“If you say real talk I probably won’t trust you” – Andre

The next line in that song, I have thought for the past like 8yrs was ” If you wanna go to water-guns my pleasure…Even Jesus had 12 disciples on the level, trigger, whatever”…apparently it doesn’t really go like that. But I like my version better.

Which gets me to the point of my blog rather quickly tonight … my version. It’s amazing how much people throw out the word “real” or “truth” or “honesty” these days. And equally amazing how unfortunately skeptical most are once they hear anything even resembling those terms coming out of a man’s mouth. I’m sure there are those (wo)men who are skeptical hearing it out of women’s mouths as well but I can’t speak for other demographics I do not represent…or the whole of my demographic either, as it were. All I can speak for is myself. And unfortunately, over the past 2 yrs or so…I have determined that “If you say real talk I probably”….will be at least a bit more critical of whatever you have to say next. It’s like saying “No offense but…”, it pretty much warns the audience to listen up to whatever is next going to be said.

I find that I am particularly mistrustful of the aforementioned phrase because of 1) My Diary Of a Black Girl and 2) my namesake. My name, Aminah- means “Honest, and Faithful”. And I think my mother did that ish on purpose- so I would feel some type of way any time I attempted to lie about anything. I can’t even be properly deceitful! Which has resulted, over my entire life…in some unfortunate episodes.

I am the type of person for example, to tell my senior physician, at 3am in the morning       “I really don’t understand why we are admitting this patient and I’m irritated that they woke me up for this instead of going to see their primary care doctor and I DO NOT see the indication for an inpatient rectal exam.”

I am the type of person who will tell you, honestly, when that pair of jeans is giving you the dreaded “muffin top”.

I will tell you when you are hurting me, and why, and that does not necessarily translate into knowing what to do to make me feel better about it.

I will tell you my truths…and then I will sit up all night wondering whether or not you can handle them. Because the last time I heard “real talk” I probably shouldn’t have trusted.

This is just me breaking out of my self-imposed censoring bubble once again…or beginning to.

For the poem I needed to hear this week:

From my sis: Haiku for you

I’ll always love you
its time you loved yourself more
your peace is worth it

Allahu Akbar – for all my girls hell-bent on Mothering

Today I watched a father sing prayers into the ears of his new baby girl ” Allahu Akbar..” All day I had followed the progression of their labor, and while the ending of this story is a happy song, it did not start out as such.

The day started out as days typically have for me these past three years: struggling to wake up. I stumbled my way into hospital scrubs and an ex-ex-ex boyfriend’s comfy sweatshirt. I rushed to work and said my morning prayers in my car after quickly scanning through my daily bible verse on my iPhone.

I felt a bit guilty about that, especially because then I proceeded to get a good stern talking-to from the radio preacher the Black R and B station plays on sunday mornings when only God and hospitals are awake. Apparently a spiritual life that is not worked on very hard, day and night, with all of your everything is one that God requires more of. “Well God needs to give me some more sleep/coffee/hours in my day” I thought to myself…and proceeded to change the station to country music because even I can’t listen to whoever the heck they are playing on hip-hop stations these days on the Sabbath.

        It took a while for me to finish that sentence because I really wanted to insert an Artist’s name in there but I couldn’t think of an artist that I can listen to on normal days either…Come on- Trinidad James? 2-chains? I’m getting old.

Either way as luck would have it my patient had left Against Medial Advice last night so I had time for the hallowed brew that is coffee when I got in that morning. And so fortified, I was prepared for the large-print sign outside a new patient’s door that said No Male Providers. As a female, you might wonder why this would provoke an almost sphincter-like reflex in me–but patient’s dictating their own care is rarely something I look forward to- especially in Obstetrics. And I know that’s not very Leftist, autonomy- ethics, new world blah blah of me but there it is. If you want to come in with all types of instructions of how I need to do my job…and you haven’t taken a biology class since it was called “Science 10”- I am of the mindset that you can stay at home and put in your own IVs as well. Add that to the fact that this was a midwife patient and I had halfway convinced myself that I’d be helping along a water-birth delivery trying not to look as grossed out as I felt the whole time.

