Americanna/Ameripolitan

Don’t Let Me Die In Phoenix Article 8: If He Wiz Chocolate He’d Eat Himsel’

In this article John Davis continues to discuss his gruelling experience of being hospitalised in the USA.  He, specifically, discuses an issue he had with a plastic surgeon.  In order to make the world a better place, the article questions the ways of being of pompous people and, yet, the article also asks us to think about how we might better understand and even build bridges with those people.

In the hospital I relied on about 8 pillows to support my weight to reduce the pain.  2 at my head, 4 either side of my back and hips and one under each lower leg.  The nurses were incredible thoughtful and took time, after I had endured their various medical interventions, to carefully re-position the pillows.  The precision with which I wanted the pillows placed made me laugh.  My son had, 4 years previously, gone through life threatening surgery and, at the time, I had teased him about the precise way that he required me to place his pillows.  I laughed at the irony that I had now found out, the hard way, how important post-operation pillow placement was for pain avoidance.  I was chastened by my discovery, and my son was belatedly consoled when I admitted that I, finally, understood what he had been going through.

One day, the plastic surgeon, who had stitched me up in the last of the four operations, came by to check his work.  There was something about his manner that seemed too self-important, indeed, in Scots parlance we might have said of him, ‘if he wis chocolate he’d eat himsel’’.  Which means, ‘he’s  vain’.  A nurse explained to me that the surgeon was not always located in their hospital and had been brought in, specifically, to do the operation.  She informed me that the surgeon only worked on ‘butt and boob jobs’, to which I replied, to much hilarity, ‘I hope he remembered which one he was doing when he was down there working on me.’.

After a brief introduction, the plastic surgeon had the nurses turn me over on my side.  After studying my arse, he stood back with a self-congratulatory grin and said out loud A+.  I said, ‘What!’.  He said, ‘A+, its excellent work’.  This guy had just graded my arse as his homework.  I have never felt less like a human being in my life.  The medical model works on the principle that we are broken people who require fixing.  He was very happy with the way he had fixed my arse.  Great that the operation had worked, but, I was not happy with his tone.  Note to medical staff, don’t treat patients like they are you’re own personal object and particularly don’t treat a Scotsman’s arse as a site of your professional gratification.  In a very schadenfreude, cut your nose off to spite your face way, I hoped that he had fucked the operation up and my arse would fall off the next time they moved me.

The drains in my hips meant that whenever I turned, e.g. whilst sleeping, I was immediately woken up by the tubes catching on the bed.  Even now, I can remember the pain, it made you feel like you were in one of those movies where they stick a knife into someone and turn it to extract a confession. Day and night, I had a continuous feeling of being tortured.  The role of the drains was to gradually allow fluid out of my wounds, in a way that would allow them to better heal.  The tubes went about two or three inches into me.  The feeling was, that if they removed the drains, the gap that was left might not heal properly.  After a while, it looked like one of the tubes was no longer working to drain anything and for a few days I had discussions about removing it with a very funny African-American nurse and with a very kind medical consultant, who was originally from the Philippines (he had an excellent way of involving me in discussions about my treatment).

The kind consult checked with the plastic surgeon and the plastic surgeon repeated the advice that the drain couldn’t come out because I had a deep hole were the drain was and the hole needed to heal more slowly.  I joked with the nurse and the medical consultant, ‘What does the surgeon know, maybe our medicine is more powerful than his medicine’.  This comment resulted in a great deal of laughter because it played on the idea that many surgeons walk around as if they are the ‘God I Am’ and do not broker debate about their decisions.

Just as the medical consultant and nurse were leaving, the plastic surgeon came into my room to have a look for himself.  He was clearly pissed off when he realised his drain wasn’t working and gave me about 2 seconds notice before ripping the drain out.  He seemed to take the imperfect drain as a personal affront to his ability and authority.  In his haste, he  did not remove the drain properly, a piece of it was still attached and you can’t really imagine the pain I endured whilst he yanked and twisted away until he finally pulling the drain out.

