About That Code of Ethics…

The reason I featured that particular “code of ethics” (see my May 25 post) for discussion is because it so starkly contrasts with other guidance we get nowadays. I’m thinking of “centering” guidance, such as “We will center racism…” or whatever other ism is in the headlines. I stumbled across the “Live each day with courage…” code when I was browsing news about Wyoming, my home state. I do that periodically, just to see what that broad empty expanse of the Wild West is up to today.

In my most recent exploration of all things Wyoming, I discovered that the Code of the West was adopted in 2010 as the Official State Code of Wyoming. The one thing I changed in my recent post was the “Work for the team” line which was originally “Ride for the brand.” I just figured that “Ride for the brand” would give too much away, and I wanted it to come to you in a neutral way.

This code is being used in schools across the state, and I have to say that prefer it to all of the various diversity, equity, inclusion guidance that kids get in many schools today. I would quibble with lots of it based on experience derived from my advancing age. For example: “Always finish what you start.” Ha. A year ago, as part of my ongoing downsizing effort, I officially gave up on a variety of knitting projects, some of which were fairly close to completion. I’d had them sitting around, some for years, waiting for a bit of advice, time, or that feeling of optimism I had when I started them. They only induced guilt each time I looked at them until I finally said to myself, “This is ridiculous. Perhaps someone will make use of this yarn. Get these out of here!” And yes, I’m glad I did that.

One bit of the code I do like is this one: “Talk less. Say more.” For me, it’s missing a bit in the middle, namely “Listen first.” I really am committed to doing a lot more listening lately, and I am learning some valuable things. I’d do other editing before adopting the code as is, but if a state is going to give guidance in this day and age, I rather they use this code than, say, the Ten Commandments, or “Look for racism everywhere all the time,” or other admonitions that pass for good advice today.

If you were searching for advice that schools could adopt, would you start from scratch, edit something like this, or forego the exercise altogether? Years ago, I substituted in a 4th grade classroom that had this for a motto: “It’s nice to be important, but it’s more important to be nice.” It was a great class, but perhaps it was because the teacher just led the kids in a supportive, but patient way. Perhaps it wasn’t just the motto. Whatever the case, I do think it might be worthwhile to think through our values now and then. Have they changed? Do they need to be updated? Have world events or personal experience affected how we see things?


People Are Opting Out

People are opting out. Of life. I wonder why. Can we blame it all on Covid? No, I don’t think so. Yes, I think Covid threw a monkey wrench into life as we knew it. But if it hadn’t been Covid, I think it would have been something else.

For sure, the interruption to our social life is having an impact. Not feeling comfortable eating out in a busy, popular cafe is truly a downer. And I heard today that after a large, maskless meeting of CDC employees last week, 35 of them soon came down with Covid. So masking up in big groups or small rooms is tedious, but that hasn’t pushed me over the edge.

Everyone has a tipping point, and I felt like I reached mine last week. I was across the street for an eye exam and noticed that the very convenient, very helpful eye-ware shop was shuttered. Grrr, I thought. Decisions from much higher up, I was told. (Much higher up, in this case, means the bosses of the very large Catholic institution that now runs the show.)

But that wasn’t what did me in. Rather it was the discovery a few days later that the hospital gift shop was also being closed. WTF? Do the bishops disapprove of shopping? Do they not know that shopping is therapy? Do they not know that patients’ families need a distraction? Do they not know that we all need a treat or a magazine or a card for someone now and then? The gift shop was run by volunteers with about a half of a staff position or less doing oversight. WTF, indeed! 

Perhaps I could survive the loss of these two very handy businesses if they weren’t coming on top of the loss of Macy’s, Columbia Sportswear, Bed, Bath and Beyond, Chico’s, the neighborhood branch of our bank, a bunch of retail at Pacific Place, the pharmacy next to Gelatiamo, and retailers that I never patronized, but other people did and they helped keep downtown alive. 

Supposedly, there are more people downtown this week because Amazon said to show up at the office or else. Perhaps that means something now that even the Amazons of the world are laying people off. Granted, the people who work at Amazon don’t exactly support my kind of retail, but somehow they help the world look alive, even in their nerdy zombie state. There was certainly more traffic today when I managed to run two errands during morning and evening rush hours by mistake. Note to self: avoid rush hours again!

