I’ve had an intellectual breakthrough in the last few months. Litter-picking and Instagram and Envrionmental Activism has led me to think more about the world and myself. We are all inter-related. Being presented with departmental problems that are unsolvable and then health systems issues that are unsolvable within the framework given to us, made me realize that it’s the framework itself/ the system itself that has to be redesigned or reimagined.
I’ve found a lot of intellectual growth watching Chef Nephi from the Western Apache Nation, and his efforts to solve substance abuse through food. Food is in this case is actually medicine. The whole process of food, the restoration of the land that it grows on, the cultivation, the cooking, the community that eats it, the actual recipes and the stories that surround the food. Having come from a community and family whose food traditions have stayed intact for centuries, I know in my fish-sauce infused blood that I am intertwined with the fish that I crave and the water that produces the fish. This is why the destructions of rivers and wetlands and oceans panics me more. I am a person that has been bred near a delta, and raised on food that comes from the rivers and the ocean.
I’m just living my life. Living my blog life. LOL. I’ve been up since about 5am and had my first cup of coffee already. I’m naturally an early riser. Yesterday when I left clinic, I was already decently caught up on my charts and patient results. I will of course log in again today and clean things up. But this morning, I went through my actual personal inbox and attended to much of life things. Finished more board questions, and still have 10 more to do but I have 2 more days. Did a question on HIV testing, and remembered when we all were worried about an HIV pandemic in the early 2000s and it ended up being a COVID-19 and a plastic pandemic instead that threatens our common annihilation. This makes sense why we weren’t taking as much environmental action, because we thought HIV was going to wipe out the population. Who knew it would be plastic instead?
Thought about the upcoming Girl Scout meetings that is an Environmental Journey, and sent emails already to some women professionals who will be on a career panel, and I have a meeting set up to talk to our student Co-Founder of San Diego Pediatricians for Clean Air later today. After we finish doing this youth education module for my daughter’s actual Girl Scout Troop, I’ll reach out to our council and make SDPCA available to speak to other troops if they need a professional speaker. Youth education is very important.
I was riding a high after the San Diego Pediatricians for Clean Air website went live. https://sdpediatriciansforcleanair.com/ But I know myself that everytime something really good happens and a goal has been accomplished, I have this transient unease that is the down after the high. I kind of was ready for it, and modulated it as my emotions were coming down yesterday. I was probably a bit irritable afterwards as my daughter and I spoke about the upcoming Girl Scout meetings. But after watching a few mindless innocent Amazon prime Christmas romance movies and sleeping last night, and then just having freedom to think and let my wind wander this morning – everything is better. Wow, the quiet does so much for one’s brain and spirit.
What Grew? What Didn’t? I thought it was a catchy title given the pretty picture. Girl Scout Troop. My own children. The children in our Children’s Art Council from the AAP. Our three premedical interns, Our one graduate student intern. Other MDs who are part of the two committees, AAP-CA3 Climate Change and Health and San Diego Pediatricians for Clean Air. Dr. Plastic Picker website. SDPCA’s new website. Succulents in my makeshift container garden doing great. The parsley that got bug ridden because I watered it at night. The composter that I’m still learning how to master. I think it’s working but sometimes a mushroom pops up in there, and I need to add more kitchen scraps. What Grew? What Didn’t? I think it’s all kind of growing. All the seeds and little movements toward a greener world. I’m not too worried. It seems to be all kind of growing and isn’t that what a healthy ecosystem is, growth and decay, trial and error. My environmentalism is not orderly but than again neither is nature.
This is Blue Fluffy Bird. He is made from an upcycled car-wash mop that was pretty clean I found on a litter picking walk, but then also cleaned again several times by me. I could have just kept the now cleaned car-hand mop in my car, but the fluffy blue bits were speaking to me. It was just too interesting to pass up. I initially made a shirt for my daughter’s old Diego toy. But then magically by wrapping the blue fluffy polyester oil-based material around a wine-cork, and then using the safety scissor covers as the beak, I had the head of a new species of bird. It’s a plastic bird. I won’t go into the rest of the plastic bits that make up the bird, because I detailed it already on Instagram. But this bird inspired a lot of amazement and wonder, but also intense disgust in some people. It’s amazing because I cleaned it all – I know this bird is cleaner than most toys out there. But it still inspired a lot of intense emotion.
I wasn’t sure if I was going to log-in last night to the virtual reunion for our pediatric residency at Mans Greatest Hospital. I thought I needed to go for a run or pick up a bag of plastic pollution, but honestly the pull of seeing some old friends so easily without spewing carbon into the air was too tempting. So I logged in a few minutes late (not to seem too eager), and I was thrust back in time. Even without the glory of the marble facade of Mans Greatest Hospital, the tone of the meeting was the same as over a decade ago. A lot of older white men reliving their glory days and syncophantic individuals in their 50s nodding obsequiously. Politicing when so little is at stake. I sat and watched with a bemused Dr. Plastic Picker smile from Southern California as they huddled buried in snow. The older generation and the generation in their 50s all looked so cold in more ways than one. Messages of former remembered clinical glories peppered the chat box for all to see. Then finally, the breakout sessions which is the only reason I logged on.
