Tuesday, June 12, 2018

Stick together.

"I was next!"

"No you weren't!"

"Why are you cheating?"

"I'm not cheating!"

"You are!"

Their voices escalated from down the hall. I sunk my face into my hand and groaned. I wasn't in the mood.

"Mom!"  I took a big drag of air and tried to ignore it. It was repeated with more urgency. "MOM!

Next came a cacophony of clattering plastic. I'd attempted to sit at my kitchen table doing nothing enough times to know the exact sound of a PlayStation video hand control device falling to a hardwood floor. I squeezed my eyes tight and pressed my lips together.  Next came the feet stomping in my direction.

"Mom? Isaiah was supposed to --"

"No. No, he's exaggerating," Isaiah protested before his brother could finish his sentence.

I swung my head from side to side between them. Zachary was now blinking back mad tears and fuming. Isaiah held the plastic controller behind his back so that Zack couldn't reach it. They were at a stand still. And I hadn't even uttered a word of mediation.

And wasn't going to.

Clasping my hands in front of my face, I looked straight ahead into the space between them. "Listen," I said. "You will argue sometimes. You'll frustrate one another, too. But no matter what, I just need you to always remember what I say about brothers." Both boys stared at the floor, still fuming. I cleared my throat hard, "What do brothers do?"

The answer came as a mumble. They'd uttered that response so many times that me asking to have their words repeated had far more to do with me just wanting them to speak up than not hearing. I pressed them in a firm voice. "What do brothers do?"

"Stick together," they replied in low unison.

"Solve this. You solve it. And if you don't, nobody gets to play." I turned back to my computer and let them know I was done. Because I was.

Last week at Grady, I took care of a man with an advanced cancer. He was up in age. His parents had passed several years back. The ex-wife he'd had remotely was no longer in is life and they'd never had children. He'd had a few strokes that left him with labile cognitive function. And his health issues were significant and active enough to warrant somebody thinking about him and advocating for him.

Yeah. That's what he needed.

Again--there was no spouse. No common law boo wringing hands at the bedside in woeful misery. No parents filled with that unconditional parental love and no aunties or uncles who'd doted on him since he was a child. All there was was one person: His brother.

Now. This man's brother was a grown man with a full life. He had a wife and adult kids and grandkids, too. He had a business that he ran and a church where he deaconed and a square of lawn in front of both his house and his church that called for him to mow it on a weekly basis. But the other thing he had was a brother.

Sure did.

He'd come in with a work uniform on. Soiled with a full day's work and with this little hint of masculine mustiness that would waft into my nostrils whenever he moved. Sometimes he'd wipe his forehead with handkerchief or just the back of his hand. Or rub his eyes with the heels of his palm. But no matter what, you could count on him seeing about his brother.


Brother was only the next-of-kin for my patient. And since some days my patient was with it but on most other days he wasn't, we needed someone to step in. We did. And let me tell you--Brother was there.

"I'm sorry to keep putting so much on you," I said to him the other day.

"It's okay. I just hate I can't get up here no sooner. My wife would've come for me but 'cept she got some hip troubles and ain't driving right now. So I can't get here 'til I get off."

"I understand."

"He look a little better to me today." Now he was dabbing that same hankie on his brother's brow.

"He always seems to perk up when you come in." I realized that may have sounded negative so I corrected myself. "He does look to be a little better."

We sat and talked some more. Brother asked hard questions and I answered to the best of my ability. We discussed next steps and what he thought would best honor his brother's wishes. This was a day that my patient wasn't flying on both wings mentally. That was happening more and more frequently.

Brother signed a few papers and placed the pen down in front of him. A big yawn escaped his lips, causing his body to let out a tiny shudder at the end.

"I can tell you're tired."

"It's okay. That's my brother."

I squinted my eyes at him and twisted my mouth. "I have sons."


"Yes, sir. Two of them. Sixteen months apart."

"They fight?" Brother laughed at his question. "I know they do. You always do when you close in age like that."

I laughed. "Pretty much."

"See, our mama always told us this: 'Take care of your family, take care of your mama and your daddy, and take care of each other. I don't care what you got going on. You stay connected to your peoples.' So I hear my mama straight in my ear sometimes. I be tired but I come on down here."

