Archive for the ‘behavior’ Category

Observations on Our Co-op

Thursday, December 8th, 2016

The Co-op (The People’s Food Co-op in Ann ARbor Michigan) is in a bit of a mess and confusion. Which is not anything new. I’ve been off the board for about 4 years, and have been mostly an observer. Although I do step in every once in a while to serve on a committee, as well as I’ve been called for advice and an historical perspective.
Previously, I was on the board for nine years and served three years as President. Not consecutive years. I also served as Vice President, Secretary, and Treasurer. I’ve been a decades long volunteer.
A few years ago we added up the time I had spent volunteering for the co-op and it was as if I had worked there full time for a year.
So I do have a few observations on the current state of the co-op. These issues are of course intertwined.

Here are a few opinions.

The board has been less than honest with the membership about the state of the co-op, and how much money we are losing. The board should be letting members know that we are in trouble. Not letting the membership know that we have been and continue to lose money is wrong, and also dangerous. It is the membership that can pull us out of this downturn, and the membership should be directly called on to be involved with saving the co-op. The silence and side stepping is bizarre. And may be the primary thing that brings the co-op to its termination.

The vote to unionize takes place tomorrow, Friday. I honestly don’t know if this would be a good or bad thing for the workers and for the co-op. And my opinion isn’t going to make any difference. What I can say is that there was a chance to do this with kindness. With dignity. With honesty and a great process. That hasn’t happened. There was no need to surprise the board with the news. And there was no need to make it personal, with direct personal attacks against the General Manager.
I worked for more focus on staff and having a great work environment as well as better wages and benefits. I’ve seen the progress in fits and starts. I also know that the staff having trouble with management has been a long term theme for our co-op. I believe the path to resolution includes a lot of listening, and a lot of kindness. A lot of the board supporting the GM and making sure they have the resources to work well with staff, and careful professional monitoring to make certain that happens. A union may help the co-op through a maturation process. It may also create an even more divisive atmosphere that will harm relationships and make financial recovery even more difficult.
We need to support the legal process required with a vote to unionize, and I ask everyone to be as kind, thoughtful, and aware as possible. That includes reviewing history and learning from previous mistakes as well as building on success.
I think unions are good things. They also change the culture of the workplace environment. Let’s see more kindness and compassion during and after this process. And I hope the vote is an informed vote balancing the staff needs with the stark financial reality that has been obfuscated unnecessarily.

The Co-op is once again without a permanent General Manager. This is a really painful place to be, and is hard on everyone. Thankfully there is policy and plans in place for this situation. And previously our staff have really pitched in to make things work in the interim. It is a total distraction for the board to go through a hiring process. Focus on long term plans, expansion, and pretty much everything else is set aside. It is essential for the board to get help during this time. I’m less and less confident of the board (not just this board but every board including when I was part of the board) having the skill to go through this process and to make good decisions – especially when a long term plan is still missing and without recent membership surveys and input. After my experience with the hiring process, I don’t think the board is qualified to be guiding this process. I believe the consultants from the co-op world, who have experience and expertise, should be heavily utilized at every step of the process. I also now believe the decision making should be shared by board, staff, and members. Without a clear direction and financial stability this is more important than ever.

A lot of people have been chewed up and spit out working for the Co-op. I’m sp very sad about this legacy.This just needs to stop. Moving forward, I would seriously ask the players to continually ask “how can this process be kinder?” “how can we benefit the most people?” “is there a kinder and more inclusive way to do this?” and “how can we empower the people involved and make sure everyone is informed?”

Those are the questions I would hope people will ask, the people who I am entrusting to make decisions that at this point will allow People’s Food Co-op to thrive or to die.