As it turned out, the family was Muslim and deeply religious. After introducing myself and cashing in on my Arabic Name I did a quick Jesus shout out for small miracles. Throughout the day I returned for cervical exams, to check in with the midwife, to meet the whole family- who were all exitedly buzzing in and out of the room and to stand in respect and in awe as her mother, her husband, her sister, and her in-laws took turns praying in the direction of Mecca on prayer mats in the room.

The delivery itself was not hugely exciting, for me at least. Everyone around us was so happy and clapping and squealing and had the whole cheerleading squad thing going on. I think we forget that, this exciting moment of new life- just as easily as we forget the pain of old death after being here for so long. And so I am especially grateful for families like these that bless me with the reminder. Momma pushed well, breathed well. Daddy held hands and legs well, cut the cord well. He counted to ten for all he was worth. And wiped her brow, and made sure we cleaned her, and asked questions, and more questions, and more questions. He was truly present. After the delivery, the midwife took pictures of him cutting the cord with my gloves strategically placed over body parts. He then asked for some quiet time please to whisper something in his daughter’s ear. And he sang.

Amidst a flurry of thank you’s afterward and more pictures I felt the need, which is becoming exceedingly rare, to say thank you in return. It was, it is, an honor.

Moments like these remind me, when I’m running on nothing but calories, caffeine, and cortisol; when I’m screaming at God and anyone else near enough or strong enough to take it, why I am meant to be exactly where I am. Help me Lord to be still.

Allahu Akbar 

Reaching for the Toilet

Today was one of those days where I’m staring at the bottle of Crown on my coffee table as an inspiration to get through this week. I knew this would come, at some point. An older student pointed out in medical school that her greatest fear was the day she would snap at a patient- and hoped to avoid this by remembering to be grateful. But is is hard to be grateful when you start adding up the hours, and the pounds, and the dollars, that you are sacrificing and someone has the nerve to be ungrateful that your life-saving intervention wasn’t good enough for them. I managed to avoid the snapping, but probably only my remembering said inspiration for getting me through this week. Still, tonight turned out not to be about ranting. but about a funny story that resulted from all the venting. The ranting therefore, which I would normally expound upon- I present in bullet point fashion for your reading ease.

Things that make me swing to the Right these days

1) being furreal broke and debating on turning republican because the next fool who tries to holler at me when my taxes are paying for the clothes/home/car he can’t afford may be going down

2) my skin looking like attack of the droids ( or whatever, I don’t really remember the names of the Star Wars movies)

3) being tired all the damn time

4) saying F-it to all of this ecetera still hanging around on my waistline and

5) having no time/inspiration to write

Rant over, my mother then has the nerve to ask me

“So have you been drinking enough water?”- I think this is in reference to my comment about my skin needing to take the Retin-A plunge but I don’t quite remember as a red haze obscured my vision and my rant went on…as follows

” Do you know how hard it is to drink water in the hospital?” I started, ” There are like- no bathrooms for doctors in the hospital. They have ones on each station for nurses but you have to first find them and then awkwardly use the bathroom because everyone looks at you funny when you try and use the restroom like we are supposedly too clean to ever have to pee. And then you can’t like, go into a patient’s room and excuse yourself from teaching rounds for a minute to use theirs because that’s just not professional. And so when you finally break down and go pee after having downed the entire county’s supply of coffee and forced some water in there so you won’t be the worst doctor/hypocrite ever you find yourself running down to the resident lounge to pee which is so far away from all the work you have to do. And if there is a resident alive who hasn’t answered their pager/ascom/phone to a nurse/patient/attending- while trying to balance the phone on their ear and pee and strategically use the mute button with their chin I am calling them a liar. Right now. Yes I said it. So to avoid all of that, and/or the use of Depends- I just drink less water.”

