Tuesday, March 22, 2016

In the Land of the Living: Of Energy and Intuition

In the land of the living, I'm sometimes overcome with bursts of sustained energy. I'm overcome with one right now and from where it's coming from I don't know, but I keep channeling it back out into thing that I love, goals to which I am aspiring, and communities who need it. If you ask me to get involved in something right now I'm bound to say yes. Yes even if I am not sure if I have the time, even if it's not practical to get involved, even if I won't have any energy for myself and my own basic needs. I do this because it's the only thing I know what to do; it's my duty to use this energy to create.

The feeling is incomprehensible; certainly articulating it is challenging. I envision where from body energy is originating and this energy isn't coming from inside of me. It seems to be pouring - like a waterfall - out of the universe. It moves right through me and out of my feet back into the earth. It seems to be coming from an abundant source - Makers Lake - and is being channeled through irrigation canals into fields where growth and regrowth can be continued.

While I am rolling in the good of this energy right now, I am also a skeptic of it. In the search for what it means I also wonder if it is a harbinger of disease. Is it a burst of energy before a slow destruction? Is this what a recurrence of cancer feels like before the crippling pain? Is that twinge in the upper right quadrant of my lungs heart burn or it is cells building and building upon each other. I tell you this because I'm certain I knew about the cancer being born in my body long before it was found and years before any symptoms were present. I felt a prolonged warmth in my abdomen four years before the doctors found the tumor. I'd been through several doctors offices in search of the source of this discomfort and heat, I had ultrasounds searching through tissue and no one could find the source of the heat that I anguished over for years. I knew - deeply - that change was on the horizon for my body; I couldn't get anyone to establish that the intuition was spot on. Science failed me until it was too late to salvage my whole self. I had to sacrifice in the name of survival.

So perhaps you can understand why I can't just allow the animal instinct in me to roll in this beautiful feeling. I keep investing in the goodness of this energy while I can, I answer its calls and listen to everything that is speaking to me for the message, but the skeptic lives on, wondering whether or not the underlying message is your time here is short, do all that you have dreamed and do all that can.

So I do. Until the message clearly restates the time is now for you.

Saturday, August 20, 2011

Have a Helena Day!

I was tempted to use a catchy title for my first blog since moving to Montana, but it seems like everyone has their hands on the phrase "Helena Handbasket." I found a god-loving basket weaver in Indiana who talks to her baskets and uses the moniker, a rock band comprised of middle-aged men in the Fargo-Moorhead area, apparently the local start-up roller derby team also goes by the name, along with seemingly right-leaning political blogger in a neighborhood near me. Instead, I'll use another local phrase dear to some Helena folk and heavily marketed by local artist Aaron Farseth and the local ice cream maker, Big Dipper Ice Cream. Instead of telling you I've gone to Helena Handbasket, I'm here to say, "Have a Helena Day!"

As you may already know, my welcome into this community hasn't sucked at all. I landed a job at both the local colleges (one private, one public) and was invited to teach creative writing classes to adults within the first two weeks of my arrival. I've just concluded teaching summer classes at UM-Helena, a small vocation college about three blocks from my house (hooray for bike commuting), and will start again in a week teaching three composition course for the fall. My students there range from too-smart-for-high-school kids to women in their sixties attending college for the first time. The diversity makes for interesting class conversations when I bring in controversial reading materials, but that is typically the case with the readings I choose. On Monday, I'll start teaching a argument/rhetoric course at the local Catholic private liberal arts institution, Carroll College. While I was once terrified that I'd burn up at the feet of the Mary Magdalene statue that greets me as I walk onto campus daily, I've found that my fellow professors (and even a couple of Carroll kids who took my summer class at UMH) are pretty damn cool. In fact, the dean of my department teaches a class titled "Truth, Lies, and Bullshit." Pfew. That really takes the pressure off. Anyway, Carroll is a beautiful little campus with approximately 1500 kids. Not surprising considering it costs about three times as much a year to attend than it does to go to a publicly owned college. Nonetheless, the kids are pretty traditional, mostly white with a median age of twenty, mostly from the northwest. And Carroll is no more than two miles from my house and UMH, so I'll get some good bike rides in before the snow falls... in about a month.

