All posts by witch


I hope I can get over this. I hope I can get past this. I hope I can figure out – very quickly – what decision to make in this moment with what I know, hoping for the best outcome. And it’s all new, so I don’t know much.

It’s a lot of decision-making and that may be the hardest part. If I let myself think and overthink and ruminate and wonder about each decision: Standard treatment, or experimental? Take a break from chemo when I feel bad, or power through? Try to handle the protein shakes, or get a tube for feedings? Well, if I keep second-guessing what I end up doing, I will pretty much go down a dark hole and I might not get back up. There are no guarantees. How will I live with myself if I die because I made poor decisions? Haha, you know what I mean. I don’t want to have regrets.

So I just pray for the strength and the wisdom to deal with what has been put on my path, and the fortitude to keep going. I appreciate everything this team has done for me, but honestly, when the doctors keep asking me what I think, what I want to do, that’s it’s my decision, I’m kind of like, well, you are the doctors. How should I know?

You don’t have to tell them this, but I basically hem and haw until they end up spitting out or at least hinting what they think is best, then I tell them that is my decision. This informed consent thing, I get it, but it really puts a huge burden upon the patient who is sick and maybe dying and trying to get through the day and is in no shape to make life-and-death decisions. But again, I pray for the strength to get through everything that has been put upon my path, and I guess that includes this whole informed consent thing, haha… so I am okay. I am handling it well, I think.

I would ask you what you think, but then you might turn around and ask me what I think, and then we go around and around…like I do with the doctors. So I will just ask that you keep me in your thoughts and prayers, and I thank you for your kindness.


I just re-read one of my favorite novels of all time, Adam Bede by Mary Ann Sanders, who wrote under the name George Eliot. It was published in 1859, yet I find much of it so relevant even today. Maybe timeless is the best term.

Most of us have been hit at one time or another by blinding, paralyzing grief. And the longer we live, the more losses we face. Some of us want nothing better than to “get back to where we were” and have things “go back to normal”. This author has a lovely description to gently move us away from that wish, in describing the gift of growing tenderness and compassion that can spring forth from our sorrow:

“For Adam, though you see him quite master of himself, working hard and delighting in his work after his inborn inalienable nature, had not outlived his sorrow – had not felt it slip from him as a temporary burthen, and leave him the same man again. Do any of us? God forbid. It would be a poor result for all our anguish and our wrestling, if we gain nothing but our old selves at the end of it – if we could return to the same blind loves, the same self-confident blame, the same frivolous gossip over blighted human lives, the same feeble sense of that Unknown towards which we have sent forth irrepressible cries in our loneliness. Let us rather be thankful that our sorrow lives on in us as an indestructible force, only changing its form, as forces do, and passing from pain into sympathy – the one poor word which includes all our best insight and our best love.”


People who don’t interpret may think we say what the speaker says “word for word” but it is more complex than that. We sometimes have to go quite far and completely toss out a phrase used in order to come to render the intended meaning. Interpreting is especially challenging during physical exams via video. It is rare that the camera would be so far back that I can see the patient and doctor in full body mode. Usually, I am looking at the patient’s face (supposedly to read their facial cues, which is very limited with mask on). For physical exams, I am often turned to the wall. So I miss most of the cues I would have in person. But we muddle through.

I had a neurology appointment with a stroke victim who was a new patient and needed a full exam, via video. Often, instead of using whatever exacts words the doctor is saying, like “lift your toes to your nose and don’t let me push them down” I will use alternate phrasing to avoid the long gaps as the patient tries to figure out what was said. There can be lots of gesturing and demonstrating by the doctor as well, in which case I can say, “like that” and the patient usually just copies the doctor’s positioning. For “push, pull, don’t let me move you, I’m going to try to push your arm down but you try to hold it up” and so many other quickly stated phrases (most usually without any pause for the patient to hear, let alone process, much less follow the instructions as the doctor launches straight into the movements and tries to hold down the leg that the patient hasn’t even started to try and lift) I will just say “resist” to indicate push/pull/lift/move/stay in resistance to the doctor’s pressure.