Whilst this debacle went on, I made very guttural Scottish noises through my clenched teeth and repeatedly head butted the sidebars of the bed to distract myself from the agony.  As they went out the door, the funny nurse and kind medical consultant caught sight of the process, and you could see from their eyes that they were not impressed with the plastic surgeon’s approach.  They came back in when the surgeon left and the medical consultant said, ‘It was as if you were in surgery and he thought you were under anaesthetic’.  The funny thing was, all three of us found the situation hilarious, especially when the nurse, teased me with the line, ‘Beware of what you wish for!’

You might be thinking the pain could not have been avoided and, ‘maybe that’s just the way that it had to be’.  But a week or so later the second drain was removed by an excellent nurse and I felt absolutely nothing – beautiful, intelligent, skilled and experienced professionalism makes such a difference and enables patients to feel they are no longer being treated like an inanimate object.

When the nurse told me the drain was coming out, she saw the fear in my eyes and immediately asked me what I was concerned about.  I was then able to tell her about my previous experience and she very calmly asked me to trust her, quietly said that she knew what she was doing and generously counselled me that I would not feel a thing – which turned out to be true.

That nurse reminded me of why I fell in love with my wife.  When we met, my wife was such a compassionate, people centred and caring person.  In the early years of our relationship she had so much patience for me and calmly helped me work through my painful, wild and chaotic ways of being the world.

The removal of the drains created another problem.  Now, several times a day, the nursing staff had to pack wet dressing into the hole left by the tubes.  This process of packing the wet dressing was agony, like a dentist doing root canal treatment with no aesthetic. But, at least I could sleep on my side once the dressing was applied because the dressing sealed the air off from the raw flesh.

I had to psych myself up for the moments where the drain hole dressings where changed and, though the Scots term ‘ gonny nae dae that’ does not have much meaning in the USA, the staff were very good at working with me to ensure my feelings regarding pain management were taken into account.

We worked out a routine where I would sing Scottish songs and, when I got into full flow, the nurses would go for it.  At the point of highest pain, I would imagining happier thoughts in order to try not to pass out.  My creative imagination, once again, had to be a hiding place .  I imagined beautiful things, rather than the bloody mess in, on and around me.  Occasionally, I choose to revel in all the pain and mess and chose to sing Scottish songs like Scots Wha Hae:

Scots wha hae wae Wallace bled
Scots wham Bruce hae aftimes led
Welcome tae your gory bed
Or tae victory

Nows the day and nows the hour
See the front o battle lour
See approach proud Edwards power
Chains and slavery

By oppressions woes and pains
By your sons in servile chains
We will drain our dearest veins
But they shall be free

Lay the proud usurpers low
Tyrants fall in every foe
Libertys in every blow
Let us do or dee

The staff might have thought that the tear in my eye was caused by the pain, but, if you listen to the song’s lyrics, you might see that the song encapsulates an idea that one day I might get through all this pain to a better place.  The songs lyric, and the way that the Corries sing it, gave me hope in the worst of painful moments.  They gave me a sense of freedom, even though I was ‘confined tae barracks’

As all the articles in this series have pointed out, when you are at your lowest you have, at best, two choices.: ‘Do or Dee’.  My conclusion concerning the ups and downs of different staff member’s ways of being is that : ‘you canny let yer life be defined by ‘usurpers’, ‘tyrants’ and ‘foes’’.  I ‘wasnae deed yet’, so I had to endure what the process threw at me and survive as best I could.  I had to endure, but, I did not have to endure without resistance.

It is important that we understand and have empathy for people who ‘act out’.  Especially when they experience restricting or unjust life events. In the previous article (article 7), I asked you not to judge your fellow human beings on the worst moments of their worst days.  Here, in this example above, we learn that this process works two ways.  It was hard not to judge the the plastic surgeon as a usurper, tyrant and foe.   The plastic surgeon tested my capacity for empathy to the limit.  However. I reflected that maybe I had, in some way intimidated him into making a mistake.  I had created social distance between myself and the surgeon the day he graded my arse and perhaps I might have been friendlier to him from the outset and not shown my disdain for his A+ comment.

