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Creativity Thrives In Restriction

Creativity Thrives In Restriction

An intelligent artist friend of mine once told me how, in art school, her creativity was enriched through restriction. Her teachers would create a number of restrictions on what could be produced: Only flamenco dancers and only on 8-inch canvases with pastels. 

This same idea is honored in the Chinese Medical paradigm when we say that the intention turns inward for the Winter. Darkness and cold take over and there just aren't as many things to do. When we aren't going from activity to activity in the external world, our inner world becomes our playspace and our creativity thrives. 

On day three of this cleanse, I am finding that the food restrictions are forcing some creativity back into our routines. Working full-time, with a partner who works full-time, has created some complacency for us around meals. It's not unusual for one of us, tired after a day at work, to say, "Korean bowls at the Laughing Planet? It's healthy."

Each day this week, my partner and I have cut root vegetables into a lasagna pan and roasted them. These go into mason jars in our fridge. We soak lentils at night and after 20 minutes of cooking, we have an easy soup. Cooked quinoa is mixed with pureed kale and sunflower seed butter dressing. Each morning, our fridge offers a few healthy options for lunch and snacks.

We are limited in the foods that we can use in our kitchen and so we try new combinations. We explore these foods in ways that we haven't done so before. It's not the cooking that's tiring, it's the decision making process: What should we have? What will the kids eat? I just can't decide. There are so many things to think about, recipes we could try, how much time will it all take?

Here we are, in the absence of choice. We can eat vegetables, quinoa and lentils. This is it. And we must make a meal of it. And taking away the thought process is so utterly freeing.

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The Heart of a Driftwood Fort

The Heart of a Driftwood Fort

"Mommy! Let's go over to the big boat!" My little superhero starts running towards a huge spray in the Columbia River as metal arms touch a barge at the end of the beach. I feel hesitant to walk anymore. There is so much on my to-do list and none of it includes the writing, cooking and gardening that I really want to do. Most of my morning has been spent responding to emails out of obligation, the kind of work that piles on and feels like a burial of menial tech tasks, rather than an opening and exploration of the human spirit.

I walk slowly, exhaustedly, behind my toddler as we make our way down this industrial Portland beach. I want to live! I find it impossible to do this in front of a computer (unless it means that I'm writing and creating and doing the things that feed me.)

"HIDE!!! Quick!" he shouts and we run into a driftwood shelter to duck down and away from the noise of the loading ship. It feels like a heart in here, something created out of pure joy and not out of a need to be important. I imagine a group of people working together to build this place. They had to put aside emails and tax forms for a few hours. They must have laughed with each other and maybe they shared a meal after their work. I long for this kind of truly important building to be the majority of what I do with my day. I choose this kind of work and I recognize that I will have to make this choice hourly, as my day goes on.

The wind blows through this stacked wooden heart. Movement. How do I create more movement in my life? More time for meditation, family and yoga? It's in the silences. It's in the spaces between the busy. It's in a straight piece of paper and pen where I can write one word expressions for my joy in bouncing letters that cannot be ignored. It's a choice of quiet contemplation of myself while my toddler snoozes:

Write.Play with my children.Meditate. Garden.Cook.

I spent three hours of the morning away from my top five. Instead, I worried about business and money. I spent the morning in my mind, living in lack, instead of living in the abundance that is all around me.

My son begged to go hiking and due to his relentless nature, I succumbed. We walked to the beaches at Kelly Point park and he, in his super hero costume, asked about the boats and the flags and the fish. His little warrior self told me how he would kill the fishes and bring them home for dinner. He picked two daisies, "a mom and a baby," and said that even big boys like him could take care of moms and their babies.

This time and the mind I am bringing to it, this is real for me. This is truth in who I want to be. And so much else is not. To the river that moves all around us here, I ask for the clarity today to find my truth and follow the needs of my spirit. I know that I am so greatly blessed and held in exactly the ways I need to be in order to do this.

For now, I sit inside this blanced log teepee while my son steers us on a course towards zombies.

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Wake Up

Wake Up

I thread the four-inch needles through the fibers of her extensor carpi radialis longus, trying to get maximum contact. I put another set into the bellies of her two other wrist extensors. She's seventeen and hasn't been able to use her right hand or foot since she had a stroke as a toddler. I asked her to come at least ten times. This is our eighth visit and she just showed me that she can move her pinky finger. I feel elated. I'm also kicking myself inside for not taking more video of her lack of movement in the beginning. I look up at Terry, "I should be about 15 more minutes."

There's a baby at the health post down the street who won't nurse. I don't know much else, but I've been asked to go over and see what I can do. I feel a little hesitant, as always, thinking that somebody else here would be able to do the job better than I can. I silently remind myself that this isn't the case: I am able to evaluate an infant. I am able to help a new mother nurse. I've done it before. I'll do it now. I am enough. There's that Brene Brown stuff again. I am enough.

I take a slow and deep breath into my belly as I sink more needles into the belly of this girl's tibialis anterior. Pawan grabs the electro-stimulation machine and we start connecting the six leads to her forearm and lower leg. I start with the first lead and I follow her eyes and head nod to recognize that she's feeling it. I press my extended wrist, palm up, into the air - a symbol that the two of us now know means, "Can I turn it up?"

She nods and I slowly increase the charge until her pinky finger starts jumping up and down on her lap. We do the same thing five more times and as I stand up to look at her, four fingers and two toes are popping up and down, five times per second. I smile and look at the clock; it took five more minutes than I expected. I ask Pawan to keep an eye on her while I run to the health post for the baby.