Unlike in the case of technical medical explanations, where it is hard to tell whether a polite patient has understood, in these physical performance exams, we can tell if the patient understood enough to do as asked. If we can see them, that is. The same goes for trying to guess what the doctor may be demonstrating off camera. I cannot just say, “like that” if I cannot see whether the doctor demonstrating. In this appointment, the doctor was having the patient walk off-camera (and the doctor was off-camera) and then he said “okay, now tightrope”. My mind reeled into words or phrases for tightrope in the target language: A loose rope. A narrow line. Equilibriism. I didn’t think any of these would work, so I started to say “walk heel to toe” and as I spoke I heard the doctor say “good” so I presume he was also demonstrating how to walk heel to toe as he said “tightrope”.

Realizing he and I were talking at the same time, the doctor peered down at the video camera and said he was sorry for jumping ahead of me, and I almost said “whatever’s clever” but I didn’t want to have to render that back into the target language, so I just said “it’s fine” in both languages. Which it was, because the doctor was able to garner all the information he needed without me tossing the patient a tightrope.


Most of us can remember quite a few mistakes we have made – ones we may (or may not) be able to laugh at from a safe distance. At the time, we may have felt ashamed or embarrassed. Some of us stay mad at ourselves, or wish we could go back in time. Why do some of us tend to beat ourselves up, while others seem to have more resilience to laugh at themselves, forgive themselves, pick themselves up and move on – and even try again. I am not talking about gross moral failures, violent crimes, or abusive behaviors, of course. People with no remorse for such things are simply psychopaths. I am talking about everyday mistakes. Just the I Messed Up variety of human behavior. For interpreters, the wrong word. Misstating something. Making a poor choice about whether and how to intervene. Mixing up our schedule. I should have known that! I shouldn’t have done that! I can’t believe I did that! Argh!

Many in my generation were raised to think we are not allowed to make mistakes. We must show remorse, and even shame, for the tiniest of transgressions, like spilling milk or not finishing all the food on our plate. Luckily, no matter how long it seemed to last, our childhoods end, and we become adults. We are free from all those voices trying to shape us into responsible adults with harsh talk! Unfortunately, though, there is this funny thing called internalizing. And for many adults, we have a really mean parent who lives in our head, our harshest critic, whose job seems to be to keep us in line by beating us up! How terrible this voice can be if we allow it to drone on in the background like elevator music. We don’t like it, of course, and it is irritating, but in the case of harsh self-talk, scientists are now finding it actually harms us. I am repeating in case your inner critic tells you they are “keeping you from failing” – that inner critic is harmful, not helpful.

Consider the image of a tight fist. It is held up as a threatening image, and it may even be shaken in your face as a warning. You feel particularly happy? Ha! Your inner meanie might like to wipe that smile off your face! You feel a bit weepy? Whiner! That inner critic is standing by to give you something to cry about! Nobody cares! So knock it off! What are you waiting for? A knuckle sandwich? But wait, there is a second image available. A soft, and open hand. Inviting. Curious. Welcoming. Trusting. Forgiving. One that cuts you some slack, and forgives you for your very human frailty. Ready not to slap or punch, but to hold you, lead you, and comfort you. A hand that believes in you, and is with you all along. A soft and open hand. You have two of them available, one on each arm. You don’t have to beat yourself up.

Don’t worry. Contrary to old beliefs, being kind to yourself won’t make you a lazy loser who never accomplishes anything. If you see yourself as a donkey who must be driven by threats and force, I have an eye-opener for you. You are also the driver of the donkey, and you can choose to stand down, lay a gentle hand upon your trusty beast of burden, and walk alongside for a while. Frolic in a meadow, drink in the stream. Weave a wreath of flowers for both your heads, and make them edible while you are at it. Relax. Laugh. Take some pressure off. It is not as dangerous as it feels. It is actually both safe and helpful. You can be kind to yourself, and the world will continue to spin along its axis. Trust me, I have tried this. The sun still rose the next day. And the world was renewed.

Our endless stream of self-criticism does a few things. It gets our hormones stuck in the fear cycle, seeing threats at every turn – feeling attacked from all sides. We get stuck on high alert, ready to run or fight. Easily startled and easily wounded. This critical voice that has lived in our heads as long as we can remember tells us over and over that we are failures, never good enough, not worthy. It tells us things are hopeless, and nothing can change for the good, and so we give up. Why should we try? We are only going to disappoint and embarrass ourselves, and let our loved ones down! Life is shit, and we are shit. Right? Well, according to our harsh inner critic, shaking a fist in our face and scolding us, yes. But just because they said it doesn’t make it true. You get to decide what you believe.