I am only human, and there are days where it is very difficult to feel empathy for someone who is ripping you apart.  The skill is not to go to the land of anger but to try to rise above, or even bridge to, the person who has confronted you.  I had a choice between using the plastic surgeon as a focus of my frustrations and/or letting what happened go.  The nurse and medical consultant were brilliant because they immediately tapped into my sense of humour.  They could have defined me as a ‘psycho’ who had head butted the bed rails but they did not take a deficit approach.  They sought to bring out my better side using humour and understanding and, as a result, the matter was reduced in significance.  The nurse and medical consultant’s generous ways of being helped me to turn the other cheek (in more ways than one – if you can forgive the pun).

Throughout these articles, I have tried to demonstrate that we, as complex human beings, are full of contradictions.  When reading the articles you will have picked up contradictions that I am unaware of because I am too close to the text or because you have more experience of a topic than me.  It is important when we write, and try to build a relationships with our readers, that we assume they have knowledge and expertise that surpass our own – such a way of writing, hopefully, keeps us from becoming arrogant.

Recently, a number of friends have contacted me to say that they would like to write an article that connects to the Don’t Let Me Die In Phoenix Series and this suggestion is wonderful.  I had hoped, from the outset, to touch other people with this story in a way that might liberate their own stories.  So if you are reading this and feel like contributing, feel free to contact me through the blog or on social medial.  Posts are 1500-4000 words, required to have a title, intro, short bio, a photo, and also tell the story by way of songs, artwork and/or poems.

Now-a-days, I am a bit ambivalent about the plastic surgeon.  He was good at what he did in theatre but he could work on his bed side manner a bit.  He told my wife that he had a young child at home, so maybe he wasn’t at his best, e.g. due to lack of sleep.  Alternatively he may have sensed, from the get go, that I had issues with his style and was just getting his own back – who knows, and to be honest, I don’t really care – it is all water under the bridge.

This song ‘You Do Not Deserve My Tears’ by My Girl The River kind of summed up my feelings for characters who, like stone figures on pedestals, look down on those around them:

 

I am so tired of wondering why

With each step I say under my breath

You do not deserve my tears,

They are reserved for those who love me

 

I cannot control what you think

This golden rule will set me free

If I put you on a pedestal

It makes it easy for you to look down on me

 

With each step I say under my breath

You do not deserve my tears,

They are reserved for those who love

Love me, love me, love me…

It is important that we don’t bitterly hang onto negative feelings about people like the plastic surgeon. I may have muttered under my breath that he’d better hope he never meets me up a dark alley in Scotland, but, in reality, I was thankful the drain was out because I was able to sleep better at night.  And, we used humour and hope, not violence, to knock him off his pedestal.

The majority of the staff in the USA were very sensitive to my need to think positively about myself and yet were also humoured by the fact that my body from the waist down was constantly being examined, tested and observed by a range of professionals.  They understood that there could be little sense of privacy when you were, night and day, at the slightest dangle of a stethoscope, required to bare your arse to the world.  The staff were so contentious about apologising for constantly asking me to bare my arse that I found the need to explain to them that nakedness wasn’t a problem for me.  Having been a rugby player, you get used to being naked round lots of people in changing rooms.

I was not able to wear boxer shorts and the gown I constantly wore had to be kept from sticking to the dressings.  So, to avoid pain, sometimes I took my gown off and slept with my lower half just slightly sticking out of the sheet.   To maintain a veneer of dignity and to mimic the staff’s contentious approach, when staff knocked I would try as quickly as possible to cover myself up and tie my gown.  It was a bit ironic that we played this game of dignity when, within seconds, they might have to ask me to disrobe.

However, my work experience told me it was important – to keep a veil of sensibility.  In a project I worked on many years ago, a disabled teenager had complained that the hospital staff had not treated her and other disabled children with dignity when using a hoist to move them about a ward.  In her case, the hoist broke down when the staff had lifted her, in only her under wear, to go to the shower and the experience had traumatised her.

She felt the staff had ignored her rights as a young woman and that they general treated the disabled children and young people as if they did not have a gender nor a right to privacy.  This issue is also written about in disability studies in relation to the way that symbols of disability promote non-gendered stereotype, e.g. the sign for an adapted toilet does not discriminate between genders.