Afraid to use the Bathroom

Monday, May 16th, 2016

1971, and I moved back to the town where I was born. But was new to the neighborhood, new to junior high, new to having to get to school and back (elementary school was a block away and I walked or biked there up hill and back, new to all day school (I was a walker and came home for lunch before moving).
The junior high had grades 7, 8 and 9. So we were the youngest and most vulnerable. I was trying to figure it all out, trying to fit in, trying to feel safe. In the halls people sometimes pushed me. Once someone jabbed me with a sharp needle or something similar. I held tight to my macrame purse and sometimes a passing student tried to yank it off my shoulder.Sometimes people would knock into you to spill books onto the floor. I was scared making my way from class to class.
But the most frightening thing was the bathrooms. You only had a minute or two at the most to use one, and I heard things about girls being followed by boys and forced into sex acts, being attacked by strangers if they were alone, that there was smoking and drug use, and unknown possible violence.
It seemed like the most terrifying place to me. i didn’t have a friend I could ask to go with me. I didn’t know what was true but assumed it was all terrible. So I decided not to use them. Ever. I decided to be the junior high student who never had to pee.
And I didn’t. We started school sometime around 7:30, dropped off in a car pool. We ended around 2, and I walked the two miles back home. And never used the bathroom at school because I was too terrified. All through 7th grade, all through 8th grade – which only lasted a semester for me. I may have used the bathroom once or twice from desperation, but day after day I waited until I was safe at home. If I had a guitar class after school I waited until I walked the mile to State Street. Using the shared bathroom next to the head shop with adults and hippies and other strangers felt safer – it was a single room no one else could enter once I locked the door behind me.
Junior high survival to me meant staying dehydrated and with a full bladder I learned to ignore.
There was some small truth to the dangers of the junior high girls bathroom. A few girls were attacked by boys, in the high school there were even a few reported rapes. But it was a decision I made on my own, based on exaggerated stories, and I never considered telling anyone else how much I suffered every single day of junior high because I couldn’t pee. I never considered finding out what the real danger might be.
This memory comes to mind now that people are talking about how dangerous bathrooms may become if we allow women and men, boys and girls, to use the bathroom that matches their gender.
I am strongly in favor of just letting people pee. Remove the obstacles, remove the fears, give everyone a safe place to pee. We know that transgender kids are more at risk than anyone else. It’s not hard to make them safer without major disruption.
Here is my proof that those early teenage years can be strange and difficult and fear can take over even a biological necessity. Let’s show some compassion and make it safe for everyone to pee when they need to, and where they can. There are so many real dangers and fears. Let’s not create more.

Weight Loss – Turns out that was the easy part.

Monday, May 2nd, 2016

The New York Times has an article out today on The Biggest Loser TV show, and the problems the winners have had keeping their weight off. It turns out not many are successful over the long run. I’ve previously seen statistics saying less than 5% of those who lose a lot of weight are able to keep it off. It sounds pretty dismal, actually.

It seemed a miracle that I lost more than 125 pounds. Now I’m finding out that keeping it off may be the larger accomplishment – pun intended. I’ve had ten years or so of steady healthy slow and successful weight loss. This week I’m actually within a pound of my all time I thought it was impossible goal. It will happen sometime this summer, I’m confident.

I write to explore a few ideas about why I’ve been able to keep losing weight and not balloon back. Perhaps this will be helpful for others, it is certainly helpful for me to consider what is working. So I can keep doing it. So ranging from teh philosophical to teh practical –

For me it is do or die. If I am heavier, my life is at risk. Last year i found out I have a genetic heart valve problem. If I was overweight – carrying more than 100 extra pounds – open heart surgery and more would be on the agenda. I can be okay because I”m at a healthy weight. And of course the diabetes, the joint issues, and so much more. It is my life I’m working to preserve. Nothing less. So spending whatever time and money it takes to take care of myself is always at the top of the list. If I don’t, I die sooner. I know that.

Lose the weight slowly. Losing weight is hard on the body. I don’t think losing weight fast is healthy, and I don’t think it works in the long term. It takes time to be the changed body type – to believe it and feel it and accept it. It takes time to absorb the extra skin. It takes time to effectively and safely process the toxins stored in fat. It takes time to adjust metabolism, to rededicate your body to health and well being.

