Friday, July 29, 2011

Two-Faced and Afraid

If I could narrow my recent thoughts to one word, it would be "Unmask". 

People complain a lot about other people not being "real", or they complain that they find it hard to be themselves around others. I struggle with this myself, and I figured that if I could simply get past my insecurities, then I could be more REAL. But it's more than that an issue of fear. It's about being honest. 

"The truth will set you free." I know this verse in context is referring to the truth of the gospel, but it can apply to being honest about yourself too. Forgetting about what others think of me, or what I think about myself, and focusing on being TRUTHFUL, has helped me a lot in my desire to be real. I was caged by fear, but being truthful has set me free. 

I lie about how I feel. I lie about what I think. I lie about what I want. I lie about what I've done. I worry people will think I'm a bad person, or a boring person, or a stupid person. But why? Lying has only caused walls to grow, it's only caused more insecurities. It's so burdening. 

This is why we should be real, even about our shot-comings. This honesty that I'm talking about especially applies to Christians who often hide their sins, and pretend to be really godly people while they are around their Christian friends. This isn't right. We're sinners, and no Christian can truly deny the presence of a sinful nature battling their new nature in Christ. This is no reason to embrace sin or advertise it, but there's also no reason to hide it and to pretend we're really holy. 

Being open about sin allows the opportunity for some to voice their self-righteous judgments, but it also allows for accountability and encouragement from fellow believers. If we never voice our struggles and sins, it will be so much harder to face them and fight them. Also, speaking our true opinions about things allows for critiques and challenges; it helps us think and learn. Being truthful about who I am has helped me to be less insecure. The truth helps us grow.

Being REAL is about facing fears, but more so about choosing to be an honest person rather than a liar. And the reason honesty is so important is because God's word is truth, and we are witnesses of the truth. How can we share the truth when we are dishonest, two-faced, and afraid? Our own honesty is a testimony to the honesty of the message we profess. 

Tuscon Bum

He sat hunch-backed on the curb
Next to Pizza and Pub on Congress
His eyes looked like the Arizona summer sky,
Only they were puffy, and old, and sad.
He only looked up for a moment,
At the sound of my voice I saw surprise.
When I offered him my flat, icy cola
He grabbed it willingly, greedily,
With hardly an audible grunt
He sipped the light brown fluid
Looking down at his lap again, 
And I watched, wishing I had time to talk
Imagining the story behind this Tuscon bum.
Later I saw the cup abandoned 
On the curb.

Saturday, July 16, 2011

Eva Hudson Is Alive: A Story About Magic

*This is a true story but i have changed the names of those involves to protect their identities.

Eva Hudson sat on the toilet, her shirt off, from 1-8pm mumbling to imaginary people, and sobbing occasionally. She refused food, she refused drink, and she refused company. 

I got to her house around 4pm the next day, and there she was again on the toilet after a sleepless night of manic mumbling. She hadn't showered in a week either. As caregivers we are responsible to help her with the basics of life, which include hygiene and diet. She refused help in both areas. What could we do?

The house manager, Amy, raised her voice at Eva, riding the fine line between commanding and strongly encouraging her to join us for dinner. Eva continued in her stubborness and yelled, "Leave me alone! I need space! Don't talk to me! I won't listen to you! I can't eat!" The voices wouldn't let her eat. They wouldn't let her leave the bathroom. 

"Eva Hudson died," she said, "She's dead." 
"Eva is not dead! Eva is alive and she needs to eat!" Amy said. We decided that talking to her in the third person might help. Lately she is so confused; she can't tell that "you" is her. She can't hear us over the voices, and sometimes we have to say her name three or four times loudly before she even notices that we're talking.

This continued for sometimes, and frustrated the house manager went back to the table and joined the other client and I for supper. 

An hour past before Eva left the bathroom and returned to her room. She kept repeating, "Eva died." Or she would say, "Amy you have a phone call! They're going to tell you that Eva died this morning!" She talked to her "friends" about other things too, and we listened in from the living room on the baby monitor. 

At 8pm I went to her room to offer her the 8pm meds she is prescribed. The meds are supposed to calm her, help her sleep, help lessen the psychotic behavior, maybe quiet down the voices. The pills may or may not do their the job. She refused the meds at first, but then when I offered her dinner as well, she walked with me to the kitchen and ate, and took her meds.