My mother responded

“Well they have moved my office to an old elementary school. And my office is where the classrooms used to be but they have not retrofitted the bathrooms.” At this point she paused for effect. Wait. Let the implications of that sink in women. “So there are still these bathroom stalls made for little girls despite the fact that now only big girls work there. And so you have to be really careful to aim properly and make sure you squat down deep enough despite your advancing years otherwise you will end up not only urinating on your clothes, but falling. And then you’re on the bathroom floor in an elementary school after having urinated on yourself and that’s just embarrassing.”

…and because I’m all sensitive and PC and can realize she is empathizing with my story like that, at this point I’m howling with laughter. She continued.

“Well I’m glad I could provide you with some amusement but it’s really not funny. You know I’m trying to do all of this with 1 and a half knees so I have to limp and twitch my way down the stairs before kicking my bad leg out and trying to balance on the one good one left. It’s really all about the timing. And I still drink my water. So remember that when you minimize my disability as not a real chronic illness, remember that when you justify not having to drink enough water. And remember that when you need some creative inspiration to write tonight.” My mother is a habitual line stepper…Gotta love it. Dad gave me the title for the post.

like I said- it’s all about remembering to be grateful.

Use as directed- on self waxing

So yesterday evening, after a long day and headed into an even longer weekend I came up with a set of plans for the current cray cray of my life. After the full blown break-down, and get back up again that was Thanksgiving I resolved to get back on the wagon. The trouble was re-arranging the baggage I carry in my wagon. Sort of like Oregon trail, some shyt is not surviving the forging of the river. Over the past month one of the things I kicked off…more for budgetting reasons than anything else would be…self care. I guess since I couldn’t get my hair done, or get waxed, and I was starting a new skin regimen so my face was looking like it did at 13, I just let myself go for the time being. Last night I decided to rectify some of that…by experimenting.

Note: when experimenting with self care products- one should follow the instructions. You should not, as I have- texturize your hair with your bare hands- your fingers will require cetaphil for the next month. You should not allow any of your hair dye to remain on any surface for longer than it does on your hair because it will look like you murdered someone in your bathroom for the next 4 sets of Mr. Clean required to scrub red dye off your floors. You should not attempt self-waxing your bikini line by heating the wax on top of your heater. You should not- and this one is from a friend- have your boyfriend wax you when neither of you have done so much as watch a youtube video of the process. While I hear there was much…bonding…after the disaster of that latter experience She still tells it as a harrowing tale to warn off unsuspecting 20year olds from self waxing kits.

So since I was not about to drop 75$ for a brazilian, mostly because I need all the back-up I can get in this attempt at celibacy, I decided that NAIR might be a good option for at least some maintainance. I do NOT recommend shaving to anyone but especially Black people because, as a woman, and as a doctor- ingrown hairs happen…but they are not sexy, and holding a hot compress to your hooha 3 times a day is rarely practical for anyone with a job. So onto Nair I commenced. Alas- I did not read the directions. I assumed it would be one of those- ok to use for bikini lines but not so much the brazilian effect because whatever the hell can make hair disintegrate and wipe off in under three minutes is probably something you DO NOT want to put over more, shall we say, sensitive areas. So with that in mind I Naired myself up, turned the shower on, and started to brush my teeth for the requisite 3 minutes of waiting time. Belatedly, I realized that perhaps I should extend my Nair application further “around the corner” in an attempt to reach “hard to reach areas”- like it says Nair is good for on all the commercials. Having said that- somehow between basic anatomy and my whole you know, doctorate in medicine, I forgot that said “hard to reach areas” are covered with mucosal  epithelial surfaces rather than keratinized epithelia. Which is to say- there is a difference between the skin in your mouth and the skin on your face. And why, shortly thereafter said application of Nair I was doing this odd sort of squat bowlegged waddle but in fast forward real time to the cabinet for hand towels to WIPE THAT ISH OFF!!! My butt hole was on fire. The Kardashians are crazy for butt bleaching and after this I will never attempt that stuff myself. I hoped that getting into the shower would help but I had to use soap to get the remnants of that horrible stuff…which smells by the way, off. And then like slathered on baby oil like I had diaper rash at 27 and laid down, spread eagle- to laugh at myself. Like seriously- I had no plans for anyone to be seeing the results of my misbegotten efforts but when I say I needed some motivation to keep my legs closed I did not mean Jesus, for you to set them on FIRE.