You have to communicate with and update your body. My most significant weight loss was after major surgery, the removal of a ten pound fibroid tumor. I had to tell my body – every single cell – that things would be different from now on. That I now had a body that was all about movement and being fit. The only way to really communicate that was to keep moving and acting like someone who was fit. On the TV shows for weight loss, there is an insane amount of time for exercise and movement. You’re telling the body that is the new order. Except it isn’t. No one can keep that up. I told my body I was upping the movement – 7-10 hours a week of medium activity, at a minimum. I’ve kept that up. My body adjusted. It works from that premise. I reinforce that communication every day. It’s reasonable, it’s doable, and my metabolism has apparently made the permanent adjustment to that communication. This is critically important.

Weigh frequently but don’t stress about it. It’s good to be paying attention, it’s nice to get teh treat of losing weight still. But in truth weight still goes up and down and is not in your control. I don’t ever want to be in denial again. And I also still see this as a long term effort and variations of 2-5 pounds are totally normal and often mysterious.

Have a healthy list of goals you can control. My list includes minimal movement and exercise, foods I want to include each day (greens, veggies, fruits, raw dairy, great protein, etc.). Sleep has become something I need to pay more attention to recently. I have my list, I do my best to achieve it every day. This is a forever list, not just until I weigh a certain amount.

Upgrade my food. Whatever it is – can I make it healthier, more nutritious, better for me and the planet? Higher quality chocolate. More fulfilling rice and veggies. Make my own bread from fresh ground flour. Whatever it is I’m eating, can I do even better? I make this a long term goal, and don’t stress about doing it all at once. My very good diet just gets better all the time. I’m more and more satisfied, and even my tastes have changed to that junky food is less and less interesting.

Use small plates. It’s a simple trick but it works. And recently I’ve found that by having a choice in smallish plates, I feel extra proud of using the smallest, and the still small plate compared to the big plate seems more satisfying. We are so easily fooled, that even though I know I’m fooling myself I can fool myself. I love that.

Don’t finish every meal. I think it brings awareness to potions if you stop before your plate is clean. And it is important to give permission to myself to stop before I finish off whatever it is I’m eating. My dog really likes this idea. At home she gets the healthy leftovers. At restaurants it’s fun to bring my own kind of fancy carry out container to fill. It is a good habit to break. Whatever ends up on your plate doesn’t have to end up being eaten now. Simple concept, yet it was pretty deeply ingrained in me! I do eat less now. It feels very natural, feeling satisfied feels much better than being stuffed. It took a few years for that to happen.

Be thoughtful when you eat. Eat slowly. Thoughtfully. Mindfully. With awareness. Considering the stories behind the food you have in your mouth, that is entering your body. Give yourself time to savor and enjoy food! If it isn’t enjoyable, stop eating. If you can’t take the time to experience the food, stop eating. If the people around you are eating quickly, slow down even more.

The real goal is a healthy happy body. How much you weigh is only one indicator. How do you feel? What would increase your comfort? How can you be stronger? What more do you want to be doing with your body? What makes you deeply happy? This has been a huge transition. I focus on how great I feel, how much I enjoy feeling my bones for the first time. I love the way I can move, even the way I can curl up now. The more I note and enjoy those things, the more reinforcement I have to keep this level of health and awareness. And I believe that is also communicated to my body so that this level of wellness is accepted and something I can sustain.

Those are a few of my thoughts about being successful keeping weight off. I don’t think it is a complete list, but I also believe it is important to share some hope and real ways to make this work, as the news of failure is more dismal and – literally – disheartening for those of us who have struggled with being overweight.

I couldn’t have done it without the support of friends. I’m very grateful.

Support – Kindness made Active

Monday, March 21st, 2016

I have some very supportive friends. The extreme demonstration of this was November and December of 2009. I had major surgery to remove a very large fibroid tumor. I lived alone, I had no partner, just my dog and I. Over 50 people chipped in and took care of me for almost two months. I had food, company, dog walkers, house cleaning, even assistance in the first few days turning over, getting out of bed, washing, and figuring out how to walk again.

That was support. And the experience was life changing for me. I had never known that sort of support.

