08 May 2007

Edify Me

I recently found myself trying to explain, when asked, why I no longer watch a popular television series. Or more accurately, verbally fumbling all over myself trying to explain why I no longer watch a popular television series. And in the end, I'm pretty sure I was unsuccessful.

I like to think I'm relatively articulate but found myself running circles around my point. This has led me to the conclusion that I probably shouldn't be trying to explain something I don't even understand myself.

So over the next couple of days, I meditated on it. I danced on it. I ate on it. Why had I removed this series and a number of other 'hit' shows from my current viewing menu? It felt 'right,' that much was true. But 'right' as reasoning felt incomplete and vague.

There was a word I was lacking that I just knew would fit my sense of this answer. But the word remained elusive for a good number of days.

What I did know, as I reached for this word, was that lately I have little tolerance for 'entertainment' that steels something from me, that compromises me in some way.

For example, I try to watch very little news. The news industry can claim their mission is to inform, but I'm skeptical. I think their goal is to disturb and upset. What is it about the news that makes us keep coming back for more disturbing and true stories?

Another example: I am not crazy about the genre of Suspense when it comes to movies and books. I do not like that gut gripping "I have to know how this ends" feeling I get about half way through. Even if the movie or book sucks, I have to see how it turns out or it will drive me crazy thinking about it. I'm a freak, what can I say?

I find most reality TV to be disturbing. The suspense of waiting to see who will exhibit what manipulative, self-serving egregious behavior next. Waiting to see what nasty, rude dream-crushing thing Simon says next. I believe reality TV has very little to offer. Why are we so intoxicated by watching what is often the very worst of people? Even if it somehow accidentally manages to inspire someone, it isn't worth the price of the toxic nature that seems to be required for good ratings.

The huge following such programs enjoy are just another reason for me not to join in. Why would I seek to be counted among the pop culture 'throng?' (Not thong, throng.) Does that argument work in your head? "Everyone else loves it, so it must be good?" Bullshit. I understand that there are valid objections to my point; I can hear them in my head. I do not care.

I do not believe something has to be disturbing to be entertaining. But in fact, most pop media seek to push the envelope in this direction. I've had enough. 'Disturbing' steels something from my soul each time I allow it. It robs me of my peace, bit by bit. What little optimism, hope, encouragement I was naturally born with is slowly worn away by provocative media. I do not need to be provoked to be entertained. It's quick and easy entertainment but it is not quality entertainment.

It feels like an addiction to me. I don't know if I'm interested in anything that I HAVE to have. I feel dependent and weak when I NEED to see the next installment of Sopranos, The L Word, Desperate Housewives, Rescue Me, Survivor; Central Park or what ever. Now, I realize there are millions of toes to be stepped on here. That's fine, I can live with that. Fortunately for me, there are very few people stopping here to get their toes stepped on. Sorry to those two people.

So, if 'disturbing' is what I seek to avoid, what then do I seek to include deliberately in my life? The answer is 'that which edifies.'

Raised in Sunday School, there were a few words heard frequently in that specific setting, that a child would rarely hear on the outside. Redemption, sanctification, reverence. Valid words all, but not often used in common, everyday verse. For me, as a child, 'edify, edification' were even more mysterious than other such church-specific words.

But that is what I seek: to invite into my life that which enlightens, empowers, stimulates intelligent thought, encourages my spirit, my dreams, lightens my path, expands my future, bolsters me to walk taller, farther. The world as it stands is a dark and disturbing place. Why go seeking more of what we already suffer to endure?

As I said, I like to think of myself as relatively articulate, you may disagree. If I have failed to make my point, I think I still get an 'A' for quantity and for use of my thesaurus. If the gauge by which you judge content include that of most of the world: sensational, edgy, provocative, dark, creepy, inciting, 'fringe,' well then I'll happily just continue to suck, by those standards.

07 May 2007

Ecce Cor Meum

My first child was born with a broken heart.

Complex Congenital Heart Defects, officially. His heart was smaller than the size of his little newborn fist, and it had five serious things wrong within that tiny space. His survival was not assured. And on some days not likely. Gave me a whole new appreciation for the pain my own heart could endure.
Not endure well, but endure none the less.

He was transported directly to Children's Hospital from his birth hospital. Do not pass go, do not collect $200. We spent almost three months there, that initial 'visit' and I received a reluctant education in a few areas, during our time.

  • I learned (and used) medical terminology I hoped never to need.

  • I learned (and performed) minor but practical medical procedures that my son would require if I ever hoped to take him home.

  • I learned that in any given situation, one of three things will happen. Things will get worse, they will get better or they will stay the same. I've yet to find an exception to this.

  • I also learned that I never want to hold a job that my heart is not called to. This may be the greatest lesson I learned.

It was one of those "don't try this at home" type lessons. As we lived day-in, day-out in the midst of sick children, parents sick at heart and the staff of a hospital designed specifically to support the well-being of these first two groups, it slowly became apparent that not every one working within the walls of Children's hospital was necessarily 'called' to work there.

Upon hearing of our stay at Children's, people most often remarked "Aren't they wonderful people there?" And the answer is Yes, absolutely. There are indeed some incredible individuals at Children's. People most amazing. Talented, motivated, exceptional, gentle of hand and kind of heart. And my family & I were fortunate to know each one. These were people who literally saved the life of my son. They are extensions of the hands of God, as far as I am concerned. For these people, their work with the lives of these children, broken in one way or another, was their calling.

There were also people working at Children's for whom, it seemed, it was just a job. Their hearts were not in their work. We were there for months the first time and for weeks during subsequent visits; I'm not referring to people who were having a random bad day. They were not happy in their jobs, and it showed day after day.
I know I could never do it. I am not made of the right stuff for such a job, so wouldn't you rather I work somewhere else? Isn't it better for all concerned if I find a profession I'm made for?
Maybe it grows to be too much, taking care of babies, children, teens who sometimes die before your eyes. Growing attached to children and families who eventually leave, one way or another. Maybe these people didn't begin their work discouraged and disheartened, but over time it couldn't be helped? I don't know.

What I do know is that when this becomes the case, it might be best for everyone to decide to move on. Go to work at a place where there is less at stake. Where parents aren't clinging to your every word for some flicker of hope, where your snide mood left over from I-don't-care-what, doesn't have the power to add to the burden of a suffering family. The staff of such facilities have the honor of working with sick children. I held the hands of two mothers whose children died at Children's, it was my privilege to know these women and their two infant sons. I'm a better person for having been part of the months of life those little boys had.
It was the best feeling, being in contact with staff that lived and loved their chosen profession. It was inspiring, it was reassuring and it was calming to my soul.
And it was the worst feeling being on the receiving end of someone who hated their job, someone who did not want to be there. And in this we agreed, I didn't want them there either.
If you're going to be miserable in your work, do it at the IRS or as a lighthouse keeper or a news reporter or a bounty hunter. Somewhere else, please.
As a new mother sits next to the bed of a gravely ill baby, wondering if she is going to have to plan a funeral soon, she should not also have to be exposed to and have to contend with a disgruntled, ill-tempered, unsatisfied, prickly person sharing the same intimate space.

In the rest of life, we may have the understanding that we have to exist with such people, we work beside them, live with them, order food from them, (we may even be these people at times) but parents in this most vulnerable of situations should get a temporary 'Get Out of Jail Free' card.