A Prayer for Today

Dear Lord,

Thank you for your many blessings. May they keep me sane during these times of trial.

Lord, I am having a difficult time finding the goodness in everyone. Help me loveth my neighbor, no matter who they voted for. Help me to find something positive in this “presidency”. Perhaps you have sent us this erratic, insecure, uninformed lunatic to draw contrast to that which is just and right in the world. For humans banding together in support of each other and against hate is truly Good.   Let me not harbor feelings of ill will towards him or those that support him but understand what drew them to him in the first place.

Lord, help me to survive the 13-year-old rollercoaster that is my eldest child. Hold my tongue, Lord, so that I may not say something I regret when he has challenged me one too many times. Hold my hands, Lord, when he changeth my radio station and toucheth my gearshift while I am driving. Help me to enjoy the snuggles that have inexplicably returned following a multi year absence, only to be followed by yelling and slamming of doors. Let me not sell him to the gypsies, as he will someday regain his full faculties and become a rational human being again.

Lord, please relieve us from that which is white and falling from the sky. It was beautiful in December and January but now it maketh me want to hurt myself, or others. Bring blue skies and sunshine and shoots of green. Bring birdsong and flowers. Help me to find my inner peace and joy so that my family does not have to suffer my gray moods.

Lord, help me to find strength in you. Help me to find my spunk, my childlike joy and wonder, my sense of humor, and my strength and grit in the face of adversity. Help me to love and forgive. Help me to fight for others without losing myself in the process. If you could just help me to channel my inner Rose Nylund, Julia Sugarbaker, and Anne Shirley then I’m sure I’ll get there.

Please send peace and love and safety and health to all, even to you know who.

Amen.

Thoreau-ing It All Away

Have you ever wanted to just get away from life? Lately, I have been having these fantasies about going and living in the middle of the woods – alone. I really don’t want to leave my husband and my kids but I desire solitude, just for a little while. Just for a time, I’d like to live with no civilization; no computers; no phones; no television. I’d like to wake up when the sunlight streams through the windows and go to bed when the light is fading. I want to hear nothing but birds singing and leaves rustling. I want stillness. I want quiet. I want my thoughts to be the only things that break my communion with the trees and the water and the earth. Because I like to name things, I like to call this fantasy of mine “Thoreau-ing it all away”. But maybe not all of it – and not forever. Just for a week or two.

The world is just too much for me right now. The negativity and inhumanity that is occurring is making me weary. I have a hard time focusing on my work these days. I feel overwhelmed and drained and helpless. I no longer have faith that everything will turn out ok. I no longer have faith that people are inherently good and that they will do what is right and just. Getting away – unplugging – is probably not what I should do with all that’s going in the world. I should engage, now more than ever. And I most likely will – tomorrow. But today, in this moment, engaging feels like a heavy burden and I’d like to indulge in this daydream.

In my little cabin in the woods, I will sleep as long as I want to. I will cook to the rhythm of salsa and to the sizzle in the pan, with a glass of wine in my hand. I will take baths and read books (actual books, not just magazines and journals and online news articles). I will take long walks through the forest and stop to listen to the trickle of a stream and to the hooting of an owl. I will write without interruption. I will breath deeply. I will recharge. And then… I will be ready to return to the world.

An Open Letter to Mr. Trump and Mr. Kennedy

Dear Mr. Trump and Mr. Kennedy,

Are you serious? I mean, are you really serious – a committee to investigate the effectiveness of vaccines? What do you think science has been doing for the last 220 years? We are going to spend millions of dollars and precious hours that could be better spent, I don’t know, say… working on securing peace in the Middle East or developing a realistic and actionable alternative to the Affordable Care Act (which, by the way, I happen to like and don’t feel needs replacement but, perhaps, improvement). This is ridiculous!

We (I really want to say “you” but I’m trying to be inclusive here) must have an unbelievably short collective memory. Do you not remember smallpox? Do you not remember polio? Do you not remember the Influenza pandemic of 1918, which affected 1/5th of the world’s population and killed more people than died in all of WWI? 50 million people died! That’s million, with an “M”! Why do we not see these horrible plagues anymore? Because of vaccines, that’s why! But, somehow, even though many people – healthy people – still die of the flu every year, this doesn’t feel like a current concern. Maybe it’s not sexy enough of an issue. I would stake my career on the fact that, if there were an Ebola outbreak and people were bleeding out of their eyeballs and dying left and right, every single person out there would stand in line to get a vaccine if one was available. Maybe the flu and other vaccine-preventable diseases just aren’t scary enough.