Besides the college classes, I'm also teaching in a small studio space in Reeder's Alley, a historic walkway in downtown Helena. We've named ourselves The Mad Muse Writing Studio. This picture actually shows the doorway to the studio space. See that narrow door right on the corner? Nope, not that one, it's the one to the left of it. There! Anyway, the exciting part about teaching in this space is that I get to teach classes I design to small groups of adults. Six max. For this fall, I've got two on tap: a Women's Writing Workshop and Breaking Through Writer's Block. So, if you know someone around here who might be interested in this kind of stuff--here comes the plug--send 'em my way!

Besides the job, our home is nice and quiet--well, quiet if you ignore the 28 trains that daily pass by just two blocks away. We are surrounded by a park on three sides and an empty lot on the other. Every night we have at least one and even up to five or six mule deer nesting in our back or side yard. We've had a lot of little Bambis lately, but we also have bucks with serious racks. Sharla throws firecrackers at them, I tend to walk and clap real loud yelling "yah yah" or something, but that will probably change in the fall when the bucks get a little more aggressive. This is part of the reason why we chase away the bucks (we're too tender to chase away the lone doe or the Bambis). The mule deer have been known to kill big dogs by stomping on them, so we'll not be taking our chances with the little wieners. Also, the deer like to snack on just about anything. We're trying to protect our gardens too.

Besides the deer, we also deal with teenagers selling drugs in the pull out between our house and the park, and when we get bored we call the cops on them. But most of the time, we're lazy from dealing with students all day long, and so their petty weed smoking gets overlooked. But really, besides the deer and the teenagers, the wildlife in these parts are pretty spectacular. Just east of town, and just about anywhere in the rolling dead-grass hills of Montana, one can find pronghorns, aka: antelope. We call them "white butts" because that's about the only identifying feature visible on them, as they blend into the landscape. . I haven't seen any moose yet, nor bear, not even elk, but I have seen some pretty spectacular birds. Today we saw a Common Shrike, a not so common bird whose numbers have been declining as of lately. I also saw a Lazuli Bunting at my feeder the first week I got here, then I never saw one again. Sharla has a particularly good eye for Sandhill Cranes and Bald Eagles and we see those all the time. Yes, turns out Montana is rich in wildlife. It's not just a rumor.

Well, I oughta save a little of my Helena adventures for later, because goodness knows there will be more to come. I just knew that it was time to start blogging again now that I'm all settled in. Hopefully, I'll have more for you, and you'll still read my rants when the infrequently occur.

"Have a Helena Day!"

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Teaching: Anxiety, Awe, and Excitement.

A good teaching day induces both anxiety and excitement. Both of these emotions sustained today, despite the fact that I didn't step into a classroom once. It's conference week. One of the most important weeks for a teacher to connect to their students one-on-one.

I'm not going to ignore the fact that some days are bad teaching days. Maybe it's inappropriate conduct in class or a plagiarized paper that makes a bad teaching day, or maybe the lesson plan falls through and your students look at you like they'd rather be mopping floors than sitting in your class, or maybe you look at essay topics and think to yourself , My god, what is this world coming to? Yes, those days happen, but when an honest connection is established between a student and teacher (or professor), it's a magical and emotional sensation.

I've been teaching for three years now. When I started, I was more scared of my traditional Idaho students than the women transitioning out of federal and state prison whom I taught through the YWCA in Portland. While those women had the potential to be scary, it was not often in the classroom. I was much more scared of the assumptions and stereotypes I'd have to confront that were imbedded in the minds of my freshman and sophomore students at the University, than the women who'd done time in the joint (though some of them certainly came with their own issues). And while I have bad teaching days now and then, and I have to confront ignorance in my classroom, teaching is the most rewarding thing I've ever done.