The good news is there are countless methods popping up through science-based research to combat these nasty voices that keep us in perpetual fear and distress. The easiest starting point is what we already do with toddlers. Give them something else to do that engages them. They change their focus, and so can you. You start ruminating about a sad circumstance? Ask yourself, is this helping you? Or harming you? If it is not helpful, stop that flow of thought as early as you notice it, especially the repetitive thoughts. Dance, garden, walk if you can. Read a book, cook something, make something with your hands. Call a friend, watch something, sit outside somewhere. Remember a time of pleasure and sit with it for a moment. Do arts and crafts. Knit a sock – make a simple greeting card. Organize your toothpicks. Mow the lawn. Anything to shake loose the thoughts.

Another way to still the inner critic is to take each thought and send it down the river. “I can’t do anything right!” can be written in your mind’s eye on a leaf and you can drop it into the river and watch the letters dissolve – watch as the leaf floats downstream and disappears around the bend. Not yours anymore! Goodbye! You can write the thought in your mind’s eye on paper and toss it into a mental fire. Watch the paper curl and the words go up in smoke. You can use any imagery that speaks to you, and you can of course go out into the world on the earthly plane and do these simple but powerful rituals. The point is to allow yourself to stop holding these critical and negative thoughts in such a tight fist, so you can open up and release them. And the good news is that the only permission you need is your own.


I remember when I went to my first intensive course in mindfulness, meditation, active imagination, and energy work. I was in a very stressful marriage, about to lose my hard-earned spousal health insurance, retirement savings, pension plan, life insurance, and maybe even my house. I signed up for this intensive course so that while I was facing the loss of all of these things, I could at least endeavor to not lose myself in this shedding process. I have always been a hard worker, and striving and effort were points of family honor. Pushing through, trying harder, straining to the utmost. Anything effort can bring, all the way to the trembling breaking point. It doesn’t matter how you feel, as long as you can keep going. Push yourself for the long haul. Effort. Striving. Heroism. The person on the couch was despicable. I was the one holding everything together. It was my duty.

So like many Westerners I came into this course ready to go. I am at the edge of my seat, ready to meditate! I will strain to relax! I will hurry up and become patient! Not judging, accepting what is? Tell me how! I will do my best! Non-striving? I will strive to get to non-striving. I will try so hard! Trust? Okay, sure, tell me what I can trust and I will practice trusting it. The universe? Whoa, that is a big chunk to trust. What is going on here? Letting go? I am losing enough! I just want to keep myself intact and not lose myself amidst all this loss. So I have to hold myself tightly, grip the life vest, and navigate these dangerous waters. I plan to meditate to hold myself together, and I am willing to squeeze hard to do it. So tell me how to do that. And my teachers told me.

Open your mind. You cannot open your mind with tightness. You cannot open your fist with anything but a very loose hand. Breathe slowly. Loosen your tight muscles. Slack your jaw, allow your eyes to fall closed. Relax and observe. What is going on inside you when you slow down and listen and watch and feel? You expand. You clear space. You make room.

Withhold judgment. Just observe. Not banishing or fighting your reactions, but watching them float down the river and around the bend like fallen leaves. No one is fool enough to step into the river and try to change its flow. So don’t push the river. Don’t flounder in your thoughts. You are more likely to drown. Just sit quietly and watch from the shore this time. Release your thoughts. Let them go. Watch them disappear around the riverbend. No one wastes time chasing dead leaves and trying to tie them back onto the tree. The tree has released them for good.

Be patient. You don’t have to figure it all out the first or second or third time. Many things take an hour to learn and a lifetime to master, as you go deeper and deeper into circles of experience. Let it be what it is, own the experience, and let it unfold. More will be revealed. You and I have a mutual friend who never lies – Time. The universe is still unfolding. Breathe into relaxation, breathe into more peace and quiet. Be kind and gentle with yourself. Let it be.

Trust. Trust that you are on your path. That you are right where you need to be at this moment. That you are intact and you are okay. That you are resilient and will find your way back to balance and joy over time. Trust yourself to navigate through your current situation with the help and support you can access from people known and unknown. So much is available to you. Trust that you will get through this and come out stronger, wiser, and even more compassionate, through this experience.