How pretentious and elitist of us. This move, to question the utility and benefit of vaccinations, is a luxury of the wealthy. You do not see the people of third world countries or those in our own country who are just scraping by, living paycheck to paycheck, questioning the benefit of vaccines. To them, this is a life and death situation. Whether to vaccinate is a make or break decision. For those out there who don’t have access to adequate health care or can’t afford the medication or the doctor bills to treat an illness, having a family member get sick can be catastrophic. They can’t afford to take time off of work to nurse their child or themselves back to health. So, what happens? Kids get sent to school during illness. Adults continue to go to work during illness. And illness spreads.

It feels like I spend half my day trying to convince people to get vaccinated. As a family doctor, who cares for a largely middle to upper middle class patient population, I get a lot of questioning patients. In 2015, after growing frustrations with how much effort was expended addressing this issue, and not feeling fully prepared to answer all the concerns that my patients had, I took the time to do my homework. I took every doubt, every reason that I have heard not to vaccinate, and addressed each one in turn. I wrote an article about it called An Ounce of Prevention and you can read it if you are so inclined, or you can do your own research. You will find, as I did, what we as people of Science and Medicine already knew. Vaccines are safe and vaccines save lives!

What I know to be true in my heart of hearts and what I see to be true in my everyday practice, is that population health and individual health are inseparable. If you choose not to get vaccinated, so be it. You are an adult. But know that your choice puts others at risk. We vaccinate not only to protect ourselves but also to protect the more vulnerable in our community. Or maybe you don’t care about those more vulnerable and at risk individuals.

Make your own personal decisions, but don’t deny the right to this lifesaving health intervention to others and don’t waste our time and dollars setting back the clock to the 1700s.

Sincerely,

Gretchen LaSalle, MD

Stand

And so we will Stand,                                                                                                                                     just as we had planned,                                                                                                                               with our heads held high.

I sit here, muscles in spasm, gripping my nerves and skeleton.  I cannot sleep.  I have my second cold sore in as many weeks and I am just now coming to the realization that I am stressed.  The body often reveals what the mind cannot see.

The kids are good.  My husband is loving.  Everyone’s healthy (save that cold sore and the spasmed muscles).  Work is rewarding.  I love the time I spend with my patients and coworkers. I love teaching.  But providing health care is a fight.  A constant fight.  And there are wolves at the door, threatening to take away the care and coverage that so many need and from which so many have benefitted.  And then, there’s Inauguration day looming.  It is enough to make a person want to lay down, roll over and wish the next four years away.  But we can’t.   Now is the time to say what must be said.  Now is the time to let our voices be heard.  Now is the time to stand.  I don’t know about you, but I don’t want to look back on anything that happens in the coming four years, anything that takes away rights and freedoms and opportunities for others, and say that I could have done, should have done, more.  I hope you will join me in taking a stand on January 21st at your local Women’s Day march.  Join the greatest gathering of activists that this country has seen in some time.  Be a force for change.  Stand.

 

Dear Family and Friends

Dear Family and Friends who voted for Trump,

Much has already been written along the lines of what I am about to say, and often more eloquently than I may say it, but I am trying to deal with the aftermath of this election and writing is my outlet.  I have something that I need to say and I hope that you will hear it.  I have never been one to get very involved in politics but I don’t feel like I can sit around and be an observer in these events any longer.  I love and respect you all and I know that you voted for Trump, not in support of his bigotry and malice, but as a vote for change.

The thing is, in voting this man into office, Trump supporters seem, inadvertently, to have given license to all of those who have been hiding their racism and sexism and homophobia. With Trump elected to office, the message has been given that it is okay to spew hatred.  The Internet is rife with stories: men groping women on the street, people tearing the hijab from the heads of our Muslim sisters, spray-painting the “n” word all over business walls and school bathroom stalls.  Our children are afraid.  Our people are afraid. With this election, we have set the country back, not taken it forward.

