn’t surprised, but it was still different seeing that play out in real time. and seeing first hand how broken the health care system is in this country.

Besides all the learning…and I did actually learn a lot in the end. It just took me a little longer for things to sink in than I remember from when I was younger. But the unexpected learning from the course was being around such a diverse group of people. Not diverse racially…it was an almost entirely white class, but diverse geographically, age-wise and for lack of a better was to say it, culturally. I know I live in a bubble in San Francisco, and for the most part I like it that way. But it was also good to be in class with people who are very different from me. There were lots of gun enthusiasts. There were lots of people who had been or are still in the military. Except for myself and my friend, I’m pretty sure no one cared about recycling. But we all had this common goal, and for the most part everyone was respectful and supportive and kind. I stayed curious and heard some great stories. It became clear that everyone is trying to make life work and do the best they can.

There were a few really young people who had figuring out college wasn’t for them. There were people trying to figure out next steps after getting out of the military or finishing college. There were a few who wanted to up their skills for a current job, like the police officer from Florida. There we some older people, like us, who were thinking of a career change or just wanted the skills. It was inspiring to see all these people working hard and wanting to be helpful in the world. It was inspiring to see people out of their comfort zone, but putting their best foot forward. And it was inspiring to me personally to see that I could do it: learn, live “rustically,” be flexible, be adaptable and get it done.

It was also great to come back to a warm house, a well-stocked kitchen, a car, a washer/dryer, and all those good things. I still have the national exam to take on March 12. I don’t need to take it since it’s very unlikely I will work as an EMT, but I want to finish this process up and put a nice bow on it. And I want to let NERT and the California Disaster Corps know that I am ready with a new level of training when disaster strikes.

P.S. Our main instructor was a southerner full of character and I jotted down some of my favorite expressions he used. Here are a few:

  • “That juice is/is not worth the squeeze.”

  • “Liquor cycle”: a moped that doesn’t require a driver’s license for people who have had too many DUIs.

  • “Document the snot out of it.”

  • “Redneck root”: turning your computer off and on.

  • “Best medicine is O2 and diesel fuel”…the diesel being what drives the emergency vehicle.

The Body Knows

You know those moments when all the pieces of a puzzle you didn't even know you were trying to put together finally fit?  I had one of those moments while I was stretching on Billy Goat Hill this morning.  I have been struggling with neck pain and started going to see someone who does tui na, a traditional type of Chinese massage.  He confirmed that yes, my neck is a mess, but what also became apparent is that my legs are super tight...especially my left leg.  

I walk and jog quite a bit so I knew my IT bands were tight, but I was kind of shocked at how much pain was in there...especially on the left side.  I started doing some serious stretching and noticed that I also almost always sit in a way that stretches my right side. And the more I do it the more I do it because it's more comfortable. Basically, I have been reinforcing this pattern for a long time and that's why I'm so tight. 

Now back to my "ah ha" moment...I had my left leg up on the fence and was grimacing with how much it was hurting when I thought "Wow, I've neglected this side of myself!" And I realized, yes, literally I have been neglecting a side of myself...the left side of my physical being. And that is a metaphor and also a physical manifestation of the other side of myself that I have been neglecting.  The side of me that writes.  The side of me that stopped writing on this blog years ago. It all makes so much sense. Just like with my legs, the more I leaned in one direction, the harder it felt to go back in the other direction. That kind of worked until it felt painful.

I'm now doing yoga for runners and lots of stretches to help my body become more balanced again. I'm also paying attention to the habits that got me here.  And on the psychic/mental health side of things, I am taking the time to write, travel and do the things that make me feel balanced.

8th Grade

I saw the movie 8th Grade yesterday.  Wow.  I'm not even sure what to say, but if my 17-year-old son's reaction was anything to go by, it was an accurate look at the torture (and potential) of that time in life.  He was cringing so much, and also laughing.  The movie nailed so many small details that highlight the awkwardness of that age...the close-ups of acne, braces, posing, social media addiction, bodies in all stages of development and many more.  

Although the movie is about one especially awkward girl, you get a glimpse of some of the other "types" of kids (the hot guy, the snobby girls, the nerd...). We don't get to know any of them well, but it feels like they would each have their own bigger, more nuanced, equally awkward and painful story to tell.

The main character, Kayla, makes advice videos about topics like being yourself, getting out of your comfort zone, taking a chance (kind of like some of the things I write about!).  In some it's a close-up of her face, and in others her voiceover is heard over her doing some of those things (or not doing them) to painful effect.  What's fun, and also excruciating, is watching her feeling her way through things. I sat in the theater willing her to make the right decision knowing it could go either way. (I won't tell you which way...don't want to ruin the surprise.) 