Hence, the constant shuffling was worth it, if it meant that you could keep some of your dignity; during a process that stripped you of most of your sense of dignity.  One day, whilst I was shuffling to get the gown over because the physios were due to come in, I noticed this bit sticking out from the side of me.  I prodded it through the cover just as one of the loveliest and funniest physios came in.  She teased me about what I was doing. I replied, ‘There’s this bit that’s sticking out, I don’t know what it is’.  She laughed, ‘It is your hip bone!’  I had lost so much weight that I now couldn’t recognise the parts of me that had previously been more generously covered up.

Shortly afterwards, the very nice medical consultant from the Philippines came in and pulled out the screen and key board from the wall on the left of me and brought up some stats from the twice daily blood tests that showed I was getting scores similar to those who experienced anorexia.  I had been unable to eat much due to the morphine and the operations and the infection had taken a lot out of me.  I quickly quipped, ‘None of my friends would believe you’.  To find I was now too thin was a surprise.  Having been over weight for about 15 years, until I had lost weight during 2016 and 2017, the anorexic score was surreal.

The solution was to eat three three-course meals a day  – which was really difficult because prior to going into hospital I was only used to eating one healthy breakfast and main meal a day.  The hospital dietitian added supplements to my meals that tasted lousy.  I used to hide the supplements but then the dietitian started checking up on me and there was no alternative but to take my medicine – yuck.

The catering staff were excellent.  There was a telephone and, once I could use it, the catering staff would call me up to put my order in (if, for example, I had been sleeping when they came round with their computer trolley).  The catering staff were so nice and had personality, character and depth.  Some of them had disabilities themselves and others were musicians with a beautiful rock-a-billy beatnik tattoo and bandana style that so raised my spirits amongst the dullness of the hospital room.

The catering staff were busy and had lots of patients to cater for, but they always spared time for a quick chat and it was so important for me to be able to speak to ever day people who were not trying to prod me for medical reasons.  My guess is they will be among the lowest paid folk in the hospital but the job they do raising folks spirits is invaluable.  These are the type of guys we need to also think about during the Corona Virus, they will be putting themselves at risk ensuring patients get food in wards.  They are at risk just as much as the medics and we need to keep them in our thoughts too.

One day another African-American nurse came in with a couple of her colleagues and as I shuffled my legs popped out from the bottom of the bed sheet that I was trying to get over me.  She laughed at me and said, ‘for a guy, you have got cute feet, most men have horrible feet’.  I had been unable to cut my toe nails and in the hospital they grew fairly long. Now, you might think that such a comment is inappropriate and crosses the line in the way that the plastic surgeon crossed the line when he graded my arse.  The difference between the two comments involves trust.

This nurse had gotten to know me well.  We trusted each other and she knew this comment would make me laugh and cheer me up.  I replied, ‘my feet are usually a disaster but when you’ve been off them for four weeks they maybe can look kind of cute. I’ll need to put that in my social media profile: works well with children and has cute feet’.  Her colleague chided, ‘if you ask her nicely she’ll clip them for you or even paint them.’ We then discussed what colours would go well with the institutional yellow of the hospital walls.

As the days dragged on, it was hard not to think of myself as isolated and alone.  I had some very difficult moments where I could not live up to my aspiration to show the best of myself.  At my lowest moments, ITunes helped and I used the escapism of the music to stay away from the question that was in the back of my head, ‘What does this mean for my future?’.  Being able to access your own choice of albums at the drop of a hat – helps to combat feelings of loneliness.  We can feel lonely and alone because we think no one understands our lives.  But we can also draw confidence and solace when staff cherish our different abilities/identities, value the positives of our impairments, find the humour in our life’s contradictions and ultimately, help us to ‘own’ our own stories.

I found better questions than ‘What does this mean for my future?’, to think about, such as: ‘What is this experience telling me about myself?’, ‘How do I hang onto my core self throughout this experience?’ and ‘What lines in the sand can this experience help me draw?  These questions helped me to start to write notes on my phone about my experience.  One line I drew, and wrote down, was that, in future, I would spend more time cherishing my loves, my hopes, my aspirations, my life and my relationships.

