Tuesday, July 31, 2007

Through Being Cool

DISCLAIMER: I did not write this.
I read this today on BEST OF CraigsList

Originally Posted: Fri, 6 Jul 09:16 EDT

Through being cool

Date: 2007-07-06, 9:16AM EDT

I grew up in Australia. Australian men generally accept masculinity far better than American men, and I understand why this is. In every country on earth where boys play, there is a ritual of selecting members of each team, whether the game is soccer, cricket, football, baseball, kickball, mammoth-hunting, what have you. Most boys, at some time, have experienced the humiliation of being picked last, and it hurts. Even being picked second-last is much more tolerable than being picked last. It hurts— what is important, and culturally distinct, is how the boy deals with that pain and humiliation, when he's the one picked last.

In Australia, boys strive to be an asset to the team that picks them. They actually care more about how their team does than how they feel. This isn't ego annihilation, and it's not fascism. While playing the game, the game is what's important, not one's own petty issues. If a boy can table his own issues sufficiently to make a good catch, or kick a goal, he'll get picked sooner next time. He knows this. It's a question of priorities: the team wants to win, and they will pick those kids who will make it more likely that their team will win. How each individual feels during this process is irrelevant to the overall goal. Be dependable, be an asset to the team, and the rest of the team will take care of you.

In Australia, there is the concept of mates. The word loosely translates as "friend", but the truth is that Americans lack the concept completely. Your mate has your back, and you have his. Your mates help define you, and accept you unconditionally. Once you're in, you're in for life. It's not easy to get in. When I was nine, I had a kid who used to annoy me mercilessly on the playground. One day, I had had enough of his picking on me, and I knocked him over with a punch. He got up, shook himself off, and shook my hand. "We're having a party this weekend. Here's where it is."

I was still really angry, and I didn't immediately understand what he was doing. He wanted to know that I would stick up for myself when provoked. He needed to know if, after he was my mate, I'd stand up for him. Once he found out that I'd stand up for myself, I was in. At that party, everyone there treated me like a mate, and I felt more included than I ever did before, and I never got selected last for any game again at that school.

American boys don't have this. The best have a much weaker version of this, but the commitment is conditional and halting, the bonds constantly tested by vicious games of conformity and obedience. Maybe men at war have the real thing, but I have no experience of this. Coming back to the USA, I had to teach my male friends to be mates, and it never came naturally to any of my new friends. I have American mates now, some of whom I've been friends with for twenty years, but it took an enormous amount of work, and included really rocky periods, and a lot of struggle. New people I meet, especially younger people, have no understanding of what it means to be a mate. Friendships, especially among young people, are temporary, fleeting, strategic. They exist in order to jockey for social position. American men seem treacherous, insecure, and ungrounded in comparison to Aussie men. It's killing us as a society. It's one of the great tragedies of our time.

When an American boy gets picked last at a game on the playground, he gives up on ever being selected by the other boys, except last. He retreats into self-pity and misanthropy. This is encouraged by the adults, especially his parents, doubly especially when his dad made the same choices about being picked last himself. This boy tries to create a new playing field where he is the top of the selection. Because he knows he cannot compete on the playing field, he tries to compete in intellectual pursuits, or in a fantasy world, or in fandom. He collects comic books, or plays Dungeons & Dragons, or plays video games. Maybe he learns science, or literature, or art, or music. It never occurs to him to strive to improve himself, to make himself an asset to the team that might choose him. It never occurs to him that a drama is unfolding on a level bigger than that of his individual ego.

When adolescence hits, this boy tries to be cool. He creates a new pecking order based around musical taste, or fashion, or obscure knowledge. He tries out for the school play, or joins the debate team, or starts a band, or joins the school's literary magazine, and tries to win approval through his creativity and intelligence. There is nothing inherently wrong with seeking approval through these channels, but the boy still has a chip on his shoulder about rejection. He strives to create not merely a new selection where he is on top, but a new selection where the kids who are successful at the old games are rejected here. He seeks to be even crueler than he thinks those other kids are— to cut them down before they can hurt him again. He doesn't realize that being rejected from the alternative he has just created doesn't hurt at all, really. His ego depends upon being top of some pecking order, even an imaginary one, and he will viciously defend his new status, especially by being cruel to those who are lower down on his new pecking order. He becomes an asshole, but it's everyone else's fault but his.

Ultimately, this is what it means to be cool, to be indie, to be avant-garde, to be hip. As a young punk rocker, I was saved from this insanity because I grew up in a small town where weirdos got their asses beat. In order to be weird, you had to band together and watch each other's backs. We had to trust each other in a fight, or we'd all get stomped. It was ugly, it was nasty, and it was exhausting, but at the end of the day, you really knew who your friends were. A realistic selection sprung up based on whether you were worth saving when everyone got jumped by rednecks. You sized up new potential friends for their value in dragging you out from under a half dozen pairs of steel-toed Doc Martins when the Nazi skinheads broke up your hardcore show. (I like traditional skinheads, but the Nazi skins suck ass). When the bored, redneck small-town cops harassed us for being weird, you needed to know your friends had your back when you split up and ran.