"I love that."

"I'm all he got."

I didn't know what to say do that so I said nothing. Then I finally said, "He's blessed."

"We both blessed."

We sat in silence for a few moments. Brother stood up and put his soiled trucker's hat back on his head. This time he addressed my patient. "Okay then, Junior. We'll see you tomorrow, okay?"

"Okay," my patient replied. Brother reached down to give him a tiny hug in the bed. Then he gave one more of those big yawns. He waved goodbye to me and before I knew it he was gone.

The whole way home I thought about them. I thought about a mother infusing this idea into her children of staying united. Letting no weapon formed against them as siblings prosper.


That night over dinner, I shared with my boys about this story. With privacy protected, I explained that my sick patient had no one to look out for him in this whole world except his brother. And that his brother worked all day long and came anyway.

"I'd come for you." Zack looked at his brother. His face was serious.

"Me, too. I'd come for you, too."

And that was that.

I felt a tiny heave in my chest. Followed by a shiver like the one Brother had. Something about my boys saying those affirmations to one another had given me chills.


I've probably had to ask that same rhetorical question about what brothers do some fifty times since then. But after watching those two men fulfill that duty to one another, I knew that it was an important seed to keep on planting.

I'm learning day by day that connectedness requires intention. It involves forgiveness and redemption and resilience and commitment. And it especially calls for us to fight for the relationships we value the most.

The mama who raised those two men did something right. She made love and loyalty a rule. And no--sometimes it doesn't work. But what I do know is that the kind of sacrifice I witnessed between those two brothers didn't just happen overnight.

No it did not.

Do brothers fight? Sure. And will brothers get on one another's nerves? For sure. But as for me and my house? They will stick together--and stay connected. If I can help it, at least.

"I don't care what you got going on. You stay connected to your peoples." 

Damn right.

Happy Tuesday.

Friday, June 8, 2018

On Anthony Bourdain.

“Life is complicated. It’s filled with nuance. It’s unsatisfying. If I believe in anything, it is doubt. The root cause of all life’s problems is looking for a simple fucking answer.”

- Anthony Bourdain (1956 - 2018)

I remember watching this dude on TV and thinking, “Damn. He seems cooler than the other side of the pillow.” I dug the way he treated people the same regardless of their position. He listened to the short order cook in a Bangkok dive with just as much interest as he did Barack Obama. I always thought that was dope.


I met him once during those years when I used to do segments with CNN. He was good and famous by then. And though I don’t watch a ton of television, I’d seen his show more than enough times to know that fan-girling over him wouldn't be necessary. I was waiting for my segment and he walked through the room where I was. When he saw me, he was exactly the non-diva that I imagined he'd be. He paused, shook my hand and said, “Hey. Anthony.” And I nodded and said my name in return. He looked to be in a hurry but I said I liked the show. Because I did like the show. He stopped, looked at me, smiled and said, “Hey thanks.” Then he pointed at my hair and said, “Joining the silver fox club, huh? Welcome!” We both laughed and he walked out. And that was the time I met Anthony Bourdain.


That was like 5 years ago. I had just started letting my grey hair come in so him pointing it out was pretty damn observant. And he wasn’t being even remotely fresh. He just saw me. And acknowledged me. Which was cool.

Turns out I was right. That dude really was cooler than the other side of the pillow. I’m glad he noticed people and lived so voraciously. I’m glad he got to break bread with people all over the world and that he looked at me not through me when I encountered him that day. I’m sad to hear of his death.

It's cliché to say things like, "No matter how rich or fulfilled you seem, that won't make you happy." So I won't say that. Instead I'll just say that I'm thankful that Mr. Bourdain--I mean, "Anthony"-- shared so much of his world and this world with so many people. And though he lost his life to suicide, I think his life included a lot of joy. I've learned from living and watching and listening that we all have parts unknown. Happiness is an everchanging spectrum. Sometimes light and darkness dwell together. It isn't just one or the other.

And it's complicated.

Thinking of every person I know who has ever been affected by suicide. I know this has been a tough week. You’re all in my thoughts, okay? I mean that.

Happy Friday. And rest well, my fellow silver fox.

Wednesday, May 23, 2018

Zone of Development.