Casual conversations with students seem to be the most effective motivator for student success. So many of my students have thanked me for getting to know their name... Their name! This really concerns me. While I understand that some undergrad classes have such heavy student loads that lecture halls need to be packed with students in order for the university to efficiently process students who have pre-requisites, it troubles me terribly that the relationship between professor and student is so distant. How are we supposed to be effective educators when we don't know our students, their realities, their concerns, their interests? I just don't get it.

I set out to really know my students, and admittedly, I don't get to know every single one of them. Some of them are more private than others, and that's just fine. But I certainly try to break through the power structure that assumes I am the teacher and you are the student, therefore you will be learning from me, not me from you. I think this is a false assumption, that instructors cannot learn from their students or that their life experience or specialized knowledge cannot teach a professor a thing or two. I really think that there is inherent value in attempting to level the power structure in a classroom, so that students not only learn from the instructor, but learn from one another. I am also a firm believer that information is not delivered in the classroom (though, sometimes a lecture will have to go that way), so much as it is exchanged. Everybody has a hand in the education process.

And so often I walk away from my classroom excited about the conversations that are happening on very important issues facing my students and me. They have interesting perspectives, they are willing to make public ideas which may not be popular in the broader communities in which they work, they are more often than not very thoughtful of their fellow students. They are willing to research their topics and be proven wrong; they are willing to change their minds, to grow.

This excites me more than anything. The topics we discuss in class are often terrifying predictions about our future, anxiety inducing topics, contemporary social issues, and strained social and political arguments. More often than not, no matter what the political leanings of my students, they are thoughtful with their responses and engaged in civil discourse. And when someone says something that is derogatory or uninformed, often it is my students that speak up and address the issues. Not often is it my job to address the occasional awful thing murmured in class.

Don't get me wrong. Once I year I have to deal with a derogatory term in my classroom, be it racist slurs, ableist slurs, sexist slurs, or homophobic slurs. While it's not allowed in my class, it still happens. And while this might infuriate me, cause my body to unnaturally heat, make my brain tingle and eyes fill with tears of frustration, it's also not often me that has to address these issues, and for that I am proud. My students aren't afraid to call their peers out. And they aren't afraid to do it in class because the tenor has been set early: my classroom is a safe place to exchange ideas, we are not always going to agree and that's okay. You come back to class and realize we are all at different stages in our education, and we hold no grudges when our opinions depart from others in our class. That way, everyone can return to their education without fear.

In conferences there is ample opportunity to get to know students, to know that they are people who have lives, who have lives outside of their education, to get to know their interests and all the things that they are doing to try to ensure an economically sound and stable future for themselves and their family. When they sit down beside me in my office, they become more human. They share their successes and their concerns, even their failures. And in that space where commonality is found in the everyday, a real relationship is established. Students, in fact, are the greatest reward of teaching. Seeing them succeed, seeing them evolve, seeing them challenge themselves and others, watching them navigating this crazy world is so rewarding. Seeing the diversity of human beings up close everyday, is exhilarating. Knowing that we can bridge political differences by a shared interest in bettering our communities and our world makes returning to the classroom that much easier.

But all this gloating, it isn't to say that teaching is easy. I have to be willing to bring difficult issues into the classroom and not just gloss over assignments and how they are structure and what is necessary to get a good grade. My students are not engaged by that kind of curriculum, they want to talk about relevant issues. It's not easy to approach real issues with real people, to listen to and deal with opinions that I do not share. It's anxiety inducing. It's scary to dissect, analyze, interpret, evaluate, and examine right beside my students. It's a job that takes thinking on my feet. I have to be adaptable to changes in collective classroom emotion any minute. It's not easy at all. And sometimes, at the end of the day, it leaves my body humming. Sometimes I hum with anxiety and some days I hum in awe. More often, I leave my classrooms excited than disturbed.