Now is your opportunity.  You have the chance, the RESPONSIBILITY, to not sit back and let your party be defined by bigotry and hate (for that is how it is currently being viewed by many).  You have the opportunity to re-define what it means to be a Republican.  But it has to come from you.  People within your own party must be the ones to speak up.  What’s happening in our country right now is NOT OKAY. 

Many of us have been privileged in some way, whether we are white or male or heterosexual or educated or wealthy.  It has been easier for us than for many.  As humans, as people with generous hearts and kind souls, we have to act on behalf of others.  Day to day, we can stick up for someone on the bus who is being harassed, we can give to organizations that help the disenfranchised, we can write or call our congressmen and congresswomen to let them know that we will not support them if they endorse the bullying and denigration of others, be it by everyday citizens or by the President himself.

Keep your eyes and your ears open.  I understand wanting to stay off of Facebook and turn off the news so that you don’t have to deal with all of the negativity and divisiveness.  But don’t allow yourself to turn a blind eye to the events that are taking place.  Don’t assume that someone else will speak up.  We must all accept responsibility for what is happening and work to make things better.  I challenge you to do what is right and to go forth and put some love and hope back into our world.

Please.  If you love and respect me, if you love your children and want them to live in a nation that is peaceful and safe for all, if you love your country then STEP UP AND SPEAK OUT. 

Thanks for hearing me out!

Wishing you all peace and love.

Gretchen

On the Wrong Side of History

I had expected tears today. I had hoped for tears of joy… tears of love and gratitude for a woman who has given her life’s work to making the world a better place for others. A place where, no matter what color or religion or sexual preference or disability or socioeconomic background you come from, you are given the same rights and privileges and opportunities and responsibilities as everyone else. I had wanted to cry tears of joy for all of the little girls out there who would know that they could grow up to be anything they wanted to be, if they were just willing to work hard enough. I am so grateful to Hillary Clinton for giving us such a wonderful example of what intelligence, hard work, dedication, openness and acceptance, caring, and a life in service to others can mean to so many.

What I cry today, though, are tears of sadness, of shame, of anger, and of frustration. How can this country, people that I love and believe to be intelligent, big-hearted individuals, vote for a man who represents such vitriol and hatred? He has publicly ridiculed people with disabilities, espoused hateful and xenophobic rhetoric, shown blatant disrespect for women, those in our military, and those that are different. How can those people that I love, who have children of their own, whom I presume want to teach values of tolerance, love, and respect of others, how could they vote for this man? What do you tell your children about why you would put such a person in the Whitehouse? I so dearly hope that this man’s talk was just that, talk. That he used the media and talking points to his advantage to gain access to this highest of offices but that his true intentions and actions will not be as divisive and hateful as he presents in his public face to the world.

This election has wreaked havoc on all of us. We have been so polarized. For years I have not wanted to participate in political discussions. I want to love people because of what’s in their hearts and how they treat others, not because of their political leanings. I respect others rights to feel the way they feel and to vote their conscience. But, today, I admit myself disappointed in so many, whose vote for Donald Trump was like a slap in the face. My parents (a heterosexual couple and a lesbian couple) taught me to love everyone, to fight for those who can’t fight for themselves, to care for all people and to devote my life to service.   They taught me that I was smart and good and could do anything I set my mind to and I have taken that message to heart, spending my life as a physician, caring for others. I grew up knowing, deep down in my soul, that love and caring for others is THE most important thing. Love is love no matter what color or gender or religion. We are born knowing only love. We are taught hatred. I fear, America, that we have voted on the wrong side of history today – that we have voted for hate.

Today, I am grieving. I am grieving for my relationships, some of which have suffered because of this election. I am grieving for our children who have to see this superficial, bigoted, misogynistic man as our country’s leader. I am grieving for the immigrant families of this country who are working so hard to make a life for themselves and who will live in fear from this day on. I am grieving for my patients who only recently have been able to get health care, either because of inability to afford it or because of pre-existing conditions. I am grieving for those of color and for those in the LGBT and transgender community, who have fought so hard for equality and acceptance.

My only consolation is that, now that the office of President and the House and Senate are Republican controlled, there will be no one else to blame if change for good doesn’t happen in this country. No more obstructionist tactics. Now they must get to work, proving that their ideas will move us in a better direction. I sincerely hope that they, that we, can be successful together.