Funny thing about life. We want to be comfortable in it. Like, we want things to mostly be predictable and painless. Low on stress and curveballs, right? And while it may seem like the next predictable sentence is some reference to how it isn't that way at all--that's not what I'm thinking. I'm actually thinking that many times it is like that. Comfortable. Predictable. A rolling ball down a straight path without even the tiniest hint of anything to break the inertia.


At first, that feels good. Kind of like when you run and get to a pace that feels manageable. You get out and you do it. Until, at some point, it feels less satisfying. And as a result something has to shift. Maybe you will do hill work. Maybe you will start running faster and aim for a better time. Or just maybe you will stop running altogether. Why? Because being comfortable is overrated man.

For reals.

I heard this guy once talk about how the most fulfilling place to be is in what he referred to as a "zone of development." This is the place where you don't know how to do everything and some piece is a wild card. Your are working up to it, broadening your fund of knowledge and skillset, shaking things up. Contrast this to your comfort zone--where all is predictable and mostly easy.


I think the older you get, the easier it is to land in comfort zones. I find myself wondering if there is an age where this is nirvana--being in a perpetual comfort zone. While I'm not sure if that's true, I know that if it is, I'm not old enough for it yet. Not for long period s of time.

So yeah. Here lately, I have been thinking of this. Feeling ready to push envelopes and thrust myself into some zone of development. Lucky for me, that can all be done at Grady and with my current employer. But it will call for me asserting myself and learning some new things. I think I'm ready to do that, too.


I'm ready to move intentionally into a zone of development. Do I know what will happen there? Nope. But what I do know is that this is where growth lies. And what I also know about where growth is?  Peace and fulfillment are somewhere nearby.


Happy Tuesday.

Friday, March 23, 2018

Affirmative actions.

Best moment of my week at Grady:

Yesterday I encountered a young man at Grady who spoke to me by name.

"Hi Dr. Manning!" he said. Even though I wasn't sure where I'd known him from, I smiled big and responded in kind. He went on. "I know you don't remember me. But I just want you to know that I just matched in Emergency Medicine and am about to graduate from medical school at Morehouse School of Medicine!"

"That's fantastic!" I replied. "Where are you going?" He told me and I congratulated him. Genuinely, too. Because matching into a residency program is a big effing deal and a huge accomplishment. And since he stood there still smiling, I repeated myself. "That's really, really awesome."

And I said that because it was. But then he jogged my memory about how we'd met:

About 5 years ago, I was making rounds at Grady one afternoon. This young man was working as a one-to-one patient safety sitter (not for the faint at heart at ALL) and, since his patient was fast asleep, he'd brought along books to study to make the most of his time. I was seeing the patient in the next bed over and couldn't help but notice how fervently he was scanning the text in front of him. This kid meant business.

"What are you studying?" I asked him.

"Ma'am? Oh, studying for the MCAT," he replied.

And honestly? I mostly remember was that I liked his hustle and the tenacity in his eyes. So I told him just that. Then I extended my hand and introduced myself because I knew what it meant for him to be a black man sitting in that chair studying for a med school entry exam with a black doctor standing in front of him.

I really did.

This was 2013--within the year that Deanna had passed. My intention with people changed when she died. Even the tiniest moments I think about, wonder about . . like, "Hmmm. . .. what am I supposed to be doing with this one moment in time with this person?" Heavy, I know. But this was my paradigm shift. And so. I know exactly what happened next: I gave him a word of encouragement and told him that I was sure he would become a doctor. And that big smile on his face showed me that he believed me.

Then I took his picture so that I would remember that moment in time. And I am so glad that I did.

You know what? When I ran into him, I didn't remember him. But you know what? He remembered me. He also remembered that I encouraged him, too. Then he reminded me that I had taken his picture that day. Sure did. And I knew then and there exactly who he was and could see the moment crystal clear.

Here is what I know for sure:

Life is but a twinkling of an eye. Every little sliver of time that we get is an opportunity. And sure--from this 2013 photo, it's clear that this young man was already well on his way to succeeding. But I love knowing that God placed me in his path that day and that I noticed him. I really am. I could have walked right by and not seen him at all.