Except of course from my parents. Whose support was strong clear, and very long lasting as it continues through my father to this day. But in many ways fading as he grows older, and actually needs more of my support,

I’ve been practicing kindness. It seems to be my most important spiritual path at this time. And I’ve been considering support, now that I’m single again, and also getting hints of what happily growing older may require.

I had a lot of support in my last relationship, and I am sad to be without the small and sometimes large daily ways of being cared for and nourished. Thrown back into the unwanted status of “single” my support has to again depend on the many individuals who are my community, my friends, people not necessarily pledged to me as a lover is, but who do respond and care in so many small and large ways.

And support comes from strangers and synchronis events and coincidences as well. It matters to stop and appreciate the small and large ways I have wonderful support. People who support my work by being clients or by sending clients to me. Requests for writing and teaching. Peers who challenge and inspire me to do better.

Gifts of food, company, money, chocolate. People who will lend a hand moving something, clearing out a closet, providing expertise as I puzzle out a new project. Those who show up and carry heavy objects, saw lumber, shovel sand and weed the garden with me.

Friends who will read and comment on a book chapter, tell me when I offended them, suggest a softer or more mature way to proceed with conflicts. The support of singing the song while I ranch off into exotic harmonies. The support of giving me a ride somewhere or adjusting my bike for me. Hoisting the canoe, paddling behind me, swimming into the deep part fo the lake together urging me to go further, climbing the mountain (literally) with me when I didn’t think I could do that.

Support in believing in my dreams, introducing me to someone who can make those dreams become real.

And my work, my time, is spent finding how I can support other people. Especially the ones who come to me as clients. I am especially called to support new moms anyway I possibly can. Support them in breastfeeding, support them in taking care of themselves when they are giving so much Support them in having the space and the time to fall madly in love with this tiny person new to the world. I have never been a mom, and never will, but they hold a special part of my heart.

But in all of my clients and students the real purpose is to find how I can support them to be wonderful. Successful. Happy. To make it through hard times, with more than they started with.

I support the cranial vitality when I do Cranialsacral Therapy. I support the brilliant ability of the body to heal when I do other bodywork. I support people being insightful and wise and powerful when we talk about their lives and their struggles. It is all just about being supportive. Finding those small and large ways each person can use support. Making sure they have other people and parts of their lives which are supportive, encouraging them to build more support and move away from the people and things that are not.

It is all pretty simple.

I could use more support in my day to day life. There are tasks and projects and dreams that are behind or delayed. I need help keeping up with day to day tasks, and so many things that need doing. I can be more aware of ways to support my friends and clients and community in those small and large ways, I can do so much more.

When I write about it, I become more aware. As I’m more aware I can be even more active and —- supportive.

What the Heck eHarmony?

Monday, February 8th, 2016

Somewhere around 10 years ago I joined eHarmony for the first time. With their matching metrics, I didn’t do well as I was overweight. I had a couple of conversations with men, but even more who had in their profile that they were intolerant of anyone overweight. I quit after a few months, matches had dwindled to a few a week. In the three month period I recall just one phone date.
More recently, I talked to a number of people who had met and been happy with the service. So I tried it for a month, costing almost $50.

What the Heck eHarmony?

In that month I was “matched” with almost 650 men. The four or five that seemed interesting never responded to my first steps to connect. Nearly all of the matches were with men with less than college. Ah, I didn’t complete college myself. Although I teach at the University level and pursued an alternative education that I’m very proud of, not a college graduate. So I apparently was matched with mostly no college graduates.

Most of the matches (I’m thinking 75% at least) were somewhat or very conservative. Not a match.

About half the matches were “a good match outside of my settings”. Not one of those seemed like a good match.

eHarmony used to be known for their very careful, scientifically based formulas for success. 650 men in four weeks isn’t showing a lot of discrimination or filtering.

I responded to two men who contacted me, both seemed wildly inappropriate. The first “moved on” after getting my email. The second one said nothing, but eHarmony contacted me a few minutes later saying the account was likely hacked, I should stop contact with him, and to be safe. Well that was uncomfortable.

One man followed through after contacting me, and we are looking for a time for dinner. He was able to find me online based on the information I provided. So he bypassed the eHarmony structure in the end. Not as creepy as it sounds.