The next morning, this cray story ended, as all my crazy stories end- in a dramatic re-telling to my little sister: who whooped and hollered and told me to share with you all. This is me, and humility Prostrate…literally, before you.

I am thankful today for laughter- hope you got some just now. P.S. my nether regions have recovered and would like to send a shout out to baby oil and shea butter.

Backwards and Upside down

Took me a full half an hour to come up with that title…I was going for provocative…but not like that!. I realize that half the time my posts have been about a wide range of vjazzling to trashy romance novels reviews and this title may give the reader some false hopes for my subject material. I was referring to ZIP LINING! … and that still doesn’t seem to side step the innuendo so..suffice it to say- there was no naked yoga involved in this past weekend. And by naked yoga I mean just that! I have a friend who’s all about it! no innuendo again I swear! Well since I’m done digging this hole I’ve gotten myself into- let’s just get to the point:

I recently returned from a bonding trip with my fellow family medicine residents. We started off the weekend as only Doctors do: by taking the in-training exam. We then headed to a seminar about our strengths, weaknesses, and stuff we plan to do to fix it all, and finally finished with eating, drinking and being merry- all topped off with an early morning zipline course through the Mountains north of LA. This retreat called to memory so many other forced bonding events I have had in the past. There was “Fallout” – in high school every year: which was always accompanied by ropes courses, trust exercises and a general cliched clique-y-ness that no amount of camping, rafting, or kayaking seemed to cure. Curious how high school students do not seem to get along all the better after you expose their fears and weaknesses to their peers. Then there was the ‘before college retreat’ for my scholarship group- which actually served given that there is no other way I would find myself so enamored of anyone ever sporting the ghastly colors of Carolina Blue. And now this…13 years later, three degrees and 30lbs later I find myself once again flying through the air, backwards and upside down…

I have no complaints about being backwards or upside down ( no innuendo again!)…given the general trajectory of my journey through life as it were (humor har). But the bigger goals of the retreat- before that squealing down the mountainside, before that trusting this rope and these people you don’t know, before making fun of your classmates for peeing their pants as we go along, seemed to be lost. We spoke, in the beginning, of ourselves. We started talking about how you become “one of us”, the truths we hold to be self evident, our “rites of passage”, the ways we fight, who our elders were, all the ways we are a village. The truths spilled out on multicolored neon sticky notes throughout the room “taking call”- for rites of passage, “gossip”- for how we fight, “Senior residents”- a defined hierarchy- for our elders. And being the grown up adult independent doctors that we are, you would think we would have sat around and rebuked this hierarchy- we would have balked. We would all come together and kumbayad our way to non-gossip land. But we didn’t. There seems to be a certain level of comfort I still hold, at this point anyway- in being told what to do. And no amount of drinking and merrymaking seemed to change all of that. What it did change however, was my perspective on the above…flying backwards and upside down has a way of doing that.

