Mont Blanc

I glanced her between the pines this morning, parting the down of her cloudy pillows, her head lifting above the stuff, tempting me to climb. 

Or is she a he? I take the French approach, “all things horrible and bad are feminine”. But today, you are glorious, powerful, magnificent, protecting the city below. That just goes to show you, even mountains can be trans I suppose. 



Clearly part of what we desire in life is to be happy.  Perhaps it is all we really desire.  From wanting others approval, to wanting a lover, to marriage, children, career- the Western approached to happiness is a clear path you just need to follow, make the right decisions about who to do all this with, and you too will be happy.

Two marriages later, I am not sure about the path.  I still believe it can bring happiness.  But like every choice in life, everyone we make is also a choice not to do something else, not to take a different path.

For a long time I have been a believer in positive thought and self-manifestation.  I see myself as a generally positive person, I see myself as happy, therefore I am.  I have controlled this by stating it is what is and by manifesting this belief.  But, to be totally honest, there are days I am not satisfied with myself.  There are moments I know I have chosen poorly and had to deal with the consequences, which honestly were not that pleasant and could have been avoided if I had been honest enough with myself about reality instead of stubbornly clinging to myself declared happiness.

I think about this with school as well.  I believe I am intelligent- even when my grades did not always show that.  I also think I like to write, but that doesn’t mean I am a good technical writer for public health.  If I am not honest with myself about my shortcomings- my poor choice in mates in the past, my lack of technical writing skills, etc, I will choose to believe I am happy (and will probably be ignorantly happy at the moment) but I also chose to not try to improve the things I need to be working on.  And these things take time, focus, attention, and a sense of dissatisfaction with the current state of affairs to feel motivated to change.

So, part of Jen 2.0 will be, to be honest with herself- if I am not happy, I will not be afraid to identify that, and speak its truth, so that I can choose to do something about it.  I wonder at times if this sense of being a fake in doctoral school is related to this.  We are all asked to do things we have never done before and to do them like we are an expert.  We know we are not, yet we need to pretend we are to become that person.  (Like pretending we are happy when we know deep inside we are not).  This sense of lack of authenticity, of knowing what is within does not match the air we are presenting without, creates a sense of feeling like we are faking it.  Perhaps it is necessary, but with a healthy dose honestly and humility within ourselves.

civil society

I had the absolute honor of listening to Dr Brudtland speak to the WHO staff this afternoon.  Prior DG herself and prior prime minister of Norway, she was a woman leader who was comfortable with being a woman and a leader. And she left me with much to think about US society…

A WHO staff member said she was from Kirgizstan and was with election observers from Kirgizstan when they were in Norway. They noticed election booths were not guarded, the electricity went out once, but no one cheated.  Norway couldn’t understand the questions or concerns the observers from Kirgizstan had.

Then she said, health concerns and corruption go together in many countries- “what is it we can do in Kirgizstan so one day, the first thing you don’t think of is how to cheat if no one is looking in your voting booth?”

This is what Dr. Brundtland said:  “Norwegian voters are used to behaving themselves, and a democracy where there is transparency, and they know that they can only deliver one envelop with one list.  Many people would not even think of trying to fool the system.  Norway is an inclusive society and has been for the last 100 years, building stone by stone, a solidarity base.  A welfare community where people are responsible for each other, where they are willing to pay taxes, where we have UHC and a good education system.  People feel they have a society that works for them.”

“The elections in the US and maybe also Brexit are an example that people are very frustrated, they didn’t like what has happened in their lives in the last 20 years or so, so the candidate that told them lies, they went for him because things had not gone on so well.  Increased taxes, with the middle class falling behind, and the middle class thinking their children couldn’t have a better life then they did.  It’s an example of how democracies can be set back if people are not taken care of.”


So much to think about there….


I need to pull away from life sometimes.  I don’t think it is distracting myself from life as much as escaping.  It could be a long wandering walk in the woods, or laying on the beach with a book and ending up letting the sun and wind put me to sleep, or walking in circles in a distant city,

My life has been moving rather fast lately.  Moving out of my little apartment, moving to Geneva, visiting Paris, now the World Health Assembly, next weekend Barcelona.  I am meeting such amazing people.  When that happens I start to wonder, what do I have to offer?  I don’t really have a tribe here.  I suppose I don’t really have a tribe anywhere.  I wander partly because I have nothing to tie me down.  I need to find a community here, even if it is just for a little bit.

How does one create community? Most the time I think I am so much in my head, I cant keep up with the world around me.  I suppose that’s a habit we must all avoid.  So here is my plan- get up, go to work, come home via the lake and walk and talk to someone.  Then come home and plan to rent a bike next week to explore more. Its hard to get a routine when things are so busy, but Ill find a yoga around here and perhaps run or ride and get out of this interior place I seem to have created by default,



70th annually WHO World Health Assembly has begun.  Sitting on the edges of this amazing organization is an interesting view.  The people I have met are some of the most intellegent and committed people I have ever known.  I love being with them, discussing health for the world.  Struggling with issues of  gender inequality, research quality, health disparities, nutrition, humanitarian responses, epidemics, violence, environment, health work force, policy, and effective education, implementation and evaluation.  And now the world’s delegates have arrived.

To have the world gathered, all treated formally, calmly and with a ritual of significance.  They create recommendations, guidelines, policies, strategies, white papers, reports, initiative and evaluations- all without any legal ramifications if not followed.  Yet presented with such presence, there is almost a sense of shame if you don’t consider them significant.

At the opening, a speaker from Ukraine objected to Russia’s participation in the life affirming activities of WHA, and requested their statement- including a reporting of Russia’s violence- to be formally placed in the record.  And then the event continued.

I know I hear others complain of the slowness of response, the bureaucracy of WHO, but it is hard to imagine it responding faster.  This past year they responded to over 600 “health emergencies”, I received an email alert about rising levels of malnutrition and starvation in Africa, the bulge in population of adolescence and their unique health needs, and it goes on.  In just over a week since I have been here, I have heard of many new initiative just starting, while others are trying to get finished, and fires are dealt with- all of that while being understaffed.

I suppose it’s obvious I enjoy the Public Health more than I ever imagined.

Walking back in time

Spaces offer too much time for reflection

Of times past

When edges were clear

And cut to the core

A home, no longer a home

Now childhood near

Fathers gone

Husbands a mirage

phones rang on holiday’s past

With tears and cries

Trying to forget
Losses and trials

Offering  growth and grace

Or so we tell ourselves

I tell myself

What’s he best choice

For what we do not choose
Now here we wander

No plan or place

Homeless, childless, jobless

All identity stripped away

And you ask what I want-
To be loved and cherished

Wanted and desired

Ah, but that is not

What you are asking

Today, this moment

I want memories here

To wash away pasts

And create a new one
To find myself in my past

Running away

But always finding myself back

Trying to work out

Losses and trials

I never chose


There is part of me that whenever I find myself in a new space like last year at school or now at WHO, surrounded by these amazing people, I feel like a fake. My confidence falters and I wonder if I have anything to offer. I’m stubborn enough that I open my mouth, and still I wonder- did they all know this already? Clearly I’m so naive, I’m just stating the obvious. And I continue to feel foolish.

This time I’ve been blessed by amazing midwives. And like an amazing midwife, they encourage my birth. Supporting my tentative questions with generous statements like, “those were good questions”. So often I wonder what did I do to deserve such kind and amazing people and opportunities in my life? How blessed I feel. 

I wonder at times if it’s a female thing, this imposter syndrome. But I’m reminded this week that everyone faces power inequities in life and struggle for significance- to themselves and those around them.