Today I’ve canceled my account, pulled photo and all the other written information from my profile, and stopped notifications. I do hope that is enough to get out of this wacky system.

I feel I’ve wasted a bit of money and a lot fo time for a service that is not what it seems.

Being political – learning to listen

Saturday, February 6th, 2016

I invited an anti-abortion “rescue” activist to speak to a class I taught at Community High School. This was many years ago but it was a teaching experience I’ve never forgotten.

The small group of students in my “Political Organizing” class agreed it would be a unique chance to really listen to someone who had a viewpoint they strongly disagreed with. We agreed that the point would not be to debate or try to change anyone’s mind. It was a class comprised of liberal, pro-choice kids, and they truly wanted to understand how anyone could hold a position they found to be simply – but for many of us profoundly – wrong.

My brother David had a friend I had met a couple of times. David had told me this guy regularly went to protest at Planned Parenthood. He joined people from his church to try and “save” women from having abortions. I knew Bob casually, and enough about his political and protest activities to give him a wide berth – and certainly I did not want to discuss his actions with him. Until the class.

When I called him up to see if he might meet my class I was very candid about why we wanted to have him as a guest. And that every student had identified as pro-choice. That this was an exercise in being open to viewpoints we opposed, issues we had already come to a conclusion about. But that the students were sincere in wanting to hear a viewpoint they had not yet encountered first hand.

The class was great in giving Bob attention as he explained why he did this protesting, and his motivations and experience. They asked questions, they challenged him rather gently on women’s rights concerns, and they talked a lot with him about his deep passion and convictions concerning life and his very deeply held religious beliefs.

In the end, no one changed their minds. But something even more important happened. The students expressed some surprise at how deeply Bob felt about the issue, how articulate and well thought out his ideas and beliefs were. They did not expect that. And they gained some insight into why he was doing work that they had dismissed previously as mostly misguided and hateful.

There was a connection, there was greater respect, there was kindness, there was learning. And there was the budding practice of sitting down and learning to listen to a perceived enemy.

I believe it was one of the best classes I’ve ever taught. And this skill is desperately relevant today.

In search of my childhood potato chips

Sunday, January 3rd, 2016

When i was a kid, it wasn’t uncommon for me to spend my allowance on a large bag of potato chips. On the way back from the store, I would eat half the bag while walking the mile home. This was happiness: mouth pleasure, salt fantasy, greasy love. And of course my mother did not approve. She had some odd ideas about what food was healthy (white Pepperidge Farm bread, Captain Crunch cereal in place of Lucky Charms, as much lunch meats as we wanted swathed with Miracle Whip in place of Hellman’s mayo.)

Potato-Chips

In Ithaca, where my love of salted fried potato slices began, Wise potato chips ruled my life. I would do or say most anything to have them. When we moved back to Michigan I made the transition to the lighter and crispier Lays. Jays potato chips carried me into adulthood, although the local Better Made did pretty well also.

When I started eating mostly organic healthy non-processed foods it was hard to justify the potato chip lust. I tried the kettle cooked organic and even baked varieties, and none were really satisfying. I even spent a year carefully restricted to one bag potato chip purchase per month. The anticipation was greater than the enjoyment.

Because the truth is nothing tastes as wonderful as that childhood chip. It satisfied an emotional need, a young lust for bad food, a craving that would re-emerge and then continue to exist long after the last salty crumbs were enjoyed – licking my fingertips still longing for more. When I was young, I wanted more chips. As an adult I want the bag of chips to work one more time. And the sad truth is, it never does.

Most recently the health food stores I buy groceries from carry an overwhelming selection of potato chips. I even mistakenly bought pickle and chili flavored a few months ago thinking they were plain. Most of the flavored types contain yeast extract – a disguise for MSG – which makes my throat feel sore and the roof of my mouth odd. Sometimes I have a headache as well. So that rules out at least 3/4 of the selection. I keep trying a bag of this or that – but I end up feeling ill afterwards. I buy the plain ones and eat them with a homemade onion and hot sauce sour cream dip. The dip is that only part I really like.