Release. One of the hardest things for strivers is to move from the clenched fist to the loose and open hand. To let go of what no longer serves us. We can be like hoarders in our own bodies and our own space. We don’t want to lose anything! But what about the tension and pain we hold in our bodies? Wouldn’t that be a sweet thing to let go of? What about the repetitive and intrusive, gut-wrenching memories of betrayal or other past wrongs? That would be nice to quit reliving. What about our harsh and demanding inner critic, who tells us that if we can bear something, we must, for the sake of others? What about releasing our false sense of duty to something that is dead and cold? Because there is no obligation to keep gathering and relighting a fire that someone else has scattered. Make your own fire, and be warmed.

As we moved through weeks of training and practice, and these concepts were revealed to me among others, it seemed too good to be true. I can make things easier on myself by letting go and being patient, rather than striving? What? I can open my mind and accept what is happening without so much judgment and disdain and fury? I don’t really need righteous indignation to keep myself intact? I can trust the universe and let go of my specific intended result, trusting that I will land where I need to?

It was hard to believe. But eventually, by holding my life and my hopes and dreams in a loose hand, and letting the rest fall away, I found that I had so much more free space for the things that truly mattered to me. So I offer you the question. What matters to you, and have you made room for it? It is a question I continue to gently ask myself, and then I do my best to stay quiet enough to listen for the answers, as the universe unfolds.


Psychologists often use the image of a three-legged stool to show us what “coming into balance” looks like. The stool can represent a number of things. Diet, exercise and sleep can be the legs of good health. Home, work, and social lives can intertwine to give life meaning. The three-legged stool I am thinking of today is made up of our three basic emotional regulation systems. One is our “get up and go”. It helps us feel incentive and seek resources. Another is our “fight, flight, or freeze”. It helps us perceive threats and move into self-protection. The third leg of the stool is our “social animal”. It gives us our ability to soothe and care for each other. Let’s take a look at these three emotional regulation systems, and then check our balance. It would be interesting to make a three-column inventory of our thoughts for a day, and get a visual of where we are putting our focus and our energy.

What does resource-seeking look like? What resources does the human brain seek after? The basic means of survival: food and shelter. In our modern world, this gives us the incentive that leads to secure work. Using our jobs to pay our bills. Or more frequently, borrowing money and paying debt. Investing and risking. Getting ahead or falling behind. When we are successful in this area, it is going to be rewarding. We feel excited when we find out we are getting a raise or a promotion. We are satisfied when we can support ourselves and our family. We are happy when we feel strong and healthy. We are filled with vitality when we have our house, our garden, our physical lives set up and working well. We feel eager.

What about self-protection? These feeling are not so nice to fall into, although in the face of a real and imminent danger, they are literally life-saving. The problem is that very few of us spend our days actually running from top predators or escaping from burning buildings. Our threats are quite commonly made up in our own minds as we linger in this system, caught in a web of our own creation. This threat system motivates us to react when we fear we are in danger, conscious or unconsciously. We feel panic and a desperate need to lash out or run – or we shut down and cannot take necessary action. Yes, fear is the overwhelming emotion here. But this is also the system that awakens our feelings of disgust, and anger, and judgment as well. We see so much wrong with others here, and it helps to keep us at a safe distance as we look down upon these idiots. So judgment is part of our self-protection system, and is fear-based.

In the dominant US culture, where we live in a paradigm of right and wrong, winners and losers, the strong and the wimps, we may lose sight of the necessary third leg of our emotional regulation system: caring and soothing. This is where we harbor our pro-social feeling of affiliation with others. Belonging. We give and receive affection. We encourage others and are encouraged in our turn. We give and receive reassurance, comfort, and love. We find our people, our family, our friends, our clan. We are in overlapping groups and have shared interests. And how does this make us feel (once we conquer our competitive beast and move from “I have to win” to “we are all in this together”)? Relaxed. At ease. Content. Safe. Receptive to others. Able to listen and learn, in trust. Compassionate. And wanting to soothe and comfort others.

Unlike systems with on and off switches, these three regulatory systems are not mutually exclusive. They moderate and influence each other, but do not exclude each other. So we can run some background fear even as our bills are getting paid. We can choose to feel safe, taking it one day at a time, even when facing a grave illness. And we can easily be judgmental, even of the people we love the most, the ones who have our backs. So how does this information help us live more happy, useful lives? What researchers have found is that when we turn up our reactive and fearful emotions, including our fears about resource-seeking, we become self-focused and are less able to attend to the needs of others. And we scare ourselves. By practicing mindfulness and especially compassion, we are moving the focus off ourselves, and heightening the emotional system that regulates caring and soothing. And we soothe ourselves. So consciously spending more time in our social affiliation zone heightens our sense of community and calm safety. It actually helps us to care about others.