My goal is to see people. Like, for real see them. I loved this moment and the affirmation it brought to us both about the power of letting our lights shine.

#idontmakethisstuffup #bestjobever #thisisgrady #choosekindness #hegraduatesinmay #howdopeisthat #whoareyoumissing #speakaword #wordshavepower #morehouseMD #meharryMD #lookatGod #iseeyou

Tuesday, March 6, 2018

The Gospel.

I was told one thing. That your aortic heart valve was narrow and tight and that, just maybe, one day very soon you would need that valve replaced.

Aortic stenosis. That's what I was told. With clear certainty and not so much as an eye twitch or a blink. From his lips to my ears like it was the gospel. Aortic stenosis.

I entered the room alone. Armed with the gospel that I had been told about you. Aortic stenosis. I spoke to you for a few moments and talked about what was going on. "What is your understanding of what is happening with your heart valve?"

"The blood rush over it in a way that's not normal. They heart valves don't open and close like they s'posed to."

I nodded because, for the most part, that was true. It was. And I went into a description of what it all meant. Your tight and narrow heart valve. I said the words over and over again. "Aortic stenosis" this. "Aortic stenosis" that. You looked a little bit confused but when I asked if you understood you said, "I think so."

I think so.

Next I pulled my stethoscope from my pocket. Slipping the rubber tips into my ears, I looked at you and smiled. You smiled back. Then I gave the diaphragm a vigorous rub with my palm remembering that a Grady elder had told me once: "Even though it don't do much to warm it up, something 'bout seeing you try make me feel good."

So I did that. And I do that. Most times, I do.

I close my eyes and place the instrument on your chest. I follow the map of listening areas taught to me as a medical student and quietly listen for the tell tale sounds of aortic stenosis:

First a soft sssssssshhhh. Then it grows louder to a SSSSSHHHHH. Falling down quickly to the that soft hush again.

I know it when I hear it now. And so, instead of fighting to discern what it is, I am armed with experience. You patiently allow me to confirm what we both already know. My breathing slows. My hand glides with the stethoscope over your skin.

You are so cooperative and kind, I wish I wasn't alone and that a student could be beside me. To hear and learn right next to me. Aortic stenosis.

My eyes open.

Wait huh?

I am hearing sounds, yes. But they are NOT the ones I expect. I squint my eyes and listen harder (as if this changes what the ears hear.) "Can you hold your breath?" I ask. And you do.

Same thing.

A soft whoosh followed by what sounded like a deep sigh between heart sounds. Again and again I listen. And again and again, I hear the same thing.


"They told you your heart valve was small? Like tight and stiff?"

"They told me something. I don't know if it sounded like that."

"What about a leaky valve? Did somebody say that?"

"I don't know, Miss Manning. Y'all be saying so much sometimes."

And you're right. We do.

You don't have aortic stenosis. And while you do have an issue with your aortic valve, it isn't that. And though I am not a cardiologist, I can say that right now it doesn't look like you need surgery either.

You were gracious when I told you I was wrong. You shrugged and laughed a little. Like none of it was a big deal.

While my face burned hot like coals.

This happened a while ago. But what it taught me was that, like all gospels, I need to listen for myself, examine for myself and interpret for myself. Because even though a lot of times there is no discrepancy. . .sometimes there is. When telling someone life impacting information, it's good to have at least checked for yourself before talking.

Whew. Preach, pastor.

I also learned that there is a lot we say that gets missed. Yeah, so I work at doing a better job in that area, too. Explaining until you know so. Not just think so.


Last I checked, you hadn't had your aortic valve replaced. You were still doing well and seeing the cardiologists regularly. Today I am hoping and praying that you know exactly why. This is what I am hoping. And that the gospel you hear is the gospel indeed.


Monday, March 5, 2018

Get (TF) out.

I used my softest voice. Tender and earnest. Made sure my body movements were slow, gentle and nonthreatening. You'd been through so much already. And even though your distrust and refusal to cooperate with nearly every doctor who'd stepped into your room was so unwavering, I knew that NOT seeing you wasn't an option.

"You'll probably get kicked out," someone said.
"We'll see," I replied.

And so I went.