Especially, I promised myself to spend more time with those whom I admire and less time reacting to the gaslighters of this world. As this song called Poets Prayer says (written by Sunny Sweeney, Erin Enderlin and Buddy Owen): We need to watch out for people and processes that piss on our dreams – ‘That’s my three-chord poet’s prayer’:

This business breaks your heart
It’s a big old mean machine
It’ll grind your bones to make your bread
And then piss all over your dreams
That ain’t why we do this
If it was we wouldn’t last long
No, we’re all hooked on the power of a song

May our beds be soft
Coffee strong and hot
May the angels of the blacktop
Keep our souls from getting lost
If there’s a patron saint of troubadours
On the road from here to there
Watch over us
That’s my three-chord poet’s prayer

During my hospitalisation, I constantly played with the contradiction that I was so proud of the individual way I was getting through this experience but in fact I was only able to get through this experience because of the wonderful team that supported me.

I sought to avoid letting the experience completely define who I was and tried to hang onto my sense of self.  I have received messages about these articles from close friends who are also struggling with what life has thrown at them.  Their encouragement has been brilliant and it has made me wonder about issues of grief, loss and pain.

My friends’ correspondence questions whether you ever really ‘get over’ such cataclysmic life events.  I am aware that I have changed, and I am aware that I will never be the same again.  But, at the same time, I have grown from, endured and survived the experience.  And, I am still here.  The ability to get in touch with my best side has kept me going.  That ability, to get in touch with my better self, I owe to the staff in the hospital.  I owe to friends.  And, I owe to colleagues.  My cataclysmic life event is a part of me but the support I received has ensured that it has enhanced, rather than, defined who I am.

I am a very positive Scottish person who has a lot of love to give, yet.

As mentioned in previous articles, my conclusion was (and is) that if I ever got out of the hospital, I would spend more time doing the things I loved, with the people I love, in the places I love.

The Corona Virus, at present, prevents me from honouring my pledge.  Indeed, the work pressures created by the Virus have, very frustratingly, forced me back into my old over-working ways.  That fact that academic systems require us to sacrifice our-selves to bureaucracy has, once again, made me questions whether I will remain an academic.

In spite of my positive way of being, I am beginning to question whether it is actually possible to change the unhealthy systems with in which academics work and whether a move to another, completely different, occupation is possible and necessary.  I am not completely writing things off the occupational health staff at my current employer have been superb and I will be discussing with them soon whether reasonable adjustments can be made to help me make changes in my work style.

One of the hardest things I have found is to be able to recognise when I need help and how to ask for help.  I have been so lucky that so many of my colleagues have spotted, for me, that I was struggling and shared the increased work-load caused by the Corona virus.

At one time we would have one member of staff for 4 students for a tutorial (you might remember the scenes of such tutorials from the film Educating Rita). Over the years, I have watched the ratio go up to 1:8, then 1:12, then 1: 24 and I once had to split a class of 98 into two ‘workshops’( a ratio of 1: 49).  That’s not learning, that’s churning out certification.

I have often used a phrase with friends and young people I work with – don’t let anyone else define who you are, your identity or your life’s story.  Though I had moments of grumpiness in the hospital (and at times with my wife), in the main, my better side won out.  And, I was able to celebrate my more caring, humorous and generous side.

So, in all the chaos of the Corona Virus, remember this:  Only you have the right to decide who you are and you can decide to resist poor working practice, you can resist those who would put you down and yet you can also rise above and build bridges, rather than burning them.

Once, just as we were parting, I said to my friend Christina Milarvie Quarrell – ‘Christina.  Don’t let anyone define you’.  She then sent me this beautiful poem called Parting Shot.

Parting Shot

“ Christina”

“don’t let anyone define you” said John.

 

why did

those

simple words

dance

like a tango

in my head

all of

that day

for weeks after

 

synthesising

whole of life

of Celtic Mysteries

of complications

of identity

tap tap sounds

birled swirled

into Aha!

 

to be heard

seen

as another

sees me!