On days like today, my students leave me feeling better than when I awakened. My students and I let our conversations roll over the alloted fifteen minutes we are supposed to spend talking about their essay topics and grades. It's when we talk about their personal experiences or their concerns that I walk away energized. It's when we talk about a student's experience with losing friends to a drunk driving accident, or a student's learning disability, or a how a student's childhood home was foreclosed upon, or how contemporary and more often than not biased media makes certainty uncertain, that I make connections with students. These are the conversations that are important between my students and I. These are the conversations that help me to thrive as an instructor, that keep me returning to the classroom every other day with optimism. They are also the conversations that help keep my students stay engaged in the world around them and in the things that they care about.

This is what makes teaching so damn awesome.

Wednesday, February 09, 2011

Freedom to Marry Week Conversations

I signed up for this.

I didn't have to have a voice in the gay rights movement. I didn't for a long time. I sat quietly in my elementary, junior high, and high school classes and tried to ignore the nasty things said about people like my parents. I didn't call my friends out when they said "faggot" or "homo", "queer" or "dyke" - I might have even used the words myself. I even dated a boy who was admittedly against gay rights and was vocal about it too. I have a video of him from my 15th birthday and he's shouting into the camera, "Yes on 9! Yes, yes, yes!" which was the anti-gay legislation that Oregon voters had before them that year. I also briefly dated a boy who put his finger in my face in the dark back room of a party where we were supposed to be making out and said, with regard to his anti-gay rights thinking, that I would think like he did, or else...

I left the room that night, but I didn't leave the silence of the closet. My parents, by then, were separated; divorced if you will. Ellen came out, Matthew Shepard was beaten and killed, Teena Brandon was shot, and I didn't so much as blink a few times at the TV. I was straight, my biological mother was dating a man, and my other mother's mental health was in decline so my contact with her was sparse. My only impulse in my early twenties was to get drunk, get high, fill my bed with strangers and keep a full-time job so I could keep the lifestyle I had. I wasn't interested speaking out about my parents or my experiences. There was a complete disconnect between our lives, my life, and the lives of other LGBTQ people. All that mattered was me.
I'd like to blame that on age, but I also think that while I recognized that we were, that I was, surrounded by the gay community, I also felt like we were in our own bubble. Only when the political discourse became so inflamed did I recognize that my family, my experience, was not an island. Only then did I recognize that I was floating in the sea amidst thousands of people, millions of people, who had my family, my community, on their mind.

This became especially apparent when I started working for the Women's Resource Center at my community college, and most of the women who sat on the student leadership board with me were queer or lesbian or bi-identified. It was that year that I realized I too did not fit into the heterosexual box. I was scrambling to figure out how to date a woman and be from a lesbian headed household. I was trying to figure out how to be an activist, to be vocal about my experiences growing up amidst political turmoil. I wanted a voice in the movement. I'd been silent too long.

My first speaking engagement was terrible. In the college cafeteria during LGBTQ history month I said some sing-songy rhyme that tokenized just about every queer identified person in the room. I said, "Everybody should befriend a gay or lesbian." Ugh. Embarrassing. Thank goodness my friends were kind enough to just make fun of me for years afterward. But then, in 2005, I was invited to speak at Portland City Hall for Freedom to Marry week. I was nervous. I wrote out my entire speech. I read it verbatim stumbling over my words, poor spelling, and bad punctuation. Consequently, a lesbian columnist for About.com published this terribly written speech on the Internet. I had no idea how to write, or how to be a public speaker. I was just starting.

Six years later, I've spoken at conferences, in classrooms, in public arenas, on panels. My list of speaking engagements is longer than my publications. But those opportunities to speak are often opportunities to speak to the choir. It's the more personal exchanges that end up being more powerful, more stirring, more memorable, and sometimes more frightening.