Long ago, and far away, as almost never happens (haha) an interpreter was caught off-guard.

Prosecutor: “Do you understand the charge against you?”

Defendant: “Yeah well sure but what I don’t understand is why I am even being charged with this because the cops even told me right there that she wasn’t saying I did anything and she wasn’t gonna, like, help them press charges or whatever because when I got there -“

Defense attorney, in defendant’s language: “Don’t say anything more!”

Interpreter: Your Honor the defense attorney just stated to the defendant, ‘don’t say anything more’ and the interpreter would like guidance as to whether to state on the record her interpretation of the defendant statement, which if we were working physically in court, may have been stated as an aside to the attorney.”

What then ensued was a perhaps ten or fifteen minute emotional argument about whether the defendant should be placed in the position of the English-speaker, because if such a person blurted out anything on the record, it would be on the record. Then again, their attorney would have cut them off. The defense attorney was scolded for using non-English in court. The judge stated it was hard for him to rule without knowing the content of the utterance. Did he say he doesn’t understand why he wasn’t arraigned last week, or was he talking about the content of the case?

The defense attorney stated that he was discussing the facts of the case and specifically his discussion with police officers, which could be prejudicial to his defense. The prosecutor stated that what was said was already on the record, albeit not in English, but anyone could easily play the recording and have access to what was said. He cited the famous “you can’t unring the bell” theory, and argued that it might as well get interpreted on the record. Defense objected. This interpreter had to keep interrupting people to let me interpret as they argued, and in the end, the judge did order me to go ahead and say what the defendant had said.

I made a split second decision to go from memory, and in hindsight I should have asked to have it played back. Nowadays, I am more likely to just blurt out whatever the defendant says, because it is not my place to screen anyone or comment on the evidence, but it is quite common in court that whenever a defendant starts to speak of the facts when it is not in their best interest, the defense attorney, or even the judge, will cut them off – a few words into it – and advise them to direct their statement to their attorney off the record. So it is not an easy or simple decision for the interpreter in the moment. And it is complicated by the fact that the English-speakers don’t know whether to cut off anyone’s speech until the interpreter starts to render it. I have certainly been cut off by judges midstream and ordered to “stop interpreting” because most judges don’t want a defendant testifying against himself out of ignorance, and prefer to give them the full opportunity to meet with their attorney before choosing whether to testify.

To add to the awkwardness, the prosecutor then – to my mind – mischaracterized what I had interpreted, when he gave his bail setting argument. He stated that it was of great concern that when the defendant chose to “talk about the facts, he didn’t make a blanket denial, but stated that he understood that the alleged victim was not going to cooperate with the police.” This led to defense attorney to very politely but fairly state that “due to the length of time between the utterance and the interpreter’s rendering of my client’s statement, I believe I must take exception to it, because I understood that he stated that the witness told the police at the scene that he hadn’t done anything, not that she was not going to “cooperate” in any potential prosecution.” I was left wondering whether I had said “cooperate” – I distinctly remember the defendant stating that she wasn’t going to “press charges” but I don’t remember saying “cooperate”. Or did I say cooperate, and then correct it to press charges? Without saying, “interpreter correction”? Hmmm. I tried to run through my back memory of what I had said, and do a word search for cooperate. Had I said that?

Here is my problem, and if you are an interpreter, it may be yours as well. In trying to harken back and remember what exactly the defendant had said, and what exactly I had said in rendering it some time later, I was sinking into the quicksand of having said it all. I myself had heard and understood everything said in both languages, and I myself had said everything that had been said in both languages. I had said press charges. I had said nothing happened. I had said the witness wouldn’t cooperate. I had said it all.

Luckily, perhaps, for me, my rendition on the record of that disputed interpretation, memorable as the one and only “challenge on the record” of my career (to date) became a moot point, so any error I may have made cannot be considered material, as it did not affect the outcome of the hearing. The judge chose not to impose the $25,000 bail that the prosecutor was requesting. The defendant was ordered released on his own recognizance, meaning without bail. The judge cited several factors in play: his lack of a criminal history, his decades-long stable work history, his having shown up for all his court appearances, and the extended length of time since the alleged crime without any further incidents while he was out of custody. The judge ruled that under Criminal Rule 3.2, which requires the “least restrictive conditions” awaiting trial, taking into consideration public safety, interference with justice, and the likely commission of another violent crime, by putting a written No Contact Order in place, justice would be served and the community safeguarded while the defendant awaits the resolution of his case, without imposing bail. So it turned out that my interpretation was just an aside.