By the end of the movie, when Kayla is headed to high school, we definitely have the feeling she has grown a bit, and is a little wiser, but that there are more bumps ahead.  There are also some hilarious and touching scenes with her father.

Gucci. (If you see the movie, you'll understand.)

 

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What has changed?

I decided to leave my old website/blog behind and start again.  It wasn't all lost, and I will go back and read old posts and possibly move some over here or create a link, but in the meantime I'm going to push forward here.  The photos on my homepage are just photos that I like...that make me happy. I'm planning to add new ones as the mood strikes to keep a sense of life and movement and hopefully joy.

I've been thinking about what has changed since I last posted consistently, and it feels like everything has changed...and nothing. Probably the most significant change for me is that my kids are older, and that has shifted dynamics and needs and issues.  As hard as parenting younger kids can be, looking back it feels so much more straightforward.  I know that's not really true on some levels, but the stuff my kids are grappling with now are so much bigger and more fundamental.  I guess that's not entirely true...younger children are grappling with the same things but at a different level of consciousness.  Now my sons are facing life as young adults, which comes with a lot of heartache and sorrow. And I can no longer make it better. I have to watch them struggle and trust they'll figure it out, but it is so hard watching it, feeling it and seeing it.  So hard.

I feel like I am playing a delicate balancing act of being there, being supportive, listening and at the same time stepping back and letting things play out.  I often find myself wanting to jump in and solve something for one of them, only to remind myself that that's not really my job anymore. And it's really not what they need.  

I have realized it's now time to figure what this next phase of life will look like for me.  And part of that is getting back to writing here.

Fresh Start

I guess you know you’ve neglected your blog/website when you finally go to write a new post and it’s gone! Or not completely gone, but not what it was when you were last there, and only a skeleton of what it had been.  I’m sitting here in a state of minor shock because I was ready to reengage, to be committed, to start writing again.  And now I’m not sure what to do?

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Maybe it’s a sign from the universe.  But what does it mean? And what am I going to do?

I think what I’ll do is write the post I thought I was going to write and go from there. I haven’t written consistently for roughly 8 years.  What happened 8 years ago? I decided to join forces with my husband and work for his/our marketing firm. Coaching was great, but it wasn’t bringing in the kind of money we needed with two kids in private school.  And I recognized that I was not going to bust my ass marketing myself as a coach.  I’m not a salesperson.  I’m just not.  And even though I’m confident I am good at my job..my coaching job, I’m not going to sell myself beyond having conversations and being honest.

That’s what happened.  I kept coaching a few clients, but also dedicated myself to our company.  I got very busy.  Busier than I had been in a long time, so writing blogposts fell by the way side.  I made a few attempts over the years to reengage with it because I really loved it when I was writing, but something was blocking me.  I kept trying to figure out what that was, and then when I did write I just stopped again.  I have felt bad about it for 8 years. Not all the time, just some of the time. And then when I would declare I was back to writing and then not follow-through, I felt even worse.

That brings me to today.  Well, actually yesterday. I was talking with a woman I know through carpool.  I really like her but we don’t know each other that well.  She told me she was working with a coach, and then I realized she didn’t know I was a coach.  And that struck me.  Because I still work with clients and I still get so much pleasure from it.  There is nothing like having a good session with someone.  With having a palpable sense that I have added something good to the world. 

We were at a school function, so we didn’t have a chance to speak more, so I thought: “I’ll send her a link to my website.” And then I thought: “I can’t do that because it’s stale, and old and unloved.” And then I thought: “Well, I’ll write a post and then send it to her!”  And that’s where I landed while I was out exercising this morning.  As I often do, I composed what I would write as I walked. (I’m always amazed how eloquent it all seems while I’m walking and how hard it is to translate that eloquence to the actual page.)  I also burst into tears as I thought about writing and stopping it so many years ago. And you know, when you start crying you’ve hit on something. 

I got home, bathed, had my second cup of tea, futzed around with things I didn’t really have to do, and then thought: “Do it. Now.”  I tried to open my website to begin, and that’s when I found out it’s gone. I feel sad and bewildered.  How could I not know it is gone? And now I’m back to the “What do I do?” Do I start from scratch? Do I try to save elements? Do I run away? If I’m honest, it feels strangely right.  Like it had to happen. That’s uncomfortable, but here I am.