The truth is my childhood chip is gone. Junk food does not fill that need, that longing. It never really did and it never really will.

I’ve upgraded the way I fill my longing. To people and events and food that nourishes me. But yet…

But you know what? The reverse is true of chocolate. The chocolate of my childhood was unremarkable and mostly simple sweet stuff. I never craved it. I could pass on all of it. And often did. The chocolate I enjoy now lasts a long time, it is rich and full and deep and mouth and body pleasurable. It varies from hot chocolate to homemade peanut butter chocolate chip cookies to really dark to partly dark to chocolate cheesecake and flourless cakes. I like having it in the house, and I’m so satisfied with a little that I rarely overindulge. A good chocolate bar can last weeks.

While I was losing weight, I ate as much high quality chocolate as I wanted. There are valuable lessons here.

And the potato chips of my childhood? They were never really real. I have now given up my search. I may need a bit of time to grieve that loss. The fantasy that happiness is possible with salt, oil, and potato slices.

Love for the Ebike

Monday, October 5th, 2015

A few months ago I had my bike converted to an ebike. After waiting and saving my money for a number of years, I finally made the jump. I wish I had borrowed the money and done it years ago.

This conversion has changed my bicycling world. It turns out I had a lot more anxiety about biking than I knew. This may have been related to a previously undiagnosed genetic heart defect. I had a great bike, could make it up most hills with some effort, and enjoyed using it as much as possible. But the ease and comfort and hill climbing ability of the converted bike is just stunning. And thrilling. And exciting. And fun. And so very easy.

I have a version with a nice small but effective lithium battery. It is 350 watts, and 10 amp hourly load. Am I saying that right? About a 15 mile range when you are not pedaling, and it can power the bike to just over 20 MPH on a flat with no pedaling. My first charge was after about 35 miles, I did pedal nearly the whole time. And was mostly cruising around at about 14 MPH most times I checked.

The version I have has “pedal assist” technology, which is much more effective and wonderful that I ever imagined possible. When you start to pedal, the motor turns on, and then you can choose a 1-5 level of assist – from a little to a lot. Mostly then I leave the gearing set to pretty hard, and so when I do pedal I’m going much faster than I would be without the assist. The whole assist thing can be turned off, but then you also don’t have access to the throttle.

The throttle is also there, so at any time you can rev up the motor and in a burst or slow gain have more power added to your pedaling or stop pedaling altogether. I was surprised to find out that one of the ways I use the throttle the most is to make my starts smoother. If I am at a full stop, and crank the pedals around so I can start with my right foot (I just can’t do it with the left) a little throttle added makes the transition to get the bike going much easier. Especially when at a full stop going up hill. This maneuver has often caused me to nearly fall over or at least look really awkward.

I hadn’t realized how much space in my brain was being taken up with thinking of hills, planning on hills, preparing to charge hills, and worrying about making it up hills. Maybe because I’m older. Maybe because of the heart condition. But now, all of that is over.

I also have found that the ability to pick up speed makes it safer to ride with traffic. I have more options, and also more maneuverability. That keeps me safer.

Nearly all of my in city small errands or travel trips have now been by bike, so my car sits out even more than before. Once I get my trailer working I’ll need the car even less. Because I can go further, carry more weight, and enjoy the convenience of being on bike. I just need the car for bad weather, if I’m taking the dog, and for awkward purchases. Even though it’s close, carrying home a bale of straw by bike wasn’t doable. But I’ll work on that.

jim heh bike

This is Jim, who owns Human Electric Hybrids and he did the conversion. I found his work to be excellent, he made it convenient for me, followed up when I asked questions, and just provided excellent service in every respect. I love his passion for the bikes, and the extras that he did – putting on my old bike rack, adding a kickstand, and his care in all the wiring and whatnot associated with the conversion.

Everyone who has tried out the bike returns with a smile on their face. I’ve been biking enough extra now that it has become clear I need a new seat. That’s great! I don’t know how much of a winter rider I’ll be – but I hope for many days of riding in the next few months.