I find Tiffany outside with another patient. "Can you pull my patient's needles? I'm afraid I might be too long over there."

"Absolutely," Dr. T answers as she shows a Nepali woman how to do a shoulder exercise against the wall of the clinic. Her smile and demeanor are always so genuine and welcoming. I want to take her with me. She is a rock of calm when the chaos builds here. I wave and start out to the street.

I need a translator to talk to this mother and Ritesh and Terry are supposed to be meeting me. I don't see them anywhere. I walk through the fence and follow the path to the health post, past the "new" bright green birthing center and the dilapidated buildings that used to house the most frequented hospital in the area. For some reason, the government funding for the hospital was sent to the city of Hetauda, about an hour away. The Bhimpedi hospital was demoted to a rudimentary health post where staff and a resident doctor is able to spend about five minutes with each patient. Continuity of care can be difficult. We are still trying to build a relationship with the folks that manage this health post. There are a lot of politics involved as we try and understand how all of this works.

As I approach, I see that the gates to the post are closed but a number of women and children are gathered on a bench outside. I see a woman in the middle, holding a swaddled bundle on her lap. I assume this is the baby. It doesn't look like she's just given birth, but I can't ask her with Ritesh's help, so I go outside. I wait for a half-hour and my stomach is grumbling. I feel light-headed from working all day with no food. Finally, I see Tiffany coming from the clinic with Bibek and Pawan. They walk back to the group of women with me.

I ask the mother if she'd like our help to try and get the baby to nurse. "An ambulance is coming to take us to Chitwan Teaching Hospital. The baby is vomiting and won't eat."

My heart drops to hear that an ambulance has been called. Chitwan is many hours from this village. The mother reported these things to the resident doctor at the health post, a pediatrician, who immediately called for an ambulance. I asked again if I could look at the baby and she nodded.

I unwrapped the sleeping infant's feet as the women looking on shook their heads and tsk-tsk'ed me. Bibek translated that they were all worried the baby would get cold or windy. The mother told me that the baby girl was a day old and had nursed only one time, twelve hours ago. I scratched at her soft feet until she started to stir. "I need an ice cube," I smiled at Tiffany. She turned to go to the market and find a cold soda.

The baby wrinkled her forehead and looked as though she would cry. "Good!" I said, "We've got to wake this baby up." None of the women seemed at all happy about that, but a comfortably sleeping baby won't nurse. I took my laminated name tag off and began scratching at her feet. When Tiffany came back, we got a cold Mountain Dew on her toes and she began to look uncomfortable and whine. The mother squeezed a small amount of her nipple out of a too-tight shirt and tried to get the baby to latch. There was no way that this new infant could latch onto the misshapen form of breast. We took the party inside the birthing center.

As we walked in, I asked the mother about the vomiting, "Is she spitting up milk, or is she dry heaving and truly vomiting? This baby's reflexes are all fine. Everything is normal, she looks great. We've just got to get her to eat." The mother assured me that the baby was vomiting, she said it was right after the baby ate that she vomited up a small amount of milk.

I unwrapped the baby and laid her naked body on the bed. She hated it and started to scream. I asked the mother to pull her full breast out of her shirt and we got the baby to latch on. She suckled for a few seconds and fell back to sleep. The mother was producing so much milk, her shirt was soaked, the baby's hair was covered in milk, her cheek was wet with it.

"This baby is fine. She doesn't need to go to the hospital. She's just sleepy. You are fine. You have enough milk. There is no reason for an ambulance." I said this three times over the course of working with the group. "She is not vomiting. She just spit up because she has a new belly and you're making so much good milk."

I tried to reassure the mother. She looked exhausted, but worse, she looked defeated. I could see on her face and in the tears pooling at the edges of her eyes that she believed she failed this baby. One older woman cooed in the background, saying over and over in Nepali that the baby was so beautiful. Two women lurched over my back, trying to cover the baby with a blanket so that cold and wind didn't touch her body. Another kept saying that a vomiting baby needed to go to the hospital.

I put the baby in a football hold position and asked the mother to nurse her like that. "She's more likely to stay awake if you keep her naked and hold her up like this. If you can take your shirt off so that your skin is touching her skin, she's more likely to nurse." As I said this, the baby pooped. I said again to the group, "This baby is absolutely fine. You are absolutely fine. All of this is normal."

I looked to the group of eight women. I looked at this mother's five year old son. I didn't understand why there was so much fear and anxiety. I didn't understand why none of these mothers had been able to to help this woman nurse this baby over the last twenty-four hours. I was confused as to why the resident, who had studied pediatrics, had called an ambulance for a perfectly healthy child.

I was exhausted and hungry and I'd been fighting for patients all morning. The father walked into the room with the ambulance driver. I had no more fight left. I held the mother's hands. I finally realized that she spoke a fair amount of English. "You are so beautiful and you are doing a great job for this baby. You are so healthy, you are making so much milk. And, your baby is healthy and normal. She just latched on twice here and nursed. She has great reflexes and she's peeing and pooping. But, I see that you need to go to the hospital and I wish you safe travels on your journey and I wish you luck once you get there. I hope you find what you need."

We turned to go to lunch and walked past the modified Sumo "ambulance" on our way out. There was a wooden board inserted into the back of the vehicle where this mother would sit with her infant on the four hour ride, over gravel roads, on the way to the hospital. Tiffany shook her head as she talked about how dehydrated the infant would be when they got there. I felt badly that this mother was going to the hospital, but I'd held my hand out to her many times in the last thirty minutes and she'd not taken it. As the Nepali's say, "What to do?"

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