And here is another aside: In future, I will blurt until instructed not to blurt.


She said the only way I could breathe clearly is if she gave me a pig noise, like this. Really! What are you laughing at, doctor? I told her that I can only breathe clearly if I lift the tip of my nose, so she said maybe I would have to decide on whether I could live with a nasal obstruction or a pig nose. She knows I am an artist, because I told her so, and I told her I am also a practical man, and I need both lovely form and lovely function combined into the same nose.

Then the hearing doctor, well the gal who does the test, she set me up with something to try – a hearing aid sample – and I kid you not, I could hear the very footsteps of the spider stealthily crawling along the wall above me. The very footsteps! But alas, the price of this delicacy was over six thousand dollars, and if Medicare says they cannot afford to pay for that kind of thing, I wonder how on earth they think we elders can!

How am I exercising if my nose is so obstructed? Motivation, my friend. I am biking on a stationary bike and treading water in a pool and doing much more. I start out choking and spluttering, holding my nose up for the first ten minutes lest I swoon, but then I focus on the prize: I want to have a pair of sexy legs for when I get strong enough to go dancing again. What are you laughing at, you think the ladies don’t notice that kind of thing? Ah, the innocence of youth, who still see their sweet mother in every woman they meet. Time is a great teacher, my friend.

Oh, and the nose doc who claims she cannot help me without turning me into a veritable swine sent me on to a psychologist – not for vanity. She said I seem stressed. Being taciturn by nature, she cannot imagine anyone being loquacious by choice. Because it would have to be an absolute crisis to loosen her tongue. Oh, these Northerners! And she was projecting her own preferences upon poor little me. But I accommodated the needs of the nose doctor, due to my native delicacy with the ladies, and met with the psychologist. I can help you with the diagnosis, I told her as soon as I sat down. I have the mind of a 16-year-old and the body of an aging horse. My mind keeps making promises that my body cannot fill, and thus I suffer. If you can fix that, I told her, you will become a millionaire. Ah, doctor, you laugh. She didn’t.

Okay. My prescriptions are all set, and so am I. Oh! And for my follow-up, please, please, make sure I am scheduled with you yourself, doctor. Last time they pawned me off, yes, sure, you work on a team, but still they pawned me off – and my first thought when I saw the strange doctor’s face was a sinking one – my doctor doesn’t love me any more! What are you laughing at, doctor? This is serious for me! I want our relationship to continue. Think about it! We have been together as doctor-patient for near upon 13 years now, longer than either of my marriages lasted! And you are most humane. So, as very few men say this time of the morning, especially if they have just spent the night with a lady whose big brute of a husband is about to arrive back in town, I really want to see you again! Ha ha ha – why are you laughing?


Those of you familiar with Tarot cards know about the fool’s card. Usually portrayed as a happy-go-lucky young person with a knapsack and a hiking stick, heading off into the unknown with full acceptance of whatever they are going to wander into. The “fool” is not stupid or gullible, so our current idea about how we must be worldly wise (and even cynical) does not come into it. The fool is simply a person who is seeing the world with new eyes and willing to head out into the unknown to have their adventures. From the traditional deck, it looks like the fool may be heading over a cliff – or maybe not. The fool is showing full trust and embracing the coming adventure, which they are already embarking upon. Like many fairy stories and myths (and not coincidentally, our human life cycles) the fool’s task is to go through a set of adventures and then gain the world – becoming wise about the world while still retaining that sense of wonder and innocence that has us waking up to a new world each morning.

Burnt out interpreters and many others can end up facing “yet another” drunk driver or self-destructive patient or whatever we have grown tired of, and feel like we know all about them. All our past experiences only add to our impatience, frustration, and judgment. We just wish we could make them behave, or that somebody could “knock some sense into them” and get them to take responsibility for themselves. Not this again! For heaven’s sake! Same old, same old. People can be so frustrating! They just do all kinds of stupid crap and we have heard it all before.