I don’t think the lack of shopping options is the primary factor leading to the deep pessimism that I and others are feeling. It’s pretty easy to thump the table and grumble at the loss of a gift shop, but I’m confident that the pessimism derives from more serious problems. Such as the wildly dysfunctional national government, the wildly stupid extremes of the culture wars, the wildly ridiculous length of being on hold for answers to the simplest of questions. And construction, still going on everywhere! And the transit interruptions, and the absence of oatmeal in the Bistro, and  the impossible wait times for elevator repairs, and the endless timelines for  “corridor refurbishment,” and the incomplete remodel of our main meeting room such that the audio doesn’t work on one day and the lighting doesn’t work on another day, and no, the drapes are not here yet.

Nothing ever gets finished. The finish line might as well not exist: no one will ever get to it. 

Hence pessimism. For older folks such as myself, this is taking a toll. You know things are bad when people are opting to end their lives by VSED – that’s “Voluntarily Stopping Eating and Drinking” to you youngsters out there. It is not an easy way to die. But guns are not allowed in my retirement community. Frankly, I’d buy a gun and break that rule before starving myself to death. Seriously, what are they going to do to me? Kick me out? Ha. That’s the whole point of the exercise. 

I actually am not at that degree of pessimism yet, but it is sad to see that others are. And I am well and truly frustrated with the state of the world. I’ve been well and truly frustrated for quite a while, but Ukraine just did me in, even more than the way we mucked up Covid. Could we please just enable Ukraine to win this war within my lifetime? Please! Just win it! 

Well, I live in Seattle, and our hockey team, the Kraken, are in the second round of the playoffs – in just their second year of existence. I see why some people tune out the news and tune in to sports. But then once the game is over, the corridors are still not finished, there is still no oatmeal in the Bistro, Madison Street is still a mess, and the AV system in Anderson Hall will likely never be complete. 

So we are heading out of town for a few days in eastern Washington. I don’t care if it rains or snows or we are blinded by the sun. We are outa here, folks. See ya later!

Unlearning Fear

Tyre Nichols. Philando Castile. Two men, just trying to comply with police instructions, end up dead for no good reason. How do we put an end to this disgrace?

Some deaths at the hands of police are just wrong. Some deaths at the hands of police seem unnecessary, but investigations reveal reasons for police use of deadly force. Sometimes the police are clearly the good guys, and the bad guys are truly out of control, dangerous to the public, and need to be stopped. When any police shooting is caught on video, the only thing we know is that we don’t know the whole story.

Here are a few things we do know: people, liberals especially, vastly overestimate all killings by police and especially the killings of black men.* Black Lives Matter leaders have pushed the narrative of out of control police departments targeting black men. This narrative only increases fear of police to the point that more men resist and/or flee which only increases the risk that force, perhaps deadly force, will be used on them. 

The prevailing narrative ramps up fear to what might be an irrational level, but the deaths of Nichols and Castile illustrate that some amount of fear is rational. Many police departments are trying to train and retrain officers to interact in ways that reduce the violent and intimidating tactics we associate with anyone being arrested. The goal is for everyone to come out alive at the end. Ideally, black men would know that this is happening, understand that the goal is for everyone to chill, cooperate with police, and end up alive, either released when appropriate or working their way through a justice system that is fair to all. 

The recent death of Tyre Nichols helped me understand why fear is still rational if you’re stopped by police. The question is when is it rational to let go of rational fear, that is fear based on reasonable evidence that police just might kill you? 

We, as humans, are not that good at judging risk, yet we do it all day every day. What’s truly challenging is recalibrating our level of fear when the calculations change. Yet, we can do this. Even I, with my long-standing fear of flying, flew on four airplanes in 2022 without any white knuckles. Somehow, the safety record for flying became so compelling that I had to dial back my fear, especially when it was obvious that the only way I could get where I wanted to go was to fly. Fortunately, no recent disasters occurred that would have interfered with my new-found confidence.