"Hi there."
Your eyes flung open, suspicious and glaring. "Who are you?"
"My name is Dr. Manning. I'm the senior doctor that's going to be taking care of you."

You stared. Didn't say anything.

"How do you feel?"

Still nothing.

I asked two more questions and you shut me down. "I don't know you," you said. "You could be anybody."
"I could," I responded. "But I'm not. I'm your doctor."

The next things you said made no sense. They flew out of your mouth and splashed against the walls and floors. I tried to grab them up and make sense of them. But I could not.

I could not.

"May I examine you?"
"Hell no."

I didn't know what to say so stayed silent.

"Can I--"
"Get out." That's what you said. Then you said it again. "Get the fuck OUT."

Which is what I did. As you turned up the television, rolled on your side and refused to look at me.

Two hours and some change later I came back. This time you were nice. Like, super nice. Like none of that had ever happened. You complimented my hair and my shoes. Then said it was really nice meeting me. Then you asked me for some strawberry Boost and a ginger ale. And the name of where I got my boots.

The interface between medical illness and psychiatric illness is one of the hardest parts of my job. They wrestle each other to the ground and when they aren't on the ground they play a hellacious game of tug-o-war. It sucks. A lot of days it really does.

But I signed up for this. And you? You signed up for nothing. So I'll keep coming back. Again and again I will.

Before I left, I placed three things on the bedside tray table in your room:

A ginger ale.
A strawberry Boost.
And a piece of paper that said, "Frye. But they sell them on Amazon or eBay for cheaper."



Happy Monday.

Tuesday, February 13, 2018

Lean on me.

When you work at the only hospital that turns NO ONE away? Sometimes it gets kind of busy. And on the busiest times of your busiest days? That means either be taking a few flights of stairs to save time OR stepping into an elevator filled to the brim with me and you, yo mama, and your cousin, too. (Somebody missed that.)


Okay so check it: I was up on the 11th floor at lunchtime today and was trying to get down to the ground floor. And OH--random sidebar--while I HAVE been known to bust out 11 flights going UP the stairs, as a rule, I almost never walk DOWN anything over 3 flights. (See: Knee replacement surgery - no thank you.)


After what felt like 300 trillion green arrow UP elevators coming and going, I finally see that luscious red DOWN arrow light up with a "ting." The doors slowly part and all I see is racks on racks on racks of people. All heights, all weights, all ethnicities. Some in Grady uniform attire, some in street clothes, some in white coats, and one dude in a hospital gown tied like a kimono with a Newport tucked behind his ear. They were shoulder to shoulder all the way to the front.

A lady right next to the key pad offered me a quasi-apologetic shrug from across the threshold of the lift. She looked around herself and said,"Pretty packed here. Next one?"

I threw my head back and diabolically laughed in response.

Okay, I didn't really do that, but she had me confused if she thought I wasn't getting on that elevator. With no shame in my game, I slid right on in next to her. She cleared her throat and pressed her back against the wall.

Sorry, not sorry.

A man in the middle of the pack said, "When you've been working at Grady long enough, ain't no such thing as a elevator too full." A lady in a Food Services uniform chimed in, "I know that's right!" We wanted to laugh but decided against it.

The next-to-the-keypad lady was looking salty especially after our little peanut gallery commentary. I decided to try cheering her up. "You looking over at me like, 'No this doctor lady DIDN'T step her behind on this already full elevator!'" Her face immediately went from aggravated to warm. "Mmmm hmmm. . .I see you judging me. Mmmmm hmmm. But real talk, I'm hongry. Not hungry--HONGRY." That made her laugh out loud.

Which made me happy.

The door opened on 7a and two more people slipped into crevices. Then a Grady elder with a platinum combover said, "Grady the only place where a crowd in a tight space don't damn near give me a heart attack. My fear of not getting to this cafeteria got my fear of this elevator BEAT!"

Everybody howled.

We stopped on 5 with a bit of jolt. A lady lost her footing and stumbled into the middle-of-the-pack man. He steadied her with his two hands. Then--I kid you not--he threw his head back and started singing in a LOUD, TERRIBLE singing voice.


I started clapping and joined in, "I'LL HELP YOU CARRY ON--come on, y'all!"
THEN--OMG--y'all!! EVERYBODY chimed in either singing, clapping or both.