 

to loudly stamp

in power-full ownership

of

my

I

 

to fullheartily own

the music

the steps

to out pace ghosts

of the past

 

to see

the dance

to see

my own self

dancing

 

to partner

my multiple selfs

to see

the fluidity of decades

 

to

truly

embrace

Identity

drawn

from

my

Pagan DNA

 

To

Own

Me.

 

CMQc2019

This poem captures the idea that the word ‘I’ has multiplicities and our ‘I’ is sometimes suppressed due to the way other people react to us and the way that society places expectations on us to sacrifice our ‘I’ for the better good of others.

Politically, the poem reinforces my belief that we should not put up with people and processes that seek to suffocate, nullify and silence our Scottish identity.  We need to balance I/we contradictions if we are to ensure our Scottish ‘I’ is not to always playing second fiddle to a narcissistic unionist ‘we’, in ways that diminish our Scottish sense of self.

I worked for many years in one of the most Anglicised universities in Scotland, I was often the only person with a Scottish accent at a meeting.  I eventually left the university because, amongst other issues, I felt the institution did not value  ‘non-traditional’ students, my or my student’s sense of Scottishness, the practice of inclusion or ideas concerning social justice.  I set all of the reasons for my departure out at my time of leaving, in a plenary address at a ‘non-traditional’ student run conference.

This university is so Anglicised that a close friend, who is a piper, told me that the bagpipes were banned from being played in the building he was studying in.  We saw that rule for what it was, an affront to our right to Scottish self-expression.  A social model approach would have sorted out what ever lay behind the rule and enabled Scottish musicians to express themselves, a long with everyone else.

When I was about 7, I went, along with a recently gifted Scotland flag, to a mass pipe band parade on Princes Street in Edinburgh.  I had very sensitive hearing and was, at first, overwhelmed by the sound.  Yet, as the bands paraded by, the sound made an unforgettable feeling in my heart– I thought the runs and trills were going to make my heart explode.  I have loved the bagpipes ever since.  No university, no pen pusher, no culturally insensitive buffoon can ever crush that feeling.

I am still alive today because, in spite of a very difficult childhood, I grew up in a country that knew how to ‘Do or Dee’.  The American staff who saved me did so by tapping into my sense of Scottishness, nourishing it and celebrating it.  They made that 7 year old’s heart swell again, they knew that if they bolstered my identity, the healing would take care of itself.  Unlike some of the self-loathing, crivvenous and insecure creatures who walk our home lands, at no point did the the American staff see my Scottishness as a defict, as a weakness, or, as being cringe worthy.

The American staff did not go on about Scotland’s 1978 shame, the did not go on about the Darian project, nor did they reproduce the too wee, too poor or  too stupid discourse.  They celebrated my Scottishness.  Just as this picture celebrated my Scottishness when I was a youngster – I’m the one in the Scotland top:

france 2 78

Writing on how to build and avoid destroying relationships gives very clear advice on what to look out for and how to understand such crivvenous creatures (see for example here – please note I am not endorsing this site, rather, I am asking you to reflect on its helpful but limited advice).  Such writing tell us to watch out for people who are so caught up in their own self-loathing they project it onto you by way of:

  • Put-downs, sarcasm, negative,/hurtful comments, attacks on self-esteem, including words like stupid
  • Deliberately withholding affection, stonewalling, refusing to talk and making people feel unwanted
  • Avoiding their own faults, being defensive and repeating negative behaviours
  • Being narcissistic, unfaithful, selfish and dishonest
  • Acting superior and thinking that they are better than everybody else (more intelligent, prettier, cooler etc)
  • Ignoring the fact that each person is unique and is worthy of respect

Now, from time to time, we will all will make some of these mistakes.  When we do, we have to put our hands up and have to apologise – lest we end up friendless.  However, there is a certain type of person, political grouping and elite that never apologises and constantly sets out to belittle our self-esteem.  For example, their is a certain group of people that calls the political leader of our Scottish nation ‘wee nippy’ and then tells off other people for being divisive.

I am sick to the back teeth of such miserly people.    But, and it is a big but, we have to bridge to them and help them out of the narcissistic pit that they have dug themselves into.  There will be reasons for their self-loathing and we have to help them work such things through, if we are to make Scotland a better place.