This is not the case however, when it comes to interactions between police and the public, especially the black and brown public. I can only imagine the emotions that ran through police departments that were making a serious effort to alter the tone of interactions with suspects in non-violent situations. Decent cops must surely have been devastated to see the videos of the beating of Tyre Nichols. Decent black men may surely have thought that things are never going to change. 

Fear can absolutely be rational. It can also be irrational. One of the challenges young women face is learning to calibrate their level of fear to the social situations they encounter as they enter the world outside their home. (I’m skipping the fear some children learn at home for now.) We’ve all heard about “the talk” that black mothers give to their sons in hopes that they will emerge unscathed from encounters with police. Calibrate your fear. Your best bet to emerge alive is to follow instructions.

And then, Tyre Nichols. Was Nicholas an exception? Yes. But how much of an exception? Were other examples simply not filmed for our viewing? How many examples? How long will it take for young black men to begin to let go of rational fear? If deaths as senseless as those of Castile or Nicholas happen only once a year, or once every two years, or five years, it will be enough to sustain the fear that lingers. Police must intervene to stop their peers who overreact. Young black men could benefit from recalibrating their fear of police, knowing that change is happening. Dialing back the violence and the rhetoric could occur at the same time from both sides. No, the burden shouldn’t be on young black men to unlearn their fear. But the reality is that their chances of sustaining permanent injuries or being killed are low enough to take a chance on compliance. I get why everyone might disagree with me, but I hope both sides will give peace a chance. 

* Sources:

Washington Post Data Base

Roland Fryer studies of use of force

Public estimates of police use of force

I Wish I Were Sick

Seriously? Nobody wishes they were sick. Well, maybe when you were a kid, and you just didn’t want to do something such as go to school. But now we’re all adults, and we don’t have to go to school if we don’t want to. So what’s going on here? 

As I was waking up this morning, I moved around in bed to see if the vertigo was acting up. Yep. How about brain activity: present or absent? Present but minimal. Energy? Ha. Lost track of that months ago. Should I call the doctor? Ha. I could say something like, “I don’t want to go to school today.” And she’d say: “Get dressed and get out of here.” 

Seriously. What is this? Is this what it feels like in the months leading up to a diagnosis of something serious? Or is this what it feels like to have one of those chronic things that never gets a name? If it’s the former, OK, great. At some point, I’ll get a diagnosis, and the amazing American medical machine will gear up to poke me and prod me and take images of me and schedule one appointment after another and rack up amazing bills, and maybe it will all work and I’ll get cured or at least get better. 

But: if this is a chronic thing that never gets a name, then what? I could spend my own money trekking around town to various people with various titles (some they’ve bestowed on themselves) who want to sell me various products or procedures or tests that will give me ambiguous results but fail to give my condition a name or a cure. Or maybe they’ll give it a name, but not a cure, but I’ll convince myself I’m just enough better to justify spending yet more money on their tests, products, or procedures. Or maybe I’ll just settle in for the long haul. 

Long Haul? Isn’t that one of the names given to people who caught Covid and failed to fully recover? Yes, Covid Long Haulers. Am I one? I don’t think so. I caught Covid in early August, got Paxlovid, and recovered quickly. Did I recover fully? Yeah, I think so. I don’t remember feeling like this, but we were traveling at the time. When we got home, I was tired from traveling, as usual. I didn’t have vertigo then. I’m not sure what it would feel like to have a fully functioning brain because I’m a bit scattered in the best of times, but I think I felt OK. I was still taking walks back then, so I had some amount of energy. 

But then there was that Covid booster in mid-October. I’d had a bit of vertigo before that, but only as I was going to bed. It wasn’t interfering with anything. Then, the day after the booster, I was sicker than I can describe with the most intense vertigo ever. Better the next day, and the next. Then I saw a PT and got worse (yes, worse). ER, Rx for nausea, and it’s been on again/off again since. I had 48 gleeful symptom-free hours following a massage, but then it’s been on again/off again since. My walking stick is by the door for days like today when I don’t even want to walk to the elevator without it. 