We all exploded in cheers and laughter. Right after that, the doors flew open on the second floor and let out half of the people, including the platinum-combover man that was heading to the cafeteria. And a few moments later, the rest of us filed out on the ground floor. . . .offering these knowing smirks and giggles to one another as we slipped pass the folks trying to get on.

Best. Thing. Ever.

If you DON'T work at Grady, you'd think I made this up. But if you do? You know it's as plausible as rain on a Tuesday in Atlanta.

Love that this is the song he chose--especially because it embodies all that we do at Grady. I walked down the street humming and hearing Bill Withers smokey voice singing the rest of those words on my mental iPod:

"You just call on me brother--if you need a hand. 
We all need somebody to lean on.
I just might have a problem that you understand
We all need somebody to lean on.
If there is a load you have to bear 
that you can't carry
I'm right up the road, I'll share your load
If you just call me. . . . call me. . .if you need a friend. . ."

Seriously? Seriously.

Whew. Yeah, man.
Happy Rainy Tuesday.

Now playing on my mental iPod. . . . 

Monday, February 12, 2018

Two for the price of one.

Her: "You a extrovert, ain't you?"
Me: *pointed at my chest* "Me? Extrovert? Hmmm. I definitely think of myself as a lover of people. But I'm not so sure I'm a true extrovert."
Her: "Chile please. Extroverts feel at their best with people around. That's where they get all their energy. That's you."
Me: *shifting in my seat* "I'm not so sure that's what I am."
Her: "No?"
Me: "Nope."
Her: *eyes squinted*
Me: "I'm serious. Like. . .I like being alone with myself and my thoughts . . .like. . .a lot, actually. After that, I like the people parts. Because I like thinking with other people and hearing their thoughts on certain ideas, too."
Her: "So what's that make you? An introvert? You AIN'T no introvert. I don't care what you say."
Me: "Sometimes I think I'm an introvert with very good social skills. But I become an extrovert when I feel very, very comfortable and safe."
Her: *nodding head* "That make sense."

I crossed my legs and leaned back in the bedside chair. This interaction felt comfortable and safe. Maybe that's why she accused me of being an extrovert. That made the corner of my mouth turn up.. I propped my foot on a pulled down hand rail on the bed, slid on my reading glasses and pulled my patient list out of my pocket.

Her: "Miss Manning?"
Me: "Ma'am?"
Her: "Do you ever. . . get lonely?"


I bit the inside of my cheek and gave her question real, true thought. I closed my eyes and took an inventory of my feelings to see if "lonely" would bubble up to the top.

It did not. I realized that that was a blessing that I'd not thought of before then. Not feeling particularly lonely.

Me: "No. I don't really think so."
Her: "Even when you by yourself?"
Me: "Especially when I'm by myself. I crack myself up."
Her: "Ha ha ha . . .that's good."

The room filled again with the ambient noise of the hospital ward and the overhead television.
Her: "I ain't never been lonely a day in my life. My whole life."
Me: "Wow. Do you think it's because you're an introvert?"
Her: "Naaaaw. It's 'cause I'm a GEMINI."

I swung my head towards her and looked confused. In response, she held up two fingers at me and winked.

Her: "That's 'cause it's TWO of us. And both of us like each other."

We both laughed out loud. I gave her hand a squeeze and headed to the door.

Me: "I'll see y'all later."
Her: "You know where to find us."

That I do.  :)


Happy Monday.

Sunday, February 11, 2018

3 kinds.

"The opposite of love is not hate, it's indifference. 
The opposite of art is not ugliness, it's indifference. 
The opposite of faith is not heresy, it's indifference. 
And the opposite of life is not death, it's indifference."

- Elie Wiesel

I was sitting in the bedside chair talking to a Grady elder. I'd finished rounding and had come back by to spend some time in the late afternoon. This was a practice I've had since my intern year, taught to me by one of my favorite attending physicians. "Just pick one person or two every day. And go and sit with them. That's it."

Best advice ever.

The television was on over our heads and was on "The Jerry Springer Show." I realized then that, were it not for moments such as this one, I'd not even know the show still aired. Two women were fighting. Allegedly, the same gentleman had fathered their children within like 2 weeks. Instead of being mad at him, they were mad at each other. The crowd was screaming and roared even louder when one person lost a clip on pony tail.