She asked me to do her hair after eating, and I agreed. Amy took this opportunity to tell Eva that she needs to wash her hair before I could brush it. So I washed her hair and she cooperated. The voices tell her she can't take a shower, so we had to wash it in her bathroom sink, using cups to rinse out the mess. 

Her hair was mess a of mats and dreads. I combed it as best I could, and piece by piece, picked apart the tangles until her hair was again smooth and soft like it used to be. 

This is something we say a lot about Eva, "She used to be." I never knew the original Eva, but I hear she was a lot of fun. She loved to watch baseball and sing her heart out to country music while driving. She'd make up the words if she didn't know them. She was sweet and she loved to laugh. For a woman with MR, she was very high functioning. She can read, cook, work, and budget her own money.

But last November things changed. She stopped sleeping, and she started talking to imaginary people, and she became angry and preferred isolation over the company of her staff and peers. She became verbally and physically aggressive. She had to move out of her original apartment to a new house for fear of mountain lions. She was convinced that mountain lions would eat her if she stayed in that house.

Eva rarely goes outside now, and usually she only leaves her room to eat. She loves to eat, well, until a few days ago she did. She fears the outdoors, the mountain lions.

"Eva died. She choked on a hot dog." she said, and later, "Eva died. She got bitten by a mountain lion." or "Eva died. She got stabbed in the head." 

I listened to her delusional conversations while quietly brushing her hair. Occasionally she would smile at me, as if realizing I was there. She said, "You're a nice person." And asked me to do her make-up. I did. See, we'll do anything to see the old Eva back. We'll do anything to keep her from being a hermit in her room for the rest of her days. She's in her 30s, the lady deserves some pampering, some fun, but she's troubled.

I did her nails too, a strawberry red. She cried as I clipped her nails, as if it hurt her. I was gentle, and hummed as I painted her nails. But suddenly she started crying, then she started sobbing. "Eva, what's wrong? You're okay!" I touched her shoulders, and she looked at me confused, again as if she had never seen me before. She buried her face in her shoulder and continued in tears. She wouldn't talk to me.

I finished her nails and she ate some pudding while sniffling, and then I lead her to bed. Before she would lay down however, I checked every nick and cranny to scare away the monsters. "It's safe here. I checked," I said, and she shivered but went to bed.

That night, while in bed speaking maniacally, lost in her delusional life, she repeated 56 times that Eva Hudson was dead. I was so disturbed and troubled. She’d yell at us to shut up if we said, “Eva Hudson is alive.” I cried that night for her and for my inability to help her. The next day, I prayed with her, but she was angry all day and hardly ate or spoke to me.

Then tonight happened. Tonight was magic. I can’t explain it except that I saw a glimpse of the woman others reminisce about.

All day she had been growly and upset at Amy and the other staff that was at her house. She had refused lunch too. I came at 4pm again, and around 5pm I went to her room and again she was shirtless, standing in the middle of her room staring into space. I asked her if she was hungry

“A little bit,” She said quietly.
“Well food will be ready in about a half hour, would you like to come help me cook?” I asked.

She didn’t answer me, but followed me to the kitchen. I quickly grabbed a shirt from her room, and prompted her to put it on. She did, without complaining. We ate spaghetti with chicken and we took turns stirring the chicken on the frying pan. She would smile at me sometimes and say, “I’m making good choices. Are you proud of me? No aggression.” I was very proud of her. These were baby steps.

The magic happened after her 8pm meds. She asked me again to do her hair, so I washed it in the sink, and began to brush it.

“What songs do I know?” She asked me suddenly.
“Oh, umm, well I heard you singing the national anthem the other day. You know that one.” I said, surprised.
“Oh ya I do!”
“Oh say can you see…” Together we sang, off key, missing the high notes, and she laughed. “Oh I know this one!” She said, excited. “He’s got the whole world in his hands, he’s got the whole world in his hands…” And again we sang in perfect unison.