I do love my ebike, and can imagine it will be welcomed by aging bikers like myself as well as anyone who wants to make biking safer and more enjoyable. Especially as the price comes down – the only real downside to this adventure. But so far worth every penny.

The Thing About Grief

Monday, November 10th, 2014

My first dog, Zomba, was a therapy dog. For eight years we were hospice volunteers together, although she got most of the attention. She loved the work because she got lots of treats, but she was very connected to the work as well. I learned that when I saw her grieving for one of the patients who died.
z and bear wide shot 11-01 copy
It was someone who she had enjoyed visiting over a few months, and when she died I took Zomba to the empty room. She looked for her friend, she smelled the room carefully, and then she went to the door to leave. When we got home that day, she took her bear out – which by then had no stuffing left. She held it in her mouth, cradling it almost, and sighed very deeply a few times. She just stayed there, and I could feel the sadness in her posture and her breathing.

It was a position she used many times coming back from hospice. Only when someone died, and it was the only time she ever took out her bear and held it in that way.

My grief for Zomba when she died was like none I had ever experienced. I had cried losing pet cats, turtles, and even birds and other animals we held funerals for as a kid. Losing my first ever dog was much more visceral, deep, and painful. She had been such a part of my life every day nearly every hour for 9 1/2 years. It was a bond and a connection I had never felt before. I was so very alone without her, and she had been such a true and wonderful companion.

Everywhere I went, everything I did, she was a missing part. I grieved with my heart, my soul, my hands and my body that was used to having her next to me to touch and to hold. I missed her with every sense – her smell was missing, the sound of her nails on the floor, her warning bark or conversation about needing to go outside. My routines were gone, beginning the day with her by being outside. I noted all the ways I anticipated her greeting me at the door, coming to cuddle next to me. And how she anticipated out walks, visiting the people and stores she liked, the places we visited so often. She was so well integrated into my life I hadn’t known how cold and awful it would be without her.

The grief felt like missing part of my own body. Her absence was so deeply held inside of me. It felt never-ending and too large to ever contain. But that was seven years ago. It moved through me in waves, it did become smaller, the memories changed and another dog found her way into my life and my heart. And the grief is never-ending. It is still present, can still be evoked by photos, or stories. From holding the collar that she once wore. It is now every once in a while, not a daily sobbing and tightening of my jaw and the muscles around my heart. It is more sweet than pain, it is with love and not anguish.

Certainly death brings the largest grief, the never again loss, the tragedy of young death is especially great. When my mother died a friend stayed over, and in the middle of the night I woke him up in the bedroom next to mine and felt that if I wasn’t held and enveloped in his arms I might disappear as well. I sobbed, feeling on the edge of hysteria. He kept me in place. That same night I had spoken by phone with my grandmother, who had just lost her daughter. I heard her cry as I had never heard before. A parent mourning the death of her child, a pain so wrong and raw, so very primitive and piercing. Her loss was not like mine.

My brother gave us long warning of his impending death. Once the doctors said there was no hope he lived six more weeks saying goodby and pondering the transition he knew was coming. So we had moments to talk and reflect, and he said many things that I found important and helpful. But his death was still stunning and sadder than I could imagine. i felt that my whole history and life story was now partly lost. As well as my best source for encouragement, critical feedback, and support. All of the ways he was part of my life emerged as loss, and the grief and realizations continue even more than two years later.
6-14-12 AlDavid

So many deaths of good friends, family, and even the hundreds of strangers I met weekly at Hospice. So many tears, sorrow and connections. Sometimes I am at peace with our last words or times together, sometimes I ache for more or something different.

And it is mostly just the passage of time that soothes, that eases that ache, that allows me to explore that deep space the paradox of hollowness and fullness that is love, life, and loss.

The grieving of those still living is different certainly, but also mostly healed by time. The loss of a love relationship also hurts deeply and uniquely. It is one that i have mostly, in my past, tried to hide. Because it is embarrassing? Because I’ve been rejected? Because someone has found me not good enough? I don’t really know the impulse, but it is a strong one. My first love ended in total confusion when he sexually assaulted me. At 15, I couldn’t share the complexity of my guilt and fear and sorrow and rage at what had happened. I had many things to grieve, it took many many years to sort it out.