Me: "This is a mess."
Her: "Bless they hearts. Poor chil'ren."

Another woman came flying out of the audience like superman. Her arms were swinging like windmills and legs kicking in the direction of the woman holding the pony tail. The security dude on the show feigned some deep interest in holding her back. The only thing less believable was the quasi-alarmed and stunned look on Jerry Springer's face sitting in the chair across from them.

Poor chil'ren indeed.

Her: "You know what Dr. Manning?"
Me: "What's that?"
Her: "There's three kinds of people in this world."
Me: *turning my head toward her and readying myself for this good word*
Her: "There's the ones who wish you WELL, see. Then there's the ones who wish you HELL."
Me: *silence*
Her: *silence*
Me: *turning my head from the TV to her* "That was only two."
Her: "Two what?"
Me: "Two types. What's the third type?"
Her: ""Oh the last one? Those the ones who don't even see you. They the worse ones of all."
Me: "Hmmm."
Her: "See, they the ones that don't give a damn if you live, die, or fall off in a ditch never to be heard from or seen again."
Me: "Dang."
Her: "Worse than that. They don't even know you there. And they don't even know that they don't know, neither."
Me: *raising eyebrows* "Wow."


Things on the television got calm for a moment. But then another guy came from back stage as some kind of surprise. He was reportedly the boyfriend of the two-baby daddy. The crowd went berserk again. And, once more, Jerry Springer looked fake-stunned.

Her: "You know what? I'll take a person who wish me hell over the one who don't see me any day. I'd rather you come at me fighting, kicking and trying to punch me than just walk by me altogether. 'Cause at least THEN I know you feel something."
Me: *silence, just listening*
Her: "If you hateful to me, it just say something about how you feel about your own self. So those folks I just feel sorry for and steer clear of, you know? But them ones who don't even acknowledge you?" *shakes her head* "They do the most damage 'cause you can't even change they heart. They cold as ice."

This time I moved my whole body in the bedside chair to face her. I thought about all that she'd seen in her nearly 8 decades and all of the people she'd experienced. She knew what she was talking about.

Her: "Just 'cause you look in somebody direction don't mean you see."
Me: "Wow. I have to remember that. 'Some people wish you well and some people wish you hell.'"
Her: "And the rest you can't tell. . . . 'cause you so invisible that they don't give a shit."

So sad. But so true.


Happy Sunday.

Saturday, February 10, 2018


"I am ready to stop all this stuff," she said.

"You can, you know. You can." That response surprised her. I rested my palm over the top of her hand and repeated myself. "You can."

She smiled at me and I smiled back. "You say that like you believe it."

"It's because I do."

After that, I changed the subject. We talked about her beautiful skin that lay over her high cheekbones like a brown satin sheet. I asked where she'd left her wrinkles and pretended to look under the bed and outside the door. That made her laugh.

"Guess it's just my genes," she giggled.

"I'll say," I replied.

"The rest of this in my genes, too. Like people in my family wired for strongholds."

"Yeah. My family, too."

Her eyes widened. "For real?"

"Oh yeah."

She sat there staring out of the window after that. My hand was still on top of hers and now she was holding my fingertips tightly. I let her.

"You think I can stop?"

"I think you can do anything."

"You saying that like you mean it."

"It's 'cause I do."

That soft smile crept over her lips again. I curled my lips and nodded for added confirmation.
And that was it.

I have no idea if she will overcome this addiction after this hospitalization. But here's what I do know: The tiniest spark of belief from one person can ignite a fire of change in another. I've learned that haters and naysayers can be found everywhere. I prefer to shock the shit out of people with real, true optimism.

I do.

You are not a "crackhead."
You are not a "drunk."
You are not a "homeless lady."
You are not a "psych patient."

You are none of these things. You are your possibilities. And you are a child of God.

And no. I don't always get all of this perfect. And yes, I do fall short on empathy sometimes. But mostly, I keep trying with all of my might to find the intersection in our similarities. And what I know for sure is that it is always, always there.


Only grace separates circumstances in most instances. At least that's what I think.


Happy Saturday.