But what if we can find a way to come into each encounter, fully equipped with our vocabulary, and our ability to predict content and prepare ourselves with vocabulary and phrasing, and yet still come with what buddhists call Beginner’s Mind? And it is not only Buddha, of course. The christian tradition talks about how only those who can be childlike (fools) can get into heaven – let those who are childlike come to me, Christ says. And in a historic docudrama about the Ottoman Empire, a wealthy and educated judge starts to train under a Muslim monk, and demands important work, in accordance with his rank. But the wise old monk tells him, your task is to answer “I do not know” to every question that is asked of you. It was an adventure in itself to see how much this brilliant scholar learns by declaring aloud that he doesn’t know – by opening into childlike innocence and listening to others – letting go of what he thinks he knows. His world is made new.

Whatever traditions we blend, their common thread encourages us to open ourselves to beginner’s mind as the first step into awareness, peace of mind, and calm spirit. These traditions of renewal, starting with beginner’s mind, refresh us in our work as well. Staying in non-judgment, even when we think we have someone pegged. Having patience in our daily grind. Accepting the sometimes precarious and less-than-perfect conditions of our work. Avoiding the daily temptation to thrust ourselves into these encounters and make them come out “right”. Going into things with a calm sense of trust – presuming that nothing is wrong unless and until it really is, and then taking action as needed, without dwelling and suffering needlessly from our unwarranted presumptions. Letting go of our desires to control the outcome, which is so inimical to our neutral work as transparent interpreters.

The more we can greet each new language recipient as a new person, and accept that we don’t know “all about them,” the more we can stay neutral and suspend our common judgments. The less we judge, the more we can focus on our job and let the encounter take it course. The less tied we are to a specific idealized outcome, the more accepting we can be with how each encounter plays out. We will intervene less, and hold our interventions to when they are truly needed to set the communication to rights, once we stop feeling so urgently like we are the only ones who know what is best. As I deepen my meditation practice, I hope to become a greater fool, more open to the journey, and taking each new day as it comes. Because the less I judge, the more I am able to accept. And the less I know, the more I am able to learn.


Zoom hearing during COVID:

I wanna fire my lawyer because she wants me to have a Ignition Interlock Device and I wasn’t even drinking. I was caught under the influence of marijuana, not alcohol, and that blow thing doesn’t even measure marijuana, so I reject it. I do NOT accept it!

Sir, there seems to be a misunderstanding. Your defense attorney is not the one who placed the IID requirement in the conditions of your release. That is this Court’s ruling, and it is a condition of your continued release in the community. This is your motion to fire your attorney, and not a motion to remove the IID requirement. Do you still wish to fire your attorney with your new understanding? She is not the one who placed the IID restriction upon you. And the requirement stands no matter who your lawyer is.

No! I don’t accept that! You can’t make me do that! What are you gonna do? You gonna send the cops out to put the Interlock in my Honda Civic? You can’t do that! I won’t allow it! This is bullshit! I have the right to go out with my friends and have a drink if I want! You can’t stop me!

Sir, let me remind you that this is a legal requirement for your continued release.

That’s bullshit! If I can’t have my pot, I gotta drink alcohol! You know what? Just forget about the case! I don’t care any more! I’m tired of this whole thing! Just give me my one day in jail and get this case over with! Close it! No more conditions. I’m through! I’m done! Just finish the case now. You’re wasting my time! I can drink with my friends if I want to – this case has got nothing to do with it! I don’t give a –

Counsel, do you have any concerns that there may be a 10.77 [mental health] issue?

Your Honor, not until today’s hearing.

Sir, this is my ruling. I am going to continue this hearing to give you a chance to meet with your lawyer and make a final decision on whether you wish to retain her services. It doesn’t sounds like you are – very clear today. I find that it may not be in your best interests to speak on your own behalf, and I highly recommend that you make another effort to work through your attorney. You next hearing will be –

This is bullshit!

-in two weeks from today –

I want this over! I don’t have to put up with this!

-at the same time –

You guys suck!

-in this courtroom –

If I can’t have my pot, I’m gonna drink with my friends! That is my right! I gotta have something! It’s frikkin’ COVID, man! Gimme a break! And I’m not gonna let you put anything in my car! No way! I reject that! NO!

This concludes the matter. We are off the record.

You know what? Fuck this shit!

Bailiff, please assist the defendant in disconnecting.