Category Archives: Random stuff that happens

On Losing My Voice

You may have heard me complaining all over the internet that I had lost my voice. Monday, the day we left Mexico and the world’s most adorable grandchildren, I could only talk in a low whisper. It didn’t bother me that much while we were traveling. I’d had a cold all week and didn’t feel great anyhow, so it was kind of relaxing to not be expected to make conversation.

Tuesday, I went to the nurse practitioner, who gave me antibiotics for a sinus infection, cough medicine, and steroids for my throat. Despite speaking only in a whisper, I was able to challenge her belief that lots of women just suddenly change their mind and decide to have an abortion at 24 weeks.  But that’s a story for a different day.

As the week wore on, I didn’t feel bad, I just couldn’t talk much – or couldn’t be heard. I typed. I was grateful that my job is flexible enough to accomodate not talking.  I learned some things.

I learned that sometimes people don’t actually need me to talk. Twice – not once, but two times – people reached out to me and talked about what was going on with them, and were able to resolve their own issues, without a single word from me.  Just talking through what was going on with them was all they really needed.

I learned that in other conversations, where my input was needed, people were really good about stopping to give me time to think and type. It is not as easy as you might think to carry on an actual conversation via chat box. People were patient and kind.

Of course, I wondered why I had lost my voice. I can’t remember the last time this happened. Dee suggested maybe it was because of the cold medication I had been taking, but I didn’t think so. As a therapist, I wondered if it was symbolic, if there was a psychological reason.

Maybe, I pondered, I haven’t been speaking up enough. Maybe I’ve metaphorically lost my voice, and now it’s manifesting physically. Or maybe this is an experience in empathy, to increase my understanding of what it’s like to be voiceless in some way.

I wasn’t dreadfully upset about it – I could still whisper when I needed to and it was restful in an odd way. It made me listen more attentively and kept me from interrupting or completing other people’s sentences, which I’ve been known to do. And it was kind of interesting.

But Saturday morning – starting day 6 without a voice – it was getting a bit old. As I mentioned it (again) on Facebook, someone suggested a rememdy. “Th***t C**t tea,” he said, “and R***la throat drops.”

Amazingly, I already had the tea in my cabinet. I hadn’t been using it, I’d been doing all kinds of other tea instead. But there it was, just waiting for me. I fixed a cup of tea instead of a second cup of coffee and headed out.

In my car, I was looking for Kleenex under the dashboard and wondering if it would be worth stopping for the throat drops when I pulled out – a bag of R***la throat drops. Seriously. (No, I didn’t find the Kleenex. You can’t have everything.)

So I drank my tea and had a couple of throat drops – and I could talk. Not perfectly. But I could actually talk. If I’d been at 25% of my voice before, I moved up to 60 or 70%. Pretty amazing.

So amazing that of course I decided it must have been psychosomatic in the first place. I mean, really, how can a cup of tea and two throat drops be that kind of miracle? But that’s ok. There’s still a big take-away here.

Here’s what I think the lesson is. We talk about needing to have the right tools to find solutions and solve problems. But it’s not just a matter of having the right tool. We have to know that it’s the right tool. I had lots of remedies – teas and medicine and extracts and even hot toddies. And I had exactly what I needed (apparently) and just didn’t realize it until someone else suggested it.

It makes me wonder how often I have the solution lying around in my “tool kit” neglected and unused.  And will I remember to look at all my tools the next time I need them?

Lessons from the Hot Tub

I was in Florida for work.  Pulled a muscle in my back getting dressed (yes, you can do that.) Decided to hang out in the hot tub during the pre-dinner break.  It was cloudy, no one was swimming, and I chose the hot tub that was empty.  Relaxing in the heat, water pounding against my back was heavenly.

I was in the area marked “Adults Only,” but when the man with his young daughter appeared and asked if I minded if they joined me, I didn’t mind at all.  The little girl was maybe 3, curly blonde hair, pink bathing suit, pink plastic sandals, still wearing her little inflatable life vest.  She was shivering.

“The pool was too cold for her, ” the dad says as he slides down into the heated whirlpool.  “Here honey,” he says, “Get in, this is warm.”

But she pulls back, shakes her head, “no, no, it’s too hot.”