Can anyone understand it? The feeling of seeing such a troubled girl laugh and sing? It was marvelous, and I couldn’t let it end. She didn’t want it to end either. 
“Can I listen to the radio?” she asked.
“Oh of course! Let me get it.” I tuned it to the 105.7 Cattle Country, and I didn’t know the song that played but we sang it anyway, making up words and dancing. Head banging, shaking our booties, and lifting our hands. Every time there was a commercial I would change the station and we’d dance to something else.

“You gotta keep your head up ooooh oooh! And you can’t let your head down oooh ohhh!” sang Andy Grammer. What perfect words, and our heads were high. How long had it been since she was happy, since she had thrown back her head and laughed?

I brushed her hair while Coldplay “Viva La Vida” played and she told me that I’m a nice person. “You’re a nice person too Eva.”
“Sometimes,” she said.
“You are now. This is Eva. You are nice.” I assured her. She was herself. It was like she knew then who she was and what was going on. Eva Hudson was alive.
“How old are you?” I asked.
“I don’t like to tell people how old I am. I’m a lady,” she told me.
“OH! I’m sorry that’s right! I should NEVER ask a lady her age!” she laughed again as did I.

Lady Gaga “Poker Face” came on and to my surprise she cried, “Oh I know this song! I know this song!”
And in the kitchen we rocked out again. I took a video of it, so I’d never forget the magic. Oh the power of music. The freeing power of God!

I did her make-up and told her that she looked beautiful. She wanted me to take a picture of her and I did. She could barely keep her eyes open at this point, and as she got more tired, she fell into her delusion again. Mumbling to the imaginary people, and keeping me at a distance.

But it doesn’t matter that it only lasted a little while. It matters that she was Eva Hudson for the first time in eight months! It matters that she was happy, and free, and she danced and she talked to me rationally. She understood what was going on. She was there. Eva Hudson is alive.

Thursday, July 14, 2011

United We Do Not Stand

I'm flawed and I know it.
I'm fucked and I'm aware.
Oh America, you feign perfection
Feign self-confidence, but never
have I met an American
void of personal insecurities.
I can do it! we say.
I'm afraid I can't
do it. Individualism demands
your cooperation. Only you, alone.

United we stand?
All I see are cubicals of people, one
getting ahead of the other
In a race of the fittest.
America, you demand perfection,
You demand self reliance.
In me I trust, America.

I fear failure.
I fear flaws.
Society of Pharisees, and to be
an honest fool is too embarrassing
for you America. Public life is perfect
Homes are war zones.
I feel nuclear energy seeping
from these masks, these edited photos
of white-washed individuals.
I fear one day it'll explode, our cover blown
and we'll be seen as who we are-
naked, poor, blind, wretched, alone.

I'll just say it to your face America
Before this gets out of hand.
Fuck this unattainable perfection.
I can't do it. Not on my own.
A wise individual once said, "Relax,
be natural, be flawed." For,
In God we trust.

*This was inspired particularly by a conversation my sister Karolina and I shared. She is that "wise individual".*

Friday, July 8, 2011

Independence Day

We galloped into the waves, fearless of any inhibition,
Playing midgets in the sea, floating aimlessly,
Laughing for laughing's sake. Sunshine
exhausting our eyes, until evening shadows cast.
The same blood flowed through all our veins. 
We were connected then. Perfection in breathlessness
In your company running in circles on the shoreline.

The freeway was a traffic jam of flashing lights
on cars and explosions in the sky. New Port Avenue was 
plastered in marshmellows and crazy people. 
I got hit by one, by a marshmellow I mean. 
Men sipping slow drags off long joints, thick smoke. 
Sloppy drunks pounding their tattooed fists on hot dog stands.
I grabbed some Mexican food to go among the chaos
stuffing my face while memorizing their madness. 

Our faces devoid of grins, heads whirling with curses,
Then a tall skinny boy-man skipped down the street stopping, 
foot midair, "Why are you all so angry? You need a drink!" 
"I'm not angry!" Denied, I lied. "Maybe you're not, but
Come with me to the barmobile! For smiles and happiness!" 
He skipped away to the liquor store on the corner.
I passed by him later, poor fool, long arms flung 
passed out on the curb of Newport Avenue.
Smashed marshmellows to rest his dreaming head.