The wonderful sweet love that bloomed just after that ended a few yeas later just as suddenly, home from college while I was still in high school he broke it off the day after Christmas confessing to his secret involvement with another woman, and demanded I not contact him from that day on. I showed up for dinner with my family trying to conceal what had just happened just an hour ago in the room above the dining room table. I had to run back to my room in tears, midway through the meal. I had no idea how to hold the grief of ending. I certainly didn’t know that other people could be comforting and supportive.

I have been that comforting and supportive person so many times now. I’ve been given the opportunity to be with people grieving their losses and pain and suffering. It is an incredible honor to share those darkest moments with someone, to be wet with their tears and add my own with theirs. To just simply offer all I can be. I was once afraid to go there, to be there, to feel and to witness such vulnerability. That has changed to awe and to love.

There are skills in working through grief. There are therapies and rituals and waves of change and feelings to go through. The simplest help is knowing that time will help. That grief can overwhelm me, and I know it will also recede. It always has. It always will.

I also know that deep grieving allows the sky to be more blue, the leaves of the trees more stark and alive, food more filling and nuanced, each step I take has more meaning, the moments of happiness are sharper and more live. My state of grief is very close to ecstasy. When my mom was dying I first found that agony/ecstasy relationship and had many years to explore how that worked. It is simply about feeling alive.

I am grieving the ending of a relationship I thought, I felt, would last my lifetime. For now, every day brings tears of loss and sadness. I live within the waves of tears and changing mood. Every day I pass through the sudden and unexpected change in my life and how I spend time. I share feeling this heartbreak with times of joy and contentment. It isn’t really confusing, it just is. I’m happy to have loved so deeply, and I grieve what has ended and what never will be.

I appreciate knowing time will help. Time will pass, and the grief will lighten. It always has. i would like to live even more fully.

Crosswalks and Pedestrian Safety

Monday, October 6th, 2014

There is a joke I first heard on Car Talk about a woman asking that the “Deer Crossing” signs be moved to places safer for cars to see them and to stop. I think Ann Arbor’s difficulties with crosswalks is similarly confused. And also provides a very good and real metaphor for considering pedestrian safety.

Volvo has come out with a car that has pedestrian airbags. Europe is far ahead of the US in looking at bumper design, pedestrian detection systems, and other design changes that can protect pedestrians. This is an approach to an increase percentage of pedestrian deaths that has a chance to make a real difference.

Laws and ordinances and better rules and even outrage doesn’t seem to change pedestrian behavior. Better access to safe crosswalks probably will, I don’t know many pedestrians who will walk a block out of their way to get to a safer crosswalk. And when the distance is 1/2 mile or more it is even less likely. Well engineered crosswalks help, great signage, scaring people with enforcement. But the most concerning thing is how to get people to pay better attention and be aware.

The metaphor is that pedestrians are like deer. You can’t really control their behavior, if you have a well behaved bunch there will still be those who are darting out into the roadway who are hidden form few until the last minute, who are a bit wilder. An experienced driver will see a deer and expect erratic movement. A good driver will see the glint of a deers eyes in teir headlights and SLOW DOWN.

Anytime we see a pedestrian, any time there are people near the roadway, any time someone seems to be approaching a crosswalk a driver has to SLOW DOWN and consider the many unexpected ways that pedestrian might move.

Hitting a deer is a serious accident. There is usually property damage, and drivers and passengers can also be seriously injured. Hitting a pedestrian is far more likely to cause injury and death. And with every bit of increase in speed, the injuries also increase.

As we have more pedestrians around, driver awareness and caution increases. I know when I drive on campus I always anticipate very erratic behavior by students. I watch for it. I’m more cautious around schools with young kids. I see a kid with a ball near the road and I’m even more concerned and slow down.

We can design and then move all the crosswalks so it is the best possible fit for drivers and pedestrians. We can carefully instruct people on how to be safe. But the best design also assumes human error, and also human nature. Which isn’t – in the end – a whole lot different than wandering deer.