I’m rereading “East of Eden” by John Steinbeck. I loved Steinbeck when I was a teen. I think I read his complete works. But at fourteen I was reading mostly for plot lines. I was and am generally a fast reader. I read every word, but Mr. Plastic Picker was always amazed how fast I read. He hardly believed that I read as much as a did, being a college student of English literature himself. Other than the number of children I have, I tend to be a prolific person. I take joy in the actual number of our networth, the number of posts I have written (273), and the number of bags of trash I have picked up (260). I also now have salvaged 940 items. I don’t mind being my chronologic age because it’s the number of years I’ve lived. My maternal grandfather died at 107.
I have had a slight headache since yesterday and even this morning. I’m sitting at the kitchen table a bit earlier than usual at 503AM. I made myself some coffee and took 1000mg tylenol. Headaches always worry me. Neither Mr. Plastic Picker and I are prone to getting headaches, and when either of us gets a headache – I know something is off. I even wrote two posts about headaches for both of us. Here is the one about Mr. Plastic Picker https://drplasticpicker.com/mr-plastic-picker-had-a-headache/ and here is reflection on my previous tension headaches https://drplasticpicker.com/tension-headaches-drplasticpicker-cures-myself/. Blogging helps with the headaches as does walking along the beach.
My paternal grandfather told me something toward the end of his life that I will never forget. I believe I was actually in medical school already and home for a brief visit. By then he was already older and weaker, and had suffered one or two strokes. He was intermittently lucid but even for a beginning medical student I knew that he had dementia. But during one of those early morning visits when he was lucid he told me that he had returned to his home village at some point in the Southeast Asian country he had left unwillingly because of political ubheaval. At this point he was no longer a strong man in his mid 40s but likely in his late 60s. He said someone from the village offered him something that was morally repugnant for money. He had returned to the village to give help build a school. And he told me, his oldest granddaughter, with fierce convinction, “Until the day you die, you do not know if you have lived a good life.”
It’s 617AM and this morning I will pick up my 200th bag of ocean bound plastic. I started this journey 10 months ago and the world today is a stark place. I began gathering the 200th bag yesterday and filled it with some mostly paper litter, but will need to finish it this morning. Dr. Plastic Picker is ambitious. For my 200th bag I chose a large kitchen garbage bag. I think everyone on Instagram will really like a big bag for the 200th one.
As I’ve mentioned to you, my patients in clinic and my own children, I do a lot of thinking when I’m picking up plastic. I started litter picking and ocean beach cleaning after emotional exhaustion from my work which is doctoring children. But nature healed me and the simple act of cleaning up our neighborhood helped me. When I pick up trash, I let my mind wander and I often think of you – my patients and my own children. Dr. Plastic Picker has been a pediatrician and a mother for too long. I found that rather than trying to escape work worries, I was able to think more clearly about all the forces that hurt children. And as a doctor, I naturally want to fight against those forces. One of those forces is Big Oil and Big Plastic that is trying to flood the environment with plastic waste.
The country is hurting so much right now. I posted about #blacklivesmatter to be on record that I support racial equality and equal representation. I had friends who had reminded us on social media that silence equals consent for the status quo. As someone who is trying to influence people to decrease their plastic use, I know that this is true. But I did not physcially go protest. We stayed home. Like everyone else, I worry about the increased spread of COVID-19. with the mass demonstrations. But the truth is, this was going to happen because COVID-19 presents a real danger as does institutional racism. People had had enough. How much racist rhetoric and brutality can people take? I will go to work today and I am sure it will come up in clinic.
It is the last day of May and I think I’ve come to the natural conclusion of my time with Trip and T’pol in Star Trek Enterprise. I wrote a blogpost close to my heart regarding how being immersed in their romance helped me get through the last three months of COVID-19 quarantine https://drplasticpicker.com/the-star-trek-enterprise-romance-of-tpol-and-trip-im-going-to-give-them-the-ending-they-deserve/. I watched some of the fan montage videos and read more fanfiction that was on-line yesterday. I rewatched some of the key scenes from the first three seasons, and rewatched my favorite scene several times yesterday. The series helped me get through the last three months but at some point it is time to end this chapter. Sometimes the second or third time around you are experiencing just echos of the intense first moments, feelings.
Is this why people have extramarital affairs, sometimes without reasons continue to have many many children, or ask to change offices again? Are we always trying to recapture that intense first moment?
I am bag 196 today of ocean bound plastic gathered https://drplasticpicker.com/plastic-picking-round-up/. There is an entire litter picking/beach clean up Instagram world, about 800 that I am connected with, who “follow” each other. One of the beach cleaners just north of me found a set of dentures, and it was on her bucket list of things to find. Another person in LA mentioned that I was so close to 200. It’s an off-kilter group which I’ve come to enjoy being part of.