The point is that every boy and every man needs to know his friends chose him. It's hard-wired into our brains. We need to know that we were worth picking, that we're valued for what we contribute to the people around us. We need it in our jobs, in our friendships, and in our relationships. Those boys and men who never get chosen, who never become the people anyone would want on their side, are damaged goods. They're not really cool, they're undeveloped. No tattoo or piercing, no leather jacket or pair of glasses, no boots or records or novels or comic books or mp3s or posters or t-shirts; no commodity of any kind is going to make a pair of balls occur where they wouldn't anyway.

We live in an advertising culture where we are constantly told that the only thing that stands between our current state and wholeness is a particular commodity. It's the central lie of our culture, and the people who hate mainstream culture the most seem to cling to this lie the most intensely. Notice how many "alternative" people define their non-conformity by how readily they conform to an alternate standard? How they buy objects that articulate their rebellion for them? It has become so ingrained in our culture that the current crop of teenagers makes no distinction between consumption and expression. They are frustrated that consumption alienates them from their own feelings and desires, but they express that frustration by consuming more commodities. It's a vicious circle. Let go. Quit being cool.

Location: Somerville
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~ Keith

Friday, July 27, 2007

Two Saplings are Planted

We are like trees.

Writer, poet, and leader in the Emergent church movement Mark Scandrette captures this idea very well in his book Soul Graffiti: Making a Life in The Way of Jesus:
To sustain life, a tree must stay both rooted in the soil and open to the energy of sunlight and carbon dioxide. If a tree is cut or pulled out of the soil, where it draws water and nutrients, it will eventually die. Similarly, if a tree is shielded from the radiance of the sun it will eventually wither away. The life of a tree is an apt metaphor for...making a life in the way of Jesus. To see the Creator's genesis-vision fulfilled in our lives we need to be both rooted in the soil of our humanity, people, and place and open to the transcendent energy of God.

The dirt of life in the here and now provides the nutrients to cultivate a life with God. We also need exposure to the Spirit of God surrounding us. Jesus demonstrated a life that was grounded in humanity and struggle and open to the energy and breadth of God. We find him in the marketplace caring for the needs of people and on the mountainside connecting with the eternal Father. His life was an example of dynamic unity and synergy between the pursuit to love God and everything that God has made. And this is the life we are being invited into.
I'm excited to announce a new blog which will chronicle our adventures in the pacific northwest:

The Orchard
~ Keith

Monday, July 23, 2007

Light, Poetry & Prayer

Ring the bells that still can ring,
forget your perfect offering.
There is a crack in everything,
that's how the light gets in.
Poetry is just the evidence of life.
If your life is burning well,
poetry is just the ash.
Prayer is translation.
A man translates himself into
a child asking for all there is
in a language he has barely mastered.
~ Leonard Cohen

Thursday, July 12, 2007

Well, DUH!!!

I've been reading books and stories about hospice care, and thinking all along it was to help prepare me for my new job when we get to Salem.

In an older post I talked about a switch God pulled on me. I realized today He did it again.

As excited as I am about moving back to my home State of Oregon, the roots I have grown here in the Bay Area are deeper than I realized, and I had a "Well, DUH!!!" moment just now as I was reading about pain and loss.

I began crying at work, and am finally just beginning to realize the pain and grief I am bearing about leaving the San Francisco Bay Area. It has been my home for 20+ years. I experienced rebirth here and have grown up as an adult here. I was married here and have spent my entire 18+ years of married life here!

My employer wants me to read the books they sent me because I need to learn about how to care for people in their last stages of life.

God loves me too much to let that be the only reason. He is having me read the books so I can have help dealing with the loss and pain and grief of leaving my home and friends and family here. Today was my first real wake up call of how deep that pain will be/is becoming.

I didn't see that coming.


~ Keith

Wednesday, July 11, 2007

Hospice? You want to do HOSPICE? Whoa!

Some people have asked me
"Really? Why hospice?"
others have simply said
"Wow. I could never do that."
I agree Hospice Nursing will be challenging, but I feel compelled from an inner place so deep it is hard for me to understand, let alone describe. Suffice to say I can't not do it, and feel as if it is what I have been wired for.

Before I was accepted into Nursing School, when I was still awaiting confirmation from God that nursing was a calling I should walk into, a bible verse that hit me was
To the Father, pure religion is this: that you care for
widows and orphans in their distress, and that you
keep yourself unstained by the world.
~ James 1:27
Then in the first few weeks of Nursing School, I saw a video, titled Dealing with Death and Dying by Thanatologist Joy Ufema, RN. As I watched the video and listened to her stories, I was struck how deeply this need is felt in America today and knew I wanted to care for the elderly and dying, someday -- here were the "widows" the verse in James mentioned*.