He shakes his head.  “It’s not too hot, come on, get in.”

I laugh, “Like Goldilocks, that pool’s too cold, this one’s too hot – where’s the ‘just right’ pool?”

Dad continues to urge little Goldilocks into the pool, until she agrees to sit on the side. She dips her feet, still encased in little pink plastic sandals, in the water, then pulls back, “no, too hot.”

“No, it’s not,” Dad insists.  “Just try it.”  He grasps both her ankles in one hand and pulls her feet into the water, holding them there.

From the other side of the hot tub, I’m at eye level with her feet.  I can see her resisting at first, trying to pull away, but he holds firm.  He doesn’t release her ankles until she relents.  Then he lets go.

“See,” he says, “It’s not too hot.”  She doesn’t say anything.  She’s still shivering, even though her feet are in the water.

Goldilocks’ grandfather comes by.  “You should get in there,” he says, all gruff.  “Go ahead, get in!”  She shakes her head.

Grandmother comes to join us.  “It’s too hot for her in here,” she says, looking at me rather than Dad.

I smile, “And she knows that!  That’s why she’s not all the way in.  She already knows it’s too hot.”

Grandmother agrees, “She’s little bitty, she doesn’t have an ounce of fat on her, it’s too hot for her.”

Dad ignores us.

Mom, holding a baby, comes to sit on the edge of the tub.  We chat a bit – where are we from, how long are we staying, and yes, the water is really hot.  Goldilocks is still sitting on the edge of the tub, feet in the water, shivering.

“Are you cold?” says Dad.  Her teeth are chattering, she nods.  “You should get in,” he says, “Want me to put you in?”

She shakes her head, “No.”

“Hot,” she says.

“Come on,” he says, “I’ll just dip you to the waist.”

“No,” she says, softly, but the head shaking is a bit frantic.

“It’s not too hot,” he says, and he begins scooping water in his hand and pouring it over her legs.

Remember, I am at eye-level with her feet and legs.  I watch him pour water on one leg while she pulls it up, trying to move it out of his range.  He switches to the other leg, and she pulls that one out, shaking her head, “No.”

She doesn’t cry. She doesn’t protest loudly, she doesn’t have a tantrum.  She is a good girl, our little Goldilocks.  But she keeps trying to get her legs away from the relentless stream of water that feels too hot to her.

I leave the hot tub.  I can’t stay and watch her Dad – by all other evidence, a kind and loving Dad – I won’t stay and watch him teach her that how her body feels doesn’t matter. That her saying, “no,” is pointless.

In a wildly inappropriate moment, I want to ask his wife, “Is he like that about sex.  Does he try to talk you into it?  Does he keep doing stuff you don’t like while he tells you, yes, you do like it?”

Ok, time to go.  There are three hot tubs in this hotel.  I don’t have to give up my hot tub pleasure, I just move to one that’s empty.  And from that distance, I ponder.

I may be oversensitive.  The election of our racist, misogynistic President has heightened my already acute awareness of how we control female bodies.  That Dad wasn’t “abusive.”  He wasn’t scalding her.  He wasn’t even mean about it.

And he gently and relentlessly showed her that how her body feels doesn’t matter.

It’s not like he was making her take medicine, or get vaccinated.  No health or safety reason to override her need to be comfortable in her body.  He ostensibly wanted her to enjoy herself.

The women around her acknowledged that she was right – that her body was right – they agreed, the water was too hot for her.  But they didn’t offer any help.  They could have brought her a beach towel.  She could have sat on the edge, quite cozy, wrapped in a big fluffy towel.  I don’t think it even occurred to them.

Maybe I’m making too much of it.  But I keep seeing her skinny three year old legs, pink plastic sandals still on her feet, trying to pull away from the water.

And I keep thinking that somewhere in this story is the reason some of those white women voted for Trump.  If you learn that it doesn’t matter what your body wants when you’re three, if you learn not to trust your own best instincts at three years old, when do you learn to trust yourself?  How do you know that it matters?

 

 

Nothing Is Simple

I saw him on my way to work.  I was stopped at the stop sign where Old Bardstown Road merges with Bardstown Road, right past Hikes Lane.   You know where I’m talking about?