Today I will grieve. I will allow myself that. But tomorrow, I will continue to teach my children a message of love for diversity and respect for all. I will go on in service to others and fighting to get my patients the care that they deserve. I will try, every day, to make the world a better place for myself, for my children, and for you and your children. Today I grieve, but tomorrow begins the work of repair and healing and there is a lot of work to be done.

 

The Struggle is Real

You’ve heard of the Urban Dictionary?  Well, I’m coming up with a Nine Year Old Boy Dictionary. I’ve lived with this strange being long enough that I am starting to learn his lingo and thought others of you might be able to benefit from my experience.  It is a work in progress and I would love your feedback.  Perhaps you can share some of your own definitions so that we may all understand and communicate with these creatures better.  Please use this list of words and phrases for your English to Nine Year Old Boy translation needs.

English:  Nine Year Old Boy

  1. Now:  In 5 minutes, or 10 minutes, or maybe never.
  2. Hustle:  Move at exactly the same speed as you are currently moving.
  3. Weird:  Anything having to do with kissing, or romance in general.
  4. Use your fork:  Eat your salad with your hands.
  5. Get ready for school:  Listen to music and play with your Legos, being entirely not ready for school when it is time to leave.
  6. Brush your teeth:  Stare at yourself in the mirror for 5 minutes, making silly faces and checking out your muscles, then swish with an infinitesimally small amount of toothpaste so as to make is it smell like you have brushed your teeth.
  7. Wash your hands:  Turn on the water and wave your hands in its general direction.
  8. No:  Yes. As in, the reply given to the question, “Did you wash your hands?”
  9. Read a book:  Find something resembling a book but with no words and look at it for 20 minutes.
  10. Take a shower:  Run the water for 10 minutes to let it “warm up” while you play with your Legos. Then, stand under the water for 20 minutes and sing, perhaps using the soap as a microphone, getting no actual soap on your body.

I’m looking forward to hearing from you!  I need as much help as I can get!

We Need to Talk

Dear Scale,

I really don’t appreciate what you said to me this morning.  It’s as if you have no concern for my feelings whatsoever.  I come to you, completely exposed, insecurities laid bare, and you don’t even have the decency to offer a small complement.  You just flash those horrible numbers at me. “Sure, you’ve put on about 10 pounds since last year,” you might say, “but those curves are kickin’!”  And, I have to say, you are all over the place.  I don’t know that I can trust you anymore.  One day you say one thing and the next it’s something completely different.  Why are you so up and down all the time?  I need some consistency in this relationship.  I really hope things can be different between us.  I appreciate the honesty but, if you can’t be kinder to me, we may have to stop seeing each other.

Sincerely,

Gretchen

True Love

I don’t say it often enough but I love you.

Wherever you are is where I want to be.

When I am with you, I feel warm and secure.

When we are parted, I long to return to you, to linger in your embrace.

When I am tired or sad, I fall into you and you comfort me.

Your touch is healing.  You rejuvenate me.

Our hours together make me feel as if I can conquer the world.

You take me as I am – the good, the bad, and the ugly.

There is never any judgement.

Our time together is precious.

I can’t imagine life without you.

I love you, Bed.

Nearly Perfect

Right now, in this place, I feel nearly perfectly happy.  This warm July day, I sit in the welcome shade of a maple tree, shadows of leaves dancing on the ground in front of me, flitting around like so many monochromatic butterflies.  A light breeze raises goose bumps on my skin.  I lean back and close my eyes, hearing the rustle of leaves in the trees; the chatter of swallows as they dive and dip through the grasses at the creek edge;  the burbling of the water as it tumbles over stones and winds its way around fallen branches.  A verdant lawn stretches out in front of me where, not long ago, I sat watching an intense match of Bocce ball played out between my son and his grandfather.  In the distance, a mountain rises up, dotted with rocks and layered with Ponderosa pines.  Here, there is peace and tranquility and quiet, even among all the noises of Nature.  This, as my mother-in-law would say, is a magical moment.  When life’s frustrations take their toll and I am feeling pulled in too many directions, I will try to remember moments such as these.  I will allow them to fill me up, to pull me back together again, and to remind me that I am a part of something bigger than myself and the demands of my every day.  I am a part of Nature, she is a part of me, and we need not be so often separated.