ArtLung: Joe Crawford's personal website. 2024.

Meandering thoughts on the F word, feelings, and teamwork

On repeat this week is a song from 2002 by Charli XCX: Yuck, and I’m a big fan of the sentiment of not trying to get mushy.

Yuck, now you got me blushin’
Cheeks so red when the blood starts rushing
Yuck, that boy’s so mushy
Sending me flowers, I’m just tryna get lucky
Yuck, lookin’ at me all sucky
Yuck, quit acting like a puppy
Fuck, going all lovey-dovey on me

There was a time when I hesitate to post “the F word” on this blog, and I still am not exactly happy to post it. In 2006 I redacted James Howard Kunstler’s blog name to “Clusterf*** Nation” rather than it’s unedited title Clusterfuck Nation–he still blogs, but no longer on a subdomain of TypePad. Also I think he’s gone totally nuts, do not recommend, YIKES BOOMER

Now of course I can type the word, but usually only with the excuse of quoting or citing others. Usually. I can’t remember the last time I typed it out in this here textarea.

But then, that was when my mother was still alive. And she read the blog, too. So that had something to do with it. So it was a sign of respect, I suppose, to her.

In conversation, I definitely curse, richly and grandly sometimes. I appreciate the curses I read on the Twitter account of David Simon, and of course in his show The Wire. A well crafted curse is a wonder. To do it without dirty words is all the better. But always on my mind is the quote from Malcolm X:

A man curses because he doesn’t have the words to say what’s on his mind.

And sometimes that’s certainly the case. It’s a good reason to find your vocabulary. I can say I am “happy.” And I can look for synonyms, but is “joyful” truly equivalent? How about “ecstatic.” When I read and listen to the way people use language, spoken or written, I learn where those words land on a scale of “happy.”

One of the things we do (I’ll always be a clinician in my heart, even if I’ve not served in a medical capacity for anyone who wasn’t family in decades) in a hospital context is try to quantify things in a way that collapses that ambiguity. So:

How severe is the pain on a scale of 0 to 10, with zero being no pain and 10 being the worst pain ever?

“It hurts a lot” means something slightly different to every human being speaking it. But that number is something.

Talking to patients about what they’re feeling and how they’re feeling is something I got practice at. Here’s a great page for nurses on assessing pain: PQRST Pain Assessment Method.

Pain is a feeling. It’s subjective. It’s something “experienced”–and while it’s possible to see the brain light up in an MRI when a person experiences pain we don’t have any tools to really see that that are not inferences.

Feelings are things we must externalize to communicate. When we can’t do that in some manner we can feel incredibly alone. If you talk to a sick person, and they mention they have a cough, it’s typical for them to cough right after. Once you notice this in people you might infer a level of manipulation. Like the kid who doesn’t want to go to school saying they have a cough and then doing the minimal glottal stop to perform a cough. But a person that’s sick also will do this. And they’re not trying to sell you on their illness, they are communicating with you.

I’m not a social scientist or anthropologist so all of the above might be malarkey but observing what people are telling me and saying to me and the actions they take as they communicate is fascinating, always.

And when I look at what people are communicating these days–in this times of political upheaval and anger–in these times of technological change and frustration–I am likewise fascinated. I find myself trying to take in the extreme angst and find its source. We want the pain to stop. In Gaza. In Ukraine. Of COVID unease. Of economic despair and precarity. People know in their hearts that SOMETHING MUST BE DONE RIGHT NOW.

In a clinical setting there are sometimes obvious things that must be done. When the heart is stopped, we must perform cardiopulmonary resuscitation.During that cardiac arrest, we (I am going to continue to include myself even though I’ve not attended a code blue in 28 years) designate someone to be the leader. It’s a well understood scenario, a person’s heart stopping.

From Resuscitation Triangle Team Roles in ACLS:

A team is truly effective when its performance produces something that is greater than the sum of its parts. An ACLS team is not just a group of individuals performing individual roles in the same room. It is a group that:

  • Anticipates each other’s needs.
  • Communicates continually.
  • Recognizes each other’s strengths and weaknesses and uses that information to complement each other for better performance.
  • Performs constructive criticism, seeking to continually improve.

If something’s truly a crisis I’m of the opinion we have to operate as a team, and if we are to do that we have to act like a team, that includes acting in a manner consistent with teamwork. Mutual respect, comity, and self-knowledge of the collective. We gotta know what we can do. And finding that common ground with people we disagree with is really not easy.

Though to solve problems together it’s usually necessary.

This was not the post I intended to write this morning, but it’s what I wrote this morning.

Thanks for reading.

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