Similarly, even when Scotland becomes independent ,we will have to work with our neighbours in England.  Even though some of them seek to stereotype and dismiss our Scottishness.  For example, we will have to collaborate on issues such as climate change, the fall out from the Corona Virus and cyber security (the effects of all these issues cross borders).  This means that there is nothing to be gained from burning our bridges on the way out of the UK.  During the Corona Virus we have to work together with England, Wales and Ireland (north and south) for the better good.  But, we do not have to accept belittlement of our sense of self from narcissistic unionists.

We are in a tricky moment, your gut instinct may be to lash out at those that seek to belittle you. But, a better strategy is to understand where their insecurity comes from.  We can bridge to such people by wondering what is going on in their life (now or in the past) that makes them so negative and by trying to develop empathy for them and their different perspectives.

If we jump to anger, and bite back, we become like them.  If we mirror their negativity, if we replicate their mud slinging and if we stoop to their bitter and selfish level, then, we lose touch with our own better selves.  In the next we while we will have some important decisions to make.  I, for one, have no intention of going down wallowing in the misery of the sinking ship that is the UK.  We need to stand above, assert our identity, and then work together, as equals, for a better Scotland and for a better world where we recognise the strengths of our neighbours and stop sniping at each other.

Our sense of self, our identity, our culture and out country is not ‘a gift’ that the UK can take back.  We are not ‘the property’ of the UK, we do not have to cow tow to the views, beliefs and dogma of Westminster.   All relationships are a two way street and any relationship (political or personal) has to be built on the concept of equality of right to self-expression, trust and respect.

In this series of articles, I have sought to promote the concept of ‘we’.   I have highlighted the need to think ‘we’ and work together to overcome what life puts in front of us. I have argued that we will get through the Corona Virus by supporting each other.  I have critiqued individual ideas about impairment, male egos, patriarchal ideas about character and political ways of thinking about strength/war that promote divisive nil sum games concerning winners and losers.

When seeking to work together to make the world a better place, the ‘I’ should never be suppressed at the behest of the ‘we’ – the I does not have to lose or be lost in a jingoistic and simplistic idea of ‘we’, that has never paused for five minutes to understand the cultural nuances of Scottishness .

Earlier articles in this series indicated that my experience in the hospital helped me to get in touch with my inner child.  That inner child has/had a strong sense of Scottishness.  In the hospital I made a promise to myself to find a way to live that held on to the wonderment of that inner child (who loved the simple things in life).  I made a pledge to spend more time with those who could nurture and nourish that sense of wonderment in me.

What I learnt from my experienced is that we have to have a strong sense of ‘I’ if we are to bring out our best ‘we’.  As I said in my last article, my wife and I struggled to find new ways of being ‘we’.  There was no crime in that, especially as our sense of ‘I’ was so fractured by our experience and my sense of ‘I’ was so restricted by my hospitalisation.

What I have enjoyed most since leaving hospital is the ability to value and reconnect with my homeland.  But, ironically, I also have this massive urge to travel again to re-connect with friends in other countries because I think it will also help me recover my sense of self.  Unionists may wish to reflect on why my Scottish sense of self  is easier to express out side of the UK.

My wife and I need time to work through all that we went through, to process its meaning and to find new ways forward as equal human beings better in touch with our own identities and celebrating our better selves.  Those better selves that our experiences have almost crushed.

This article has sought to highlight that we all hold contradictions with in our own identities and has asked you to be generous and empathetic when other people infringe upon your world – even when they are grading your arse for their homework.

In so doing, this article has highlighted that, we do not have to accept the way that some people behave towards us and that we must challenge people who try to crush our spirit.  But it has also pointed out that we have to be careful, when challenging injustice, that we do replicate those injustices and end up becoming as narcissistic as those who have offended us.

We can challenge people and yet still tap into our better selves.  When we challenge people with humour and generosity (rather than with silence, anger or violence) it enables us to rise above their negativity and avoid replicating their negative behaviours.  It creates a bridge to reduce the gaps between us and gives hope for a better way of being, that leads to a better world.

Thank you once again for reading these posts.  Tune in next time for a discussion of how we can rise above the negative people in our lives by staying in touch with our inner song birds.