Today, a colleague told me that fear is what the dominant culture wants me to feel, and that I should not feel fear; to overcome that impulse is success. While I appreciate that offering, it's also not so easy to just overcome fear and say to myself, "Nothing to fear." It's not easy to have conversations, whether civilized or not, and leave them as just conversations. I carry them with me for days. I remember what was said to me. I ask myself what I could have done differently. I think about how when something happens in the gay community, when there is news about the gay rights movement in the minds of the broader community, how the language (both positive and negative) seeps into the psyches of everyone. And it seems, when the rhetoric is most prevalent, that is when I get to have more one on one exchanges.

These are people that come to me. I don't often say, "Hey, let's talk about gay rights!" Most of these exchanges are with complete strangers. The young girl who sat next to me at a Rev. Jesse Jackson lecture on Monday night and said, "I grew up in a small town. I'm really uncomfortable around diversity" and so we talked about that experience, how she might confront that. She made me nervous what with how bold she was to just tell me about her prejudices. But it was a calm conversation, one that was difficult to have with all of the stereotypes and assumptions that she was putting on black people, people of color, gays, and Indians. Still, I stayed present for the conversation. I said "Bye" to her when she left. Then yesterday, on campus in front of a map of the states that showed where gay marriage, civil unions, and domestic partnerships existed and didn't, a man is ranting about how it shouldn't say "anti-gay legislation" because that would imply that the states are against gays, not against marriage. For a while we have civilized conversation, mostly because there is a third woman nearby who is keeping the tenor of the conversation balanced. Then he says something about how unlikely children of gay people are to be normal, not gay, successful. I tap him on the shoulder and say, "Pst. My parents are gay." I tape up a statement of support on the poster, one that says my full name, gives some of my story, when another man walks up and starts reading it while I return to the conversation. We start to argue about rights LGBTQ people don't have because they don't have access to marriage. I mention that partners and their families are sometimes kept from their partners in medical settings during emergencies, and that some people have died without their partners and children being told.
He says, "There is not one documented case of that happening" and I fucking lost it.
"Are you fucking kidding me!?" I squealed, and told him I'd bring him 15 documented cases if he wanted, and while I was yelling I told him about me and Brandy's motorcycle accident and how we were separated in the hospital and I was refused access to the Emergency room even though I could clearly hear her yelling that she wanted me there from behind the locked doors.
On the peripheral, a woman is walking in circles and fiddling with her cell phone, listening to us yell at one another. The other two people are telling us to calm down. She walks up to me and touches my hand, asks me if Brandy is ok.
I tell her yes and she tells me, "It's okay to walk away..."
It takes me a moment to realize where I am. There is no one in that space but me, him, and her, though I know there were others around, as the Commons are a main building on campus and student traffic is heavy. I thank her. I have no idea what my face might have been saying that told her she needed to remind me of other options. I turned away from him, from her, and walked out of the building. But on that wall in the Commons is my full name and my story. I walked away and kept looking over my shoulder. I thought about it as I sat at home that night. Where might a stranger find my personal information. Might I be harmed?

And then, this morning, a stranger messages me through Facebook. Says, "I hope you don't take this the wrong way, but I just read your article, "Growing Up with Lesbian Moms" and I wanted to know if I could ask you a few questions. I'm 26 and considering having children."
I reply, "Shoot from the hip."

I signed up for this.

Though I am tired of being self-deprecating, I'm tired of having civil discourse, I'm tired of being careful with my words and trying to convince people of how necessary it is that me and my community have access to and the privileges that hetero folk do. There are no excuses for the oppression, for the fear that me and others experience when we feel compelled to be vocal, or even when we cannot bear being civilized in our approaches to blatant bigotry. I'm fucking tired of being nice because for so long I've taken the offensive remarks, I've been careful with my words, I'm been a diligent and calm protestor. I don't want to write a nice memoir that doesn't point fingers, I don't want to be balanced in my approach to what has happened and what is happening. I want to pen a fucking diatribe, revenge prose, an angry essay that is unforgiving and vindictive.

I'm tired of being marginalized and oppressed.I'm tired of being unequal and treated unfairly. And I wish I wasn't so damn angry and scared.