Anyhow.  He was down on one knee on the sidewalk, bent over, one hand over his ear.  He had a buzz haircut.  I couldn’t see his face.

I was sitting in traffic, waiting, so I watched to see if he’d get back up.  Instead, he swayed a little, it looked like he was rocking back and forth.

Not an old guy, at least he didn’t look old.  I couldn’t really tell.

I almost drove on.  I thought about it.  I started to.

But I really couldn’t.

So I pulled over, out of the line of traffic, put on my flashers.  Got out of the car.  Walked slowly toward him.

Slowly, because you never know, he could be ~ I don’t know, he could be drunk.   On drugs.  Not that I haven’t been around people who were drunk or doing drugs before, but you know, he could be dangerous, right?

So I get not-too-close to him, and I call over to him,  “Excuse me.”

He doesn’t  look up, he just keeps sort of swaying a little bit, crouched down on one knee, holding onto his head.

“Excuse me,” a little bit louder.

And again, just a bit louder, “Hey.  Are you ok??”  Stepping a bit closer, but not too close.

He shakes his head then, shaking it like he’s trying to clear it.  I think he says, “Yeah.”  But clearly, he isn’t ok.

“You don’t look like you’re ok,” I say.  “Is there someone I can call for you?”

“No.”  That is firm.  And he starts to stand up, but he sways, even as he’s saying, “I’m ok,” he sways and goes down again.

Shit.

I start to move forward, but then I don’t, I’m already kind of close, close enough, and he’s back in his crouch, and I’m not a nurse or a doctor  and I don’t know what’s wrong with him.

Yeah, he could be drunk.  He looks like he’s wearing – well, blue pants like uniform pants, and a white polo shirt.  Backpack on his back, but he looks too old for high school.  I don’t know.  College maybe?  It’s a small backpack.  Not a travelers bag.

I don’t know what to do.  I’m standing there, and I just don’t know what to do.

Maybe I should trust him, he says he’s ok, maybe anything I do will just make it worse.  What if he’s had a seizure or something?  Sometimes, when people have seizures often, they really don’t want you to call an ambulance, cause they just go to the ER, where the doctors tell them  that they had a seizure, and they already know that.  Then the person gets a big bill, for something that they really didn’t need.

But then I don’t even know if that’s right, maybe you’re always supposed to go to the hospital for a seizure.  Not that I know it was a seizure, it could be something completely different.

I feel like I’m trapped in a bad novel ~ it’s his novel, he’s the main character, I’m just the woman who appears in this scene, and whatever I do is going to be ignorant and not helpful.

If I don’t call an ambulance, he really needs one, if I do call an ambulance, he doesn’t need it and gets a big bill.

About this time, which really is only a minute, maybe two, I hear a voice behind me.  A man has stopped.  He’s wearing a shirt advertising some kind of Recovery facility, and for a second I have this bizarre thought that the guy on the sidewalk has escaped from the facility, and they’ve sent someone to bring him back.

But no.  That’s apparently not the case.

The man in the t-shirt stays at an even safer distance away than I am.  He asks me “what’s wrong with him?” and I answer, except all I can really say is, “I don’t know.”  But I say that he couldn’t stand on his own when he tried to, and he ~ the rescuer guy ~ says, “I’m calling an ambulance.”

I’m relieved, and tell him yes, I think we need to.

But while he’s on the phone with 911, the guy on the sidewalk makes it to his feet.   He can barely stand, he kind of reminds me of Bambi, in the movie, when the little deer gets to his feet for the first time.

The guy starts walking away, and the man who’s talking to 911 says into the phone, “No, never mind, no, he’s walking away.  Yes, he was on the ground, but he’s walking away now.”

He is, in his blue pants with the backpack on his back, he’s picking up speed as he goes, still a little unsteady.  We watch him go for a minute.

Then I shrug, jump back in my car, turn off the flashers, and make my way back into the flow of traffic.  I have places to go, people to see.

Such a brief, random connection.  I wonder what he really needed.  Did we make things worse in some way ~ would it have been better if we’d left him alone?  Did he need more than he got?

I can make up a bunch of different endings for his story, probably none of them close to the truth.  I wonder about him, and I’ll never know.  But I can still see him, heading down the sidewalk, off to whatever happens next.