So here I am facing a new chapter in my career.I recently received an introduction / orientation packet from my new employer, Willamette Valley Hospice. Included were the standard forms to sign and the acknowledgement that I might have to pee in a bottle once in awhile. Also included were two books -- mandatory reading for all clinical staff. The two books are:
The True Work of Dying;
A Practical and Compassionate
Guide to Easing the Dying Process
By Jan Bernard, RN and Miriam Schneider, RN.


Final Gifts;
Understanding the Special Awareness,
Needs, and Communications of the Dying
By Maggie Callanan and Patricia Kelley

I'm only about 2/3 done with the first one and have already had a few experiences of trying to read through bleary eyes as the tears roll down my face.

As I move forward and share my journey here on my blog, I'll start with a few quotes from my reading thus far which may help you better understand why I would want to give myself away to help people live well as they die well:
In many ways, [death & dying have been] brought to the forefront of our public conscience. Finally, we are naming our fears and concerns about this life process. The stories [in this book] were written by people who chose a natural death. Their words tell of the difficulties of their choices. They also speak of the joy and healing that come as we sit in the darkness. They tell of their journey as they walk toward the light.
(p 169)
We have chosen to include stories that encompass the totality of what death is, both good and bad. We have found that when the story of death is told by someone who has walked the path, the effect is profound. These stories are more than the sum of their words. They took great courage to write and the very action of writing released and healed painful layers of grief. These stories are small pieces of peoples' souls.
(p 166)
It seems too often that many hospice patients' most profound questions come not as you [the hospice nurse] are sitting quietly with them, but rather as you are about to leave their room. It is usually at the time...when you feel as though you have the least amount of time. But in our hearts, these are the moments we have come to value the most in our contacts with patients. There is always time for them.

My patient Jim and I often would sit together...and talk about life and what this dying time meant to him. He softly asked me this question as I was about to leave his room: "Have you been witness to any healing of patients from cancer?"

I turned from the door and shared with Jim that in hospice work with patients in the natural process of dying I have frequently witnessed something even more powerful than the curing of disease. In the final weeks of a patient's life, I saw the healing of sadness, the healing of regrets from unmet dreams, the healing of families too long apart, the healing that comes from words that took a lifetime to say, and the healing that only letting go brings.
(p 8-9)
Death will eventually arrive for everyone, and when it does, there are no do-overs. That is why it is important not to run from your inner struggle.
(p 184)
Such beauty and grace abound in these stories.

I know as I work alongside people who are living their life to the fullest in the best way they can, I will also look deep inside and feel challenged to live my own life to the fullest as well.

I am humbled and in awe at such a loving God who would not just allow me to, but actually ask me to give my life away to His precious ones at such courageous, important, and tender moments of their lives. What an incredible honor and privilege -- and what an immense responsibility.

And I haven't even started the job yet -- I'm not even done with the required reading!

~ Keith

* (the orphans referred to, I believe, are kids with Downs Syndrome -- but that part of my calling has yet to be revealed, except in brief glimpses here and there. (back))

Friday, July 06, 2007

Faces, Books, & Friends

This cartoon is by Dave Walker.I am a member of Facebook.

I like Facebook -- but I prefer faces, and books.

Now go find some friends.
~ Keith

Tuesday, July 03, 2007

RN Licensure Transfer

On 5th June, I mailed away the packet applying for an Oregon RN license by endorsement -- which means I was saying "Since I am already licensed in California, can I please have a license in Oregon?"

According to the website for both the Oregon State Board of Nursing (OSBN) and the California Board of Registered Nursing (CABRN), this is a three-step process:
  1. Apply to the OSBN for licensure by endorsement.
  2. Ask City College of San Francisco to mail my transcripts directly to the OSBN.
  3. Ask the CABRN to send me verification of my own licensure, in a "state secured envelope" which I am not to open, but instead immediately forward to the OSBN
The CABRN's website states the process could take 6 weeks. They cashed my check on 18th June, so waiting a full 6 weeks would be cutting it close!

I've been eagerly checking my mailbox every afternoon, hoping to see this "state secured envelope" -- but no dice yet.

Yesterday I was faced with some bad news and some good news.

The bad news: still so sign of a "state secured envelope" from the CABRN.

The good news: my Oregon RN License, in a regular old run-of-the-mill envelope from the OSBN! I guess that "state secured envelope" must have been mailed directly to the OSBN!


~ Keith

PS -- as an added kicker though, the extra bad news: the way the expiry works in Oregon, is such that my new RN license is set to expire 31st Oct 2007! The good news, though, is that in Oregon I have no CEU requirements, so I don't have to kill myself getting a bunch of CEUs in a short period of time!

A New Helmet

The other day, Cathy bought some motorcycle gear: jacket, helmet, gloves and overpants. We got such a good deal at Road Rider, I was able to get myself a new helmet.

I had no real complaints re: my old helmet, but as it is a flip-face, the convenience is offset by the fact that it has less chin protection in a crash. Also, the new helmet is much better ventilated, and is overall a better made helmet!

Behold the Arai Quantum-2. The pattern is called "Stellar Red".

~ Keith