When I return to my Facebook page today, a friend has posted the following quote: "Our lives begin to end the day we become silent about things that matter. "-Martin Luther King, Jr. It gives me pause, a moment to sigh. Even though it feels like I might be dying because of all the energy that I am sapped of when I am asked to speak about this issues, maybe it's true that the only time I am actually decomposing is when I am not speaking out...

A nod to you, Dr. King.

Monday, April 12, 2010

An Open Letter to Mike Huckabee.

Dear Mister Huckabee,

What a pleasure it was to come home this afternoon and find your recent comments on children of same-sex parents on my Google News-Feed. Oh, it troubled me for a moment, but it's given me a reason to blog again, and to address an issue that so often comes up for children with same-sex parents and their families. The judgement of our families from people who have no experience on the inside of them...

I guess it should be no surprise to me that you would call us "science experiments", but you should know that we are more often called "social experiments". There is very little science involved in the process of adoption. Where science comes into play is within the heterosexual relationship, rather. Isn't the mixing of body fluid and therefore genes more accurately a science experiment than the rigorous and sometimes enduring application process, the checks-and-balances, that a same-sex couple (or a hetero couple) must go through in order to adopt a child? Besides, get on the bandwagon Huckabee, your friends like to call us "social experiments"...

It also appears that you haven't done your research. I'll pay no mind to your opinion that totally ignores the multitude of research that has emerged from the sampling and study of children with same-sex parents. Resoundingly it's been proven that children with same-sex families are no better or worse adjusted than children with heterosexual parents. The American Academy of Child & Adolescent Psychiatry finds us no more likely to be gay, to be sexually abused, to have issues with gender identity, or to have demonstrated any different gender role behavior than children reared in traditional households (AACAP, 2006).

Look Huckabee, same-sex parents are not going to stop finding ways to fulfill their dreams of creating families. There are already many children of same-sex families in our world and there will be many more. At this time, approximately "96 percent of all U.S. counties have at least one same-sex couple with children under 18 in the household" according to the 2003 Census. "Yet only seven states and the District of Columbia have laws supportive of gay and lesbian couple adoption"(Urban Institute, 2003). So, I guess what I am trying to tell you is that you're not going to stop the already burgeoning same-sex headed family by denouncing them as "science experiments", so why don't you instead try to protect all children, instead of just children with heterosexual parents, adopted or otherwise?

Furthermore, children of same-sex families more often site judgements on their families from their external worlds as more troublesome than their experience than living within their families. That's right Huckabee, be proud that you are participating in a form of bullying, that you are contributing to rhetoric that is more damaging to children than the mere experiences of growing up in a home with same-sex parents. You are also contributing to the notion that no home is better than a home with two adults who are actively seeking to provide a home to a child who is in a system where there are more children awaiting adoption, than parents who are seeking to adopt.

This is the worst part, by denouncing our families, by making public your opinion of the parents of some children, you are not only shaming our home life, you are making us acutely aware that we are not accepted, that our families are not protected, and that not only are children bullied by children, but that children can also be bullied by adults, by institutionalized prejudice. It's a horrible feeling to be a teenager or a child in a world where people like yourself insist on continually marginalizing our families. For a child to make sense of this institutionalized hate is confusing, particularly when we find our homes, and our communities, safe and comfortable, and we find the external world cold and prejudiced.

Also, to denounce our families publicly is to also say that we are not recognized as families, that we do not face the same kind of problems that traditional families face. It sends the message to us that it is not safe to ask our communities, our governments, the institutions in place to protect every tax-paying citizen in the United States, to help us if we are facing problems. Problems such as mental illness or domestic violence or poverty. That if we ask for help with these familial situations that we will not only be scorned for asking, but that our families will be scrutinized as problematic, instead of the problem itself. This institutionalized double-closeting is yet another situation that arrises from your abhorrent public behavior.