We are more than a village, we are a family. My first co-intern and I call each-other Nemesis. We all have our nicknames and will soon have shirts accordingly. We still gossip…and continued to gossip all week long. I made the paltry attempt, while gossipping around the kitchen table- to at least say that this gossip remains between the 6 of us. We are exclusive. The interns drove together, slept together, and rallied at all the seniors trying to get us to break up and mingle. We were the kids wearing double strap back packs long before it was cool because we had actual shyt to do at school. A full 1/4th of all Doctors probably played the violin. We have obsessive compulsive personality disorder…and we like it (say it Sand Lot style–that loser kid who was the captain of the rich team who lost). No one wants a doctor who is laisse le bon temps rouler about their health. We are the ones who bragged in college about who had more homework and the longer paper and the more tests in a row. We are stubborn, and strong willed, and used to being the smartest/ and the ‘least knowledgeable” one in the room.  Having said all of that, the one thing we all agree upon- despite our sneaky, sometimes humorous, some times ill-advised attempts to one up one another’s cool new pen/stethescope/knowledge base- is that there are defined outsiders of the family- and we attack accordingly. That was the last sticky note we all had to describe; since there are defined insiders, who is outside? And the answer was simple- anyone who does not, without question, have our backs first. If you are lazy- you create more work for us and you are outside. If you call others over our heads- you are outside. If you are stupid…and dont work to rectify that stupidity- you are outside. And like all families, while we may gossip, we may laugh at, we may even hurt our own, we will come together and attack all those outside of the family.

I love this family. I love our divas, our wayward cousins, our silent but deadly little sisters. I love that already we have cried together, laughed together. We plan one another’s pregnancies, and weddings, and abortions…in whatever order they may come. And perhaps this journey, residency, forces that bonding: we are pushing through hell praying we come out better, and stronger, and smarter for it…without having killed anyone (including ourselves) on the way. And this requires holding on to one another.

This family, the grown-up doctors tell us, will change. Some people will become outsiders, some new ones will come in…the gossip part doesn’t seem to go away. But I write this to say that 1) for all those kiddos rocking double strapped backpacks- you will get here, and we will be waiting- there may still be sniggering behind your back, you will undoubtedly not have it all figured out yet, but the luxury of family is that we will meet you where you are- keep pushing. And secondly, going through a journey upside down and backwards is ok; a bit scary, and you have no idea where you are going or how long you have to go to get there but it’s actually kind of exciting, as long as you are surrounded by family.

To my Fam med crew, my babies still pushing it out ( Juls, Staley, Jams, the Rev.Dr, AnnieO, Mari, JiJi), my to gangsta bunny and stalker boba…Top Flight security of the world Craig signing out.

…I got my nickname ( the Top flight…) because I absolutely HATE when the frikin suburban parks in the compact spot. I’m like…out to take down all poorly parking members of society…with a whistle and a flashlight.

On “Decorative Pillows”…vs. a quality Mattress

At the beginning of this year I said, I wrote, and I knew that this year would be a period of growth. I knew that it would be hard, I knew that it would hurt- and I was NOT looking forward to it. And somehow, somewhere in the middle of moving and surgery and graduating, and running in circles I have apparently gotten right back to that same point. I can see the period of growth ahead, and I know it’s going to hurt- but this time I am sincerely looking forward to it- or at least looking forward to how I will feel at the end. As anyone who knows me will attest, I am not a fan of the journey. But as I have been forced to learn for these past few months- when there is a trial waiting for you, a test you have to go through- you can try and “sit out this round” but once you try and get up that hurdle will still be standing in front of you until you pull a Lolo Jones and jump. Or in my case, keep frikin working out and pressing towards some prayer and fasting and stretching until you manage to climb over the hurdle in a year or so. I am not a fan of jumping over things that stand above my waistline. I am a huge fan of preparation. But I think this time I was mostly just procrastinating rather than preparing and learning never works that way. See lessons are like that: Rinse and repeat until the damn stain comes out.

But knowing that intellectually and putting it into practice are two different things, and doesn’t make the bleaching process of the stains any less harsh. That’s why I have to keep on blogging and journalling and writing post-it stickers everywhere to remind me to slow down and inhale it all and live in the present. I am always, have always, lived like 5 years in advance. But this time I knew that to get to where I wanted to be was going to require some pain- and I have no idea how, but I figured out how to put off, avoid, procrastinate the pain…until about a month ago.