A friend with ME/CFS loaned me “The Invisible Kingdom: Reimagining Chronic Illness” by Meghan O’Rourke. Am I just trying on the experience of chronic illness which she so articulately describes? Oh, please, no. If so, I don’t want this role! Let me out of here! I’ve had other experiences that have taken months and months to right themselves (broken leg, broken foot). But they were so definitive: See this fracture here on this X-ray? We’re going to fix it! And yes, eventually, I was fixed. 

Today, I’m wondering if this was how my father felt in the months before he was diagnosed with a form of chronic leukemia. Was there just a malaise that slowly settled over his life? Was there a pain that couldn’t be attributed to anything in particular? Was his brain less clever than it had always been? I wasn’t home then, so I don’t know what the prelude was like. But today I wonder.

I have a previously scheduled appointment with my primary care doc in two weeks. I’ll find out if the lung nodules that appeared in my ER X-ray have resolved. I’ll tell her that the physical therapist who specializes in vertigo has told me he has no new ideas to resolve my persistent vertigo. I’ll tell her that when my brain is working so hard to figure out where I am in space, it can’t seem to do anything else I want it to do. And I’ll tell her that I don’t want to be chronically ill. What ideas will she have for me? Anything useful, or just a shrug?

Flu Shots, the Senate, and Sikhs

Flu Shots

We got flu shots, yes we did. And what a chore it was. I could have signed up for them at the end of October at our retirement home, but I still trapped in a lengthy siege of vertigo. I just didn’t want to risk another reaction to another shot. But once I started feeling better, I discovered that it’s no easy trick to get flu shots this year.

Our medical center that is across the street is not offering them. I suspect the reason is the labor shortage. They usually bring in people just to give shots to everyone who shows up for an appointment. Others can just drop in and get a shot. This year, they refer everyone to “their local drugstore.” 

I started calling our local drug store before we went to Canada for a short trip. I never got to speak to an actual human, nor did I get to a phone tree to choose “how to schedule a flu shot.” Last Monday, we were at a different pharmacy, so I walked up to the counter and asked about flu shots. Not on weekdays, the man said; I’m the only one working. 

Then we hit the jackpot. We’d gone to COSTCO for some things, and hubby saw a sign that said “Flu Shots Today!” Great. We went to the pharmacy, filled out some forms, and were told to come back at 2:00. We did some shopping and returned at 2:00. We were directed to some chairs. We sat. We waited. Others showed up. They sat. They waited. A person in a pharmacy uniform came and asked our names. She left. We waited. She returned, and asked about our insurance cards; she photocopied them; she left. We waited. At some point, she emerged from a different door and called someone’s name. Progress!

Eventually, we got our shots, but we were glad we hadn’t put frozen food in our cart before we returned to the pharmacy. 

The Senate

Hooray for Raphael Warnock, and thanks to Hershel Walker for a gracious concession. (Yo Kari Lake, that’s how it’s done.) But not so fast, Dems, your 51-49 Senate is no more. Krysten Sinema is now an Independent. Seems right, somehow, because she never aligned clearly with the Ds. 

I Want to be a Sikh

We learned this week that our favorite doctor, whose parents immigrated from India, is a Sikh. He took some time to give us a lot of background on the role of Sikhs in Indian history and culture and talk about Sikhs in the West. He came alive when he was talking about all of this. He’s always upbeat, but this was special. 

He doesn’t wear a turban and explained that in the West, many Sikhs felt they weren’t needed, both in order to blend in a bit, but also because the turban held military significance in India that was irrelevant here. We learned that Sikhs were from Punjab, a rich agricultural region, hence the many farmers in his family history. We saw pictures of his children attending a recent wedding with their grandmother in India. Weddings are a vey big deal, but, he said, Sikhs will celebrate almost anything. 

We really enjoyed seeing this doctor, who we’ve seen for many years, light up as he took the opportunity to share what he loves about his Sikh heritage. He no longer observes the details of the religion, though he shared positive aspects of it (women are equal? – though they don’t show up online in descriptions of Sikhism). 

I wish we had to time to delve into the cultural history of all of our doctors. We’ve had docs and other providers from Lebanon, Iran, India, Seattle(!), Fort Peck Indian Reservation, Nigeria, Russia, and all over the US.