What is the best part about what you had to say today? You are actively inspiring more children to stand up for their families and to be counted, and to be visible in the debate for equal rights. I am one of those children who came out of the 80s and 90s fiercely intent on joining the cause for equality. So, today, I guess I should be thanking you, for inspiring more of us to come out, to be counted, and to demonstrate that our families will exist with or without your approval, and that we will continue to fight for our parents and ourselves until we are protected by the laws of our cities, counties, states, and nations in which we reside.

So, thanks Huckabee.
I guess.

Chelsia A. Rice

Saturday, January 09, 2010

Games with Death

There are wicked games the living play when death is making it's long stride into our worlds, especially if there is time to consider it's arrival. We play with our positioning: How close do we want or need to be? How will our closeness or lack of presence affect the rest of the living? When do we arrive and say our goodbyes, and will death beat us to the bedside? Do we position ourself to see the decline, to witness death diminish the one(s) we love? And we ask ourselves the questions: Would we rather have death come swiftly, sweep through and pickup the living in it's talons, carry it away? Or does the time left with the dying bring more peace and resolution?

I once had a Scientologist roommate who was reading through one of R.L. Hubbard's massive mahogany leather bound books. That book sat at her bedside and I feared, though was curious, about it's contents. So, one day while she was away I snuck into her room, grabbed the book and took it to my room. I opened the book to the middle and started reading. Hubbard was saying that pain is experienced because actions are too swift. He gave the example of a bullet piercing a body. He said, if the bullet were to be slowly pressed into the body over a long period of time that there wouldn't be pain. I thought about it, even agreed with it, and suddenly felt I was being sucked into Hubbard's prose and brainwashed, so I closed the book and returned it to her bedside, but I've never forgot his philosophy on pain.

I've been avoiding (I am prone to avoidance) the pain that I knew would come from writing about the death of my dear friend, Stephanie, who has fourth-stage squeamish cell carcinoma, cervical cancer which has spread throughout her body to her organs and her lymph nodes. In November, a few short weeks after she was diagnosed, her PET scans revealed that the cancer had fused the lymph nodes around her spine in a large mass that spanned her lower lumbar to the middle of her shoulders. It was when I knew that Stephanie's time would come quickly. It wasn't her doctor's optimistic one-year prognosis that solidified my knowing; in the past two years I've seen two of my people die after the cancer was found near, in, and around their spine. I'm no fool. I knew we didn't have anything close to a year to share our precious time with Stephanie. A few days ago, Stephanie was transferred into hospice care.

So here I am, tweaking cheap-flight websites, trying to make reservations, trying to find the least expensive way to be with and comfort my dying friend, to commune in comfort with her family, and her chosen family, and I'm frustrated and angry that this positioning, this financial game, these questions and obstacles and considerations or even an issue when someone's life whom I care so much about may be gone in an instant. It's a frustrating and ridiculous.

And although all of this emotion of this positioning is so overwhelming that I find myself jolted awake in the middle of the night thinking her time has just come and gone, and pacing in the kitchen with my coffee in the early morning hours wondering how and when I will visit, I am at peace with Stephanie's impending passing. I am at peace with the arrival of death when it eventually comes. It's the time between knowing it will come and it's actual arrival that makes crazy. I've seen it unfurl in in my own family. How they bowed forward in their chairs, and hunched towards the bed with the mouths turned down. And nobody has enough alone time, no one feels they have had their final say, everybody wants for something more. Motivations all seem so suspect.

Whose need is the most genuine, the most important? How do we determine these things as we look upon this intimate process? Whose needs do we put first when there are so many who want to be and are a part of the process, who are dazed by all that needs to be resolved in such little time? I try to leave my own needs out of this scenario, though I am not foolish enough to believe that I also don't have my motivations. Yes, my visit is partially about me and my relationship with Steph, but I also want to be there to lay hands on, and comfort the ones whose pain is more severe than my own. The community of people around Stephanie who love her as much as I do.

I'm coming to you soon, Ms. Stephanie. And although you may not have the appetite, I will be bringing with me your favorite caramels.
With love and with peace in your process.
With love and peace for the many people who love you so much.