I think the trouble with praying, in earnest, for God to remove people from your life he doesn’t want there is that somehow you forget that the process will leave you with fewer friends. Or more accurately, fewer people around you, fewer people to call when you have nothing else to do, fewer small talk conversations, fewer on and off again flirts, fewer Plan Bs. Its like taking all the decorative pillows away and seeing if you really like the mattress underneath. But my mother told me the one piece of furniture not to skimp on is your mattress. There is NOTHING like having a good night’s sleep to clear your mind, to revive you, to help you see things more clearly. And there are few things…though given my current life story I can think of just about all of them, that are more disappointing than a poor night’s sleep. This mattress analogy is becoming more and more apparent during this intern year. Not only because I have begun to prize sleep over all types of things given its precious and rare form when actually in a bed and outside of the hospital, but also because I am being stripped of all my decorative pillows. Because I have so little energy, so little time, so little motivation to give to anything not absolutely necessary in my life, the decorative pillows have got to go.

But me being me- it took prayer and some serious hurt and and act of God to drag the pillows out of my house and on to the Goodwill- where I honestly pray they will be picked up and treasured by someone else. All this 5year planning you see, leave me the kind of person who always has a plan B, C and D before even starting on Plan A. But with this one life, this one body, this one heart, this one soul- there is only one plan that will work. There is only the Mattress- and you had better invest in it, take care of it, put time into looking for it before purchasing or you will be poorly disappointed…and sleep deprived. I am learning how much I am willing to pay for a good mattress.

Which leads me to my long-drawn out point. In the Bible, Saul fell flat on his butt and went blind on that road to Damascus. It was NOT pretty. It was not easy. It was not Clean. And I bet walking in some slippers on a dusty road Blind too quite a frikin while- and required all types of helping hands on the way. And I am sure Saul/Paul felt at some point- really Lord, all that? did I have to go frikin Blind to learn that lesson? There really wasn’t any other way? I’m sure that as a newly Blind man he was scared as heck of where, or how to even take that first step on his Journey. But the last time I lost weight, got over a boy, started writing a book, became a doctor it started with a first step. I have been blessed to be surrounded by Good friends, and a Great God along the way but that very first step has been to start with me. Seeing as how God is kicking out all of my Plan Bs, my decorative pillows, my comfortable complacency: there is only Plan A. Which sounds a lot like-seek ye first the kingdom…

Carolina Girl

Its amazing how monumental momenst in my life can go comepletely unrecognized by others. And that this ability- ours ability to be present in our lives, is what allows for it to happen. No judgement, this is not negative- this is just how life is. Im walking out of this hospital forever today. I’ve lived and loved here. I’ve laughed and cried here. I have pushed myself to and past all notions of the limits I have here. And I m walking away. Not quitting mind you, but moving on. Because this phase is finished. Medical school- is over. And no one seems to notice. There is no pomp and circumstance, no trumpets sound as I leave everything I have known for the past four years.

Odd, as i was so excited to be heading onwards and upwards…or sideways- that I would feel nostalgia now. That I would look at these trees shading me as I run and belabor the vast, unending yellowness that is Los Angeles. That I would miss the clear starlit nights on patios of cheap bars in target sundresses rather than envy the purple haze of the LA skyline- made beautiful by all that is unnatural.

I will miss the ease of listening to gospel music on the radio. Of All my friends reminding me to go to church, of easter sunday dress shopping as the norm- rather than the absurd in your late 20s.

I will miss north carolina barbecue. Which makes me chuckle because the first time I saw it I told the international students I was hanging out with that I thought it was chicken salad gone bad due to being outside in this heat.

I will miss the heat, the warm summer nights where everything seems to be stuck together. where we laugh at the clearly out of place yankees wearing allthe colors that make your sweaty arms, back, neck stand out. I’ll miss that moment where you walk into target, or the mall, and are staggered by the relief air conditioning brings.

I wrote this when I knew I would miss…shudders…my carolina Girls. Born and bred California- but Sweet Caroline, oh oh oh.